Brooks and Krugman

October 28, 2016

Bobo is wringing his hands over “The Conservative Intellectual Crisis.”  But he tells us it’s about to get better.  Really — “conservative intellectual” is an oxymoron, with an emphasis on the last 5 letters.  There will be a reply from “soxared, 04-o7-13” from Crete, Illinois.  Prof. Krugman, in “Obamacare Hits a Pothole,” says the news about premium hikes is bad, but not nearly as bad as some critics would have you believe.  Here’s Bobo:

I feel very lucky to have entered the conservative movement when I did, back in the 1980s and 1990s. I was working at National Review, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The role models in front of us were people like Bill Buckley, Irving Kristol, James Q. Wilson, Russell Kirk and Midge Decter.

These people wrote about politics, but they also wrote about a lot of other things: history, literature, sociology, theology and life in general. There was a sharp distinction then between being conservative, which was admired, and being a Republican, which was considered sort of cheesy.

These writers often lived in cities among liberals while being suspicious of liberal thought and liberal parochialism. People like Buckley had friends of every ideological stripe and were sharper for being in hostile waters. They were sort of inside and outside the establishment and could speak both languages.

Many grew up poor, which cured them of the anti-elitist pose that many of today’s conservative figures adopt, especially if they come from Princeton (Ted Cruz), Cornell (Ann Coulter) or Dartmouth (Laura Ingraham and Dinesh D’Souza). The older writers knew that being cultured and urbane wasn’t a sign of elitism. Culture was the tool they used for social mobility. T.S. Eliot was cheap and sophisticated argument was free.

The Buckley-era establishment self-confidently enforced intellectual and moral standards. It rebuffed the nativists like the John Birch Society, the apocalyptic polemicists who popped up with the New Right, and they exiled conspiracy-mongers and anti-Semites, like Joe Sobran, an engaging man who was rightly fired from National Review.

The conservative intellectual landscape has changed in three important ways since then, paving the way for the ruination of the Republican Party.

First, talk radio, cable TV and the internet have turned conservative opinion into a mass-market enterprise. Small magazines have been overwhelmed by Rush, O’Reilly and Breitbart.

Today’s dominant conservative voices try to appeal to people by the millions. You win attention in the mass media through perpetual hysteria and simple-minded polemics and by exploiting social resentment. In search of that mass right-wing audience that, say, Coulter enjoys, conservatism has done its best to make itself offensive to people who value education and disdain made-for-TV rage.

It’s ironic that an intellectual tendency that champions free markets was ruined by the forces of commercialism, but that is the essential truth. Conservatism went down-market in search of revenue. It got swallowed by its own anti-intellectual media-politico complex — from Beck to Palin to Trump. Hillary Clinton is therefore now winning among white college graduates by 52 to 36 percent.

Second, conservative opinion-meisters began to value politics over everything else. The very essence of conservatism is the belief that politics is a limited activity, and that the most important realms are pre-political: conscience, faith, culture, family and community. But recently conservatism has become more the talking arm of the Republican Party.

Among social conservatives, for example, faith sometimes seems to come in second behind politics, Scripture behind voting guides. Today, most white evangelicals are willing to put aside the Christian virtues of humility, charity and grace for the sake of a Trump political victory. According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey, 72 percent of white evangelicals believe that a person who is immoral in private life can be an effective national leader, a belief that is more Machiavelli than Matthew.

As conservatism has become a propagandistic, partisan movement it has become less vibrant, less creative and less effective.

That leads to the third big change. Blinkered by the Republican Party’s rigid anti-government rhetoric, conservatives were slow to acknowledge and even slower to address the central social problems of our time.

For years, middle- and working-class Americans have been suffering from stagnant wages, meager opportunity, social isolation and household fragmentation. Shrouded in obsolete ideas from the Reagan years, conservatism had nothing to offer these people because it didn’t believe in using government as a tool for social good. Trump demagogy filled the void.

This is a sad story. But I confess I’m insanely optimistic about a conservative rebound. That’s because of an observation the writer Yuval Levin once made: That while most of the crazy progressives are young, most of the crazy conservatives are old. Conservatism is now being led astray by its seniors, but its young people are pretty great. It’s hard to find a young evangelical who likes Donald Trump. Most young conservatives are comfortable with ethnic diversity and are weary of the Fox News media-politico complex. Conservatism’s best ideas are coming from youngish reformicons who have crafted an ambitious governing agenda (completely ignored by Trump).

A Trump defeat could cleanse a lot of bad structures and open ground for new growth. It was good to be a young conservative back in my day. It’s great to be one right now.

Lordy.  Here’s rhe reply from “soxared, 04-07-13”:

“Another delusional column from the Captain Quint of the Republican party as the great shark moves in to devour it. Mr. Brooks, are you aware Jason Chaffaetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform? He has taken a page out of Mitch McConnell’s How To Make Government Unresponsive by promising to double down on Mrs. Clinton’s email server contretemps while Secretary of State. The obvious goal in mind is impeachment of the new president before she takes office.

This is your idea of a “new conservatism”, Mr. Brooks, one that will “cleanse a lot of bad structures and open ground for new growth”? Well, here’s my take: it’s the obvious and deliberate attempt to destroy an American president before she even takes office We’ve just witnessed your party’s unique brand of conservatism during the Obama administration. The GOP promises more and all you can say today is “it’s great to be a conservative right now”?

Your misty-eyed reminiscence of William F. Buckley, for example, doesn’t take into account his happily-declared racism, his contempt for diversity. Yet you, as is your wont, try to slide by us a Hall of Fame of right-wing intellectuals as a pantheon of American greatness of thought. Mr. Buckley was Ronald “government is the problem” Reagan’s champion.

He’s also the “intellectual” father of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Coulter, D’Souza, and, yes, Brooks.

Are you proud of that?”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

For advocates of health reform, the story of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has been a wild roller-coaster ride.

First there was the legislative drama, with reform seemingly on the edge of collapse right up to the moment of passage. Then there was the initial mess with the website — followed by incredibly good news on enrollment and costs. Now reform has hit a pothole: After several years of coming in far below predictions, premiums on covered plans have shot up by more than 20 percent.

So how bad is the picture?

The people who have been claiming all along that reform couldn’t work, and have been wrong every step of the way, are, of course, claiming vindication. But they’re wrong again. The bad news is real. But so are reform’s accomplishments, which won’t go away even if nothing is done to fix the problems now appearing. And technically, if not politically, those problems are quite easy to fix.

Health reform had two big goals: to cover the uninsured and to rein in the overall growth of health care costs — to “bend the curve,” in the jargon of health policy wonks. Sure enough, the fraction of Americans without health insurance has declined to its lowest level in history, while health cost growth has plunged: Since Obamacare passed Congress, private insurance costs have risen less than half as fast as they did in the previous decade, andMedicare costs have risen less than a fifth as fast.

But if health costs are looking good, what’s with the spike in premiums? It only applies to one piece of the health care system — the “exchanges,” the insurance markets Obamacare established for people who aren’t covered either by their employers or by government programs, mainly Medicare and Medicaid.

The way the exchanges were supposed to work was that both healthy and less-healthy people would sign up, providing insurers with a good mix of risks that let them offer reasonably priced policies. Broad participation was supposed to happen because the law requires everyone to have insurance — the “mandate” — or face a penalty. Buying insurance was supposed to remain affordable because the law provides subsidies for middle- and lower-income families, ensuring that health costs don’t become too large a share of income.

Many insurers entered the market in the belief that the system would work as advertised. After all, conceptually similar systems work in other countries, like Switzerland; Massachusetts has had a system along the same lines since 2006 (which is why some of us call it ObamaRomneycare); and even now it’s working O.K. in California, which has managed the program well.

