The Moustache of Wisdom says we should “Dump the G.O.P. for a Grand New Party.” He tells us that after much selling out, the Republican Party has become morally bankrupt. We need a New Republican Party to support a healthy two-party system. Gee, Tommy — how many Friedman Units did it take you to figure that out? Mr. Cohen considers “Kerrey’s Vietnam Dilemma” and says former Senator Bob Kerrey should not quit his role at the new Fulbright University Vietnam, despite an outcry over his war record. Ms. Collins, in “What Hillary Imagines,” says she asked her to pick one person from the past to tell about her historic victory. And, nope, she didn’t pick Susan B. Anthony. Here’s TMOW:
If a party could declare moral bankruptcy, today’s Republican Party would be in Chapter 11.
This party needs to just shut itself down and start over — now. Seriously, someone please start a New Republican Party!
America needs a healthy two-party system. America needs a healthy center-right party to ensure that the Democrats remain a healthy center-left party. America needs a center-right party ready to offer market-based solutions to issues like climate change. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense gun laws. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense fiscal policy. America needs a center-right party to support both free trade and aid to workers impacted by it. America needs a center-right party that appreciates how much more complicated foreign policy is today, when you have to manage weak and collapsing nations, not just muscle strong ones.
But this Republican Party is none of those things. Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education — an ethically challenged enterprise that enriches and perpetuates itself by shedding all pretense of standing for real principles, or a truly relevant value proposition, and instead plays on the ignorance and fears of the public.
It is just an empty shell, selling pieces of itself to the highest bidders, — policy by policy — a little to the Tea Party over here, a little to Big Oil over there, a little to the gun lobby, to antitax zealots, to climate-change deniers. And before you know it, the party stands for an incoherent mess of ideas unrelated to any theory of where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century.
It becomes instead a coalition of men and women who sell pieces of their brand to whoever can most energize their base in order for them to get re-elected in order for them to sell more pieces of their brand in order to get re-elected.
And we know just how little they are attached to any principles, because today’s Republican Party’s elders have told us so by (with a few notable exceptions) being so willing to throw their support behind a presidential candidate whom they know is utterly ignorant of policy, has done no homework, has engaged in racist attacks on a sitting judge, has mocked a disabled reporter, has impugned an entire religious community, and has tossed off ignorant proposals for walls, for letting allies go it alone and go nuclear and for overturning trade treaties, rules of war and nuclear agreements in ways that would be wildly destabilizing if he took office.
Despite that, all top G.O.P. leaders say they will still support Donald Trump — even if he’s dabbled in a “textbook definition” of racism, as House Speaker Paul Ryan described it — because he will sign off on their agenda and can do only limited damage given our checks and balances.
Really? Mr. Speaker, your agenda is a mess, Trump will pay even less attention to you if he is president and, as Senator Lindsey Graham rightly put it, there has to be a time “when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Will it ever be that time with this version of the G.O.P.?
Et tu, John McCain? You didn’t break under torture from the North Vietnamese, but your hunger for re-election is so great that you don’t dare raise your voice against Trump? I hope you lose. You deserve to. Marco Rubio? You called Trump “a con man,” he insults your very being and you still endorse him? Good riddance.
Chris Christie, have you not an ounce of self-respect? You’re serving as the valet to a man who claimed, falsely, that on 9/11, in Jersey City, home to many Arab-Americans, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” Christie is backing a man who made up a baldfaced lie about residents of his own state so that maybe he can be his vice president. Contemptible.
This is exactly why so many Republican voters opted for Trump in the first place. They intuited that the only thing these G.O.P. politicians were interested in was holding onto their seats in office — and they were right. It made voters so utterly cynical that many figured, Why not inflict Trump on them? It’s all just a con game anyway. And at least Trump sticks it to all of those politically correct liberals. And anyway, governing doesn’t matter — only attitude.
And who taught them that?
But it does matter. I know so many thoughtful conservatives who know it matters. One of them has got to start the N.R.P. — New Republican Party — a center-right party liberated from all the Trump birthers, the Sarah Palins, the Grover Norquists, the Sean Hannitys, the Rush Limbaughs, the gun lobby, the oil lobby and every other narrow-interest group, a party that redefines a principled conservatism. Raise your money for it on the internet. If Bernie Sanders can, you can.
This is such a pivotal moment; the world we shaped after W.W. II is going wobbly. This is a time for America to be at its best, defending its best values, which are now under assault in so many places — pluralism, immigration, democracy, trade, the rule of law and the virtue of open societies. Trump will never be a credible messenger, or a messenger at all, for those values. A New Republican Party can be.
If you build it, they will come.
With all due respect, Tommy, bullshit. The proles have voted for what could be expected after 40 years of Republican dog whistle politics. The only difference is that Trump has put down the dog whistle and picked up a klaxon. And now, of course, TPTB in Washington have all taken to their fainting couches, clutching their pearls, and wondering how on earth it has all come to this… You sowed the wind, now you’re reaping the whirlwind. Now here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Ho Chi Minh City:
Lives can turn in an instant. For former Senator Bob Kerrey, that moment came on Feb. 25, 1969, when, as a young lieutenant in the Navy SEALs, he led his squad into the Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong. By the time they withdrew, 20 civilians had been slaughtered, including 13 children, according to survivors.
“It haunted me from the moment we pulled out of the area,” Kerrey told me in a telephone conversation. “I knew we had done something wrong. I did not walk away saying that was great. It did not go away. But if you don’t adjust you end your life, and we are talking, so I did not end my life.”
