The Republicans may be burying an old political trope -- or else just confusing the kids.
TAMPA -- Political players and journalists have long described the Democrats as the Mommy party and the Republicans as the Daddy party. The Democrats were the party of the hearth -- the warm and fuzzy ones who cared about kids and schools and health care -- and the Republicans were the party of the workplace -- the stern and sinewy ones who brought home the bacon and kept everyone safe.
The parties have a history of cross-dressing when it suits their purposes (Maureen Dowd indelibly described the 1996 Republican convention, in San Diego, as an "estrogen festival"). But I can't remember a party simultaneously presenting itself so starkly as serially playing both roles as the Republicans are doing here. Maybe it's the inevitable effect of trying to simultaneously humanize Mitt Romney and present him as a strong leader -- and, more broadly, soften the harder edges of the ticket's policy agenda while retaining the tough-guy image that revs up the Tea Party. Or maybe it's a new era, and the Republicans are in the act of tearing down a frame that is based in notions of family roles that are hopelessly out of date.
The clearest presentation of the two-track convention came Tuesday night, when Ann Romney sweetly declared, "I want to talk to you about love" right before Chris Christie thundered that love was overrated: "I believe we have become paralyzed, paralyzed by our desire to be loved." Then the governor shouted a bunch of stuff about how we need to grow up and make tough choices.
The effect was a little disorienting, like being hugged by mom and told everything was going to be OK, right before you get spanked by dad and told to pull yourself together. It might have gone down a little easer if it had come in reverse order. For my own part, I felt, by the time Christie was done, a little like this.
But apparently the Republicans really ARE both my mommy and my daddy. "She did the mommy part about the dad, and he did the daddy part about the mom," Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, explained to me. While Ann Romney talked about her husband, Christie talked about his mother. "The irony was so rich -- just dripping," Luntz said. "One used a man to illustrate traits to appeal to women, the other used a woman to illustrate traits that appeal to men."
I still feel a little dazed and confused, but Luntz says that the problem is that voters don't want to hear anything more about "compassionate conservatism" -- and not because they don't want to be reminded of George W. Bush: "They don't want 'conservatism' because it's too ideological," he said. "They don't want 'compassion' because it's too soft. They just want to get it done." Ryan, he said, "is the bridge between the two. Ryan has got a gentle demeanor, almost Boy Scout-like, but he delivers a tough message. That's what makes it palatable."
We shall see. As for Romney, I continue to think that the convention speech of the modern era that most successfully performed the high-wire act that lies ahead for him -- presenting strength and humanity, daddy and mommy, all in a credible new package for a familiar political figure -- was this one:
Unlike past presidents-elect, Donald Trump hasn’t expanded his support since the election. His belligerent attitude toward his critics may be one reason why.
Donald Trump always seems most grounded in chaos. He thrives on contradicting his aides, surprising his allies, disparaging his opponents. He revels in the tempest.
This combustible approach has touched a chord with his base of primarily non-college-educated and non-urban white voters who have felt eclipsed both economically and culturally and slighted by the nation’s leadership. But he will arrive at his inaugural Friday facing more resistance in public opinion than any newly elected president in the history of polling, and with lingering clouds over his legitimacy—symbolized by the surprisingly widespread House Democratic boycott of the ceremony. Trump’s agenda is polarizing enough, but the intensity of that opposition appears rooted even more in his relentless belligerence toward any critical voice or institution.
A history of the first African American White House—and of what came next
In the waning days of President Barack Obama’s administration, he and his wife, Michelle, hosted a farewell party, the full import of which no one could then grasp. It was late October, Friday the 21st, and the president had spent many of the previous weeks, as he would spend the two subsequent weeks, campaigning for the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. Things were looking up. Polls in the crucial states of Virginia and Pennsylvania showed Clinton with solid advantages. The formidable GOP strongholds of Georgia and Texas were said to be under threat. The moment seemed to buoy Obama. He had been light on his feet in these last few weeks, cracking jokes at the expense of Republican opponents and laughing off hecklers. At a rally in Orlando on October 28, he greeted a student who would be introducing him by dancing toward her and then noting that the song playing over the loudspeakers—the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”—was older than she was.
For one thing, she’s never attended or taught at a public school.
Betsy DeVos is likely to be confirmed as the next secretary of education. There’s nothing unusual about the Senate supporting a president-elect’s choice to lead the U.S. Department of Education. But DeVos is a more controversial choice than nominees in recent memory.
At his hearing, the outgoing education secretary, John King, faced friendly questioning from the senators on the education committee in charge of moving nominations forward, including from the Republican chairman, Lamar Alexander. King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan, was confirmed in the Senate by a voice vote. It’s not just Democrats who have had easy confirmations, either. Both of George W. Bush’s education secretaries—Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings—were also confirmed by voice vote and received praise during their hearings from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The president-elect’s filings with the Federal Election Commission offer the best (and only) glimpse into what he owns and owes. Here they are in for the first time in a searchable, easy-to-read format.
One hallmark of President-elect Donald Trump’s behavior is a marked tension between brazen exhibitionism and near-total opacity. Trump is incorrigibly outspoken, especially on Twitter, and has been in the public eye for decades; his supporters and surrogates frequently maintain that these make him notably transparent. However, when it comes to any information by which Trump could be held accountable, such as the details of his policy positions, he has been anything but forthcoming, a tendency which poses an enormous threat to a system of governance built upon the idea of checks and balances.
