Collins, solo

December 3, 2016

In “Trump, Finally Explained” Ms. Collins says it’s not real unless you see it on TV.  Here she is:

Do you remember “50 First Dates”? It was a Drew Barrymore movie about a woman with short-term amnesia who wakes up every morning with no memory whatsoever of the day that went before.

I am thinking it’s the perfect Donald Trump analogy.

In the past, I’ve always presumed that when Trump completely changed his position on health care or the Mexican wall or nuclear weapons in Japan, it was due to craven political opportunism. But it’s much more calming to work under the assumption that he doesn’t remember anything that happened before this morning.

Think about it next time you hear him bragging about his big margin of victory. “We won in a landslide. That was a landslide,” he told a crowd in Ohio on Thursday. It was perhaps the first time in history that a candidate used those terms after receiving 2.5 million votes fewer than his competitor.

It’s stupendously irritating, unless you work under the assumption that he no longer recalls the real story.

This week, Trump was on a victory lap in Indiana, where United Technologies just agreed to keep about 1,000 jobs at a Carrier gas-furnace factory that had been slated to be moved to Mexico. Trump had repeatedly vowed to save the Carrier jobs during the campaign, and even though there is no reason to believe this will have any effect whatsoever on other jobs in other factories, it seemed like a nice symbolic win.

But during his remarks to his ebullient fans, Trump cheerfully explained that he had no memory whatsoever of having promised to protect the Carrier workers. Until he heard it on TV.

Trump told the folks in Indiana that he had been watching the news one night last week and saw a feature in which a Carrier worker said he was not worried about the company’s plans to move his job to Mexico because Donald Trump had promised to save it.

“I said, ‘I wonder if he’s being sarcastic, because this ship has sailed.’”

But no, Trump said that he then watched a clip of Donald Trump the candidate, “and he made the statement that Carrier’s not going anywhere, they’re not leaving.”

What a surprise for Donald Trump! Who then felt he needed to deliver, and then made a call to Greg Hayes, the head of U.T.C.

Nobody believes Trump’s story about having won the day by promising Hayes that in his administration, businesses would get so many breaks on taxes and regulation, they’d have no incentive to move to a country where workers cost about $3 an hour.

But the bottom line is that our next president is entirely a creature of the moment. So much so that he had no problem wiping one of his most publicized campaign promises out of his mind the second he made it.

Once he heard it on TV, Trump said he did recall vowing to save the Carrier jobs, “but that was a euphemism.”

It was not a euphemism, which is an effort to substitute a milder term for something harsh or displeasing. Trump seemed to have another word in mind. Perhaps “lie.” But it’s easier for me to deal with the idea that it slipped his mind.

He is just like Leonard, the hero of the movie “Memento,” who had to tattoo the clues to a murder on his arm because he couldn’t remember anything. Although Leonard made way more effort.

I am not the only person trying to come up with an overarching explanation for Trump’s failure to keep a constant position, but I think I’ve got the most flattering theory.

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told a postelection panel this week that the media’s negative response to his candidate’s constantly switching stories was due to an insistence on taking him “so literally.”

American voters, Lewandowski continued, understood “that sometimes, when you have a conversation with people, whether it’s around the dinner table or at a bar, you’re going to say things, and sometimes you don’t have all the facts to back it up.”

Some of you may find it disturbing that one of Trump’s chief apologists was basically saying that he talks policy like a drunk at happy hour. Some of you may hear Trump constantly contradicting today what he said yesterday and decide he’s an idiot.

From now on I’m going to try to think of him as a little bit like my dog, Frieda. Frieda is extremely intelligent, but her memory is only good for about 90 seconds.

When you listen to Trump’s Inaugural Address, or his first State of the Union, keep reminding yourself that he’s reserving the right to forget everything he’s said as soon as he says it. No way we can believe him long term. Unless he tattoos it on his arm.

Correction: December 2, 2016 An earlier version of this column misstated the problem of a character in the movie “50 First Dates.” Each day she has no memory of the day before, not the year before.

 

Krugman, solo

December 2, 2016

In “Seduced and Betrayed by Donald Trump” Prof. Krugman says the white working class is due for a rude awakening when the safety net is shredded.  Here he is:

Donald Trump won the Electoral College (though not the popular vote) on the strength of overwhelming support from working-class whites, who feel left behind by a changing economy and society. And they’re about to get their reward — the same reward that, throughout Mr. Trump’s career, has come to everyone who trusted his good intentions. Think Trump University.

Yes, the white working class is about to be betrayed.

The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week — seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter — was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed — and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers.

The first thing you need to understand here is that Republican talk of “repeal and replace” has always been a fraud. The G.O.P. has spent six years claiming that it will come up with a replacement for Obamacare any day now; the reason it hasn’t delivered is that it can’t.

Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to: You can’t cover Americans with pre-existing conditions without requiring healthy people to sign up, and you can’t do that without subsidies to make insurance affordable.

Any replacement will either look a lot like Obamacare, or take insurance away from millions who desperately need it.

What the choice of Mr. Price suggests is that the Trump administration is, in fact, ready to see millions lose insurance. And many of those losers will be Trump supporters.

You can see why by looking at Census data from 2013 to 2015, which show the impact of the full implementation of Obamacare. Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.

Why did they do it? They may not have realized that their coverage was at stake — over the course of the campaign, the news media barely covered policy at all. Or they may have believed Mr. Trump’s assurances that he would replace Obamacare with something great.

Either way, they’re about to receive a rude awakening, which will get even worse once Republicans push ahead with their plans to end Medicare as we know it, which seem to be on even though the president-elect had promised specifically that he would do no such thing.

And just in case you’re wondering, no, Mr. Trump can’t bring back the manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few decades. Those jobs were lost mainly to technological change, not imports, and they aren’t coming back.

There will be nothing to offset the harm workers suffer when Republicans rip up the safety net.

Will there be a political backlash, a surge of buyer’s remorse? Maybe. Certainly Democrats will be well advised to hammer Mr. Trump’s betrayal of the working class nonstop. But we do need to consider the tactics that he will use to obscure the scope of his betrayal.

One tactic, which we’ve already seen with this week’s ostentatious announcement of a deal to keep some Carrier jobs in America, will be to distract the nation with bright, shiny, trivial objects. True, this tactic will work only if news coverage is both gullible and innumerate.

No, Mr. Trump didn’t “stand up” to Carrier — he seems to have offered it a bribe. And we’re talking about a thousand jobs in a huge economy; at the rate of one Carrier-size deal a week, it would take Mr. Trump 30 years to save as many jobs as President Obama did with the auto bailout; it would take him a century to make up for the overall loss of manufacturing jobs just since 2000.