In many states, however, not enough healthy people signed up — and now insurers are either pulling out or hiking their premiums to reflect the not-so-good risk pool. Since premiums have until now been well below projections, this only brings them back up to expected levels. But it’s clearly not good news.

How many people are hurt by these premium hikes? Not as many as you may think.

If you are covered by your employer, Medicare or Medicaid, this isn’t about you. Even if you buy a policy on the exchanges, you’re protected if your income is low enough — $97,200 for a family of four — to make you eligible for subsidies. So we’re talking about a fraction of a fraction of the population (which admittedly may still be several million people).

Oh, and bear in mind that many of those affected by the rate hikes have pre-existing conditions, which means that without Obamacare they wouldn’t be insured at all.

Even if the direct effects of this year’s hike aren’t that big, could it mean that Obamacare is about to unravel? No. Most people on the exchanges receive subsidies, which means that the rate hikes won’t induce them to drop out; people talking about a “death spiral” haven’t done their homework.

So the news is bad, but its badness is limited. Still, the architects of Obamacare had hoped to create a system that would eventually cover almost everyone.

Can the current problems be fixed?

As a technical matter, the answer is clearly yes. Strengthen the mandate; expand the subsidies; close the loopholes that have allowed some insurers to bypass the exchanges; take a more active role in setting standards and reaching out to families to make them aware of their options. Some states are doing much better than others, and it wouldn’t take a lot of money to expand best practices to the nation as a whole.

The trouble is that Congress would have to vote to spend that money. So unless Democrats manage to take the House (unlikely) or Republicans are willing to cooperate in the public interest (even more unlikely), the easy fix that’s clearly in sight will have to wait for a while.

So, is the latest health care news disappointing? Yes. Is it catastrophic? Not at all.

Blow and Collins

October 27, 2016

In “Donald Trump’s Lack of Discipline and Discernment” Mr. Blow says according to his own words, he objectifies women, prioritizes fighting and fetishizes adoration.  Ms. Collins, in “The Dark Days of Donald Trump,” tells us how the half-minute candidate takes care of business.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Yes, we’re still talking about sex. Sigh.

On Tuesday night, during a fiery — and quite frankly, bizarre —interview on Fox News, the Trump supporter, walking contradiction and inflated ego Newt Gingrich yelled at the host, Megyn Kelly, about Trump’s own statements about sexually assaulting women and multiple women’s accusations that he had assaulted them.

When Kelly began a question with the phrase, “If Trump is a sexual predator…,” Newt went nuts, said Trump “is not a sexual predator,” chastised her for “using language that’s inflammatory” and claimed she was “fascinated with sex.”

This was an obscene spectacle, and not only because Gingrich has confessed to cheating on his wife at the same time that he was leading impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice related to having an affair. It was also obscene because of the continued tone deafness and abject ignorance within the Trump campaign and among its allies about the canyon of difference between sex and assault.

Sex, in all its range of expressions, including kissing and intimate touching, is consensual. Any forcible touching of another person’s body is sexual assault.

One should always be wary of people who don’t intuitively recognize that difference.

But this would have been a blip, a curiosity, merely an act in the media circus, if it had simply remained a squabble between television personalities. But, of course, it didn’t. On Wednesday, Donald Trump couldn’t help weighing in, once again turning attention away from issues that could strengthen his struggling campaign and back to his monthslong quarrel with Kelly and his history of issues with women.

At the grand opening of his new Washington, D.C., hotel, Trump complimented Gingrich for his finger-waving tantrum, saying:

“By the way — congratulations, Newt, on last night. That was an amazing interview … we don’t play games, Newt, right? We don’t play games.”

With that statement, Trump elevated and endorsed Gingrich’s behavior and reignited the debate about Trump and his campaign’s dismissal of the very idea of sexual assault. With that statement, every woman and every parent of a daughter and sibling of a sister is forced to bring Trump’s braggadocio about kissing and groping women back to the fore. With that statement, everyone is forced to consider the vindictive side of the man who has — to put it mildly — a spotty track record with women.

Trump, according to his own words, objectifies women, prioritizes fighting and “winning,” and fetishizes adoration.

We’re putting aside for a moment weighty issues like his severely challenged grasp of foreign policy, his reckless comments about nuclear weapons, his blockheaded comments about abortion, his xenophobic comments about Muslims, his ethno-bigoted comments about Mexicans and his condescending comments about the plight of black people in the “inner city.”

Let’s instead focus for the purposes of this discussion on character, or the lack thereof. Let’s focus on what we know about this man from the words that have come out of his own mouth. Let’s focus on the clarity of his darkness, his illusory deceptions, his insatiable avarice and his colossal conceit.

When you view the man with clear eyes, he shrinks and withers.

What is left when the facade is removed is a shallow narcissist who is also a misogynist, bigot, nativist and xenophobe. That keeps coming up, but that’s the root of the thing. We can never tire of saying that because it is in fatigue that hatred and intolerance gain a foothold that can quickly morph into a stranglehold.

Vigilance is not optional; it’s obligatory.

Just this week, The New York Times reported on tapes of Trump recorded by the biographer Michael D’Antonio. To hear the accompanying podcast in which portions of the recordings are played, along with a discussion with D’Antonio, is to descend into the mind of an egomaniacal fame addict who is painfully un-self-aware even as he boasts of his own personal achievements.

In part one of the podcast, D’Antonio makes this startling assertion:

“I think he doesn’t want to be understood because that would make him vulnerable, but I also think that he doesn’t even know himself well enough to share what he considers to be genuine. His genuine reality is the most superficial one that you can imagine.”

But, in part two of the podcast, D’Antonio delivers a devastating assessment of the man he interviewed, recorded and captured in biography:

“Donald Trump is a bottomless pit of need, and the presidency was the only object big enough that he could imagine seizing to fill up that hole.”

Mr. D’Antonio continued: “It’s not going to be enough, were he to win.”

Yes, this is one man’s assessment, but it feels to me like an astute one, and a fundamentally frightening one.

And this brings us back to his inability to resist patting Gingrich on the back for his verbal tirade against Kelly. Trump lacks not only self-awareness, but also self-control. He could have let that television exchange pass without comment, and he should have, but he didn’t.

Everything in him is so caught up with the idea of who he’s fighting with that he doesn’t seem to have a principled grasp on what he is fighting for. That’s not someone who should be a great nation’s president; that’s someone who would benefit from being a great therapist’s patient.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Do you think Donald Trump has given up?

It was a little strange to see him campaigning Wednesday in that critical swing state of … Washington, D.C.

“He’s coming to open a hotel that’s under budget and ahead of schedule,” campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, insisting it was all a part of the presidential sales pitch.

Blitzer noted mildly that the hotel has actually been open for some time.

“This is the grand official opening,” Conway insisted.

Aren’t you beginning to feel a little sympathy for Kellyanne Conway? Until recently she was just that terrible Trump talking head, but now she seems like a woman laboring valiantly under an impossible burden.

“Saturday Night Live” recently did a parody of her day off, in which Kellyanne eagerly tried to do yoga or cook dinner, but kept getting dragged back to CNN to recalibrate some new awful tweet from her candidate. (“Of course Mr. Trump thinks that Mexicans can read, and actually what he wants them to read the most is Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.”)

Conway herself once admitted that the campaign was behind, but then had to spend days trying to pedal back from the obvious. In — yes! — another CNN interview, she said that she had reprimanded Trump for sounding as if he thought they were going to lose. And that Trump responded: “O.K., honey, then we’ll win.” That was probably her best moment of the day, and it was an “O.K., honey.”

Trump is doing more last-lap rallies than Clinton. He definitely wins the stamina competition, as long as the task at hand does not involve having to listen to anyone else, or concentrate for more than about 30 seconds.

Still, his schedule does seem to have more and more to do with the businesses he’d have to resuscitate as a private citizen after Nov. 8. On Tuesday, he dragged reporters off to admire one of his golf courses in Florida and listen to the workers tell their boss how much they loved him.

