Archive for the ‘Blow’ Category

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 23, 2017

In “The Death of Compassion” Mr. Blow says the Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.  Mr. Kristof tells us that “Even if Trump Is the Enemy, His Voters Aren’t,” and then he tells us not to adopt Trump’s trick of “otherizing” people, even Trump supporters.  It’s unusual that I feel compelled to put in a comment to Mr. Kristof this time “Sheri” from New Mexico has something to say.  Ms. Collins says “Trump Is Bad For Water and Puppies,” and that maybe the president keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Folks, we have been here before.

After Ronald Reagan, a celebrity-turned-politician, carried 49 states in his devastating defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, Democrats were whining and moaning, shuffling their feet and scratching their heads.

Reagan had done particularly well with those who would come to be known as Reagan Democrats — white, working-class voters, particularly in the Rust Belt, whom a New York Times contributor would later describe as “blue-collar, ethnic voters,” who were drawn to Reagan’s messages of economic growth and nationalistic pride.

But just like Donald Trump’s path to victory, Reagan’s was strewn with racial hostilities and prejudicial lies.

While Trump’s tropes involved Mexicans and Muslims and that tired euphemism of disastrous inner cities, Reagan used the “welfare queen” scare, as far back as his unsuccessful bid for president in 1976.

As I have written before, Reagan explained at nearly every stop that there was a woman in Chicago who “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent, deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

But it was not as it seemed.

As my colleague Paul Krugman wrote in 2007: “Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.”

As Gene Demby perfectly summed up on NPR in 2013: “In the popular imagination, the stereotype of the ‘welfare queen’ is thoroughly raced — she’s an indolent black woman, living off the largess of taxpayers. The term is seen by many as a dog whistle, a way to play on racial anxieties without summoning them directly.”

So, then as now, economic anxiety and throbbing xenophobia were convenient shields behind which brewing racial animus could hide.

Indeed, Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was first used by Reagan.

And yet, Democrats in 1984 were quick to look for the lessons they could learn on how to reach out to the Reagan coalition, instead of condemning it.

In the days following Reagan’s win that year, The New York Times reported:

“Democratic Party leaders began yesterday what they foresee as a long and agonizing appraisal of how they can renew their appeal to the white majority in presidential elections and still hold the allegiance of minorities, the poor and others who seek federal assistance.”

In a telephone interview with The Times for the article, then-Representative James R. Jones of Oklahoma, a fiscal conservative, said, “I think we should adopt the slogan of compassionate conservatism.” He continued, “We can be fiscally conservative without losing our commitment to the needy and we must redirect our policy in that direction.”

But in truth, there was no compassion to be had in that conservatism then — and definitely not now.

In 1981, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who was then president of the National Urban League, stung the Reagan administration:

“I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.”

But while Reagan at least operated under the veneer of positivity and hopefulness with the language of a “shining city on a hill,” Trump has pursued a blatant appeal to anger and hostility with his talk of a nation in decline.

Over the years, compassionate conservatism has had its moments, including being espoused by Jack Kemp and President George W. Bush. That all feels like quaint, retrospective ephemera now.

Compassionate conservatism is dead; Trump and his band of backward-thinking devotees killed it.

Trump is rushing headlong into Muslim bans and mass deportations, wall building and Obamacare dismantling. Indeed, it feels like the campaign promises Trump is keeping have to do with cruelty and those he’s flip-flopping on have to do with character.

For instance, it is now abundantly clear that Trump had no intention whatsoever of draining the swamp in Washington. He is simply restocking it to his liking.

This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”

Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.

No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute. This is a culture war in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel.

Fight, fight, fight. And when you are finished, fight some more. Victory is the only acceptable outcome when freedom, equality and inclusion are at stake.

And now here’s Mr. Kristof:

A few days ago, I blithely tweeted a warning that Democrats often sound patronizing when speaking of Trump voters. That provoked a vehement reaction.