But judging from the coverage of the deal so far, assuming that the news media will be gullible and innumerate seems like a good bet.

And if and when the reality that workers are losing ground starts to sink in, I worry that the Trumpists will do what authoritarian governments often do to change the subject away from poor performance: go find an enemy.

Remember what I said about Trump Twitter. Even as he took a big step toward taking health insurance away from millions, Mr. Trump started ranting about taking citizenship away from flag-burners. This was not a coincidence.

The point is to keep your eye on what’s important. Millions of Americans have just been sucker-punched. They just don’t know it yet.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

December 1, 2016

In “Donald Trump’s ‘Monster’s Ball'” Mr. Blow says he assembles a team of billionaires and bigots.  Mr. Kristof suggests some “Gifts That Make a Difference,” and says we can give a present with more impact than a tie.  Ms. Collins says they should “Count Those Votes! Again!” and that nothing will change, but we’ll be reminded that Donald Trump is one of the least successful successful presidential candidates ever.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

If you’ve been in a funk over the results of this election: Buck up. It’s over. Dry the tears, push back against the malaise, burn away the fog and stiffen the spine.

There is work to do. Your country needs you, now more than ever. The loyal opposition needs your energy and your moral imagination.

You may be out of power, but you aren’t powerless. Righteousness is a self-propagating energy source. Indeed, there is most likely something to be gained in the midst of your loss. Sometimes, it is while wandering in the wilderness that purpose is perfected and voice is clarified. New champions will rise from these ashes, ones who may not now be apparent, and a new path forward will appear. Such is the way of the world; such is the precedent of history.

Donald Trump was elected on a wave of fake news, fake minority outreach and an 11th-hour email head fake by James Comey.

During the campaign, Trump lied with the ease of breathing and made promises he knew well that he could never keep. He positioned himself as a champion of the disaffected, all the while imagining himself a dictator.

Furthermore, Russia may in a way have won a new phase of the Cold War by dabbling in our hot mess of an election. And through it all, Trump nurtured an unhealthy bromance with Vladimir Putin.

Since winning the election, Trump has taken aim at some fundamentals of our constitutional democracy by not only attacking the media, but individual reporters, while also threatening to revoke American citizenship for the constitutionally protected act of flag burning.

Perhaps even more important and more ominous, he is assiduously assembling a team of advisers made up of billionaires and bigots, homophobes and Islamaphobes, climate change deniers and white supremacy believers.

Last month, David Axelrod called the budding cabinet assemblage a “Monster’s Ball,” and that may be too mild a phrasing.

During one of the debates, Trump boasted, while referring to Hillary Clinton: “I will do more for African-Americans and Latinos than she can ever do in 10 lifetimes. All she’s done is talk to the African-Americans and to the Latinos.”

And yet Trump has named as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, who helped to rebrand Nazis with a new name, alt-right, which sounds more like a computer command than a batch of fanatical racists clinging desperately to poisoned ideas. Trump also named as his nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions, a man once denied a federal judgeship over charges of racism, who fought for public school funding inequity in his home state of Alabama and who has been a stalwart foe of immigrants.

On the campaign trail, Trump claimed that he was going to be a “real friend” of the L.G.B.T. community, and once even unfurled a rainbow flag — albeit upside down — with the words “L.G.B.T.s for Trump” scrawled on it. But the British gay news service Pink News claimed Tuesday that “every single Trump cabinet member so far opposes L.G.B.T. rights.” That was before further appointments were announced, but the point is well taken, as they methodically documented the individual appointees’ personal positions on equal rights.

On the campaign trail, the self-professed genital-grabber Trump said that he would be the “the best for women.” This week, Trump named anti-contraception, pro-fetal personhood Tom Price to be secretary of Health and Human Services.

On the campaign trail, Trump claimed that he wanted to drain the swamp in Washington. But his cabinet choices suggest that his plan is simply to replace the murky water it contains and the smarmy ecosystem that it conceals with one more to his liking.

The same Trump who blasted Clinton for being “owned by Wall Street” assembled a cabinet that is a roster of the superwealthy, including at least two billionaires, and is considering other top-crusters including the miserable Mitt Romney, who is debasing himself by groveling for the secretary of state job before a man whom he once called a fraud. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog published a piece on Wednesday under this headline: “Trump said hedge funders were ‘getting away with murder.’ Now he wants one to help run the economy.”

Donald Trump is a fraud, and a dangerous one. This country is depending on morally principled patriots to never let that fact be shifted from center stage.

Trump rode to victory on a cloud of vapors and vapid promises, and now he is assembling a counsel of acolytes and opportunists. Now each of us must demonstrate our fortitude in vocal, steadfast resistance.

Trump must be made to know, in no uncertain terms, that he was elected president and not anointed emperor.

Not every battle can be won, but every battle must be waged. This is the proving ground. Are you prepared to stand your ground?

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Sure, you can buy your uncle a necktie that he won’t wear, or your niece an Amazon certificate that she’ll forget to use. Or you can help remove shrapnel from an injured child in Syria, or assist students at risk of genocide in South Sudan.

The major aid organizations have special catalogs this time of year: You can buy an alpaca for a family for $150 at Heifer International, help educate a girl for $75 at Save the Children or help extend a much-admired microsavings program for $25 at Care. But this year my annual holiday gift list is special. I’ve tied some items to the election of Donald Trump, and I’ve looked for organizations that you may not have heard of:

■ One battle over the coming four years will involve family planning, because of G.O.P. efforts to defund Title X family planning programs and repeal Obamacare, which provides free birth control. So consider a donation to one of the most effective counterforces: the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, thenationalcampaign.org.

The campaign takes no position on abortion (except to note that family planning reduces abortions), and it has bipartisan leadership, so it is more likely to get a hearing in a G.O.P.-controlled Washington.

■ As Syria and Russia commit war crimes in Aleppo, heroic physicians from America and other countries are traveling secretly to rebel-held areas of Syria to treat the wounded in underground hospitals and call attention to the carnage. They work through the Syrian American Medical Society, SAMS, sams-usa.net, which supports more than 100 medical facilities in Syria.

■ Human rights and press freedoms seem likely to get much less attention from the next administration, which makes this a good time to support the Committee to Protect Journalists, cpj.org. The C.P.J. speaks up for imprisoned journalists worldwide and tries to end impunity for those who murder journalists (at least 40 journalists have been killed worldwide so far in 2016 for their work).

In the same vein, consider buying a gift subscription to a reliable news organization for yourself or a friend — as an investment in a robust civil society.

