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How government incentives shaped the nursing home business - and left it vulnerable to a pandemic

By Will Englund and Joel Jacobs
How government incentives shaped the nursing home business - and left it vulnerable to a pandemic
Janine Cooke, 53, holds a photo of her mother, Mary Catlin, and a friend at her home in Brighton, Mich. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Elaine Cromie

Remote school is leaving children sad and angry

By Hannah Natanson and Laura Meckler
Remote school is leaving children sad and angry
Karen James embraces her daughter Olivia James, 7, during a break from school and work at their home in Alexandria, Va. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Black history is vital to understanding racial injustice, but the museums holding that history are under threat

By Kelsey Ables
Black history is vital to understanding racial injustice, but the museums holding that history are under threat
The African American Museum of Cleveland is housed in a Carnegie library in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood and was closed for six years due to funding struggles until reopening part time in 2010. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Amber Ford

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

The parochial media

By kathleen parker
The parochial media


Advance for release Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- Every presidential election involving a Republican victor inevitably is followed by self-flagellation by the media. (BEG ITAL)For some reason, gosh, how did we get it wrong this time?(END ITAL)

How about every time the media's guy or gal doesn't win?

We're familiar with the routine by now. The public has seen it many times in the last 40 years. It is long past time for some self-examination.

Sure, sure, the models threw the politicos off. The polls were misleading. Republicans did far better than many of the folks who track our politics expected. But the news media's chief problem is that it's stuck in a bubble, talking mostly to themselves. Sitting in the Green Room, I would listen to my friends and colleagues discussing the folks out yonder and what they had learned on the hustings, thinking: You can't get there from here. Dropping in a place for a few hours or days isn't enough to understand why people think a certain way.

I've been watching -- and have participated in -- this charade for close to 35 years as a columnist. When I hooked a U-Haul trailer to my car and drove to Washington in 2003, I told people I was going to be a spy for Bubba. Having observed national reporters parachuting into my home state every four years to take the pulse of their idea of a native, I was annoyed that my cousins (kidding) were being portrayed as ignorant yahoos.

Some are, but this is largely a function of economics and education, not character. I soon understood that stereotypes of "ignorant rednecks" flourished in no small part because of lazy reporters who might as well sit at the counter at the Lizard's Thicket, sipping sweet tea and eating gravy biscuits for half a day, before winging back to D.C. in time for their next TV hit.

So began my career as a spy -- but not for Bubba, as it turned out. My role in Washington was to be a "southern white woman," as one MSNBC host once called me. I was quickly embraced by cable-tv producers because I had actually lived among the indigenous peoples and could report on their strange habits, such as going to church on Wednesday night, their attachment to God, guns and the Confederate battle flag.

At a certain point, I wearied of trying to answer a question that often came up when I found myself speaking to groups of people outside my home state: Can you explain South Carolina? South Carolinian politician James L. Petigru's famous quote after the state seceded from the Union in 1860 -- "too small for a republic, but too large for an insane asylum" -- had grown stale and, so, I defaulted to shaking my head. This usually got a big laugh; I am guilty, I suppose, of tacitly accepting the notion that there's no explaining stupidity. In truth, it was simply impossible to explain the South's complexity to people who would never understand because they didn't really want to.

In 2004, when George W. Bush won a second term, the media were aghast. Why, they didn't know anyone who had voted for him! What had they missed? MSNBC's Chris Matthews suggested that the United States initiate an exchange program between coastal and flyover kids so they could understand each other's culture. One can imagine the excitement of an L.A. teen bound for Savage Fork, Louisiana, while his country counterpart heads for the Hollywood Hills. But, in truth, it may not have been such a bad idea.

A similar reaction followed President Donald Trump's near re-election a few weeks ago, prompting commentary by journalists once again trying to understand how they had missed the Republican success in House races. It's a valuable exercise, if it means anything. We know that Joe Biden's election made perfect sense to most in the Beltway media, as would have Hillary Clinton's, as did Barack Obama's, as did Bill Clinton's. That's because most of them supported the Democrats through undisguised, selective coverage.

