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Donald Trump outlines his plan for foreign policy

Jue, 28/04/2016 - 03:38

BY THE lofty standards of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, Donald Trump gave an awful speech on national security on April 27th—a blustery, error-strewn account of an “America First” philosophy that took little account of how the world actually looks from the Oval Office.

Throughout the address, which Mr Trump, unusually, read from a teleprompter, the property tycoon made foreign policy sound not much different from the business of buying and selling real estate. Whether discussing efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, his ambition to make allies pay their own defence costs, or explaining that he intends to “find out” whether America can improve relations with Russia (for instance by finding common ground in fighting Islamic terrorism), Mr Trump repeatedly cast himself as a man who will cut a “great deal for America” by being willing to walk away from the table. “When the other side knows you’re not going to walk, it becomes absolutely impossible to win,” he told his audience, brought together by a Washington think-tank, the Centre for the National Interest.

Alas this description of...Continue reading

Ted Cruz picks Carly Fiorina as his running-mate

Jue, 28/04/2016 - 01:25

TED CRUZ must have expected to lose in the five Republican presidential primaries in the north-eastern states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on April 26th, but few had forecast quite such a resounding victory for Donald Trump. Badly in need of diversion from the anaemic state of the “Never Trump” campaign he is spearheading, Mr Cruz rushed the announcement of his vice-presidential pick. On April 27th he declared that Carly Fiorina, a former Republican candidate for the presidency, would be his running-mate.

At a hastily convened rally at The Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indianapolis, to chants of “Carly, Carly”, the senator from Texas presented Ms Fiorina as a woman of deep principle and character who doesn’t do things by half. “She was born in Texas, the very first thing I liked about her,” said Mr Cruz. He lauded her business career as the first female chief executive of a Fortune-20 company and as someone who has repeatedly shattered glass ceilings. He then went on to praise her credentials as a conservative and her respect of the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Perhaps...Continue reading

Trump towering in the north-east

Mié, 27/04/2016 - 08:07

“WHEN you crack 60 with three people, that is hard to do.” That was Donald Trump’s boast after sweeping all five of the Republican presidential primaries held on Tuesday night, against two opponents and in some cases by more than 60%. He had a point, even if the electoral terrain was always likely to be favourable to the New York-born businessman. True, the five primaries were held in the north-eastern states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware, where chin-jutting, tell-it-like-it-is voters angry about globalisation outnumber the evangelical Christians and stern social conservatives who have elsewhere favoured Mr Trump’s only serious rival, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

But the larger story of the night was the failure of the “Never Trump” alliance—an always-brittle coalition involving Mr Cruz, the third-placed contender Governor John Kasich of Ohio and Republican bigwigs who fear that Trumpian bigotry will lose them the general election in November (though they are not sure how to win without the tycoon’s bigotry-cheering voters). From blighted, post-industrial towns in Pennsylvania to leafy...Continue reading

Does freedom from big money help election campaigns?

Mar, 26/04/2016 - 16:57

IN JULY 1964, a divided Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater as its presidential candidate. The nomination launched not only a new conservative political movement but a revolution in political fundraising. Abandoning the wealthy elites who had bankrolled previous presidential campaigns, the Arizona senator used direct mail and television to appeal to a broader group of ideological grassroots conservatives—the “true believers” as he put it. Goldwater would eventually amass some $5m in campaign contributions from hundreds of thousands of mostly small donors. 

Today, 50 years later, small donors are considered a key asset in a successful presidential campaign. “Hillary has a healthy mix of traditional bundlers and online, low-dollar donors”, Andy Spahn, a top Democratic fundraiser, told the New York Times in February. These low-dollar donors, he said, “will be necessary to win in November”. Enthusiasm for small donors is non-partisan. Chart Westcott, a Republican donor told the Washington Post in October that Republican candidate Ted Cruz’s ability to draw both large- and small-dollar donors make...Continue reading

Will the Cruz and Kasich stitch-up work?

Lun, 25/04/2016 - 21:07

AWFULLY late in the day, the Republicans are trying to unpick one of the collective action problems that are threatening to gift their nomination to Donald Trump. Thus, on April 24th, the non-aggression pact announced by Ted Cruz and John Kasich, his two surviving opponents, to cover three upcoming primaries.

Under its terms, Mr Kasich will cease campaigning in Indiana, where Mr Cruz has a decent chance of winning many of the 57 delegates on offer. The senator from Texas will do Mr Kasich the same service in New Mexico and Oregon, which have 52 delegates up for grabs between them and enough moderate voters to give the governor of Ohio a hope of adding to his puny total of 148 delegates—which is 696 fewer than Mr Trump has.

