Froma Harrop - Democrats have become the party of 'normal'

Who "won" the Democratic debate? The Democratic Party won. All the presidential candidates, from the most flamboyant to the most contained, talked seriously about issues, even straying from liberal orthodoxy.
Hillary Clinton's upbeat morning-in-America approach contrasted with Bernie Sanders' eve-of-destruction — I mean revolution. But both stood grounded in reality, with special kudos to America's favorite socialist for some refreshing breaths of nuance on polarizing issues.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — not a crazy Republican but one who often talked crazy -- once called Democrats "the enemy of normal Americans". Who's looking normal now?
Surely not Republican Carly Fiorina, condemning abortion with a gruesome description of a fabricated video she never saw. Not Ben Carson or Rand Paul, who, despite being doctors, didn't strenuously counter Donald Trump's contention that vaccinations put children at risk. Trump doesn't seem normal even when he's right.
The consensus said that Clinton walked off with it. She did, but it was an ensemble performance. Sanders struck the high note by mocking the overblown controversy over Clinton's use of private e-mails as secretary of state.
"The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails," Sanders said. "Let's talk about the real issues facing America."
And the Democrats generally dived under the surface of today's public debates. Clinton chided Sanders for his skepticism on some gun control measures, but Sanders had it exactly right. He explained that his state, Vermont, has a rural hunting culture that doesn't see guns as always evil. Sanders backed a ban on assault rifles but opposed letting gun shops be sued if a gun they sell legally is used in a crime. Common sense all around.
The immigration discussion offered a welcome balance between the need to deal humanely with people here illegally and the need for controls. Sanders defended his attack on an immigration plan that would have admitted huge numbers of "guest workers" to compete with low-wage Americans. If only more Democrats would talk that way.
Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia spoke up for struggling poor whites, another welcome reference in a party that too often frames policy in racial or ethnic terms. And thank you, Jim Webb, for saying, "No country is a country without defining its borders."
All in all, though, it was Clinton's show. Responding to Sanders' declaration of love for Scandinavian socialism, Clinton firmly replied: "We are the United States of America. And it's our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn't run amok and doesn't cause the kind of inequities that we're seeing in our economic system."
The consensus erred in naming Webb the evening's "loser". The former Navy secretary did great in his seething, quiet way. He steered the debate away from cloying political correctness. This very smart son of Appalachia would make a great vice presidential candidate.
Few noticed that Webb provided the wittiest remark of the evening. That came when he dryly informed Sanders that he doesn't "think the revolution's going to come."
The most unintentionally funny line was from CNN moderator Anderson Cooper.
"In all candor," Cooper said to Clinton, "you and your husband are part of the 1 percent. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?"
To borrow from the MasterCard ad, being questioned about losing credibility on matters of class because you've become rich: $2.03. Being so questioned by the son of a Vanderbilt: priceless.
Clinton is clearly moving on from intra-party debate to general election mode. The other candidates seemed to genuinely respect that pivot and gave her space.
How gratifying to hear a leading presidential candidate sound like a normal American and not get punished for it.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

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Pat Buchanan - Toes up in the OK Corral?

The honor of it all aside, Rep. Paul Ryan would do well to decline the speakership of the House. For it is a poisoned chalice that is being offered to him.

The Republican Party is not, as some commentators wail, in "chaos" today. It is in rebellion, in revolt, as it was in the early 1960s when Barry Goldwater's true believers rejected Eisenhower Republicanism and Nelson Rockefeller to nominate the Arizona senator for president.

A similar and bristling hostility to today's establishment has arisen, in the GOP Congress, the country, and the presidential race.

The acrimony attendant to this militants revolt explains why Speaker John Boehner packed it in, singing "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," and why Donald Trump remains far out in front for the nomination.

Ryan's popularity and pleasant persona are not going to be able to smooth over those divisions. For they are about ideology, and about issues such as free trade and amnesty for people here illegally, where Ryan stands squarely with the establishment and against the revolt.

Many House rebels and Trump supporters look on the hollowing out of America's industrial base as the direct result of trade treaties negotiated for the benefit of transnational corporations, whose profits are contingent on cutting production costs by moving factories out of the USA.