■ The recent hurricane in Haiti was devastating, and one of the most effective aid organizations in Haiti is Fonkoze, fonkoze.org, which has adopted a “graduation model” that has been particularly successful at combating global poverty.

Founded by a local Catholic priest, Fonkoze works with the most impoverished women in Haiti over 18 months to get them earning regular incomes through raising livestock or selling merchandise. It’s about teaching people how to fish, not handing out fish. I’ve seen it in action. It’s terrific.

■ Congo is home to probably the most lethal conflict since World War II, and it is sometimes called the rape capital of the world. One of the heroes there is Dr. Denis Mukwege, who founded the Panzi hospital to treat injured women and risks his life to stand up to warlords. He has survived an assassination attempt and some day will get the Nobel Peace Prize — but in the meantime, you can support his hospital at panzifoundation.org.

■ Criminal justice may suffer setbacks in the coming years, which makes this an excellent time to support groups like Equal Justice Initiative, EJI.org, founded by a legendary lawyer named Bryan Stevenson. If attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions has an opposite, it is Stevenson.

E.J.I. fights for indigent defendants and has won the release of inmates who were falsely arrested. It battles mass incarceration and is a voice for racial justice. And Stevenson’s memoir, “Just Mercy,” also makes a great gift.

■ I’ve reported on crimes against humanity unfolding in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, and now the United Nations is warning of the risk of full-blown genocide. In this impossible situation, a South Sudan-born American named Valentino Deng is running a high school, one of few still functioning. It needs support so students can get an education and build their country.

You may remember Valentino: He’s the “lost boy” at the center of Dave Eggers’s best-selling book “What Is the What.” What he has done since, in founding this school, is even more impressive.

It’s time to announce my annual win-a-trip contest, in which I choose a university student to accompany me on a reporting trip looking at global poverty and justice issues. I’m thinking about a 2017 trip to Liberia and Sierra Leone, or perhaps to Bangladesh. Information about how to apply is on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, and thanks in advance to the Center for Global Development in Washington for helping me pick a winner.

The win-a-trip journey is exhausting and may involve bed bugs, rats and the worst food you’ve ever eaten. But it is a chance to help shine a light on important and neglected topics, so if you know students perfect for the trip, encourage them to apply.

I’ll also make a pitch for Kiva, where for as little as $25 you can help someone start or expand a small business in some of the neediest places in the world.  I’ve been a Kiva lender for years.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Presidential recount underway. What’s your take on it?

— This is a plot to distract the country from the stupendous Election-Day fraud in which millions of dead people cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.

— Is it going to get rid of Donald Trump? If it isn’t, I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. Excuse me, I’m going back to bed.

Wow, happy holidays.

Yes, it’s true the postelection nation is still divided, this time between the folks who don’t want to believe Trump is going to be president and the ones who don’t want to hear that more people actually voted for Hillary.

But about the recount: The star of this show is Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee for president. On Wednesday Stein’s lawyers filed paperwork to force Michigan to recheck its vote tallies. She’s also getting a recount in Wisconsin and she’s working on Pennsylvania.

Since Stein got only 51,463 votes in Michigan to Trump’s 2,279,543, this would seem like an exercise in … um, futility? Deeply cynical minds think the real goal might just be to increase her donor database — her recount campaign has drawn more than $6 million. But Stein says she wants to demonstrate the need to reform the nation’s extremely messy voting system.

“It’s a healing and positive thing to examine the vote,” she said in a phone interview.

Hillary Clinton lost Michigan by 10,704 under the current count. Virtually no one — certainly not the Clinton lawyers — thinks she’s going to make that up in a recount. However, it’s definitely possible Clinton could have gotten 10,705 votes more if Stein had stayed off the ballot in the first place. “Jill Stein is the friend who ruins your wedding but really shows up for you during the divorce,” twittered comedian Morgan Murphy.

Stein claims most of her supporters wouldn’t have voted for anybody if the Green Party hadn’t been an option. But even if she did make a difference, she doesn’t care. “I don’t regard one candidate as preferable to the other,” she said.

We had heard something similar from Ralph Nader, whose presence on the ballot in 2000 probably cost Al Gore Florida, and the presidency. On many of Nader’s issues, Gore was not great. But the point of the American system of democracy is that in the end, you often have to take the responsibility for choosing the better of two unlovely options. And if Gore had been elected, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Case closed.

Knowing what we know now, do you think the best thing the Greens could have done to battle global warming would have been running around trying to get attention for Jill Stein, or working like maniacs to support Clinton and keep Donald Trump out of the White House?

“In my view they’re both lethal to the environment,” said Stein.

In my view, the Green Party screwed up, big time. We will think of it from now on as the Chartreuse Party.

The one positive effect of the recount, besides reassuring people who worry the Russians might be capable of hacking a massive American vote tally, is the way it reminds the nation, every day, that Donald Trump is one of the least successful successful presidential candidates in American history.

He lost the popular vote to Clinton by more than two million votes. Due to our extremely strange Electoral College system, five men have gotten elected president even though more people voted for their opponent. But no one in modern history has come anywhere near Trump’s ginormous negative accomplishment.

The only presidential victor since the Civil War who did worse was Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican who lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden in 1876 and won the electoral tally only after Republicans challenged the results in four states, all of which were finally decided by a Republican-dominated electoral commission on party-line votes. Everybody accused everybody else of fraud.

It was an election dominated by economic fear and racism. However, Hayes never claimed that “millions of people” in the contested states voted illegally, like another candidate we can think of. Perhaps Hayes decided winners don’t whine. Perhaps it was because there were not yet millions of voters.

It’s important for our mental health to accept that the current recount isn’t going to change the election results, although it’s theoretically conceivable that additional legal challenges could make it impossible for anybody to win the necessary 270 votes when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19. That would throw the decision over to the Republican-controlled Congress, and an obscure procedure that happened once before, when John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson.

I’m bringing that up just so I can note that John Quincy Adams is the only person besides Rutherford B. Hayes who won the presidency with a worse negative percentage of the popular vote than Donald Trump. Big loser! Sad!

O.K., done ranting. For today.

Krugman’s blog, 11/29/16

November 30, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “How Many People Just Voted Themselves Out Of Health Care? (Updated) (Updated Again) (And Again)”:

My original update was right! Screwed up dates. So it’s back to around 5 1/2 million Trump chumps.

Gah: technical issues involving changes in survey. I now have white-alone, no bachelors declining from 27 million in 2013 to 21.5 million in 2015. So we’re back to a number like 3.5 million.

