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Kathleen Parker column: Trump won — again

WASHINGTON — Watching the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night left one clear impression: Donald Trump won.

Please don’t shoot the messenger. My left index finger recoiled a bit as it reached for the “T” on the keyboard. But it’s true for this reason: Democrats are too earnest. They care too much. They’re too smart. They know too much.

Whoever says, as California Sen. Kamala Harris did, “The American people are so much better than this” needs to get out more.

This isn’t to recommend that primary candidates should be more like Trump, not that they could. But as a panel of candidates, they’re missing a key element essential to voter interest. Not brilliant policies or the rote delivery of statistics but a clear and firm message as well as that other thing that Trump had in 2016 — “it.”

We’re used to saying “it girl,” but boys have “it,” too. And it isn’t necessarily good. In fact, in men it’s probably just a little bit bad. Bad enough to attract attention, to convey toughness, to seduce with dazzle or at least bedevil those around him. Love him or hate him — or just wish him away — Trump had the X-factor in spades and jokers.

Yes, yes, many Americans are surely ready for something different. But a Trump-like figure in the mix gives everyone a point of reference for contrasts and pivots.

As elder statesman and Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden was the obvious person to serve this role, but he’s the opposite of the brooding, sarcastic, hunkering Trump from the 2016 campaign. Whereas Trump was the impudent scoundrel, dominating the field with the aloof self-confidence of an undefeated bully, Biden is the welcome guy at Walmart who wants to give everybody a great, big ol’ hug.

Three years ago, Trump knew nothing, of course, but he made certain that viewers would not be bored. He hurled glib insults and tagged better men with insulting (but largely accurate) nicknames — and the crowds loved him. Today, Democratic contenders are so busy trying to demonstrate how un-Trump they are that they risk putting everyone to sleep. Be honest. Did you make it to the end of Thursday night’s three-hour affair?

Also missing from the mix is a jester to the king. For Republicans in the 2016 cycle, it was South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. Barely registering in the polls, Graham was so liberated by the impossibility of his nomination that he said only true things, including that Trump was a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot” and “jackass.” We watched the “kids table” GOP debates prior to the top guns just to find out what Graham would say. Miss that guy.

On Thursday, the zany Andrew Yang did offer some comic relief when he said, “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors,” thus supposedly making him an expert on health care. Otherwise he was plainly auditioning for a game show of his own. He offered to give $1,000 a month to 10 families for a year to show how his guaranteed minimum income policy would work. He also suggested giving all Americans $100 “democracy dollars” to spend on political causes.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was laughable if not funny when he tried to make Biden look little. Fuming mad in that studied, must-show-passion way, Castro jabbed Biden for “forgetting” what he had just said, which wasn’t true, but Castro was brandishing his narrative as the Latino, new-generation tough guy. It backfired.

Honorable mention goes to former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who broke out with his strongest stand yet on gun control: “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he intoned, sounding very fierce. Also noteworthy, Biden earned a new voter bloc among the incarcerated population when he said, “Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime.”

In sum: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was very Bernie. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was A-plus perfect. Harris was prosecutorial. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was bookishly faithful to his narrative. Biden was grown-up. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was emphatically moderate. And South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the Mr. Rogers of American politics, would make everything tidy.

Entertainment value, obviously, should play no part in a voter’s calculation. But as all public speakers know, audiences don’t remember what you said; they remember how you made them feel. Trump made people feel excited, if for all the wrong reasons. This crew? Serotonin on the rocks without a twist.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Letter: Beep beep

Michael Galvis was right on describing Trump as Road Runner, limited vocabulary, small brain, tiny hands,          

Carl Heck

Aspen

Letter: DeFrates uninformed on hunting

It is blatantly obvious that Lindsay DeFrates knows as much about the vast majority of hunters as I do about quantum physics. 

Please do us all a favor and don’t give your opinion on hunting when you most likely have never spoken with a hunter, experienced hunting or even understand why most hunters hunt, and why hunting is a very important part of wildlife management. News flash, Lindsay, it is not about the trophy. 

Your ignorance on the subject was there for all to see with your statement “nine-point rack.” Wow. Maybe you should go out to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office in Canyon Creek and speak with someone that will educate you on the subject. 

