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How the Republicans can stop someone like Trump getting this close again

Jue, 17/03/2016 - 21:13

AND then there were three. The winnowing of the Republican presidential field has not proceeded as anyone would have expected last summer. Now that Marco Rubio has suspended his campaign following his disastrous showing in his home state of Florida, all the pre-primary favourites, including Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, have bowed out. Instead, the finalists are Donald Trump, a joke candidate turned dominant front-runner; Ted Cruz, the “most hated man in the Senate”; and John Kasich, a mild-mannered Midwestern governor who looked doomed (and probably still is) to a Jon Huntsman-style also-ran finish. It can be hard to see what, if anything, these candidates have in common. But upon further review, it is the yawning chasms between them that are the most revealing about the current state of the nomination process.

Mr Rubio was an on-and-off Continue reading

Barack Obama nominates Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat

Mié, 16/03/2016 - 20:57

ON MARCH 16th, in a move that may test the mettle of recalcitrant Senate Republicans, Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a widely respected and politically moderate judge, to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat. Mr Obama presented Mr Garland as a “serious man and exemplary judge” who is “uniquely prepared” for the job. He is one of “America’s sharpest legal minds...who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence”, the president said. The nominee, who has been vetted but passed over for the Supreme Court bench by Mr Obama twice before, said that his nomination was, next to his engagement to his wife, “the greatest honour of my life”.  

According to expert court-watcher Tom Goldstein, Mr Garland is a choice “from Hollywood central casting”. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, worked as a clerk for Judge Henry Friendly and Justice William Brennan, was made partner in an elite law firm in a blazing four years and, during a mid-1990s stint in the Justice Department, was involved in prosecuting the Unabomber and the masterminds of the...Continue reading

A refreshing break from ideology at the Supreme Court

Mié, 16/03/2016 - 15:59

IN THE wake of Justice Scalia's death last month, America's Senate finds itself embroiled in a debate over the nature of its constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent” on Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to replace him. But as a spotlight is trained on the judiciary as a central issue in the presidential campaign, the eight sitting justices are keeping their heads down and quietly doing their jobs.

In the past two weeks, we have seen several signs that the Supreme Court may be keen to tamp down the blaring partisanship that has been casting a cloud over its work. First was a nearly-unanimous order blocking a 5th-circuit court decision that would have radically curtailed abortion access in Louisiana. Next was a unanimous back-of-the-hand summary reversal of an Alabama Supreme Court decision rejecting a gay parent’s adoption. And in a 6-2 decision issued last week, an ideological hodgepodge of justices coalesced around a ruling that will lengthen the prison sentence of a...Continue reading

A big night for Trump, Clinton and Kasich is Rubio’s last

Mié, 16/03/2016 - 08:10

VOTER turnout in Illinois appeared to have beaten the record set in the primary elections of 2008, when Barack Obama, who had adopted Chicago as his hometown, and Hillary Clinton, who was born in Chicago, were opponents on the Democratic Party’s ballot. In other election years both parties had pretty much settled on their candidate by the time Illinois—as well as Ohio, Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and the Northern Mariana Islands’ commonwealth—got to vote. This time was different, because voters realised how much was at stake. The vote on March 15th would determine whether Donald Trump could be stopped as Republican nominee and whether it would make sense for his rivals, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, and Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, to stay in the race. It was also to decide whether another insurgent, Bernie Sanders, has a realistic chance to wrest the Democratic crown from Mrs Clinton. 

In the course of the evening it became clear that one of the most controversial candidates for the presidency in Republican history will probably be the party’s nominee. Mr Trump won Florida, which netted him 99...Continue reading

The depressing spectacle of Donald Trump’s rallies

Lun, 14/03/2016 - 07:45

IT MUST be painful for President Barack Obama to see some of the worst incidents of racial tensions and violence of his presidency erupt during its last few months. On March 12th, in offering his assessment of the violent clashes between supporters of Donald Trump and protesters, the president struck a sombre tone. Those who aspire to be our leaders should be trying to bring us together, speak out against violence and reject efforts to spread fear, he said at a fundraiser in Dallas. “And if they refuse to do that, they don’t deserve our support.”

