Blow, Kristof, and Collins

Mr. Blow says that “‘Bernie or Bust’ Is Bonkers,” and that elections are not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one. Sometimes they’re between common sense and catastrophe.  Mr. Kristof considers “Trump and Abortion” and comes to the conclusion that he’s poorly informed even on his own position.  In “The Republican Gun-Free Zone” Ms. Collins says if you want to be safe from being shot by a well-armed Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, go to the G.O.P.’s convention.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Bernie Sanders’s surrogate Susan Sarandon went on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” earlier this week and said something that made folks’ jaws drop.

When Hayes asked Sarandon whether Sanders’s supporters would vote for Hillary Clinton if Clinton won the Democratic nomination, this exchange followed:

SARANDON: I think Bernie probably would encourage people because he doesn’t have any ego. I think a lot of people are, sorry, I can’t bring myself to do that.

HAYES: How about you personally?

SARANDON: I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens.

HAYES: Really?

SARANDON: Really.

HAYES: I cannot believe as you’re watching the, if Donald Trump…

SARANDON: Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in then things will really, you know, explode.

HAYES: You’re saying the Leninist model of…

SARANDON: Some people feel that.

(I don’t generally use the Republican front-runner’s name in my columns, but I must present the quote as transcribed. Sorry.)

What was Sarandon talking about with her coy language? “Bring the revolution”? Exactly what kind of revolution? “Explode”? Was the purpose to present this as a difficult but ultimately positive development?

The comments smacked of petulance and privilege.

No member of an American minority group — whether ethnic, racial, queer-identified, immigrant, refugee or poor — would (or should) assume the luxury of uttering such a imbecilic phrase, filled with lust for doom.

But I don’t doubt that she has met “some people” with a Bernie-or-bust, scorched-earth electoral portentousness. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, “A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates one third of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters cannot see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in November.”

Be absolutely clear: While there are meaningful differences between Clinton and Sanders, either would be a far better choice for president than any of the remaining Republican contenders, especially the demagogic real estate developer. Assisting or allowing his ascendance by electoral abstinence in order to force a “revolution” is heretical.

This position is dangerous, shortsighted and self-immolating.

If Sanders wins the nomination, liberals should rally round him. Conversely, if Clinton does, they should rally round her.

This is not a game. The presidency, particularly the next one, matters, and elections can be decided by relatively small margins. No president has won the popular vote by more than 10 percentage points since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.

In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that.

The real estate developer is now talking carelessly about promoting nuclear proliferation and torture (then there’s Ted Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing and glowing sand).

And, there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Not only that, but as of Tuesday, there were also 84 federal judiciary vacancies with 49 pending nominees.

The question of who makes those appointments matters immensely.

As Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in The New Yorker in 2014:

“When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled ten of the thirteen circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits. Because federal judges have life tenure, nearly all of Obama’s judges will continue serving well after he leaves office.

Furthermore, Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation, writing:

“Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, ‘The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.’ Forty-two percent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two percent of George W. Bush’s judges and 29 percent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six percent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with 18 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton.”

And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion.

Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.

Of more substance, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute:

“To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.”

There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration. In fact, the Huffington Post Queer Voices editor at large Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article in February titled, “No, LGBT People Aren’t Exempt from Donald Trump’s Blatant Bigotry,” responding to a trending idea that the Republican front-runner wasn’t as bad for queer people as other Republican candidates:

“It’s absolutely false — he’s as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights — and it’s time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.”

Then there are all the other promises — threats? — the real estate developer has made. He has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, end birthright citizenship, dismantle Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” (whatever that means), defund Planned Parenthood and temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from coming to this country, among other things.

There is no true equivalency between either of the Democratic candidates and this man, and anyone who make such a claim is engaging in a repugnant, dishonorable scare tactic not worth our respect.

It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire. As Sanders himself has said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”

The New York Times Upshot even pointed out last May that Sanders and Clinton “voted the same way 93 percent of the time in the two years they shared in the Senate” and in many of the cases in which Clinton voted differently from Sanders, “she voted with an overwhelming majority of her colleagues, including Republicans.”

