Expecting morally serious debate from any would-be Republican presidential contender is like waiting for a check from a deadbeat. It could arrive someday, but don't count on it.
Yet listening to someone like Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., feign outrage over a real moral question can still be amusing, if you know enough about him to laugh. The Kentucky Republican has seized on stories about millions of dollars donated by Saudi Arabian agencies and interests to the Clinton Foundation, demanding that the Clintons return those funds because of gender inequality under the Saudi version of Islam.
It is almost eerie how closely Hillary Clinton's current email scandal parallels the beginnings of the Whitewater fiasco that ensnared her and her husband almost 20 years ago. Both began with tendentious, inaccurate stories published by The New York Times; both relied upon highly exaggerated suspicions of wrongdoing; both were seized upon by Republican partisans whose own records were altogether worse; and both resulted in shrill explosions of outrage among reporters who couldn't be bothered to learn actual facts.
Fortunately for Secretary Clinton, she won't be subjected to investigation by less-than-independent counsel like Kenneth Starr -- and the likelihood that the email flap will damage her nascent presidential campaign seems very small, according to the latest polling data.
To someone who has watched many "scandals" surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton evaporate into the Washington mist -- even when Pulitzer Prize-winning pundits predicted that she would end up in prison! -- the current furor over her emails hardly seems earthshaking.
The harshest penalties usually tend to be brutal, vengeful and excessive -- even when the offender is a celebrity journalist like Brian Williams. Suspended without pay from his post as the "NBC Nightly News" anchor for six months, Williams may be facing the end of his career in television news, which would be roughly equivalent to capital punishment.
Whenever an act of horrific terror enrages the West, a predictable second act ensues. Furious commentators and activists on the right erupt with blanket denunciations of Islam, Muslims and their supposed plots to enslave us all under Shariah, urging that we ban the religion, stigmatize its faithful and restore the Judeo-Christian exclusivity of America. Sometimes a few even seek retribution in attacks on mosques, individual Muslims and anyone unfortunate enough to "look Muslim."
Not long after 9/11, the leading figures in France's Champagne industry decided that they would hold their 2002 annual awards gala in New York rather than Paris. At no small expense, they displayed solidarity with New Yorkers -- and America -- at a time of sorrow and fury, like so many of their compatriots. It was one more instance when the French renewed the bond that has existed since this country's founding.
The unsavory story of Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican and House majority whip, should serve as a clear warning to the leaders of the Republican Party. They need to ask why their message attracts some of the most despicable elements in American society -- and why they can't effectively reject those extremists.
Despite many fervent vows of "outreach" and "inclusion" by top Republicans, they keep making the wrong choices. Both House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have expressed their confidence in Scalise despite his "mistake." And the excuses they now offer on behalf of the man chosen for the third-highest position in their congressional caucus are rapidly eroding.
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Listen carefully to the Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls roaring with outrage over President Barack Obama's courageous decision to normalize relations with Cuba; listen very carefully, because no matter how long or how closely you listen to them, there is one thing you will surely never hear.
With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the use of torture by the CIA after 9/11, the final defense of the indefensible by its perpetrators, advocates and publicists is falling apart before our eyes.
With the Keystone XL pipeline stalled again, now perhaps we can look ahead and consider more promising ways to rebuild our energy system, creating many more jobs than that controversial project ever would. No matter where we look, the far larger issue that still confronts Americans is decaying infrastructure -- which emphatically includes the enormous web of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the continental United States in every direction.
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