Update: It turns out that I can do a lot better than this, using the Census CPS table creator. Here’s what I have now: in 2013, 27 million whites without a bachelor’s degree were uninsured. By 2015, that was down to 18.5 million. So we’re talking about 8.5 million working-class whites who stand to lose health insurance under Trump. If two-thirds of those losers-to-be voted Trump, we’re looking at 5.6 million people who basically destroyed their own lives.

As Greg Sargent points out, the choice of Tom Price for HHS probably means the death of Obamacare. Never mind the supposed replacement; it will be a bust. So here’s the question: how many people just shot themselves in the face?

My first pass answer is, between 3.5 and 4 million. But someone who’s better at trawling through Census data can no doubt do better.

Here’s my calculation: we start with the Census-measured decline in uninsurance among non-Hispanic whites, which was 6 million between 2013 and 2015. Essentially all of those gains will be lost if Price gets his way.

How many of those white insurance-losers voted for Trump? Whites in general gave him 57 percent of their votes. Whites without a college degree — much more likely to have been uninsured pre-Obama — gave him 66 percent. Apportioning the insurance-losers using these numbers gives us 3.42 million if we use the overall vote share, or 3.96 million if we use the non-college vote share.

There are various ways this calculation could be off, in either direction. Also, maybe we should add a million Latinos who, if we believe the exit polls, also voted to lose coverage. But it’s likely to be in the ballpark. And it’s pretty awesome.

Bruni, solo

November 30, 2016

Mr. Bruni thinks he can make “The Case For Mitt Romney.”  He says Donald Trump’s smartest move would be to make one of his fiercest critics his secretary of state.  And, given today’s NYT lead headline and story, it would appear that the Mittbot 2.0 has been sufficiently reprogrammed to suck up to Mein Fubar.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

A show of hands, please: How many of you would like Donald Trump to step away — far away — from his Twitter account? I’m pretty sure I have a majority, but to be safe: How many can at least agree on no tweets before breakfast?

Yowza. I’m above 95 percent. Reince, you don’t have to nod wildly and jump up and down; the raised hand alone will do. And you get one hand, Melania, not two. Two is a real, provable case of voter fraud.

Thanks in part to the president-elect’s predilection for outbursts of fewer than 140 characters, he routinely comes across as petty and mercurial. But right now he has an opportunity for the opposite impression. He can choose Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.

That he’s actually mulling this — the two had a second meeting about it, over dinner in Manhattan, Tuesday night — is alone extraordinary. Trump knows how to carry a grudge the way Jim Brown knew how to carry a football, and Romney gave him cause for vengefulness, with a major speech during the Republican primaries that labeled him a fraud and exhorted Americans to reject him.

Had some knowledgeable intimate of Trump’s told me on Nov. 9 that an unexpected fate awaited Romney, the State Department would have been my millionth guess. The stockade would have been my first.

If Trump taps Romney, he’ll be sending a powerful message to an anxious world that he’s not hostage to the darkest parts of his character. He needs to project that as much as we need to see it.

Granted, Romney’s résumé isn’t the most logical for the job. He has spent most of his life as a businessman, and his lone public office was governor of Massachusetts.

But not all our secretaries of state were steeped in foreign affairs from an early point, like Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Many had backgrounds principally devoted to other concerns. That was true of James Baker, who held the post under the first President Bush, and of Hillary Clinton, though she traveled the world as first lady and served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Besides which, Romney isn’t competing against the entire universe of possibilities. He’s competing against Rudy Giuliani, who, over recent years, has done such a masterful impersonation of a raving lunatic that I doubt he could get seasonal retail work at the Container Store.

David Petraeus is also in play, but his supposed brilliance matters less in this case than his conviction for mishandling classified information. Picking him would brand Trump an utter hypocrite, given how vehemently he threatened to jail Clinton for related trespasses.

As for Senator Bob Corker, he’s a real Washington insider, unlike Romney, and doesn’t have the useful political celebrity that Clinton and then John Kerry brought to the position. Romney does.

Over his own two presidential campaigns, Romney became ever more fluent in international issues, and he even showed some prescience, identifying Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a grave menace before other politicians woke up to that. He was ridiculed for dwelling in the past. Turns out he was living in the future.

That wariness and his advocacy of free trade put him at odds with Trump but also make him a prudent counterbalance, if Trump can find the modesty and confidence to size up the situation that way. (That’s a big if.) So do Romney’s seriousness and unflappability. He’d temper Trump’s tantrums. Giuliani would just goad Trump on.

With Trump’s cabinet and staff picks so far, he has repaid his staunchest supporters. With Romney, he would be taking a more inclusive, conciliatory approach that befits his lack of any mandate, tries to move the country past such a divisive campaign and reassures jittery allies. It would be an open-minded, big-hearted, self-aware move that challenges Americans to see him in a more nuanced light. It would help him govern, by signaling that he’s bigger than his grievances.

Despite the howls of protest from some on the right, it would hardly be an undignified, unprecedented surrender: There was bad blood aplenty between Clinton and President Obama before he brought her aboard.

It would also reward someone who seems to have the country’s best interests at heart. Romney, interestingly, would be following the example of his father, George, who went from Richard Nixon’s adversary to his housing secretary, because a person can arguably do more on the field, under a flawed coach, than on the sidelines, griping. A person can potentially steer the game in a better direction.

So there’s a Trump tweet I do hope to see, at whatever hour he likes: “Impressive dinner with Mitt Romney. I believe he can help us MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. He’s hired!”

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

Wait until this afternoon, Frank.  The winds will shift again…  And “gemli” from Boston had something to say to Mr. Bruni too.  Here he is:

“Considering the way the Groper in Chief is furnishing his administration, Romney would be a chandelier in an outhouse. Romney’s not someone who would have been a likely candidate for Secretary of State under normal circumstances, but normal has left the building. Romney’s just another guy who was born on third base, with inherited wealth and a family name that opened doors without his having to touch a doorknob.

But in this administration he looks like the voice of reason, mostly because he has good posture and wears nice suits. He doesn’t have that leering quality of a Bannon, and he’s not a wackadoodle like Giuliani, or most of the other picks for the new Alt-White House. And he has foreign credentials, if you count the Olympics thing.

But the idea that Romney would send some kind of signal that the new administration is trying to be inclusive is simply ludicrous. Read the 2012 Republican platform, and see what Romney had planned for women, poor people and the LGBT community. Listen again to what he said on that tape, when he thought no one was listening. Have we forgotten all of this? Is the awfulness of the new “president” capable of causing amnesia, along with intestinal cramps and scrofula?

Romney isn’t going to save America from international condemnation, or make us more respected on a world stage. That stage left the station on November 8th.”

