Friday, April 29, 2016

Cruising the Web

Well, this is some good news to start the day.
In a stunning reversal, the U.S. Army decided late Thursday to retain a decorated Green Beret it had planned to kick out after he physically confronted a local Afghan commander accused of raping a boy over the course of many days.

Sgt 1st Class Charles Martland, confirmed the Army's decision to retain him when reached by Fox News, who has been covering the story in depth for the past eight months and first broke the story of the Army's decision in August to kick out Martland over the incident, which occurred in northern Afghanistan in 2011....

As first reported by Fox News, while deployed to Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander in 2011 accused of raping an Afghan boy and beating his mother. When the man laughed off the incident, they shoved him to the ground.

Martland and his team leader were later removed from the base, and eventually sent home from Afghanistan. The U.S. Army has not confirmed the specifics of Martland's separation from service citing privacy reasons, but a “memorandum of reprimand” from October 2011 obtained by Fox News makes clear that Martland was criticized by the brass for his intervention after the alleged rape. Asked for comment in September 2015, an Army spokesman reiterated, "the U.S. Army is unable to confirm the specifics of his separation due to the Privacy Act."

An Army spokesman said Thursday that Martland's status has been changed, allowing him to stay in the Army in a statement to Fox News.
I get that we have to have good relations with Afghanis , but it shouldn't include turning our eyes away from gross abuses. And we shouldn't be punishing our own forces for doing what they've been trained to do - protect civilians.

Scott McKay reviews the politicization of the Obama Justice Department. It's a long list, including outrages that I'd forgotten about.
Seven years into the Age of Obama, we’ve become used to, and in fact now expect, the application of federal law, or lack thereof, to depend on politics. Particularly when it comes to the president’s debauched Department of Justice.

Can there be any doubt about this? It began almost before the president even took office, with the decision to quash the prosecution of the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia on voter intimidation charges arising from the 2008 election, in a case that was about as open-and-shut as one could get and in fact had been won by the Bush Justice Department. Next came the decision to let the unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing case skate.

Then came a whole host of famous scandals in which the administration and its Attorney General not only refused to prosecute its allies for clear violations of federal law but to openly boast no such prosecutions would be forthcoming — Fast And Furious, the IRS persecution of conservative groups, the targeting of Fox News’ James Rosen and the AP as terror suspects, then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s attempts to essentially solicit bribes from the insurance industry in an effort to kick-start the financing of Obamacare, the Pigford scandal, the multiple cases of malfeasance involved with the General Services Administration scandal, Solyndra, the Lisa Jackson-“Richard Windsor” e-mail affair, the violation of the War Powers Act that resulted in the attacks on Libya — and the blowback in Benghazi which resulted in the deaths of American ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in government service there, the Joe Sestak buyoff affair of 2010…

That’s not a comprehensive list, and you wouldn’t expect it to be; after all, federal corruption prosecutions are at a 20-year low — down almost 40 percent since 1995. That’s an awful lot of scot-free crooks.

And we don’t even need to address the Hillary Clinton e-mail case, though it’s the humpback whale in the room. It’s reasonably clear there is a host of federal charges due the former secretary of state for her breathtaking misuse of government documents and reckless negligence in storing state secrets on an unsecured server in a Denver apartment bathroom. How certain are you that a case will be brought before Clinton stands for election in November?

But in the meantime there have been a host of prosecutorial aggressions which have been similarly obnoxious in their political nature. When the president suggested one appropriate use of political power was to “punish your enemies,” he wasn’t kidding.

Just ask Dinesh D’Souza, who had to spend eight months of sleepless nights in a San Diego halfway house populated with rapists, murderers, gang-bangers and other dangerous people, and then in almost Orwellian fashion undergo psychiatric counseling, because he committed the unpardonable crime against democracy of using straw donors to float some $20,000 to Wendy Long, a college friend in a hopeless campaign against New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand in 2010.

D’Souza may well have deserved some punishment for what he did, which was criminal not only by the letter but more prominently in its stupidity; if he’d just called a lawyer and set up a PAC he could have directly contributed far more to Long’s campaign effort with no trouble at all. But while D’Souza has repeatedly admitted his culpability and repented of the poor judgement which put him at odds with the law, it must be said that his actions were hardly the first of their kind. He’s just the only one who ever lost his freedom for them; usually straw-donor cases, and even ones far, far larger than his, are taken care of through fines. Just ask New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, who funneled $180,000 worth of straw donations to Democrat candidates, including Hillary Clinton, and got off with three years’ probation and a fine.
And when Hillary takes office next year, expect this all to continue.