[the text of his tweet, which will not embed for me, is “Yes! Democrats still too often sound patronizing when they speak of Trump voters, and it’s hard to recruit people you’re patronizing.”]

“Sorry,” Jason tweeted back, “but if someone is supporting a racist ignoramus who wants to round up brown ppl and steal my money, I’m gonna patronize.”

“This is normalization of a hateful ideology and it’s shameful,” protested another.

“My tone isn’t patronizing,” one person responded. “It’s hostile. Intentionally. I won’t coddle those who refuse to recognize my humanity.”

“What a great idea!” another offered. “Let’s recruit a whole bunch of bigoted unthinking lizard brains because we could possibly ‘WIN!’”

And so the comments went, registering legitimate anxieties about President Trump — but also the troubling condescension that worried me in the first place. I fear that the (richly deserved) animus toward Trump is spilling over onto all his supporters.

I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.

This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.

In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.

Trump tries to “otherize” Muslims, refugees, unauthorized immigrants and other large groups. It sometimes works when people don’t actually know a Muslim or a refugee, and liberals likewise seem more willing to otherize Trump voters when they don’t know any.

There are three reasons I think it’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters, a complicated (and, yes, diverse) group of 63 million people.

First, stereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding. Hundreds of thousands of those Trump supporters had voted for Barack Obama. Many are themselves black, Latino or Muslim. Are they all bigots?

Second, demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system. One can be passionate about one’s cause, and fight for it, without contributing to political paralysis that risks making our country ungovernable.

Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t. This raises knotty questions about tolerating intolerance, but is it really necessary to start with a blanket judgment writing off 46 percent of voters?

When Trump demonizes journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” that is an outrageous overstep. But suggesting that Trump voters are enemies of the people is also inappropriate.

The third reason is tactical: It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.

Many liberals argue that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and that the focus should be on rallying the base and fighting voter suppression efforts. Yes, but Democrats flopped in Congress, governor races and state legislatures. Republicans now control 68 percent of partisan legislative chambers in the U.S.

If Democrats want to battle voter suppression, it’s crucial to win local races — including in white working-class districts in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Yes, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable for Democrats, but millions may be winnable. So don’t blithely give up on 63 million people; instead, make arguments directed at them. Fight for their votes not with race-baiting but with economic pitches for the working and middle classes.

Clinton’s calling half of Trump voters “deplorables” achieved nothing and probably cost her critical votes. Why would Democrats repeat that mistake?

Yes, the Trump camp includes some racists and other bigots. But it’s a big camp, and let’s not be so quick to affix labels on every member of a vast group.

This column may offend everyone, from Trump enthusiasts to liberals who decry them. But my message is simple:

Go ahead and denounce Trump’s lies and bigotry. Stand firm against his disastrous policies. But please don’t practice his trick of “otherizing” people into stick-figure caricatures, slurring vast groups as hopeless bigots. We’re all complicated, and stereotypes are not helpful — including when they’re of Trump supporters.

So apparently it’s just fine when Bobo Brooks stereotypes liberals, but we have to suck it up…  Gotcha, Nick.  Here’s what “Sheri” in New Mexico had to say to him:

“OK — 63 million aren’t deplorable…just 62 million are…Really, Mr. Kristof. I almost always enjoy reading your columns and think you are a man of conscience, but you are going too far with this one. In WHAT way did Hillary Clinton indicate that she didn’t care about the economic conditions around the country? She cared, but they refused to hear her. That makes them at least stupid if not deplorable.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

And now, things that are Really Happening in the world of Donald Trump.

We bring you this list as a public service. It’s easy to be distracted by all the strange/contradictory/awful things the president says. For instance, a lot of people were stunned when he responded to a question about anti-Semitic attacks in the United States by citing his winning numbers in the Electoral College. Then, when the question came up again and he yelled at the reporter who asked it.

