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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

An Unrepentant Trump Finally Acknowledges Obama as American

You’d think this wouldn’t be too hard a question: Was Barack Obama, the president of the United States, born in the United States? On the one hand, there’s a thick stack of documentation, from official records to newspaper announcements to eyewitnesses. On the other, there’s no evidence and a great deal of racism.

And yet Donald Trump couldn’t bring himself to admit it until Friday morning.

“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Trump said, which is untrue. “I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

It was a notable moment—the chief proponent for years of the slander that Obama was not born in Hawaii admitting he was wrong—and yet one shot through with dishonesty. Clinton did not start the birther movement, and Trump, rather than seeking to end the controversy, worked at length to fan it. Even after Obama released his “long-form” birth certificate, meanwhile, Trump continued to spread birther innuendo. The statement is at once a welcome recognition and also...

Just Why Does Hillary Clinton Want to Be President?

GREENSBORO, N.C.—Hillary Clinton is back on her feet. Now, what does she stand for?

After a few days recuperating from what her doctor characterized as a mild bout of pneumonia, the Democratic presidential nominee was at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Thursday afternoon, returning to the campaign trail and seeking to rebuild her dwindling lead over Republican Donald Trump. Against that backdrop, Clinton seemed to be looking to reset not just her health, but her the whole campaign. 

For her first rally back, Clinton took the stage not to the familiar strains of “Fight Song” but instead with James Brown’s “I Feel Good” blaring. She addressed her illness at the outset of her 25-minute speech, saying she had wanted to power through but eventually recognized the need to take a break—and found it refreshing.

“It turns out having a few days to myself was actually a gift. I talked with some old friends. I spent time with our very sweet dogs. I did some thinking,” he said. “The campaign trail doesn’t really encourage reflection. It’s important to sit with your thoughts every now and then, and that did help me reconnect...

There’s a Great Tradition of Fainting in Politics and Government

The stress, the public scrutiny, the crazy travel schedule, the spotlight, the heat. Even powerful world leaders let their humanity slip sometimes, and there’s perhaps no better demonstration than the fainting spell.

After spending an hour and a half at the September 11 commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero in Manhattan today, Hillary Clinton left abruptly, absconding to her daughter’s apartment. Clinton’s spokesman said she felt “overheated.” New York City has had a humid week, with temperatures hovering around 80°F (27° C), and observers noted that the 68-year old presidential candidate looked “wobbly” on her way out.

Hours later, Clinton told reporters she was “feeling great” and her campaign disclosed that the presidential candidate is being treated for pneumonia. The illness was also behind her recent coughing spell.

Fainting, also medically referred to as vasovagal syncope, occurs because of a decrease in blood flow to the brain. While skeptics have been quick to jump on Clinton’s lightheadedness as evidence of ailing health, in the annals of US political theater, she is hardly the only one to get the dizzies in public...

When Hillary Clinton Coughs

At a rally in Cleveland on Monday, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton coughed several times. She reached under the podium and grabbed a glass of water, excusing the cough as a consequence of having talked so much. When the cough didn’t immediately go away, she laughed it off as an allergy to thinking about Donald Trump. The episode lasted around 20 seconds.

NBC published the clip of Clinton coughing as a Labor Day news story, under the headline “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack.” From there, conservative pundits took a hard turn into the shadows. Matt Drudge emblazoned the top of his still tremendously popular blog: “GETTING WORSE: CLINTON COUGH VIOLENTLY RETURNS. HEALTH STATUS UP IN THE AIR.”

The coughing spell played into a narrative that Drudge and some other media outlets have attempted to construct—and conservative politicians like Rudy Giuliani have encouraged—in which Clinton is physically unfit for the presidency. This morning, Drudge links to an article wherein “10 Prominent Doctors Question Hillary Clinton’s Health.”

Among doctors there is sometimes an inverse relationship between prominence and credibility. At Fox News, physicians can become prominent by fueling conservative narratives like the one where Clinton is covertly unwell...

Are U.S. Presidential Politics Beyond a Joke?

“I really do respect the press,” President Barack Obama joked at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in 2013, shortly after his second successful election campaign. “I recognize that the press and I have different jobs to do. My job is to be president; your job is to keep me humble. Frankly, I think I’m doing my job better.”

Obama’s comedic skill has, itself, been a key ingredient of his political success. Yet neither of the current presidential candidates appears to have much interest in following in his footsteps. “Wit and humor have been drained from our politics,” the Washington Times lamented earlier this month.

The emptying of humor in the current U.S. election campaign is striking, reflecting both the personal limitations of the current candidates and the exceptional gravity of the moment. Whether or not we are witnessing the rise of American fascism, the end of the Republican Party or the disintegration of freedom in the Western world, there is clearly a crisis in U.S. democratic culture.

In this dark political climate, displays of humor – for centuries, a mainstay of leadership – have become increasingly out of place.

A serious turn

Hillary Clinton, it is true...

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