Friedman and Bruni

In “Are You Sure You Want the Job?” The Moustache of Wisdom says battles between superpowers and superempowered angry men and teams of cybercriminals and cyberterrorists await our next president.  Mr. Bruni ponders “The Scary Specter of Ted Cruz” and says the Texas senator lurks ever larger in the 2016 presidential race, which grows scarier by the week.  Here’s TMOW:

Having watched all the debates and seen all these people running for president, I can’t suppress the thought: Why would anyone want this job now? Do you people realize what’s going on out there? Obama’s hair hasn’t gone early gray for nothing. I mean, Air Force One is great and all, but it now comes with Afghanistan, ISIS and the Republican Freedom Caucus — not to mention a lot of people, places and things all coming unstuck at once.

Consider the scariest news article this year. On Friday, The Washington Post reported that “the Justice Department has charged a hacker in Malaysia with stealing the personal data of U.S. service members and passing it to the Islamic State terrorist group, which urged supporters online to attack them.” The article explained that, in June, Ardit Ferizi, the leader of a group of ethnic Albanian hackers from Kosovo who call themselves Kosova Hackers Security, “hacked into a server used by a U.S. online retail company” and “obtained data on about 100,000 people.”

Ferizi, it said, “is accused of passing the data to Islamic State member Junaid Hussain, a British citizen who in August posted links on Twitter to the names, email addresses, passwords, locations and phone numbers of 1,351 U.S. military and other government personnel. He included a warning that Islamic State ‘soldiers … will strike at your necks in your own lands!’” F.B.I. agents tracked Ferizi “to a computer with an Internet address in Malaysia,” where he was arrested. Meanwhile, Hussain was killed by a U.S. drone in Syria.

Wow: An Albanian hacker in Malaysia collaborating with an ISIS jihadist on Twitter to intimidate U.S. soldiers online — before we killed the jihadist with a drone!

Welcome to the future of warfare: superpowers versus superempowered angry men — and a tag-team of cybercriminals and cyberterrorists. They’re all a byproduct of a profound technology-driven inflection point that will greet the next president and will make the current debates look laughably obsolete in four years.

I was born into the Cold War era. It was a dangerous time with two nuclear-armed superpowers each holding a gun to the other’s head, and the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” kept both in check. But we now know that the dictators that both America and Russia propped up in the Middle East and Africa suppressed volcanic sectarian conflicts.

The first decades of the post-Cold War era were also a time of relative stability. Dictators in Eastern Europe and Latin America gave way to democratically elected governments and free markets. Boris Yeltsin of Russia never challenged NATO expansion, and the Internet and global supply chains drove profitability up and the cost of labor and goods down. Interest rates were low, and although the income of men without college degrees declined, it was masked by rising home prices, subprime mortgages, easy credit, falling taxes and women joining the work force, so many household incomes continued to rise.

“Up until the year 2000, over 95 percent of the next generation were better off than the previous generation,” said Richard Dobbs, a director of the McKinsey Global Institute. Therefore, even though the rich were getting even richer than those down the income ladder “it did not lead to political unrest because the middle was moving ahead, too” and were sure to be richer than their parents.

But, in the last decade, we entered the post-post-Cold War era. The combination of technological, economic and climate pressures is literally blowing the lid off nation-states in the Middle East and Africa, unleashing sectarian conflicts that no dictator can suppress. Bad guys are getting superempowered and “mutually assured destruction” to ISIS is not a deterrent but an invitation to heaven. Robots are milking cows and IBM’s Watson computer can beat you at “Jeopardy!” and your doctor at radiology, so every decent job requires more technical and social skills — and continuous learning. In the West, a smaller number of young people, with billions in college tuition debts, will have to pay the Medicare and Social Security for the baby boomers now retiring, who will be living longer.

“Suddenly,” argues Dobbs, “the number of people who don’t believe they will be better off than their parents goes from zero to 25 percent or more.”

When you are advancing, you buy the system; you don’t care who’s a billionaire, because your life is improving. But when you stop advancing, added Dobbs, you can “lose faith in the system — whether that be globalization, free trade, offshoring, immigration, traditional Republicans or traditional Democrats. Because in one way or another they can be perceived as not working for you.”

