Monthly Archives: August 2015

Live by the cynical lie, die by the cynical lie

The media was duly aflutter when Maureen Dowd broke the “news” in her August 1 column that Beau Biden had, on his deathbed, implored his father to run for president.  This tidbit could obviously only have been leaked to Dowd by Vice President Biden either directly or indirectly.

However, the media has been quiet about an astonishing revelation from last night’s softball 60 Minutes interview with the vice president:  he claimed that “nothing like that ever, ever happened.”

Does Maureen Dowd feel ashamed at being used so cynically by Biden, uncritically lapping up his spin?  It’s ghoulish enough that she would serve as the mouthpiece for a cunning politician whose only possible motive for reporting such an anecdote could have been to gain political points from his family tragedy.

Is she now wallowing in the ignominy of being sold out when Biden decided it would be in his interest to shift the narrative?  Does she feel foolish at all?  Will she think twice the next time an unseemly liberal requests to exploit her influence to do his own bidding?  Kudos to Biden for playing the pliant liberal media like a fiddle; shame on Maureen Dowd for serving as his sycophant.

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Can we please stop using “birthright” citizenship as a synonym for jus soli citizenship?

One can basically become a citizen of a country in one of two ways:  by virtue of birth, or birthright, in which case he is known as a natural-born citizen; or by being granted citizenship after birth, in which case he is known as a naturalized citizen.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world which grants birthright citizenship automatically to individuals born on U.S. soil (under most circumstances), known as the jus soli concept (jus soli is Latin for “right of the soil”).  There are ways for one to be a birthright citizen other than being born on U.S. soil, namely, to be born abroad if both parents are U.S. citizens or, in some circumstances, if one parent is a U.S. citizen.  The State Department summarizes the law here.

We can have a legitimate debate about the merits of the jus soli concept, and also whether this practice is actually mandated by the constitution:  there is a constitutional argument that a child born of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil need not automatically be granted U.S. citizenship.

What Donald Trump is really talking about is ending the jus soli principle, at least in some cases.  He should clarify his language, for even though no one (as far as we are aware) is talking about ending birthright citizenship as such, our politicians and pundits are muddying the waters—often deliberately.  It would be useful for presidential candidates to state whether they oppose jus soli citizenship in all cases, in some cases (such as when the mother or both parents are in the U.S. illegally), or not at all.  Trump’s immigration policy paper mentions “the children of illegal immigrants” in passing, but does not fully explain his position.

For an example of the obfuscation, see James Taranto eviscerate a misleading tweet, which claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is a hypocrite for attacking “birthright” citizenship even though he is a “birthright” citizen.  Wrong:  Cruz is indeed a birthright citizen, because his birth abroad to a U.S. citizen mother fulfilled the requirements of birthright citizenship, but he is clearly opposing granting birthright citizenship to people born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.  Cruz is opposing at least one application of the jus soli principle, and he is not a jus soli citizen—much less one born to illegal immigrants—which of course is not hypocritical at all.  Donald Trump is also a birthright citizen, but he is also not a hypocrite for opposing a certain type of birthright citizenship.

In defense of the tweeter, the article to which he linked does cite Ted Cruz’s opposition to “birthright citizenship” multiple times, including in the headline, and it appears that Cruz used those two words in the radio interview that was the subject of the article.  However, Cruz was talking about birthright citizenship when the parents are in the U.S. illegally, which is a special case that provides necessary context to any discussion of the subject—and which the headline, from CBS Dallas, also deliberately, or negligently, failed to represent.

Jeb Bush recently referred to “a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship” in attacking Donald Trump’s calls to end it.  Presumably he was thinking of jus soli as the noble concept.  Are politicians and the media avoiding the proper, precise Latin term for simplicity, or because “birthright citizenship” is a euphemism that is hard to argue against?

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We’re going to see a lot of this. . . but usually with at least some attempt at logic

Eugene Robinson’s apparently phoned-in column in the Washington Post yesterday raises what will be a common trope leading up to the 2016 presidential primaries and then the general election:  Is [insert issue here] good for [insert presidential candidate here]?  The answer, of course, no matter the issue, will be “yes” in the case of Hillary Clinton or whoever the Democratic nominee is and “no” in the case of the Republican nominee, with an extra vociferous “no” in the case of Donald Trump.  Media bias is always more prevalent when it comes to which issues even appear in  the first place than in how pieces are written.

Still, Robinson’s column is especially spurious and lazy, even by the standards of the Post editorial page.  His question is, “What could stumbling stocks mean for presidential politics?” and somehow his answer is that they would help Hillary Clinton.

If he presented a theory to explain why he thought this was the case, then we could just roll our eyes and conclude that it was a typical column.  (And then await a column next month, titled, “What could skyrocketing stocks mean for presidential politics?” which has the same conclusion.)  However, he doesn’t even offer any reason, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton has a resume that includes elected office and Donald Trump does not.

Robinson uses an anecdote to poke fun at the reactions of both John McCain and President Obama to financial turmoil in fall 2008, reporting the accounts of others that McCain “had nothing of substance to say” and Obama “gave an academic lecture on finance to a room littered with MBAs.”  Although his summary of Obama’s performance is not a compliment, Robinson concludes, “In the end, voters decided that sang-froid, perhaps with a touch of arrogance, was better than cluelessness.”

If we find ourselves in similar straits leading up to the 2016 election, Robinson avers, “I’m guessing it could make voters pay more attention to the candidates’ records on economic and financial management—and might give a boost to those with experience, as opposed to promise.”

If you were to think that this is an endorsement of Donald Trump, who has navigated all types of business environments very successfully, compared to career figurehead and politician Hillary Clinton (who does, in fairness, have a good track record in cattle futures), you would be wrong.  See, “Polls consistently say that voters see her as the most experienced candidate in either party.”  As a commentary on how one particular change in circumstances—a falling stock market—might impact different candidates, all else equal, this seems like a non sequitur.  He then spouts the brief talking-point attacks on most of the Republican candidates, including Trump, all of which are either irrelevant to his question or contrary to his conclusion:  he gives no credit to the “records on economic and financial management” of Govs. Walker or Christie, and doesn’t mention the other governors in the race.

His next non sequitur is the conclusion, which again does not follow from anything stated in the column:  “Logically, it seems to me that market craziness ought to be bad for Trump. But while his candidacy is about many things, logic isn’t one of them.”  So, if Trump’s candidacy is not about logic, then can we infer the converse of the first of these sentences—i.e., that “market craziness” is good for Trump?  We’re scratching our heads.

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