“All of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare,” Trump ad-libbed.

Well, Obamacare was the issue of the day. Except the workers in question had employer-covered health plans. Whoops. Somebody must have violated the 30-second rule on the flight in.

It’s still possible to get a drooping candidate exercised, as long as you stick to the personal. Witness Joe Biden’s recent comment that he’d like to take Trump “behind the gym if I were in high school.”

“Did you see where Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn?” Trump demanded, starting off with his signature inability to get any fact right, including the proposed location of the fight. “Me! He wants it, I’d love that! I’d love that! Mr. Tough Guy. You know, he’s Mr. Tough Guy. You know when he’s Mr. Tough Guy? When he’s standing behind a microphone by himself!”

O.K., not the man you want negotiating an arms reduction treaty.

Do you think Clinton thinks she’s a shoo-in? Publicly, she’s not talking that way. And there’s no reason to get overconfident. Florida seems to be tightening. There’s no telling what might happen, given the fact that we live in a country where Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president.

But you’d definitely rather be the campaign with Barack and Michelle Obama rallying the troops than the one that has to rely on Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. The men who give a whole new frightening image of the Three Amigos.

Of the trio, Newt is clearly the winner. Having come into the campaign as political wreckage, he’s the only one who doesn’t cause people to shake their heads and say, “My God, what happened to him?

This week Newt was in the news once again when he got into a vigorous tussle with Megyn Kelly on Fox, about whether the media was devoting too much time to the Trump groping issue. Gingrich accused Kelly of being “fascinated with sex, and you don’t care about public policy.”

At the end Kelly suggested Gingrich “take your anger issues and spend some time working on them.” And the whole world cheered.

However, Newt did have a point. Speaking on behalf of the nation as a whole, I would say that yes, we are sort of fascinated with sex. Normally at this point in a presidential campaign we would also be spending a lot of time on policy. However, when one of the candidates has that 30-second problem, it’s hard to figure out what his side of the argument is.

The only issue we can really grapple with is whether a President Donald Trump might get peeved one day and drop a nuke on one of our trading partners.

If you have to ask the question, you’ve already got the answer.

On Wednesday, Trump congratulated Gingrich on his “amazing” performance. This was during the new, official ribbon-cutting at his D.C. hotel. Which he was doing not to prop up his flagging brand, but just to remind people that he will run the country like his businesses. With lots of tax deductions and Chinese steel.

Friedman and Bruni

October 26, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Alien to All That’s Great” The Moustache of Wisdom says we know who he is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?  Mr. Bruni, in “Hillary Clinton’s Resounding Mandate,” says there would be enormous meaning and clear messages in her election.  Here’s TMOW:

It’s taken me a while to put my finger on exactly what political label best describes Donald Trump as his presidential campaign snarls and spits to a finish. I think I’ve finally got it: Donald Trump is a “legal alien.”

That’s right, the man who has spent the last year railing against those dastardly “illegal aliens” supposedly wreaking havoc on our country turns out to be a legal alien — someone born in America but whose values are completely alien to all that has made this country great.

Who do you know who has denigrated immigrants, the handicapped, Muslims and Mexicans; trashed all our recent trade agreements; mounted a fraudulent campaign claiming our president was not born in this country; insulted the whole presidential selection process by running for the highest office without doing a shred of homework; boasted of grabbing women by their genitals; disparaged our NATO allies; praised the dictatorial president of Russia and encouraged him to hack Democratic Party emails; vowed to prosecute his campaign rival if he got elected; threatened to curb the freedom of the press; suggested that gun rights advocates might take the law into their own hands if Hillary Clinton won; insulted the parents of a slain Iraq war hero; been accused by 11 women of sexual assault or other unwelcome physical advances; sought to undermine America’s electoral system by claiming, without a shred of evidence, that it is so “rigged” he can’t promise to concede if he loses; and been cited for lying about more things more times in more ways on more days than any presidential aspirant in history?

This cocktail of toxic behaviors and attitudes is utterly alien to anyone who has ever run for president — and for good reason. But that is who Trump is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?

1) The American people. Who are we? Hopefully, an overwhelming majority will crush Trump at the polls and send the message that he is the one who needs to be morally deported, with a pathway back to the American mainstream only if he changes his ways.

If Trump loses and decides to start a media company — a kind of “Trump Ink” — to keep injecting his conspiratorial venom into the veins of U.S. politics and terrorize moderate Republicans, he will pay dearly. Trump Ink will blacken Trump Inc.

Already there are myriad reports of people avoiding Trump hotels and golf courses, because of his poisonous behavior. The PGA Tour recently moved its longstanding tournament from Trump’s Doral course in Miami to a course in … Mexico!

2) The Republican Party. Whose party is this? Almost all of the G.O.P.’s leaders have chosen to stand with Trump because they love their jobs (and the party that sustains them) more than their country. If Trump loses, will the G.O.P. leadership try to chase that big chunk of its base that went with Trump and become an alt-right party, or will this G.O.P. fracture and the decent conservatives go off and form a new, healthy Republican Party?

The country desperately needs a healthy center-right party that embraces the full rainbow of American society, promotes market-based solutions for climate change, celebrates risk-taking over redistribution, pushes for smaller government, expands trade that benefits the many but takes care of those hurt by it, invests in infrastructure, offers tax and entitlement reforms — and liberates itself from right-wing thought police like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist, who have prevented the G.O.P. from compromising and being a governing party.

3) The Democratic Party. Whose party is this? In truth, Bernie Sanders’s movement fractured the Democratic Party almost as much as Trump did the G.O.P., but that fissure has been temporarily plastered over by the overriding need to defeat Trump.

If Clinton wins, that fissure will quickly reopen and some basic questions will have to be answered: Do Democrats support any trade expansion? Do Democrats believe in the principled use of force? Do they believe that America’s risk-takers who create jobs are a profit engine to be unleashed or a menace only to be regulated and taxed? Do they believe we need to expand safety nets to catch those being left behind by this age of accelerating change but also control entitlements so they will be sustainable?

How does the Democratic Party process the fact that while Trump is a legal alien, his supporters are not. They are our neighbors. They need to be heard, and where possible they need to be helped. But they also need to be challenged to learn faster and make good choices, because the world is not slowing down for them.

Bottom line: We’re in the middle of a massive technological shift. It’s changing every job, workplace and community. Government can help, but there is no quick fix, and a lot more will depend on what Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, calls “the start-up of you.” You need a plan to succeed today.

To the extent that the center-left and the center-right can come together on programs to help every American get the most out of this world and cushion the worst, we’ll all be better off. But the more we get tribally divided, the more the American dream will become an alien concept to us all.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I hear two observations about the 2016 presidential race so incessantly that they’re like hit songs at peak ubiquity. The lyrics are seared into my brain.

One is that the Republican and Democratic nominees leave voters with no real choice. That’s nuts, because it implies that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are equally unpalatable and it misunderstands “choice” as profoundly as Trump misreads polls. He and Clinton may not be the political buffet of our dreams. But one entree is perilous, while the other has tired ingredients in a suboptimal sauce. Salmonella or salmon with cucumber and dill: That’s a choice. I know what I’m putting on my plate.

The other observation is that when Clinton is elected — sorry, if Clinton is elected — she’ll have shaky authority and murky marching orders, because she’ll be the beneficiary of an anti-Trump vote, not a pro-Clinton one. This, too, misses the mark. Even if we grant that voters aren’t so much rushing to her as fleeing him, they’re fleeing for specific reasons. They’re expressing particular values. Those reasons and values are her marching orders, and there’s nothing murky about them.

I’d go even further and say that they amount to a mandate, which is this: to safeguard the very America — compassionate, collaborative, decent — that he routinely degrades.

