Debate coach: Smile. Look energized. Don’t blow it.

(CNN)Nothing says the 2020 presidential election is heating up like the arrival of the first primary debates. And we’ve got some whoppers, with 20 Democratic contenders facing off this week in two separate groups determined by a randomized draw. Apparently, inclusiveness to the point of overpopulation is a thing now. There are five moderators for the Miami debates. Whatever slim chance we had for depth is gone now, since each moderator will cover a range of topics with little chance for a second line of analysis or follow up questions. It’s almost as if the Democratic National Committee (like the Republican National Committee four years ago) doesn’t want a real debate — at least not yet. Please lower your expectations. …

Trump calls it off

(CNN)“Let’s call the whole thing off,” sang Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as they pondered their romance, danced on roller skates and argued over whether it’s pronounced “tomayto” or “tomahto” in the 1937 musical, “Shall We Dance.” Trump has no good options on Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal last year, Bergen noted in an earlier piece. As the US sought to pin blame on Iran for attacks on tankers in the region, it encountered doubts about the reliability of the underlying intelligence. Samantha Vinograd wasn’t surprised: “Trump has sown mistrust by questioning his own intelligence community, withdrawing from critical international coalitions and spreading disdain for the media.” Biden under attack Is Joe Biden out of touch with …

What’s terribly wrong with ‘Make Aircrew Great Again’ patches

(CNN)The latest breach of America’s civil-military tradition of political neutrality happened on a presidential visit to a US Navy ship docked in Japan. Some service members were wearing patches affixed to their uniforms featuring President Donald Trump’s face, captioned with the words “Make Aircrew Great Again,” a play on his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. Unit patches like this can be authorized by local command, and they can be irreverent and humorous. But that explanation isn’t credible when troops wearing the patches are pleading with media members to help them get Trump autographs. A Navy spokesperson said: “Navy leadership is aware of the incident and reviewing to ensure the patch doesn’t violate DoD policy or uniform regulations.” Transgender soldiers …

Stephen Moore is a Trump mini-me

(CNN)Early in my career as a manager, one of my bosses shared his philosophy on hiring staff: Sound familiar? I feel the same way about President Donald Trump. Critics, understandably so, call him a liar. But we’d be hard-pressed to say Trump ever lied about what type of man he was — before he won the White House, or today. Trump showed us early and often, with his divisive rhetoric, misogyny and hateful speech toward communities of color. We could even say his honesty on these points got him elected. Economist Stephen Moore is one more example of Trump’s staying true to character. Trump selecting Moore to sit on the Federal Reserve Board should surprise no one. Moore, a conservative …

The word that made history this week

(CNN)Every presidential investigation gives us new phrases that stick. “What did the President know, and when did he know it,” Sen. Howard Baker asked during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon. “Snitty” turned out to be an apt word for much of the reaction to this week’s events. Our legal analysts couldn’t have differed more strongly on what it all meant. Paul Callan wrote, “Barr did not deserve Mueller’s snit nor any of the snitty abuse heaped on him for doing his job. His interpretations were a defensible analysis of a report that was poorly written.” Elie Honig painted a much different picture. He called Barr’s testimony before a Senate committee “a master class in obfuscation, backtracking …

A funny historian outclassed Trump

(CNN)When White House Correspondents’ Association President Olivier Knox announced in November that the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner would not feature a comedian, as it has done for many years, Trump praised the move on Twitter as a “good first step” and added, “Maybe I will go?” If you are asking why Trump is bringing up NBC’s Seth Meyers, it’s because when Trump attended the WHCD in 2011, Meyers comically fileted him with jokes like, “Donald Trump said recently that he has a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Although unless ‘the blacks’ are a family of white people, I bet he is mistaken.” These many years later, Trump still feels the sting of that comedic takedown. Chernow, the author of …

How Trump complicates the lives of his Democratic rivals

(CNN)Former Vice President Joe Biden is in and the race is on for the Democratic nomination for president. Now the field of 20 candidates must strategize their way forward in the take-no-prisoners era of President Donald Trump. With the leader of the free world unconstrained by niceties, unabashed in name-calling, and unpredictable on Twitter, how do Democrats respond and avoid a repeat of 2016? As for what Democrats should do now, some things are standard in the primary process. Having worked in communications on the presidential campaigns of the last three Republican winners of the Iowa Caucuses, I have learned a few nonpartisan rules of the road for the early primary states. Keep in mind: Free advice is generally worth …

