In a way, writers are like restaurants: We usually only hear from our customers (or readers) when they complain.
Along those lines, New York Times columnist David Brooks gets more than his share of grief, so I thought I'd take a moment and compliment him on his latest column, "Saving the System." He makes several thought-provoking points.
First, Brooks does a pretty good job of answering the question: Why should we care what happens in Syria or Ukraine, etc.?:
The U.S. faces a death by a thousand cuts dilemma. No individual problem is worth devoting giant resources to. It's not worth it to spend huge amounts of treasure to establish stability in Syria or defend a Western-oriented Ukraine. But, collectively, all the little problems can undermine the modern system. No individual ailment is worth the expense of treating it, but, collectively, they can kill you. [New York Times]
Inherent in this analogy is the difficulty in motivating Americans to support intervention. After all, one cut isn't going to kill you, so, on any given occasion, a cost-benefit analysis won't warrant the trouble.
This, Brooks explains, is why it is inherently difficult to preserve liberal pluralistic society in the long run:
The weakness with any democratic foreign policy is the problem of motivation. How do you get the electorate to support the constant burden of defending the liberal system?
It was barely possible when we were facing an obviously menacing foe like the Soviet Union. But it's harder when the system is being gouged by a hundred sub-threshold threats. The Republicans seem to have given up global agreements that form the fabric of that system, while Democrats are slashing the defense budget that undergirds it.
Moreover, people will die for Mother Russia or Allah. But it is harder to get people to die for a set of pluralistic procedures to protect faraway places. It's been pulling teeth to get people to accept commercial pain and impose sanctions. [New York Times]
If you have never really understood the rationale for a hawkish foreign policy — if you think we should focus solely on "nation building at home" — then this is a pretty good explainer as to why many conservatives support policies that, on the surface, may seem absurd. Matt K. Lewis
Tonight is a big night for the swath of voters who still haven't decided whether they're team Donald Trump or team Hillary Clinton. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Monday, the day of the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, revealed that of the 50 percent of likely voters who are using the presidential debates to guide their decision this November, 10 percent still don't even prefer one candidate over another.
But for all those voters who are hopeful the debates will bring some much-needed clarity, 39 percent of respondents were already resigned to the fact the debates "will not help" them choose a candidate, Reuters reported. Another 11 percent weren't sure how the debates will shape their decisions.
The debate will be moderated by NBC's Lester Holt at New York's Hofstra University. Reuters reported it is expected to draw "a Super Bowl-sized audience of 100 million Americans."
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted among 1,337 likely voters across all 50 states, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Becca Stanek
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will finally face off Monday night, in the first of three presidential debates. For Trump, preparing for the debate has meant getting used to working on a timer and practicing staying even-keeled and optimistic; Clinton, meanwhile, has been holding marathon run-throughs and honing her mental discipline.
But Trump's former campaign manager-cum-CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski thinks Clinton could do without all the formal practice and instead just focus on one thing: becoming human. "What Hillary Clinton has to do here is she has to become human, and I mean that in a good way," Lewandowski said Monday on a CNN panel, per Politico. "There's no question about [the fact that she knows the issues], but what she doesn't have is that compassion that people can see."
Lewandowski's critique of Clinton as coming off wooden is not new, and is a claim that has dogged the Democratic nominee throughout her political life. In a lengthy report for The Washington Post published Friday, writer Marc Fisher explored Clinton's problems with being perceived as even "likable enough," as Barack Obama said memorably in 2008 — to the point where she believed the press would publish even the most bombastic of rumors about her:
— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) September 26, 2016
Lewandowski — who is still receiving severance from the Trump campaign while being paid by CNN for his work — also said Monday that he believed Trump would exceed expectations at Monday night's debate. Read more of his comments at Politico, or read Fisher's full story on Clinton's authenticity problem at The Washington Post. Kimberly Alters
If Election Day got bumped up to Sept. 26, FiveThirtyEight predicts Donald Trump would claim a huge victory. In Monday's now-cast election predictor, released hours ahead of the first presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican presidential nominee's chances of winning were nearly 10 points higher than Clinton's, 54.9 percent to 45.1 percent.
Of course, a lot can change over the course of 43 days. But the trends over the last couple months in this particular FiveThirtyEight forecast have shown Trump steadily gaining ground and Clinton steadily losing it. After Trump briefly pulled ahead in late July, Clinton's lead peaked on Aug. 8, when she had a 96.4 percent chance of winning and Trump had just a 3.6 percent chance. Since then, it's been a slow but steady downhill slide for Clinton.
Moreover, while Clinton has consistently led since June in FiveThirtyEight's polls-plus predictor, which takes polls, historical data, and the economy into the equation, she now holds her slimmest lead yet in that measure, too: In the polls-plus forecast, Clinton's chances of winning on Nov. 8 are 51.9 percent, while Trump's are 48.1 percent. Becca Stanek
And the hits just keep on coming.
