TCG Weekly Digest – December 24th, 2015


Week ending December 24, 2015

Weekly roundup about our democracy and The Common Good community


Trump and Cruz move higher: #1 Donald Trump39%. #2 Ted Cruz18%, up from last month. #3 Marco Rubio and Ben Carson – tied 10% each. #4 Chris Christie at 5%. CNN [Poll]

Trump ahead in New Hampshire; Cruz tops the polls in Iowa. RealClearPolitics [Poll]

Half of U.S. voters embarrassed with Trump as president:  Among GOP: Trump 28%, Cruz 24%, Rubio 12%, Carson 10% … In GOP, “58% of those who name a candidate might change their mind … Only 23% of all voters would be proud to have Trump as president.” Quinnipiac [Poll]

Percentage of Christians in U.S. drifting down, but still high: “75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion … Christian identification is down from 80% in 2008 … 5% of Americans identify with a non-Christian religion, little changed … 20% have no formal religious identification … up 5% since 2008.” Frank Newport, [More]

Foreign Affairs/National Security

U.S. held secret contacts with Syria:  ”The Obama administration pursued secret communications with elements of Syria’s regime over several years in a failed attempt to limit violence and get President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power … [T]he U.S. looked for cracks in the regime it could exploit to encourage a military coup, but found few. … Unlike the secret White House back channel to Iran, however, the Syria effort never gained momentum and communication was limited.” Nour Malas and Carol E. Lee (Past TCG Speaker), WSJ [More]

What the Führer means for Germans today: “Seventy years after Adolf Hitler’s death, how Germans see him is changing. Economist [More]

Has Europe reached the breaking point?:  ”A refugee crisis, a Greek debt showdown, Russian aggression and terrorism in the streets. How 2015 has threatened to undo the European Union.” Jim Yardley, N.Y. Times Magazine [More]

Baghdad harms the ISIS fight by not paying Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters: “The [Kurdish] Peshmerga, who are holding the front line in the global effort to defeat … ISIS, … have now gone without paychecks for three months. … Much of the blame lies with the Iraqi central government.” Juleanna Glover, WSJ [More]

Negotiating the whirlwind – Major piece about John Kerry (Past TCG Speaker): David Remnick, New Yorker [More]

The debate over encryption: Stopping terrorists from ‘going dark’: “Today’s messaging systems are often designed so that companies’ own developers cannot gain access to encrypted content.” Richard Burr, WSJ, [More]

US power grid vulnerable to foreign hacks: “About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on … Many of the substations and equipment that move power across the U.S. are decrepit and were never built with network security in mind; hooking the plants up to the Internet over the last decade has given hackers new backdoors in.” Garance Burke & Jon Fahey, AP [More]

Iranian hackers infiltrated New York dam in 2013:  ”Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of a small dam less than 20 miles from New York City two years ago, sparking concerns that reached to the White House … America’s power grid, factories, pipelines, bridges and dams-all prime targets for digital armies-are sitting largely unprotected on the Internet.” Danny Yadron, WSJ [More]

Domestic Affairs

Climate Change and “The Siege of Miami“:  ”As temperatures climb, so, too, will sea levels.” Elizabeth Kolbert, New Yorker [More]

David Brooks: 2015 Sidney Awards… given for some of the year’s best long-form essays, congregate, coincidentally, around a theme: the excessive individualism of American society, and the ways human beings try to create community for good or ill. The first winner is Sebastian Junger’s piece (TCG Speaker) ‘How PTSD Became a Problem Far Beyond the Battlefield,’ from Vanity Fair.” David Brooks, NYTimes  [More]

Why America is Moving Left: Peter Beinart explains why he believes Barack Obama will be the Democrat’s Ronald Reagan—a President that changes the trajectory of American ideology. Because of Obama’s many successful achievements, Beinart argues, the next president, whether Republican or Democrat, will govern in a more progressive fashion than their party’s previous Commander-in-Chief. Atlantic [More]

2016 Campaign

Winning strategy drives Trump’s ‘chaos’:  ”[I]n city after city, Trump hews closely to his stump speech … The words vary, but the themes stay the same – all in service of solidifying and expanding his core audience of blue-collar white men.  Staples … include pledges to build a wall on the southern border at Mexico’s expense; stop Mexico, China and Japan from ‘ripping off’ the U.S. in trade; and arm more Americans to gun down terrorists … “In the Deep South , he shows his firebrand side … He sometimes tones down his rhetoric in Iowa … [H]is popularity has only grown, even as he has offended women, Mexicans, the disabled, Muslims and other groups. … Like a veteran politician, Trump keeps promises vague. He pledges trillions … in tax cuts, but also preservation of all Social Security and Medicare benefits. He vows to stop … theft of American jobs by China and Mexico, but skirts details.” Michael Finnegan, LA Times [More]