To make such a broad statement shows you didn’t educate yourself on the subject. Talk about a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience, the definition of prejudice.

It’s true most hunters are looking for that perfect shot: The last thing a hunter wants is a wounded animal. Most hunters will pass up game if they feel the shot could result in wounding the animal and it going to waste.

The success rate for elk hunting in Colorado in 2017 was around 20%. Do you truly believe that if it were all about the “epic bro-story, or the bucket list box checked” that Colorado would still have billions of dollars pour into the economy each year during hunting seasons?

Finally, I have been hunting with a group of men for about the last 12 years. There are two in the group that come from Illinois each year and were coming to hunt before I met them. I believe they have taken maybe two or three elk and a couple of deer in 20 years. 

They come for the beauty of the mountains, to be with friends, to relax, and if they are lucky to take home some wild game.

Linda, you owe all hunters, men and women — yes, there are women that hunt — an apology. Why do I not see that coming in the near future?

Doug Meyers

Glenwood Springs

Polman column: Would an economic ‘Trump Slump’ doom his re-election?

The last three incumbent presidents to lose their reelection bids — Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 — were fatally burdened by a sluggish or recessionary economy.

Bear that in mind as a new Quinnipiac poll reports that for the first time during Trump’s presidency, a plurality of registered voters (37 percent) believe the economy is getting worse, not better (31 percent). The pessimistic camp is 14 points larger than it was in June, thanks largely to the climate of uncertainty triggered by Trump’s tit-for-tat tariff fight with China, which is threatening to raise consumer prices and is already making it tougher for businesses to map their futures.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that a sliding economy will doom him. Regardless, he’s already trying to shift the blame to … guess who?

“The Fake News LameStream Media is doing everything possible (to) ‘create’ a U.S. recession.”

Well, that seems a tad unfair – given the fact that the media is merely doing its job, quoting a wide range of experts such as:

Diane Swonk, chief economist of the Grant Thornton international accounting firm, who says: “We’re losing momentum. … The trade effects are slowing through the economy. … They snowball over time.”

And Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities: “The trade war is weighing on manufacturing.”

And Thomas Collamore, former executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “The uncertainty created by additional tariffs or threats of more is causing business to pause and sit on their hands.”

And the purchase managers at the Institute for Supply Management, which reported last Tuesday that U.S. manufacturing contracted in August for the first time in three years. In addition, export orders fell to the lowest level since the depths of the Great Recession in early 2009, thanks to the uncertainty sowed by the trade war.

And Michael Steel, a former high-ranking Republican aide on Capitol Hill, who says: “Right now it feels like (Trump and his people) are riding a rubber ducky into alligator-infested waters.”

Trump is also trying to blame the current climate on “badly run and weak companies,” but companies contend that the uncertainty sowed by his trade war is wreaking havoc with their decision-making. Should they dump their Chinese suppliers, as Trump recently “hereby ordered” them to do? Should they plan to raise retail prices and forego new hiring, as a hedge against more uncertainty? As the CEO of a toy-making firm recently told CNBC, “As soon as … we start to move, (Trump) is going to put a target on somebody else’s back, and where do we go from there?”

It’s impossible right now to determine whether, or to what extent, this uncertainty will resonate with the electorate — if the past is prologue, the status of the economy in the second quarter of 2020 is likely to be crucial — but it’s safe to say that Trump has little margin for error. Despite the fact that most Americans have generally viewed the economy as strong during his tempestuous tenure, he has never scored 50 percent approval (the only president, in the history of polling, never to inhabit positive territory). Without a good economy, what else can he offer?

On the other hand, the unprecedented polarization in the electorate probably guarantees that Trump’s base will stay loyal no matter what. Even if some of his loyalists are suffering the financial effects of his tariff war, they’ll likely follow Trump’s lead — blaming the media, fearing that the “socialist” Democrats will make things worse. In the words of Rachel Bitecofer, an election expert who accurately predicted the size of the 2018 Democratic midterm wave, “Keep in mind, Trump controls his own information environment, and it’s not only Republicans who see it.”

But it falls to the Democrats to craft a persuasive response. They’ve tiptoed around the economic issue, fearful (they’re always fearful) that they’ll be accused of seeking political gain by “rooting” for a recession. The jobless rate is also low, so it’s not political ammo. And they’re busy dueling with each other over whether capitalism should be tweaked (Joe Biden) or systemically reformed (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders).