First, though, some math. As Damon Linker explains in The Week, Clinton is in a position to notch a resounding victory by historical standards.

As of late Tuesday, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls put her 5.4 percentage points ahead of Trump in a four-way race and 5.1 ahead in a one-on-one matchup. In three of the last six presidential elections, the margin of victory was significantly smaller than that; in the other three it was larger, although only slightly in the 1992 contest (5.5 percent), which her husband won.

Given early-voting patterns, Trump’s erratic behavior and her campaign’s superior ground game, I think she’ll exceed current projections; an ABC News tracking poll last weekend had her up by 12. The largest national margin since Ronald Reagan’s 18.2-point advantage in 1984 was the 8.5-point spread with which her husband was re-elected, and that was 20 years ago.

It’s true that none of the victors in the contests over the last three decades had an opponent as unprepared, unsteady and unsavory as Trump. But it’s also true that Trump is the protest candidate — the “change agent,” in prognosticators’ preferred parlance — at a juncture unfavorable to an insider like Clinton, who’s no darling of voters to begin with.

So if voters hand him an overwhelming defeat, it’s a bold statement, with undeniable messages.

They’d be saying that sexism like his is intolerable. That’s evident in the yawning gender gap that he confronts, in the disproportionate number of women who are voting early and in the possible surge, after Election Day, of women in Congress. The Year of Trump is turning out to be the true Year of the Woman, and not only because of a glass ceiling’s shattering.

This gives Clinton a mandate to make sure our public discourse and laws never treat women as subordinate to men.

Voters who weren’t intrinsically anti-Trump but ended up in that column are punishing him for the way he attacked the Khan family, Alicia Machado and so many others before and since. That’s clear in the words and timing of Republican leaders who defected from Trump. Each reached a point where, for reasons moral or political, Trump’s pettiness and viciousness could no longer be shrugged off.

There’s a mandate for Clinton in this as well. It’s to rise above and push back at the corrosive politics of insult, and she did more to betray than to honor this with her “basket of deplorables.”

An unorthodox candidate, Trump has run an unholy campaign that pits honest-to-goodness Americans, whoever they are, against others, including Mexican rapists, a Mexican-American judge, a president with Kenya in his blood and anyone with the Quran on a night stand. This appeals to an unsettlingly sizable group of voters.

But its repudiation by a definitive majority would tell Clinton that she’s being trusted, as Trump never could be, to lift us above such labeling and — to borrow a bit from her own stump speech — build bridges instead of walls.

While her election might not be any validation of her prescriptions for health care, the Middle East or trade, it would say loudly and clearly that the country cannot survive the divisiveness that Trump promotes and will not abide the bigotry that he projects.

Acting in accordance with that wouldn’t give our first female president most (or even much) of the legislation that she wants. But it would give her all of the authority that she needs.

Bobo, solo

October 25, 2016

Bobo is here to tell us to stop worrying, and that everything will be just peachy keen.  Hakuna matata!  (He actually ends his column with that…)  In “The Epidemic of Worry” he burbles that the thing we have to fear is anxiety itself.  He’ll be followed by “gemli” from Boston.  I’ve heard that Bobo assigns the reading of the comments to an assistant because his ever-so-delicate fee-fees get hurt…  Here he is:

We’ve had a tutorial on worry this year. The election campaign isn’t really about policy proposals, issue solutions or even hope. It’s led by two candidates who arouse gargantuan anxieties, fear and hatred in their opponents.

As a result, some mental health therapists are reporting that three-quarters of their patients are mentioning significant election-related anxiety. An American Psychological Association study found that more than half of all Americans are very or somewhat stressed by this race.

Of course, there are good and bad forms of anxiety — the kind that warns you about legitimate dangers and the kind that spirals into dark and self-destructive thoughts.

In his book “Worrying,” Francis O’Gorman notes how quickly the good kind of anxiety can slide into the dark kind. “Worry is circular,” he writes. It may start with a concrete anxiety: Did I lock the back door? Is this headache a stroke? “And it has a nasty habit of taking off on its own, of getting out of hand, of spawning thoughts that are related to the original worry and which make it worse.”

That’s what’s happening this year. Anxiety is coursing through American society. It has become its own destructive character on the national stage.

Worry alters the atmosphere of the mind. It shrinks your awareness of the present and your ability to enjoy what’s around you right now. It cycles possible bad futures around in your head and forces you to live in dreadful future scenarios, 90 percent of which will never come true.

Pretty soon you are seeing the world through a dirty windshield. Worry dims every sunrise and amplifies mistrust. A mounting tide of anxiety makes people angrier about society and more darkly pessimistic about the possibility of changing it. Spiraling worry is the perverted underside of rationality.

This being modern polarized America, worry seems to come in two flavors.

Educated-class anxiety can often be characterized as a feeling overabundant of options without a core of convicting purpose. It’s worth noting that rich countries are more anxious than poorer ones. According to the World Health Organization, 18.2 percent of Americans report chronic anxiety while only 3.3 percent of Nigerians do.

Today, when you hear affluent people express worry, it’s usually related to the fear of missing out, and the dizziness of freedom. The affluent often feel besieged by busyness and plagued by a daily excess of choices. At the same time, there is a pervasive cosmic unease, the anxiety that they don’t quite understand the meaning of life, or have not surrendered to some all-encompassing commitment that would bring coherence and peace.

Many affluent people use money to buy privacy, and so cut themselves off from both the deep relationships that could give them purpose and the neighborly support systems that could hold them up if things go south.

This election has also presented members of the educated class with an awful possibility: that their pleasant social strata may rest on unstable molten layers of anger, bigotry and instability. How could this guy Trump get even 40 percent of the votes? America may be not quite the country we thought it was.

Among the less educated, anxiety flows from and inflames a growing sense that the structures of society are built for the exploitation of people like themselves. Everything is rigged; the rulers are malevolent and corrupt.

Last weekend’s “Black Jeopardy” skit on “Saturday Night Live” did a beautiful job of showing how this sensation overlaps among both progressive African-Americans and reactionary Trumpians.

It is a well-established fact that people who experience social exclusion have a tendency to slide toward superstitious and conspiratorial thinking. People who feel exploited by, and invisible to, those at the commanding heights of society are not going to worry if their candidate can’t pass a fact-check test. They just want someone who can share their exclusion and give them a better story.

Anxiety changes people. We’ve seen a level of thuggery this election cycle that is without precedent in recent American history. Some of the anti-Trump demonstrators seem more interested in violence than politics. Some of the Trumpians are savage.

David French wrote a shocking essay for National Review describing the appalling online abuse he suffered because of his anti-Trump stance. His anonymous assailants Photoshopped pictures of his daughter’s face in a gas chamber and left GIFs of grisly executions on his wife’s blog.

Some of the things that have made us vulnerable to this wave of anxiety are not going away — the narratives of fear, conspiracy and the immobilizing stress. America’s culture may be permanently changed for the worse.

But the answer to worry is the same as the answer to fear: direct action. If the next president starts enacting a slew of actual policies, then at least we can argue about concrete plans, rather than vague apocalyptic moods.

Furthermore, action takes us out of ourselves. Worry, like drama, is all about the self. As O’Gorman puts it, the worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse: “He doesn’t give out energy for the benefit of others. He absorbs energy at others’ cost.”

If you’re worrying, you’re spiraling into your own narcissistic pool. But concrete plans and actions thrust us into the daily fact of other people’s lives. This campaign will soon be over, and governing, thank God, will soon return.

Hakuna matata.

Lord above…  Here’s “gemli:”

“Governing will soon return? Really? The reason that we’re facing a threat from Donald Trump today is because Republicans disabled the government the day Obama was elected. The rise of the Tea Party, the birther movement and the Sarah Palin asteroid that nearly struck the earth were indications that the wheels were coming off our democracy. Just when we couldn’t imagine it getting any worse, Donald Trump demonstrated that we simply lacked imagination.

