In “Donald Trump Voters, Just Hear Me Out” The Moustache of Wisdom says fellow Americans, your concerns should be taken seriously. But let’s also look seriously at the candidates. Mr. Bruni considers “Hillary’s Male Tormentors” and says Clinton’s story is one of men’s weaknesses as well as a woman’s strength. Here’s TMOW:
This is my last column until after the election, so I’d like to address the people least likely to read it: Donald Trump voters. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and a few of them will buy fish wrapped in this column, and they’ll accidentally peruse it! Desperate times call for desperate measures.
While I’ve opposed the Trump candidacy from the start, I’ve never disparaged Trump voters. Some are friends and neighbors; they’re all fellow Americans. We should take their concerns seriously. But we should also demand that they be serious, that they draw distinctions between these two presidential candidates.
Yes, Hillary Clinton is a flawed leader — but in the way so many presidents were. We know her flaws: She has a weakness for secrecy, occasionally fudges truths, has fawning aides and a husband who lacks discipline when it comes to moneymaking and women. But she is not indecent, and that is an important distinction. And she’s studious, has sought out people of substance on every issue and has taken the job of running for president seriously.
Trump is not only a flawed politician, he’s an indecent human being. He’s boasted of assaulting women — prompting 11 to come forward to testify that he did just that to them; his defense is that he could not have assaulted these women because they weren’t pretty enough.
He’s created a university that was charged with defrauding its students. He’s been charged with discriminating against racial minorities in his rental properties. He’s stiffed countless vendors, from piano sellers to major contractors. He’s refused to disclose his tax returns because they likely reveal that he’s paid no federal taxes for years, is in bed with dodgy financiers and doesn’t give like he says to charity.
He’s compared the sacrifice of parents of a soldier killed in Iraq to his “sacrifice” of building tall buildings. He’s vowed, if elected, to prosecute his campaign rival.
We have never seen such behaviors in a presidential candidate.
At the same time, Trump has shown no ability to talk about any policy issue with any depth. Harlan Coben’s debate-night tweet last month had it right: “On Aleppo he sounds like a fifth grader giving a book report on a book he never read.”
I understand why many Trump supporters have lost faith in Washington and want to just “shake things up.” When you shake things up with a studied plan and a clear idea of where you want to get to, you can open new futures. But when you shake things up, guided by one-liners and no moral compass, you can cause enormous instability and systemic vertigo.
But there is an even more important reason Trump supporters, particularly less-educated white males, should be wary of his bluster: His policies won’t help them. Trump promises to bring their jobs back. But most of their jobs didn’t go to a Mexican. They went to a microchip.
The idea that large numbers of manual factory jobs can be returned to America if we put up a wall with Mexico or renegotiate our trade deals is a fantasy. Trump ignores the fact that manufacturing is still by far the largest sector of the U.S. economy. Indeed, our factories now produce twice what they did in 1984 — but with one-third fewer workers.
Trump can’t change that. Machines and software will keep devouring, and spawning, more work of all kinds. Did you hear that IBM’s cognitive computer, Watson, helped to create a pop song, “Not Easy,” with the Grammy-winning producer Alex da Kid? The song was released on Oct. 21, IBM noted, and within 48 hours it climbed to No. 4 on iTunes’s Hot Tracks.
No one knows for certain how we deal with this new race with and against machines, but I can assure you it’s not Trump’s way — build walls, restrict trade, give huge tax cuts to the rich. The best jobs in the future are going to be what I call “STEMpathy jobs — jobs that blend STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, math) with human empathy. We don’t know what many of them will look like yet.
The smartest thing we can do now is to keep our economy as open and flexible as possible — to get the change signals first and be able to quickly adapt; create the opportunity for every American to engage in lifelong learning, because whatever jobs emerge will require more knowledge; make sure that learning stresses as much of the humanities and human interactive skills as hard sciences; make sure we have an immigration policy that continues to attract the world’s most imaginative risk-takers; and strengthen our safety nets, because this era will leave more people behind.
This is the only true path to American greatness in the 21st century. Trump wants to make America great in ways that are just not available anymore. “What do we have to lose” by trying his way? Trump asks. The answer is: everything that actually makes us great. When the world gets this fast, small errors in navigation have huge consequences.
