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Dumbest possible reaction to debate comes from Fox News

  When it comes to political polling, the first thing you need to know is that any survey that doesn’t follow the fundamental scientific rules of the game is mostly worthless. Reputable polling organizations take great pains to follow those rules, which is why their results usually are pretty much similar to one another. If Gallup has a poll showing Smith leading Jones by nine percentage points, most other reliable polls likely will show similar results. Sometimes, however, a pollster with a good reputation will come up with...

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Debate winner won’t likely be determined for days

  The tens of millions of Americans eagerly awaiting tonight’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should not expect that the winner of the event will be clear once it’s over or even within a day or so. That may happen, but it might not. Indeed, it likely won’t. Let’s consider the various factors, shall we? The winner of a presidential campaign debate is ultimately determined by scientific polls. Did one of the candidates leave a more favorable impression among debate watchers than the other? The only...

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Donald Trump follows Phyllis Schlafly’s political advice?

Phyllis Schlafly, the celebrated anti-feminist and all-around right-wing kook who died a few weeks ago at the age of 92, has left us a sizable legacy of dubious political nostrums. One of the more recent examples of questionable advice from Schlafly seems to have been heeded by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. In the wake of GOP defeats in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, leaders of the Republican National Committee suggested that the party should try harder to attract non-white voters. White voter turnout rates had...

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A solid argument that the Republican Party is anti-science

  One of the great problems facing Republicans who can actually read without moving their lips is that their party, for the most part, is one in which the tail often wags the dog. The GOP’s extreme right wing generally holds sway, even if its anti-intellectualism is an embarrassment to party members of reasonable intelligence. Consider, for example, the party’s overall antipathy toward the scientific consensus in matters of climate change and the origins of human life. Any Republican politician who doesn’t share that...

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Trump’s claim that he’s not a politician is sheer nonsense

  Of all the falsehoods peddled by Donald Trump in his campaign for the presidency, the falsest — yet perhaps most effective — has been his claim that he’s “not a politician.” Anyone who believes that whopper simply doesn’t understand the true meaning of the word “politics.” You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the old joke about the first indication that a politician is lying is when his lips are moving. But what can we say about a politician whose first really big lie is his claim...

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Will there be violence if Trump loses?

  I’ve been following presidential elections fairly closely for 56 years now, but I’ve never before had cause to worry about outbreaks of violence when the votes are all counted. Donald Trump and some of his followers have changed all that. Much of Trump’s campaign oratory has included allusions to violence. He’s encouraged people at his rallies to physically attack dissenters in their midst. He’s promised to cover the legal expenses incurred by people who follow this advice. He’s spoken at least twice...

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Trump’s graceless retreat from Birtherism only hurts him

  The mainstream media got played by Donald Trump this morning — not for the first time, but perhaps once too often and far too cynically. The Donald might come to regret it. Trump has long been the principal purveyor of the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not qualified to be president. The claim was thoroughly debunked years ago, but Trump has never formally disowned it — until today. However, the manner in which he did so was begrudging, dishonest, graceless and not...

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Persecution of American Christians is a myth

  To hear some people tell it, Christians in America are facing relentless persecution these days. But it’s not true. Religious freedom in America remains far greater than anywhere else in the world. The problem is that some Christians are offended by an increase in the number of non-Christians in our populace. Writing in the magazine Christianity Today, no less, Ed Cyzewski says THIS: Overall, America is shifting to include more religious minority groups and more people who self-identify as atheists or religiously unaffiliated....

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Hillary’s so-called horrible weekend wasn’t so bad after all

  The consensus among political pundits in recent days seems to be that two separate occurrences last weekend have represented setbacks in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Nonsense. Neither of these matters has done Clinton any lasting harm. More likely, they have helped her. Let’s examine these situations in chronological order. The first occurred last Friday when Hillary said this at a fundraiser: “[Y]ou could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist,...

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Should voting be mandatory in America?

  A few years ago, William A. Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, recommended that several of our states experiment with the idea of requiring by law that citizens participate in the democratic process of self-government. It hasn’t happened yet, but the idea likely persists in some quarters. Jury duty is mandatory; why not voting? The idea seems vaguely un-American. Maybe so, but it’s neither unusual nor undemocratic. And it would ease the intense partisan polarization that weakens our capacity for...

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TV retrospectives on Sept. 11 omitted one big thing

  Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and several television networks observed the occasion with retrospective documentaries about those terrible events. I watched at least six hours of that stuff and noticed that one significant factor was missing: There was no mention of something Donald Trump claims to have seen. As Trump’s presidential campaign began to hit stride last fall, he declared more than once that he remembered seeing television coverage of “thousands and...

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We’ll never lay to rest the myth of liberal media bias

  The current race for president of the United States provides ample evidence that the right-wing claim of liberal bias among the establishment media is utter nonsense. But wingnuts have become so accustomed to complaining about media bias over the years that they don’t recognize the many examples to the contrary. The most-watched of the three cable news channels is Fox News. The other two frequently feature right-wing guests — more of them, in fact, then lefties on Fox. The daily newspaper with the biggest circulation is the...

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