That doesn’t mean that those differing votes weren’t significant. They were. As the Upshot put it, the 31 times they disagreed “happened to be” on some of “the biggest issues of the day, including measures on continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an immigration reform bill and bank bailouts during the depths of the Great Recession.”

And yet those differences hardly bring either candidate anywhere close to being as frightening as the specter of the real estate developer assuming the office of president of the United States.

Elections are about choices, not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one, but sometimes between common sense and catastrophe. Progressives had better remember this come November, no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

Amen.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t say anything more shocking, he suggested that women who get abortions should be punished.

On MSNBC, he said abortion must be banned and then “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who manage to get abortions.

He declined to say what the punishment should be, dodging a question about whether it should be “10 years” in prison or something milder. But his comment raised the possibility of following the lead of countries like El Salvador, where women can be dragged off from a hospital to prison for getting an abortion. Indeed, rights groups say that women were wrongly imprisoned in El Salvador simply for having miscarriages.

Trump doesn’t seem to have thought deeply about the issue — what a surprise! — and he departed from the mainstream anti-abortion position of targeting not women but abortion providers. As one person said on Twitter: “He’s a walking cartoon parody of every leftist accusation against Republicans.”

After the TV interview was over and the backlash had begun, Trump tried to back off his comment, saying in a statement, “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

Who knows where that leaves us!

One lesson is that Trump is an uninformed opportunist, but the episode does highlight two basic problems for the anti-abortion movement.

First, as long as the focus is on the fetus or on the claim of “protecting women,” many in the public are sympathetic to the anti-abortion view. The moment the focus shifts to criminalizing women, sympathy shifts.

Anti-abortion activists have generally taken a savvy approach over the years by concentrating on extreme situations — such as late-term so-called partial-birth abortions — and on legislating obstacles that in practice reduce access: Of the 1,074 state restrictions on abortion put in place after Roe v. Wade in 1973, more than one-quarter were enacted since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Many Americans are ambivalent on abortion. But Trump has now turned the attention back from the fetus to the woman. And remember that three in 10 American women get an abortion at some point in their lives.

Second, the data suggests that one of the most effective ways to reduce the number of abortions would be to increase the availability of publicly funded family planning. In 2013, publicly funded family planning prevented two million unintended pregnancies, including almost 700,000 abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Yet Republicans try to defund Title X, the traditional family planning program in the United States. After inflation, its funding level is less than one-third what it was in 1980.

In truth, Trump’s stance — whatever it is — would matter only if a more conservative Supreme Court revisited Roe v. Wade and some states were allowed to ban abortion altogether.

Moreover, medical abortion, achieved by taking two kinds of pills, is gaining ground on surgical abortion and is much more difficult to stop. In particular, one of the pills, misoprostol, is very cheap, has other uses and is at least 80 percent effective on its own in inducing an abortion early in pregnancy. The upshot is that early abortions will be increasingly difficult to prevent.

Trump’s comments about punishing women are worth pondering because they reflect the logical conclusion of equating a fetus with any other human being.

This penalizing approach has been tried before and failed. A dozen years ago, I went to Portugal to cover such an effort. The police staked out women’s health clinics, looking to arrest women who appeared likely to have just had abortions based on being pale or seeming upset. Some 48 women and a 16-year-old girl were prosecuted, along with accomplices such as husbands, boyfriends, parents and even a taxi driver who drove a woman to a clinic.

The women were humiliated on trial, their most intimate gynecological history revealed to the public. And the public was revolted. The women were all acquitted, and the public turned decisively in favor of abortion rights, by a majority of 79 percent to 14 percent.

“Forbidding abortion doesn’t save anyone or anything,” Sonia Fertuzinhos, a member of the Portuguese Parliament, told me at the time. “It just gets women arrested and humiliated in the public arena.”

The episode left many Portuguese both anti-abortion and pro-choice. They were distressed by abortion, especially late in pregnancies, but they were aghast at the idea of prosecuting young women for making wrenching personal choices. I think many Americans feel the same way.

