Every chip in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pile has been shoved into the center of the table. His high-stakes gamble for conservative control of the Supreme Court may be decided in the coming week.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit that for more than 30 years, Christine Blasey Ford didn’t talk about the assault she remembers, the one she accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of committing.
I served as director of President Barack Obama’s presidential personnel office and oversaw hundreds of appointments across the U.S. government. So I know firsthand that Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley’s claim that “it is not the FBI’s role to investigate” the allegations that Judge Brett Kavanaugh assaulted a woman when they were in high school is downright false. The FBI, which would already have performed an extensive background check on Kavanaugh in connection with his nomination to the Supreme Court, can pick up its investigation and check into the issues that the woman accusing Kavanaugh of assault has raised more quickly, more effectively and more sensitively than untrained Senate committee staffers can. Such an FBI investigation should certainly come before Christine Ford Blasey is subjected to questioning from the Senate or its staff members – not only because that’s what Ford has requested but because it’s only fair for senators to question her (or Kavanaugh) with the additional information that the FBI’s work would surely yield, and because it gets us closer to the truth.
Last weekend, I attended a wedding in Atlanta between a brilliant Afghan writer and an equally brilliant young Chinese American doctoral student. Their stories and their wedding are a graphic illustration of the vital contribution immigrants make to American society.
When a big, black SUV would pull up to my house at about 2 a.m., I knew it would be a while before I’d be getting back to sleep. As the CIA’s deputy director, and later acting director, in the early 2000s, I was frequently awakened via secure communications at home. But when a car showed up, it meant that something needed my official signature – usually a warrant request under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The FBI would be asking me to sign off because the request contained foreign intelligence material, often relating to a terrorism suspect. These things typically ran 40 to 60 pages. They would contain reporting from human sources (foreign agents), technical intelligence such as intercepted communications, and open-source material. These were woven together into a request aimed at showing “probable cause” to investigate further by carrying out some kind of search.
In our highly polarized era, we too often judge election results from the confines of partisan politics. That’s not nearly as useful on the state and local levels, where elected officials have roads to fix, kids to educate and budgets to balance. Voters want people who can do the job. Ideology can wait. The conservative National Review recently put forth the “riddle” that four of the six states in deep-blue New England have Republican governors. Three of them – Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Phil Scott in Vermont and Chris Sununu in New Hampshire – are quite popular. These states don’t send a single Republican to Congress.
Less than two years ago, the conventional wisdom told us that President Donald Trump had transformed the political map: GOP strongholds in the South had joined with gains in the Rust Belt (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania) and upper Midwest (Wisconsin, Iowa), giving Republicans an electoral lock for years to come. Then came 20 months of the Trump presidency. Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania, once thought to be pick-up chances for Republicans, are not really in play. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., appears not to be in danger. Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin looks safe as well.
Whatever else one might think of President Donald Trump’s actions, he is confronting China about its unfair trade practices and theft of American intellectual property when too many others shy away from the truth for fear of Chinese reprisal.
It is difficult to comment on an unfolding news story, but this one demands it. It is hard to write about someone you know and like, especially concerning matters of character. But sometimes there is little choice. In the case of Brett Kavanaugh vs. Christine Blasey Ford, the moral issues are not fuzzy or unclear. It is seriously wrong even for a teenager to force himself on a woman in a drunken stupor – if it happened. It is seriously wrong for a Supreme Court nominee to lie about his past failures – if he did. It is seriously wrong to make false, inflammatory accusations – if she has.
On Tuesday, Bob Woodward finally came through.
Democrats like to talk about all the hallowed presidential norms that Donald Trump is breaking. But now it is Barack Obama who is breaking presidential norms with his self-serving foray into partisan demagoguery.
Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought the American economy to its knees, many are asking an obvious question: When will the next financial crisis hit? If one accepts the basic tenet developed by Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner – that we learn from the consequences of our behavior – the answer is likely sooner rather than later. The great irony of the 2008 financial collapse is that Wall Street, whose reckless risk-taking drove the financial system over the precipice, suffered very few, if any, consequences for its actions. The crisis cost millions of people their jobs and their homes, devastated cities and towns across the nation and stripped away trillions of dollars in household wealth from the middle class. But the big banks barely skipped a beat, paying no real economic, legal or political price for their misconduct.
If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu – and if you have a seat but don’t sit in it, you may be in just as much trouble. That’s the lesson Google may have learned when legislators, dissatisfied with the company’s offer to send its lawyer instead of a top executive to congressional hearings last week, theatrically answered by installing an empty chair instead. Google, which says Congress was content with executive-less testimony until the last minute, has had an unpleasant few weeks following a mostly pleasant two-decade relationship with Washington. Though the company was implicated in the Russian election interference operation as its cohorts were, it was social media sites such as Facebook that sweated most under an unwelcome spotlight in the popular narrative. Now, having missed its chance to sit, Google is standing center stage.
The economic recovery is really beginning to reach into Trump country.
Twenty-five years ago this week I stood on the White House lawn and watched the famous handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, as President Bill Clinton nudged them toward each other. The occasion was the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, mapping a path to a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living peacefully side-by-side. The Oslo process failed, with plenty of blame on both sides.
After last year’s Hurrican Maria debacle, let’s pray FEMA has healed itself and is now up to the task of dealing with Hurricane Florence – despite the inaction of a president in denial and a Congress giving him cover.
When Florence finishes with us, human need necessarily will displace the longing for our lost things. But in their stead, we may rejoice in the beauty of the human spirit, which, ever resilient, will get back to the business of art in good time.
The tang of fall is nearly in the air. The summer is all but over. Football season is here. Are you ready for some . . . culture war? This war may feel unending, but it only began a little more than two years ago. During a preseason game on Aug. 26, 2016, Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of my beloved San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality against African-Americans. Soon the trend spread across the NFL.
America relies on crises. We hope that they don’t occur and pretend that they’re not inevitable, whatever they might be.
Colin Kaepernick risked his career to make us see. Now Nike risks its bottom line to support him.
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