Kevin Drum

"When Do We Get Rid of the Muslims?" Donald Trump: "We're Going to be Looking at a Lot of Different Things."

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 8:37 PM EDT

So what's the incident that will finally send Donald Trump back to his mansion to mope about not being president? I mean, the guy seems invulnerable. And he's certainly survived a stupendous number of gaffes that would have killed anyone else.

But his latest howler at a town hall in New Hampshire—especially after his weak debate performance last night—might finally be his death knell. Note: The issue isn't the questioner. There are lunatics in every crowd. This one declared, "We have a problem in this country: It's called Muslims....They have training camps growing where they want to kill us." Then he asked, "When do we get rid of them?" Did he mean all the Muslims? Just the fantasy training camps? Who knows. But all Trump said was this: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things." No pushback, no nothing. I'm sure he'll be walking this back soon, but it might be unwalkable. If there's any justice, this might finally do him in.

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Another Shot Fired in the Great Immigration vs. Wages War

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 7:30 PM EDT

Does illegal immigration suppress the wages of native-born workers? The evidence suggests that it doesn't—or not much, anyway. One of the data points supporting this is a study done by David Card of the effect of the 1980 Mariel boatlift on workers in Miami. Even though Miami experienced a huge spike in immigrants during the boatlift, Card found no significant impact on wages.

Today George Borjas steps in with a different analysis. He's been arguing for a long time that immigration has a bigger effect on wages than we think—especially the wages of unskilled workers. In a new working paper, he looks specifically at the wages of high school dropouts and concludes that although overall wages in Miami were unaffected by the Mariel boatlift, the wages of dropouts were affected. In relative terms, they went down by 10 to 30 percent.

I wouldn't be surprised if this were true, but Borjas's paper does leave me with a few questions. Take a look at the chart on the right, which shows the wages of high school dropouts relative to high school graduates. Miami is the thick blue line. The other lines are various estimates of wages in cities that weren't affected by the boatlift. There are a few oddities here:

  • Before 1980 and after 1990, the wages of high school dropouts in Miami are above zero, which means dropouts earned more than high school grads. That seems very peculiar, and none of the control cities show the same effect. Does this suggest there's something wrong with the Miami data?
  • The Mariel boatlift produced a truly enormous spike in unskilled workers. Borjas estimates that it increased the number of working-age high school dropouts in Miami by about 18 percent in just a few weeks. I wonder if it's really possible to extrapolate from this to the much more gradual increase in illegal immigrants nationwide over a span of two or three decades?
  • This is especially apropos because the chart shows that the impact on wages was fairly short lived. Even with such a huge labor shock, wages of high school dropouts were only affected for about six years. By 1988 they had recovered fully. Borjas acknowledges that this is hard to account for.

I'm no expert in this stuff, and I imagine the folks who are experts will weigh in soon enough. However, even if Borjas is basically right, the question we care about is what this tells us about the effect of illegal immigration on wages more generally. If a huge spike produces a short-lived wage depression of about 20 percent or so, what does a gradual increase over a wide geographic area produce? Unfortunately, Borjas says that there was more going on in Miami during this period than just a labor supply increase, which means "it is difficult to say much about the dynamics of the wage effect of immigration from the evidence generated by the Mariel supply shock." Intuitively, though, it seems like it would be something far less dramatic. Maybe 5 percent or so? Less?

Obamacare Has Now Been MIA in Two Debates

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 2:02 PM EDT

In the first Republican debate, Obamacare was barely mentioned. Over at National Review, Ian Tuttle notes that last night it was also MIA:

Beyond a few brief in media res mentions from candidates, a repeal line in Cruz’s closing address, and an allusion or two (e.g., the question about John Roberts), the president’s signature piece of legislation was a non-issue.

Which makes one wonder: Is it a non-issue?....I suspect that the anti-Obamacare fervor is in a period of quiescence. We have now seen Obamacare implemented sans “death spiral.” The website works. The Supreme Court has handed the Obama administration two affirmative Supreme Court decisions. And the president has made sure to do much in the interim — immigration executive actions and Iran deals, for example — to draw fire away from his healthcare law. Conservative heads have a limited supply of steam.