Ryan voted for all of those trade deals. And Ryan voted for fast-track, the unilateral surrender of Congress's power even to amend the trade treaties that Barack Obama brings home.

Should he become speaker, Paul Ryan would have to round up Republican votes for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal Obama has negotiated. But not only are Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton opposed to TPP, Trump calls it a "disaster" that fails to address the critical issue of "currency manipulation".

The TPP has already been rechristened by Republican rebels as "Obamatrade". If Ryan harbors ambitions to be president, he will steer clear of this coming battle between nationalism and globalism.

As former Speaker Newt Gingrich suggests, a Speaker Ryan would be embattled as soon as he took up the gavel: "It's easy to get 218 on the first vote, and then you get to keep the government open through a continuing resolution, and then you get to the debt ceiling, and, if you're not careful, by Christmas you resemble John Boehner."

On the issues of mass immigration and illegal immigration that have roiled the Republican race, Ryan is regarded as an open-borders man. Says Rosemary Jenks of NumbersUSA, which is fighting to halt the invasion: "He (Ryan) has been ... pro-amnesty, pro-mass immigration, pro-replacing American workers with foreign workers ... all of his career."

In the early 1960s, the Goldwaterites demanded "A Choice, Not an Echo" in the title of Phyllis Schlafly's best-seller, an updated version of which is now in print. Those conservatives did not want to compromise with their adversaries in the Republican establishment or Democratic Party. They did not want to work together. They wanted to change policy. They wanted to change the direction of the country.

Backing the Freedom Caucus in the House and the "outsiders" in the GOP presidential race are men and women of a similar mindset, who have been recognized and re-identified by the National Journal's John Judis. They are the Middle Americans Radicals, the "MARS." Their temperament is that of their forebears in the '60s and '90s, but their issues are today's. Patriotic and nationalistic, they cherish the country they grew up in and do not want it changed by mass migration. They want illegal immigrants sent back. On whether a devout Muslim should be president, they are with Dr. Ben Carson.

When Trump says, "We never win anymore," that resonates to these folks. They see 21st-century America as a nation that cannot win its wars, or secure its borders, or build an infrastructure of roads, bridges, rails and airports to match those rising in other countries.

Moreover, the spirit of revolt in the GOP, indeed, in both parties today, is not confined to the USA. It is roiling Europe. In Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Belgium, nationalism is tearing at the seams of nations. Secession from the EU appears to be an idea whose time is coming.

Popular resistance to the dictates of Brussels and Angela Merkel's Berlin, and to mass migration from the Middle East and Africa that threatens to swamp the smallest continent, are familiar to the Americans of 2015 as well.

Paul Ryan is not going to be able to unite a House Republican caucus that is splitting on issues like this. As chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means, he is better off working on supply-side tax cuts.

After the GOP capture of the House in 2010, Ryan, with new Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, wrote a book about what they were going to do, titled, "Young Guns". "Young Guns" Cantor and McCarthy are now lying toes up in the OK Corral, and if Paul Ryan becomes speaker, he will end up the same way.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

 

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Michael Barone - Dogs that aren't barking

Sherlock Holmes famously solved the mystery of the Silver Blaze by noting the dog that didn't bark in the night. It strikes me that in this wild and woolly campaign cycle there have been numerous dogs not barking in the night, or in the daytime either.

Start with the race for the Democratic nomination, which has not unrolled as predicted. Every observer knows Hillary Clinton's numbers have been falling and Bernie Sanders' numbers have been rising, leading her in Iowa and New Hampshire. Every observer is waiting to see if Joe Biden will run, perhaps in time for the Democrats' first debate two weeks from now.

But the other declared candidates have gone nowhere. It's perhaps not surprising in the cases of the maverick Jim Webb and the former Republican Lincoln Chafee. But Martin O'Malley, former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, with a pleasant demeanor and a solid liberal record, is the sort of candidate who would have a serious Democratic contender in cycles past.

He's been out on the trail, but the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal, Quinnipiac and CBS/New York Times polls put him at 0 percent. The pollsters are having a hard time finding anyone who backs him.