Mr Obama didn’t mention Mr Trump by name. He didn’t have to. The day before his speech in Dallas, the increasingly ugly violence at Trump rallies induced a paroxysm in Chicago, the president’s adopted hometown. Mr Trump was scheduled to speak at the nearly 10,000-seat pavilion of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), which has a racially diverse student body and is located on the ethnically mixed west side of a city that is a Democratic stronghold. He never showed up in the lion’s den, deeply disappointing thousands of his red-capped supporters, who had queued for hours to hear him...Continue reading

The Supreme Court delivers a win for gay adoption

Vie, 11/03/2016 - 20:10

MOST front-page Supreme Court stories involve fraught cases, closely divided votes and biting dissents. But the justices achieve unanimity much more often than they find themselves split 5-4 (or this spring, with their depleted bench, 4-4) and occasionally those unanimous rulings are big news. Such is the case with V.L. v E.L., an interstate dispute involving a row between two women who were sweethearts for nearly 17 years and co-parents for 13 years before their falling out in 2011. In an unsigned 6-page “per curiam” ruling this week, the Supreme Court, without dissent, upbraided the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to honour a neighbour state’s adoption order that gave V.L. and E.L. joint custody of their children 9 years ago.  

Here are the facts. E.L. and V.L. began a relationship in 1995; E.L. gave birth to a child in 2002 and to twins in 2004. Three years later, V.L. legally adopted the children during the couple’s brief...Continue reading

Louisiana's new governor tries to narrow the budget shortfall

Vie, 11/03/2016 - 15:44

THE POLITICS surrounding Louisiana’s deepening budget crisis might be entertaining if the situation wasn’t so dire. The state has a cash shortfall of nearly $1 billion that must be made up in just a few months, with an even bigger deficit looming in 2017. And it mostly falls to Louisiana’s newly minted governor, John Bel Edwards—a Democrat in one of America’s reddest states—to fix it.

When Mr Edwards won in a surprise landslide in November it was the first time since 2003 a Democrat had claimed the state’s top office. Some saw the result—in which Mr Edwards, a little-known state representative, crushed the Republican senator David Vitter—as a sign that the political pendulum in Louisiana was swinging leftward. It seems more likely, however, that the vote was simply a repudiation of the unpopular Mr Vitter.

But if Mr Edwards was lucky at the polls, he didn’t exactly win the lottery. Louisiana’s budget was in such rotten shape that he had almost no choice but to begin proposing new taxes as soon as he had taken the oath of office in January. He complained, with good reason, that the...Continue reading

The Republicans broke form to affect civility

Vie, 11/03/2016 - 08:02

FISTICUFFS? Mooning? A hand-measuring contest? Had Thursday’s Republican debate at the University of Miami followed the tonal trajectory of the previous 11, who knows what depths of taste and egomania it might have fathomed. But, from the candidates’ opening statements, in which Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton, eschewing his attacks on Lyin’ Ted [Cruz] and Little Marco [Rubio]—epithets that remained unspoken throughout the evening—the atmosphere was different. Next came reasonably serious discussions of trade and visa policy. Perhaps concerned for her channel’s ratings, CNN’s moderator asked Mr Cruz:  “Did you just compare Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton?” “I’ll let Donald speak for himself,” Mr Cruz tamely replied.  “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here,” Mr Trump observed.

Neither could anyone else. It felt as if, between the candidates, there must have been some sort of deal, to use Mr Trump’s favourite expression. (A word cloud of the evening might reveal that his top usages were “deal” and “many”, the latter with reference to his Israeli friends, his Cuban friends, and...Continue reading

A last-ditch attack

Jue, 10/03/2016 - 20:02

ANTI-TRUMP groups are spending millions on negative advertising ahead of key primaries on Tuesday

Bernie Sanders and Univision force Hillary Clinton to the left

Jue, 10/03/2016 - 08:51

IF ANY moderate Republicans appalled by Donald Trump tuned in to the Democratic presidential debate held in Miami on March 9th, what they heard cannot have made it easier for them to consider lending their vote—for one election at least—to Hillary Clinton. From the start Mrs Clinton was under pressure to tack to the left and woo her party’s core supporters in this, her last scheduled TV debate with her populist rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On some big questions, and especially on immigration, she gave in to that pressure and staked out radical positions which she can expect to see played in Republican attack ads again and again, once the general election is under way.

Some of the pressure on Mrs Clinton was exerted by recent events. Just 24 hours earlier she had suffered a surprise defeat in Michigan’s presidential primary election, with Mr Sanders notably buoyed by support from voters who told exit polls that they think free trade costs America jobs. Though the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is still on course to be her party’s nominee, her underwhelming performance in a big, Midwestern rustbelt...Continue reading

Hulk Hogan goes to the mat

Mié, 09/03/2016 - 19:46

HULK Hogan made a career out of pummelling his rivals while wearing flamboyant outfits. On March 8th, the 62-year-old man less well known as Terry Bollea, clad in sombre black on a Florida witness stand, said he was “completely humiliated” by a video published in 2012 by Gawker, a media company that trades in celebrity gossip. The opening day of Mr Bollea’s trial came a day after Erin Andrews, a sportscaster for Fox, won a $55m verdict from a jury in Nashville for a secret video recording showing her in the nude in 2008; the hotel and the voyeur were both found responsible.

