Collins, solo

October 20, 2016

In “The Debate in One Scary Answer” Ms. Collins says Donald Trump wouldn’t say if he’d accept the results of the election. He also cried foul when he didn’t win an Emmy for “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Here she is:

O.K., Donald Trump won’t promise to accept the results of the election. That’s truly … good grief.

“I will tell you at the time. … I’ll keep you in suspense,” he told Wednesday’s debate moderator, Chris Wallace. The word “rigged” came up. Yow.

Hillary Clinton noted that Trump tends to presume that whenever he loses anything, the system was rigged: “There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”

“I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.

This is obviously what we should have known was coming when the host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” wound up as a presidential nominee. But jeepers, people, this is serious. Trump was refusing to acknowledge it was even possible for him to lose a fair fight. At one point, he announced the election was rigged because Hillary Clinton was in it. (“She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails.”)

The rigged-election moment overshadowed everything else in the debate, during which Trump made very strange faces while Clinton was talking, but did manage to avoid going completely off the rails. Does that make him a success? We are once again faced with the problem of the very, very low bar. Still, no.

He did manage, particularly in the early part of the debate, to ignore Clinton’s effort to get his goat. When she claimed he “choked” at his meeting with the president of Mexico, he kept pretty calm. Although Trump did observe, weirdly, that when it came to immigration, under President Obama “millions of people have been moved out of this country. … She doesn’t want to say that, but that’s what’s happened … big league.” Is moving people out not the whole Trump plan?

They also had a whopping argument about — guess who? Vladimir Putin! “Putin from everything I see has no respect for this person,” Trump said, referring to Clinton. The fight went on for a while, until she cannily managed to divert the discussion to the possibility of placing Trump’s “finger on the nuclear button.”

O.K., two critical takeaways. Trump won’t promise to concede if he loses, and if he wins, he gets control of the nukes. These are the only things you need to think about for the next two and a half weeks.

We have been down this debate road before, and we knew before the evening started that when Trump was asked about groping women, he’d deny everything, blame it on Hillary Clinton and then bring up the emails. And that when the emails came up, Clinton would mention the way Trump insulted John McCain’s war record, the Mexican-American judge and the parents of the dead war hero.

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said at one point. As the debate went on, he got more sullen, his expressions stranger. One of the things we have now learned for sure, three debates running, is that he has a serious stamina problem. Hillary Clinton has many faults. She tends to give long, rather boring answers. She has never learned how to deal with the email question. But the woman is an absolute rock in these long-running, high-stress critical encounters.

Also, she made it very clear that she would accept the results of the election, even if she lost. God help us all.

Clinton was not particularly good in defending the Clinton Foundation. However, it did seem fair for her to point out that Trump used some of his own foundation’s money to purchase a six-foot portrait of himself. (“Who does that?”)

But what difference did it all make? The man wouldn’t promise to concede if he loses. Later on CNN, his campaign manager said Trump would indeed accept the results “because he’s going to win the election.” This was not particularly reassuring.

If you were totally ignoring the entire event, you might want to know that nobody shook hands, that it took Clinton an hour to mention that Trump had never released his tax returns, and that whenever she pointed out that he had purchased the very same Chinese steel and aluminum he complained was ruining the economy, he said that it was her fault for not changing the laws.

She did bring up the Miss-Universe-is-fat moment, and Trump said “give me a break.”

He promised to run the country “the way I run my company,” and a great part of the listening public contemplated the fact that this is a guy who’s declared bankruptcy six times. But we’ve already forgotten all about it.

Only one thing matters. The man says he won’t promise to accept the results of the election. All those establishment Republicans who’ve been hoping to get through this ordeal by just being quiet and looking sad have got some work to do. Fast.

Friedman and Bruni

October 19, 2016

In “WikiHillary for President” The Moustache of Wisdom says hackers exposed Clinton as a smart politician with a vision and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.  Mr. Bruni, in “Trump in a Bikini,” says he relentlessly scrutinizes others. Let’s conduct various examinations of him.  Here’s TMOW:

Thank God for WikiLeaks.

I confess, I was starting to wonder about what the real Hillary Clinton — the one you never get to see behind closed doors — really stood for. But now that, thanks to WikiLeaks, I’ve had a chance to peruse her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, I am more convinced than ever she can be the president America needs today.

Seriously, those speeches are great! They show someone with a vision, a pragmatic approach to getting things done and a healthy instinct for balancing the need to strengthen our social safety nets with unleashing America’s business class to create the growth required to sustain social programs.

So thank you, Vladimir Putin, for revealing how Hillary really hopes to govern. I just wish more of that Hillary were campaigning right now and building a mandate for what she really believes.

WikiHillary? I’m with her.

Why? Let’s start with what WikiLeaks says she said at Brazil’s Banco Itaú event in May 2013: “I think we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade … and we have to resist protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade.”

She also said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

That’s music to my ears. A hemisphere where nations are trading with one another, and where more people can collaborate and interact for work, study, tourism and commerce, is a region that is likely to be growing more prosperous with fewer conflicts, especially if more of that growth is based on clean energy.

Compare our hemisphere, or the European Union, or the Asian trading nations with, say, the Middle East — where the flow of trade, tourism, knowledge and labor among nations has long been restricted — and the case for Hillary’s vision becomes obvious.

The way Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made trade and globalization dirty words is ridiculous. Globalization and trade have helped to bring more people out of poverty in the last 50 years than at any other time in history.

Do we need to make adjustments so the minority of the U.S. population that is hurt by freer trade and movements of labor is compensated and better protected? You bet we do. That’s called fixing a problem — not throwing out a whole system that we know from a long historical record contributes on balance to economic growth, competitiveness and more open societies.

In a speech to a Morgan Stanley group on April 18, 2013, WikiHillary praised the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which included reforming the tax code to increase investment and entrepreneurship and raising certain taxes and trimming some spending and entitlements to make them more sustainable.

The ultimate shape of that grand bargain could take many forms, she said, but Hillary stressed behind closed doors: “Simpson-Bowles … put forth the right framework. Namely, we have to restrain spending, we have to have adequate revenues and we have to incentivize growth. It’s a three-part formula.”

She is right. We’ll never get out of this economic rut, and protect future generations, unless the business and social sectors, Democrats and Republicans, all give and get something — and that’s exactly where WikiHillary was coming from.

In an October 2013 speech for Goldman Sachs, Clinton seemed to suggest the need to review the regulations imposed on banks by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010. Her idea was not to get rid of all of the rules but rather to make sure they were not imposing needless burdens that limited lending to small businesses and start-ups.

As Clinton put it, “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here.” Again, exactly right.

You can also find WikiHillary, or her aides, musing about a “carbon tax” and whether or not to come out in favor of it, as Sanders did. She chose not to now, probably to avoid being saddled by Republicans with calling for a new tax in the general election campaign, but I am confident she’d make pricing carbon part of her climate policy.

When I read WikiHillary, I hear a smart, pragmatic, center-left politician who will be inclined to work with both the business community and Republicans to keep America tilted toward trade expansion, entrepreneurship and global integration, while redoubling efforts to cushion workers from the downsides of these policies.

I’m just sorry that campaign Hillary felt she could not speak like WikiHillary to build a proper mandate for President Hillary. She would have gained respect for daring to speak the truth to her own constituency — and demonstrating leadership — not lost votes.

Nonetheless, thanks to WikiLeaks, I am reassured that she has the right balance of instincts on the issues I care about most. So, again, thank you, Putin, for exposing that Hillary. She could make a pretty good president for these times.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Is it too late for Hillary Clinton to surrender to Donald Trump’s demand that she take a drug test before this last presidential debate?

I think she should — if he agrees to a few tests of his own. He can choose any three of the following:

CITIZENSHIP TEST This is what the immigrants he feels so warm and fuzzy about must master to become full-fledged Americans and, for example, vote in presidential elections against the likes of Trump.

But would he himself pass one?