Trump is the result of years of dysfunction that resulted from Republicans refusing to show up for work. They governed by fear, fundamentalism and filibuster rather than good-faith efforts to work with the president. Low-information voters were fed on a diet of conspiracy theories, science denial and resentment. Now we’re reaping the crop of deplorables that Republicans sowed.

Trump will almost certainly lose, but Clinton has been so demonized during this campaign that half of American thinks that this indefatigable, wonkish and politically experienced woman is the antichrist. The prophecy that another Democrat will be a disaster will be fulfilled by those who have something to gain from continued chaos.

Donald Trump is the symptom, not the problem. He’s the rash that our sick political system has broken out in. If we’re waiting for Washington to fix itself, we’ve got a long wait. It’s a democracy, stupid. We are the ones who make it work, and we’re also to blame when it fails.”

Krugman’s blog, 10/22/16

October 24, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Debt, Diversion, Distraction:”

There was a time, not long ago, when deficit scolds were actively dangerous — when their huffing and puffing came quite close to stampeding Washington into really bad policies like raising the Medicare age (which wouldn’t even have saved money) and short-term fiscal austerity. At this point their influence doesn’t reach nearly that far. But they continue to play a malign role in our national discourse — because they divert and distract attention from much more deserving problems, depriving crucial issues of political oxygen.

You saw that in the debates: four, count them, four questions about debt from the CRFB, not one about climate change. And you see it again in today’s Times, with Pete Peterson (of course) and Paul Volcker (sigh) lecturing us about the usual stuff.

What’s so bad about this kind of deficit scolding? It’s deeply misleading on two levels: the problem it purports to lay out is far less clearly a major issue than the scolds claim, and the insistence that we need immediate action is just incoherent.

So, about that supposed debt crisis: right now we have a more or less stable ratio of debt to GDP, and no hint of a financing problem. So claims that we are facing something terrible rest on the presumption that the budget situation will worsen dramatically over time. How sure are we about that? Less than you may imagine.

Yes, the population is getting older, which means more spending on Medicare and Social Security. But it’s already 2016, which means that quite a few baby boomers are already drawing on those programs; by 2020 we’ll be about halfway through the demographic transition, and current estimates don’t suggest a big budget problem.

Why, then, do you see projections of a large debt increase? The answer lies not in a known factor — an aging population — but in assumed growth in health care costs and rising interest rates. And the truth is that we don’t know that these are going to happen. In fact, health costs have grown much more slowly since 2010 than previously projected, and interest rates have been much lower. As the chart above shows, taking these favorable surprises into account has already drastically reduced long-run debt projections. These days the long-run outlook looks vastly less scary than people used to imagine.

Still, it’s probably true that something will eventually have to be done to bring spending and revenues in line. But that brings me to the second point: why is this a crucial issue right now?

Are debt scolds demanding that we slash spending and raise taxes right away? Actually, no: the economy is still weak, interest rates still low (meaning that the Fed can’t offset fiscal tightening with easy money), and as a matter of macroeconomic prudence we should probably be running bigger, not smaller deficits in the medium term. So proposals to “deal with” the supposed debt problem always involve long-term cuts in benefits and (reluctantly) increases in taxes. That is, they don’t involve actual policy moves now, or for the next 5-10 years.

So why is it so important to take up the issue right now, with so much else on our plate?

Put it this way: yes, it’s possible that we may at some point in the future have to cut benefits. But deficit scolds talk as if they offer a way to avoid this fate, when in fact their solution to the prospect of future benefit cuts is … to cut future benefits.

If you try really hard, you can argue that locking in policies now for this future adjustment will make the transition smoother. But that is really a second-order issue, hardly deserving to take up a lot of our time. By putting the debt question aside, we are NOT in any material way making the future worse.

And that is a total contrast with climate change, where our failure to act means pouring vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, materially increasing the odds of catastrophe with every year we wait.

So my message to the deficit scolds is this: yes, we may face some hard choices a couple of decades from now. But we might not, and in any case there aren’t any choices that must be made now. Meanwhile, there are genuinely scary things happening as we speak, which we should be taking on but aren’t. And your fear-mongering is distracting us from these real problems. Therefore, I would respectfully request that you people just go away.

Blow and Krugman

October 24, 2016

Mr. Blow has a question in “Clinton’s Question of Illegitimacy:”  Why is the election “rigged” at the very moment that a woman is on the verge of victory?  Oh, Charles — if you thought the racism of the last 8 years has been fun, just WAIT until you see the sexism to follow.  In “It’s Trump’s Party” Prof. Krugman says don’t let anyone pretend otherwise.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

President Obama is fond of saying that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to ever seek the presidency. And, if current polls are correct and prove resilient, she will be one of the most qualified people to be elected and ascend to that office.

But one of the great ironies of this election is that America’s first female president may be viewed by many as the country’s most invalid president, hanging under the specter of suspicion, mistrust and illegitimacy.

This is partly because her opponents all along the way have complained that the system — from the media to the electoral apparatus — was “rigged” and unfairly tilted in her favor, and it’s partly because of unflattering bits of information that have come to light from an illegal hack.

During the primaries, Bernie Sanders (who now supports Clinton) made very clear that he thought that both the media and the Democratic Party itself had not been fair to him. As he put it, “We knew we were taking on the establishment.”

This became a motif of his revolution, and a force corrosive to voters’ confidence in the primary process. A March Pew report found a striking decline in Democrats’ trust in their nominating process:

“Democrats and Republicans differ on whether the presidential primaries are a good way of determining the best-qualified nominees. Currently, 42 percent of Republican voters have a positive view of the primary process, compared with 30 percent of Democrats. The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points,” from 52 percent in February 2008. “Republicans’ views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”

In early May, Sanders said at a rally:

“When we talk about a rigged system, it’s also important to understand how the Democratic Convention works. We have won, at this point, 45 percent of pledged delegates, but we have only earned 7 percent of superdelegates.”

In late May, Sanders reversed course on the system being “rigged” on “Face the Nation,” saying:

“What has upset me, and what I think is — I wouldn’t use the word rigged, because we knew what the words were — but what is really dumb is that you have closed primaries, like in New York State, where three million people who are Democrats or Republicans could not participate, where you have a situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast.

Blogs like Vox and FiveThirtyEight tried to debunk the rigging claims, saying essentially that while some rules worked against Sanders, others worked in his favor, and in the end he simply lost because he got fewer votes. But still, the “rigged” idea stuck.

This idea was buttressed by WikiLeaks’ release of hacked emails that showed that some in the Democratic National Committee displayed an open disdain for Sanders and, as The New York Times reported, “showed party officials conspiring to sabotage” his campaign.

Whereas the foundation of Sanders’s objections were at least based on real issues, even though many were by no means new to this cycle, Donald Trump’s sermonizing about rigging is constructed of wild conspiracy and conjecture.

Trump has been on a tear for weeks about the general election being “rigged,” and apparently that message is sinking in among a large portion of his supporters, just as it sank in among a large portion of Democratic primary voters.

An NBC/SurveyMonkey poll released Friday found that 45 percent of Republicans definitely wouldn’t or were unlikely to accept the result of the election if their candidate lost, compared to 30 percent of Independents and 16 percent of Democrats who felt the same.

At this point, it’s not even clear if Trump would graciously concede if he lost. Indeed, grace may be beyond his grasp.

And while there are signs that Clinton is narrowing the enthusiasm gap with Trump, my sense is that Clinton’s current success is as much a repudiation of Trump’s abhorrence as it is an embrace of Clinton. It feels to me more like exhaustion than exhilaration.