Bobo, solo

November 29, 2016

In “The Future of the American Center” Bobo has tells us that Donald Trump’s victory smashes traditions of party loyalty, presenting opportunities between the extremes.  And “gemli” from Boston will have something to say about that.  Here’s Bobo:

Over the past few decades, party loyalty has been the defining feature of national politics. Especially in the House but even in the Senate, members deferred to their party leaders. Congress as a whole deferred to the presidency. Members of the president’s own party acted as his foot soldiers. Members of the other party acted as his opposition.

But Donald Trump’s victory smashes all that. He is hostile to the Republican establishment. His proposals cut across orthodox partisan lines.

As Bill Kristol told me, the coming Congress may not look like the recent Congresses, when party-line voting was the rule. A vote on an infrastructure bill may look very different from a vote on health care or education or foreign policy. This may be a Congress with many caucuses — floating coalitions rather than just follow-the-leader obedience.

Meanwhile, as Christopher DeMuth wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, committee chairmen may reassert authority against the executive branch. Trump’s authoritarian style represents an assault on the traditional separation of powers. He may end up energizing all those constitutional forms and practices he stands against.

What’s about to happen in Washington may be a little like the end of the Cold War — bipolarity gives way to multipolarity. A system dominated by two party-line powers gives way to a system with a lot of different power centers. Instead of just R’s and D’s, there will be a Trump-dominated populist nationalism, a more libertarian Freedom Caucus, a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren progressive caucus, a Chuck Schumer/Nancy Pelosi Democratic old guard.

The most important caucus formation will be in the ideological center. There’s a lot of room between the alt-right and the alt-left, between Trumpian authoritarianism and Sanders socialism.

Until now, people in that space have been slow to create donor networks, slow to form think tanks, slow to build coalitions of moderate legislators. But suddenly there’s a flurry of activity between the extremes.

For example, Bill Kristol and Bill Galston have worked in the White Houses of different parties and had voted for the opposite presidential candidates in every election for four decades. But Donald Trump has reminded them how much they agree on the fundamentals.

The two Bills have now issued a joint statement calling for “a New Center.” It’s a defense of the basic institutions and practices of our constitutional order, which now seem under assault. It’s an attempt to learn from the election results and craft a governing philosophy that people of different parties can rally around.

That’s in the realm of ideas. In the realm of organization there’s also a flurry of activity. David Burstein’s group, Run for America, is recruiting a new generation of political candidates.

The most active centrist organization, No Labels, began six years ago in opposition to polarized, cutthroat politics. The problem with the group back then was that there was no future to a political movement whose first name is “No.” You have to be for something.

But under the leadership of its undeterrable co-founder, Nancy Jacobson, No Labels has evolved. It created a package of reform ideas to make Congress and the executive branch work together. It created an active congressional caucus, called the Problem Solvers Caucus, which now has 80 members, divided roughly evenly between both parties.

It has been building grass-roots activities, which have so far engaged one million people. It created a “super PAC” so that members of Congress who vote as centrists can get some political protection. It recently published a policy playbook with 60 proposals to create jobs, reform the tax code, balance the budget and secure entitlement programs.

Going forward, moderates face four big challenges. First, deepen a positive national vision that is not merely a positioning between left and right. Second, elevate a new generation of political leaders so the movement is not just a retread of retired establishment types.

Third, build a mass movement of actual voters, not just financiers and think-tank johnnies. Fourth, have the courage to stand together as a swing legislative caucus, when the pressure from the party leaderships becomes intense.

It’s an uphill climb, but this is a fertile moment. The Trump/Sanders era is going to create new opposition blocs, filled with people who never thought they would be working together.

Moreover, the future of this country is not going to be found in protecting jobs that are long gone or in catering to the fears of aging whites. There is a raging need for a movement that embraces economic dynamism, global engagement and social support — that is part Milton Friedman on economic policy, Ronald Reagan on foreign policy and Franklin Roosevelt on welfare policy.

The new center will probably start as a legislative caucus with members of both parties. Where it goes from there is anybody’s guess.

He just can’t admit that his party foisted a megalomaniacal, narcissistic grifter on the nation.  Here’s “gemli” with a few words for Bobo:

“You’d think pundits would have realized by now that it’s impossible to predict anything in this New World Disorder. But David Brooks predicts that in the midst of unparalleled political chaos the lions will lay down with the lambs. The glare of near-nuclear presidential upheaval will really be the sun rising on a new day of across-the-aisle cooperation. New voices will emerge from the hellish Babel of contradictory policy statements.

It’s more likely that the policies coming from the Alt-White House will be just as confusing as they are now, with the “president” saying one thing about Romney for Secretary of State while his spokes-mantis Kellyanne Conway says the opposite.

There won’t be caucuses in Congress as much as carcasses, as the old dependable assaults on our freedom die, only to be replaced by new ones that will be a mystery to the conservative cliques of old.

At least we knew where we stood in the good old days of 10 minutes ago, when Congress was jam-packed with political cronies, gerrymandered hacks and economic frauds like Paul Ryan running the show. They were all about taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. They won’t begin to fathom what new deals the megalomaniacal Narcissist in Chief may have made, possibly with foreign powers.

We thought it was an embarrassing end-around ploy when Congress invited Netanyahu to speak before them. Imagine their surprise when Putin shows up to give them a lecture on how power really works.”

Krugman, solo

November 28, 2016

In “Why Corruption Matters” Prof. Krugman says it’s not the money, it’s the incentives.  Here he is:

Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest? Well, now the man who benefited from all that innuendo is on his way to the White House. And he’s already giving us an object lesson in what real conflicts of interest look like, as authoritarian governments around the world shower favors on his business empire.

Of course, Donald Trump could be rejecting these favors and separating himself and his family from his hotels and so on. But he isn’t. In fact, he’s openly using his position to drum up business. And his early appointments suggest that he won’t be the only player using political power to build personal wealth. Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.

The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.

True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.

Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.

But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.

Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.

At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.

And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stocks soared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!

Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

But what’s truly scary is the potential impact of corruption on foreign policy. Again, foreign governments are already trying to buy influence by adding to Mr. Trump’s personal wealth, and he is welcoming their efforts.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is illegal, in fact unconstitutional, a clear violation of the emoluments clause. But who’s going to enforce the Constitution? Republicans in Congress? Don’t be silly.

Destruction of democratic norms aside, however, think about the tilt this de facto bribery will give to U.S. policy. What kind of regime can buy influence by enriching the president and his friends? The answer is, only a government that doesn’t adhere to the rule of law.

Think about it: Could Britain or Canada curry favor with the incoming administration by waiving regulations to promote Trump golf courses or directing business to Trump hotels? No — those nations have free presses, independent courts, and rules designed to prevent exactly that kind of improper behavior. On the other hand, someplace like Vladimir Putin’s Russia can easily funnel vast sums to the man at the top in return for, say, the withdrawal of security guarantees for the Baltic States.