The arrangement is borne of two different sorts of exigency. Mr Kasich is running out of cash; recent accounts suggested he had less than a million dollars to spend. More important, the pact starts with a straightforward recognition that, because neither challenger can win the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination ahead of the Republican National Convention in July, the best they can hope for is to...Continue reading

Rahm Emanuel announces changes to Chicago's police force

Sáb, 23/04/2016 - 03:41

MEMBERS of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of colour.” So says a report published on April 13th by the police accountability task force appointed by Rahm Emanuel, the city's mayor. “The community’s lack of trust in CPD is justified. There is substantial evidence that people of colour— particularly African-Americans—have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.”  The 190-page report is highly critical of what is describes as a code of silence among individual police officers and the police force as a whole. It also calls for the replacement of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police shootings and serious misconduct and is widely seen as biased towards the police.

A week after this report was published, on April 21st, Mr Emanuel responded by announcing his reform plan for the CPD. To the disappointment of some, his proposed changes ignore about two-thirds of the 76 recommendations of his own task force. He called it a “down payment” on the road to reform, which will...Continue reading

Why Pennsylvania’s delegates could hold the key to the Republican nomination

Jue, 21/04/2016 - 15:27

FIVE northeastern states will hold primary elections on April 26th: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland. Of these, Pennsylvania is the next big prize on the presidential primary calendar, but not, for Republicans, because of its state-wide vote. Pennsylvania’s unique GOP primary system, in which voters directly elect most of their delegates, who are not officially tied to any candidate, provides Donald Trump’s rivals with a rare opportunity.

Both Mr Trump, the party’s billionaire front-runner and Mr Kasich, the governor of Ohio, can claim ties to the Keystone State. Mr Trump studied at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and Mr Kasich grew up in a blue collar suburb of Pittsburgh. In RealClearPolitics poll averages, Mr Trump leads over Mr Kasich; the Texan senator Ted Cruz comes third.

But for GOP primary voters the key to winning in Pennsylvania is not the popular vote, which is something of a beauty contest. The real winner is the candidate who is able to successfully woo delegates.

The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s Republican delegates are technically...Continue reading

Donald Trump regains momentum, and Hillary Clinton becomes very nearly unbeatable, in New York

Mié, 20/04/2016 - 07:45

NEW YORKERS like to think of themselves as the centre of the universe, but in presidential primary elections they tend to be marginal protagonists as they often vote late in the electoral calendar. This election year was different. The Empire state’s primaries on April 19th mattered hugely for both Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee. Mr Trump was crushingly defeated in the recent Wisconsin and Wyoming primaries by Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, whereas Mrs Clinton lost seven of the eight last contests to Bernie Sanders, her only rival.

New York helped both front-runners to solidify their lead. Mr Trump won a commanding victory with 60% of the votes and scooped up most of his home state’s 95 delegates. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, came a distant second with 25% of the votes and Mr Cruz scored a measly 15%. “Thank you New York! I love you!”, Mr Trump tweeted shortly after polls closed. In his short victory speech at Trump tower, his gleaming palace in Manhattan, the real-estate mogul thanked his family and his team and then declared that “we don’t have...Continue reading

The Supreme Court appears divided on Barack Obama’s immigration orders

Lun, 18/04/2016 - 22:01

AMERICA’S framers designed separate institutions to make, enforce and interpret laws. But as this week's Supreme Court hearing in an immigration showdown makes clear, the increasing dysfunction of Congress has provoked testy turf battles and confounding questions about the nature and limits of presidential power.    

Comprehensive legislation to reckon with 11.3m undocumented immigrants has eluded America for years. In November 2014, after the bipartisan, gang-of-eight Senate bill was foiled by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, Barack Obama picked up his pen and issued executive orders shielding about a third of the nation’s illegal immigrants from deportation and permitting them to work. On April 18th, the Supreme Court considered whether his actions were legal.

At issue in United States v Texas is Mr Obama’s move granting “deferred action” to undocumented aliens whose children are American citizens or lawful permanent residents. The policy, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), aims to grant relief to “hard-working...Continue reading

The fight over illegal immigrants goes to the Supreme Court

Lun, 18/04/2016 - 02:38

CALLS for comprehensive immigration reform have been circulating in the halls of Congress for decades. But lawmakers have accomplished little in the effort to reckon with America’s 11.3m undocumented residents. When, in 2013, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to consider a bipartisan Senate bill drafted by the so-called gang of eight (an oft-heard reference in debates among the Republican presidential candidates) Barack Obama opted to take matters into his own hands. In November 2014, he issued a series of executive orders to shield nearly half of the nation’s illegal immigrants from the threat of immediate deportation. While noting at the time that under his presidency “deportations of criminals are up 80%”, Mr Obama made a distinction between illegals who pose a threat to the nation and those who live and work peacefully within America’s borders. “[W]e’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on...Continue reading

A bruising debate highlights the differences between the Democratic candidates

Vie, 15/04/2016 - 05:54

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN was not the venue, but in New York the advance billing was for a brawl and a grudge match. The combatants were both on home turf, sort of—Hillary Clinton represented New York in the Senate for eight years; Bernie Sanders was born in Brooklyn, as his undiluted accent attests—and, while much less vituperative than that other New Yorker, Donald Trump, the pair have become increasingly disrespectful of each other. In the event, the ninth Democratic debate, ahead of the Empire state’s primary on April 19th, intermittently lived down to expectations. The velvet gloves are off.