Much, much later, Trump did read a statement denouncing racism and anti-Semitism. But even that seemed … worrisome. It’s not just that an elected official should know how to answer that question without a lot of prep work. Everybody should know how to answer that question. Your 3-year-old nephew. Your Uber driver. Uncle Fred who gets drunk at Thanksgiving. Nobody gets to ask for a script.

Maybe he keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report. In Washington, outside of the ongoing disaster that is immigration policy, actual changes have been sparse. A lot of the departments don’t have new staffs yet — and some never will if Trump keeps insisting on only hiring people who never said anything negative about him during the campaign.

However, some little gremlins have been busy on the government websites, clearing out unpleasant information on issues like climate change. The Department of Agriculture has taken down its list of violators of the Animal Welfare Act, including “puppy mills” rife with dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

The justification for that one seemed to involve concern that the list violated the privacy of people who are terrible to little dogs. It’s hard to say for sure, since no one is picking up the phone at the headless Department of Agriculture. But if you’ve got a Republican member of Congress, be sure to go to the next town meeting and yell, “What about the puppies?”

Trump, who likes to be thought of as a decider, showed his stuff this week, resolving a dispute between two of his top appointees. It was a surprising development — who knew there were enough cabinet members in place for a fight? The battle featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in an argument over transgender rights.

Sessions, in one of his very first moves on the job, had decided to reverse a federal guideline that public schools should let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice. DeVos — who knew she had it in her? — objected. Trump sided with Sessions, taking what appeared to be the opposite position from the one he espoused during the campaign.

The president, it turns out, is more conservative on social issues than the guy who was running in all those primaries against Ted Cruz. Now, with virtually nothing to lose, he’s gotten worse. Wow.

This gets depressing really fast. No wonder we’re looking for distractions. Everything weird going on in the world seems to have a Trump connection. For instance, there’s that assassination story involving the North Korean dictator — the guy who has, um, a really strange hairdo. His estranged half brother was mysteriously murdered in a bizarre assault. One of the women arrested claimed she believed the whole thing was a segment of a TV reality show. Just saying.

Congress, meanwhile, has just been sort of wandering around, trying to avoid thinking about health care or schedule any town meetings. Repealing Obama-era regulations is just about the only thing getting accomplished:

Guns: Last week our lawmakers took a very strong stance protecting the right of Americans to purchase guns despite severe mental impairment. Thanks, Congress!

The House and Senate voted to repeal a background check rule that screened out people who are receiving special Social Security benefits because mental problems made it impossible for them to work or even manage their own money. The National Rifle Association calls this “Obama’s unconstitutional gun grab.” Because, obviously, just because you can’t handle a Social Security check doesn’t mean you can’t handle an assault weapon.

Clean Water: Another repealed regulation prohibited coal companies from dumping their waste into streams. When he signed the bill, Trump claimed the change would save “many thousands of American jobs,” which is of course completely nuts, unless polluting the water is going to eliminate competition from natural gas. The federal estimate of lost jobs is around 260 per year.

Free the oil and gas companies: Trump also signed a bill repealing a rule that publicly traded oil, gas and mining companies had to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.

Talk about keeping your campaign promises. The president vowed to get rid of useless regulations, and already he’s opened the road for dirty Appalachian water and oil companies bribing other governments. With mentally deranged gunmen waiting on his desk.

Blow and Krugman

February 20, 2017

In “Harry and Sidney: Soul Brothers” Mr. Blow offers on their 90th birthdays, an ode to two of the most remarkable men of our time.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “On Economic Arrogance:”  Why do Republicans imagine they can deliver growth?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Please allow me to divert my gaze for one day away from our national political darkness and toward two national rays of light.

Monday is Sidney Poitier’s 90th birthday. His best friend of 70 years, Harry Belafonte, turns 90 on March 1.

This is an ode to and appreciation of the friendship — one of the most remarkable and resilient of our time — between two Hollywood royals.

