Michael Barone - Trump's 'opportunity cost'

Opportunity cost. That's an economist's term for what you lose out on when you divert your investments and attention to something less profitable. It's also a good term for the losses Donald Trump has incurred in the last six days — more than 6 percent of the 94 days between the close of the Democratic National Convention and the election in November.

Trump has spent much of that time attacking the father and mother of a Muslim U.S. serviceman killed in Iraq. He has made a point of refusing to support Paul Ryan or John McCain in their upcoming primaries. He accepted someone else's purple heart and said that his business investments amounted to "sacrifices."

Even if you think Trump's remarks were defensible, you should be able to see how a hostile press would feature them in the most damaging way. Mainstream media inevitably slants things against Republicans. You may not like it, but if you're a rational adult you take it into account.

The opportunity cost for Trump and for his party is that he failed to direct attention to what he could have made Hillary Clinton's glaring weaknesses.

One was highlighted by the GDP figures announced Friday, showing just 1.2 percent economic growth in the last quarter. Clinton, as the candidate of the incumbent party, had to promise to continue and extend its macroeconomic policies. The GDP figures make a powerful case against that.

Another was Clinton's performance on the Sunday talk shows. FBI Director James Comey "said that my answers were truthful," Clinton said. Of course, Comey said the opposite — repeated Clinton statements about her emails were just not true. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave her a maximum four Pinocchios for her statement to the contrary.

She also said that the multiple family members of those slain in Benghazi who said, back then and now, that she attributed the attacks to protests at a video must have been mistaken about what they heard.

Trump thus had plenty of fresh raw material to fill multiple campaign days discussing the mendaciousness of "Crooked Hillary." He might even have raised the more unnerving possibility that, surrounded as she typically has been by sycophantic aides, she actually came to believe what she said. No one wants a president who is delusional.

The third opportunity cost for the Trump campaign is time missed attacking Clinton for the most leftward party platform and agenda ever, as Ross Douthat argued in his New York Times column.

For nearly 40 years, abortion has been allowed but not subsidized by taxpayers. Clinton now wants taxpayer funding. Large majorities of Americans disagree.

Voters don't want to see all 11 million immigrants here illegally deported immediately. But they also don't want Clinton's policy of deporting no one but convicted felons — an open border policy that incentivizes illegal immigration for decades to come.

Clinton also promises to crack down on fracking, which has vastly reduced gas and utility prices, and to put restrictions on gig economy services like Uber. Not much to like here for drivers and millennials.

Plus, she wants to amend the First Amendment to allow government to restrict and prohibit political speech and, in a breathtaking non sequitur, argues that this will stimulate economic growth. She may feel the need to argue that, inasmuch as almost none of her other policies would.

In other words, the nominee of the challenger has a target-rich environment here. But instead he launches a Hatfield vs. McCoy-type feud against two Gold Star parents.

So Trump is strengthening rather than weakening Democrats' argument that he is too erratic, impulsive and ignorant (doesn't he know Russia annexed Crimea?) to be president.

Hillary Clinton's strategy is to disqualify Trump and to attract high-education Republican voters to support her, as Lyndon Johnson did in 1964. She may remember this from the days she was a teenage Goldwater girl. She's hoping that, as in 1964, they don't notice she's supporting an expansion of government that promises to be both dysfunctional and unaffordable.

But remember that Johnson used his victory to bring in the Great Society. Clinton, if she is sincere about her platform, would probably try to do the same.

Now many will scoff at the idea she's sincere. She's a congenital liar, as William Safire wrote 20 years ago, and she showed that again in her mendacious — or delusional — replies to questions about her emails.

That said, let's consider the possibility that Clinton is sincere. Many have explained her journey from the triangulation of the 1993-2001 Clinton term as a necessary tactical concession to Bernie Sanders. But did she have to go as far as she did?

The Bill Clinton of the 1990s would not have so advised. He would not have advised bringing the mother of the felon Michael Brown to the public spotlights at the Democratic convention.

Yet, Bill Clinton doesn't seem to have set the course of this campaign. One worry, you would think, about a Hillary Clinton campaign is that she would seem to be a candidate to be manipulated by her husband. But neither her managers nor her opponents nor the public seems to give this much credibility.

One reason may be that she has made such a policy journey. Another is that Bill Clinton has, mostly, not chimed in on policy issues, or even on politics. A third may be that he's not at all in charge, and content to let Hillary take the lead, almost as much as the elder George Bush was content to take his son take the lead in his candidacy.

There's much in her platform that leaves her politically vulnerable. It's popular with a shrunken Democratic primary electorate, but not so much with the general public.