Cynical conclusion: in a party consumed with identity politics, there are constituencies for a woman and a self-proclaimed socialist, but not for a cisgender white male, even one who increased spending and effectively supported same-sex marriage. Sympathetic explanation: Democratic voters are attracted to longtime champions of identity politics and uninterested in new faces.

In contrast, on the Republican side, even in a field of 15 candidates, almost all have some perceptible support. But past performance is not proving a guide to current results.

Rand Paul, for example, was expected to at least match the showing of his father Ron Paul, who got at least 10 percent (rounded off) in 29 primaries in 2012. But the younger Paul's domesticated libertarianism and non-interventionist foreign policy is attracting only 2 percent nationally and 4 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Cynical conclusion: Ron Paul's tattooed and dope-smoking fans aren't interested in a domesticated version. Sympathetic explanation: Paul's anti-interventionism lost its appeal when ISIS started beheading Americans.

Iowa Republicans are also showing little enthusiasm for the candidates who finished first in their 2008 and 2012 caucuses. Mike Huckabee is polling at 4 percent there, Rick Santorum at 2 percent. They aren't duplicating their previous appeal to evangelical Protestants, who have been a bigger proportion of turnout in Iowa than any other non-Southern Republican contest.

Cynical conclusion: Religious conservatives don't stay bought. Sympathetic explanation: Religious conservatives look for candidates who share their values, but don't stick with those who proved incapable of winning nominations.

Of course, one might also say that these Republicans are just being overshadowed, maybe temporarily, by outsiders who haven't held political office — Donald Trump especially, and also Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. The race is far from over; maybe they'll do better later on. And maybe Martin O'Malley will catch on, too — although when pollsters take Joe Biden off their list of candidates, he currently rises from 0 to 1 percent.

The dogs that aren't barking tell two different stories about the parties. Democrats, who like to think of themselves as open to new ideas, are sticking with old ideas and causes. Republicans, who used to fall predictably in line, are off on a wild fling.

There's another dog that isn't barking as well, on the issues front. House Republican rebels may have pushed Speaker John Boehner out, but, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page notes, federal spending during — and because of — Boehner's leadership has been essentially flat for four years, the only time that's happened since World War II. It fell from 24 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to 20 percent in 2014.

What's interesting here is that no one seems to care. Republican rebels don't, and Democrats who push for more spending behind the scenes aren't making a public fuss about it. It's reminiscent of Britain, where the Conservative-led government cut nearly 1 million public sector jobs in five years. But Labour never raised the issue in this year's campaign and Conservatives gained seats.

Cynical conclusion: No one really misses anything when government spending is cut. Sympathetic explanation: In any large organization there is always room for squeezing out unneeded blubber. That non-barking dog may be something to keep in mind as our campaign continues.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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E. Scott Cracraft - Innocent vs. willful ignorance

