Will Ireland Reunify After Brexit?

[ Posted Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 – 17:29 PDT ]

To begin with, Great Britain is part of Europe. This is a cartological fact which anyone with a grade-school grasp of geography knows. One is a subset of the other. Three countries (England, Wales, and Scotland) make up the island of Great Britain, and when you add in Northern Ireland (more on them in a moment), you get the United Kingdom. All are located on islands, but those islands are undoubtedly part of the continent of Europe. While Britain may leave the European Union political federation, they will always remain European.

You might think I'm stating some fairly obvious facts here, but an astounding poll appeared in the midst of the run-up to the Brexit vote -- only one in seven Brits considered themselves "European." Even in the middle of a hard-fought and emotional political campaign, that's a pretty jaw-droppingly low percentage.

I have first-hand experience with this attitude, both from visits to Britain over the last quarter-century and from when I lived in Europe in the early 1990s. I'd listen to BBC radio in the mornings back then (for news in English) and encounter this strange attitude on a daily basis. News, for example was either local (British) or "...from Europe today...." In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the British considered Europe to be a completely separate entity from them. This was back when the idea of consolidating Europe financially and economically was still very much a work in progress (the Euro wouldn't appear for years). Time and time again, the British essentially wanted an outsized amount of control before agreeing to any new political unification of Europe. Britain was only ever half-heartedly in the European Union, to put this another way. The best example of this was the fact that Britain never adopted the Euro at all, retaining their Pound instead. And even back then, the "Eurosceptic" faction already existed in British politics.

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From The Archives -- Obama Should Call GOP's Bluff

[ Posted Tuesday, June 28th, 2016 – 17:14 PDT ]

[Program Note: I was too busy today to write a new column, mostly because I was dealing with preparations for the upcoming Democratic National Convention (so it was "work-related," at least). And because we're at the end of "Supreme Court decision" season (with a court of only eight justices), I thought the following column would be appropriate to run again. It only appeared a few months ago, but I still think the idea is a dandy one. The only change in my thinking now is that President Obama might not want to telegraph his move in advance -- it might be even more effective if it were announced the day after Hillary Clinton's election victory, in other words. But whether he announces the move now or right after the election, I still think the following course of action is the right one for the president to take, which is why I'm decided to run it again today. Oh, and one final technical note, the bit about "Leprechaun-poop" was included because of the auspicious date it originally ran on.]


Originally published March 17, 2016

George Orwell would be proud of Senate Republicans. Or maybe he wouldn't be "proud," but he certainly wouldn't be surprised. This is because he coined the word "doublethink," which is precisely what these Republicans are now revealing to the world. In fact, the Republican position is fast becoming "triplethink," an even more jaw-dropping feat of mental contortion.

Doublethink was defined, of course, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the ability to hold two completely contradictory ideas in your head and believe them both simultaneously, without blowing any intellectual fuses. War is peace? No problem.

When Antonin Scalia unexpectedly dropped dead, the doublethinking began in earnest. Conservatives who swear fealty to the United States Constitution immediately called on President Barack Obama to not perform his duties that same Constitution requires, and refuse to name anyone to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. Scalia's body wasn't even cold before this chorus began, in fact.

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Elizabeth Warren Wows Ohio

[ Posted Monday, June 27th, 2016 – 16:50 PDT ]

Either Elizabeth Warren just made Hillary Clinton's vice-presidential choice a lot harder or a lot easier, depending on how you see her strategic decision-making process and how much chance you think a Clinton/Warren ticket has of becoming reality. Warren appeared onstage with Clinton today and the Massachusetts senator wowed the Ohio crowd, proving without a shadow of a doubt she is unquestionably the best "attack dog" the Democrats have against Donald Trump. But is this enough for Clinton to select Warren as running mate? Or, perhaps is it too much? In other words, is there a danger that Warren could actually upstage the presidential candidate? And even if Hillary knows Warren is the best anti-Trump weapon around, will Clinton's choice ultimately hinge on this criterion or not?