Maybe she is counting on voters to think that she, unlike Lyndon Johnson, won't be able to turn the bad parts into law. There's a lot of reason to assume Republicans will hold onto their House majority, and they have a good chance to hold onto their majority in the Senate.

But there's also the possibility that Hillary, liberated from Bill's strategizing and liberated by Trump's unacceptability to many voters, really believes she can get a lot of this done and set a course for the Democrats in the future. It seems unlikely, but maybe it's possible that the Hillary you can see (although lots of voters aren't paying much attention) is the Hillary you will get, if she is elected.

The media now are buzzing with speculation that that Trump backers like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani are plotting an intervention and that Trump might drop out or be forced out of the race. That's not likely. He knows he won't increase his chances of winning by withdrawing. But does he understand that he'd increase them by concentrating on attacks on a vulnerable opponent?

Even free-market economists admit there are market failures in the real world. In the political marketplace this year, we're seeing market failures galore. A weak Democrat pre-empted her party's nomination and the incentives in a multicandidate field prevented opponents from deconstructing a weak front-runner.

Yet, Trump's eccentricities threaten to elect as president a congenital liar who is way to the left of the public. That's a big opportunity cost.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

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Nike exiting the golf equipment business

By ALISON MITZEL

On Wednesday, Nike announced their departure from the golf equipment business, which means they will stop making golf clubs, balls and bags. In a move that caught the golf industry off guard, Nike explained in a statement: "We're committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel. We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike golf."

Since the economic recession in 2008, Nike has never fully recovered as a leader in the industry. Their top endorser was Tiger Woods, and now Rory McIlroy, who both have struggled with their golf games as of late and have not returned to the top of the golf rankings.
With a lack of winning athletes, Nike has not been able to convince many athletes and the public that their equipment is superior. Titleist has been able to successfully market that their ball is the No. 1 golf ball used at tour events each week, and golfers want to use what the best golfers in the world are using. It is hard for Nike's golf balls to compete against Titleist, Callaway and Bridgestone, who have a winning track record with their athletes.
Nike is known for their footwear, and it makes sense for the company to focus its golf line on footwear and apparel. There are many golf companies who flourish just on their footwear and apparel. Adidas has been partnered with TaylorMade golf equipment, but Adidas itself has flourished as just an apparel and footwear company. With companies like PXG making splashes on the PGA and LPGA tours, it is hard for Nike to try and win over endorsers. Nike unfortunately has never come to mind when thinking of new golf clubs, balls or bags. Nike will always come to mind when I think of new footwear, and I think they will do a great job focusing their mission on footwear and apparel for the foreseeable future.

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Gnomes lives matter

By ROY SANBORN

Probably the number one question people ask me about when selling their home is "What should we do with respect to yard art and ornaments?" That question ranks higher than "What is my home worth?" and "should I take down the family photos?" and there's good reason for it. The very first thing people see when coming to your home is your yard art. And it can make a positive or negative impression. But, some people think that they may have too much yard art and some feel too little. Fortunately, the National Association of Yard Art and Ornaments and your local real estate agent are here to help.

First, here's a little background on NAYAO and some insights into the types of Yard Art and Ornaments. NAYAO is the American chapter of the Gigolos (the Great International Garden Ornament and Lawn Ornament Supervisors) which was founded in early Rome where the focus really was on heavy chiseled garden statuary, columns, urns, sundials and fountains. That's because plastic wasn't invented yet, so there were no pink flamingos. Soon after its establishment, chapters opened in Asia where the focus was on wind chimes, pagodas, Feng Shui and Zen rock gardens. The English had their gardens and ornamental sculpted topiary, fountains and mazes. Not to be outdone, the Germans introduced the porcelain garden gnome in 1841, and a new industry was born.

Now there are different types of yard art and ornaments. I classify them into one of three categories: garden art, lawn ornaments, or gargantuan (redneck) with two subsets of each; a. useful (or functional) or b. useless (nonfunctional and a pain in the butt to move.) Some examples of traditional garden art items are things like gazing balls, bird baths, bird houses, whirligigs, pink flamingos, kinetic sculptures and yes, garden gnomes or other plaster or terracotta figurines. I think you can see that only the bird houses and bird baths are useful and yet only for the birds. It should be noted that garden gnomes are somewhat out of favor today and actually are banned from the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in England because the organizers said that they detracted from the garden designs. Imagine the gall. Gnome enthusiasts have broken off from the NAYAO and formed the Gnomes Lives Matter movement because they felt the CFS was discriminating against "little people." There is political incorrectness running rampant everywhere. Travelocity has taken up the little guy's cause and is helping bring him back into favor.