Many Americans quit trusting the media long before Trump turned them into enemies of the people, but he recognized the value of calling out "fake news" to protect him from incoming. It has worked to his advantage but not to the country's. We're more divided than ever, more contemptuous and distrustful of the "other," and doomed if we don't do something about it. Earnest efforts post-2016 to better understand the American voter, with editors essentially embedding reporters outside their comfort zone, were well-intentioned if not nearly enough.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised that unifying the country will be a priority of his administration. I trust his intentions, but he can only do so much without the media's cooperation. I'm not suggesting that reporters should relax their watchdog role, but I do hope that all try to remember whence we came. We're ink-stained wretches, after all, none of us more important than the people we're supposed to serve -- the readers, television viewers and online followers who expect (BEG ITAL)us(END ITAL) to trust (BEG ITAL)them(END ITAL) to judge unfiltered facts that we present in good faith.

Why wait for New Year's Day to make a resolution?

Kathleen Parker's email address is

(c) 2020, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump has written his farewell address

By dana milbank
Trump has written his farewell address


Advance for release Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 and thereafter

(For Milbank clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Dana Milbank

WASHINGTON -- Two-hundred twenty-four years ago, the first president retired with a passionate warning against political parties becoming "potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people."

Now, as a defeated president mobilizes his party in an open (if bumbling) attempt to overturn a free and fair election, and as Republican congressional leaders shamefully legitimize his behavior, George Washington's Farewell Address takes on renewed importance.

"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge … is itself a frightful despotism," Washington warned. And "sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty."

President Trump, who has no purpose other than his own elevation, will never pen such a speech. But in the weeks that have passed since the election, he has already given us his farewell address. Here it is, assembled entirely from his own words and tweets:

This election was a fraud. A total fraud. It was a fraudulent election. This was a massive fraud. This fraud has taken place. You have a fraudulent system. Fraudulent voting and fraudulent votes. There's tremendous fraud here. There's fraud all over the place. Massive fraud has been found.

We're like a third world country. We will find tens of thousands of fraudulent and illegal votes. You're going to find fraud of hundreds of thousands of votes per state. They used COVID in order to, uh, defraud the people of this country. Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous "80,000,000 votes" were not fraudulently or illegally obtained. I just don't see Americans rolling over for this election fraud. Our big lawsuit, which spells out in great detail all of the ballot fraud and more, will soon be filled (sic).

RIGGED ELECTION! This Election was RIGGED. This, it was a rigged election. Very sad to say it, this election was rigged. It was a rigged election, 100%, and people know it. They know it was a rigged election. At the highest level it was a rigged election. This election was a rigged election.

This was an election that we won easily. We won it by a lot. I won Pennsylvania by a lot. In Georgia, I won by a lot. I won that by hundreds of thousands of votes. There's no way Trump didn't win Pennsylvania because the energy industry was all for him. No, we won by a lot. We were robbed. We got many votes more than Ronald Reagan.

This election was lost by the Democrats. They cheated. They flooded everybody with ballots. They're horrible people, and they're people that don't love our country.

Horrible things went on. Many other things were happening that were horrible. Just horrible. This is horrible what's taking place. All of the horrible things that happened to poll watchers. If you were a Republican poll watcher you were treated like a dog.

Dead people were requesting ballots. Not only were they coming in and putting in a ballot, but dead people were requesting ballots, and they were dead for years. Dead people voting all over the place.

It's a corrupt system. The most corrupt election in American political history. Corrupt Election! This is corrupt. We'll not allow the corruption to steal such an important election. Working hard to clean up the stench of the 2020 Election Hoax! The 2020 Election was a total scam.

