Blow and Kristof

In “Creeping Toward Crisis” Mr. Blow says the Syrian and North Korean problems can’t be solved by a simpleton.  Mr. Kristof presents “My Most Unpopular Idea: Be Nice to Trump Voters.”  He says that among the reader reactions was “I hate these people.”  And “gemli” from Boston will have something to say to Mr. Kristof.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I am racked with anxiety that our buffoonish “president” — who sounds so internationally unsophisticated and who is still operating under a cloud of illegitimacy — is beginning to face his first real foreign crises.

What worries me most is that he seems to have no coherent plan, at least not one that he is willing or able to communicate. “I don’t show my hand” isn’t a strategy to conceal a plan as much as one to conceal the absence of a plan.

His statements are all bluster and bungling and bosh. Our commander in chief is not in full command of his emotions or facts or geopolitics.

We may sometimes think that the absurdity of Trump’s endless stream of contradictions and lies ends at the nation’s borders, but it doesn’t. The world is watching, and the world is full of dangerous men who see killing as a means of maintaining and exerting power. They see in Trump a novice and know-nothing, and they will surely test his resolve.

Trump has exposed himself to the world as an imbecile and burned through American credibility with his incessant lying. Even many of our allies seem confused and worried about where we stand and how we plan to proceed.

Trump is full of pride, obsessed with strongman personas, and absent of historical and geopolitical perspective. This is the worst possible situation. The man who could bring us into military engagement is woefully deficient in intellectual engagement.

Just days after the Trump administration shockingly signaled a softer stance on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Assad — possibly emboldened by America’s reversed course — unleashed an atrocious chemical attack on his own people, killing dozens.

Rather than using the bulk of his response to condemn the butcher Assad or the inaction of Assad’s patron, Vladimir Putin — let alone take responsibility for the role his own administration’s shifting position might have played — Trump harped on what he inherited from President Obama.

When asked Wednesday during a news conference with King Abdullah II of Jordan whether the chemical attack this week crossed a “red line,” Trump said: “It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many many lines, beyond a red line. Many many lines.”

He continued: “It’s very, very possible, and I will tell you it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

But changed from what? From the soft pedal of a few days ago that may have provided cover for this attack, or from previous statements in which he warned that America should “stay out of Syria”?

To change a position, one must start from an established position. Trump is all over the place like a spider playing Twister. During the news conference, he said that he was a “flexible person,” but I believe him to be an obtuse one.

During the news conference, a reporter asked:

“If I may, Mr. President: You know very well that the Iranian militias and Hezbollah have been propping the Syrian regime for a while, over a few years now. Will you go after them? What message will you give them today? And will you work with the Russians to stop, to ground, the Syrian Air Force and to establish safe zones?”

Actually, it was clear that the president didn’t “know very well.” In fact, he seemed lost by the question. So instead of answering, he opened an attack on the Iran nuclear deal and ISIS.

The reporter had to point out the ridiculousness of the answer: “But sir, I’m talking about the Iranian militias in Syria supporting the Syrian regime, separate of the nuclear deal. What message do you have for them today?” Caught in his ignorance, Trump clumsily responded: “You will see. They will have a message. You will see what the message will be, O.K.”

It was beyond embarrassing: It was mortifying. And it was terrifying.

Then there is North Korea, which keeps testing missiles, including one this week in advance of Trump’s meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, a clear message that North Korea continues its weapons program unbowed by pressure from America or China.

Trump is depending on China to exert influence on North Korea that it may be reluctant, or not have the capacity, to do. In any case, this week Trump told The Financial Times, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”

This seemed to signal the possibility of unilateral action of some kind, but the form is not clear. The Syrian and North Korean problems are complex and can’t be solved by a simpleton. Every action produces a reaction. Every lever you pull risks a life — or many.

This is not about Trump’s ego, even though I’m sure he believes that it is. It is about whether this draft dodger’s ignorance and insecurities could haphazardly plunge our country — and indeed the world — into an armed conflict. The King of Chaos isn’t suited for the steady navigation of crisis.

And we’re only 75 days in…  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

When I write about people struggling with addictions or homelessness, liberals exude sympathy while conservatives respond with snarling hostility to losers who make “bad choices.”

When I write about voters who supported President Trump, it’s the reverse: Now it’s liberals who respond with venom, hoping that Trump voters suffer for their bad choice.

“I absolutely despise these people,” one woman tweeted at me after I interviewed Trump voters. “Truly the worst of humanity. To hell with every one of them.”

Maybe we all need a little more empathy?