Why not in this day when gender and race are simple social constructs that individuals can manipulate by their own choices, should actual pregnancy be anything else? Katherine Timpf reports on a woman who believes that childless women should get maternity leave.
Foye told the Post that she was 31 years old and working as a magazine editor when she started feeling like it wasn’t fair that the people who had kids got to, like, leave early to pick up those kids and take off time to have them.

“The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs,” Foye said.
This is the sort of logic that Meghann Foye uses to explain why she should get time off just as parents do.
It seemed that parenthood was the only path that provided a modicum of flexibility. There’s something about saying “I need to go pick up my child” as a reason to leave the office on time that has far more gravitas than, say, “My best friend just got ghosted by her OkCupid date and needs a margarita” — but both sides are valid.

And as I watched my friends take their real maternity leaves, I saw that spending three months detached from their desks made them much more sure of themselves. One friend made the decision to leave her corporate career to create her own business; another decided to switch industries. From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of them shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.

While both men and women would benefit from a “meternity” leave after a decade or so in the workforce, the concept is one that would be especially advantageous for women. Burnout syndrome is well-documented in both sexes, but recent research suggests that women may experience it at greater rates; researchers postulate that it’s because women (moms and non-moms alike) feel overloaded by the roles they have to take on at work and at home.
Yes, why shouldn't businesses pay their employees to take time out to figure out if they want to quite their jobs? And, of course, why shouldn't women be privileged over men? And why shouldn't we equate picking up a child be the same as having a drink with a lady's gal-pals to moan about their dates? Businesses should be letting their female employees leave early all the time, because, well, because they're women, darn it. And women need special care.
Bottom line: Women are bad at putting ourselves first. But when you have a child, you learn how to self-advocate to put the needs of your family first. A well-crafted “meternity” can give you the same skills — and taking one shouldn’t disqualify you from taking maternity leave later.
Remember when the feminist movement used to argue that men and women are the same and women didn't need to be treated differently in the workplace because they could do any job a man could do? Now, we've come to a time when a woman is advocating for women to have special time-outs from work just so they can "grapple with self-doubt." Sheesh. I wish we were back to celebrating, "You've come a long way baby" instead of "I need a break from not having had a baby."

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Huma Abedin is one truly devoted Hillary aide. Newsweek profiles Abedin's role as the "body-woman" to Hillary Clinton.
“She was a very, very religious person—she didn’t smoke, drink or swear, always very polite,” recalls one Clinton friend, who, like most people who spoke to Newsweek, asked not to be named. “A lot of times, Hillary would snap her fingers and go, ‘Gum.’ And Huma would fetch it.” Abedin took her duties so seriously, the source recalled, that when she learned that Clinton had once carried her own bag up a flight of stairs in her aide’s absence, Abedin nearly burst into tears.
Awww. Who doesn't want a gofer that you can snap your fingers to fetch you gum and who will tear up at the thought of you carrying your own bag?

Abedin went from fetching gum to becoming deputy chief of staff to the Secretary of State. And she married Anthony Weiner and suffered her own Clintonian sex scandal when his vulgar sexting practices became known. Like Hillary, she stood by her man. And she still is the closest aide to Hillary Clinton and the one that others, even Bill, must go through if they want to talk to Hillary.

How appropriate that Nina Burleigh should be the one providing a generally positive profile of Huma that also scoffs at any possible criticism of Abedin. After all, Burleigh is the one who bragged about her love for Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, claiming, "I'd be happy to give him [oral sex] just to thank him for keeping abortion legal." She then wrote an article describing how excited she was when the President ogled her.
"The President's foot lightly, and presumably accidentally, brushed mine once under the table. His hand touched my wrist while he was dealing the cards. When I got up and shook his hand at the end of the game, his eyes wandered over to my bike-wrecked, naked legs. And slowly it dawned on me as I walked away: He found me attractive."