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Friday Talking Points [397] -- Taking The Trump Exit

[ Posted Friday, June 24th, 2016 – 16:56 PDT ]

Donald Trump's name lends itself to all sorts of mashed-up words, but we find it doesn't really work with the big story of the week. British voters decided to take the so-called "Brexit" (or "British exit") from the European Union. But what should we call the increasing stream of Republicans flowing away from Trump's campaign? Truxit? Trexit? See, it just doesn't work all that well.

But whatever you call it, the number of GOP stalwarts now taking the Trump exit continues to increase. It's kind of astounding that so many in the party are fleeing their own presidential nominee, since this (to put it mildly) isn't normal. Normally, the party rallies around their candidate right about now, but these are not (again, to put it mildly) normal times.

Just in the past week alone, we had well-respected Republican foreign policy wonk Brent Scowcroft actually endorse Hillary Clinton for president. That's pretty stunning. Then there were a list of 50 Republican business leaders who also publicly announced they were supporting the other party's candidate. George Will is now pleading with Republican donors to not give Trump a thin dime. Senator Mark Kirk, who is in fear of losing his seat in Illinois, is proudly running away from both Trump and his own party (his recent ad boasts Kirk "bucked his party to say Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief"). Go on, tell us how you really feel, Senator Kirk!

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[ Posted Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 – 16:34 PDT ]

It is "major Supreme Court decision season" once again, and the high court just punted on a very big issue, issuing a split decision (4-4) that allowed the lower appellate court's decision to stand on President Obama's plan for immigration. This is bad news for Obama (since the lower court ruled against him, and he likely won't get another chance to act before he leaves office) and also bad news for the almost five million people affected, but it might wind up being a silver lining for Democrats this fall. The decision itself is a non-decision, merely stating "we are deadlocked on the issue," which only serves to draw attention to the vacancy on the court (and the Senate Republicans' refusal to act on Obama's nominee). The impact of the decision may just cement Latino support for Democrats tighter than even Donald Trump has already made it. And for non-Latino voters, the focus on the president's ability to name Supreme Court justices may also serve to benefit Hillary Clinton at the voting booth. Politically, the stakes are high, and this time more voters might take that into consideration when casting their ballot in November.

Normally, "I'm voting for candidate X because of the Supreme Court" is a pretty wonky argument, usually only bandied about by those deeply interested in politics. Voters normally have to take a pretty long view of American politics to even be concerned about the court when deciding which candidate to vote for, especially those who generally don't pay a whole lot of attention to politics in the first place. This time around, it will be a lot harder to ignore. If not for the decision handed down today, then for the fact that the next president will most likely have the chance for a Supreme Court nomination on their first day in office.

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Occupy Congress!

[ Posted Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016 – 16:07 PDT ]

As I write this, a protest is occurring on the floor of the House of Representatives. Democrats, led by John Lewis, Jim Clyburn, Nancy Pelosi (and many others), are staging a "sit-in" to protest Republicans' refusal to even hold a vote on any gun control legislation. Their battle cry is "No bill, no break" -- a veiled threat to keep the protest going right into the next one of those too-frequent vacation weeks Congress regularly awards itself. Whether the protest is ultimately successful or not, it shows a renewed vigor in the Democratic Party to push back against the do-nothing party in the majority. This could bode well for their chances to retake control of both chambers of Congress this fall, in fact.

This protest comes the week after the ninth-longest filibuster in Senate history, launched by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, on exactly the same subject. Murphy forced the Senate Republicans to allow votes, and although no bill has yet passed, compromise legislation is still a possibility. This shows that on both sides of the Capitol, Democrats are willing to use extraordinary measures to spotlight the refusal of Congress to even attempt to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists. It could even be called the "Occupy Congress" movement.

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Freedom To Travel Is Also A Constitutional Right

[ Posted Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 – 17:25 PDT ]

Four gun control bills got votes in the Senate yesterday, as a direct result of Senator Chris Murphy's filibuster last week. All of them failed, largely on party lines. There is talk that Senator Susan Collins of Maine is attempting to move beyond political partisanship by creating a compromise that both sides could possibly agree to. Even if she's successful and such a bill passes the Senate, its prospects still appear dim in the Republican-led House.

What is largely missing in this raging debate, however, is an issue I explored last week -- the constitutionality of government watchlists in the first place. I was convinced to revisit the issue after watching all the Sunday political chatfests on television, and reading a letter to my local paper today. What the letter-writer pointed out (and what all the talking heads almost universally missed) was that "freedom to travel" is also a constitutional right. The discussion so far on the gun control measures centers around the question of whether the government can explicitly deny a right written into the Constitution (in the Second Amendment) to people it has not offered the slightest bit of due process whatsoever. Indeed, this is almost the entirety of the Republican argument on the issue.

But what even the Republicans don't bother to mention is that the federal government is already denying a constitutional right to people. Of course, "the right to fly on a publicly-accessible airplane" was not explicitly laid out in the 1780s, since airplanes themselves wouldn't exist for another century or so. But the right to travel freely is indeed written into the Constitution, in the Fifth Amendment: "No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." The key word in there is "liberty," and the key phrase is "due process of law."

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Guest Author -- Donald Trump, The Apprentice Demagogue

[ Posted Monday, June 20th, 2016 – 19:46 PDT ]

In the online world, people get compared to Adolf Hitler so often that many years ago "Godwin's Law" was created to give a definition to the phenomenon. In politics, Hitler analogies usually aren't quite as frequent, but they are getting much more common these days. It's one thing to see this accusation hurled in an article's comments section, or even by a late-night comedian (trolling for some laughs), but what is new this year is hearing members of Donald Trump's own party comparing him to fascist leaders (as Meg Whitman recently did).

So when political science Professor Kenneth Janda asked if he could write a column making a more academic comparison (instead of just hurling insults), I thought it'd be a great idea. Janda is the Payson S. Wild Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Northwestern University, and he's both written a guest article here before and also been an interview subject (in the midst of the 2008 campaign).

Janda makes a pretty good case, drawing on historical data from Hitler's own political campaigns as well as quotes from Donald Trump during the past year.

-- Chris Weigant


Donald Trump, The Apprentice Demagogue

Donald Trump is clearly no Adolf Hitler. Trump does not preach Hitler's most hateful domestic policies, and Trump's foreign policy is not imperialist but isolationist. Trump's slogan, "American First," resembles "Deutschland über alles" ("Germany above all else") more in chauvinistic simplicity than evil intent. But it does underscore that Trump is, as Hitler was, a demagogue, appealing to voters' emotions and prejudices in order to win election.

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Friday Talking Points [396] -- No Magic Phrases

[ Posted Friday, June 17th, 2016 – 18:16 PDT ]

Before we begin, we should mention that this week's talking points section consists of a few extended excerpts from President Obama's recent speech on fighting the Islamic State. What he had to say was important, and it counters several insidious talking points that have been used against him in the past, so we felt it was worth taking over this week's talking points. Just to warn everyone up front.

Because these excerpts are longish, we're going to once again have to punt on announcing the winners of our "what playground taunt should we call Donald Trump?" contest once again. Our apologies, and we swear we'll get to it next week (granted, that's what we said last week, but this time we really mean it).

We're also going to have to review the week's news in lighting fashion for an intro, because this column's already approaching Brobdingnagian lengths. Well, maybe not, but it sure is fun to run "Brobdingnagian" through the old spell-checker, and we have to find our amusements where we will in this job. Ahem. Enough meandering, let's just get on with it, shall we?

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Obama Hits A Milestone

[ Posted Thursday, June 16th, 2016 – 16:11 PDT ]

President Barack Obama just hit a milestone in public job approval. At Real Clear Politics, his daily rolling average of public opinion polls just went over 50 percent. Unless they are edited late in the day (which sometimes happens), Obama currently merits 50.4 percent approval and only 45.7 percent disapproval from the polled public.

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