Tuttle is right. Obamacare has become a brief, pro forma applause line these days, but not much more. Partly this is for the reason Tuttle rather surprisingly concedes: It's up, it's running, and it's working reasonably well. The nation still stands, and it's hard to keep whipping up hysteria for years and years over something that, it turns out, just isn't affecting all that many people.

I don't think this means that Obamacare is going away as a political issue. But I do think that the repeal movement has lost a lot of steam as a winning issue for Republicans. The tea party types are starting to realize that nothing in their lives has changed, and the more moderate types realize—maybe via personal experience, maybe via news reports—that it's doing a lot of good for poor and working class folks. So it's become something of a wedge issue: Pounding on it loses about as many votes as it gains.

This is becoming a real problem for the GOP. A lot of issues that used to be pretty reliable winners have now turned into dangerous wedge issues: gay marriage, taxes, terrorism, illegal immigration, military adventurism, abortion, crime, education, global warming, Ukraine, free trade, Social Security cuts—the list goes on and on. And this is coming at the same time that their bread and butter, the angry white guy demographic, is declining. I'm not sure what they're going to end up doing about this. The GOP has a tough decade ahead.

Who Won the Fiction Sweepstakes in Last Night's Debate?

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 1:31 PM EDT

I just took a quick survey of all the various fact checks of last night's debate and totted them up. The following list includes only items that I judged (a) fairly important and (b) pretty clearly wrong or misleading, which means I left out several close calls. Here they are:

  • Trump says Wisconsin is $2.2 billion in the hole
  • Trump denied lobbying Bush for casino gambling in Florida
  • Trump says he never went bankrupt
  • Trump says vaccines lead to autism
  • Trump says illegal immigration costs us $200 billion per year
  • Trump says Mexico doesn't have birthright citizenship
  • Fiorina says HP doubled its revenue under her leadership
  • Fiorina says sting video showed baby "with its heart beating, its legs kicking"
  • Fiorina says Obama did nothing on immigration reform
  • Christie says Social Security will be insolvent in "seven or eight years"
  • Christie says he supported medical marijuana
  • Cruz says Planned Parenthood sells fetal body parts for profit
  • Cruz says Iran gets to inspect itself
  • Paul says vaccines lead to autism
  • Huckabee says Hillary Clinton is under investigation by the FBI
  • Carson says a better fence was responsible for cutting illegal immigration in the Yuma sector

So the final score is: Trump 6, Fiorina 3, Christie 2, Cruz 2, Paul 1, Huckabee 1, and Carson 1.

Apparently Bush, Rubio, Walker, and Kasich didn't say a single thing that was badly wrong. Good for them.

It's Official: Hillary Clinton Is Just Being Hammered by the Press

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 12:48 PM EDT

Nate Silver takes a quantitative look at Hillary Clinton's headlines since July 24 and concludes that she's just getting hammered. The calendar on the right shows the near-daily punches she's taking:

Since Friday, July 24—I’ll talk about the significance of that date in a moment—there have been 13 mornings when Clinton’s email server was a major story, seven mornings when her bad polling numbers were a major story, and seven mornings when speculation about Biden running was a major story…By contrast, I identified just one morning since July 24 when a favorable headline for Clinton gained traction on Memeorandum.

…What changed? July 24 was the morning after The New York Times reported that “a criminal investigation” had been launched into whether Clinton had “mishandled sensitive government information” on her email account. That report turned out to be mostly erroneous; the Times later appended an editor’s note to the article, which is about as close as a newspaper will get to retracting a story. Still, the email story was back in the news after several months when there hadn’t been much reported about it. And subsequent stories about the investigation into Clinton’s email server, from the Times and other news outlets, have proved to be better-reported than the Times’s initial misfire.

Meanwhile, that was also about the time that speculation about a late Biden entry ramped up....Then, of course, there are the stories about Clinton’s poll numbers.