"No doubt the President's lawyers and spin doctors would say I wishfully imagined that long, appreciative look, just as all those other women have fantasized their more explicitly sexual encounters with Clinton. But we all know when we're being ogled. The weird thing was that I didn't mind. There was a time when the hormones of indignant feminism raged in my veins. An open gaze like that, at least from a man of lesser stature, would have annoyed me. But that evening, I had the opposite reaction. I felt incandescent. It was riveting to know that the President had appreciated my legs, scarred as they were. If he had asked me to continue the game of hearts back in his room at the Jasper Holiday Inn, I would have been happy to go there and see what happened. At the time, that seemed quite possible. It took several hours and a few drinks in the steaming and now somehow romantic Arkansas night to shake the intoxicated state in which I had been quite willing to let myself be ravished by the President, should he have but asked. I probably wore the mesmerized look I have seen again and again in women after they have met him. The same silly hypnotized gleam was displayed on the cover of Time magazine in Monica Lewinsky's eyes....

"And yet there I was, walking away from a close encounter with the President of the United States, stupefied and vaguely hoping that he'd send an aide over to my hotel room to ask me up for a drink. What is it in some of us, that powerful men make us pliant and willing with a mere glance?...
Ugh. Are we going to have to read more of such fangirldom when Bill is First Gentleman?

Sean Trende put together a Storify of a series of Jay Cost's tweets explaining why Trump is unfit to be president and excoriating those Republicans who are going along with Trump's candidacy. There's not a word I'd disagree with. Cost links to this essay by Jamelle Bouie warning us that we should never get used to the idea of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Bouie goes through other candidates and presidents who didn't have elected experience or much of a resume to be president. There have been others who were "vapid and ill-informed" or who were outsiders. Others have been racists, nativists, or used violent rhetoric.
No, what makes Donald Trump something new in American political life is that he’s all of these things at once: a racist, nativist demagogue with few ties to government, no experience in public office, no service in the armed forces, and little to no knowledge of anything involving governance, from policy to basic questions like, “What is the Supreme Court, and what does it do?” If you conjured all the ignorance and arrogance in America and gave it human form, you would have Donald Trump, give or take a spray tan.

Campbell Brown writes in Politico
about how TV journalists paved the way for Donald Trump. Coming from her own experiences at NBC and CNN, she understands how ratings will drive coverage, but how they plumbed new depths in turning television news coverage over to Trump.
I really would like to blame Trump. But everything he is doing is with TV news’ full acquiescence. Trump doesn’t force the networks to show his rallies live rather than do real reporting. Nor does he force anyone to accept his phone calls rather than demand that he do a face-to-face interview that would be a greater risk for him. TV news has largely given Trump editorial control. It is driven by a hunger for ratings—and the people who run the networks and the news channels are only too happy to make that Faustian bargain. Which is why you’ll see endless variations of this banner, one I saw all three cable networks put up in a single day: “Breaking news: Trump speaks for first time since Wisconsin loss.” In all these scenes, the TV reporter just stands there, off camera, essentially useless. The order doesn’t need to be stated. It’s understood in the newsroom: Air the Trump rallies live and uninterrupted. He may say something crazy; he often does, and it’s always great television.
Basically, she alleges, and I agree, that TV news sold their souls over to Trump just for the ratings.
We all know how it started. Early on, even before he was the front-runner, TV news was giving Trump far more attention than other candidates and far more than he deserved. The coverage itself has helped create him, and has exposed those systemic weaknesses in television journalism. Based on data from the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive and analysis by Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen and analytics expert Luke Thompson, Trump gets about six appearances on the major networks for roughly every one his rivals Ted Cruz or John Kasich get. In fact, Trump’s exposure has been three times greater than that of Cruz and Kasich combined. He received 50 percent of the exposure when there were more than a dozen candidates—a percentage that has only grown. Of course, by now, you’ve all also read the figure of close to $2 billion worth of free media the New York Times cited for Trump’s TV bonanza. And that story was back in March. No campaign’s advertising budget can compete.

....It is not just the wall-to-wall coverage of Trump. It’s the openness with which some are reveling in his attention. It’s the effort, conscious or not, to domesticate and pretty him up, to make him appear less offensive than he really is, and to practice a false objectivity or equivalence in the coverage. Here, journalism across all platforms—corporate, as well as publicly funded—is guilty....

It need not be this way. As Trump finally seemed to close in on the nomination this spring, we saw MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and conservative radio host Charlie Sykes really challenge him rather than allow themselves to be props in his act—something Fox News’ Megyn Kelly had been doing for a while, in spite of Trump’s obsessive attacks. The Washington Post editorial board and two New York Times reporters, Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, have used their time with Trump to probe his knowledge of the issues—and expose his ignorance of even basic matters.