Poitier and Belafonte didn’t meet until they were 20 years old, and yet Belafonte still considered Poitier his first real friend in life. As Belafonte put it, he lived a “nomadic” life as a child, shuttling back and forth between New York and islands of the Caribbean with his mother as she searched for work. “I did not get rooted long enough to develop what many people have the joy of experiencing, and that is childhood friends.”

The two men met at the American Negro Theatre, where Poitier worked as a janitor while studying with the company and where Belafonte worked as a stagehand. This was where they became performers.

The two men quickly broke through to each other, in part because they had so much in common. Not only were they the same age, they were both born to parents of West Indian heritage, enabling them to see the absurdity of racism in America from within and without and to bring a quasi-Pan-African sensibility to the African-American experience.

They shared the charmingly ordinary experiences that young friends share, like sneaking into the theater on the same ticket, each seeing half of a show, then filling each other in afterward on the half the other had missed. They called it “sharing the burden and the joy.”

And yet, by leaning on each other, supporting each other (Belafonte counseled Poitier though the dissolution of his marriage, which ended during his nine-year affair with actress Diahann Carroll), pushing each other, and yes, competing with each other (the first time Poitier was cast in a role, he was Belafonte’s understudy), they would both find tremendous popular success. Each man often took roles that the other had turned down or didn’t get.

In the 1950s Belafonte was dubbed the “King of Calypso” after his breakthrough album Calypso became the first LP in America to sell a million copies. In the early 1960s, Poitier became the first African-American to win the best actor Academy Award.

Even at the height of their success both men made an indelible mark on the Civil Rights Movement and changed the very idea of black masculinity.

In 1964, Belafonte convinced a hesitant Poitier to help him deliver $70,000 stuffed into a doctor’s bag to Freedom Summer volunteers in the South. They were met by Klansmen who chased them and fired guns at them. As one website put it, referring to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, “The trip ‘solidified Poitier’s commitment to SNCC,’ and he would become the symbol of the group’s goals for African-Americans.”

For Belafonte’s part, he formed a committee to support the movement and raised thousands of dollars to help bail the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out of jail, pay for the release of arrested protesters, help finance freedom rides and bankroll SNCC.

Belafonte and Poitier helped organize the March on Washington and helped plan King’s memorial after he was assassinated.

As for their impact on black masculinity, Belafonte has said of Poitier, “I don’t think anyone [else] in the world could have been anointed with the responsibility of creating a whole new image of black people, and especially black men.” In truth, Belafonte is being needlessly self-effacing here, because both he and Poitier accomplished this feat.

I’ve met both men and was enthralled by each. The first time I heard Belafonte speak in person, he spoke so eloquently and passionately that I was sure that he was reading a speech. He wasn’t. The next time I saw him I rehearsed a fan speech in my mind as I approached him, but before I could utter a word, he said to me, “I’m such a fan.” Mind. Blown.

When I was on my book tour, Poitier invited me to dinner in Beverly Hills. He was the most charming and graceful person I’ve ever met, famous or not. He told me: “I’m adopting you. I don’t have any sons. I have six daughters.” He insisted that I sign the book for him and his wife: “To Mom and Dad.”

Belafonte and Poitier demonstrated over a lifetime how celebrities could embody activism as well as the quiet power of dignity and grace.

King once said of Poitier: “He is a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom. Here is a man who, in the words we so often hear now, is a soul brother.”

In fact, I think that is what Poitier and Belafonte found in each other: a soul brother. Happy birthday, gentlemen.

Now, after that lovely bit of relief from our ongoing national nightmare, here’s Prof. Krugman:

According to press reports, the Trump administration is basing its budget projections on the assumption that the U.S. economy will grow very rapidly over the next decade — in fact, almost twice as fast as independent institutions like the Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve expect. There is, as far as we can tell, no serious analysis behind this optimism; instead, the number was plugged in to make the fiscal outlook appear better.