One would like to hope that national security officials are explaining to Mr. Trump just how destructive it would be to let business considerations drive foreign policy. But reports say that Mr. Trump has barely met with those officials, refusing to get the briefings that are normal for a president-elect.

So how bad will the effects of Trump-era corruption be? The best guess is, worse than you can possibly imagine.

Brooks and Krugman

November 25, 2016

Today is full of questions.  In “Does Decision Making Matter?” Bobo has a question:  Why are you interested in the things that interest you?  Prof. Krugman also has a question in “The Populism Perplex:”  What does the white working class want?  Here’s Bobo:

Danny Kahneman grew up Jewish in occupied France during World War II. Once in Paris, after curfew, he was nearly captured by an SS officer. His family traveled from town to town through rural France, hiding and hoping people wouldn’t recognize them as Jews. As Michael Lewis writes in his forthcoming book, “The Undoing Project,” Kahneman survived the Holocaust by keeping himself apart.

The family moved to Jerusalem. The army assigned him to a psychological evaluation unit and Kahneman became a psychologist.

Amos Twersky was born in Israel, to a mother who ignored him for long periods so she could serve the nation. He became a paratrooper in the war of 1956, and received one of the nation’s highest awards for bravery after he rescued a man who’d fainted on a torpedo just before it exploded.

Twersky was idiosyncratic. “Amos thought people paid an enormous price to avoid mild embarrassment, and he himself decided early on it was not worth it,” a friend told Lewis.

If he felt like going for a run, he stripped off his pants and went in his underpants. If a social situation bored him, he left. Twersky wasn’t sure how he drifted into psychology. “It’s hard to know how people select a course in life,” he once said. “The big choices we make are practically random.”

Kahneman and Twersky began to work together. They would lock themselves together and talk and laugh, year after year. If they were at a party, they would go off and talk to each other. “When they sat down to write, they nearly merged, physically, into a single form,” Lewis writes, hunched over a single typewriter.

“Their relationship was more intense than a marriage,” Twersky’s wife recalled. When they wrote a paper together they lost all track of who had contributed what. They scrambled for research topics that gave them an excuse to be together, and completed each other’s sentences.

“The way the creative process works is that you first say something and later, sometimes years later, you understand what you said,” Kahneman recalled. “And in our case it was foreshortened. I would say something and Amos understood it. It still gives me goose bumps.”

It was a mystical alchemy that revolutionized how we think about ourselves. Kahneman and Twersky are like a lot of the characters who appear in Michael Lewis’s books, like “Moneyball” and “The Big Short.” They are intellectual renegades who are fervently, almost obsessively, determined to see reality clearly, no matter how ferocious the resistance from everybody else.

While most economics models assumed people were basically rational, Kahneman and Twersky demonstrated that human decision-making is biased in systematic, predictable ways. Many of the biases they described have now become famous — loss aversion, endowment effect, hindsight bias, the anchoring effect, and were described in Kahneman’s brilliant book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” They are true giants who have revolutionized how we think about decision-making. Lewis makes academic life seem gripping, which believe it or not, is not easy to do.

My big question is: How is the world they describe reflected in their own lives? Kahneman and Twersky write about the kind of decisions that you might call casino decisions — in which people confront various probabilities and try to calculate which course will be best.

But over the course of their lives Kahneman and Twersky don’t seem to have actually made many big decisions. The major trajectories of their lives were determined by historical events, random coincidences, their own psychological needs and irresistible impulsions. In the course of the book there’s only one big formal decision point — when Twersky decides to move to the U.S.

Their lives weren’t so much shaped by decisions as by rapture. They were held rapt by each other’s minds. They were fervently engaged by the puzzles before them. They succeeded not because they were master decision-makers but because of their capacity for zealous engagement. They followed their interests step by step.

And this is my problem with the cognitive sciences and the advice world generally. It’s built on the premise that we are chess masters who make decisions, for good or ill. But when it comes to the really major things we mostly follow our noses. What seems interesting, beautiful, curious and addicting?

Have you ever known anybody to turn away from anything they found compulsively engaging?

We don’t decide about life; we’re captured by life. In the major spheres, decision-making, when it happens at all, is downstream from curiosity and engagement. If we really want to understand and shape behavior, maybe we should look less at decision-making and more at curiosity. Why are you interested in the things you are interested in? Why are some people zealously seized, manically attentive and compulsively engaged?

Now that we know a bit more about decision-making, maybe the next frontier is desire. Maybe the next Kahneman and Twersky will help us understand what explains, fires and orders our loves.

Ahhh…  It would appear that Bobo is still in the throes of his midlife crisis.  It hasn’t been pretty…  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than two million, and she would probably be president-elect if the director of the F.B.I. hadn’t laid such a heavy thumb on the scales, just days before the election. But it shouldn’t even have been close; what put Donald Trump in striking distance was overwhelming support from whites without college degrees. So what can Democrats do to win back at least some of those voters?

Recently Bernie Sanders offered an answer: Democrats should “go beyond identity politics.” What’s needed, he said, are candidates who understand that working-class incomes are down, who will “stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

But is there any reason to believe that this would work? Let me offer some reasons for doubt.

First, a general point: Any claim that changed policy positions will win elections assumes that the public will hear about those positions. How is that supposed to happen, when most of the news media simply refuse to cover policy substance? Remember, over the course of the 2016 campaign, the three network news shows devoted a total of 35 minutes combined to policy issues — all policy issues. Meanwhile, they devoted 125 minutes to Mrs. Clinton’s emails.

Beyond this, the fact is that Democrats have already been pursuing policies that are much better for the white working class than anything the other party has to offer. Yet this has brought no political reward.

Consider eastern Kentucky, a very white area which has benefited enormously from Obama-era initiatives. Take, in particular, the case of Clay County, which the Times declared a few years ago to be the hardest place in America to live. It’s still very hard, but at least most of its residents now have health insurance: Independent estimates say that the uninsured rate fell from 27 percent in 2013 to 10 percent in 2016. That’s the effect of the Affordable Care Act, which Mrs. Clinton promised to preserve and extend but Mr. Trump promised to kill.

Mr. Trump received 87 percent of Clay County’s vote.

Now, you might say that health insurance is one thing, but what people want are good jobs. Eastern Kentucky used to be coal country, and Mr. Trump, unlike Mrs. Clinton, promised to bring the coal jobs back. (So much for the idea that Democrats need a candidate who will stand up to the fossil fuels industry.) But it’s a nonsensical promise.