The most piercing insult probably came when Mr Sanders labelled the word “superpredators”, a term used by Mrs Clinton in a speech on crime in 1996, “racist” (she recently said she ought not to have chosen it). Assailing her judgment, he again tried to tie her to the Iraq war, Wall Street, super PACS and the energy industry. Instead—and to a conspicuous extent compared with previous outings—Mrs Clinton tried to associate herself with Barack Obama, although she distanced herself from his recent comments regarding mistakes made over...Continue reading

A dramatic showdown looms for the Democrats in New York

Jue, 14/04/2016 - 21:33

THE STAKES are higher than they have been in nearly three decades for both the Democratic and Republican candidates in the New York presidential primaries, which will take place on April 19th. The campaign in the Big Apple features two native sons and an adopted daughter: Donald Trump, the property magnate whose name graces many of Manhattan’s taller buildings; Bernie Sanders, who has retained the thick Brooklyn accent of his childhood; and Hillary Clinton, the two-term US senator and former secretary of state who moved to Chappaqua, a New York City suburb, with her husband Bill in 1999.

Someone unfamiliar with the polls who wandered near Greenwich Village on April 13th might be excused for concluding that Mr Sanders is the runaway favourite on the Democratic side. A rally in Washington Square Park that evening drew a boisterous crowd of 30,000—a figure approaching the population of his hometown of Burlington,...Continue reading

New briefs further complicate Supreme Court contraception battle

Mié, 13/04/2016 - 18:30

TWO weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued an extraordinary order to the lawyers arguing on rival sides of Zubik v Burwell, the latest tussle over Obamacare and religious liberty. Apparently divided 4-4 after hearing arguments in Zubik on March 23rd, the justices floated a Solomonic compromise that strives to relieve religious non-profit groups of their perceived burden of complicity in the provision of contraceptives to the women who work for them while ensuring that those employees still receive the free IUDs and morning after pills that the Affordable Care Act guarantees. Since the Little Sisters of the Poor (nuns who run nursing homes)—along with dozens of other Christian charities and schools—complained that their religious liberty was illegally impinged by having to notify the government of their conscientious objection, the justices asked the parties to consider “whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by...Continue reading

Who wins when a politician wins

Mié, 13/04/2016 - 16:53

PUBLIC attention is inevitably swept up in presidential races—they are loud, ideologically contentious, and drenched in controversy over who might be quietly buying influence from whom. Meanwhile, the smart money may be flowing to where it really matters: the state house. A study by professors at three non-American universities concludes that firms whose directors are linked to winning governors gain significant advantages.

The study's authors say they have been able to quantify the benefits: a 4.1% increase in share price upfront (compared to companies tied to losers), and a 22% increase over three years. Contributing to these gains is a host of goodies: a 5.1% better chance of a state subsidy, 4.4% better chance of a state loan, 5.6% better chance of state tax credits. Other perks exist even if they can’t be so precisely assessed, notably access to bank credit in greater volume and a lower cost.

Evidence is particularly strong in the case of states that have large, heavily-regulated governments (based on academic survey data) and a long history of...Continue reading

A case of surprise unanimity at the Supreme Court over voting rights

Lun, 11/04/2016 - 21:32

PREDICTING Supreme Court rulings based on the tenor of oral arguments is notoriously hazardous, but journalists' hunches are rewarded often enough that they keep on coming. In December, this paper averred that Evenwel v Abbott, a challenge to the way the states draw legislative districts, was a close call that would turn on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, one of the savviest Supreme Court journalists, also came away from the hearing thinking “it’s clear that...the justices will likely break along the usual partisan lines”. So it was a surprise last week when the eight justices—from Sonia Sotomayor on the left to Clarence Thomas on the right—voted unanimously to turn back a complaint about line-drawing that would have strengthened Republican gerrymandering efforts across the country.

The case was brought by Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenniger, two Texas residents who charged that their state’s senate district map was watering down their votes. Ms Evenwel and Mr Pfenniger live in rural districts where most people are eligible to vote, in contrast to other Texas districts that are home to...Continue reading

Statehouses try to fend off local minimum wage increases

Vie, 08/04/2016 - 19:55

THE REPUBLICANS who control the Virginia legislature are fond of saying that less government is better government. But more government seems to be their solution to a supposed bane of industry: the requirement by some local governments that the contractors they hire pay workers more than the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage required by Virginia and federal law.