We could be on the verge of something historic. So, why does it feel so much like acquiescence? Why aren’t more people rushing to the polls to vote for this immensely qualified woman rather than rushing to vote against this woefully unqualified man? One of the reasons is that her male opponents have successfully cast the race she may win as rigged.

I think it’s fair to say our electoral processes aren’t perfect. But they’ve never been. Nor has any candidate been perfect. So why must those imperfections be nullifying at the very moment that a woman is on the verge of victory? Clinton is a woman beating men at their own game. Deal with it.

Still, this all means that a potential Hillary Clinton administration could commence under a cloud and against a chill wind. It could be a first, but one met with a frost. Revolutionary acts come at a cost.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The presidential campaign is entering its final weeks, and unless the polls are completely off, Donald Trump has very little chance of winning — only 7 percent, according to the Times’s Upshot model. Meanwhile, the candidate continues to say disgusting things, and analysts are asking whether down-ballot Republicans will finally repudiate their party’s nominee.

The answer should be, who cares? Everyone who endorsed Mr. Trump in the past owns him now; it’s far too late to get a refund. And voters should realize that voting for any Trump endorser is, in effect, a vote for Trumpism, whatever happens at the top of the ticket.

First of all, nobody who was paying attention can honestly claim to have learned anything new about Mr. Trump in the last few weeks. It was obvious from the beginning that he was a “con artist” — so declared Marco Rubio, who has nonetheless endorsed his candidacy. His racism and sexism were apparent from the beginning of his campaign; his vindictiveness and lack of self-discipline were on full display in his tirades against Judge Gonzalo Curiel and Khizr Khan.

So any politicians who try after the election to distance themselves from the Trump phenomenon — or even unendorse in these remaining few days — have already failed the character test. They knew who he was all along, they knew that this was a man who should never, ever hold any kind of responsible position, let alone become president. Yet they refused to speak out against his candidacy as long as he had a chance of winning — that is, they supported him when it mattered, and only distanced themselves when it didn’t. That’s a huge moral failure, and deserves to be remembered as such.

Of course, we know why the great majority of Republican politicians supported Mr. Trump despite his evident awfulness: They feared retribution from the party’s base if they didn’t. But that’s not an excuse. On the contrary, it’s reason to trust these people even less. We already know that they lack any moral backbone, that they will do whatever it takes to guarantee their own political survival.

And what this means in practice is that they will remain Trumpists after the election, even if the Orange One himself vanishes from the scene.

After all, what we learned during the Republican primary was that the party’s base doesn’t care at all about what the party establishment says: Jeb Bush (remember him?), the initial insider choice, got nowhere despite a giant war chest, and Mr. Rubio, who succeeded him as the establishment favorite, did hardly better. Nor does the base care at all about supposed conservative principles like small government.

What Republican voters wanted, instead, were candidates who channeled their anger and fear, who demonized nonwhites and played into dark conspiracy theories. (Even establishment candidates did that — never forget that Mr. Rubio accused President Obama of deliberately hurting America.)

Just in case you had any doubts about that political reality, a Bloomberg poll recently asked Republicans whose view better matched their own view of what the party should stand for: Paul Ryan or Donald Trump. The answer was Mr. Trump, by a wide margin.

This lesson hasn’t been lost on Republican politicians. Even if Mr. Trump loses bigly, they’ll know that their personal fortunes will depend on maintaining an essentially Trumpist line. Otherwise they will face serious primary challenges and/or be at risk of losing future elections when base voters stay home.

So you can ignore all the efforts to portray Mr. Trump as a deviation from the G.O.P.’s true path: Trumpism is what the party is all about. Maybe they’ll find future standard-bearers with better impulse control and fewer personal skeletons in their closets, but the underlying nastiness is now part of Republican DNA.

And the immediate consequences will be very ugly. Assuming that Hillary Clinton wins, she will face an opposing party that demonizes her and denies her legitimacy no matter how large her margin of victory. It may be hard to think of any way Republicans could be even more obstructionist and destructive than they were during the Obama years, but they’ll find a way, believe me.

In fact, it’s likely to be so bad that America’s governability may hang in the balance. A Democratic recapture of the Senate would be a very big deal, but they are unlikely to take the House, thanks to the clustering of their voters. So how will basic business like budgeting get done? Some observers are already speculating about a regime in which the House is effectively run by Democrats in cooperation with a small rump of rational Republicans. Let’s hope so — but it’s no way to manage a great nation.

Still, it’s hard to see an alternative. For the modern G.O.P. is Mr. Trump’s party, with or without the man himself.

Collins, solo

October 22, 2016

In “Don’t Take Donald Trump to Dinner” Ms. Collins says that like so much else, he found a way to ruin a 70-year-old tradition where candidates show up for inoffensive fun.  Here she is:

The evidence continues to mount: There is nothing in the world that Donald Trump can’t make worse.

Our latest example is the Al Smith Dinner, a feel-good annual event at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, in which the political and business elite gather to congratulate themselves for raising money to help poor children. It’s sponsored by the Catholic archdiocese, and in presidential election years it’s a tradition for the candidates to show up and make witty, self-deprecatory speeches in which each can also take gentle gibes at the other.

The nation is filled with must-show events for politicians. (There was quite a stir in Florida a few years ago when the gubernatorial candidates failed to attend the Wausau Possum Festival.) But few are as high-end and theoretically bipartisan as the Smith dinner. The most important guests are seated in tiers onstage, where hoi polloi can admire their table manners.

The first time I attended was back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were the star attractions. It was one of my very first assignments as a New York reporter. More prominent people covered the speeches; my job was to watch the stage and make sure the famous developer-power broker Robert Moses, who was in his 90s, made it through the meal. Moses kept sort of nodding off, his head dipping toward his soup. But my scoop never came.

There was one moment of excitement when Jimmy Carter tried to tell a sassy joke. He warned people to avoid getting too close to Reagan’s “I Love New York” button because “the paint is still wet.” The crowd cried out, shocked that the president had gone over the good-manners line. You get the idea. This thing has been going on since 1945 without major incident, and it took Donald Trump to screw it up.

He began with a self-pitying comment about how the New York political world had turned on him since he became a Republican. It’s true that Trump is wildly unpopular in the city right now, although changing parties was not quite as important as the part about becoming the nastiest, most undisciplined, overall terrifying presidential nominee in American history.

Then Trump compared himself to Jesus (“a guy who started out as a carpenter working for his father”). But by recent standards, he was getting along pretty well. And he did note modestly that “nobody can compete with God.”

Then things went downhill. We have seen this now so many times, people. The man can keep himself together for 10 minutes, but then he loses control. Do you think he gets bored? We know he has a severely truncated attention span. “Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission,” he jibed. Trump broke the code about not making personal attacks, and just for good measure, he did it with a totally fictional piece of internet lore.

“Oooh,” muttered the crowd. Trump rolled on, making email jokes, WikiLeaks jokes and all-purpose insults. (“Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people .…”) The reaction moved into flat-out booing, even before he offered them up the hilarious observation that Clinton was there “pretending not to hate Catholics.”

“We’re having some fun here tonight and that’s good,” Trump said between the groans and howls.

In a perfect world, Hillary Clinton would then have gotten up and given the most good-natured speech in political history, scrapping all the barbed lines in her prepared script, like the one about how a Trump White House would be awkward for gatherings of the ex-presidents (“How is Barack going to get past the Muslim ban?”). But she didn’t change a word, because Clinton is not a spontaneous politician.

If this were a normal election, we could have a very interesting discussion about how programmed she can be, and whether that would be a problem if she’s elected. But as things stand, unless we discover she’s actually an android, there’s just no point.

Nobody wants to get sucked into the Trump vortex. For months now, he’s been on a downward spiral that keeps getting wider and weirder. Everything he touches turns to crazy.