I know I'm repeating myself, but where's the beef? Hillary Clinton received official emails on a personal account. Jeb Bush did the same thing. So did Colin Powell. So did a bunch of folks in the Bush White House (using RNC servers). Some of the emails Hillary received may have contained information that's now deemed classified, but it's quite clear that government officials routinely send classified reports over email. Maybe they shouldn't, but they do. It's neither new nor unusual nor really a very big deal.

As for the personal emails, they're a complete red herring. No one ever turns over personal emails, and officials have always decided for themselves which ones are personal. No one cares whether those emails were on a private server.

So we're left with one thing: Hillary received official emails on her personal account. That's it. It's fair game for Republicans to attack her bad judgment in doing that, but there's just nothing more to learn about it. She did it. She's admitted it. It's part of her record as secretary of state. It's done.

But every new tidbit turns into a front-page story. Every release of emails turns into another set of front-page stories. (Gefilte fish!) And every front-page story leads to a poll decline, which then turns into another front-page story.

There's just got to be something else about Hillary Clinton that reporters are interested in. Maybe she needs to start yammering away about razing every coal-fired power plant in the country and turning northern Iraq into a glassy plain. That seems to be what it takes these days.

Jake Tapper Was Way Too Obsessed With Donald Trump Last Night

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 11:54 AM EDT

I mentioned this last night, but I want to call it out specifically this morning: Jake Tapper sounded like he was auditioning for a place on Celebrity Apprentice during his moderation of the Republican debate. Over and over, instead of simply asking questions, he framed them in terms of something Donald Trump said. It was all Trump, all the time. Here's a complete rundown of his Trump-obsessed questions from just the segment before the first commercial break (along with a bonus question from Dana Bash):

TAPPER: ....Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, has suggested that your party's frontrunner, Mr. Donald Trump, would be dangerous as President. He said he wouldn't want, quote, "such a hot head with his finger on the nuclear codes."

TAPPER: You didn't answer my question. Would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump's finger on the nuclear codes?

TAPPER: Governor Bush, would you feel comfortable with Donald Trump's finger on the nuclear codes?

TAPPER: ....Governor Bush, you recently said while discussing Planned Parenthood, quote, you're "not sure we need a half billion for women's health issues."....But Donald Trump said....

TAPPER: In an interview last week in Rolling Stone magazine, Donald Trump said the following about you....

TAPPER: Governor Christie....You say that [Trump's] big wall, his plan to deport 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants, it sounds great, but it's never going to happen....

TAPPER: With all due respect, you said about Donald Trump's plan to deport 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants, "People who say that have no idea what this entails."

BASH: Governor Bush, Mr. Trump has suggested that your views on immigration are influenced by your Mexican born wife....

TAPPER: Ms. Fiorina, the vast majority of countries do not have birthright citizenship. Donald Trump is right about that....

TAPPER: ....Ms. Fiorina, you were CEO of Hewlett Packard. Donald Trump says you, quote, "ran HP into the ground," you laid off tens of thousands of people, you got viciously fired.

TAPPER: Donald Trump says that the hedge fund guys are getting away with murder by paying a lower tax rate....Do you agree?

This is ridiculous, and it demonstrates the bankruptcy of the political press corps. John Kasich even complained about it early on, and Tapper promised, "We are getting to the issues, sir." And he did—but usually by quoting Trump and demanding that the candidates respond to what Trump said.

I'm genuinely surprised that no one else on the stage called Tapper out on this. Hell, Tapper even expected it, and it would have been a good moment. "Jake, Donald Trump is a buffoon. Who cares what he says? Can you please run a real debate and start asking us questions about what we'd do as president of the United States? The stakes are too high to be playing these games." That would have taken down Trump a notch and attacked a mainstream media figure, which always plays well with Republican crowds. I wonder why no one took the opportunity?

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Carly Fiorina Was Good Last Night, But She Wasn't Great

| Thu Sep. 17, 2015 11:08 AM EDT

After he was quoted in Rolling Stone insulting Carly Fiorina's looks, Donald Trump said he was really talking about Fiorina's "persona." So last night Jake Tapper asked Fiorina if she wanted to comment on Trump's persona. She paused, then replied stonily, "Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."