In fact, Kerrey went to work to build a special relationship between the United States and Vietnam. He was an early advocate of the normalization through which many wounds have healed. Trade has flourished. The rapturous reception extended last month to President Obama — the warmest accorded by any nation during his presidency, as he confided to an American diplomat — was a measure of an almost miraculous reconciliation.
One area in which Kerrey has worked hard is education, both as senator and later as president of the New School in New York. For many years he helped to raise money for a project Obama announced: the opening of the Fulbright University Vietnam, the first such private institution in the country. Financed in part by the U.S. Congress, the school will accept its first students next year. Kerrey has been named chairman of the board.
The appointment has ignited a storm. From cafes to Facebook a debate rages on whether Kerrey is fit to head the university. Some people say that, whatever his contrition, his admission that he ordered the killing in cold blood of Vietnamese women and children disqualifies him. (Whether Kerrey himself killed civilians is still disputed.)
Kerrey was awarded a Bronze Star after his unit falsely reported that it had killed 21 Vietcong guerrillas. For more than 30 years he kept silent until The New York Times and CBS News were about to publish a joint investigation in 2001.
I asked Kerrey if all his efforts on behalf of Vietnam had a redemptive purpose. He said the episode and his work were “a double helix,” inseparable from each other. I asked him about his long silence. “For a soldier in a war,” he said, “to keep silent is not an anomaly but a rule.” I asked him about the medal. “I have never worn it,” he said, “and the anger would not end if I mailed it back to the Department of Defense.”
It is human — in fact it is uniquely human — to seek redemption. The crime begets a reproachful whisper that will not be stilled. In every war I have covered, from Beirut to Bosnia, I have listened to men (always men) recount moments that left shame — the terrorizing of a child in a quest for intelligence, the abandonment of a son encircled by the enemy. More than one million innocent Vietnamese civilians were killed; Kerrey’s story is one of many. We were not there in the heat, in the night, in that tension, with that responsibility. I listen to Kerrey and think: There but for the grace of God go I.
“I don’t believe in redemption,” Kerrey told me. “Do good deeds undo a bad deed? I don’t think that. You cannot change your past. You can only change the future.”
To go through this pain again (“Part of me wants to run away from it,” he told me) is a gauge of Kerrey’s commitment. It is brave. I understand Pham Thuy Huong of Hanoi, who wrote on Facebook, “I cannot look at his face.” I listen to Kerrey and think also of Bui Van Vat, a 65-year-old grandfather whose throat was slit, survivors said. The elevation of peace over grievance involves wrestling with impossible moral dilemmas. Acceptance that there is no wholly satisfactory answer is part of moving forward.
Nguyen Ngoc Chu, a mathematician, suggested in a statement supporting Kerrey that there were valuable lessons in the discussion for the university’s first students: that every judgment requires historical context; that successful people live for the future rather than in past hatreds.
Certainly, this unusually vigorous and open debate is an example of what the university should embody in a country under one-party rule. As Ben Wilkinson, the executive director of the Trust for University Innovation in Vietnam, the nonprofit corporation behind the project, told me, “The university will be a major advance for organized civil society.”
Kerrey should resist calls to quit. As no other, he embodies the agony of overcoming war’s legacy. But he should send back that medal. He should push for the establishment of a Bui Van Vat fellowship in international humanitarian law. And he should ensure that somewhere on campus the words with which Muhammad Ali explained his conscience-driven refusal of the draft are engraved: “I ain’t got nothing against them Vietcong.”
And now here’s Ms. Collins:
Hillary Clinton. First woman presidential nominee.
Okay, of a major political party. We’re not going into the minor-party exceptions since that would require a lengthy discussion of Victoria Woodhull in 1872. Under normal circumstances, Woodhull would certainly be worth talking about, given the faith healing and the brokerage firm and the obscenity trial. But this is Hillary’s moment.
“It’s really emotional,” she said in a speech this week. Clinton brings up the first-woman thing a lot, and the idea of showing little girls that they can be “anything you want to be. Even President of the United States.” For many young women, that’s actually old news, since Hillary the potential president has been around most of their lives. Back when she was first elected to the Senate in 2000, the coverage was so omnipresent that my niece Anna, who was around 3, asked my sister whether it was possible for a man to be a senator.
The people who get most excited are the ones who remember how things used to be, back when girls couldn’t envision being in the Little League, let alone the White House. And can you imagine going back in history and sharing Clinton’s news with the suffragists? This is one of my favorite mind games – pretend you’re returning to 1872 and telling the story to Susan B. Anthony while she was being handcuffed for the crime of voting while female.
Or there’s the other route of telling some historical figure who would faint with horror. Like Thomas Jefferson – wouldn’t you want to see his face? We all know how good Jefferson was on freedom of speech, but he was possibly the worst sexist in the very competitive group known as the Founding Fathers. (“Our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe and calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate.”)
But Clinton wouldn’t want this to be a moment for rancor. So I asked for her own pick.
And her answer was: if she could go into the past to tell someone that she’d been nominated for President of the United States, it would be her mother.
Dorothy Rodham had an auspicious date of birth — June 4, 1919, the very same day the Senate passed a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. But otherwise, she had a terrible beginning. Her parents abandoned her. At 8, she was riding across the country, unaccompanied except for her younger sister, on the way to live with grandparents who didn’t want them. She went off on her own at 14, working as a housekeeper during the Depression. But she got herself through high school, was a good student and raised her own daughter to believe the sky was the limit.
Before we head off on the rest of this deeply imperfect election, take a second and enjoy. Imagine Hillary Clinton going back in time. She sits in the train next to a frightened little girl, and delivers the news about what happened this week.
Tags: The Moustache of Wisdom