Smart Ideas: Nancy Reagan, the Naval Academy, and Michael Bloomberg’s Rationale

Nancy Reagan, escorted by former President George W. Bush following the funeral for former first lady Betty Ford in 2011.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool
March 7, 2016, 8 p.m.

Nancy Reagan was a champion of medicine and science

Sheila Kaplan, writing at Stat

Nancy Reagan took plenty of heat for her belief in astrology, but this supposedly superstitious woman was a devotee of science and medicine who “had a greater impact on public health than most Americans might recall.” Given her husband’s disease, she was of course the most public face advocating for more Alzheimer’s research. But she also changed the debate on embryonic stem-cell research, lobbying President George W. Bush directly, and “going to bat” to keep federal regulations out of state-funded research. Also “by discussing her own decision to have a mastectomy—before the days of pink ribbons and Race for the Cure—Nancy Reagan helped break down the stigma that many women felt accompanied a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Why Bloomberg won't run

Michael Bloomberg, writing at Bloomberg

“The current presidential candidates are offering scapegoats instead of solutions, … doubling down on dysfunction.” Each side is turning their back on policies that enabled their recent presidents—Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan—to grow the economy. While Bloomberg is flattered that some people wish for him to lead, the data makes it clear that “I could not win. I believe I could win a number of diverse states—but not enough to win the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the presidency. In a three-way race, it’s unlikely any candidate would win a majority of electoral votes, and then the power to choose the president would be taken out of the hands of the American people and thrown to Congress.” Bloomberg will not endorse a candidate yet, but “I will continue urging all voters to reject divisive appeals and demanding that candidates offer intelligent, specific and realistic ideas.”

Trump is our era's William Jennings Bryan

Daniel Klinghard, writing at U.S. News & World Report

Commentators have already devoted plenty of space to comparing Donald Trump to Hitler or other fascist-style dictators. But Trump has a more quintessentially American analog: presidential also-ran William Jennings Bryan. In running unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket three different times around the turn of the 20th century, Bryan’s stock in trade was his “appeal to lowbrow tastes, his ability to turn politics into popular entertainment and his willingness to play to prejudice against judgment.” Similarly, Trump has “a long history of drawing audiences in the private sphere, an ear for the common tongue and an ability to paint complex problems in blindingly simple terms. Like Bryan, Trump is happy to play to paranoid impulses and vague conspiracies.”

The U.S. Naval Academy's time has passed

Annapolis professor Bruce Fleming, writing at Salon

The United States Naval Academy “graduates fewer than one in five new Navy officers and an even smaller percentage of new Marine officers. These cost taxpayers about half a million dollars each, four to eight times other commissioning pipelines.” In fact, the entire existence of the military academies is “all smoke and mirrors run for the benefit not of the civilians who pay for it but the military brass, whose vanity projects these institutions are, and who hook each other up once out. … Everything you hear about the service academies comes from the CO in the front office, where the weather is always sunny. Administrators at USNA have all made their careers from being graduates (all superintendents have been USNA graduates and most of the higher administrators)—it gave them a free education and employment, after all, and a network afterward. … The fox says the henhouse is doing fine; the hens can’t even cluck. It’s a fabulous system to keep those tax dollars rolling in.”

How big a national security threat would a President Trump be?

Benjamin Wittes, writing at Lawfare

Donald Trump’s combination of liabilities is “a toxic brew that I have no doubt makes this country less secure.” Trump’s ignorance of diplomacy and military affairs “is of a particularly proud variety,” in that his bombast is never fortified by any sort of facts or “rudimentary knowledge.” Specifically, his promise to bar Muslims from entering the country could be a greater recruiting tool for ISIS than Guantanamo Bay ever was. And “with only a modest amount of public ego stroking—a few stray words, really”—Vladimir Putin has “bought himself an ally at the top of the GOP field.”

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