The lawn ornaments category is something that has really taken off in America. A lot of the traditional items seen in the garden have escaped from the flower garden at night and taken up residence in green spaces. In fact, you may see these "crossover" ornaments like birdhouses, whirligigs and gazing balls anywhere on the lawn. Americans tend to be very creative and diverse in what they like for yard art. Drive around a bit and you are likely to see carved wooden bears, totem poles, windmills, silhouettes of moose, cowboys or smoking men, metal sculptures, and farm implements like horse-drawn hay rakes, plows and carriages. Yard art can tell you a lot about the owner of the property – you know, like if he is crazy or not. But maybe, he just wants you to think he's crazy. Does an old toilet, bath tub or bedpan filled with flowers make you creative or crazy?

Then you have the gargantuan category, which I really like but I suspect it isn't for everyone. Things like rusty old John Deere or Massey Ferguson Tractors fit into this category. I've seen a few old steam shovels that make really great planters. This could also be classified as redneck yard art. It should be noted that the Gigolos don't recognize this category. These are really hard pieces to move once you get them plunked down where you want them. You kind of have to have the right setting for these as well. You can pull it off in Sanbornton, Gilmanton or Center Harbor, but not so much on Shore Drive in Laconia.

Another gargantuan display that made a lot of news is located down near Houston, Texas, where huge metal sculptures of a T-rex and velociraptor dinosaur stand menacingly on a couples' front lawn in a rather nice upscale neighborhood. Apparently, the home owners association didn't feel dinosaurs are allowed and was causing a big stink about them. I am not sure if they were finally allowed to remain as it was not clear on the internet. You know how news reporters are, only reporting the bad stuff, but if it turns out OK you never find out. For all I know, they could be on their way up to South Down.

There were 1,023 single-family homes on the market as of Aug. 1 in the 12 Lakes Region of New Hampshire communities covered by this report. The average asking price stood at $572,815, but the more telling median price point was $279,900. Half the homes available in the market place were below that amount so there are plenty of affordable options out there to go see! Look for one with some superb garden art or tasteful lawn ornaments.

 

P​lease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 8/1/16. ​Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Jim Hightower - We won!

What an amazing Democratic primary season it was! And we now have this happy result: WE WON!

"We" being the millions of young people, mad-as-hell working stiffs, independents, deep-rooted progressives, and other "outsiders" who felt The Bern and forged a new, game-changing, populist force of, by, and for grassroots Americans. True, this progressive-populist coalition did not win the White House on its first go 'round behind the feisty Sanders insurgency (which the the smug political establishment had literally laughed at when he began his run). But they are not laughing now, for even they can see the outsider revolt against the power elites won something even more momentous than the 2016 election: The future.

Back in April 2015, when the blunt, democratic socialist from Vermont issued a call for disenchanted voters to join him, not merely in a campaign for the presidency, but in a long-term movement to "revitalize American democracy so that government works for all of us," even his more optimistic backers couldn't have dreamed the movement would come so far so quickly. Let's reflect on some fundamental changes this progressive uprising has achieved in the past 15 months:

— It yanked the national debate out of the hands of the Washington and corporate elites: both devoted for more than 30 years to rigging all the rules to further enrich the 1 percenters at the expense of everyone else — and proved that future success requires Democrats to abandon their effete namby-pambyism and embrace the vision, message, and issues of unabashed populism.

— It revived true bottom-up campaigning through innovative social media outreach, the empowerment of hundreds of thousands of engaged supporters and volunteers, instantaneous mass communication via cell phones, and turning people out by turning them on : by finally addressing inequality head-on and proposing bold policies that appeal directly to the workaday majority's interests.

— It lifted: from the political scrap heap up to the top of our national discourse — the concerns of middle- and low-income families: creating good, middle-class jobs through a national program of infrastructure repair and development of the green economy; enacting a $15 minimum wage; removing crushing education debt from the backs of students; coping with the imminent crisis of climate change; repealing the Supreme Court's democracy-destroying Citizens United edict; implementing pay equity for women; stopping the war machine's constant adventurism; expanding Social Security; providing Medicare for all; halting the unjust mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos; defunding the disastrous drug war; demilitarizing our police forces; replenishing our public treasury by taxing Wall Street speculators; and generally restoring economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all as central purposes of public policy.

— It raised some $229 million in more than 8 million small donations (averaging only $27 each), including millions from low-income people who sent in $5 or even $1 thus debunking the myth that Democrats can only be competitive by joining Republicans in taking corrupting big money from corporations and setting up "dark money" SuperPACs.