Not bad. She didn't get down in the mud with Trump, but still responded with some vigor. But that wasn't enough for a lot of commenters. Here's a smattering of reaction:

  • Vox: Carly Fiorina's mic-drop response to Donald Trump's comment about her looks
  • New Republic: Carly Fiorina is the best thing to happen to the Republican Party this year
  • Chris Cillizza: Carly Fiorina is absolutely killing it. KILLING it.
  • Mother Jones: The moment when Carly Fiorina completely owned Donald Trump
  • Daily Beast: Carly Fiorina slays sexist Trump onstage

I guess there are two possibilities here. First: It really was a killer moment and I'm just too jaded to see it. Second: It's an example of the internet's penchant for everything being the BEST EVER. John Oliver demolishes something or other every week. President Obama delivers the perfect response to the outrage of the day. Carly Fiorina owned Donald Trump.

For now, I'm still going with door #2. It was a good moment. And Fiorina did well in last night's debate: I'd say she and Marco Rubio probably helped themselves the most. But she didn't slay, kill, or own Donald Trump. She just delivered a decent jab.

And by the way, Trump was more right than wrong about Fiorina's tenure at Hewlett-Packard. Her star is going to fade considerably once the press starts relitigating that. Now that she's one of the front-runners, that should happen pretty soon.

Debate Liveblogging: The Second GOP Presidential Debate of 2015

| Wed Sep. 16, 2015 8:09 PM EDT

I'm not going to lie. I'm beat. That was a helluva long debate. And I even watched some of the early debate too. I'm not too proud to cry uncle.

So I don't have a deeply considered intsta-take on the whole thing. Instead, here's my quick impression of whether each candidate hurt or helped himself tonight:

Trump: Hurt himself. The first few minutes was a juvenile parade of insults. The split screen shots showed him mugging and making faces whenever the other candidates were talking. His jabs felt tired. He practically reveled in his ignorance. Not a good performance. Warning: This is what I thought after the first debate too.

Carson: Hurt himself. On the plus side: he's a crazy man, but very little of that was evident tonight. For those who want an outsider, but one who sounds kinda sensible, he probably seemed like a good choice. On the minus side: He didn't really stand out. Given his high poll numbers, that's probably a negative for him.

Bush: Helped himself. He showed more energy than before, and got in a few good shots at Trump. But he's still monotonous enough that nothing he says ever seems to make a permanent impression. So he might have stopped the bleeding, but he probably only helped himself a little bit. He really needs to learn how to make one or two sharp points and then shut up.

Fiorina: Helped herself. Mostly this is just by virtue of being in the main debate. Aside from that, she was a mixed bag. Sometimes she sounded strong and well prepared. Other times that shaded over into sounding rehearsed.

Rubio: Helped himself. He mostly stayed out of the insult scrums, and seemed like a breath of fresh air when he delivered a decent, adult-sounding answer to the question at hand. Like Bush, though, he sometimes delivers too much of a laundry list, and delivers it too fast. He needs to slow down and hit just a few high points instead.

Walker: Hurt himself. I don't think he made any big mistakes, but he really needed a strong showing to reverse his slide. He didn't deliver one.

Kasich: Hurt himself. I'm not sure about this one, but my sense was that he was trying to seem like a sensible moderate but instead sounded a little incoherent and wishy washy. But I could be wrong about that.

Paul, Christie, Huckabee, Cruz: Who cares? Huckabee sounded like a madman, and the others sounded OK but not special. It's hard to think that tonight's performance will do much for any of them. They should probably all drop out.

Jake Tapper: I've got nothing against the guy, but he really deserves to be dinged for constantly framing his questions as "Donald Trump said _____. What do you have to say about that?" That's good for a food fight, I guess, but it's a disservice to the candidates and to the audience. There's really no need to make Trump the center of everything, and there's no need to force the other candidates to respond to every ditzy thing he's said.