He’d surely be able to say who the current speaker of the House of Representatives is, given that he spends much of his time sticking pins in his personal Paul Ryan voodoo doll.

But the exact count of voting representatives in the House? That’s also on the test.

We could give him hints: your number of wives plus 432. The amount of federal income taxes you paid in 1995 plus 435.

The test has questions about the dynamics of the federal government and the contents of the Constitution. Neither is Trump’s strong suit.

He demonstrated staggering ignorance of what the judiciary branch does with an emphatic reference to a “bill” that several federal judges had “signed.” He seems to believe that the president can jail a political foe, hire and fire generals at will, and command the military to break the law.

He’s clueless about free speech. He threatened to sue Ted Cruz for showing a video of his actual, undisputed pro-abortion comments from the past. After the conservative journalist Rich Lowry assessed his candidacy unkindly, Trump suggested that the Federal Communications Commission fine him.

The history portion of the exam could be trickiest of all. To the question of who Susan B. Anthony is, the answer is not: “A total liar. Never happened. Look at her. She would not be my first choice.”

HEARING TEST The conventional wisdom is that Trump refuses to listen to his advisers. Maybe he just can’t make out what they’re saying. Perhaps it’s an excess of hair spray in the ear canals.

CREDIT CHECK His businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times. He has a thoroughly documented habit of stiffing vendors. He and his companies have been defendants in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Does he qualify for so much as a Discover card with a $50 limit?

RORSCHACH Imagine the fun. Trump is shown an inkblot that looks to most people like a melting pumpkin.

“You’re using my picture without my consent. My lawyers will be in touch about a licensing fee.”

Trump is shown an inkblot that resembles a misshapen crab.

“It’s an illegal immigrant disguised as a crustacean.”

DRIVING TEST What are the chances that he cedes the right of way to anyone, ever?

MINNESOTA MULTIPHASIC PERSONALITY INVENTORY This psychological profile makes assessments about such traits as paranoia (check!), hypomania (check!) and more.

Interpreted by the right psychiatrist, it might help tell us what ails Trump in addition to arrested development (he and Billy Bush were essentially “teenage boys,” Melania just told Anderson Cooper, in her husband’s defense) and a plague of malfunctioning microphones.

Is his case a classic one of narcissistic personality disorder? Does he fit the criteria for borderline personality disorder, which can include outbursts, obsessions and a primitive ego structure?

Or is it something more esoteric? I’m no Freud and I’m no longer Jung, but I detect a mix of auditory hallucinations (he experiences wild applause even when there isn’t any), erotomania (the delusional certainty that other people lust for you) and rosiephobia (a pathological fear of mouthy female talk-show hosts).

VISION TEST Are cataracts the explanation for looking in the mirror and seeing a desirable hairstyle?

SAT Highfalutin vocabulary doesn’t factor quite as prominently into this test as it once did, but a command of language remains bigly essential. Mar-a-Lago, we have a problem.

PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST If only this were as comprehensive as its name suggests. It’s what grade-school students were once required to do: situps, pull-ups and such in front of censorious, fat-shaming peers.

Donning swimwear instead of his mercifully roomy suits, Trump can perform this for an audience of all the beauty-pageant contestants he has ever barged in on. They’ll get to see, in the man who actually regaled his supporters with a derisive appraisal of Clinton’s backside, what all those cheeseburgers have wrought.

EKG There has been no evidence to date that he has a heart. Confirmation would be nice.

LIE-DETECTOR TEST Preferably during the debate. I imagine smoke billowing from the overtaxed wires before the whole contraption bursts into flames.

Krugman’s blog, 10/17/16

October 18, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Distrust of Data:”

Like Claudia Sahm, I was struck by polling results indicating that around half of Trump supporters completely distrust official data — although maybe a bit less surprised, since I’ve been living in that world for years. In particular, the failure of high inflation to materialize led quite a few people on the right side of the political spectrum — including the likes of Niall Ferguson — to insist that the numbers were being cooked, so this is neither a new phenomenon nor one restricted to Trump types.

As it happened, there was a very easy answer to the inflation truthers: quite aside from the absurdity of claiming a conspiracy at the BLS, we had independent estimates such as the Billion Prices Index that closely matched official data. And there’s similar independent evidence for a lot of the things where people now claim that official numbers are skewed. For example, the Gallup Healthways index provides independent confirmation of the huge gains in insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

But aside from validity, what explains this distrust of statistics? Is it because peoples’ own experience clashes with what they’re being told? I don’t think so. In fact, when people are asked about personal outcomes, not about “the economy,” the story they tell is a lot like the official numbers. From that poll about Trumpian distrust of the data:

So people are feeling better, in line with what the data say, but claim that the economy is getting worse. Hard to believe that this isn’t political, a case of going with the party line in the teeth of personal experience.

Solo Bobo

October 18, 2016

I could have sworn something important might be happening in this country in 21 days, but Bobo can’t be bothered to take notice.  Today he’s all about “The Power of a Dinner Table” and tells  us that each Thursday, a couple opens their home and offers teenagers a warmth missing from their lives.  Here he is:

Kathy Fletcher and David Simpson have a son named Santi, who went to Washington, D.C., public schools. Santi had a friend who sometimes went to school hungry. So Santi invited him to occasionally eat and sleep at his house.

That friend had a friend and that friend had a friend, and now when you go to dinner at Kathy and David’s house on Thursday night there might be 15 to 20 teenagers crammed around the table, and later there will be groups of them crashing in the basement or in the few small bedrooms upstairs.

The kids who show up at Kathy and David’s have endured the ordeals of modern poverty: homelessness, hunger, abuse, sexual assault. Almost all have seen death firsthand — to a sibling, friend or parent.

It’s anomalous for them to have a bed at home. One 21-year-old woman came to dinner last week and said this was the first time she’d been around a family table since she was 11.

And yet by some miracle, hostile soil has produced charismatic flowers. Thursday dinner is the big social occasion of the week. Kids come from around the city. Spicy chicken and black rice are served. Cellphones are banned (“Be in the now,” Kathy says).

The kids call Kathy and David “Momma” and “Dad,” are unfailingly polite, clear the dishes, turn toward one another’s love like plants toward the sun and burst with big glowing personalities. Birthdays and graduations are celebrated. Songs are performed.

I started going to dinner there about two years ago, hungry for something beyond food. Each meal we go around the table, and everybody has to say something nobody else knows about them.

Each meal we demonstrate our commitment to care for one another. I took my daughter once and on the way out she said, “That’s the warmest place I can ever imagine.”

During this election season of viciousness, vulgarity and depravity, Thursdays at Kathy and David’s has been a weekly uplift, and their home a place to be reminded of what is beautiful about our country and what we can do to bring out its loveliness.

The kids need what all adolescents need: bikes, laptops and a listening heart. “Thank you for seeing the light in me,” one young woman told Kathy after a cry on the couch. David and Kathy have set up a charitable organization called AOK, for All Our Kids, to help each of the kids come into his or her own fullness. Four started college this year, and one joined City Year, the national service organization.

Poverty up close is so much more intricate and unpredictable than the picture of poverty you get from the grand national debates. The kids can project total self-confidence one minute and then slide into utter lostness the next.

The college application process often seems like a shapeless fog to them; nobody’s taught them the concrete steps to move along the way. One young woman lied on her financial aid forms because she didn’t want to admit that her father was dead, her mother was on drugs — how messed up her home life actually was.

There’s no margin for error for these kids, and she would have lost her college dreams if not for a squad of adults ready to mobilize around her.

The adults in this community give the kids the chance to present their gifts. At my first dinner, Edd read a poem from his cracked flip phone that I first thought was from Langston Hughes, but it turned out to be his own. Kesari has a voice that somehow emerged from New Orleans jazz from the 1920s. Madeline and Thalya practice friendship as if it were the highest art form. Jamel loses self-consciousness when he talks of engine repair.