More importantly, the Bernie movement created a hopeful, formidable and growing populist political channel that is both insistently democratic and independent of the Democratic Party. This state-based, national network of Berniecrats will keep building its connections, pushing its agenda; and backing populist candidates in the House, Senate and other races this fall. Then, on to next year's campaigns for mayor, city council, etc., which will be charged by the 20,000 Sanders supporters who have, according to Bernie, signed up to get info on running. Then on to the 2018 midterm congressional elections. And then to the 2020 presidential campaign. Onward!

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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Pat Buchanan - The peace candidate

With Democrats howling that Vladimir Putin hacked into and leaked those 19,000 DNC emails to help Trump, the Donald had a brainstorm: maybe the Russians can retrieve Hillary Clinton's lost emails.

Not funny, and close to "treasonous," came the shocked cry.

Trump then told The New York Times that a Russian incursion into Estonia need not trigger a U.S. military response.

Even more shocking. By suggesting the U.S. might not honor its NATO commitment, under Article 5, to fight Russia for Estonia, our foreign policy elites declaimed, Trump has undermined the security architecture that has kept the peace for 65 years.

More interesting, however, was the reaction of Middle America. Or, to be more exact, the nonreaction. Americans seem neither shocked nor horrified. What does this suggest?

Behind the war guarantees America has issued to scores of nations in Europe, the Mideast and Asia since 1949, the bedrock of public support that existed during the Cold War has crumbled.

We got a hint of this in 2013. Barack Obama, claiming his "red line" against any use of poison gas in Syria had been crossed, found he had no public backing for air and missile strikes on the Assad regime.

The country rose up as one and told him to forget it. He did.

We have been at war since 2001. And as one looks on the ruins of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, and adds up the thousands dead and wounded and trillions sunk and lost, can anyone say our War Party has served us well?

On bringing Estonia into NATO, no Cold War president would have dreamed of issuing so insane a war guarantee.

Eisenhower refused to intervene to save the Hungarian rebels. JFK refused to halt the building of the Berlin Wall. LBJ did nothing to impede the Warsaw Pact's crushing of the Prague Spring. Reagan never considered moving militarily to halt the smashing of Solidarity.

Were all these presidents cringing isolationists?

Rather, they were realists who recognized that, though we prayed the captive nations would one day be free, we were not going to risk a world war, or a nuclear war, to achieve it. Period.

In 1991, President Bush told Ukrainians that any declaration of independence from Moscow would be an act of "suicidal nationalism."

Today, Beltway hawks want to bring Ukraine into NATO. This would mean that America would go to war with Russia, if necessary, to preserve an independence Bush I regarded as "suicidal."

Have we lost our minds?

The first NATO supreme commander, General Eisenhower, said that if U.S. troops were still in Europe in 10 years, NATO would be a failure. In 1961, he urged JFK to start pulling U.S. troops out, lest Europeans become military dependencies of the United States.

Was Ike not right? Even Barack Obama today riffs about the "free riders" on America's defense.

Is it really so outrageous for Trump to ask how long the U.S. is to be responsible for defending rich Europeans who refuse to conscript the soldiers or pay the cost of their own defense, when Eisenhower was asking that same question 55 years ago?

In 1997, geostrategist George Kennan warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe "would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era." He predicted a fierce nationalistic Russian response.

Was Kennan not right? NATO and Russia are today building up forces in the eastern Baltic where no vital U.S. interests exist, and where we have never fought before — for that very reason.

There is no evidence Russia intends to march into Estonia, and no reason for her to do so. But if she did, how would NATO expel Russian troops without air and missile strikes that would devastate that tiny country?

And if we killed Russians inside Russia, are we confident Moscow would not resort to tactical atomic weapons to prevail? After all, Russia cannot back up any further. We are right in her face.

On this issue Trump seems to be speaking for the silent majority and certainly raising issues that need to be debated.

How long are we to be committed to go to war to defend the tiny Baltic republics against a Russia that could overrun them in 72 hours?

When, if ever, does our obligation end? If it is eternal, is not a clash with a revanchist and anti-American Russia inevitable?

Are U.S. war guarantees in the Baltic republics even credible?

If the Cold War generations of Americans were unwilling to go to war with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union over Hungary and Czechoslovakia, are the millennials ready to fight a war with Russia over Estonia?

Needed now is diplomacy.

The trade-off: Russia ensures the independence of the Baltic republics that she let go. And NATO gets out of Russia's face.

Should Russia dishonor its commitment, economic sanctions are the answer, not another European war.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

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