However, if the climate of uncertainty becomes toxic and the trade war bites hard at home, Democrats will need to build on what Biden said over the weekend in New Hampshire: Trump is becoming “more erratic. … He inherited a pretty good economy from Barack Obama, just like he inherited everything in his life.”

The economy meets the character issue. It’s a start.

Copyright 2019 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

Will column: Hong Kong’s summer of heroic dissent

HONG KONG — The masked men who recently tossed firebombs at Jimmy Lai’s home targeted one of this city’s foremost democracy advocates. Lai, a 71-year-old media billionaire, calls this summer’s ongoing protest “a martyrdom movement” and “a last-straw movement.” It has an intensity and dynamic that bewilders the protesters’ opponents in Beijing and in Hong Kong’s Beijing-obedient city administration.

Today’s mostly young protesters will be middle-aged in 2047, at the expiration of the 50-year agreement that ostensibly accords Hong Kong protected status as an island of freedom. Beijing attempted to whittle away that status with a proposed 2003 law against “subversion.” And by devaluing suffrage by the 2014 requirement that candidates for the chief-executive receive approval from a Beijing-loyal committee. And by this year’s extradition bill that would have facilitated sweeping Hong Kongers into the maw of China’s opaque criminal-justice system.

Monday’s New York Times carried a full-page ad paid for by “the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.” Which means, effectively, by the Chinese Communist Party. The ad said: “We are resolutely committed to ‘One Country, Two Systems’ which provides the constitutional guarantee for Hong Kong’s continued development and success as a free and open society.” The ad pledged “dialogue to talk through differences and look for common ground with no preconditions.”

But the “one county, two systems” formulation, agreed to in 1997, when British authority ended, as a 50-year framework for Hong Kong’s relations with the PRC, is an inherently menacing precondition. And Beijing’s consistently sinister behavior reveals a determination, as implacable as it is predictable, to incrementally nullify “one nation, two systems” by reducing Hong Kong to just another jurisdiction wholly subservient to China’s deepening tyranny.

For Leninists such as Xi Jinping wielding a party-state, nothing is more important than the party’s unchallenged primacy. Another “Tiananmen Square” — a Hong Kong massacre — would be calamitous for China’s Leninists, but less so than weakening the Communist Party’s primacy. The party is, Lai says, “detached from reality” and “will always make the wrong decision” as it tries to become “the most absolute dictatorship in human history.”

In 1940, Winston Churchill warned against “a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.” That is China’s aspiration with “digital Leninism,” an application of science through manipulative technologies that neither Churchill nor his contemporary, George Orwell, anticipated. With a steadily refined repression apparatus, aptly called “cyber-totalitarianism,” China’s surveillance state is enmeshing everyone in a “social credit” system. Individuals’ cumulative commercial and social-media transactions give them a score that determines their access to education, housing, clinics, travel and more, even including pet ownership. Although China’s published statistics are as untrustworthy as the regime itself, there are reasons to believe that in this decade China has spent more on “stability maintenance” than on its military. Hong Kong is watching this.

And Hong Kong is reading Ma Jian’s dystopian novel “China Dream,” which is banned in mainland China but not here. The protagonist is Ma Daode, director of the fictional (so far) China Dream Bureau, which aspires to “replace all private dreams” with one communal dream. Ma Daode hopes to develop “a neural implant,” a device whereby “just one click of a button and government directives will be transferred wirelessly into the brains” of the governed. This is not much more Orwellian than China’s evolving reality.

In her 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt argued that a tyrannical regime, wielding bureaucracy and mass media, could achieve permanence by conscripting the citizenry’s consciousness. This echoed Orwell’s foreboding: “Imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” In 1956, Arendt thought her theory had been refuted by a fact — the Hungarian Revolution, which demonstrated that no state can interrupt “all channels of communication.” Hong Kong sees Beijing using new technologies in the service of an evil permanence.

