Why did Peña Nieto invite Trump to Mexico?

Ioan Grillo writes: Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, had already had a terrible summer. July was the most murderous month in Mexico since he took office in 2012. Second-quarter results showed negative economic growth for the first time in three years. A survey found his approval rating slipping to 23 percent. And a news report even alleged that he plagiarized nearly a third of his law degree thesis. How could he make it any worse? Only by inviting Donald J. Trump, one of the most hated men in Mexico — so hated that piñatas with his visage are brisk sellers across the country — to his presidential palace.

The curious thing about Mr. Peña Nieto’s latest debacle is how, unlike his other woes, it was totally self-inflicted. There is little tradition of sitting Mexican leaders meeting with American presidential hopefuls, so he was under no pressure to arrange the get-together. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time: the very day of Mr. Trump’s hard-hitting immigration speech, and the day before Mr. Peña Nieto’s state of the union address. Mr. Peña Nieto had even compared Mr. Trump to Hitler.

But in a stupefying decision, last week he sent invitations out to the Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump to come to Mexico, and then conceded, reportedly under pressure from the Trump team, to meet its candidate first, on the fateful Aug. 31.

Mr. Peña Nieto insists that his nation won something from the encounter. “I was very clear — in public and private — in emphasizing that in Mexico we feel wounded and hurt by his announcements about Mexicans,” he wrote in an opinion piece in El Universal newspaper on Thursday. “I expressed that Mexicans deserve respect.”

But most politicians and pundits — and the public — read the scene differently. To them, Mr. Peña Nieto looked weak and submissive in front of a bully who is humiliating their nation. [Continue reading…]

Politico reports: Several major Latino surrogates for Donald Trump are reconsidering their support for him following the Republican nominee’s hardline speech on immigration Wednesday night.

Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, has resigned, and Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.

“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.” [Continue reading…]

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Former models for Donald Trump’s agency said ‘it is like modern-day slavery’

Mother Jones reports: Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.” And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management “has risen to the top of the fashion market,” boasts the Trump Organization’s website, and has a name “that symbolizes success.” According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company. [Continue reading…]

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As Trump vs. Clinton captivates world, Netanyahu is unusually silent

The New York Times reports: For three hours, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel held forth on all sorts of topics — on Israel and the Middle East, on his record and on his plans. One subject that Mr. Netanyahu studiously avoided in his expansive conversation with American visitors last weekend, though, was the United States election.

Much of the rest of the world is absorbed by the contest between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, but it is a topic Mr. Netanyahu will not touch. Four years after he was accused of meddling in the American election on behalf of President Obama’s opponent, the hardly bashful Israeli leader this time has taken a virtual vow of silence.

The unusual reluctance comes after years of toxic relations between him and Mr. Obama, culminating in an acrid public feud over the American-brokered nuclear agreement with Iran. With Mr. Netanyahu seemingly aligning himself during that fight with Mr. Obama’s Republican critics, some Israel backers feared the country was squandering its traditional bipartisan support. The prime minister now seems intent on extricating himself from the partisan tussle.

“Everybody understands here in Israel that the most important thing for us is to go back to where we were for the last 68 years, which is bipartisan,” said Yair Lapid, a centrist party leader who hopes to succeed Mr. Netanyahu. “This is why nobody will take sides in a presidential campaign.”

But if Israel is staying away from the American campaign, the campaign is staying away from Israel, too. While it was an occasional topic of questioning during primary debates, it has been all but absent from the discussion in the general election.

In part, that reflects a high-octane campaign of invective that has overlooked many policy questions. But it also underscores the plethora of other issues that have seized Washington’s attention, principally the rise of the Islamic State, the war in Syria and relations with Russia. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute, once a dominant part of any White House foreign policy, seems to be slipping to a second-tier issue. [Continue reading…]

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Former chief White House ethics lawyer: Clinton Foundation controversy is just a distraction from bigger issue

By Richard Painter, University of Minnesota

Hillary Clinton’s critics claim that federal ethics laws were broken when her subordinates at the State Department arranged meetings and other favors for donors to the Bill and Hillary Clinton Foundation.

Evidence is still surfacing as to who at the State Department did what and why. But as a former chief White House ethics lawyer in the Bush administration, I can tell you that allegations of favoritism for donors is nothing new. There were plenty such allegations during the Bill Clinton administration. If nothing changes, I believe it will be more of the same in a Hillary Clinton administration.

As I illustrate in my book, “Getting the Government America Deserves,” there was also favoritism for donors in the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations. Same for Congress over many years. The same is arguably true for the Obama administration. One case in point: access to staff in the White House and Department of Energy granted to investors in Solyndra Solar Energy Company. The Clinton Foundation may be a novel twist to an old problem, but donors get high-level access every day in Washington.

