Brooks and Cohen

Bobo seems to be heading for a nervous breakdown.  In “Stay Sane America, Please!” he tries to convince himself that there are many good reasons to think Trump, Cruz and Sanders won’t make it past the primaries, much less the conventions.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “Too bad, Mr. Brooks. You’ve made your bed, and now you can lose sleep in it. The subliminal messages you try to send by mentioning Reagan in the company of FDR, Lincoln and Eisenhower won’t work. Neither will Bernie Sanders be diminished by lumping him in with the odious Trump and Cruz. Rhetorical tricks aren’t going to elevate Republicans, or tear down the Democrats.”  In “Donald Trump Goes Rogue” Mr. Cohen says Palin speaks of “squirmishes” in the Middle East. It’s January and 2016 is already cause to squirm.  Here’s Bobo, whistling past the graveyard:

In January of 2017 someone will stand at the U.S. Capitol and deliver an Inaugural Address. This is roughly the place where Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan once stood. I am going to spend every single day between now and then believing that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders will be standing on that podium. One of them could win the election, take the oath, give the speech and be riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will still refuse to believe it.

Yes, I know what the polling evidence is telling us about Trump, Sanders and Cruz, but there are good reasons to cling to my disbelief.

First, these primary campaigns will not be settled in February. They won’t be settled in March or April. Sometimes a candidate can sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and cruise to the nomination. But that candidate has to be broadly acceptable to all parts of the party. Trump, Cruz and Sanders are not.

As Jay Cost writes in The Weekly Standard, “This could mean a lengthy nomination battle that stretches all the way to the California primary in June.”

On the Republican side the early primaries and caucuses allocate delegates proportionally. Only 16.2 percent of the delegates over all come from winner-take-all states. That means the delegate-getting war will be a slog.

The first day when any candidate could rack up a big winner-take-all delegate harvest is March 15, an eternity from now. More than half the delegates will be allocated after that date.

Second, Cruz and Trump will go after each other with increasing ferocity over the next many weeks or months. There is a decent chance, given their personalities, that they will make each other maximally unattractive and go down in each other’s death embrace.

Third, the Trump and Sanders turnout problems are real. Trump is doing very well among people who haven’t voted in the past four elections. It’s possible he has energized them so much they will actually caucus and vote, but you wouldn’t want to bet your gold-plated faucets on it. People who don’t vote generally don’t vote.

Sanders is drawing support from nonvoters, too. As Nate Cohn wrote in The Upshot on Monday, Sanders is up in some polls over all, but he trails big time among people in Iowa who caucused in 2008 and among those who are definitely registered to vote.

It’s quite possible that the big story post-Iowa will be how badly these two underperformed.

Fourth, establishment Republicans who are softening on Trump because they think he is more electable than Cruz are smoking something. According to a Pew Research survey, a majority of Americans think Trump would make a poor or terrible president.

Chuck Todd ran through Trump’s favorable-unfavorable ratings on “Meet the Press” on Sunday: Among independents, Trump is negative 26 points; among women, negative 36; among suburban voters, negative 24. Is the Republican Party really going to nominate one of the most loathed men in American public life?

Fifth, America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Cruz has the most conservative voting record in the entire Congress. That takes some doing.

Sixth, sooner or later the candidates from the governing wing of their parties will get their acts together. Marco Rubio has had a bad month, darkening his tone and trying to sound like a cut-rate version of Trump and Cruz.

Before too long Rubio will realize his first task is to rally the voters who detest or fear those men. That means running as an optimistic American nationalist with specific proposals to reform Washington and lift the working class.

If he can rally mainstream Republicans he’ll be at least tied with Trump and Cruz in the polls. Then he can counter their American decline narrative, with one of his own: This country is failing because it got too narcissistic, became too much like a reality TV show. Americans lost the ability to work constructively to get things done.

Finally, eventually the electorate is going to realize that in an age of dysfunctional government, effective leadership capacity is the threshold issue. That means being able to listen to others, surround yourself with people smarter than you, gather a governing majority and above all have an actual implementation strategy. Not Trump, Cruz or Sanders has any remote chance of turning his ideas, such as they are, into actual laws.