While Clinton has failed to inspire, her instincts and ideas will keep us hewing to basically the right course. And however great her flaws, she is still in the zone of human decency. Trump is not.
We can never be great as a country with a president with the warped values of Donald Trump. I pray that in the end at least some Trump voters, my fellow Americans, will see that.
Now here’s Mr. Bruni:
Weiner or no Weiner, Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president.
But she can’t seem to escape insatiable men.
She married one — for better, for “bimbo eruptions,” for two terms in the White House, for impeachment.
She’s in the climactic week of a grotesque battle with another. If she prevails, his boasts of sexual aggression will partly be why.
And if she fails? Again there’s a priapic protagonist. The F.B.I. wouldn’t be examining Anthony Weiner’s laptop if he hadn’t invited so many strangers to examine his lap, and her fate is enmeshed once more with the wanton misdeeds of the weaker sex.
Over so many of her travails hangs a cloud of testosterone.
No woman before her earned a major party’s presidential nomination, drawing this close to the Oval Office. Should she reach that milestone and make that history, she’d probably also work with a Congress in which there are more female lawmakers than ever before.
But her journey doesn’t only reflect the advances of women. It has also been shaped by the appetites and anxieties of men. (Maybe the two dynamics go hand in hand.) And it has exposed gross male behavior while prompting fresh examples of it. Prominent men on the edge of obsolescence have never acted so wounded, so angry, so desperate. Yes, Newt Gingrich, I’m looking at you, though you’ll have to wait your turn while I assess your master.
Donald Trump’s candidacy is an unalloyed expression of male id: Yield to me, worship me, never question the expanse of my reach, do not impugn the majesty of my endowment. It’s less a political mission than a hormonal one, and it harks back to an era when women were arm candy and a man reveled in his sweet tooth.
His archaic masculinity is her opportunity: a stroke of good fortune in a presidential bid with plenty of bad luck, too. When he seethed that she was a “nasty woman,” he might as well have been offering to carry her luggage into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It’s hardly the first time that a man’s cravings colored her fate. How much of her Achilles’-heel defensiveness is a byproduct of her marriage to Bill? When he was governor of Arkansas and when he ran for president in 1992, there were constant rumors of his philandering and a ceaseless effort to keep them from spreading. She learned early on to see the media as invasive, her opponents as merciless, and privacy as something to be guarded at all costs. That doesn’t excuse her use of a private email server as secretary of state, but it does help to explain it.
Her husband converged with Gingrich in Washington in the 1990s, and when Gingrich’s Republican troops conquered Congress in 1994, it was widely characterized as the revenge of angry white men, whose provocations included her assertiveness. The president and Gingrich were both portraits of epic neediness. They were as impulsive and messy as little boys. They were destined to torment each other, and did.
The humiliations that she suffered — and the public sympathy that she reaped — were inextricable from the dueling displays of male vanity around her.
Fast forward two decades. While there are still angry white men and they favor Trump, it appears that there aren’t enough to counter her advantage with women, who are poised to get the president of their wishes. Not everyone is taking this well.
Just days after Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman,” Gingrich lashed out at Megyn Kelly of Fox News for being unduly “fascinated with sex,” a rich remark from a thrice-married man with a record of affairs. He wasn’t just a pol jousting with a journalist. He was a portly, toppled despot aghast at how stubbornly an intelligent woman refused to defer to him. He was an aged Everyman, reeling at changed roles and altered rules.
Around the country there are Senate and House races with a similar flavor: older man, younger woman, stew of resentments. In Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk, 57, made fun of the Thai heritage of his challenger, Representative Tammy Duckworth, 48, and when I watched the exchange, I wondered if the tension between them was a function of gender as well as race.
In Florida, Representative John Mica, 73, dismissed Stephanie Murphy, the 37-year-old college professor who is running against him, as a “nice lady” who just isn’t ready for prime time.
Maybe he has always been that big a boor and having a female opponent just made it obvious. But Clinton gets under Trump’s skin in a way that male rivals didn’t. In that sense, her gender is not a weakness but a weapon.
It’s about time.
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