Just days after 21-year league veteran Kevin Garnett announced his retirement from the NBA — joining fellow icons Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan in hanging 'em up after the 2015-2016 season — Garnett's erstwhile teammate Paul Pierce announced Monday via The Players' Tribune that the 2016-2017 season would be his last.
It's time. https://t.co/8f1mtGapAO
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) September 26, 2016
"I'm at peace with retiring, but I've got one more ride left," Pierce wrote. “With the [Los Angeles] Clippers, in the city where I grew up, I feel like I have that opportunity … to win a championship."
Pierce played his first 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics, joining forces with sharp-shooter Ray Allen and the emotional, defense-anchoring Garnett to win a championship in 2008. He then spent one season each with the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards before joining the Clippers in the summer of 2015. He is a 10-time All-Star team selection and was also the 2008 NBA Finals MVP. Below, a look at some of his best career plays. Kimberly Alters
Turns out, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was probably making money off of Donald Trump when he panned the GOP nominee at the Republican National Convention in July and urged Americans to "vote your conscience." Politico reported Sunday that Cruz sold Trump his donor email list just six weeks after dropping out of the Republican presidential primary — an entire month before Cruz's convention speech and nearly five months before Cruz announced he'd decided to vote for Trump after "searching my own conscience."
It's hard to tell exactly how much money Cruz has made from selling his list to Trump's campaign, but Politico estimated he's pocketed "at least tens of thousands of dollars, and more likely hundreds of thousands, that can be used to bankroll the Texan's own political future":
Since he exited the presidential race in May, Cruz's campaign committee has reported a total of roughly $290,000 in list rental income, Federal Election Commission records show. Trump's campaign directly rented Cruz's list five times in June and since early July his joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee — which gives 80 percent of its proceeds to Trump — has rented Cruz's list more than 25 times.
The buying and selling of email addresses is standard fare in modern politics — but less typical among bitter rivals. After Cruz failed to back Trump at the convention, he told the Texas delegation he would not "go like a servile puppy dog" and simply endorse after Trump had "slandered" his family. [Politico]
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier defended Cruz's decision as a move to "help the Republican Party at large."
On the eve of the first presidential debate, The New York Times editorial board delivered this news: Donald Trump "should not be president." In a series of questions and answers published Sunday, the editorial board tore down each and every argument in favor of Trump, who they described as "a man who dwells in bigotry, bluster, and false promises." The op-ed came a day after the editorial board endorsed Hillary Clinton.
The Times pointed out that though Trump may claim to be a "financial wizard who can bring executive magic to government," he has never brought that magic to his companies, which have faced bankruptcy, failure, and complaints of fraud. And as for that "straight talker who tells it like it is?" The Times brought up the fact that he actually isn't very forthcoming on a lot of topics, and he's made "117 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, including three contradictory views on abortion in one eight-hour stretch."
Trump's camp was quick to respond to the editorial board's endorsement of Clinton. "The news that the ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch New York Times editorial board endorsed an ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch candidate in Hillary Clinton has to be some of the least surprising news ever," said Trump's senior communications adviser Jason Miller, arguing that the editorial board is the "embodiment of the rigged system Donald Trump is running against."
Head over to The New York Times to read the rest of the editorial, including the editorial board's responses to Trump's claims he can "fix government" and be a "change agent for the nation and the world." Becca Stanek
Donald Trump has erased Hillary Clinton's lead in Bloomberg's national poll of the presidential race, beating her 43 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in a four-way race including Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (8 percent) and Green Party nominee Jill Stein (4 percent). In a two-way race, Trump and Clinton are tied at 46 percent. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, cited Clinton's softening lead among women and young voters for her decline in the polls. Clinton holds the same 13-point lead over Trump among women, but her 29-point margin among millennial voters in August is down to just 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent.
The poll was released on the same day Clinton and Trump face off in their first debate, and Bloomberg's respondents have higher expectations for Clinton, with 49 percent expecting her to do better in the debate versus 39 percent for Trump. CNN/ORC also released polls of Colorado and Pennsylvania on Monday, with Trump ahead by 1 percentage point in a four-way race in Colorado, 42 percent to 41 percent with Johnson grabbing 13 percent; in Pennsylvania, Clinton was up 1 point, 45 percent to 44 percent among likely voters. The Bloomberg poll was conducted Sept. 21-24 among 1,002 likely voters and has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. RealClearPolitics, which includes the Bloomberg/Selzer poll, has Clinton ahead of Trump by 2.3 points in a two-person race and 1.5 points in a four-person race. Peter Weber