The Morning Jolt

The Candidates Are the Same, but the Political Environment Is Changing

Why should tonight’s debate change the race? Both candidates are extremely well-known to almost the entire voting public. They’ve been in the public eye for decades. Their flaws are well-known, their scandals are well-known, and their advantages are well-known. They have been making variations of their arguments since last summer or even earlier.

Hillary Clinton roared out to a huge lead after the Democratic convention, but has steadily lost that lead in August and September. They’re the same candidates as six weeks ago. The arguments for her, tepid they may be, are still there: She’s the experienced one. She’s the one who knows the details of policy. The Clintons have been synonymous with the Democratic party’s governance since 1992. The arguments against him are still there.

So what’s changed? Events. The FBI released its Clinton e-mail investigation notes, showing there was plenty of evidence to press charges, and that Clinton claimed she couldn’t remember whether she had been briefed on key security issues. She suffered a short-lived but seemingly serious health issue at Ground Zero. Bombs detonated in New York and New Jersey. North Korea held another nuclear test. Charlotte erupted in riots. Cincinnati had 174 overdoses in six days, and more than 1,000 in a two-month span in Hamilton County, Ohio.

This is a bad environment for the candidate of the status quo, much worse than early August, when Clinton had that huge lead. Decision time is getting closer; Americans are already casting ballots. The casual voters might be a little more tuned-in to the news and less oblivious to the problems around them.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Colorado, which might be the most dramatically changing state in the past month.

At the beginning of September, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a lead of almost ten points over Donald Trump in Colorado. She now leads by . . . two-tenths of a percentage point. The surveys from CNN, Gravis, and Emerson show Trump ahead; CBS, Quinnipiac and Rocky Mountain PBS show Hillary Clinton ahead.

An Angry Young Immigrant, Assimilating to the Worst of America

It’s the worst of both worlds: Five people in Washington state are killed by an angry, anti-social, probably disturbed young man who’s also a Turkish immigrant, presumably Muslim, having trouble assimilating. (Then again, if he’s acting like one of those Columbine misanthropes, maybe he has assimilated to the worst of America’s traits.)

Arcan Cetin was arrested Saturday near his apartment and more than 24 hours after police say he walked into a Macy’s department store with a rifle and shot five people, killing three women and a teenage girl outright and mortally wounding a man, who died later after being flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Skagit County court records show Cetin has a criminal record that includes domestic-violence assault charges in both Burlington and Island County, with the victim identified as Cetin’s stepfather.

It’s clear from the court docket that Cetin was struggling with substance abuse and emotional or mental-health issues, and that the court, prosecutors and defense team were trying to get him help.

Island County District Court records show Cetin was told by a judge on Dec. 29 that he was not to possess a firearm.

Austin Hendrix, 19, who now lives in Seattle, graduated from Oak Harbor High with Cetin in 2015. He described Cetin as “that kid who wasn’t afraid to say something offensive or vulgar.

“In high school, he started harassing kids and not being a nice person, so I disassociated with him,” Hendrix said. “He would grope women in high school and middle school.”

The New York Times quoted former classmate Uhlaine Finnigan, 19, of Port Angeles, who said Cetin would touch girls on their buttocks, “either slapping or grabbing them.”

Cetin immigrated to the United States from Turkey as a child. A lot of people will be asking, fairly or unfairly: Why, as the young man got into more and more trouble, did he have to remain the United States’ problem?

‘The President Who Had All the Information and Allowed a Genocide’

Very few American voters pay attention to foreign policy, but that doesn’t mean the consequences aren’t enormous. Eli Lake’s latest column is about Zaher Sahloul and Yahya Basha, Syrian-American medical doctors who have devoted themselves to pleading with diplomats and world leaders to stop the killing in the place of their birth. He closes with this devastating assessment:

Sahloul sees it differently. He told me that it is now apparent in the final months of the Obama administration that the U.S. has failed to diminish Iran’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. “Clearly our government, the U.S. government, can’t influence the regime,” he said. “So I meet with Iranian leaders and ask them directly.”

To say that Obama disappointed Sahloul in this respect is an understatement. “I think history will judge him as the president who had all the information and allowed a genocide in Syria,” he said.

Sahloul wasn’t always this tough on him. In the summer of 2013, before Assad’s forces dropped sarin gas bombs on a Damascus suburb, he met with Obama at the White House for an Iftar dinner. He delivered a letter to the U.S. president urging him to establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect civilians. In his brief moment with Obama, the doctor made the case for more U.S. humanitarian intervention.

Obama listened respectfully to the Syrian-American and took the letter in his hand.

“He told me he would get back to me,” Sahloul said. “But he never did.”

The family of slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller knows how he feels.

ADDENDA: Tech issues are holding up the posting of this week’s pop-culture podcast. Don’t worry! It’s coming!

My Saturday mornings are now taken over by the #soccerdadlife, and you can find my observations on Twitter at those hours. It is indeed a maddening joy, watching my son play striker/defense/midfield/okay-we-don’t-really-have-positions-everybody-just-runs-everywhere for the Authenticity Woods Yellow Clump. Last week was a 3-3 tie with Lobbyist Hills and next weekend we have a big match with the Fightin’ Influence-Peddlers of ThisTown.

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