The edited, 90-second excerpt of a longer video that was accessible on Gawker for months depicted Mr Bollea, now 62, having sex with Heather Cole Clem, the now ex-wife of Bubba the Love Sponge, his former friend. It was accompanied by 1,400 words of prose vividly describing the encounter. The former WWE heavyweight champion of the universe says Gawker invaded his privacy and caused him emotional harm by posting the misbegotten footage of his tryst and owes him $100m. Gawker replies that...Continue reading

Trump strides through Michigan, where Clinton falters

Mié, 09/03/2016 - 10:35

HEADING into the primary votes in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho and Hawaii on March 8th, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared to be headed in opposite directions—and so it turned out. Mr Trump pulled off his second super Tuesday in a fortnight; he won the two biggest states, Mississippi and Michigan by big margins, thereby completing a near sweep of the South and opening a new front for his populist campaign in the Midwest. Mrs Clinton had a more mixed experience; she won easily in Mississippi but lost narrowly to Bernie Sanders in Michigan, where polls had put her more than 20 percentage points ahead.

Yet this was the opposite of the divergence expected of the Republican and Democratic front-runners. Going into the primaries, Mr Trump had had maybe his worst week of the campaign. He had talked up the size of his penis in a television debate and whipped up a crowd in Orlando to pledge allegiance to him while making a gesture that looked far too close for decency like a Nazi salute. He had been castigated by Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee in 2012, as “a phony, a fraud,” who was “playing members of the American public for...Continue reading

What does the justices’ latest action on abortion mean?

Lun, 07/03/2016 - 21:47

TWO days after hearing arguments in one of the most important reproductive rights cases in a generation, the Supreme Court delivered a temporary win to the pro-choice movement that may (or may not) be a sign of a more enduring victory to come.

When the justices met to hear Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt (see pic) on March 2nd, the four liberal justices were in rare form, attacking a Texas law that purportedly protects maternal health but, on inspection, seems only to make it much harder for women to exercise their constitutional right to abortion. The onslaught from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer steadily dampened the swagger of Scott Keller, the young lawyer defending the regulations on abortion providers and facilities—and left little doubt about how they will vote. With Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas thought likely to uphold the law, the main question mark after the oral argument was, as usual, Anthony...Continue reading

Bernie Sanders goes on the attack

Lun, 07/03/2016 - 08:24

BERNIE SANDERS came to the seventh Democratic debate, held in Flint, Michigan, on March 6th needing a game-changing success. Despite winning the Maine caucuses the same day and in Kansas and Nebraska the day before, the senator is badly lagging Hillary Clinton in the delegate count and, moreover, looks ill-equipped to close the gap. He has a strong following with youngsters and white liberals—who dominated the Democratic electorate in those three states; but little support from the non-whites who matter much more in most others—including Michigan, which will hold its primary on March 8th.

The result was an aggressive performance by Mr Sanders and some of the sharpest exchanges yet between the two surviving Democratic contenders. It could not have been confused with the theatrics on show in the Republican primary contest. Mr Sanders did not claim to be well-hung, as Donald Trump recently did. Mrs Clinton did not respond to his opening statement by calling the senator from Vermont a liar; she said, “Let me start by saying Amen to that”. She also swore that, even against a Republican nominee, she would maintain the decorous tone that...Continue reading

Marco Rubio’s campaign for the White House is running on fumes

Dom, 06/03/2016 - 12:06

SENATOR Marco Rubio of Florida, a young Cuban-American with a stirring, up-by-the-bootstraps life-story, was once called the future of the Republican Party. His poor showing in a series of presidential nominating contests held on March 5th—including a fourth place in the New England state of Maine—leaves his campaign for the White House running on fumes. After Republican presidential primary elections or caucuses in 19 states, Mr Rubio has a win in just one, Minnesota, to his name. His last hopes rest on his home state of Florida, whose large haul of delegates is up for grabs on March 15th, though he is lagging in opinion polls there.