In the U.S.A. we have been (rightfully) socialized to believe that "all men (and women) are created equal. Some, however, seem to believe that it follows that all ideas and opinions are created equal. This is not the case. Some who make statements and cannot back them up with empirical evidence believe that they should have "equal time" with those who can. It depends on the circumstances, of course, but in many cases, not all opinions are the same and different opinions should be given different weight.
Some even cry "persecution" if someone challenges them. For example, there are those who cry that they are being persecuted or that their 1st Amendment rights are being violated every time someone does not agree with them. It is okay to criticize people with whom one disagrees, whether they are from the Right or the Left. Moreover, anyone has the freedom to express his or herself but when you express something, you should expect some not to agree with you and to say so!
There has been a lot of misinformation and disinformation going around. Misinformation is forgivable. It just means that someone has the wrong information. Others, however, knowingly pass around false information knowing that it is false. That is disinformation.
A good example is the "Big Lie" propaganda used by the Nazis. Josef Goebbels, Hitler's minister of Information and Propaganda realized that the Germans were smart people. You cannot tell a lot of little lies to intelligent, educated people and the Germans were some of the most educated and "civilized" people in Europe. Have you ever known a pathological liar? Surely, we have all told lies at some point (perhaps to stay out of trouble with a parent or a teacher). The pathological liar, however, lies even when there is not a "reason". They are easy to "out" because they cover up layers of lies with other lies.
On the other hand, when you are dealing with smart folks, thought Dr. Goebbels, it is important to tell a few BIG lies, tell them over and over, and have them told by people who are supposed to know what they are talking about. Then, you can get even educated people to believe them.
One cannot help but think of some of our conservatives who cry "wolf" when there is no wolf. For example, the opinion that somehow President Obama, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, is not a native-born U.S.A. does not deserve equal time with the fact that he IS. Or, what about those "death panels" that were supposed to be on page # 425 of Obamacare? Obamacare has been in effect for several years now. How many of you have had a parent or grandparent appear before such a panel?
Or, what about the myth that Obama was coming to seize your guns? Has that happened? No, but a lot of gun sales were made because of that Big Lie!
Another one is that our president is a radical Muslim. In a sadly funny way, some of the same people making that accusation were criticizing him several years ago for something his CHRISTIAN minister said!
Then, there are the climate-change deniers and the anti-vaccination folks, some of whom have written letters to The Sun. It is hard to be sure if these people are innocently or willfully ignorant considering the money that goes to fuel climate change "doubt". Obviously, if people deny climate-change or believe that climate- change is not something we can do something about or if they do not vaccinate their kids, it IS a threat to future generations!
Someone once asked "if ignorance is bliss, why are so many people unhappy?" This is too harsh. Just as there are two types of false information, there are also two types of ignorance: innocent and willful. Innocent ignorance simply means that the person believes false information. This is forgivable and curable if the person has an open mind. Willful, ignorance, however, while perhaps sincere, is believing something you WANT to believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
From reading recent letters to The Sun, it is difficult to decide which category different writers belong to.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.)

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Lakes Region Profiles — Lakes Region or Cape Cod?

The decision to buy in the Lakes Region or on the Cape is a question that repeatedly surfaces when working with buyers looking for a second home in the New England area. The answer to the question is easy for someone who has lived on the lakes all his or her life. But let us at least try to look at the question objectively.

The Lakes Region versus Cape Cod debate is not an age-old question in the same category as what the universe if made of or the biological basis of consciousness, but it is an old question. Both the Lakes Region and Cape Cod have long histories as resort areas. Wolfeboro on Lake Winnipesaukee claims to be the nation's oldest resort town. According to many accounts, Colonial Governor John Wentworth built the first summer country estate in the town in 1771. On the other hand, the English settled Cape Cod in the mid 1600s, primarily as small farms, fishing villages, and whaling centers. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the Cape had its beginning as a summer destination for city dwellers. If longevity as a resort was to be the deciding factor in our great debate, it would appear the Lakes Region would win by over a hundred years. But second homers and semi-retirees are not normally swayed by history.

If the rich and famous are good barometers of desirability, each area has attracted a host of celebrities through the years. Cape Cod is best known for the Kennedy family compound, but the list of famous homeowners and visitors is lengthy including actress Meg Ryan, film director James Cameron, TV host Phil Donahue, model Christie Brinkley, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The Lakes Region has had it share of the rich and famous as well: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, politician and former governor Mitt Romney, actress Drew Barrymore, and hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, to name a few. A personal favorite, comedian Bill Murray, visited the Lakes Region during the filming of the movie What About Bob?. And of course, the movie On Golden Pond brought Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, and Katherine Hepburn to Squam Lake and Winnipesaukee. Compiling a list of celebrities at Cape Cod and the Lakes Region would most likely end in a draw.

Here are a few practical factors to consider in the debate. The Lakes Region is a four-season destination. This is a definite advantage for second homers. When summer boating and swimming ends, fall fairs, foliage tours, hiking, and biking kick into high gear. The White Mountains with forty-eight 4000-footers are an easy drive north. Even beautiful ocean beaches on N.H. and Maine's coastline are just over an hour away. The fall and winter seasons overlap with early skiing and skating. When winter finally settles in, it is dynamic, filled with numerous sports including alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and sled dog racing. N.H. has many fine four-season recreation areas including Gunstock, Loon, Ragged, Waterville Valley, Cannon, Bretton Woods, Sunapee, Attitash, and Wildcat, all an easy drive from the centrally located Lakes Region. The winter months lead into spring skiing, hiking, biking, and early season boating before the transition into fun-filled summer months.