I guess this was only to be expected from a man who keeps insisting that crime, which is actually near record lows, is at a record high, that millions of illegal ballots were responsible for his popular vote loss, and so on: In Trumpworld, numbers are what you want them to be, and anything else is fake news. But the truth is that unwarranted arrogance about economics isn’t Trump-specific. On the contrary, it’s the modern Republican norm. And the question is why.

Before I get there, a word about why extreme growth optimism is unwarranted.

The Trump team is apparently projecting growth at between 3 and 3.5 percent for a decade. This wouldn’t be unprecedented: the U.S. economy grew at a 3.4 percent rate during the Reagan years, 3.7 percent under Bill Clinton. But a repeat performance is unlikely.

For one thing, in the Reagan years baby boomers were still entering the work force. Now they’re on their way out, and the rise in the working-age population has slowed to a crawl. This demographic shift alone should, other things being equal, subtract around a percentage point from U.S. growth.

Furthermore, both Reagan and Clinton inherited depressed economies, with unemployment well over 7 percent. This meant that there was a lot of economic slack, allowing rapid growth as the unemployed went back to work. Today, by contrast, unemployment is under 5 percent, and other indicators suggest an economy close to full employment. This leaves much less scope for rapid growth.

The only way we could have a growth miracle now would be a huge takeoff in productivity — output per worker-hour. This could, of course, happen: maybe driverless flying cars will arrive en masse. But it’s hardly something one should assume for a baseline projection.

And it’s certainly not something one should count on as a result of conservative economic policies. Which brings me to the strange arrogance of the economic right.

As I said, belief that tax cuts and deregulation will reliably produce awesome growth isn’t unique to the Trump-Putin administration. We heard the same thing from Jeb Bush (who?); we hear it from congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan. The question is why. After all, there is nothing — nothing at all — in the historical record to justify this arrogance.

Yes, Reagan presided over pretty fast growth. But Bill Clinton, who raised taxes on the rich, amid confident predictions from the right that this would cause an economic disaster, presided over even faster growth. President Obama presided over much more rapid private-sector job growth than George W. Bush, even if you leave out the 2008 collapse. Furthermore, two Obama policies that the right totally hated – the 2013 hike in tax rates on the rich, and the 2014 implementation of the Affordable Care Act – produced no slowdown at all in job creation.

Meanwhile, the growing polarization of American politics has given us what amount to economic policy experiments at the state level. Kansas, dominated by conservative true believers, implemented sharp tax cuts with the promise that these cuts would jump-start rapid growth; they didn’t, and caused a budget crisis instead. Last week Kansas legislators threw in the towel and passed a big tax hike.

At the same time Kansas was turning hard right, California’s newly dominant Democratic majority raised taxes. Conservatives declared it “economic suicide” — but the state is in fact doing fine.

The evidence, then, is totally at odds with claims that tax-cutting and deregulation are economic wonder drugs. So why does a whole political party continue to insist that they are the answer to all problems?

It would be nice to pretend that we’re still having a serious, honest discussion here, but we aren’t. At this point we have to get real and talk about whose interests are being served.

Never mind whether slashing taxes on billionaires while giving scammers and polluters the freedom to scam and pollute is good for the economy as a whole; it’s clearly good for billionaires, scammers, and polluters. Campaign finance being what it is, this creates a clear incentive for politicians to keep espousing a failed doctrine, for think tanks to keep inventing new excuses for that doctrine, and more.

And on such matters Donald Trump is really no worse than the rest of his party. Unfortunately, he’s also no better.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 16, 2017

In “Drip, Drip, Drip” Mr. Blow says what we know about Russia only makes what we don’t know more ominous.  Mr. Kristof has a question:  “What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?”  He says dots involving Russia are begging to be connected.  Ms. Collins says “Well, Trump Watchers, Things Could Be Worse,” and that on the plus side, we’re not in Pyongyang.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Every day there is a fresh outrage emerging from the murky bog of the Donald Trump administration.

Every day there is a new round of questions and a new set of concerns that raise anxieties and lower trust.