They give us a gift — complete intolerance of social distance. When I first met Edd, I held out my hand to shake his. He looked at it and said, “We hug here,” and we’ve been hugging and hanging off each other since.

Bill Milliken, a veteran youth activist, is often asked which programs turn around kids’ lives. “I still haven’t seen one program change one kid’s life,” he says. “What changes people is relationships. Somebody willing to walk through the shadow of the valley of adolescence with them.”

Souls are not saved in bundles. Love is the necessary force.

The problems facing this country are deeper than the labor participation rate and ISIS. It’s a crisis of solidarity, a crisis of segmentation, spiritual degradation and intimacy.

Throughout this ugly year, AOK has been my visit to a better future, more powerful than any political tract about what we need next.

Sometimes Kathy and David are asked how they ended up with so many kids flowing through their house. They look at how many kids are out there, and respond, “How is it possible you don’t?”

Well, it might be possible to have no kids in need like that.  Of course, that would mean that the Forced Birth Party would have to start giving a shit about the nation’s children after they’re born.  Just sayin’…

Blow, Bruni, and Krugman

October 17, 2016

In “Donald Trump, the Worst of America” Mr. Blow says he is the logical extension of misogyny, racism, privilege and anti-intellectualism.  Mr. Bruni, in “For Donald Trump, Lessons in Grace,” says the patriotic concession speeches of prior presidential candidates show an alternative to his corrosive conspiracies.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Their Dark Fantasies:”  Why do Republicans hate America? He says their vision of the country is at odds with the reality.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump has virtually stopped trying to win this election by any conventional metric and is instead stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre with the great anticipation of setting it ablaze if current polls turn out to be predictive.

There is something calamitous in the air that surrounds the campaign, a hostile fatalism that bespeaks a man convinced that the end is near and aiming his anger at all within reach.

As his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.

Last week a steady stream of women stepped forward to accuse Trump of some form of sexual assault, abuse or inappropriate behavior. Trump’s response has been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.

Instead, he is doubling down on sexism.

On Thursday, Trump said of the People magazine reporter who accused him of forcibly kissing her: “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

He said on Friday of the woman accusing him of groping her on an airplane: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”

He also said of Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

His response to these charges has been surprisingly — and perhaps, revealingly — callow. He has mocked, whined, chided, bemoaned and belittled. It’s as if the man is on a mission to demonstrate to voters the staggering magnitude of his social vulgarity and emotional ineptitude. He has dispensed with all semblances of wanting to appear presidential and embraced what seems to be most natural to him: acting like a pig.

Furthermore, everything is rigged against him, from the media to the election itself. He’s threatening to sue The New York Times. He says he and Clinton should take a drug test before the next debate.

These are the ravings of a lunatic.

Trump is back to carelessly shooting off his mouth and recklessly shooting himself in the foot.

It is sad, really, but for him I have no sympathy. He has spent this entire election attacking anyone and everyone whom he felt it would be politically advantageous to attack. Trump, now that you’re under attack, you want to cry woe-is-me and have people commiserate. Slim chance, big guy.

The coarseness of your character has been put on full display, and now the electorate has come to cash the check you wrote.

Trump now looks like a madman from Mad Men, a throwback to when his particular privileges had more perks and were considered less repugnant. He looks pathetic.

He is a ball of contradictions that together form a bully, a man who has built a menacing wall around the hollow of his self. He is brash to mask his fragility.

But in a way, Trump was authentically made in America.

America has a habit of romanticizing the playboy as much as the cowboy, but there is often something untoward about the playboy, unseemly, predatory and broken.

For years, Trump built a reputation on shuffling through women, treating his exploits with jocularity and having too much of America smiling in amusement at the bad boy antics.

But he’s not a kid; he’s a cad.

And he seems constitutionally incapable of processing the idea that wealth is not completely immunizing, that some rules are universally applicable, that common decency is required of more than just “common” folks. He seems genuinely offended that he should be held to the same standards of truth, decorum and even law as those less well off.

Trump is in fact the logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny. He is the logical extension of rampant racism. He is the logical extension of wealth worship. He is the logical extension of pervasive anti-intellectualism.

Trump is the logical extension of the worst of America.

With him you get a man who believes himself superior in every way: through the gift of fortune and the happenstance of chromosomes. He believes the rules simply don’t apply. Not rules that govern the sovereignty of another’s body, not rules that dictate decorousness.

And the Republican Party was just the right place for him to park himself.

When you have a political party that takes as its mission to prevent government from working instead of to make government work, a party that conflates the ill effects of a changing economy with the changing complexion of the country and is still struck by fever over the election of President Obama, Trump is a natural, predictable endpoint.

Furthermore, Trump is what happens when you wear your Christian conservative values like a cardigan to conveniently slip off when the heat rises.

Trump is fundamentally altering American politics — coarsening them, corrupting them, cratering them. And America, particularly conservative America, has only itself to blame.

Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi.

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

As Donald Trump seethes recklessly through the final weeks of this furious campaign, he should take just a few minutes to read something important: Al Gore’s words on Dec. 13, 2000.

Gore had reason to feel burned by the electoral process. His fight against George W. Bush for the presidency went all the way to the Supreme Court, which then had more Republican than Democratic appointees.

But when he conceded, there was no talk of anything “rigged.” There was no reminder that he’d won the popular vote. He clearly understood that the circumstances of his defeat were a threat to many Americans’ faith in the system, especially if their rancor was stoked.

“While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” he said, going on to add: “For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”

I realize that those remarks came as the battle ended, not in the heat of it. So there’s no neat and clean comparison to what he said then and what Trump is saying now.

But Trump’s conspiracy-minded rants, with which he exhorts voters to treat any victor other than him as illegitimate, are the obvious precursors to a singularly dangerous concession speech, should he be called upon to deliver one. I’m close to sure that he will be. And now is as good a time as any to point him toward the way real patriots behave, to remind ourselves that losing needn’t be as incendiary as he is hell-bent on making it, and to reacquaint ourselves with decency in American politics.

Gore’s speech is just one example of it. In fact it’s the norm among the Democratic and Republican nominees who fell short of the White House — the Democratic and Republican nominees who preceded Trump. To revisit their words is to savor a maturity, dignity and civic spirit that he lacks.

In 1952, after Adlai Stevenson was shellacked by Dwight Eisenhower, he said: “It hurts too much to laugh, but I’m too old to cry.” And he urged Americans to give the new president “the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine. We vote as many, but we pray as one.”

I went back and took a close look at the presidential contenders’ concession speeches since 1992, which was the year that a different Clinton — Bill, not Hillary — won the election.

He beat the first President Bush, who was seeking re-election and responded by exalting “the majesty of the democratic system,” telling voters that “America must always come first,” and also saying:

I want to share a special message with the young people of America. I remain absolutely convinced that we are a rising nation. We have been in an extraordinarily difficult period, but do not be deterred, kept away from public service by the smoke and fire of a campaign year or the ugliness of politics. As for me, I plan to get — I’m going to serve and try to find ways to help people. But I plan to get very active in the grandchild business. And in finding ways to help others. But I urge you, the young people of this country, to participate in the political process. It needs your idealism. It needs your drive. It needs your conviction.

Four years later, when Bob Dole failed in his effort to deny President Clinton a second term, these were some of his remarks:

I’ve said repeatedly in this campaign that the president was my opponent and not my enemy. And I wish him well and I pledge my support in whatever advances the cause of a better America, because that’s what the race was about in the first place, a better America as we go into the next century.

Then came the 2000 election, which remained undecided for weeks after voters went to the polls, as a recount of the Florida vote began and was then stopped. Gore’s concession speech included, in addition to the sentences I presented above, these:

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. …

I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome . . . .

While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party.

In 2004, after losing to the second President Bush, John Kerry alsospoke of national unity, national pride and common values:

In an American election, there are no losers. Because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.

With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.

I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.

I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them — all of you — to join me in doing that.