And that's that. I forgot to buy cat food at the market today, so I have to go out and get some. Right now that's Job 1. I'll leave further analysis to the spin room and the talking heads.

Debate transcript here.

Get comfortable, folks: you have three hours of Republican debatifying ahead of you. Let's do this thing.

11:14 - A-a-a-a-nd, that's a wrap. Finally.

11:13 - Christie wants America to stick its chest out again. I'll forego the obvious inappropriate joke.

11:10 - Fiorina's closing statement sounded like a well-rehearsed high school commencement speech. Maybe that goes over better with other people than it does with me.

11:09 - Walker didn't mention "wreaking havoc" in his closing statement. What happened, Scott?

11:07 - Bush's closing statement included the phrase "structural fiscal problems." This might just sum up his problems relating to the base.

10:58 - Trump really does seem to enjoy it when someone gets in a good jab at him.

10:56 - Mother Teresa. Margaret Thatcher. Ivanka Trump. Mama Carson. FFS.

10:54 - Oh God. A "lighthearted" question.

10:52 - Commercial break!

10:51 - Huckabee: "Why doesn't this country focus on cures rather than treatment" of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's? Gee, that's a great idea. I wonder why no one's thought of it before?

10:48 - Trump wants lower doses of vaccines over longer periods of time. Oh my God. Apparently he thinks autism is caused by too large a dose of vaccines.

10:47 - Carson: Vaccines are pushed by big government. I'm not sure that's what's really behind the anti-vax movement.

10:43 - Christie: We can stop climate change without government intervention. I'd love to hear the details behind that.

10:41 - Christie: Social Security is going to be insolvent in seven to eight years. Huh? And we can fix it by tightening up disability. Again, huh?

10:38 - Rubio: Obama is undermining our values, which explains why violence is endemic. Except, of course, that violent crime has declined over the past seven years.

10:28 - Blah blah blah drugs are bad blah blah blah. Except for Rand Paul, of course.

10:23 - Commercial break!

10:21 - Would Huckabee have a litmus test for Supreme Court justices? Oh hell yes.

10:17 - Fiorina is tossing out numbers to try to sound knowledgeable about military affairs. It's not working. She sounds like a student reciting in class. She should have mentioned Ohio-class subs in order to suck up to Hewitt.

10:15 - Getting a little woozy after two hours of debating? Here's a cat in a dishwasher to cheer you up.

10:12 - Walker refuses to say how many troops he'd send to Iraq. What a surprise.

10:09 - Who's really responsible for America's debilitating weakness? George Bush or Barack Obama? Gee, I wonder who they'll pick?

10:07 - Carson: Radical jihadists are an "existential" threat to the United States. That's so 2002-warblog, Ben.

10:05 - The most entertaining part of tonight's debate—by a mile—is the split-screen views of Trump shrugging and mugging while the others talk.

10:01 - Hewitt wants Trump to name a few names of people he might rely on in office. (Other than Carl Icahn, I assume.) He immediately changes the subject. So Trump doesn't know shit, and doesn't know anyone either. He's really reveling in his ignorance tonight.

9:58 - I just realized that I can't really remember any policy position Bush has taken tonight.

9:55 - Trump promising yet again that although he doesn't know shit now, he'll be up to speed by the time he gets inaugurated. Honest.

9:53 - Rubio seems to be mostly avoiding the food fight. He's sounding pretty presidential, I'd say. But maybe too much of a laundry list style of speaking. On the fact-checking front however, North Korea doesn't have "dozens" of nuclear weapons.

9:49 - Commercial break!

9:46 - Hugh Hewitt: Is it wrong not to attack Hillary Clinton at every opportunity? Hmmm? Deep, Hugh. Very deep.

9:44 - Carson thinks we need to get everyone together to negotiate a proper minimum wage. I wonder why no one's thought of that before? He also wants to index it to inflation. Socialism!

9:42 - Trump says progressive taxation is "not a socialistic thing." He's right. Of course, so is a stopped clock occasionally.

9:40 - Ben Carson thinks progressive taxation is socialism. Okay....