I wrote my last column from Oklahoma, highlighting voters who had supported Trump and now find that he wants to cut programs that had helped them. One woman had recovered from a rape with the help of a women’s center that stands to lose funding, another said that she would sit home and die without a job program facing cutbacks, and so on. Yet every one of them was still behind Trump — and that infuriated my readers.

“I’m just going to say it,” tweeted Bridgette. “I hate these people. They are stupid and selfish. Screw them. Lose your jobs, sit home and die.”

Another: “ALL Trump voters are racist and deplorable. They’ll never vote Democratic. We should never pander to the Trumpites. We’re not a party for racists.”

The torrent of venom was, to me, as misplaced as the support for Trump from struggling Oklahomans. I’m afraid that Trump’s craziness is proving infectious, making Democrats crazy with rage that actually impedes a progressive agenda.

One problem with the Democratic anger is that it stereotypes a vast and contradictory group of 63 million people. Sure, there were racists and misogynists in their ranks, but that doesn’t mean that every Trump voter was a white supremacist. While it wasn’t apparent from reading the column, one of the Trump voters I quoted was black, and another was Latino. Of course, millions of Trump voters were members of minorities or had previously voted for Barack Obama.

“Some people think that the people who voted for Trump are racists and sexists and homophobes and just deplorable folks,” Senator Bernie Sanders, who has emerged as a surprising defender of Trump voters, said the other day. “I don’t agree.”

The blunt truth is that if we care about a progressive agenda, we simply can’t write off 46 percent of the electorate. If there is to be movement on mass incarceration, on electoral reform, on women’s health, on child care, on inequality, on access to good education, on climate change, then progressives need to win more congressional and legislative seats around the country. To win over Trump voters isn’t normalizing extremism, but a strategy to combat it.

Right now, 68 percent of partisan legislative chambers in the states are held by Republicans. About 7 percent of America’s land mass is in Democratic landslide counties, and 59 percent is in Republican landslide counties.

I asked the people I interviewed in Oklahoma why they were sticking with Trump. There are many reasons working-class conservatives vote against their economic interests — abortion and gun issues count heavily for some — but another is the mockery of Democrats who deride them as ignorant bumpkins. The vilification of these voters is a gift to Trump.

Nothing I’ve written since the election has engendered more anger from people who usually agree with me than my periodic assertions that Trump voters are human, too. But I grew up in Trump country, in rural Oregon, and many of my childhood friends supported Trump. They’re not the hateful caricatures that some liberals expect, any more than New York liberals are the effete paper cutouts that my old friends assume.

Maybe we need more junior year “abroad” programs that send liberals to Kansas and conservatives to Massachusetts.

Hatred for Trump voters also leaves the Democratic Party more removed from working-class pain. For people in their 50s, mortality rates for poorly educated whites have soared since 2000 and are now higher than for blacks at all education levels. Professors Angus Deaton and Anne Case of Princeton University say the reason is “deaths of despair” arising from suicide, drugs and alcohol.

Democrats didn’t do enough do address this suffering, so Trump won working-class voters — because he at least faked empathy for struggling workers. He sold these voters a clunker, and now he’s already beginning to betray them. His assault on Obamacare would devastate many working-class families by reducing availability of treatment for substance abuse. As I see it, Trump rode to the White House on a distress that his policies will magnify.

So by all means stand up to Trump, point out that he’s a charlatan and resist his initiatives. But remember that social progress means winning over voters in flyover country, and that it’s difficult to recruit voters whom you’re simultaneously castigating as despicable, bigoted imbeciles.

And here’s what “gemli” has to say about all that:

“It’s not as though I don’t feel the pain of the people who voted for the president. As a liberal, I endured eight years of W., and watched him fly over New Orleans after Katrina took my home, along with everything I owned. I watched as we were plunged into wars by god-fearing bigots, as women suffered for wanting to end an unwanted pregnancy, and as gay people struggled uphill trying to climb a mountain of abuse merely to reach their goal of basic human dignity.

I felt the elation of Obama’s election fade as our current president engineered a program of lies about his birth to undermine his legitimacy, and while Republicans shouted “Liar!” as he addressed the nation. I cringed as conservatives ignored the sight of twenty tiny coffins after Sandy Hook, and doubled down on their efforts to make guns available to the insane.

But nothing compares to the emptiness and despair I felt as I watched a vulgar, narcissistic and incurious idiot sail to victory by doing nothing more than tapping into the resentment of people who didn’t know they were being lied to. His presidency is even more of a sham than I could have imagined, and, as predicted, he’s hurting the people who voted for him.

In my weaker moments, I feel sorry for them. But mostly I despair for a country so deluded by ignorance and resentment that we have shamed ourselves, possibly for generations to come. My sympathy is in short supply, and frankly, I need all I can muster for myself. The rest are on their own.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: