Since the Civil War, Americans have struggled to define what seems to be obvious: What is a lynching? It conjures visions of a mob pulling a man from a jail cell, hauling him to a tree and throwing a rope over a branch. But debates have centered on how how many people must take part in such an extrajudicial killing for it to qualify as a lynching (the NAACP suggested in 1921 at least five).
And must the motive be racial? Was the hanging of a suspected white horse thief in the Wild West by ranch hands the same as a white Southern mob, amid taunts, jeers and spit, turning a black man accused of insulting a white woman into “strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees,” as Billie Holliday once sang?
But even the new pro-Trump Graham is dramatically distancing himself from the president on whether Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is culpable in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a statement on Nov. 20, Trump embraced a lazy agnosticism about the crown prince’s involvement, saying that “it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
A number of death penalty states have in recent years adopted secrecy laws shielding the identities of suppliers of the drugs they buy for lethal injections. Secrecy advocates argue that the drugmakers must remain in the shadows to keep opponents of the death penalty from protesting them.
In other words, if the states can’t conduct the people’s business in secret, the people might rise in opposition to the business the state is conducting. So much for open governments and public accountability.
Two recent reports highlight the dangers of such secrecy policies. Buzzfeed News published a piece last week saying that the state of Texas, by far the nation’s leading killer of the condemned, obtained execution drugs from Greenpark Compounding Pharmacy in Houston, which Buzzfeed said has been cited by state regulators for 48 violations over the last eight years.
Earlier this week, Joe Biden told an audience at the University of Montana that he was “the most qualified person in the country to be president.” He wasn’t officially announcing his run — he’d decide over the holidays, he said — but one doesn’t generally say such things unless they’re running.
Plus, Biden’s never played coy about his desire to hold the office. He first ran for president in 1988. (Dropped out because of plagiarism scandals.) He ran again in 2008. (Received less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa Caucus.)
In October, Biden received some buzz as early polling showed him leading the Democratic field in 2020. These two-years-out polls don’t mean much; similar ones showed Presidents Clinton and Obama losing re-election. Two years is plenty of time for Biden, a self-declared “gaffe machine,” to give the race away.
The attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia, who are suing President Trump over allegations that he is violating the emolument clause of the Constitution, banning payments from foreign governments, has subpoenaed a range of records from the president’s businesses, some of his competitors, and federal agencies that have dealt with the Trump Organization.
The death of former President George H.W. Bush is inspiring comparisons between his presidency and that of the current occupant of the White House. That was inevitable, because the traits that defined Bush’s one term in office are scandalously absent from the way Donald Trump has approached the highest office in the land.
Bush assumed the presidency after serving as a member of Congress, as ambassador to the United Nations, as CIA director and as vice president; Trump was a political amateur when he was elected (and proud of it). Bush was respectful of the expertise of his advisers and career government officials; Trump disdains them as a sinister “Deep State.” Bush was willing to abandon his “Read my lips: No new taxes” campaign pledge in order to cement a compromise agreement on the budget; Trump is loath to repudiate positions he took on the campaign trail, such as his reckless promise to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement.
Bush was an ambitious politician, but he also was self-effacing and reluctant to personalize the achievements of his administration. For Trump, everything is about Trump. And Bush cherished civility, despite some low shots on the campaign trail — especially his campaign’s questionable use of a prison furlough program against his opponent, Michael Dukakis. (Willie Horton, a black man who raped a woman after escaping while on furlough, figured in a racially inflammatory TV aid aired by Bush supporters.)
More than a year after reports about movie producer Harvey Weinstein kicked off a cultural movement, #MeToo hasn’t seemed to have lost its potency. At least not in California, where two powerful men accused of misconduct saw their political careers derailed this month.
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman resigned Thursday after a Los Angeles Times investigation uncovered several allegations that he had made sexually explicit comments to staffers and engaged in unwanted touching. Within hours of the Times story’s publication, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and other Democratic Party leaders were calling for him to step down.
State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) had his own #MeToo moment this summer, and it may have cost him a seat on the state Board of Equalization. The termed-out legislator had a huge lead over his Democratic opponent coming out of the June primary. But in September, Anderson was reprimanded by his colleagues for an incident in which he allegedly threatened to “bitch slap” a female lobbyist.
At first I didn’t believe Matthew Whitaker was qualified to serve as President Trump’s acting attorney general, but I’ve come around after reading about his involvement with World Patent Marketing before it went out of business.
It’s almost as if the midterm election escaped the notice of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As you may recall, voters decisively bounced Republicans from control of the House. Democrats had spotlighted Republicans’ attacks on Obamacare, and more specifically the GOP’s efforts to end the law’s protections for millions of people with preexisting conditions. (Those protections apply to the roughly 15 million people who buy insurance directly because they’re not covered by health plans at work; a different federal law provides similar protection to people covered by large group plans.)
Yet here we are, a little more than three weeks from the election, with a new gambit by HHS to promote cheaper, thinner insurance policies — at the expense of people who need comprehensive coverage. You know, like people with preexisting conditions.
“When you have candidates who win the absentee ballot vote and then lose three weeks later because of provisionals, that’s really bizarre,” Ryan said. “I just think that’s a very, very strange outcome.”
Certainly Ryan and his caucus are dismayed about the outcome in the midterm elections, losing half of the already small number of GOP House seats in California, not to mention control of the House altogether. But if he’s bewildered by California’s voting system, perhaps it is because he’s not used to states that are making it easier for people to vote.