In every recent presidential election American voters have selected the candidate with the most secure pair of hands. They’ve elected the person who would be a stable presence and companion for the next four years. I believe they’re going to do that again. And if they’re not, please allow me a few more months of denial.

Eat a huge pile of salted donkey dicks, Bobo, and retire to your fainting couch and STFU about the catastrophe you helped create.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

I used to think 2015 was bad but that was before the first few weeks of 2016. It’s still January and Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, has already said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.?”

The really scary part — without getting into what this line of thinking might presage in terms of Trump’s actions if he ever got to the Oval Office — is he could be right. Teflon Trump: nothing sticks.

People like to be bullied when the world feels too upended and menacing to cope; when, as Trump puts it in one his favorite tropes, “Something’s going on.” Trump’s plugging into Dylan, odious as that thought is: “Something is happening here/But you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?”

We’ll find out just what over the next few months. Napoleon used to ask of his prospective generals, “Is he lucky?” Trump appears to be. That’s scary too.

The scariest part, however, is that Sarah Palin supports Trump and she said: “Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, O.K.? Well, Trump, what he’s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I’m glad about, he’s going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well.”


Or as James Joyce put it in Finnegans Wake: “Did you aye, did you eye, did you everysee suchaway, suchawhy, eeriewhigg airywhugger?”

No wonder Stephen Colbert, preparing to imitate Palin on The Late Show, first fired a taser gun at “the part of my brain that understands sentence structure.” That did the trick.

Minus his occipital lobe Colbert was right at home with Palin’s, “Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny, but now, what they’re doing is wailing, ‘Well, Trump and his, uh, uh, uh, Trumpeters, they’re not conservative enough.”’

Uh, huh?

I wonder what Palin will say if former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, appalled by this political spectacle, decides to spend a billion dollars of his loose change on going rogue center as a presidential candidate. Could happen. Or is it too “hopey, changey” to imagine that?

Still, I have to hand it to Palin. Her new word — “squirmish” — is useful. She characterized the Middle East as a place of “squirmishes that have been going on for centuries.”

The world in 2016 does make you squirm. In just three weeks close to $8 trillion has been wiped off global equity markets by a “correction.” The reasons seem unclear, which is not very comforting.

China is slowing. There is no next China. Oil prices are sinking, a trend that should have benefits but appears to have few this time. The terrible relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, that is to say the Shiite and Sunni Muslim worlds, just got far more terrible.

Nobody really knows what to do about ISIS, unless it’s Palin, who on the one hand wants to “kick ISIS ass” and on the other wants to “let Allah sort it out.”

Allah’s got a way with squirmishes if you just give him time.

And it’s not like the year began on a high. In fact 2015 was already a real downer. It brought the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Paris massacre, the San Bernardino slaughter, the rise and internationalization of ISIS, the death toll in Syria to about 250,000, the arrival of over one million desperate migrants and refugees in Europe, dead little Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, a senseless Saudi war in Yemen, Putin offensives on various fronts, the warmest year on record, American bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, and sundry other disasters.

At least an American Embassy in Havana opened. There was the Paris climate accord.

Look no further than this troubling world to understand Trump and the various rightist populists making a lot of noise on the European fringes. Take two lost wars, stagnant wages for most people, threats of terrorism, plunging 401(k) retirement plans, and rampant anxiety — and put all that together with a practiced showman promising restored greatness — and you get the Weimar volatility of this unanchored America.

Well, at least it snowed. It snowed a lot. It snowed on the nation’s capital. It snowed on New York. We were snowed under with coverage — the build-up, the blizzard, the post-blizzard. At least the snow was white, unlike the black flags of ISIS, and at least it really had nothing to do with Trump or Palin.

Unless, as I confess I did, you found yourself imagining Trump opening fire on Fifth Avenue on some slacker not wielding a shovel and staining the snow red with blood — to the roar of the “Trumpeters.”

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