We have judges that are afraid to make a decision. Nevada is turning out to be a cesspool. Detroit and Philadelphia -- known as two of the most corrupt political places anywhere. Why isn't the @GaSecofState Brad Raffensperger, a so-called Republican, allowing us to look at signatures on envelopes?

Those machines are fixed, they're rigged. People say the votes are counted in foreign countries and much worse than that.

Fake ballots. Fake votes. Fake recounts. Fake results. Fake pollsters. Fake polls. FAKE NEWS.

I concede NOTHING! It's going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud. Should President Trump concede to Biden? Poll Results: No: 190,593 (98.9%). This election has to be turned around. They have to turn over the results. I concede NOTHING!!!!!

Have a great life General Flynn! Rudy, you were the greatest mayor. Thanksgiving is a special day for turkeys. Don't talk to me that way. I'm the president of the United States.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

A lame-duck test of wills with Iran

By david ignatius
A lame-duck test of wills with Iran


Advance for release Friday, Nov. 27 and thereafter


By David Ignatius

As the sun sets on Donald Trump's presidency, one piece of potentially dangerous unfinished business is Iran's nuclear program. Here's an area where cool heads must prevail over the next two months to avoid an 11th-hour catastrophe.

Both the United States and Iran have been messaging their resolve in recent days, in signals that have mostly gone unnoticed. Last Saturday, the Air Force flew a B-52 bomber task force from its base in Minot, N.D., to the Middle East, "to deter aggression and reassure U.S. partners and allies," a Centcom news release announced.

And this week, three officials said, the Navy is likely to begin moving an aircraft carrier task force toward the Persian Gulf, as a hedge against unanticipated events.

The show of force comes as the Trump administration is drawing down U.S. troops in three Centcom battle zones: Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. The Pentagon's message to Iran seems to be a cautionary warning against exploiting the situation, rather than a direct threat. But the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program looms in the background.

Iran, too, has been signaling its firmness - along with its willingness to revive diplomacy with the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden. Tehran's potential threat was underscored this month by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, which reported that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium is now 12 times the level permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement, which Trump abandoned in 2018. The IAEA said Iranis also adding more advanced centrifuges to speed enrichment.

Iran has been hoping to wait out Trump's presidency, and that theme was reinforced last week by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said Iran would revert to the 2015 limits if the new administration returned to the deal, too. "This needs no negotiations and needs no conditions,"he said.

Anti-Iran hawks in the United States and Israel see the window closing on the possibility of a preemptive U.S.-Israeli strike against the Iranian nuclear program. Likely supporters of such an attack include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some hard-line officials around Trump. Netanyahu has said often that the potential Iranian nuclear threat represents an existential issue for Israel, and the chance to land a knockout punch may expire Jan. 20.

"There must be no return to the previous nuclear agreement. We must stick to an uncompromising policy to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told an Israeli audience this week.

Trump considered a strike on Iran earlier this month but decided against it. Worried by the IAEA reports that Iran was increasing its uranium stockpile, Trump on Nov. 12 requested military options. He was dissuaded from taking action by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials. Trump decidedit would be unwise to start a new war with unpredictable consequences in his last two months in office. But several officials say the possibility isn't entirely foreclosed, and, as one official put it, "we're not out of the woods yet."

Skeptics about attacking Iran include senior military officers in both the United States and Israel, who fear a chain reaction that would leave all sides worse off. One former top defense official warns that the idea of a "clean, limited, surgical strike" against Iranian nuclear facilities is folly; war doesn't work that way. U.S. intelligence agencies also caution that despite the troubling IAEA reports, Iran remains many months away from being able to deploy a bomb.

Several insiders stress that Trump doesn't want a new conflict in the Middle East that would undermine what he sees as his legacy of stopping "endless" wars there. But squeezing Iran's nuclear program has also been one of his signature issues, and he'd probably like to tighten the pressure further before leaving office.