John McCain’s concession speech in 2008 didn’t just encourage his supporters to respect the election’s outcome and to put common cause among wounded feelings. It also took full, celebratory note of the historic nature of Barack Obama’s victory:

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Four years later, another Republican, Mitt Romney, also lost to Obama and also took the high road, saying that he wished “the president, the first lady and their daughters” well and that he was looking to “Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.” There were also these words:

We can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.

Rising. Healing. Linking arms. Moving on. That’s what’s supposed to happen in the aftermath of even the bitterest elections. At least that’s what vanquished candidates are supposed to encourage. May the loser in this election uphold that tradition. So very much rides on it.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.

To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.

On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.

This is obviously true for Donald Trump, who views the world through blood-colored glasses. In his vision of America — clearly derived largely from white supremacist and neo-Nazi sources — crime is running wild, inner cities are war zones, and hordes of violent immigrants are pouring across our open border. In reality, murder is at a historic low, we’re seeing a major urban revival and net immigration from Mexico is negative. But I’m only saying that because I’m part of the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, you find almost equally dark visions, just as much at odds with reality, among establishment Republicans, people like Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.

Mr. Ryan is, of course, a media darling. He doesn’t really command strong support from his own party’s base; his prominence comes, instead, from a press corps that decided years ago that he was the archetype of serious, honest conservatism, and clings to that story no matter how many times the obvious fraudulence and cruelty of his proposals are pointed out. If the past is any indication, he will quickly be forgiven for his moral spinelessness in this election, his unwillingness to break with Mr. Trump — even to condemn him for questioning the legitimacy of the vote — no matter how grotesque the G.O.P. nominee’s behavior becomes.

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

Does today’s America look anything like that? No. We have many problems, but we’re hardly living in a miasma of despair. Leave government statistics (which almost half of Trump supporters completely distrust) on one side; Gallup finds that 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their standard of living, up from 73 percent in 2008, and that 55 percent consider themselves to be “thriving,” up from 49 percent in 2008. And there are good reasons for those good feelings: recovery from the financial crisis was slower than it should have been, but unemployment is low, incomes surged last year, and thanks to Obamacare more Americans have health insurance than ever before.

So Mr. Ryan’s vision of America looks nothing like reality. It is, however, completely familiar to anyone who read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as a teenager. Nowadays the speaker denies being a Rand devotee, but while you can at least pretend to take the boy out of the cult, you can’t take the cult out of the boy. Like Ms. Rand — who was basically writing about America in the Eisenhower years! — he sees the horrible world progressive policies were supposed to produce, not the flawed but hopeful nation we actually live in.

So why does the modern right hate America? There’s not much overlap in substance between Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and Mr. Ryan’s, but there’s a clear alignment of interests. The people Mr. Trump represents want to suppress and disenfranchise you-know-who; the big-money interests that support Ryan-style conservatism want to privatize and generally dismantle the social safety net, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

The big question is whether trash-talking America can actually be a winning political strategy. We’ll soon find out.

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 14, 2016

Bobo’s decided to pretend that The Short Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t exist.  Today he’s graced us with a thing called “The Beauty of Big Books,” in which he informs us that a law professor takes a swing at the mother of all questions.  In the comments “syfredrick” from Providence, RI had this to say:  “Another book report from Mr. Brooks as he whistles past the graveyard.”  Nothing else needs to be said.  Mr. Cohen, in “How Dictatorships Are Born,” says thanks to Trump the unsayable can now be said. “Go back to where you came from,” is the phrase of the moment.  Prof. Krugman considers “The Clinton Agenda” and says a large margin of victory will be needed for an effective presidency.  Here’s Bobo:

Not long ago, an astonishing book landed on my desk. It’s called “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan” and it weighs in at an impressive 1,076 pages. The author is Anthony Kronman, the former dean of the Yale Law School.

In an age of academic specialization, this is an epically ambitious book. In an age when intellectuals have lost their sense of high calling, this is an intellectual adventure story based on the notion that ideas drive history, and that to dedicate yourself to them is to live a bigger, more intense life.

Kronman has always had an abiding obsession: to understand the meaning of the modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” he writes, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.”

Kronman has never been religious, but he felt that to understand the current era, you had to understand it in relation to all the other moments in history.

He was convinced that if he understood the meaning of this history, he would be saved from the moral perplexities of life, and he would even in some way conquer death: “Although we cannot be immortal, the worldis, and … every increase in our understanding of it, and in our power to sing its song, is a further, deeper experience of the deathlessness of the world.”

When Kronman was a college student in the 1960s, Karl Marx explained all things to him. In Marx’s view, history is driven by a single mechanism, class conflict, and it has a goal, communism, and we’re one revolutionary step away from it.

Then Kronman became a follower of Max Weber. Weber argued that science and reason give us vast powers, but the price is that we no longer feel our lives enchanted by religious significance. We live in a godless universe and must have the courage to face that squarely.

Later, as a middle-aged law professor, he became more Burkean. The search for a big philosophic explanation for everything is a fool’s errand, but we can gradually add to the practical wisdom of our species, and work out better ways to do things.

But the antiphilosophical position is too cold. Kronman wanted a worldview that would explain the sense of loving gratitude that is the proper response to living: “A life without the yearning to reach the everlasting and divine is no longer recognizably human.”

He is now a “born-again pagan.” He’s learned from the Greeks and the atheists, but he thinks such thinkers render people too prideful and solitary. He’s also learned from the Christians, but he thinks their emphasis on the next world disparages this world. He doesn’t like the way religion asks the intellect to bow down before faith.

To be a born-again pagan is to believe that God is not something outside the world; God is the world, down to its smallest detail. Kronman’s mother’s last significant words were, “The world comes back.” He reflects, “perhaps what she meant is this — that the world, from which we are separated at birth, returns to reclaim us at death, that it leaves no stragglers behind.”

His guiding philosophers now are Spinoza, Nietzsche and Walt Whitman, men who saw God “as the eternal intelligibility of the world itself, now expanded to include the whole of reality.”

Whitman, for example, was the prophet of diversity. The point is not for all of us to approximate a single model or a fixed pattern of living. Instead, “the supreme goal of democracy is to promote the uniqueness of every individual” — for each person to be vibrantly distinct.

Democracy isn’t a political or legal bargain. It’s enchanted like romantic love, but on a larger scale. Each democratic citizen receives the love of her fellows as a gift to which the only appropriate response is gratitude and love in return.

The poet has a special responsibility as society’s seer, who grasps the eternity in the present and sings to people about their own unique divine powers within.

Personally, I have issues with born-again paganism. Shapeless, it leads to laxness — whatever moral quandary you bring it, it gives back exactly the answer you’d prefer to hear. It throws each person back on himself and leads to self-absorption and atomization, as everybody naturally worships the piece of God that is one’s self. Naïve, it neglects the creedal structures that are necessary for those moments when love falters.

But Kronman’s book is like a gift from another epoch, a time when more people did believe that time-tested books held the golden keys to life, a time when people defined themselves by philosophic commitments as much as by partisan, sexuald or ethnic ones, a time when it was generally believed that if you didn’t throw yourself in some arduous way at the big questions of your moment, you’d live a meager life, and would have to live and die with that awful knowledge.

Bobo’s as much a coward as Paul Ryan.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

Of course Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. We’re all Mister Jones now. It’s the wildest political season in the history of the United States.

Just to make his pedigree clear, Donald Trump is now suggesting that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty, in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.”

What was it the Nazis called the Jews? Oh, yes, “rootless parasites,” that’s it. For Stalin they were rootless cosmopolitans.

Just saying.

Societies slide into dictatorship more often than they lurch, one barrier falling at a time. “Just a buffoon,” people say, “and vulgar.” And then it’s too late.

I’ve been reminded in recent weeks of the passage in Fred Uhlman’s remarkable novella, “Reunion,” in which a proud German Jewish physician, twice wounded in World War I, and convinced the Nazis are a “temporary illness,” lambasts a Zionist for trying to raise funds for a Jewish homeland:

“Do you really believe the compatriots of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Beethoven will fall for this rubbish? How dare you insult the memory of twelve thousand Jews who died for our country?”