Biden takes the fight straight to Trump

(CNN)Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 presidential bid this week with a video. He looked into the camera and talked about the torch-wielding white supremacists of Charlottesville, Virginia, with an opening argument that aimed to leap over his primary opponents, across the generation gap, straight at President Trump. “We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” he said. One of those opponents, Elizabeth Warren, is the star who may eclipse another high-flying Biden rival, Bernie Sanders, wrote Jess McIntosh. Scott Jennings saw in the five-candidate evening “socialism on parade.” As he watched, “I imagined my taxes going up. I imagined my guns and pickup truck being confiscated by the Green New Deal police. I imagined Donald Trump …

George and Kellyanne Conway’s political spat is comedic gold

(CNN)Kellyanne Conway is now publicly disparaging her husband George for his attacks on her boss, the President of the United States. Conway, who called her husband out for being unsupportive, also framed her relationship as “the unusual situation of a man getting power through his wife.” Her withering remarks call to mind the scene where King Lear famously utters: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” — though in this case it’s a spouse being slagged off for being thankless (or “jealous”). It’s not quite “Love’s Labour’s Lost;” and nobody’s going anywhere near suggesting it’s about the “Taming” of anybody. But neither does it seem to be “Much Ado About Nothing.” Sign up for …

For God’s sake, Oscars, let Britain’s ‘Favourite’ win

(CNN)It’s been a difficult week in Britain. The Brexit mess deepened, the auto industry shed more jobs, and both major political parties saw significant splits, as liberal centrists within them left to form a new group. This version of Queen Anne is chronically insecure; she’s also addicted to hot chocolate and capable of childlike glee (“Oh, it is fun to be queen sometimes!”, she squeaks, as she officiates over a spontaneous and advantageous midnight marriage for Abigail, much as you or I might preside over an impromptu midnight feast). In other words, she’s what any of us might become, were we just a bit more indulged. Colman has made a career out of playing unattractive characters in unattractive worlds. That …

Amy Klobuchar’s snowy debut was fun; now comes the hard part

(CNN)The launch of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign at Boom Island Park on the Mississippi River, in the middle of a friendly little blizzard, was a perfect political event. Thousands of people showed up, some on skis or hauling their kids on sleds, to see Minnesota’s senior senator enter the race. Dogs played in the snow. There were campfires burning in the shelters and plenty of hot cocoa to go around. As I drank hot cider and listened to DJ Dudley D spin tunes, I found myself doing a little shuffle dance to stay warm. A drumline from north Minneapolis kicked the formal proceedings off, elite Minnesota politicians revved up the crowd, and the snow fell harder as the DJ …

America mocks and dehumanizes natives at every turn

(CNN)Let’s be absolutely clear about something here: Whatever else may have been said about it or our country’s reactions to it, the racist disrespect of Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder, by Nick Sandmann and his MAGA-hat clad classmates of Covington Catholic High School at the Lincoln Memorial is nothing new. In fact, it’s quite the common thing. In this increasingly depraved society, that kind of behavior is often encouraged or excused as just good ol’ American fun. Indeed, the very form of anti-native ridicule and disrespect of personhood and culture caught on multiple videos that day predates Donald J. Trump and his base by centuries. Understand that here in the United States, racism against and disrespect of natives is …

What Miracle Max would say about the shutdown

(CNN)Jerry Seinfeld famously joked that Americans are so subservient to our dogs, aliens looking at us through telescopes wouldn’t know which is the higher life form. “If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume was in charge?” Just pretend you’re looking at us from the outside. Our government, one of the greatest systems ever crafted by men, designed to navigate a civilization through war and famine and civil unrest, is partially shut down, like a cartoonish scene from a Rob Reiner movie. Sign up for our new newsletter. Join us on Twitter and Facebook What an embarrassment, and there’s plenty to go around. Both sides …