Every day it becomes ever more clear that it is right and just to doubt the legitimacy of this regime and all that flows from it.

The latest round involves the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who this week was forced to resign following disclosures about his communications with the Russian ambassador on the same day that then-President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its interference in our election to help Trump and damage Hillary Clinton.

The official reason given for requesting Flynn’s resignation was, according to the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer: “The president was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

Spicer continued later, “The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”

Spicer further stated, “The White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is not a legal issue, but rather a trust issue.”

If you are thinking, “Something about this just doesn’t smell right,” you’re right; it stinks. This doesn’t add up and it leads to a multiplying number of questions to which we don’t yet have answers.

The president was made aware of Flynn’s communications weeks ago, and apparently didn’t think it prudent to alert the vice president or to correct the record when the vice president said that Flynn had not discussed the sanctions with the Russian ambassador, when indicators pointed to the fact that he did.

Flynn lied. Trump knew Flynn lied. But Trump kept Flynn in his circle of confidence and apparently left the vice president out of the circle of knowledge. Why?

In tweets the president has posted since Flynn’s resignation (or firing — you choose how you want to cast it), Trump has seemed more upset by the fact that Flynn’s lies were leaked and reported than by the original transgression.

Furthermore, the president’s tweets and limited public pronouncements on the matter would lead reasonable readers and listeners to conclude that Flynn would still be on the job if his dealings had not become public.

This is an office culture issue. If the boss — in this case Trump — is a pathological liar who forces underlings to repeat and bolster his lies, what signal does that send to everyone else who works in that environment? That lying is not only accepted but also valued, that lying is simply a rhetorical device, a propaganda tool that is inexcusable only when not exercised with skill.

Trump knew exactly who he was getting when he hired Flynn, who had been fired by the Obama administration. Flynn is a habitual liar who lied so much when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency that, according to The New York Times, “subordinates came up with a name for the phenomenon: ‘Flynn facts.’ ”

Trump doesn’t mind a lie if it serves him; he does apparently mind if the liar is intentionally, maleficently trying to deceive him.

But even here, there are questions. It’s not clear whether Trump was aware of Flynn’s conversation with the Russians when it happened, or that he didn’t in some way direct it or receive a report of the call from Flynn himself after it happened.

Furthermore, Flynn’s communications with the Russians are not the only calls of concern. The New York Times reported Tuesday:

“Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”

What was the nature of these calls? Why were they made? Was anyone in the Trump orbit aware of Russian plans to hack the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign? Were they made aware in any way of when emails would be leaked?

Two things bear repeating ad infinitum:

In July, at a televised campaign event, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Then in October, an hour after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, WikiLeaks began to dump the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails on the internet.

Coincidence? Maybe. But that would be one hell of a coincidence, considering all the other reinforcing “coincidences”: Trump’s inexplicable, inexhaustible praise of Russia and Vladimir Putin; Putin’s failure to respond to Obama’s sanctions; an explosive report last week from CNN that read: “For the first time, U.S. investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.”

What we know only makes what we don’t know feel all the more ominous. But I believe that facts are forthcoming. Reporters are digging like a crew of coal miners hopped up on a case of Red Bull, and sources in Washington are leaking to anyone with a press credential.

Drip, drip, drip it goes until the dam breaks and the truth spills.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

During the Watergate scandal, until now the most outrageous political scandal in American history, the crucial question was drawled by Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Today the question is the same.

This is not about Mike Flynn. It is about the president who appointed him, who earlier considered Flynn for vice president. The latest revelation of frequent contacts between the Trump team and Russian intelligence should be a wake-up call to Republicans as well as Democrats.

When Vice President Mike Pence was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News on Jan. 15 if there had been any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, he answered: “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts?”

Great question, Mr. Vice President.

Look, there’s a great deal we don’t know, but Russian interference in our election is potentially a bigger scandal than Watergate ever was. Watergate didn’t change an election’s result — President Richard Nixon would have won anyway in 1972 — while the 2016 election was close enough that Russian interference might have tipped the balance.