The Clinton Foundation is a marginally relevant side show in the gigantic multibillion dollar circus of American campaign finance. Almost all American politicians depend upon money to get elected, and almost all consciously or unconsciously do favors for their donors. Corruption is eating away at our republic. The media’s obsession with the indirect ways in which a single charitable foundation advances a single candidate’s career misses the point.

Clinton’s critics and the candidate herself should instead focus on what American voters of all political convictions really want: less influence for big money in American government.

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Men who blame women for men’s failings

Olivia Nuzzi writes: If you were a presidential candidate who polled low among women, who was on your third wife, who had a reputation for womanizing and a professional relationship with a man who’d recently been axed from his job for sexual harassment, would you respond to the latest Anthony Weiner scandal by A. Staying out of it; B. Changing the subject; or C. Attacking your opponent by making a dubious connection between Weiner’s behavior and her own?

If you chose C, congratulations: This election has officially warped your sense of good judgment.

Donald Trump is blaming Hillary Clinton for the actions of her aide’s husband, bringing into focus his fraught relationship with the female sex and his history of marital infidelity—not to mention his own adviser with a “perv” problem, to adopt the language of the New York tabloids.

Trump’s argument is a good peek into his psyche, where a man can be absolved of wrongdoing so long as there’s a woman around to carry the blame. It’s also an example of why, thus far, his campaign against Clinton has been unsuccessful: First, because he’s accused her of anything and everything, regardless of its basis in reality (he claimed she founded ISIS before asserting it about President Obama), and rather than turn people against her, it’s had the effect of watering down her actual flaws. Second, because he lacks the self-awareness and political know-how to understand when he might be pushing away the voters he needs the most. [Continue reading…]

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Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system

The Washington Post reports: Hackers targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the FBI alerted Arizona officials in June that Russians were behind the assault on the election system in that state.

The bureau described the threat as “credible” and significant, “an eight on a scale of one to 10,” Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R), said Monday. As a result, Reagan shut down the state’s voter registration system for nearly a week.

It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system. They had, however, stolen the username and password of a single election official in Gila County.

Roberts said FBI investigators did not specify whether the hackers were criminals or employed by the Russian government. Bureau officials on Monday declined to comment, except to say that they routinely advise private industry of cyberthreats detected in investigations. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump’s bigotry

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Charles Blow writes: According to recent polls, the image of Donald Trump as a bigot has begun to crystallize, and for good reason: Because it’s true!

A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that 59 percent of likely voters, and 29 percent of likely Republican voters in particular, think that the way Trump talks appeals to bigotry. Republicans were the only anomaly. A majority or plurality of every other demographic measured — Democrats, independents, men, women, white people with and without college degrees, every age group, whites and nonwhites alike — agreed that Trump’s words appeal to bigotry.

But there is one demographic that must be particularly concerning to Trump: college-educated whites.

I know that Trump has boasted that he loves the poorly educated, but there appears to be little love lost between him and those white people with degrees. In fact, as the blog FiveThirtyEight predicted in July, “Trump may become the first Republican in 60 years to lose white college graduates.”

This may in part be due to his particularly abysmal performance among college-educated white women. [Continue reading…]

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How Dostoevsky predicted Trump’s America

By Ani Kokobobo, University of Kansas

As a professor of Russian literature, I’ve come to realize that it’s never a good sign when real life resembles a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, with its riotous rhetoric and steady stream of scandals, calls to mind Dostoevsky’s most political novel, “Demons,” written in 1872. In it, the writer wanted to warn readers about the destructive force of demagoguery and unchecked rhetoric, and his cautionary messages – largely influenced by 19th-century Russian political chaos – resonate in our present political climate.

To show his readers just how bad things could get if they didn’t pay attention, Dostoevsky linked his political nightmare to unhinged impulses and the breakdown of civility.

A passion for destruction

Dostoevsky was as addicted to newspapers as some of us are to social media, and he often plucked crises and violence right from the headlines, refashioning them for his fiction.

Russia during the 1860s and 1870s – the heyday of the author’s career – was experiencing massive socioeconomic instability. Tsar Alexander II’s Emancipation of the Serfs freed Russian peasants from a form of class bondage, while the subsequent Great Reforms aimed to restructure the executive and judidical branches, as well as the military, tax code and education system. The reforms were supposed to modernize the country by dragging it out of the caste-like system of estates and legal privilege. But it didn’t do much to improve the economic lot of the peasant.