And that is why Donald Trump is resonating in America, Marine Le Pen in France, the ISIS caliph in the Arab world, and Vladimir Putin in Russia. They all promise to bring back the certainties and prosperity of the Cold War or post-Cold War eras — by sacking the traditional elites who got us here and by building walls against change and against the superempowered angry men. They are all false prophets, but the storm they promise to hold back is very real.

And now we have Mr. Bruni:

Since leaving the White House, George W. Bush has taken pains not to insert himself into the events of the day. Not to weigh in. Not to utter statements bound to become headlines.

When he breaks that habit, you perk up and wonder why.

He broke it in regard to Ted Cruz.

According to a report in Politico on Monday, Bush used his unscripted remarks at a fund-raiser for his brother Jeb over the weekend to make clear that among Jeb’s rivals for the Republican nomination, one in particular rubs him the wrong way.

He described Cruz as cynically opportunistic and self-serving. And this assessment was so starkly at odds with Bush’s anodyne, even warm, remarks about other Republican presidential candidates that listeners were stunned, wrote Politico’s Eli Stokols.

Bush reportedly summed up his sentiments about Cruz, who worked as a policy adviser on Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, with this blunt declaration: “I just don’t like the guy.”

I think a great many Americans — including a majority of Cruz’s colleagues in Congress — know exactly how he feels.

But there’s no solace in his words. Quite the opposite. He wouldn’t have felt compelled to utter them if Cruz wasn’t a possible factor in the race — if he wasn’t a menacing, stalking, relentless force to watch for and run from, like the body-hopping spirit in this year’s most celebrated horror movie, “It Follows.”

In fact Bush’s remarks at the fund-raiser apparently included a heads-up about Cruz’s potency, especially in primaries across the South.

The slow torture of the Republican primary knows no limit. First Donald Trump turns it into a carnival, then Ben Carson comes along with his insanity about the Holocaust and guns. Between them they own nearly 50 percent of the Republican vote, according to recent national surveys.

Examine those polls closely and your stomach clenches tighter. Cruz is “fourth in an average of the last three live-interview polls, at 8 percent,”wrote Harry Enten late last week on the website FiveThirtyEight. In a subsequent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Cruz was again fourth, a few points behind Rubio and a point ahead of Bush.

It follows.

His campaign has more cash on hand than that of any other Republican in the hunt. If you add “super PAC” money that’s been officially disclosed so far to the tally, he trails only Jeb and Hillary Clinton.

It follows.

In a column earlier this month, I noted that alarmed Republican operatives were paying greater heed to Cruz, who seems to be positioning himself as the ultraconservative fallback — the rabble rouser in the bullpen — if angry voters rethink Trump or Carson and want an establishment-vilifying candidate with at least some government experience. Cruz is in his first term as a senator from Texas.

And what a first term it’s been, beginning with his insinuations that Chuck Hagel was a traitor, continuing through his preening “Green Eggs and Ham” quasi-filibuster, cresting with his public denunciation of the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, as a liar and culminating with his call for a government shutdown to prevent any federal funding of Planned Parenthood, a replay of his call for a government shutdown to do away with Obamacare.

He’s the patron saint of lost causes, at least if they bring the spotlight his way. In that sense he’s emblematic of the flamboyantly uncompromising comrades in the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, who similarly confuse attention with accomplishment.

All of them, with Cruz as their spiritual leader, have turned petulance into a theory of governing, or rather anti-governing, as they breezily disregard the contradiction of their ravenous lunge to become monarchs of a kingdom that they supposedly want to topple, to gain power over a system that they ostensibly intend to enfeeble.

Cruz doesn’t propose remedies. He performs rants. He’s not interested in collaboration or teamwork. His main use for other politicians, even in his party, is as foils and targets. Paul Ryan got a taste of that over the weekend, when Cruz, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked if Ryan was a true conservative and dodged the question, withholding his blessing.

He should be careful about genuineness versus phoniness, given the problems with his own prairie-populist pose.

Cruz’s law degree is from Harvard and he did his undergraduate work at Princeton, where the 250-year-old debating club that he belonged to is called the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. Cruz’s wife is on leave from a job with Goldman Sachs.

Keep that in mind when he rails against the establishment and the elites. And remember that when someone is as broadly and profoundly disliked as Cruz is, it’s usually not because he’s a principled truth teller.

It’s because he’s frightening.

Well, Frankie, which of the mole people running isn’t?


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