Clinton using Trump’s taunts against him: “’We are not responding to Trump,’ … Jennifer Palmieri … responded to Mr. Trump … on Twitter. ‘But everyone who understands the humiliation this degrading language inflicts on all women should,’ she added, tacking on the campaign’s girl-power hashtag #ImWithHer. … Behind the scenes, the Clinton campaign mobilized a wide network of female supporters to denounce Mr. Trump as ‘sexist.’” Amy Chozick and Maggie Haberman, NYT [More]

“Donald Trump Isn’t the biggest narcissist in the GOP field. Ted Cruz is”:  “I know a televangelist candidate when I see one”: “[I]f you listen closely you will find that he sells everything with the exact same level of zeal. Whether he is condemning the Islamic State or ordering a ham sandwich, the invective is identical. When a speaker oversells everything, it calls everything he says into question, and it begs questions regarding authenticity and genuineness.” Curt Anderson, Politico [More]

“Carson hints at major campaign shakeup, then takes it back,” by Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Nolan D. McCaskill: “Ben Carson moved quickly to shut off speculation about a high-level campaign shakeup Wednesday, just hours after he stoked the notion of wholesale personnel changes in a pair of interviews in his Maryland home. In a late-scheduled appearance on CNN, Carson distanced himself from interviews … in which he hinted that a shakeup was imminent, comments that were echoed and augmented by aides who applauded him for being back in charge of his campaign.” [More]

Erick Erickson: “Ted Cruz Will Be the Nominee”: “It is… obvious that Cruz and Rubio are where the race will ultimately be….I would give the edge to Ted Cruz right now… [H]is path forward is less crowded.” [More]

Cruz tackles the Wall Street Journal: The paper’s conservative editorial board says he’s disingenuous and demagogic. The senator says the paper is shilling for Marco Rubio… Editorial page editor Paul Gigot, who notes the Journal hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate since Herbert Hoover, said the paper’s differences with Cruz are rooted in … substantive policy differences.” Kyle Cheney & Hadas Gold, Politico [More]

Clinton’s Debate Focus Is G.O.P. Field; Parrying Democrats, Swinging at Trump: In the third Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton framed next year’s presidential election as a choice between her rationality and the “recklessness” of Republican nominees. Jonathan Martin and Amy Chozick, NYT [More]

“Rubio reassures nervous donors his strategy is on track,” by : “On a Tuesday afternoon call, … the Florida senator … pushed back on the recent media narrative that he’s running a passive campaign … ‘I’m amused at those stories,’ Rubio said … ‘Just because we aren’t telling the media our strategy doesn’t mean we’re not organized’ … Rubio went on to detail his recent schedule, pointing out that over the past week he had visited all four early states.”Alex Isenstadt, Politico [More]

GOP worries over Senate with Presidential battle:  ”State polls show New Hampshire’s Senate race is one of the tightest, with incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte facing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Voters in the swing state tend to be moderate, and some centrist Republicans have grown alarmed over the potential impact of nominating Mr. Trump or … Cruz.” Heather Haddon, WSJ [More]

Will the GOP mount a third-party challenge to Trump?: “[A]Trump nomination represents … a victory that leaves significant slices of the party unwilling or unable to accept the outcome. … [T]he odds on massive defections are very high.” Jeff Greenfield, Politico [More]

The Economy

Lobbyists shield a tax loophole worth $1 billion; exceptions added late to bill: Rule change is delayed for Casino, Hotel and Wall St. interests; “The small changes, and the enormous windfall they generated, show the power of connected corporate lobbyists to alter a huge bill … with little time for lawmakers to consider. … [T]here were thousands of other add-ons and hard to decipher tax changes.” Eric Lipton & Liz Moyer, New York Times [More]

Notable Books & Film

“’Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Opens to Cosmic $517M Global Launch,” by The Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock: “’Force Awakens’ stunning performance sets a new standard for how much the North American box office can expand when the right movie comes along, and puts even more pressure on Hollywood studios to eventize their tentpoles.” [More]

Rick Shenkman, “Political Animals: Why Our Stone Age Brains Get in the Way of Smart Politics” (out Jan. 5) [More]