Mr Rubio ticks many boxes on the lists that conservative donors, Republican strategists and pundits draw up when looking for winners. He is Hispanic and has spoken movingly of his sympathy for immigrants, but is conservative enough that he was elected to the Senate as a Tea Party hero. He can be sunny, upbeat and funny on a good day, but is also a disciplined candidate (to the point of extreme caution). He entered the 2016 race with a plan: to be the candidate who appealed to Establishment types and voters...Continue reading

When Republicans went to war

Vie, 04/03/2016 - 17:46

THE ATTACK by Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, on Donald Trump, who looks likely to be the party's nominee in 2016, is not unprecedented. It has a parallel in the presidential election of 1912, when a split in the Republican party led the sitting president, William Howard Taft, to finish third in the polls. Taft ran foul of his predecessor, the energetic and volcanic Teddy Roosevelt, who ran on the Bull Moose ticket. The effect was to hand the presidency to Woodrow Wilson, the first Democrat to win office since 1892.

Roosevelt had regretted his rash vow not to run for a full third term in 1908 (he took office in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley; this was before the passage of the 22nd amendment, which limited presidents to two full terms). While Taft was Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, and a long-term friend, the latter gradually became disillusioned with the Taft administration. Broadly speaking, Roosevelt was a populist, favouring higher tariffs and "trust-busting" attacks on big business; he was also a conservationist, setting up the national park system. Taft was more of a conventional,...Continue reading

Donald Trump under fire from all sides

Vie, 04/03/2016 - 09:46

AN UNPRECEDENTED war of words between Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s nominee for the presidency in 2012, set the tone for the Republican primary debate held on March 3rd at the beloved Fox theatre in Detroit. “His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader,” said Mr Romney in a speech he gave at the University of Utah on the same day. He called Mr Trump “a phony” who is “playing the American public for suckers”, a man whose “imagination must not be married to real power”. The Republicans’ nominee in 2008 joined in, declaring his “many concerns about Mr Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national-security issues”. John McCain was echoing the worries of dozens of conservative defence and foreign policy officials who had written an open letter asserting that Mr Trump’s “vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle”.

After winning seven of the 11 states at play in Super Tuesday on March 1st, Mr Trump is the undisputed front-runner in a race that has dwindled to just four contenders. Ben Carson, a...Continue reading

Senator Grassley defends plans to block a Supreme Court nominee

Jue, 03/03/2016 - 21:38

THE NEW forum for debating intractable interbranch conflicts among federal officials seems to be SCOTUSblog, the indispensable resource for everything related to the Supreme Court. Last week, Barack Obama sharpened his pen and wrote a pithy post outlining the qualifications he seeks in a Supreme Court nominee to replace Antonin Scalia. The duty of appointing judges is one “I take seriously”, he wrote, and “in the weeks ahead” Americans will learn the name of the person he settles on.

In a rejoinder to the POTUS post, Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, notes that the Senate enjoys “the authority to consent or withhold consent” to a nominee. Mr Grassley is right about that: the constitution says as much, in the second paragraph of Section 2 of Article II. In dispensing its “advice and consent”, the...Continue reading

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is over

Mié, 02/03/2016 - 22:46

EARLY one morning in September 2015 this columnist found himself in a hotel lobby in Greensboro, North Carolina, waiting to board the campaign bus of Ben Carson. The retired brain surgeon was at that point soaring in polls of Republican presidential candidates, coming within a percentage point of Donald Trump, the front-runner. It has been a long, painful slide from that peak to Mr Carson’s announcement on March 2nd that he saw "no political path forward” for his presidential campaign, a day after winning a derisory three delegates in the dozen contests of Super Tuesday.

Back in September the mood was bullish. So much so that one of the candidate’s aides confided that his boss could not believe how little politics stretched him, compared to the life-and-death decision-making, late nights and long hours he had endured as one of the country’s most celebrated doctors. In fact, the aide said with startling candour, Mr Carson had told him that running for president was the easiest job he had ever had.

In part, the line was political spin. The whole pitch of the Carson campaign was that their man was an outsider guided by his...Continue reading

What Super Tuesday means for the Republican party

Mié, 02/03/2016 - 12:30

SPEAKING to reporters just before polls closed on March 1st, Marco Rubio predicted “you’re gonna see very clearly after tonight that Donald Trump has no chance of ever getting the delegates he needs to be the nominee.” How Mr Rubio ever came to such a conclusion is not clear. On March 1st voters from a dozen states went to the polls—of the 11 states allocating delegates, Mr Trump won seven, Ted Cruz won three and Mr Rubio won just one. Although he may have slightly underperformed expectations, Mr Trump is well on his way to winning the nomination.

There are three possible outcomes moving forward in the election. The first and most probable scenario is that that Mr Trump wins the nomination outright. Mr Trump has a sizeable lead in the delegate count and has shown that he can win in an eclectic mix of states, among an eclectic mix of voters. At the current rate, he is on pace to win...Continue reading