Germans fell for the rubbish. The Republican Party fell for the garbage.

Today, millions of Americans who plan to vote for Trump are apparently countenancing violence against their neighbors, people who might be different from them, perhaps Muslim or Latino. It’s easy to inject the virus of hatred: just point a gun.

That Trump traffics in violence is irrefutable. His movement wants action — deportations, arrests, assassination and torture have been mooted. The most worrying thing is not that Trump likes Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Aleppo, but that he apes Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Latinos, here’s what happened the other day to Veronica Zuleta, who was born in El Salvador and became an American citizen more than a decade ago. She was in the upscale Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park when the man next to her said:

“You should go to Safeway. This store is for white people.”

Zuleta was shocked. Never had she encountered a comment like that about her brown skin. But even the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley is not immune to the Trump effect: Once unsayable things can now be said the world over. “Go back to where you came from” is the phrase du jour.

In the three months after the Brexit vote in Britain, homophobic attacks rose 147 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. It’s open season for bigots.

Financial and emotional pressures have been mounting on Zuleta. She lives in what the visionaries of Google, Facebook and the like consider the center of the universe. Where else, after all, are people thinking seriously about attaining immortality; or life on Mars; or new floating cities atop the oceans; or a universal basic income for everyone once the inevitable happens and artificial intelligence renders much of humanity redundant?

Y Combinator, a big start-up incubator, has announced it will conduct a basic income experiment with 100 families in Oakland, giving them between $1,000 and $2,000 a month for up to a year. Just to see what people do when they have nothing more to do. Oh, Brave New World.

Back in the present, prices for real estate have soared. Zuleta lives in a modest rented place on what used to be the wrong side of the tracks, in East Menlo Park, east of Route 101 that runs down the Valley. As it happens, her home is now a couple of blocks from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters designed by Frank Gehry that opened last year. She asked about a job in the kitchen, to no avail. She struggles to make ends meet.

Facebook, she told me, “is intimidating for people like me. It’s like, get out of here if you don’t know anything about technology.”

For its part, Facebook says it cares about and invests in the local community — $350,000 in grants donated to local nonprofits this year and last, new thermal imaging cameras for the local fire district, and so on. Its revenue in 2015 was $17.9 billion.

Zuleta works from 6:30 in the morning until midnight, cleaning homes, driving children to school and activities, running errands for wealthy families (like shopping for them at Draeger’s), and cleaning offices at night. In between she tries to care for her two young children. The other day, she was in the kitchen, collapsed and found herself in the hospital.

“The doctor said I need to sleep and relax,” she told me. “But I can’t!”

Life is like that these days for many Americans: implacable and disorienting. As a Latina, Zuleta said she would never vote for Trump, but she feels overwhelmed.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

It ain’t over until the portly gentleman screams, but it is, as intelligence analysts say, highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win this election.  Poll-based models put her chances at around 90 percent earlier this week — and that was before the campaign turned totally X-rated.

But what will our first female president actually be able to accomplish? That depends on how big a victory she achieves.

I’m not talking about the size of her “mandate,” which means nothing: If the Obama years are any indication, Republicans will oppose anything she proposes no matter how badly they lose. The question, instead, is what happens to Congress.

Consider, first, the effects of a minimal victory: Mrs. Clinton becomes president, but Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress.

Such a victory wouldn’t be meaningless. It would avert the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and it would also block the radical tax-cutting, privatizing agenda that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has made clear he will steamroll through if Mr. Trump somehow wins. But it would leave little room for positive action.

Things will be quite different if Democrats retake the Senate. Poll-based models give this outcome only around a 50-50 chance, but people betting on the election give it much better odds, two or three to one.

Now, even a Democratic Senate wouldn’t enable Mrs. Clinton to pass legislation in the face of an implacably obstructionist Republican majority in the House. It would, however, allow her to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Doing that would have huge consequences, for environmental policy in particular. In his final years in office, President Obama has made a major environmental push using his regulatory powers, for example by sharply tightening emission standards for heavy trucks.

But the most important piece of his push — the Clean Power Plan, which would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants — is currently on hold, thanks to a stay imposed by the Supreme Court. Democratic capture of the Senate would remove this roadblock.

And bear in mind that climate change is by far the most important issue facing America and the world, even if the people selecting questions for the presidential debates for some reason refuse to bring it up. Quite simply, if Democrats take the Senate, we might take the minimum action needed to avoid catastrophe; if they don’t, we won’t.

What about the House? All, and I mean all, of the Obama administration’s legislative achievements took place during the two-year period when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Can that happen again?

Until the last few days, the chances of flipping the House seemed low, even if, as now seems all but certain, Democratic candidates in total receive more votes than Republicans. Partly that’s because G.O.P.-controlled state governments have engaged in pervasive gerrymandering; partly it’s because minority voters, who overwhelmingly favor Democrats, are clustered in a relatively small number of urban districts.

But a sufficiently big Clinton victory could change that, especially if suburban women desert a G.O.P. that has turned into the gropers-owned party. And that would let her pursue a much more expansive agenda.

There’s not much mystery about what that agenda would be. I don’t know why so many pundits claim that Mrs. Clinton lacks a vision for America, when she has actually provided an unusual level of detail on her website and in speeches.

Broadly speaking, she would significantly strengthen the social safety net, especially for the very poor and children, with an emphasis on family-related issues like parental leave. Such programs would cost money, although not as much as critics claim; she proposes, credibly, to raise that money with higher taxes on top incomes, so that the overall effect would be to reduce inequality.

Democratic control of the House would also open the door for large-scale infrastructure investment. If that seems feasible, I know that many progressive economists — myself included — will urge Mrs. Clinton to go significantly bigger than she is currently proposing.

If all of this sounds to you like a second round of what President Obama did in 2009-2010, that’s because it is. And why not? Despite Republican obstruction, Mr. Obama has presided over a remarkable rise in the number of Americans with health insurance, a significant decline in poverty and the creation of more than 11 million private-sector jobs.

In any case, the bottom line is that if you’re thinking of staying home on Election Day because the outcome is assured, don’t. Barring the political equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be our next president, but the size of her victory will determine what kind of president she can be.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

October 13, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Unshackled and Unhinged” Mr. Blow says he still has a chance to turn things around, but he’s showing no inclination that he wants to.  Mr. Kristof, in “What Donald Trump Is Right About,” says actions count more than words, and his are heinous.  In “And Now, the Good News Is…” Ms. Collins says we should always look on the bright side of Donald Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:’

Donald Trump tweeted this week that his “shackles have been taken off.” The rest of us need to buckle up.

The effects of a 2005 tape on which Trump brags of a history of sexually predatory behavior is still rippling though the Trump campaign and wreaking havoc.

This is a particularly, spectacularly potent scandal, because of the moral clarity of how reprehensible it is.

This is not an issue that you can couch in policy or strategy. This is so very clearly about character. It is unambiguous and lecherous. It is repulsive and rapacious.

And it appears to fit a pattern.

BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday: “Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.”

One of the young contestants told BuzzFeed that when Trump entered the dressing room while she was getting dressed, he “said something like, ‘Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.’”

As Newsweek reported on Sunday:

“Jill Harth, a pageant owner trying to work with Trump in the mid-1990s, filed suit against him in federal court in Manhattan in 1997, describing a ‘relentless’ campaign of sexual harassment and assault including an incident in which he reached under a table, put his hands on her thighs and grabbed her ‘intimate private parts’ during a meeting at a New York restaurant.”

Temple Taggart, Miss Utah 1997, told The Times in May that when she was introduced to Trump, “He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’”

Gross is right.

No one can defend it, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and his supporters from twisting themselves into knots trying to. Trump has repeatedly called it “locker room” talk and suggested that he was lying when he said that he had assaulted women.