Where did Appalachia’s coal mining jobs go? They weren’t lost to unfair competition from China or Mexico. What happened instead was, first, a decades-long erosion as U.S. coal production shifted from underground mining to strip mining and mountaintop removal, which require many fewer workers: Coal employment peaked in 1979, fell rapidly during the Reagan years, and was down more than half by 2007. A further plunge came in recent years thanks to fracking. None of this is reversible.

Is the case of former coal country exceptional? Not really. Unlike the decline in coal, some of the long-term decline in manufacturing employment can be attributed to rising trade deficits, but even there it’s a fairly small fraction of the story. Nobody can credibly promise to bring the old jobs back; what you can promise — and Mrs. Clinton did — are things like guaranteed health care and higher minimum wages. But working-class whites overwhelmingly voted for politicians who promise to destroy those gains.

So what happened here? Part of the answer may be that Mr. Trump had no problems with telling lies about what he could accomplish. If so, there may be a backlash when the coal and manufacturing jobs don’t come back, while health insurance disappears.

But maybe not. Maybe a Trump administration can keep its supporters on board, not by improving their lives, but by feeding their sense of resentment.

For let’s be serious here: You can’t explain the votes of places like Clay County as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.

To be honest, I don’t fully understand this resentment. In particular, I don’t know why imagined liberal disdain inspires so much more anger than the very real disdain of conservatives who see the poverty of places like eastern Kentucky as a sign of the personal and moral inadequacy of their residents.

One thing is clear, however: Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, not pretend that a bit more populism would solve the problem.

Blow and Collins

November 24, 2016

In “No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along” Mr. Blow says he doesn’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid.  Ms. Collins, in “Carving Donald Trump,” says pass the stuffing and wave the olive branch.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump schlepped across town on Tuesday to meet with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.

As The Times reported, Trump actually seemed to soften some of his positions:

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

He said that he would have an “open mind” on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.

As I read the transcript and then listened to the audio, the slime factor was overwhelming.

After a campaign of bashing The Times relentlessly, in the face of the actual journalists, he tempered his whining with flattery.

At one point he said:

“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”

He ended the meeting by saying:

“I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”

I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.

I also believe that much of your campaign was an act of psychological projection, as we are now learning that many of the things you slammed Clinton for are things of which you may actually be guilty.

You slammed Clinton for destroying emails, then Newsweek reported last month that your companies “destroyed emails in defiance of court orders.” You slammed Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for paid speeches and conflicts of interest, then it turned out that, as BuzzFeed reported, the Trump Foundation received a $150,000 donation in exchange for your giving a 2015 speech made by video to a conference in Ukraine. You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushroomsin a marsh.

You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver.

I am not easily duped by dopes.

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth.

It’s not that I don’t believe that people can change and grow. They can. But real growth comes from the accepting of responsibility and repenting of culpability. Expedient reversal isn’t growth; it’s gross.

So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.

I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary.

No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

I know this in my bones, and for that I am thankful.

Amen, and thank you Mr. Blow.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

On Thanksgiving, Americans sat down to dinner, looked at the big turkey and thought about Donald Trump.

O.K., that was totally the wrong attitude. We’re supposed to be having a reset. The president-elect has been going out of his way to build bridges. He came to The Times this week for a long conversation, during which he was extremely amiable. He blasted the alt-right twits who celebrated his victory with Nazi salutes. (“Of course I condemn. I disavow and condemn.”) He had nothing but praise for Barack Obama (“I really liked him a lot.”) He has no desire to see Hillary Clinton prosecuted. (“She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways.”)

Policywise, he was still the guy who’s not all that into position papers. In discussing climate change alone, Trump use the phrase “open mind” seven times. This is one thing you can count on. We haven’t had a mind so open in the White House since Warren Harding.

Trump certainly hasn’t been giving many hints about what he’s actually going to do. But the real, and very important, message from his outreach was to remind the nation that he’s not crazy.

Trump not crazy! The word spread throughout the land. The stock market soared. While it’s true that the country has generally expected a little more from an incoming president, this election year has always been the story of a very low bar.

Look at his appointments. In another year, people might question whether Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina would be the right choice for United Nations ambassador, since she has virtually no experience whatsoever in foreign affairs. However, given the fact that last week Haley appeared to be a finalist for secretary of state, the U.N. seems like an eminently sensible assignment. Plus, once again we are relieved it’s not Rudy Giuliani.

Ironically, Trump, who ran as the big-change guy, is spending his first days as president-elect trying to assure people the changes won’t be too large. The Mexican wall is going to be a mixture of wall and fences — think of it as the Great Wence. The war on illegal immigrants is going to be all about deporting criminals, which is exactly what the Obama administration has been doing for years.

The most astonishing moment in Trump’s visit to The Times came when the president-elect announced that waterboarding suspected terrorists was “not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think.” Those people would include all the folks who went to Trump rallies and cheered when the candidate said things like: “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would. … It works.”

“If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it,” said the man who spent much of the last year trying to make it important. But, he said, he’d talked to Gen. James Mattis — the odds-on bet for secretary of defense — and found that Mattis thought waterboarding was pretty useless and much less effective than trying to win over a prisoner with cigarettes and beer.

Now, you can look at this two ways. One is that we have a president-elect who never bothered to talk with any experts about one of his major campaign themes. The other is that he’s growing into the job.

Let’s take the second. Sure, we’ll probably be disappointed by Valentine’s Day, but it could get us through the holidays.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to set an example — to come up with an olive branch that doesn’t go overboard. Some little thing to smooth the edges before we start fighting about the Supreme Court and health care.

Over the past couple of years I have noted on several occasions that Donald Trump once sent me a letter saying I had the face of a dog. This was when he took exception to my description of him as a “thousandaire.”

I’ve decided I will refrain from mentioning the incident again until he does something really, really terrible as president. In the name of accuracy, however, I have to correct the record. I dug out Trump’s missive the other day and discovered he did not actually say I looked like a dog. He said I was “a dog and a liar” with the face of a pig.

Hard to believe I got that wrong. The moral is that you should always consult the primary source.

So off we go. Fiscal conservatives are terrified that Trump will spend a ton of money on construction projects and refuse to cut entitlements. Murmurs of the dread term “Rockefeller Republican” are probably wafting at Paul Ryan’s holiday table. Perhaps liberals can take comfort in the fact that the other side is just as freaked out as they are.

Next year at this time, we’ll be watching President Trump pardon the Thanksgiving turkeys. Unless he reverts and winds up ordering the turkeys tortured.