So maybe Trump, in his flip-flopping wavering about women’s issues, can at least remind us of a larger truth. Whatever one thinks of abortion, criminalizing it would be worse.

Let’s all consider that if men had babies abortion would be a sacrament.  And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Latest in the long, long line of Controversies We Weren’t Really Expecting: the right to bear arms at the Republican National Convention.

A petition calling on the Republicans to allow people to carry their pistols when they assemble this July collected more than 50,000 signatures rather speedily this week. The Secret Service instantly turned thumbs down. The presidential candidates, who are normally so rapturous about all things gun-related, refused to get involved.

The author of the petition later told CBS that he was just trying to point out that Republicans’ enthusiasm for weaponry does not necessarily extend to large, potentially rancorous gatherings at which they are personally present. This gives us an excellent opportunity to talk about guns and politics.

There was a time when Americans seemed O.K. with a middle-of-the-road approach to guns. The public tended to regard them as things you used for hunting or household defense, and favored laws that regulated them accordingly. But no more. The National Rifle Association is beginning to run out of places to demand that people be allowed to bring their pistols, having already thrown down the gauntlet on bars, kindergartens, airports and college campuses.

The theory is that once everybody is armed 24/7, no matter what bad thing occurs, there will always be good guys on hand to shoot the evildoer. In the real world very few people — including police officers — are skilled enough to aim accurately during a scary emergency. But if you want to win the Republican presidential nomination, it’s important to pretend otherwise. After the terrorist mass murders in France, Donald Trump argued that if only Parisian concertgoers had been packing heat, the outcome would have been much different.

“You know what? If I’m in that room and let’s say we have two or five or 40 people with guns, we’re going to do a lot better because there’s going to be a shootout,” he said.

Two important points here: Even in the confines of Second Amendment aficionados, you don’t normally hear the term “we’re going to do a lot better because there’s going to be a shootout.” Plus, note the suggestion that people would be safer with an armed Donald Trump in the building.

Trump does not appear to know anything much about firearms. Do you remember back in January, when he boasted that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”? No one took him literally, possibly because no one believed that Trump could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and actually hit anything. While he says he owns a gun, when asked if he ever uses it, he replied, “none of your business.” Mainly, he brags that his sons are crack hunters, and you can see the proof of that if you Google Donald Trump Jr. and “dead elephant tail.”

Do you think Hillary Clinton could beat Trump at a firing range? Clinton actually meets the basic political standard for marksmanship, which involves being in possession of one anecdote about having gone hunting and shot a bird. Hers goes back to her days in Arkansas when she was with a group of friends who didn’t believe she knew how to handle a gun, then watched as she downed a duck on the first try. The dead-fowl tradition is sort of silly, but it does hark back to the good old days when people thought about shooting in terms of sport and scaring off burglars.

Clinton has been talking a lot about gun regulation lately, because it’s one of the very few issues on which she can attack Bernie Sanders from the left. Sanders, who appears to have no personal interest in guns whatsoever, has been historically weak when it comes to voting on things like background checks. Their debate would be much more useful if it carried on into the general election. But it won’t. The sad truth is that Democrats don’t believe gun control is a winning issue. And the Republicans are so completely in bed with the N.R.A., the mattress is buckling.

The one candidate in this year’s race who actually has some skill as a marksman is Ted Cruz. He shot two pheasants while campaigning in Iowa, which is perfectly reasonable. He also carried out the tradition that calls for ambitious right-wing politicians to put on camouflage and face paint and go hunting with someone from “Duck Dynasty,” which is really embarrassing.

But if you want to know where Cruz stands on a reasoned approach to handling weapons, I suggest you take a look at the video in which he demonstrates how to cook bacon by wrapping it around the barrel of an assault rifle. (“Mmmm, machine gun bacon.”) The mantra is pretty straightforward. Nobody wants to think about armed convention delegates. But otherwise guns belong everywhere. Tomorrow morning, brew the coffee and shoot the breakfast.

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