9:37 - Somebody on stage needs to take a shot at Tapper. He probably deserves it, and conservatives always love attacks on media figures.

9:34 - Trump wants credit for doing great in Atlantic City, but says his bankruptcies don't count. Not quite sure how he gets away with this.

9:30 - How many of Jake Tapper's questions have been framed as "Donald Trump says ...."? Why not just ask the damn question?

9:27 - Fiorina asks why Obama got nothing done on immigration. Um, because the Republican base revolted and the Republican caucus caved in on comprehensive reform and declined to pass anything?

9:20 - Rubio is the "son of a maid and a bartender." Take a drink.

9:17 - By the way, it turns out that Science™ explains why Jeb seems weak compared to Trump: It's because his voice is monotonous and boring. The chart on the right shows what's going on. Bush is the most boring sounding of all the candidates.

9:16 - Bush wants Trump to apologize to his wife. Trump refuses, of course. More alpha-chimp posturing.

9:15 - First hour done. Two hours to go. Oh God.

9:08 - Tapper wants Carly to respond to Trump's crack about not wanting to look at her face for four years. Fiorina says "women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said." Not bad. Trump seems almost admiring.

9:06 - Walker apparently thinks the filibuster is unconstitutional. Sort of. Stout man.

9:04 - Trump thinks we should talk about North Korea. OK. But Trump declines to say what he'd do about them.

9:02 - Now we're having an abortion-off. Systematic murder. Disgusting. Babies' limbs moving. Bartering for body parts. Etc. etc.

9:01 - Fiorina somehow turns a question about Planned Parenthood into an answer about Iran. Not sure if I'm impressed or appalled.

8:59 - Christie refusing to answer whether he'd shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. Boo.

8:49 - Trump says GOP senators bear some responsibility for Syria problems since they refused to support Obama when he asked for authorization to attack Assad. Rubio responds that he refused because Obama only wanted to deliver a "pinprick." Pretty good answer.

8:41 - Cruz fought the World Court of the UN! What a badass.

8:39 - Fiorina would deal with Putin by building a kick-ass military and refusing to talk to Putin. OK. Then she starts talking about why it's important to know who General Soleimani is. Not sure most viewers are going to get the context for that.

8:37 - Rubio has managed to avoid the junior high school scrum so far. Good for him. Now giving a perfectly serviceable answer about Russia and Putin.

8:35 - Sort of fascinating watching Trump and Bush do a straight-up alpha-chimp competition with each other.

8:33 - Bush says Trump tried to buy his support for casino gambling in Florida. Trump says it never happened.

8:29 - Let's see. So far, Trump has insulted Pataki, Paul, and Walker. Only 12 to go!

8:26 - How has Trump managed to convince the world that he's a great negotiator, anyway? What deals has he made that are all that spectacular?

8:24 - All the pre-debate buzz was about how Trump would be little more sober and low key. Not so far. He's all insults all the time.

8:22 - Rand Paul: a "sophomoric quality" to Trump. We should have left that behind in junior high school.

8:20 - Fiorina already dodging. Refuses to say Trump shouldn't be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button. C'mon Carly.

8:12 - Debate to start momentarily.

8:08 - Everyone has a notebook, water, and a pen. No other props allowed. But what about spy pens?

I Think It's Safe to Say That the Ahmed Mohamed Incident Is a Product of Islamophobia

| Wed Sep. 16, 2015 6:04 PM EDT

So are conservatives starting to cover the Ahmed Mohamed story? With a three-hour debate death march looming, I don't have the energy to do a serious survey. But I did hop over to The Corner and found this from Ian Tuttle:

Unlike the Twitter hordes, I’m inclined not to spin this into some profound comment on our “cultural moment.” If it’s a comment on anything, it’s on the astonishing deficit of common sense at MacArthur High School and among local authorities....But this has become a story about nationwide “Islamophobia” and “white privilege”—or about those crazy-racist-redneck-gun-obsessed Texans—and it’s not about either. It’s about a few people in positions of authority who overreacted to the possibility of a weapon. Which, as it happens, is a too-frequent occurrence all over the country, regardless of the color of your skin.