Elliott Abrams, Trump's special envoy for Iran, stressed nonmilitary options in commentsthis week: "All through December and January, there will be sanctions that deal with arms, that deal with weapons of mass destruction, that deal with human rights. . . . So this will continue on for another couple of months, right until the end."

The confrontation with Iran is the unpredictable X-factor in national security. Until Inauguration Day, the danger of a U.S. or Iranian strike remains on the table - a small but still real possibility. Starting a war without provocation is never wise, but especially not for a divided country on the verge of political transition.

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Contact David Ignatius on Twitter @IgnatiusPost

Americans revive spirit of first Thanksgiving by carrying disease to new areas

By alexandra petri
Americans revive spirit of first Thanksgiving by carrying disease to new areas


Advance for release Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, and thereafter

(For Petri clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Alexandra Petri

Across the United States, millions of people pointedly spurning CDC advice as they celebrated Thanksgiving during a time of increased covid-19 community spread were excited to hearken back to the very first traditions of European settlement in the Americas.

"We wanted to keep alive the customs these settlers helped start," explained one family that was traveling hundreds of miles to spread disease to people they didn't know because they thought the trip would be best for their family. "We just want to do the same thing they did, but in a way that includes a dish that somehow incorporates both marshmallows and sweet potatoes."

These Thanksgiving reenactors were dedicated to making sure the holiday got the celebration it deserved. "Usually," another ardent patriot said, "my Thanksgiving celebration is based on a selective and misleading interpretation of history. This year, it will be based on a selective and misleading interpretation of science as well. And I brought green beans with those weird little packaged onion things on them!"

"It's a point of pride with me to ignore any guidelines that would prevent my bringing pestilence with me to this important family holiday," one celebrator noted. "The Pilgrims didn't pay attention to any guidelines! Dare I act as though to be alive now offers me any advantages over what they had?"

One matriarch, sticking her entire arm into the slick carcass of a bird, offered, "It's important to me that my Thanksgiving keeps the traditions of those first fur traders and colonists alive: where I feel as though I am absolutely and divinely right to do what I am doing and refuse to connect my actions with consequences in any way."

"I was watching a PBS special about the Pilgrims," one American said, "and they spent their entire first winter in Massachusetts before Thanksgiving just watching their family members die. They carried them out to the woods, propped them up against trees and left them there to give the illusion that the settlement was guarded. That wasn't something we incorporated into our Thanksgiving before, but it's never too late to start a new tradition, provided that new tradition does not involve Zoom in any way!"

"If the attendees at the first Thanksgiving had been able to choose between having all their loved ones alive or having a big, celebratory meal a single time, I am pretty sure that they would have chosen the second thing," said another traveler, who added that under no circumstances would he be shamed by any stay-at-home recommendations, CDC-issued or otherwise, because he thought they were part of the War on Christmas, and therefore they made him upset. "I think it's just typical P.C. nonsense to try to shoehorn new liberal fads like germ theory into our traditional American holidays. Next they'll be saying that the reason Santa can't catch covid-19 is because he's fictional."

"I am excited to get back to what I erroneously thought was the true essence of Thanksgiving," added an uncle. "And that's drawing a hand turkey and feeling good about myself without thinking about the suffering and struggle of the Wampanoag people one bit." The fact that he got to have his ill-advised gathering in the midst of an ongoing pandemic that was disproportionately devastating indigenous communities was just another detail that made this uncle feel that he was participating in a great national tradition. "I'm going to do what I'm going to do, and if they try to tell me I can't, they've got another thing coming! This is America!" he said, stamping his foot for emphasis on what technically is Piscataway land.

"I'm just glad we're getting back to the roots of this holiday, which is long-distance travel, vectors of disease and the devastation of families. I hated how Thanksgiving had evolved into a holiday where you were supposed to gather and have a political argument and leave without fearing you were carrying any disease to your community or others.'" He concluded by saying you could take the turkey from his cold, dead hands.

