Seated in his office here, wearing neither a necktie nor a frown, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is remarkably relaxed for someone at the epicenter of a crisis now in its second year and with no end in sight. But, then, stress is pointless when the situation is hopeless. Besides, if you can ignore the fact that self-government is failing in the nation's fifth-most populous state, you can see real artistry in the self-dealing by the Democrats who, with veto-proof majorities in the state Legislature, have reduced this state they control to insolvency.
Like shipwrecked mariners clinging to a floating mast, many Republicans rationalize supporting Donald Trump because of "the court." This two-word incantation means: Because we care so much for the Constitution, it is supremely important to entrust to Trump the making of Supreme Court nominations. Well.
In the 1870s, when Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall controlled New York City, and in the 1950s and 1960s, when Chicago's Democratic machine was especially rampant, there was a phenomenon that can be called immunity through profusion: Fresh scandals arrived with metronomic regularity, so there was no time to concentrate on any of them. The public, bewildered by blitzkriegs of bad behavior, was enervated.
To gauge the opportunism and hypocrisy that define Donald Trump's Republican Party, consider this: Imagine the scalding rhetoric that would have boiled from the likes of Newt Gingrich, that Metternich of many green rooms, if Hillary Clinton had offhandedly undermined the collective security architecture of U.S. foreign policy since NATO was created in 1949.
En route to fight one of his many duels, French politician Georges Clemenceau bought a one-way train ticket. Was he pessimistic? "Not at all. I always use my opponent's return ticket for the trip back." Some Hillary Clinton advisers, although not that serene, think her victory is probable and can be assured.
Crucial political decisions often concern which bridges to cross and which to burn. Donald Trump's dilemma is that he burns some bridges by the way he crosses others. His campaign depends on a low-probability event, and on his ability to cause this event without provoking a more-than-equal and opposite reaction.
Political conventions are echo chambers designed to generate feelings of invincibility, sending forth the party faithful with a spring in their steps and hope in their hearts. Who would want to be a wet blanket at such moveable feasts?
Neither the unanimous decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, nor China's rejection of it, was surprising. The timing of it was, however, as serendipitous as China's rejection is ominous. Coming as Republican delegates convene on Lake Erie's shore, the tribunal's opinion about the South China Sea underscores the current frivolousness of American politics, which is fixated on a fictitious wall that will never exist but silent about realities on and above the waters that now are the world's most dangerous cockpit of national rivalries.
America's economy has now slouched into the eighth year of a recovery that demonstrates how much we have defined recovery down.
The report was so "seismic" -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan's word -- that Lyndon Johnson's administration released it on the Fourth of July weekend, 1966, hoping it would not be noticed. But the Coleman report did disturb various dogmatic slumbers and vested interests. And 50 years on, it is pertinent to today's political debates about class and social mobility. So, let us now praise an insufficiently famous man, sociologist James Coleman, author of the study "Equality of Educational Opportunity."