They have shown other journalists how, if they don’t cover Trump less, they can at least cover him better. The greatest contribution TV (or any other) journalists can make going forward is to abandon the laziness that too often comes with just playing referee. Use your knowledge and experience to give context; call a misrepresentation just that; and embrace the difference between objective truth and relative truth. You know what it is. Share it. In this campaign, it has never been so important.
Yeah, they'll get right on soon as Trump wraps up the nomination and they need to protect Hillary.

The IRS is indeed omniscient and omnipotent. It thinks it can predict the future of cultural tastes and spending and tax accordingly. The WSJ looks at the question of how the IRS values the estates of dead singers, artists, and writers to tax the worth of their names.
After the doves cry, there’s IRS Form 706.

Estate-tax attorneys for Prince, who died last week, must attempt to put a precise financial value on his name, image and likeness.

That Prince-ness could make him one of America’s top-earning deceased celebrities, and it may be one of his estate’s largest assets—subject to a 40% federal tax.

Prince glyph
Prince glyph
The Internal Revenue Service is used to putting price tags on tradeable assets and is well-trained in taking existing revenue streams and capitalizing them into a value. It is much trickier to divine the worth of a unique niche business—marketing Prince’s legacy—that doesn’t really exist yet.

There is no real precedent for Prince. The closest thing is the Michael Jackson estate-tax battle, headed for trial in the U.S. Tax Court in February.

Mr. Jackson’s estate initially said his image and likeness were worth $2,105 when he died in 2009, near the nadir of a career dragged down by scandal. The IRS, however, said the King of Pop’s posthumous image was worth $434 million.

Mr. Jackson’s total estate, according to court records, tops $1 billion under the original IRS estimate, while the estate first said it was just $7 million. The two sides have resolved some valuation disputes, but the name-and-likeness fight is what the estate-tax bar is following closely.

“This could be very ground-breaking,” said Jonathan Blattmachr, a retired estate-tax lawyer from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. A victory for the IRS, he said, could spur celebrities to alter how their estate plans handle their image rights.

Beyond hundreds of millions of dollars for the U.S. government, Mr. Jackson’s case also has tax-planning consequences for any actor, musician, politician or athlete famous enough to earn beyond the grave.

The dilemma has been tripping up celebrity estates since at least 1994, when a federal court decided a dispute involving V.C. Andrews, author of the novel “Flowers in the Attic.” The IRS said Ms. Andrews’s name was worth $1.2 million.

That was based in part on her publisher’s ability to produce ghostwritten books after her 1986 death, discounted for the risk that the ghostwriter would flub the task. The court, looking at what a buyer could have known before the ghostwritten books were successful, set the value at $703,500.

Still, there are virtually no rules for the IRS or taxpayers to follow, said Mr. Blattmachr. He has suggested exempting the value of names and likenesses from the estate tax but taxing future earnings as ordinary income, not capital gains.

“Michael Jackson will be different from Prince who will be different from Madonna,” Mr. Blattmachr said. “It’s horribly speculative as to what the value is.”
That makes so much sense that the IRS, of course, opposes it. They, apparently, know better. As always.

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I always liked Senator Tom Coburn and was sorry that he retired from the Senate. Now he's back speaking truth to power.
Tom Coburn, the former senator currently leading a movement for a Convention of States, unloaded on Congress during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Wednesday.

“America doesn’t trust you anymore. That’s the truth,” Coburn said, appearing alongside the head of the Government Accountability Office during the hearing to discuss duplicative federal programs.

The GAO recently released its annual report, finding the federal government could save hundreds of billions of dollars just by consolidating duplicative programs.

Coburn, making his first appearance before the Senate since his farewell speech when retired in late 2014, pleaded with Congress to take action to reform government, simplify the tax code, and save taxpayers billions of dollars in the process.
And then he went all de Tocqueville on them.
He pointed to Alexis de Tocqueville, quoting at length the French political philosopher’s Democracy in America, to explain the current upheaval in American politics and the presidential race.

“Some of you may have read it, some of you may not have, but it tells me where we are today in our country,” Coburn said. “And having been in 21 states the last year, and 15 already this year, and what I’m hearing, I’m hearing what Tocqueville described back in the late 1700s.”