Supporters have done everything from deny that what Trump described was indeed assault to saying the tape was made before Trump began his faith journey to attacking Beyoncé lyrics and Hillary Clinton’s admiration of the pop star.

None of that has worked particularly well. Trump’s post-tape polls look absolutely horrendous.

Furthermore, prominent Republicans are fleeing in droves.

According to The Times, more that 160 Republican leaders, most of them members of Congress or governors, have declared that they won’t support Donald Trump. Nearly a third of those fled from Trump in the wake of the lewd tape.

In a statement, John McCain wrote: “Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

The Times reported on Monday, referring to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan: “Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress.” Ryan’s spokeswoman followed up with a statement confirming that “the speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities.”

Trump is bleeding badly. But many of us know this from nature: A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. Trump is lashing out like a man with nothing left to lose. If he is going down, he’s threatening to take the entire ecosystem with him.

He’s lashing out at the Republican establishment — especially Ryan and McCain — in a striking and seemingly unprecedented intraparty feud just weeks ahead of the election.

But Trump is also striking out at Clinton and Obama.

Trump threatened this week, “If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.” He also continues to threaten to investigate Clinton and lock her up, and seemed to return to the absurd assertion that Obama founded the Islamic State.

None of this seems like an effective strategy to broaden his base and actually win in November. This feels like Trump having a temper tantrum. This feels like a campaign in its death throes.

Trump had some good weeks when he was following a disciplined strategy of reading speeches from a teleprompter and effectively deceiving some into believing that he was not in fact the man who he has, over the course of his life, revealed himself to be.

Apparently, that deception was a set of shackles. In other words, it was a lie.

This is true Trump: mean, erratic, abrasive and pathological.

Trump still has a chance to turn things around, but as of now he’s showing no inclination that he wants to. As disturbing as the idea of a foreign government trying to interfere with our elections is, the content of leaked emails from the Clinton campaign could be far more damaging to her in the hands of a more competent opposition.

But Trump isn’t a competent opponent. He’s a maladroit savage spiraling out of control.

And next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Astonishingly, Donald Trump is right about something!

After recently being caught on a 2005 tape gloating about sexual assaults, Trump issued an unapologetic apology in which he focused on the “big difference” between words and actions. And he has a point.

But there’s abundant evidence that Trump has indulged in not just scurrilous rhetoric, but also in heinous actions. Several more women have stepped forward to offer on-the-record accounts of having been aggressively groped or kissed by Trump against their will, right after he met them.

I also find entirely credible the allegations of Jill Harth, a former business partner of Trump’s, that he assaulted her in 1992 and 1993. Equally credible is the assertion by a former Miss Utah that Trump inappropriately kissed beauty contestants on the lips.

Some Republicans have demanded laws to ban transgender women from entering women’s restrooms or locker rooms, but instead they might focus on the risk of Trump doing this. He has boasted that he marched unannounced into changing rooms to ogle beauty pageant contestants naked, and a former contestant, Miss Arizona, Tasha Dixon, said he did just that as they were changing into bikinis. “Some girls were topless,” she said. “Other girls were naked.”

The pageant theme that year? Empowering women.

There’s more. In Trump’s 2005 tape, he referred in vulgar ways to a married woman, Nancy O’Dell, he had unsuccessfully pursued, but what’s less known is that in 2007 he reportedly tried to have her fired from hosting the Miss USA Pageant. Why? Because she was pregnant.

Of course, as Trump acknowledged, words matter as well. On my blog, I posted an essay by a survivor of a home invasion and rape, Michelle Bowdler, who recounted that her attacker had said he wanted “some pussy” — and the moment he used that word, she felt that her life was in danger, that she “existed only as a thing.”

What is dehumanizing is not necessarily dirty words as such, but rather the casual braggadocio by men that normalizes assault. One study of 16,000 comments on a website for fraternity men found that the most common body part mentioned was “ass,” followed by “tits.” Men posting on the site were 25 times as likely to refer to a woman’s “ass” as to her “smile.”

There’s some evidence that hearing sexist language may be linked to greater tolerance of rape. And we already have a national problem with sexual harassment: One large survey found that almost one-quarter of American women said they had been groped in public spaces.

So I’m delighted that at least one person, Billy Bush, is paying in a concrete way for the words in the Trump tape. Maybe this can be a wake-up call for us men to appreciate that sexist epithets are no more acceptable than racist epithets.

All that said, Trump is right to emphasize the importance of actions more than words: If we’re outraged by vulgar words, shouldn’t we be even more appalled by predatory actions? And policies? Here the truth is that a Trump administration’s policies might be less titillating than his words, but they would be far more dangerous.

Every year, 550,000 women in America require medical attention after an assault by a boyfriend or husband. That’s an issue that is belatedly being addressed through screenings under Obamacare, which Trump wants to repeal, and by the Violence Against Women Act, which a large bloc of Republicans opposed in Congress. Trump’s concern about such assaults seems dubious, and in fact both he and his campaign C.E.O., Steve Bannon, have been accused of domestic violence themselves.

Since he never held public office, Trump lacks a voting record. But his running mate has tended to look at what might help women and do the opposite, including voting against equal-pay legislation.

Mike Pence also signed a bizarre anti-abortion bill as Indiana’s governor requiring burial or cremation even of tissue from an early miscarriage. That led women to form a Facebook group, Periods for Pence, and announce their periods, just in case they might be miscarriages.

At a time when 11 women a day die of cervical cancer, Trump and Pence have also been stalwart opponents of women’s health programs that provide cancer screenings. They are motivated partly by hostility toward Planned Parenthood over abortions, but Pence, while a congressman, also sponsored legislation to defund Title X, the main federal family planning program. It does not pay for abortions but does help screen more than 750,000 women for cervical cancer a year.

New York magazine once quoted Trump as telling a friend about women, “you have to treat ‘em like——” well, manure. But to me, his language pales beside his behavior and likely policies. So let’s try to pivot from outrage at gross words to condemnation of unconscionable behavior and policies. On that sole point, that actions matter more than words, Trump is exactly, frighteningly right.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

We’ve already learned so much this election year. Besides the importance of not bragging about girl-grabbing when there’s a microphone pinned to your lapel.

For instance, boring people have never looked better. This is a seldom-defended subset of the American population, but after a year or so of the exciting Donald Trump, we have a new appreciation. Right now, many voters may be looking at their local congressman — a person they would change lines at the grocery store in order to avoid having to engage in conversation — and thinking, “Wow, Fred may be a snooze, but when you think about it, there are so many worse possibilities.”

Can you imagine how deliriously happy the Republican Party would be if Trump woke up one morning feeling boring? But no, he’s still bounding from one rally to the next, attacking members of his own party and demanding that Hillary Clinton go to jail. The new WikiLeaks from her campaign, he thundered on Wednesday, “make more clear than ever … how unattractive and dishonest our country has become.”

Unattractive? Is there no entity this man doesn’t judge in terms of physical appearance? Do you think Trump secretly believes America has gained weight? Had an unsuccessful breast enhancement?

The WikiLeaks, so far, have just underlined how blessedly boring Clinton’s campaign has been — it turns out that her talking points sometimes include instructions on when to smile, and that some of her major tweets have been the work of up to four aides. Deep in their hearts, most Americans know that’s way better than having a president who wakes up at 3 a.m. and just starts free associating.

Another important lesson of 2016: There are a lot of things worse than political correctness. Trump brags constantly about his own freedom from that particular defect, and some of his followers feel liberated to attend the rallies wearing signs or shirts that call Hillary Clinton every conceivable vulgarity.

During the last debate, a sad-looking Muslim woman asked how she could deal with “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country. …” Trump replied, “You’re right about Islamophobia and that’s a shame,” without any particular tone of sympathy. “But,” he continued, “one thing we have to do is, we have to make sure that, because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

Not often you can avoid political correctness in a way that mangles so many sentences. Trump then veered off into a complaint about how neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters noticed a whole ton of armaments at the family home but failed to say anything about it, presumably because they didn’t want to look anti-Muslim. We could point out that this is a make-believe story, totally unsupported by fact. Except that it would sound so darned you-know-what.

