‘Die Hard’ John McCain: Trump’s ‘Fly in the Ointment’
Veteran of combat and political battles may have one more great role

In what has become an unlikely classic holiday movie, New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) foils the bad guys’ machinations. While scuttling their devious plans, the “Die Hard” protagonist describes himself as “just a fly in the ointment. … The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the a--.”

Lacking a fictional John McClane this Christmastime, America’s lonely eyes may turn to an equally smart-alecky ex-Navy fighter pilot named John McCain. Whether it’s standing up to the bad guys (Russia) or just generally serving as the “fly in the ointment,” Sen. McCain seems well-cast to play the role of maverick in the real-life drama playing out before our eyes.

Trump and Reagan: Walking a Different Walk
President-elect also provokes and upsets, but perhaps with purpose

I normally scoff when people compare Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan. Reagan (unlike Trump) was at least a two-term governor of California before being elected president. However, I do concede that both men were effective negotiators and already successful before winning the presidency.

Both were underestimated. Just as Democrats seemed to be rooting for Trump to win the Republican nomination, Jimmy Carter’s team naively assumed Reagan would be a weak opponent.

Elaine Chao’s Appointment: Sign of Diversity or Nepotism?
Selection could undermine Trump's ’drain the swamp’ mantra

Political news often runs the emotional gamut from inspiring to depressing. I was immediately reminded of this with the news that President-elect Donald Trump selected Elaine Chao for Transportation secretary.

Chao’s biography is inspirational and aspirational. The first Asian-American woman to serve in a Cabinet position as George W. Bush’s Labor secretary, Chao is an immigrant from Taiwan (her parents relocated there during the Chinese Civil War) who showed up to her third-grade class not knowing a word of English. She’s also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (This part is slightly less romantic; his assistant called her assistant to arrange a date.)

Could Trump Lead Conservatives to Their Promised Land?
Education secretary pick could upset the apple cart

For years I’ve been preaching that Republicans should “modernize, not moderate.” But with Donald Trump’s victory, both suggestions were soundly rejected. Rather than “modernize,” Trump’s protectionist trade policies are a throwback to a pre-Reagan “Old Right” form of Republicanism, while other policies — from infrastructure spending to mostly ignoring social issues — are more moderate than we are used to.

Trump might well go down in history as a disaster of a president, but he has surprised us before. We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that, by employing entirely counterintuitive strategies, he could actually achieve some of the thoughtful conservative policy objectives that have eluded more intellectual conservative reformers for generations.

Trump and Twitter: A Latter-Day ‘Fireside Chat’
President-elect has grasped the potential of social media

Donald Trump has surprised us all so many times, but could it be that he will go down in history as a politician who, in the vein of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, won by mastering a revolutionary new technology?

I’m speaking, of course, of Twitter. In recent days, Trump has used the platform to attack the cast of “Hamilton” (a move some see as a devious diversion from other news, including legal settlements over Trump University) and to express some kind words about Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday.

Will the Deal-Making Pragmatist in Trump Surface in the White House?
Cautious optimism he'll be a better governing executive than he was a candidate

For much of 2016, we focused on the schism in the Republican Party. Today, it is the Democrats who are in need of an autopsy. We always knew they had problems, too, but we figured that Hillary Clinton’s election would allow them to brush their issues under the proverbial rug. Instead, the rug caught fire, and the roof caved in.

Having publicly (and privately) wrestled with their problems for over a year, Republicans were better positioned to handle defeat. Instead, they were handed an unexpected gift at a party they hadn’t even been invited to. Meanwhile, having had little cause for introspection, Democrats are in shock and mourning over a sudden death in the family that came after having received a clean bill of health.

How the GOP Becomes the Party of Trump
If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with

It would be easy to obsess over Donald Trump’s stunning victory and recount the dramatic denouement. There were Russian hacks and WikiLeaks dumps, a huge “Access Hollywood” scandal, and an October Surprise dropped by FBI Director James Comey. But the real story is that a major electoral reordering has taken place in America.

As I type this, Donald Trump has won Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and Michigan is too close to call. For years, the “working-class” white Americans who resided in these places — the union factory worker being the most familiar avatar — were reliable Democratic voters, going back to Franklin Roosevelt. (Ronald Reagan was able to peel them away, but that happened more than a quarter of a century ago.)

Hoping for a Clear-Cut Winner
Both Clinton and Trump have struggled in the home stretch

For most of this campaign, it felt like Hillary Clinton was coasting. In truth, she was probably (on average) only four or five points ahead. But considering Donald Trump’s inability to run a disciplined campaign, this seemed like a safe cushion.

Today, that cushion has been ripped to shreds.

Comey's Revelation a Gift for Hillary Clinton
Waiting would have created a cloud of doubt around her administration

Hillary Clinton probably has no idea what an unexpected gift FBI Director James Comey gave her this week by firing off that missive about her emails.

We know that the odds are that Clinton will likely become president anyway. And if that happens, Comey’s revelations will have accomplished two crucial tasks that helped pave the way to her having a shot at a successful presidency.

7 Reasons to Give Comey the Benefit of the Doubt
FBI director was put in an unwinnable situation

It didn’t take long for Democrats to go from praising FBI Director James Comey to attempting to paint him as Ken Starr.