Among the most notable manifestations of this opacity is that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump broke decades of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns. Although he initially said that he would do so, as the campaign wore on, he and his staff soon began proffering a number of explanations for why he didn’t. Though none of those excuses held up under scrutiny, Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns, which means that, though he is orders of magnitude wealthier than any of his predecessors, the American public knows significantly less about his finances than it has about any president’s since Richard Nixon. Given that Trump is entering the presidency with an unprecedented business empire—and unprecedented conflicts of interest—the dearth of information significantly restricts the public’s understanding of how Trump’s financial entanglements may influence his decision-making in office.
A mix of patriotic balladeers and apolitical acts will take the stage on Thursday and Friday.
It is not true, as a lot of commentary would have it, that Donald Trump’s inauguration will feature “no stars.” Some of the entertainers who have signed on to play have, in fact, built their success on entertaining millions of people. But it is true that what’s considered “the A-list” will be conspicuously absent, as will be acts from other lists: The B-Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen tribute group, backed out from an unofficial inaugural party after outcry; Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday reneged from the main concert event.
The mix of entertainers lined up for Thursday’s “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration” on the National Mall and Friday’s swearing-in ceremony represents a hodgepodge of ideology and expediency. In a savvy MTV essay about Trump’s national-anthem singer Jackie Evancho, Doreen St. Félix argued that booking the 16-year-old America’s Got Talent runner up was “a matter of scavenging, and then gilding over the spoils”—a description that could apply across the lineup given the many headlines about Trump’s team getting turned down by celebrities then saying that not having famous people is a good thing. But in its relative lack of glitz, and in its coalition of performers well familiar to state-fair stages, this week’s bill may inadvertently achieve the stated inaugural goal of projecting an image not of Trump but of the people who elected him.
The Russian leader tries to claim the role of senior partner in relationship with the U.S.
You have to feel bad for the Moldovan president. The newly elected Igor Dodon had traveled to Moscow to meet Russian president Vladimir Putin for the first Russian-Moldovan bilateral meeting in nine years. Yet here he was, standing side by side with Putin, his hero and model for emulation, at a regal-looking press conference and some reporter has to go and ask about the prostitutes.
“You haven’t yet commented on the report that, allegedly, we or in Russia have been collecting kompromat on Donald Trump, including during his visit to Moscow, as if he were having fun with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel,” said the reporter with the pro-Kremlin LifeNews. “Is that true? Have you seen these files, these videos, these tapes?”
The president-elect’s lawyers have explained why they don’t think he’ll violate the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause—but their arguments fall apart under closer scrutiny.
Last week, President-elect Donald Trump’s lawyers issued a brief, largely unnoticed memo defending Trump’s plan to “separate” himself from his businesses. We believe that memo arbitrarily limits itself to a small portion of the conflicts it purports to address, and even there, presents claims that depart from precedent and common sense. Trump can convince a lot of people of a lot of things—but neither he nor his lawyers can explain away the ethics train wreck that will soon crash into the Oval Office.
It’sbeenwidelyacknowledgedthat, when Trump swears the Oath of Office, he will stand in violation of the Constitution’s foreign-emoluments clause. The emoluments clause forbids any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from accepting any “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” (unless Congress explicitly consents).
Some Democrats, most notably Representative John Lewis, have labeled Donald Trump with the same epithet applied to his two immediate predecessors.
When was the last time America had a “legitimate” president?
You’d have to go back a ways to find a unanimous choice. Certainly not Donald Trump. Representative John Lewis, the civil-rights icon, has sparked a fury by saying, “I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president.” Had Hillary Clinton won, she would not have fit the bill, either: Trump said repeatedly during the campaign that she should not have been allowed to run. Certainly not Barack Obama. Many opponents—none of them more prominent than Trump, yet again—argued, falsely and preposterously, that he was not even eligible to stand for the presidency because he had not been born in the United States. And certainly not George W. Bush, whom many Democrats viewed as illegitimate for several reasons: his popular-vote loss; questions over the final count in Florida; the fact that the Supreme Court effectively decided the election on a party-line vote.
Expanded school choice is a continuation of forced self-determination.
In recent weeks, pundits and scholars have bemoaned the privatization of public education that is likely to occur if Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. Democracy Now!, for instance, billed DeVos as “Public (School) Enemy No. 1.” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement described her as “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.” At her confirmation hearing Tuesday evening, Democratic senators grilled her about her track record promoting private control of public education and demanded, to little avail, that she would commit to keeping public-school dollars in public schools.
The agency’s “follow the water” strategy risks creating a lost generation of scientists.
Two weeks ago, NASA announced the selection of two new missions to explore the solar system. Psyche will fly to a metallic asteroid of the same name, and Lucy will explore “Trojan asteroids” that travel along Jupiter’s orbital path. The missions will advance our understanding of the origins of the solar system, and are by all accounts worthy missions. In choosing them, however, NASA passed on the chance to return to Venus, a planet in dire need of exploration.
A generation has now gone by since the agency set a course for the second planet from the Sun, and with this latest mission opportunity lost, the earliest an expedition there might launch (from some future selection process) would be 2027—nearly 40 years since our last visit.