I wonder if he can get his hands on that machine that was behind Sarah Palin a few years ago…

Friedman and Bruni

November 23, 2016

Oh, FFS…  The Moustache of Wisdom is the latest to fall for Mein Fubar’s “I’m not so bad” act.  In “At Lunch, Donald Trump Gives Critics Hope” he tells us that the campaign is over, but the struggle for Trump’s soul has just begun.  Tommy, the use of the word “soul” assumes facts not in evidence.  Mr. Bruni may have a slightly clearer vision of what’s going on.  In “Donald Trump’s Demand for Love” he says his meeting with The Times was a marvel of boasting and bending.  Here’s TMOW:

Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb CO2 emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

When asked where he stood on that climate change issue — which in the past he dismissed as a hoax — and last December’s U.S.-led Paris emissions-reduction accord, the president-elect did not hesitate for a second: “I’m looking at it very closely. … I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. … You can make lots of cases for different views. … I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal-clean water is vitally important.”

Do you think climate change is caused by human activity?

“I think there is some connectivity,” Trump answered. It is not clear “how much,” and what he will do about it “depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.” Trump said he would study the issue “very hard” and hinted that if, after study, he was to moderate his views, his voice would be influential with climate skeptics.

On the question of whether the U.S. military should use waterboarding and other forms of torture to break suspected terrorists — a position he advocated frequently during the campaign to great applause — Trump bluntly stated that he had changed his mind after talking with James N. Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general, who headed the United States Central Command.

Trump said Mattis told him of torture: “I’ve never found it to be useful.” (Many in the military and the C.I.A. have long held this view.)

He quoted Mattis as saying, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I always do better” than anyone using torture. Concluded Trump, “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Speaking of the Middle East, Trump said unprompted: “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” adding, “I have reason to believe I can do that.” And he hinted that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could be his special envoy and “he’d be very good at it. … He knows the region.” (Wow, watching Trump try to forge a deal between Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians would be pay-per-view!)

The one area where I think Trump is going to have the hardest time delivering on his campaign promises is to create “millions” of good-paying jobs by incentivizing and pressuring American companies to manufacture more in the U.S. He still talks about America as a manufacturing wasteland when, in fact, manufacturing remains the largest sector of the U.S. economy but employs far fewer workers.

As the management consultant Warren Bennis famously observed: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Bottom line: The campaign is over, but the struggle for Donald Trump’s soul has just begun. Trump clearly learns by talking to people, not reading. Because so few thought he would win, many of those who gathered around him and had his ear were extreme characters.

But now that he has been elected president he is exposing himself to, and hearing from, a much wider net of people. He mentioned that he had had telephone conversations with Bill Gates and with Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook. And he stressed repeatedly that he wants to succeed: “I am doing this to do a good job.”

To do that he needs to moderate many views and learn from a much wider network of people. For those of us who opposed Trump’s election, it is not time to let down our guard and stop drawing redlines where necessary. But for moderate Republicans and Democratic business leaders, like a Bill Gates, who can gain his ear and respect, and who have made big investments in clean energy, Trump may be — may be — persuadable on some key issues. They need to dive in now and try to pull him toward the center.

For a meeting between the newsmaker and this news organization that has covered him without fear or favor, the lunch was fairly relaxed, but not without some jousting. Asked if he read The New York Times, Trump said: “I do read it. Unfortunately. I would live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”

Well, that was just pitiful.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I had just shaken the president-elect’s normal-size hand and he was moving on to the next person when he wheeled around, took a half step back, touched my arm and looked me in the eye anew.

“I’m going to get you to write some good stuff about me,” Donald Trump said.

It’s entirely possible. I keep an open mind. But I’m decided on this much: Winning the most powerful office in the world did nothing to diminish his epic ache for adoration or outsize need to tell everyone how much he deserves it.

He sat down for more than an hour with about two dozen of us at The Times on Tuesday afternoon, and what subject do you suppose he spent his first eight minutes on? When the floor was his, to use as he pleased?

The incredibleness of his win two weeks ago.

“A great victory,” he said as he went back, unbidden, through all the Trump-affirming highlights: the size of his crowds; the screens and loudspeakers for the overflow; the enthusiasm gap between his rallies and poor Hillary Clinton’s. It’s a song I’ve heard so often I could sing it in my sleep.

He volunteered that until he came along, Republican presidential candidates had been foiled in both Michigan and Pennsylvania for “38 years or something.” The “something” apparently covered the actual figure, 28.

He said that he got close to 15 percent of African-Americans’ votes, though exit polls suggest it was just 8 percent, and he asserted that their modest turnout was in fact a huge compliment to him, demonstrating that “they liked what I was saying” and thus didn’t bother to show up for Clinton.

He mentioned the popular vote before any of us could — to let us know that he would have won it if it had mattered and his strategy had been devised accordingly.

“The popular vote would have been a lot easier,” he said, making clear that his Electoral College triumph was the truly remarkable one.

For Trump, bragging is like breathing: continuous, spontaneous. He wants nothing more than for his audience to be impressed.

And when his audience is a group of people, like us, who haven’t clapped the way he’d like?

He sands down his edges. Modulates his voice. Bends.

That was perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting, the one that makes his presidency such a question mark. Will he tilt in whatever direction, and toward whichever constituency, is the surest source of applause? Is our best hope for the best Trump to be so fantastically adulatory when he’s reasonable that he’s motivated to stay on that course, lest the adulation wane?

The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall.

He more or less told us to disregard all the huffing and puffing he’d done about curtailing press freedoms, and he looked forward to another meeting — a year from now — when we’d all reunite in a spirit of newfound amity to celebrate his administration’s uncontroversial accomplishments. I could see the big group hug. I could hear “Kumbaya.”

And though one of his splenetic tweets just seven hours before our meeting had again branded The Times a “failing” news organization, he said to our faces that we weren’t just a “great, great American jewel” but a “world jewel.”

There was a lesson here about his desire to be approved of and his hunger to be loved. There was another about the shockingly unformed, pliable nature of the clay that is our 70-year-old president-elect.

His reservations about waterboarding, he said, arose from a conversation he’d just had with James Mattis, a retired Marine general under consideration for secretary of defense. During that talk Mattis had bluntly questioned waterboarding’s effectiveness — and so, now, did Trump.

It was as if he’d never really thought through the issue during that endless campaign, and it suggested that the most influential voice in Trumplandia is the last one he happened to listen to. That’s worrying, because some of the voices he has thus far put closest to him — those of Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions — aren’t the most constructive, restrained, unifying ones.

And to my eyes and ears, Trump still has grandiose intentions in lieu of concrete plans. Toward the end of our meeting, he went so far as to prophesy that he might be able to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t and broker a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

That’d definitely do the trick. We’d all be writing nothing but very, very good stuff about him then.