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Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

The case for and against prosecuting Trump

By ruth marcus
The case for and against prosecuting Trump


Advance for release Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, and thereafter

(For Marcus clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By Ruth Marcus

WASHINGTON -- Should Donald Trump be prosecuted?

The question feels so compelling, the need for an answer so pressing, because Trump's behavior in office has been so appalling and his disdain for the rule of law so manifest. But it's the wrong question, both dangerously premature and sloppily unspecific.

Before anything can happen, appropriate federal and state authorities need to gather the facts about Trump's behavior, whether as president or before he took office. Then they need to consider whether prosecution is justified and in the best interests of the country. Everyone should settle down, because that's going to take some time.

It's not an easy call. Anyone who believes it to be simple is not grappling with the implications of taking the unprecedented step of lodging criminal charges against a former president. The United States is not a place, chants notwithstanding, where those in power lock up their political enemies. There is a delicate line between the pursuit of justice and indulging the urge for retribution.

Prosecuting Trump may well be justified, but the consequences of further inflaming an already divided country ought to be sobering. A decision this momentous needs to be made on the merits and kept as far from politics as possible.

Prosecuting Trump for pre-presidential or nonpresidential actions would be easier, less freighted with questions about criminalizing the operations of government, than a case centered on his actions as president. Here, the possibilities are abundant. For example, whether his manipulations of the tax code amount to criminal tax fraud, or whether he violated campaign finance laws by covering up his hush money payments. And the questions are reasonably straightforward: Can a case be proven? Would charges be brought against someone else with the same fact pattern?

Sometimes the prominence of a potential defendant plays a role in deciding to seek an indictment, because part of the function of criminal prosecution is to deter other offenders, as well as to demonstrate that the powerful are not exempt from punishment. In this situation, Trump's celebrity should not be held against him; the risk of appearing vindictive is too great. But if the facts support prosecution -- and if others in the same situation would be charged -- there should be little hesitation about proceeding.

On the federal level, it is essential that President-elect Joe Biden stay entirely out of the conversation, and that he select an attorney general whose judgment is impeccable -- and who will not be, or be viewed as, a partisan operator, either being punitive toward Trump or bending to Biden's expressed desires. What might be in Biden's interest -- trying to put Trump and his misconduct in the rearview mirror -- is not necessarily congruent with the public interest.

The issue of prosecuting Trump for what he did as president is much more complex. It cannot be that a president is simultaneously immune from being prosecuted while in office and should not be targeted after departure, lest the new administration appear to be vindictively pursuing a political opponent. Indeed, the 2000 opinion on this subject by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel explicitly contemplated that "the immunity from indictment and criminal prosecution for a sitting President would generally result in the delay, but not the forbearance, of any criminal trial." Doing otherwise would not be a get-out-of-jail-free card for presidents; it would amount to assuring them they never have to worry about going to jail at all.

Still, for Trump to be prosecuted for his acts as president, the offense should be more than arguable -- it should be clear-cut, almost indisputable. Not every outrage is a crime. The criminal code is not the only, or even the best, mechanism for political accountability. Indeed, this month voters delivered the ultimate accountability in the form of defeating Trump's bid for a second term.

In Trump's case, former special counsel Robert Mueller III laid out 10 instances in which Trump may have obstructed justice. Scores of former prosecutors said they would have brought such charges; the House declined to pursue impeachment on that basis. The Mueller findings should be reviewed by career prosecutors on the merits. But the House inaction raises the question: If the obstruction wasn't compelling enough to try to remove Trump from office then, why is it worth the turmoil to prosecute him now?

Other potential crimes are different. Prosecutors shouldn't have a roving commission to comb through all the outrages of the Trump administration in search of a fact pattern that fits the criminal code, and that's a risk. But where there is enough of a predicate to open a criminal investigation, they should not be hobbled. Trump's refusal to cooperate with legitimate congressional oversight bolsters the imperative of investigating now. To hold off would be to reward that obstructionism and encourage more down the road.