It was a reversal of America’s present political landscape. While today there’s simmering discontent from the right, in 19th-century Russia it was leftists who were enraged. They were angered by the reforms for not going far enough and had lost hope in the government’s ability to produce meaningful change.

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A clearer portrait of Trump supporters

Tom Jacobs writes: When Donald Trump emerged as a serious candidate, his supporters were widely described as working-class white men who were hurting economically. When word emerged that most are actually doing surprisingly well, the need for a more accurate profile became clear.

Such a portrait has just been published, and it suggests attitude, not income, is the common denominator among Trump supporters.
In short, they tend to be anti-intellectual, scornful of authority figures, and deeply mistrustful of perceived outsiders.

“Trump’s supporters are distinctive in their unique combination of anti-expertise, anti-elitism, and pro-nationalist sentiments,” political scientists J. Eric Oliver and Wendy Rahn write in the Annals of the American Association of Political and Social Science. “Trump’s supporters are also distinctive in their high levels of conspiratorial thinking, nativism, and economic insecurity.”

In a word, they embody populism, the belief that a self-serving elite has accumulated too much power. “The year 2016 is indeed the year of the populist,” the researchers write, “and Donald Trump is its apotheosis.” [Continue reading…]

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FBI says foreign hackers penetrated state election systems

Michael Isikoff reports: The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department. [Continue reading…]

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‘No vacancies’ for blacks: How Donald Trump got his start, and was first accused of bias

The New York Times reports: She seemed like the model tenant. A 33-year-old nurse who was living at the Y.W.C.A. in Harlem, she had come to rent a one-bedroom at the still-unfinished Wilshire Apartments in the Jamaica Estates neighborhood of Queens. She filled out what the rental agent remembers as a “beautiful application.” She did not even want to look at the unit.

There was just one hitch: Maxine Brown was black.

Stanley Leibowitz, the rental agent, talked to his boss, Fred C. Trump.

“I asked him what to do and he says, ‘Take the application and put it in a drawer and leave it there,’” Mr. Leibowitz, now 88, recalled in an interview.

It was late 1963 — just months before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act — and the tall, mustachioed Fred Trump was approaching the apex of his building career. He was about to complete the jewel in the crown of his middle-class housing empire: seven 23-story towers, called Trump Village, spread across nearly 40 acres in Coney Island.

He was also grooming his heir. His son Donald, 17, would soon enroll at Fordham University in the Bronx, living at his parents’ home in Queens and spending much of his free time touring construction sites in his father’s Cadillac, driven by a black chauffeur.

“His father was his idol,” Mr. Leibowitz recalled. “Anytime he would come into the building, Donald would be by his side.”

Over the next decade, as Donald J. Trump assumed an increasingly prominent role in the business, the company’s practice of turning away potential black tenants was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle.

The Justice Department undertook its own investigation and, in 1973, sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks. Both Fred Trump, the company’s chairman, and Donald Trump, its president, were named as defendants. It was front-page news, and for Donald, amounted to his debut in the public eye. [Continue reading…]

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Hillary hatred is a reckless indulgence

Gabriel Schoenfeld writes: … for all her failures on the truth front, Clinton is not a congenital liar like Trump, who spouts falsehoods without compunction or, seemingly, even awareness. Rather, she engages in what conservatives like me would call progressive prevarication. Like so many on the left, she sees herself as both a paragon and an agent of virtue. As such, she uninhibitedly bends the rules and stretches the truth to advance her own career and causes. This leads her critics to paint her as a practiced liar, but in her own mind she is always telling a higher truth. Wrongdoing mixed with self-righteousness naturally elicits a special kind of fury.

But not all the hatred is kindled by Clinton herself. Even as first lady, her activist role fueled attacks on her hairstyle, her pantsuits and her voice, all of which evolved into a set of shopworn memes deriving from her gender. The fact that she gained political ascendance by riding piggyback on her husband’s career has added energy to the sex-based enmity. Today, her status as the first female presidential nominee for a major party has turned this stream into a river.

It has not helped that Clinton’s candidacy occurs during a period when traditional concepts of marriage and gender identity are being overturned. As radical changes in this most sensitive realm are introduced — in some instances with the force of law — anxieties are boiling over. As a female politician visibly identified with the social transformation, Clinton is a locus of the backlash.

Trump, for his part, has been riding that backlash toward power. Misogyny is what he traffics in, and he is not alone. Indeed, his frank expressions of contempt for women — and Clinton as a living symbol of female political power — are an intrinsic part of his appeal to the non-college educated white men who form the core of his constituency. It is unsurprising that the cohort most insecure in the new social order is the one whose members most loudly chant “lock her up” at rallies and sport “Hillary for prison” bumper stickers on their cars. [Continue reading…]

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