His best pal Rudy Giuliani used to be a credible public figure. Now, looking like a superannuated bulldog with a toothache, Giuliani prowls from one cable TV show to another, announcing that Donald Trump was absolutely brilliant to avoid paying taxes, starting an argument about whether Clinton was at ground zero after 9/11 and declaring that “everybody” commits adultery.

Trump’s fans have graduated from paranoia about immigrants to an obsession with buses full of dead inner-city residents voting on Election Day.

There’s nothing Trump can’t ruin, people. We’ve already noted that if he became president, he’d refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He’d decorate the White House Christmas tree with gold-plated golf balls. And I’ll bet he’d bring one of those creepy clowns to the Easter Egg Roll.

Blow, Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 21, 2016

In “Donald Trump vs. American Democracy” Mr. Blow says Trump is desperate for a reason to explain why he’s losing.  Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Repair Moral Capital.”  He says that the task ahead is globalism with solidarity.  Whatever that means.  As a delightful lagniappe, in true “Both Siderism” he actually refers to the totally discredited James O’Keefe.  And he has yet to disavow Trump.  Mr. Cohen, in “Trump the Anti-American,” says rage is all that Trump has had to offer. His America is small. But this is still the land of “Sure,” of the embrace of possibility.  Prof. Krugman, in “Why Hillary Wins,” has a memo to pundits:  Maybe she actually deserves it.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I’m just stunned.

In a race that has been full of shocking moments, one at Wednesday’s presidential debate stands out as the most shocking: Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the outcome of the election.

And that’s saying something, because there were other shocking moments during the debate, like when Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” or when he said he would deport “bad hombres” or suggested that late-term abortion included instances where doctors would “rip the baby out of the womb of the mother” and do so “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

But nothing even came close to this exchange between the moderator, Chris Wallace, and Trump:

Wallace: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely — sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?

Trump: I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I’ll look at it at the time.

Trump went on in his response to complain about the media, saying: “They’ve poisoned the minds of the voters.” Then he complained about outdated voter registration rosters, then he pivoted to his belief that Clinton shouldn’t have been allowed to run. To him, all these things contributed to the election being “rigged.”

Wallace came back with a short history lesson:

But, sir, there is a tradition in this country — in fact, one of the prides of this country — is the peaceful transition of power and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner, but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?

Trump’s response:

What I’m saying is that I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense. O.K.?

Clinton called the remark “horrifying,” and she was right. This is jaw-dropping, unprecedented and thoroughly irresponsible. This is an attack on our democracy itself.

And Trump has been peddling his “rigged” election theory for weeks, stating flatly this week that “Voter fraud is all too common, and then they criticize us for saying that.” Trump continued: “But take a look at Philadelphia, what’s been going on, take a look at Chicago, take a look at St. Louis. Take a look at some of these cities, where you see things happening that are horrendous.”

It should be noted that these are all heavily Democratic, majority-minority cities, and Republicans don’t fare well in places like that.

Indeed, as reported last November, Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote in 59 of Philadelphia’s 1,687 voting divisions. As the paper put it: “These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.” The paper pointed out that “Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Senator John McCain in 2008.”

As for the inclusion of St. Louis, it’s not clear to me that Trump isn’t confusing St. Louis with St. Lucie County, Fla., which was included in a viral email about voter fraud after the 2012 election. That email included this line: “In St. Lucie County, Fla., there were 175,574 registered eligible voters, but 247,713 votes were cast.”

But looked into that claim and found it to be “bogus,” writing:

It’s simply not true that there were tens of thousands more votes cast than voters available in St. Lucie County. Whoever first started this falsehood misread a St. Lucie election board document showing that 249,095 “cards” were cast, and registered voters totaled 175,554. But the supervisor of elections website explains that a “card” is one page, and the full “ballot” contained two pages. Total cards are not double the number of voters, as not every voter cast both pages (or “cards”).

But Trump, of birther fame, is not the kind of man who shies away from conspiracy theories; he embraces them.

He needs a reason that he’s losing other than the fact that he is arguably the least qualified, most ridiculous candidate to ever run for president as a major party nominee. He needs a reason other than the fact that he is being done in by his own words and actions. He needs a reason so that his self-inflated self-image as a relentless winner is not undone should he lose this election by embarrassing margins.

But to take that need for a diversion and distraction and turn it toward questioning the integrity of the electoral process itself and leaving open the possibility of not conceding should he lose is beyond the pale.

When Donald Trump gave that answer, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is completely unqualified to be president.

And now, FSM help  us all, here’s Bobo:

Hillary Clinton, who has been in politics all her adult life, seems to have learned something from Michelle Obama, who has never run for public office. Clinton gave three masterful answers in the debate Wednesday night that were tonally different from her normal clichés.

They were about Donald Trump’s alleged assaults on women, his refusal to respect the democratic process and the contrast between his years of “Celebrity Apprentice” experience and her own governing experience. Clinton’s answers were given in a slow and understated manner, but they were marked by moral passion, clarity and quiet contempt.

They were not spoken from the point of view of a politician. They were spoken from the point of view of a parent, which is the point of view Michelle Obama frequently uses. The politician asks: What can I offer to win votes? The parent asks: What world are my children going out into when they leave the house?

The politician is focused on individual interest, but the parent is interested in the shared social, economic and moral environment.

That turns out to be a useful frame for this ugly year. It’s becoming ever clearer that the nation’s moral capital is being decimated, and the urgent challenge is to name that decimation and reverse it.

Moral capital is the set of shared habits, norms, institutions and values that make common life possible. Left to our own, we human beings have an impressive capacity for selfishness. Unadorned, the struggle for power has a tendency to become barbaric. So people in decent societies agree on a million informal restraints — codes of politeness, humility and mutual respect that girdle selfishness and steer us toward reconciliation.

This year Trump is dismantling those restraints one by one. By savagely attacking Carly Fiorina’s looks and Ted Cruz’s wife he dismantled the codes of etiquette that prevent politics from becoming an unmodulated screaming match. By lying more or less all the time, he dismantles the fealty to truth without which conversation is impossible. By refusing to automatically respect the election results he corrodes confidence in our common institutions and risks turning public life into a never-ending dogfight.

Clinton has contributed to the degradation too. As the James O’Keefe videos remind us, wherever Hillary Clinton has gone in her career, a cloud of unsavory people and unsavory behavior has traveled alongside. But she is right to emphasize that Trump is the greatest threat to moral capital in recent history and that the health of that capital is more fundamental than any particular policy position.

The sad fact is that in the realm of common life, gnats can undo the work of giants. “Moral communities are fragile things, hard to build and easy to destroy,” Jonathan Haidt writes in his book “The Righteous Mind.” “When we think about very large communities such as nations, the challenge is extraordinary and the threat of moral entropy is intense.”

We are now in a country in which major presidential candidates can gibe about the menstrual cycles of their interviewers and the penis size of their opponents. We are now in a society in which the childish desires of a reality-TV narcissist can insult the inheritance that Washington and Hamilton risked their lives to bequeath. We are now in a society in which serial insults to basic decency aren’t automatically disqualifying.

Clearly, we have a giant task of moral repair ahead of us. That starts with a renunciation of the Trump style. One big lesson of 2016 is that that can only happen if people police members of their own party. If somebody is destroying the basic social and moral fabric through brutalistic rhetoric and vicious misogynistic behavior, it doesn’t really matter that he agrees with you on taxes and the Supreme Court; he has to be renounced or else he will drag the whole society to a level of degradation that will make all decent politics impossible.

It also means addressing the substantive social chasms that fueled Trump’s rise. We are clearly going to have a lot of angry populists around in the years ahead, of right and left. It should be possible to oppose them with a political movement that champions dynamism with cohesion, globalism with solidarity — a movement that supports free trade, open skilled immigration, ethnic diversity and a free American-led world order, but also local community building, state-fostered economic security, moral cohesion and patriotic purpose.