In short, investigate now, and prosecute judiciously. No president can be above the law, but the law needs to move with extreme care -- and no haste -- in this exquisitely difficult situation.

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Ruth Marcus' email address is

Team Biden has to show that foreign policy elites got the message

By e.j. dionne jr.
Team Biden has to show that foreign policy elites got the message


Advance for release Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, and thereafter

(For Dionne clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

WASHINGTON -- When President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team last week, a line that received almost no attention defined what may be the most important challenge confronting his able group of experienced professionals.

Biden was referring to his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, when he said: "Jake understands my vision, that economic security is national security, and it helps steer what I call a foreign policy for the middle class, for families like his growing up in Minnesota."

Talk of a "foreign policy for the middle class" may sound like campaign boiler plate, but it accurately describes one of the central obligations this band of liberal internationalists has assumed. They need to demonstrate to Americans on Main Street that the diplomats in Foggy Bottom have their interests in mind.

The praise for Biden's choices is certainly deserved. Antony Blinken, his secretary of state-designate, and Sullivan are not only smart and tested; they have also thought hard about what has and hasn't worked in American foreign policy over the past two decades. Both are deeply committed small-d democrats who understand that foreign policy realism won't work if it is utterly disconnected from a commitment to democracy and human rights.

And Biden's selection of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the United Nations is inspired, and not just because you have to appreciate her commitment to "Gumbo diplomacy." Her deep experience in Africa makes her the right person for the job at a moment when the United States is lagging China in the quest for influence on that continent.

At last week's news conference, Thomas-Greenfield declared boldly: "America is back. Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back."

Yes, they are -- for now. But the incoming administration needs to ponder why Trump's nationalism took hold. Part of it was voters' sheer exhaustion with foreign military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan. But over many years, there was also a rising and justifiable suspicion in our nation's struggling communities that foreign policy elites didn't really give a damn about how their decisions affected the lives and livelihoods of their fellow citizens.

Some of this had to do with trade policy. The loss of manufacturing jobs to China after its 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization helped foster the Midwestern backlash that culminated in Trump's electoral college victory 15 years later. More broadly, there was little in the foreign policy conversation that related diplomatic statecraft to the construction of a decent society at home.

Here is where Biden and his colleagues can take a cue from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Sanders spoke of a foreign policy based on "shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people," while Warren argued that "Washington's focus has shifted from policies that benefit everyone to policies that benefit a handful of elites."

Ganesh Sitaraman, a law professor at Vanderbilt University and a Warren adviser, argued for a new outlook that moved concern for the domestic economy from the periphery of foreign policy analysis to its center.

One need not agree with Warren or Sanders on everything to accept that the long-term durability of an internationalist foreign policy depends on reviving public confidence that its architects regard the home front as more than an afterthought. It's worth remembering that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman -- the presidents who built the post-World War II alliance systems and an impressive array of international organizations -- inspired confidence among American workers that they had their backs.

There is reason to hope that Team Biden is thinking along these lines. Sullivan has argued for applying New Deal lessons to the 21st century and for paying particular attention to "the geography of opportunity so that all regions experience a middle-class revival." He is unlikely to forget these commitments in his new job.

And Janet Yellen, Biden's pick as Treasury secretary, was far ahead of the conventional wisdom in warning that "globalization and skill-biased technological change may have been working in combination to particularly depress the wage gains of those in the middle of the U.S. wage distribution." She said this in 2006. We might have avoided the Trump experiment if more people had heeded her warning. Wage earners can know that she is looking out for them.

It is a genuine relief that the incoming president understands the importance of alliances with democratic nations, views strongmen abroad with suspicion rather than envy, and sees foreign policy as more than a disjointed series of transactions. But to maintain support for his vision, Biden will have to stay focused on the people who hired him.

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E.J. Dionne is on Twitter: @EJDionne.

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