On the plus side, the campaign’s recent unpleasantness has provided a wonderful opportunity to randomly torture irritating Republican officeholders. Ted Cruz — who insulted Trump by failing to endorse him at the convention, then panicked and gave him a nod just before the trash-talk tape went public — must be having the worst week of his political life. Which certainly is a mood raiser.

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, whose longstanding flirtation with the birther movement led him once to aver that there were enough votes in the House to impeach President Obama, fell into a rabbit hole this week while he was defending his Trump endorsement on MSNBC. Anchor Chris Hayes prodded, asking whether he’d feel the same if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying, “I really like to rape women. …”

“That would be bad and I would have to consider it,” said Farenthold, who then followed up with a desperate series of Twitter retractions. (“During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question.”) Which then gave Austin political writer Jonathan Tilove a chance to revisit a conversation he had with the congressman about Trump’s appalling attacks on a Mexican-American judge. “He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” explained Farenthold.

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is obsessed with the Republicans who’ve gotten … cold. The candidate himself complains at his rallies that the speaker of the House failed to congratulate him after the last debate. (“So wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going?’”) Attacking members of Congress who’ve dropped off the team, Trump said he “wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole” with people like John McCain. And campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews that some of the congressmen who’ve complained about Trump’s sex remarks were known for “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”

It’s always possible to learn more than you really want to know this season.

Krugman’s blog, 10/11/16

October 12, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Notes on Brexit and the Pound:”

The much-hyped severe Brexit recession does not, so far, seem to be materializing – which really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, because as I warned, the actual economic case for such a recession was surprisingly weak. (Ouch! I just pulled a muscle while patting myself on the back!) But we are seeing a large drop in the pound, which has steepened as it becomes likely that this will indeed be a very hard Brexit. How should we think about this?

Originally, stories about a pound plunge were tied to that recession prediction: domestic investment demand would collapse, leading to sustained very low interest rates, hence capital flight. But the demand collapse doesn’t seem to be happening. So what is the story?

For now, at least, I’m coming at it from the trade side – especially trade in financial services. It seems to me that one way to think about this is in terms of the “home market effect,” an old story in trade but one that only got formalized in 1980.

Here’s an informal version: imagine a good or service subject to large economies of scale in production, sufficient that if it’s consumed in two countries, you want to produce it in only one, and export to the other, even if there are costs of shipping it. Where will this production be located? Other things equal, you would choose the larger market, so as to minimize total shipping costs. Other things may not, of course, be equal, but this market-size effect will always be a factor, depending on how high those shipping costs are.

In one of the models I laid out in that old paper, the way this worked out was not that all production left the smaller economy, but rather that the smaller economy paid lower wages and therefore made up in competitiveness what it lacked in market access. In effect, it used a weaker currency to make up for its smaller market.

In Britain’s case, I’d suggest that we think of financial services as the industry in question. Such services are subject to both internal and external economies of scale, which tends to concentrate them in a handful of huge financial centers around the world, one of which is, of course, the City of London. But now we face the prospect of seriously increased transaction costs between Britain and the rest of Europe, which creates an incentive to move those services away from the smaller economy (Britain) and into the larger (Europe). Britain therefore needs a weaker currency to offset this adverse impact.

Does this make Britain poorer? Yes. It’s not just the efficiency effect of barriers to trade, there’s also a terms-of-trade effect as the real exchange rate depreciates.

But it’s important to be aware that not everyone in Britain is equally affected. Pre-Brexit, Britain was obviously experiencing a version of the so-called Dutch disease. In its traditional form, this referred to the way natural resource exports crowd out manufacturing by keeping the currency strong. In the UK case, the City’s financial exports play the same role. So their weakening helps British manufacturing – and, maybe, the incomes of people who live far from the City and still depend directly or indirectly on manufacturing for their incomes. It’s not completely incidental that these were the parts of England (not Scotland!) that voted for Brexit.

Is there a policy moral here? Basically it is that a weaker pound shouldn’t be viewed as an additional cost from Brexit, it’s just part of the adjustment. And it would be a big mistake to prop up the pound: old notions of an equilibrium exchange rate no longer apply.

Friedman and Bruni

October 12, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has a question:  “Can the U.S. Win This Election?”  He says it will be a tragedy if little changes after all we’ve gone through.  Mr. Bruni considers “Daughters and Trumps” and has a memo to Republicans: You don’t need to be a dad to be sickened by Donald. Just a human being.  Here’s TMOW:

Seriously, why didn’t we sell tickets? If only our national election had been pay-per-view for the rest of the world, we could have wiped out the national debt. But while viewers around the world seem to be lapping up our national reality TV show, are we, the citizens of America, going to get anything out of it?

Specifically, are we going to get the thing we need most and have enjoyed least this century: effective government? We have too much deferred maintenance to fix, too much deferred leadership to generate and too much deferred reimagining to undertake to wait another four years to solve our biggest problems, especially in this age of accelerating technology and climate change.

If we will have indulged in almost two years of electoral entertainment and pathos just to end up back where we were, only worse, with even more venomous gridlock in Washington, it won’t just be emotionally depressing, we’ll really start to decline as a nation. When we forfeit governing our country strategically at the national level for this long, inevitably the roof will start to leak and the floors will start to buckle.

But how can anything good come from a campaign where the entertainment is increasingly X-rated and where the winner will be so morally injured — because of the hatchet wounds that were inflicted by the loser or that were self-inflicted?

What needs to happen for this election-drama script to end differently, or at least not so tragically?

For starters, this version of the Republican Party has to die. I don’t say that as a partisan. I say that as a citizen who believes that America needs a healthy center-right party that offers more market-based solutions to problems; keeps the pressure on for deregulation, freer trade and smaller government; and is willing to compromise. But today’s version of the G.O.P. is not such a problem-solving party.

We have known that ever since the G.O.P. speaker of the House John Boehner quit, not because he couldn’t work with President Obama but because roughly a quarter of House Republicans, the so-called Freedom Caucus, were simply not interested in governing and had made his job impossible.

For the sake of the country, this version of the Republican Party has to be fractured, with the extreme far right going off with the likes of Donald Trump, the Tea Party, Ted Cruz — along with all the right-wing TV and radio gasbags who thrive on chaos — leaving behind a moderate center-right bloc, which, one hopes, one day would become the new G.O.P. But it will need to nurture a new base, one inspired by a Jack Kemp spirit of conservative innovation, not by Trump dog whistles of anger, xenophobia and racial enmity.

Toward that end it is particularly important that Trump be crushed at the polls to send the message inside the G.O.P. and out that someone of his poisonous ilk can never win in America, and to strip him and his loyalists of any argument that the election was rigged.

At the same time, we have to hope not only that Hillary Clinton wins the national election but also that Democrats retake at least the Senate, so she has some real leverage to forge trade-offs with a more sane G.O.P. to start fixing things: putting in place common-sense gun laws, like restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, requiring universal background checks and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun; borrowing money at near-zero interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure; replacing some income and corporate taxes with a revenue-neutral carbon tax to stimulate more clean-energy production; fixing Obamacare; and implementing sensible immigration reform and responsible tax and entitlement reforms.

The bigger Clinton’s margin of victory, the less dependent she’d be, I hope, on the left wing of her party, and the more likely she’d work with Republicans, as she vowed during the last debate, by “finding common ground, because you have to be able to get along with people to get things done in Washington.”

I say “hope” because I don’t know who the real Hillary is — the more Bernie Sanderish one speaking publicly or the more Bill Clintonish one who spoke privately to Goldman Sachs.