For those who weren’t around in the 1990s, this is standard operating procedure. If Comey feels like he is under fire today, my only advice to him is to gear up for the next week to be a living hell. In the immortal words of Ronald Reagan, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”  

The Conservative Elites Who Gave Us Donald Trump
Misguided, blinded by ideology or intent on making a buck?

Early last month, when The Claremont Review of Books published “The Flight 93 Election,” many of us were left scratching our heads.

Why would this conservative, intellectual quarterly — published by The Claremont Institute — invoke such an apocalyptic analogy just to defend … Donald Trump?

Understanding the Friction Between Trump and Journalists
It has little to do with his politics, inexperience or temperament

If you’ve been paying attention, it’s pretty clear that Donald Trump supporters don’t care much for members of the media, and the feeling is mutual. While charges of liberal media bias go back further than I can remember, something else is at play here. Why do so many journalists disdain this man? After some deep reflection, I’ve identified some compelling reasons that have little to do with his political philosophy, lack of experience or in some cases, even his temperament.

First, I suspect that writers — trained to be pedantic — have a particular problem with Trump. If I ever thought of saying, “Many, many people” told me this or that, I would stop and self-edit. Likewise, I would also never say, as Trump so often does, that “a lot of people are saying” such and such, because the obvious rejoinder from an editor would be: "Prove it." I suspect that Trump’s rhetorical style is especially annoying to writers, who also just happen to be essential when it comes to covering politics.

Debate Failed to Move the Needle in Trump's Favor
Maybe we should have stopped at two candidate showdowns

In 1980, there was only one debate between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. I hereby propose we pledge today to hold just one debate in 2020.

OK. I’d settle for two.

For Trump, Getting Even Is More Important Than Getting Ahead
GOP nominee is a viper at the party's bosom

We’ve reached Day 85 of the hostage crisis known as the Donald Trump nomination. And he’s threatening to start shooting the captives.

The “hostages” are Republicans running for office this year. They now find themselves torn between two bad options: to abandon the top of their ticket or to embrace the nominee.

Donald Trump as Harry Houdini
GOP nominee may not turn campaign around, but won the debate

Any conventional candidate facing such intense scrutiny would have slunk into this debate with his tail between his legs; Donald Trump strode in with a binder full of women. I’m referring to, of course, his pre-debate meeting with women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety. It was a harbinger of things to come.

Most candidates having been embroiled in such a scandal would have appeared contrite and sheepish. But Trump is shameless, and he instead chose to go on the attack. No normal candidate would do this, and no traditional strategist would advise it. This sort of judgment makes him a dangerous candidate. It was Hillary Clinton who would spend most of the night playing defense.

Can Donald Trump Feel Your Pain?
GOP candidate's alpha male style may not play well in town hall debate

If Donald Trump wants to bounce back from his poor showing in the first presidential debate, it won’t be easy. It’s hard to imagine Trump doing what he needs to do, especially in the town hall-style debate. And no, just avoiding gaffes (like George H.W. Bush’s ill-advised checking of his watch during a 1992 town hall debate) won’t be enough.

Honestly, it’s hard to see why Team Trump consented to this format in the first place. Trump’s image as an alpha male who doesn’t emote might play well in a boardroom, but it’s exactly the wrong recipe for success here.

Somebody Had to Win. This Time It Was Clinton
Trump sniffled and bickered his way through Monday's debate

For an hour and a half Monday night, Donald Trump sniffled and bickered his way through a highly contentious debate. With all the talk of health problems, perhaps it’s ironic that Trump was the one who seemed a bit under the weather. And heaven knows we obsess too much over the superficial.

But if Al Gore’s audible sighing was an issue, and Dr. Ben Carson’s coughing fit was a distraction, then Trump’s performance may go down as the sniff heard ‘round the world.

Is Trump the Only Republican Who Can Handle the Media Onslaught?
GOP nominee thrives in a world that values pop culture over substance

Conventional wisdom suggests that any "generic" Republican would easily beat Hillary Clinton in November — and any other Democrat would destroy Donald Trump.

But what if that's wrong? Increasingly, the notion that Trump could actually win seems less absurd. As I write this, the election forecasting site FiveThirtyEight says that if the election were held today, he’d have close to a 47 percent chance of winning. It’s not crazy to theorize that Trump, with all his faults, might actually be better positioned than any traditional Republican would be.

Clinton Fainting Flap Reveals Media's Liberal Bias
If McCain had a similar scare in 2008, the internet would have exploded

Talk about shameless.

If anyone doubts that (a) Democratic politicians are just as ridiculous as Republicans or (b) the media is liberally biased toward the Democratic candidate, then they haven't turned on a television or surfed on their smartphone this week.

How Creative Thinking Could Help Prevent the Next 9/11
Offbeat writers and futurists could provide some clues

Fifteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, could creative thinking possibly prevent the next one? The 9/11 Commission Report condemned a "failure of imagination." Likewise, Donald Rumsfeld, in the documentary "The Unknown Known," suggested that the failure of the United States to anticipate the attack on Pearl Harbor was a failure of imagination. This supposition rings true, although it is far from a consensus position.

It has long been noted that Tom Clancy's 1994 thriller "Debt of Honor" featured a pilot flying his plane into the U.S. Capitol. But there are numerous other examples where writers' imaginations seemed to predict 9/11. Stephen King's "The Running Man" (1982) — the novel, not the film — concludes with a pilot intentionally slamming a passenger jet into a skyscraper.