In mid-March, the state’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, vetoed a bill introduced by Republicans that sought to block local regions from mandating a so-called living wage. This was, he said, an unnecessary assault on local government which might, he suggested, succeed where the federal government has failed: helping reduce income inequality by pushing wages above a federal minimum wage that was last increased nearly seven years ago.

This is a hot topic in the American presidential campaign, touching on the resentments of both the haves and have-nots. It’s an issue that neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders, both of whom favour raising the minimum wage (but to different levels) would be able to do much about if they faced a Republican Congress. Gridlock on such...Continue reading

Cheesed-off Wisconsinites dump Donald Trump

Mié, 06/04/2016 - 08:31

“WISCONSIN nice”, the local version of Midwestern civility and friendliness, had been on display at a town hall with Donald Trump the day before the primary elections of April 5th. The event was moderated by Scott Hannity of Fox News in the Pabst theatre, an opulent concert venue built in the late 19th century. There was none of the name-calling and fist-fighting that has become increasingly frequent at other Trump gatherings. A young man explained that he didn’t know yet who to vote for and wanted to find out what Mr Trump would do to help business. (He left early.) Christopher Handler, a handyman from Green Bay who sported a glittery golden headpiece emblazoned with “Fence Painter”, said that he had come because he wanted to ask whether he can paint Mr Trump’s fence. (He never managed to ask his question.)  A woman cried out “We love you, Donald” a few times, but it was more polite hollering than hysterical shrieking.

Serious, politically engaged Wisconsinites didn’t take to Mr Trump like their Midwestern neighbours in Michigan and Illinois, where the Republican front-runner won by large margins. At a Trump rally an...Continue reading

How redistricting in Virginia changed part of its political landscape

Mar, 05/04/2016 - 22:08

OF 435 seats in America's House of Representatives, perhaps 36 are considered neither decisively red or nor blue. Another, in the pork-and-peanut belt of southern Virginia, joined them earlier this year, when a federal court re-drew its boundaries to favour a Democrat. The district's long-time Republican incumbent, Randy Forbes, decided that rather than risk losing, he would simply move: to an open, neighbouring seat friendly to the GOP.

Mr Forbes, the number 3 Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, has become a symbol of the down side of partisan redistricting, or gerrymandering. His hop from one district to another is being viewed with cynicism by an electorate that, as Donald Trump's victories suggest, is fed up with a party establishment that seems to look after itself.

Mr Forbes, who could face two others in June for the GOP nomination, may have fueled that wariness with another strange decision. He will not actually move to his new district, choosing, instead, to continue living in the old one—because he can. Efforts by some states to impose district-specific residency have failed. In 2000, a federal appeals...Continue reading

Why opposing free-trade agreements is a clever campaign strategy

Lun, 04/04/2016 - 22:45

LITTLE has united Democratic and Republican candidates during America's primary season. Their mutual suspicion of trade, however, is a rare exception, as our recent article describes. Donald Trump says China "wants our people to starve" and Mexico is "killing us on jobs". He has proposed eye-watering import tariffs. Bernie Sanders blames the North American Free Trade Agreement for the loss of almost 700,000 jobs. And in October Hillary Clinton decried the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that she once supported. Promising to restore the rustbelt by doubling-down on cheap Chinese imports is, it seems, an easy, patriotic message to sell.

A new paper by J. Bradford Jensen, Dennis Quinn and Stephen Weymouth at the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that opposing free-trade agreements (FTAs) is indeed a smart campaign strategy. America has a comparative advantage in high-skill activities, such as the creation of computer software, but its low-skill activities are vulnerable to import...Continue reading

Flummoxed justices plead for a contraception compromise

Vie, 01/04/2016 - 20:36

HOURS after issuing its second tie ruling of 2016, a 4-4 decision on March 29th that gives public-sector unions an unexpected break, the Supreme Court issued a plaintive cry for help. The justices are apparently evenly split again in Zubik v Burwell, the birth control case they heard last week, but are loth to issue a ruling that sets no precedent and leaves in place a legal hodgepodge whereby women working at religious non-profits in most of the country enjoy cost-free birth control under Obamacare while their counterparts in seven southern and midwestern states do not.

No one is less excited about another tie vote in another landmark case than John Roberts, the chief justice. Mr Roberts wants the public to regard the court as an impartial body administering justice with a steady hand. He emphasised in his confirmation hearings in 2005 that a justice should think of himself as an umpire calling balls and strikes, not as a player with skin in the game. And he consistently assails the "partisan rancour" in Congress that makes life harder for judges trying to administer justice and uphold the rule of law. Shortly before Antonin...Continue reading