Coburn cited Tocqueville observations that centralized power of “small, complicated rules, minute and uniform” leads to the “will of man … not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided.”

“Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd,” Coburn said, quoting Tocqueville.
I love it. Imagine if we had a Congress filled with Tom Coburns.

Ross Douthat contemplates Trump's success to explain why voters in the primaries who are usually the activists in a party who should be more focused on choosing a candidate who matches their ideology while also being the most electable person. That is why, in past elections, GOP primary voters might have flirted with some candidates like a Herman Cain or Mike Huckabee, but eventually rejected them in favor of a Mitt Romney or John McCain.
Until Donald Trump blew this model up. Yes, Trump has adopted conservative positions on various issues, but he’s done so in a transparently cynical fashion, constantly signaling that he doesn’t really believe in or understand the stance that he’s taking, constantly suggesting a willingness to bargain any principle away. Except for immigration hawks, practically every ideological faction in the party regards Trump with mistrust, disgust, suspicion, fear. Pro-lifers, foreign-policy hawks, the Club for Growth, libertarians — nobody thinks Trump is really on their side. And yet he’s winning anyway.

Or at least he’s winning a plurality. So perhaps Trumpism can be understood as a coup by the G.O.P.’s ideologically flexible minority against the conservative movement’s litmus tests; indeed to some extent that’s clearly what’s been happening.

But you would have expected such a coup to be carried out in the name of electability, and Trump doesn’t clear that threshold either. Instead his general-election numbers and favorability ratings are so flagrantly terrible that he’d probably put a raft of red states in play. In other word, he’s untrustworthy and unelectable — a combination that you’d normally expect engaged partisans to consider and reject. And yet he’s winning anyway.
Of course, Trumpkins seem to be under the delusion that, contrary to all the polls, Trump can survive his record unfavorable ratings to defeat Hillary who suffers herself from extreme unfavorable ratings.
The reason for this delusion might be the key unresolved question of Trump’s strange ascent. Is it the fruit of Trump’s unparalleled media domination — does he seem more electable than all his rivals because he’s always on TV? Is it a case of his victor’s image carrying all before it — if you win enough primary contests, even with 35 percent of the vote, people assume that your winning streak can be extended into November? Is this just how a personality cult rooted in identity politics works — people believe in the Great Leader’s capacity to crush their tribe’s enemies and disregard all contrary evidence?
Sounds like what we're witnessing now.

The Daily Wire lists five signs that Trump is a member of the establishment from just the past 24 hours. Are all those voters who are so angry with the GOP leadership in Congress happy to see John Boehner talking about his friendship with Trump? Do they enjoy seeing Trump praise Mitch McConnell. Are they happy that John Cornin, Bob Corker, and CBS are saying good things about Trump? Or are Trump's supporters totally indifferent when Trump demonstrates again and again that he doesn't hold the positions or represent the traits that they originally liked about him?

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Debra Saunders has some advice for young people dreaming about Bernie Sanders' promises of free college tuition. However, it is all the government aid to guarantee loans that have driven up the costs of college.
Who's going to pay for all this? Everyone. Richard Vedder of Ohio University's Center for College Affordability and Productivity co-wrote a pamphlet for The Heartland Institute on higher education reform in 2011, which explored how federal grants and student loans have driven up the cost of college. His report showed the cost of a four-year degree had more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1975. College graduates aren't more literate; they have a lower level of reading comprehension than those who graduated a decade earlier. Also, many grads are underemployed. According to federal statistics, 13 percent of American parking lot attendants and 14 percent of hotel clerks have a bachelor's degree or better....

Then there's the big question: "Where are the taxpayers getting the money?" Vedder asked. It's not unfair if college graduates are saddled with student loan debt, because their incomes should be higher than those of adults who didn't go to college.
But the real burden will be on taxpayers in general, many of whom didn't get to go to college themselves. But they'll be paying to fund these loan guarantees.

I never thought much of Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, but she did exactly the right thing in publishing an open letter to Will Ferrell chastising him for making a comedy about her father and portraying his Alzheimer's for laughs as if he had suffered from dementia while president.
“Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you are President of the United States or a dockworker. It steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime that we all come to rely on to hold our place secure in this world and keep us linked to those we have come to know and love,” she continued. “I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, ‘I don’t know where I am.’ I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar…and mercifully, finally past the fear. There was laughter in those years, but there was never humor.”

