Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Winning means never having to say you’re sorry. That truth held for months in the presidential contest. It collapsed this week in an arguably unlikely place. The first meaningful expression of contrition in the race came not from Donald Trump, for any of his unbroken stream of outrages, but from the other frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, in an interview with ABC News, she uttered an unqualified mea culpa for her use of a private email server while Secretary of State, a controversy increasingly menacing her campaign.
Clinton did not come by this apology willingly. You could see it on her face in the ABC interview, in which she wore a smile meant to convey warmth and transparency that presented instead as a rictus of barely-concealed contempt. Further evidence was offered up by a New York Times account of the backstory: Close friends and senior operatives, seized by growing alarm over the threat posed by the email flap, finally succeeded in prevailing on a candidate who maintains privately she did nothing wrong.
And why should Clinton apologize, when Trump daily defies our most basic conventions of decency without so much as a shrug? In part because some double standards are deserved. We expect more from a former two-term Senator and Secretary of State than we do a glorified carnival barker. Not to mention the qualitative distinction between their transgressions — nothing Trump’s done has prompted a national security review by the Justice Department.
Yet as a matter of strategy, the two don’t occupy parallel universes. Clinton could learn a leadership lesson from Trump’s uninterrupted rise, though it may be too late to apply it. Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford Graduate School of Business professor, says Trump’s unapologetic bombast is precisely what draws people to him, despite what qualities they might otherwise claim to want in a leader. Pfeffer’s new book, Leadership BS, argues that honesty and humility are overrated. What people seek in their leaders instead is forceful self-promotion bordering on narcissism that crowds out any consideration of uncertainty. And Clinton has appeared to be equivocating since she first addressed the email issue back in a March press conference, acknowledging at the time her decision to set up a private server was likely inadvisable in retrospect. “Once you start retreating, the question becomes where do you stop?” Pfeffer says. “This will continue. There’s blood in the water.”
• Perry drops out of the Republican presidential race
The crowded field for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nod just got a little smaller. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday evening announced he’s suspending his campaign, becoming the first contender to drop out of the race. Perry suffered from fundraising woes which, in turn, prompted staff defections when his operation ran out of money to keep them aboard. After flaming out in the 2012 primary, Perry struggled to gain traction in this contest.
• Price tag for Chinese countermeasures tops $800 billion
China has spent an eye-popping amount this year to prop up flagging growth — plowing an $800 billion into the world’s second largest economy. The sum financed lower interest rates, fiscal stimulus, buying stocks and supporting Chinese currency. At the same time, the regime appears to be in reverse on economic liberalization, despite continued attestations to the contrary from its leaders.
• Iran deal approval marks serious setback for pro-Israel lobby group
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the once-feared pro-Israel lobby group, looks suddenly and surprisingly toothless in the wake of the Obama administration’s win securing Congressional approval for its Iranian nuclear pact. AIPAC aggressively opposed the deal with a $30 million lobbying campaign — and failed anyway. The stinging defeat has Israel watchers wondering where it marks an inflection point in the half-century long history of the group. And within the organization, there’s an active debate under way about whether it should seek reprisals from those that turned against it to support the deal or simply move on. But in Washington, where the perception of power molds its exercise, AIPAC has undoubtedly lost significant clout.
New York Times
• Iowa and New Hampshire, still first on the calendar, are nevertheless losing their presidential-picking punch
Defenders of America’s admittedly idiosyncratic practice of letting voters in two relatively tiny states drive the presidential candidate selection process usually have a ready retort. Quaint though it may seem, they say, allowing Iowa and New Hampshire to go first in the primary contests humbles candidates who might otherwise rely on big money and national name recognition to avoid direct engagement with voters. But this cycle is deflating that argument: Those spending the most time on the ground in those states are lagging the pack in polls there, while the leaders by comparison have barely bothered to show up.
Around the Water Cooler
• Is Jeb Bush bringing back voodoo economics?
John Cassidy has taken a look at Jeb Bush’s tax plan and he is, uh, underwhelmed. Writing over at the New Yorker, Cassidy calls the plan a return to the “voodoo economics” that Bush’s father used to criticize Ronald Reagan’s tax-cutting proposal in their 1980 primary showdown. He points to a price tag on Bush’s plan that could stretch to $3.4 trillion over ten years — a cost that Bush says he will make up by capping spending, zeroing out some deductions, and reducing regulations to unleash growth. The evidence from the Reagan’s supply-side experiment doesn’t support the notion that those sorts of policy tweaks can rev our economic engine sufficiently to keep pace with such a drastic cut in revenues.
• Ohio hunger stats pose problem for Kasich
John Kasich is enjoying something of a low-key moment in the Republican presidential contest he was late to join. The plain-speaking, two-term Ohio governor gets credit from voters and press alike for his approachable yet no-nonsense style on the stump. And his standing in New Hampshire polls reflect a quiet climb. Part of his appeal stems from his willingness to take on conservative orthodoxies — embracing the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, for example, and speaking out about his Christian obligation to tend to the poor. In that context, a new report about his state’s performance could prove complicating: Ohio ranks third in the country forced to skip meals or cut back on food for lack of resources, a standing that advocates for the poor chalk up to the state’s decision to discontinue food stamps for tens of thousands.
• Labor’s latest champion: Larry Summers
The labor movement has a potentially unexpected new ally making the case for the value of unions in restoring economic opportunity. Larry Summers, the former Clinton-era Treasury Secretary and Obama-era director of the National Economic Council — not known traditionally for his friendliness to economic leftists — now argues that restoring union strength is a key to tackling immobility. He points to new research showing that “supporting unions not only helps workers who are members themselves but also helps their children and communities as well.” More broadly, he says, weak unions leave the middle class underrepresented in the political process, a phenomenon he charges with driving the disillusionment fueling Trump’s candidacy.