“To see what is in front of one’s nose,” wrote Orwell, “needs a constant struggle.” Belatedly, the world is seeing. The Economist recently editorialized: “The West’s 25-year bet on China has failed.” The wager was that “market totalitarianism” is an oxymoron. Embedding China in the global economy supposedly would open it to the softening effects of commerce, which would be solvents of authoritarianism. The West’s tardy but welcome disenchantment is, as the Economist says, “the starkest reversal in modern geopolitics.” If Hong Kong’s heroic refusal to go gentle into Beijing’s dark night is accelerating this disenchantment, the summer of dissent has been this decade’s grandest and most important development.

George Will’s email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

Letter: ‘Liberal media’ didn’t make Donald Trump who he is

Dear Stan: It’s not that past presidents haven’t lied. It’s about the sheer volume of lies and mistruths that just one president has told over the course of just half of his presidency. 

You like lists regarding Trump? How about a list of all of his lies as well as those of the people working for him. Or how about a list of the women that have accused him of sexual harassment, the list of women paid hush money for having affairs with him, the list of his bankruptcies, some of which caused job losses for thousands. 

How about a list of the people that he has insulted via tweet simply because his thin skin can’t take criticism. 

Then there is the list of dictators that he is cozy with. 

Let us not forget the list of things he doesn’t believe in such as global warming and Russian election interference. 

The “huge!” list of books he has never read. 

The list of utterly unqualified people that have been nominated for positions ranging from his cabinet to the Federal Judiciary. 

The list of broken campaign promises such as Mexico will pay for the wall and a better, less expensive alternative to Obama-Care.

If you like records, Stan, then you must love the “record deficit” that we have incurred. The highest deficit “ever recorded before in human history.”

Stan, a significant part of what you point to as “More $$$ in your pocket” is a result of a “tax cut” that put $2 trillion dollars into the pockets of wealthy investors, which will be paid for by future middle-class tax payers. 

Not to mention the fact that any additional money that people had in their pockets is going to pay for the tariffs on the goods that they buy every day.

For myself and apparently most Americans, Trumps accomplishments are overshadowed by a view of a man/con-artist with a deeply flawed narcissistic character and deeply lacking in moral compass. The “liberal media” didn’t make Donald Trump who he is as a man.

Marco Diaz

Redstone

Letter: Fun times with watershed council

Thank you to the Middle Colorado Watershed Council for its creative, informative and fun event in Glenwood Canyon last Saturday. The experts they gathered to discuss water rights, diversions and ecology (while biking) were informative and balanced. Would love to see more of this. 

This was my first time participating with MCWC and I was impressed. You can read about MCWC at https://www.midcowatershed.org/.

Liz Mauro

Glenwood Springs

Letter: Too much with e-bikes

OK, enough is enough. First we allow e-bikes on paved trails up and down the valley where we who pedal up to ride down. That’s great for commuter purposes and people who just want to get out and get some exercise (pedal assisted e-bikes). 

But now some congressman wants to allow them on some federal lands (Interior Order No. 3376 Increasing Recreational Opportunities through the use of electric bikes). 

What’s next — allowing them in places of business, etc? 

Signed (A concerned dirt trail rider)

Rob Welsh

Glenwood Springs

Letter: Reconsider Seventh Street decision

Did the four Glenwood Springs City Council members who voted to open the $2 million Festival Street or Seventh Street to vehicle traffic think about the first snowplow that will destroy all of that beautiful brick-work in one swipe? Or one diesel fuel spill could destroy the value and appearance of this beautiful street as well. 

The overall aesthetic value of the Festival Street will earn its weight in economic value for many years to come if the street stays closed. 

I have always admired the beauty of Glenwood Springs. I was hoping that they would keep the Festival Street free of vehicle traffic as part of their beautification of downtown Glenwood Springs. 

As one who spends a lot of time in Glenwood Springs, I found the vote to open this street to traffic very disappointing.

The mayor of Glenwood Springs and its citizens should request a motion to reconsider the previous vote.

Randy Fricke

New Castle

Letter: An eyesore to be

How long will it take our beautiful Seventh Street to become an oil-stained, skid-marked, potholed eyesore? 

Thank you, councilors Davis and Willman and Mayor Godes, for trying to keep it as an asset to the town. Hopefully, you three won’t be named in a lawsuit the first time a pedestrian is hit there.  

Deborah Williams

Glenwood Springs