In other words, it should be possible to be conservative on macroeconomics, liberal on immigration policy, traditionalist on moral and civic matters, Swedish on welfare state policies, and Reaganesque on America’s role in the world.

The election of 2016 has exposed the staleness of the Republican and Democratic ideologies. It has also established a nihilistic, reality TV standard of conduct that will pull down the country if it is allowed to survive. The one nice thing about Trump is that he has prompted so many people to find their voice, and to turn from their revulsion to a higher alternative.

Yeah.  Right.  And how many of those people have stated that they won’t vote for Trump?  And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Delmore Schwartz, the poet, wrote of “the beautiful American word, Sure.”

To anyone raised as I was in the crimped confines of a wearier continent, Europe, that little word is indeed a thing of beauty, expressing a sense of possibility, an embrace of tomorrow, openness to the stranger, and a readiness for adventure that no other country possesses in such degree. It is the most concise expression of the optimism inherent in the American idea.

It is also something incommunicable until lived. To the outsider, America may appear by turns vulgar or violent, crass or childish, ugly or superficial, and of course it can be all of these things. Jonathan Galassi, the poet and publisher, has written of the “American cavalcade,” Philip Roth of “the indigenous American berserk,” and there is a gaudy, raucous, cinematic tumult to American life that is without parallel. Relentless reinvention is what America does; that is not always pretty. But beneath it all reside a can-do straightforwardness and directness that are the warp and weft of the American tapestry.

“Will you come with me?”


No questions asked. Sure I will. The word is at once strong and soft, reassuring above all. The American experiment unravels without this.

The spirit of “Sure” stands in contrast to the culture of impossibility and the fear of failure that often undercut European enterprise. Bitter experience of repetitive cataclysm has taught Europe to be wary of risk. Perhaps the French brick wall contained in the phrase “pas possible,” a frequent response to my inquiries during the years I lived in Paris, best expresses this mind-set. Call it the spirit of “Non.” No wonder Europe does social protection better than innovation.

Now if this America, whose essence is openness, whose first question is not “Where do you come from?” but “What can you do for me?” becomes consumed by rage, then it is lost. Rage is a closing of the mind. Anger against the foreigner, against the outsider and against the other may offer some passing consolation in times of difficulty or dread but they lead America away from itself. They offer the spirit of suspicion in place of the spirit of “Sure.” They undercut American decency. They replace the draw of the next frontier and of the unknown with the dead end of walls. Rage is also a form of dishonesty because it precludes the reflection that leads to truth.

And this in the end is all that Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for the highest office in the land, has had to offer America: his shallow, manipulative, self-important, scapegoat-seeking form of rage.

Over the three debates withHillary Clinton it became clear that this businessman who says he wants to make America great again in fact wants to make America shrink into a defensive crouch of resentment. Trump was small in the debates. He was as small as the America he seems to envisage. He was mean, nasty, petty and lazy. Smallness oozed from his petulant pout; it was all that would fit between those pursed lips. Any target was good for this showman whose ego is so consuming that he is utterly without conviction: Mexicans, Muslims, women, the disabled, war heroes, and, in the end, American democracy itself, for which he showed contempt in suggesting he might contest the outcome of an election that he contends, without the slightest shred of evidence, might be “rigged.”

The America of “Sure” is a stranger to Trump. His is the angry America of “shove it.” If that frustrated, tribal and incensed America were not lurking in a time of disorienting economic upheaval, Trump would not have garnered millions of votes. He has held up a mirror to a troubled and divided society. That, I suppose, is some form of service. But the deeper, decent, direct, can-do America is stronger; and for that America the Trump now visible in all his aspects is simply unfit for high office. He would threaten to undo what America is.

Of all the sentences written about Trump over many, many months now, my favorite is the last one in the letter sent this month by The New York Times lawyer David McCraw to Trump’s lawyer. Trump had demanded the retraction of an article about two women who had come forward to describe the way he had groped them. The women’s accounts, McCraw argued, constituted newsworthy information of public concern, and he concluded: “If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

Sure, we’ll see you in court.

Sure, America is a country that, despite its “original sin” of racism, elected a black man.

Sure, America will elect a woman as president.

Sure, this land was made for you and me.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Hey, that’s what pundits have been saying ever since this endless campaign began. You have to go back to Al Gore in 2000 to find a politician who faced as much jeering from the news media, over everything from claims of dishonesty (which usually turn out to be based on nothing) to matters of personal style.

Strange to say, however, Mrs. Clinton won the Democratic nomination fairly easily, and now, having pummeled her opponent in three successive debates, is an overwhelming favorite to win in November, probably by a wide margin. How is that possible?

The usual suspects are already coalescing around an answer — namely, that she just got lucky. If only the Republicans hadn’t nominated Donald Trump, the story goes, she’d be losing badly.

But here’s a contrarian thought: Maybe Mrs. Clinton is winning because she possesses some fundamental political strengths — strengths that fall into many pundits’ blind spots.

First of all, who was this other, stronger candidate that the G.O.P. might have chosen? Remember, Mr. Trump won the nomination because he gave his party’s base what it wanted, channeling the racial antagonism that has been the driving force for Republican electoral success for decades. All he did was say out loud what his rivals were trying to convey with dog whistles, which explains why they were so ineffective in opposing him.

And those establishment candidates were much more Trumpian than those fantasizing about a different history — say, one in which the G.O.P. nominated Marco Rubio — acknowledge. Many people remember Mr. Rubio’s brain glitch: the canned lines about “let’s dispel with this fiction” that he kept repeating in a disastrous debate performance. Fewer seem aware that those lines actually enunciated a crazy conspiracy theory, essentially accusing President Obama of deliberately weakening America. Is that really much better than the things Mr. Trump says? Only if you imagine that Mr. Rubio didn’t believe what he was saying — yet his insincerity, the obvious way he was trying to play a part, was surely part of his weakness.

That is, in fact, a general problem for establishment Republicans. How many of them really believe that tax cuts have magical powers, that climate change is a giant hoax, that saying the words “Islamic terrorism” will somehow defeat ISIS? Yet pretending to believe these things is the price of admission to the club — and the falsity of that pretense shines through.

And one more point about Mr. Rubio: why imagine that a man who collapsed in the face of childish needling from Mr. Trump would have triumphed over the woman who kept her cool during 11 hours of grilling over Benghazi, and made her interrogators look like fools? Which brings us to the question of Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.

When political commentators praise political talent, what they seem to have in mind is the ability of a candidate to match one of a very limited set of archetypes: the heroic leader, the back-slapping regular guy you’d like to have a beer with, the soaring orator. Mrs. Clinton is none of these things: too wonky, not to mention too female, to be a regular guy, a fairly mediocre speechifier; her prepared zingers tend to fall flat.

Yet the person tens of millions of viewers saw in this fall’s debates was hugely impressive all the same: self-possessed, almost preternaturally calm under pressure, deeply prepared, clearly in command of policy issues. And she was also working to a strategic plan: Each debate victory looked much bigger after a couple of days, once the implications had time to sink in, than it may have seemed on the night.

Oh, and the strengths she showed in the debates are also strengths that would serve her well as president. Just thought I should mention that. And maybe ordinary citizens noticed the same thing; maybe obvious competence and poise in stressful situations can add up to a kind of star quality, even if it doesn’t fit conventional notions of charisma.

Furthermore, there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton brought to this campaign that no establishment Republican could have matched: She truly cares about her signature issues, and believes in the solutions she’s pushing.

I know, we’re supposed to see her as coldly ambitious and calculating, and on some issues — like macroeconomics — she does sound a bit bloodless, even when she clearly understands the subject and is talking good sense. But when she’s talking about women’s rights, or racial injustice, or support for families, her commitment, even passion, are obvious. She’s genuine, in a way nobody in the other party can be.

So let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.

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.