The nightmare scenario — ruling out, God forbid, a Trump victory — is that Clinton wins with a slim majority and the G.O.P. holds the House and the Senate. The Democratic left would have a stranglehold on Clinton while Trump, who would start his own TV network and movement, would keep the Republican base in a state of permanent anger, intimidating every Republican lawmaker who contemplated compromise. If that happens, America will be adrift.

One more wish. Within hours of the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape showing Trump saying vile things about women, WikiLeaks, which seems to have become an arm of Russian intelligence, leaked Democratic Party emails meant to embarrass Clinton. The Clinton camp suggested that Russia was trying to tilt the election to Trump. If so, crushing Trump at the polls is the best way for Americans to say to Vladimir Putin, “You can manipulate your elections, but you can’t manipulate ours.”

But please, Lord, let that not be the only good thing to come out of this election.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

As the father of no daughters, I’m appalled by Donald Trump’s comments about groping women.

As the husband of no wife, I’m offended.

What, you ask, do my parental and marital status have to do with recognizing the outrage of what he said? I wonder, too. But they must be germane, because Republicans seem unable to censure Trump without invoking female spouses and especially offspring. In this version of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the work is displaying concern for women, and the daughters are less protégées than props.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used a written statement of displeasure with Trump to identify himself as “the father of three daughters.” This was apparently a wellspring of his pique, which didn’t rise to the level of actually rescinding his endorsement of Trump. Would a fourth daughter have done the trick? A fifth?

“As a husband and father” was how Mike Pence, who has a son and two daughters, commenced his own short-lived reprimand of Trump. Jeb Bush tweeted that he was “the grandfather of two precious girls.” In a debate in Arizona on Monday night, John McCain referred to his daughters.

Sometimes sons were mentioned, and sometimes female politicians did the mentioning. But the pattern of husbands standing up for wives and fathers looking out for daughters was most noticeable — and most discordant.

As Yochi Dreazen noted in a post for Vox, it cast men in the role of protectors and carried a stronger whiff of chivalry than of equality. It also defined women in terms of men and caring about them in terms of their places in men’s families.

“Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Ted Cruz, who seemed to catch himself midsentence and realize what he was doing. So why not go back to the start of the tweet and undo it?

In much of this there was a familiar insinuation that parenthood is a singularly sensitizing, enlightening circumstance, giving someone a special stake in a more just world. But doesn’t Trump himself contradict that?

He’s a parent five times over. He’s a father of two daughters himself, and that’s a credential he carried with him into his nauseating exchange with Billy Bush in 2005 and into his vulgar conversations with Howard Stern across the years.

It didn’t prevent him from giving Stern permission to call Ivanka “a piece of ass.” It didn’t give him pause as he objectified Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Alicia Machado and so many other women. Trump could begin every sentence with the words “as the father of two daughters,” and while they’d be true, unlike three-quarters of what he says, they’d be a testament to nothing more than a history of unprotected intercourse.

Trump’s an egregious example but hardly an isolated one. McConnell’s three daughters obviously haven’t clued him in to the special challenges many women still face in the work force, because he has spoken and voted on legislation in a manner that minimizes those.

And while Scott Garrett, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, called himself “a husband and father of two daughters” when he assailed Trump’s remarks, he has taken positions against insurance coverage for mammograms and medical privacy for rape victims. What did the women in his life have to say about that?

There’s something off-key when lawmakers — Republicans or Democrats, in connection with Trump or in other instances — describe the importance of an issue in accordance with its relevance to the people closest to them and its proximity to their doorstep. Or when they present their descendants as the best proof of their investment in the future.

The message of that is antithetical to public service and political leadership, which are ideally about representing kin and strangers alike, casting the widest possible net of compassion and letting common values, not personal interests, be the compass.

My loins are fruitless but my principles are clear: No human being — woman or man — should be regarded as a conquest or an amusement with a will subservient to someone else’s. That’s how Trump seems to treat most of the people in his life, and I object to that not as the brother of three admirable siblings (including a sister), not as the son of two extraordinary parents (including a mother), not as the uncle of many talented nieces and nephews, not as the partner of a wonderful man, and not as a friend to brilliant men and women whose welfare matters greatly to me.

I object to it as the citizen of a civilized society. I object to it because it threatens the people I don’t know as well as the people I do. I object to it because it’s wrong.

Solo Bobo

October 11, 2016

Poor, sad Bobo is wringing his hands over “Donald Trump’s Sad, Lonely Life.”  He moans that politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that.  But he does tell us that he thinks Trump has a mental problem, and in doing so he used a term (alexithymia) I had never seen in 35+ years of doing medical transcription.  Let’s draw the veil of charity over the fact that Bobo seems to be a YOOGE fan of Erick Erickson, one of the nastier pieces of work on his side of the aisle.  And, OF COURSE, he never implies that he won’t be voting for him.  He will be followed by a comment from “Thin Edge Of The Wedge” from Farquier County, VA.  Here’s Bobo:

The point of town hall debates is that regular voters get to ask questions. In every town hall I’ve seen, the candidate turns to the voter, listens attentively and directs the answer at least partially back to that person.

The candidates do that because it’s polite, because it looks good to be seen taking others seriously and because most of us instinctively want to make some connection with the people we are talking to.

Hillary Clinton, not exactly a paragon of intimacy, behaved in the normal manner on Sunday night. But Donald Trump did not. Trump treated his questioners as unrelatable automatons and delivered his answers to the void, even when he had the chance to seem sympathetic to an appealing young Islamic woman.

That underlines the essential loneliness of Donald Trump.

Politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can’t yet remove.

He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.

Trump breaks his own world record for being appalling on a weekly basis, but as the campaign sinks to new low after new low, I find myself experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity.

Imagine if you had to go through a single day without sharing kind little moments with strangers and friends.

Imagine if you had to endure a single week in a hate-filled world, crowded with enemies of your own making, the object of disgust and derision.

You would be a twisted, tortured shrivel, too, and maybe you’d lash out and try to take cruel revenge on the universe. For Trump this is his whole life.

Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.

To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.

In this way, Trump seems to be denied all the pleasures that go with friendship and cooperation. Women could be sources of love and affection, but in his disordered state he can only hate and demean them. His attempts at intimacy are gruesome parodies, lunging at women as if they were pieces of meat.

Most of us derive a warm satisfaction when we feel our lives are aligned with ultimate values. But Trump lives in an alternative, amoral Howard Stern universe where he cannot enjoy the sweetness that altruism and community service can occasionally bring.

Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.

Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.

Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.

Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.

It’s all so pathetic.

On Monday, one of Trump’s conservative critics, Erick Erickson, published a moving essay called “If I Die Before You Wake… .” Erickson has been the object of vicious assaults by Trump supporters. He and his wife are both facing serious health ailments and may pass before their children are grown. Yet as the essay makes clear, both are living lives of love, faith, devotion and service. Both have an ultimate confidence in the goodness of creation and their grace-filled place in it.

You may share that faith or not, but Erickson is living an attached life — emotionally, spiritually, morally and communally. Donald Trump’s life, by contrast, looks superficially successful and profoundly miserable. None of us would want to live in the howling wilderness of his own solitude, no matter how thick the gilding.

On Nov. 9, the day after Trump loses, there won’t be solidarity and howls of outrage. Everyone will just walk away.

Now here’s “Thin Edge Of The Wedge:”

“Sympathy for the devil, eh, Mr. Brooks? Although your description is accurate, it still treats Trump as if he is an unprecedented, isolated phenomenon within the GOP. Not so. Trump is the GOP. He is the avatar exposing the rotten core, the dead soul of the Republican Party. Trump, Pence, Cruz, McConnell, Ryan, Christie, Ailes, all the way back through Nixon to Joseph McCarthy, dead men walking, every one, surrounded by their mindless, amoral howling storm troopers. Trump won’t just walk away, nor will his supporters. And even if he should, Republicans like the Koch brothers will continue to create, promote, and fund new Trumps. They’ve been at it my entire adult life, and won’t quit until they have strip mined the US Constitution, economy, and entire society for their own selfish ends.”