The Cape has a summer tourist season that begins on Memorial Day and runs to Labor Day. In recent years, businesses have expanded their operations to extend the season by 2 or 3 months with "off season" rates for those visitors without school-aged children and for the retired. But most of the businesses and activities are geared towards three months and the summer vacation experience. The point here is clear. Homeowners in the Lakes Region can maximize a second home for their own use (or as a rental) into the fall, winter, and spring months long after Cape Cod owners have closed their homes for the winter.

When comparing fresh and salt water, arguably swimming in a lake is more enjoyable. Lakes are generally safer, the water is warmer, there are no strong waves or currents, and there is no tide. An important factor for some people is that a swim in the ocean leaves you feeling salty and sticky, whereas a dip in the lake is cleansing and refreshing. Saltwater is more corrosive than freshwater. A boat and its engine used in saltwater will have a shorter life expectancy than one used in freshwater. Additional, boating regulation and navigation are much more complicated on the ocean.

Both the Lakes Region and Cape Cod appear to be convenient to Boston. But looks can be deceiving. The deception can be described in two words – Sagamore Bridge. The Lakes Region has had its share of traffic backups on one of more of the major commuting highways after a holiday weekend. But nothing can compare to the nightmare of driving off the Cape towards the Sagamore Bridge at the end of a summer weekend. Cape Cod is technically an island. Many agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) treat the Cape as such for purposes of disaster preparedness and other issues. The Cape Cod Canal, dug over a hundred years ago runs across the base of the peninsula and cuts the Cape off from the mainland. Only two bridges allow commuter traffic on and off the island. The bridges over the canal close when winds reach 75 mph, as they did with Hurricane Bob. These events are infrequent but one thing that has become a regular saga is the mega-traffic jam to get off the Cape during the summer. After experiencing one of the super-jams that reportedly lasted two days with traffic backed up 25 miles from the bridge, Rabb, a 58-year-old woman who often traveled to the Cape told the Boston Globe, "I will not do that again." Another traveler's comment in the same Globe article goes to the heart of the matter. "It was a perfect trip in every way until the end." Even the most beautiful destination can be ruined by a grueling commute home. If you retire and can live permanently on the Cape, that's one matter. However, if your wish is to become a "weekend warrior" second home owner, you might take this into consideration.

Now comes a big consideration. What can your money buy? Let's do a little market comparison. Take for example, Meredith, N.H. For 2015 to date, the average home price was $393,284 and the median price was $283,509. In Gilford, N.H. the average price was $248,593 and the median was $227,083. Compare this to Osterville, Mass., where in 2015 the average selling price was $527,181 and the median $390,619, and Chatham, Mass. where the average was $779,934 and the median $612,500. Not to mention the more expensive areas on the Cape such as Nantucket, where the average price is $1,326,015 and the median is $1,088,017.

The significance of owning your shore frontage and docking system cannot be underestimated. There is nothing better than walking across your backyard to your boat for a day of watersports, dinner at one of the many lake-accessible restaurants, or a tour of a quaint New England village. This is a beautiful reality for many homes and condominiums in the Lakes Region, at many different price points. Only a limited number of homes on the ocean can have docks adjacent to the house because of the tides and other issues. These homes come with a high price tag. For most homeowners on the Cape, boating requires the additional expense of a slip at a marina and the inconvenience of having to travel to get to your boat. Another consideration when purchasing an oceanfront home is whether or not there will be sunbathers enjoying the beach in front of your beach home. Compare this to the lake where you own your shorefront exclusively.

In this obviously one-sided analysis, the decision of Lakes Region or Cape Cod may appear clear. But the reality is there will never be a winner declared in this debate. For the buyer, it comes down to one simple question. Which has the greater appeal: ocean or lake? For someone like me, who cringes when the movie Jaws is mentioned, the answer to that question is easy.

Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith & Laconia, N.H. and can be reached at (603) 366-6306. rocherealty.com

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