Reagan biographers have long debunked the notion that the former president suffered from dementia while in office. However the fictional film “Reagan,” written by Mike Rosolio, takes place during Reagan’s second term, in which an intern must convince the ailing president that he is an actor playing the U.S. president in a movie.

“Alzheimer’s is the ultimate pirate, pillaging a person’s life and leaving an empty landscape behind,” Ms. Davis, 63, wrote. “It sweeps up entire families, forcing everyone to claw their way through overwhelming grief, confusion, helplessness, and anger. Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either."

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Jonathan Last reminds us
of how the Donald Trump who has been whining and lying about the rigged GOP delegate system, has rigged the system to succeed in business in ways that no average businessman could do.
Let's begin with his bankruptcies. Trump has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times, in 1991, 1992, 2004, and 2009. In a piece revealing how Trump's companies always seem to go broke while Trump the man seems to stay rich, Forbes magazine explained that following his first bankruptcy, where Trump personally lost $900 million, Trump quit backstopping his corporate debts with personal guarantees. His companies might engage in financially risky behavior, but Trump, personally, would never again suffer any consequences. Anyone to whom Trump owed money would get pennies on the dollar, but Trump himself never again lost a single one of his gold-plated toilets.

Needless to say, this is not the experience of most business owners in America. If you own a sandwich shop, or a law practice, your personal wealth is tied closely to the health of your business. You are probably incorporated, so that if your company fails your personal assets are protected—but you do not have access to large pools of capital without providing some security. If your business has to file for bankruptcy once, getting capital again will be difficult. Go bankrupt twice and it will be that much harder, if not impossible, to find vendors and banks willing to do business with you.

The number of business owners in America who could go bankrupt four times and somehow still find banks and vendors willing to work with them is vanishingly small. A man who could accomplish this feat is rigging the system, which Trump forthrightly admitted to Forbes in 2011, saying, "Basically I've used the laws of the country to my advantage."

Next, let's look at Trump's political dealings. Trump has a long history of giving money to Democratic politicians. He has given money not just to Hillary Clinton and other local Democratic pols in New York, who are his friends and neighbors, but to Democrats across the country, including Harry Reid, Terry McAuliffe, Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle, and Rahm Emanuel.

Early in the primaries Trump was attacked for these donations, with his rivals suggesting that they prove Trump is neither a conservative nor a Republican. Trump's defense was that these donations had nothing to do with his political beliefs—he was merely greasing the skids for his business dealings. In 2011, Trump adviser Michael Cohen explained the donations to CNN: "It's irrelevant as to whether or not it's Republican or Democrat. .  .  . There are many business deals he does that that requires."

Trump himself said that same thing to Jake Tapper last June: "I give money to everybody. .  .  . For instance, I've helped Nancy Pelosi, I've helped [Harry] Reid. .  .  . I was in business. I built a great company. They always treated me nicely."

Solyndra was treated "nicely" by Washington, too. Again: Trump's political experience is—by his own admission—one in which he rigged the system by purchasing political influence in order to gain advantage for his business dealings.

Is this sort of thing illegal? Not exactly. But it means Trump himself is one of the people responsible for turning our politics into a crooked enterprise.
Once again, I marvel that those voters who are so upset at corrupt politics are supporting a guy who has bragged about how he has corrupted politics. And, despite all Trump's numerous failures in business, he'll insist we should ignore that and then launch into criticisms of Carly Fiorina's spotty record at HP.

Charles Krauthammer notes the similarities of Trump's approach to foreign policy to both that of President Obama and Bernie Sanders. They're all in favor of "America First."
As did its major theme, announced right at the top: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? Surely Truman didn’t enter the Korean War for the sake of Koreans, but from the conviction that intervention was essential for American security.

On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor.

The irony is that while President Obama would never use the term, it is the underlying theme of his foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” declared Obama in his December 2009 West Point address on Afghanistan.

This is also the theme of Bernie Sanders. No great surprise. Left and right isolationism have found common cause since the 1930s. Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas often shared the platform with Charles Lindbergh at America First rallies.

Both the left and right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.
While Obama travels around the world apologizing for past American actions, Trump argues that we shouldn't be wasting our money on these unworthy countries that don't pay their own fair share. That would be one argument, but Trump doesn't stop there. He also guarantees us that he will end ISIS and work to bring peace in the Middle East.
After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?

More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. An asset perhaps in real estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the Eastern European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.

Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.