I suppose the flip side of conservatives mostly ignoring Ahmed is, which so far has 11 separate pieces about this incident today. Now that's flooding the zone. But one of those 11 pieces turns out to address Tuttle almost directly. Max Fisher writes about the rise of Islamophobia in just the suburbs of Dallas near Ahmed's home in just the past year:

The trouble began in January, when American Muslim families...gathered to formally condemn violent extremism and to cultivate positive ties with their local communities....In response, thousands of protesters mobbed the event, waving anti-Muslim signs and American flags for hours, forcing local Muslim families who attended to endure a gauntlet of hate. "We don't want them here," a woman at the protests told a local TV reporter. One man explained, "We're here to stand up for the American way of life from a faction of people who are trying to destroy us."

....A few weeks later, in early March, an Iraqi man who had just fled the Middle East to join his wife in Dallas stood outside their apartment photographing the first snow he'd ever seen when two men walked up and shot him to death.

....Then, in May, a woman named Pamela Geller who is known for anti-Muslim hate speech organized an event with far-right political figures called the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest," also in Garland, to encourage Americans to draw deliberately offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a show of hostility toward Muslims. The event's organizers explicitly positioned it as "sounding the alarm about Muslim encroachment into Europe and America, and its potential impact on American culture," according to Breitbart.

And that's not to even mention the fact that the longtime mayor of Irving is Beth Van Duyne, who became briefly famous earlier this year for her Fox News interview about Islamic "courts" taking over the community. Avi Selk of the Dallas Morning News writes about a city council meeting last March:

Van Duyne had spent the last month criticizing and questioning a Muslim mediation panel, conflating it with a court in an interview seen around the country. That night, she pushed the council to endorse a state bill whose author had targeted the panel.

The dispute has made Van Duyne a hero on fringe websites that fear an Islamic takeover of America. “Beth Van Duyne for President,” a fan wrote on her Facebook page this week. “This lady has balls and Thank God she did this. If you do not like it, move ... to California.”

When Ahmed's arrest became public, Van Duyne's first instinct was to write, "I hope this incident does not serve as a deterrent against our police and school personnel from maintaining the safety and security of our schools." If she cared at all about a 14-year-old Muslim boy being hauled off in handcuffs from school, she sure kept it hidden.

(Until the flak started to get heavy. Then she hastily changed her tune.)

So: is this about local authorities overreacting? Sure. But it's also—obviously—about fear and Islamophobia and a growing climate of hatred that the leaders of Irving, Texas, did nothing to address. How about some common sense here, folks?

Debate Liveblogging Tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern: Come See if Kevin Can Make It Through the Whole Thing

| Wed Sep. 16, 2015 4:53 PM EDT

Updated: Read more live updates here

Last night my editor asked if I was planning to liveblog today's debate. Sure, I said. I always think I'm going to swear off this stuff eventually, but then I cave in yet again. So, yes, I'll be liveblogging Donald and Ben and the nine dwarfs.

But wait! This thing is three hours long? And I'm promising to liveblog it? Whose lunatic idea was this?

I figure maybe this is meant as a destruction test, sort of like American Ninja Warrior. Sure, you feel fine at first. You're halfway through and your arms are strong and loose. Then you hit the salmon ladder and start to feel a twinge. And then the swinging tires. You barely make it. You stop to take a breath, but your body just can't take much more. Sure enough, when you try to take on the Psycho Chain, your body rebels, and it's into the drink.

Maybe we'll see the same thing tonight. After 90 minutes, everyone is still feeling pumped. After 120 minutes, they're having a little trouble finding the right words. Finally, around the 150-minute mark, their minds are foggy and their legs are tired and the tension becomes too much. Everyone starts having their own "oops" moments.

Diabolical, isn't it? If it doesn't work, I recommend making the next debate an all-day affair, 6 a.m. to midnight. That'll weed out the pretenders from the folks who really have the desire and commitment to become the next American Ninja President.