We don’t know whether the Russians had domestic help in their effort to steal the U.S. election, but here are a few dots that are begging to be connected:

First, the American intelligence community agrees that the Kremlin interfered during the campaign in an attempt to help Donald Trump. This isn’t a single agency’s conclusion, but reportedly a “strong consensus” among the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence.

Second, the dossier prepared by a former MI6 Russia expert outlines collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. CNN reports that American intelligence has communications intercepts corroborating elements of the dossier, and the latest revelation of repeated and constant contacts between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign give additional weight to the dossier’s allegations — although it’s also important to note that officials told The Times that they had seen no evidence of such cooperation in election manipulation.

Third, President Trump has been mystifyingly friendly toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin. As Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel to the C.I.A., puts it: “The bigger issue here is why Trump and people around him take such a radically different view of Russia than has been the case for decades. We don’t know the answer to that.”

Fourth, Flynn, before taking office, discussed Obama administration sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador. Flynn has now resigned, but he was steeped in the principle of a chain of command; I doubt he made these calls completely on his own. Daniel Benjamin, a former counterterrorism coordinator at the State Department who has known Flynn for years, says it would have been out of character for Flynn to do so. So who told Flynn to make these calls? Steve Bannon? Trump himself?

We’re back to our question: What did the president know, and when did he know it?

The White House hasn’t responded to my inquiries, and Trump lashes out wildly at “the fake news media” without answering questions. He reminds me of Nixon, who in 1974 said Watergate “would have been a blip” if it weren’t for journalists “who hate my guts.” Soon afterward, Nixon resigned.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 9, 2017

In “Trump’s Leading Rivals Wear Robes” Mr. Blow says the president doesn’t have respect for separation of powers.  More likely, Charles, is that he doesn’t have any idea of what that means.  In “To Reject Trump the Perverse, Poets Wage a Battle in Verse” Mr. Kristof invites us to read the winners from among about 2,000 entries in my Donald Trump Poetry Contest.  Ms. Collins says “Elizabeth Warren Persists,” and that wow, there’s nothing worse than a woman who won’t stop talking.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

President Obama was no fan of the dreadful 2010 Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of corporate personhood. In that case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court asserted that political spending, including by corporations, was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, opening the door for corporations to spend unlimited money on ads and other tools to get candidates elected.

The president was not alone. As The Washington Post reported the month after the ruling:

“Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

The Post continued:

“Eight in 10 poll respondents say they oppose the high court’s Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent ‘strongly’ opposed. Nearly as many backed congressional action to curb the ruling, with 72 percent in favor of reinstating limits. The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).”

An overwhelming majority of America was aghast. So Obama reflected that frustration in his public statements.

The president addressed the debacle in his 2010 State of the Union address, in the presence of the Supreme Court justices who decided the case. He began his comments with a phrase that had not appeared in the prepared text, “With all due deference to separation of powers.” Then he let loose:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

Obama had previously criticized the ruling in one of his weekly radio addresses, stating:

“I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.”

He continued later:

“We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans, and we don’t intend to.”

That was his personal opinion — and the opinion of millions of Americans, many of whom were his supporters — and he had every right to voice it. Furthermore, he did so by confining his displeasure to the ruling itself and not impugning in any way the character or qualifications of the justices who rendered it.

And yet, condemnation of Obama was swift and brutal from some quarters.

You could argue that the venue of the State of the Union was not the appropriate one for Obama to repeat his criticism. But it is impossible to argue that his judicial rebuke, which looks quaint in retrospect, comes anywhere close to the venom Donald Trump is spewing at the judicial branch.

You could argue that Obama’s criticism carried more weight because it was aimed at the highest court. But Trump’s treatment of federal judges is worse. He’s punching down. He’s using the awesome power of the presidency to lob highly injurious and personal accusations at public servants below his station. The Supreme Court is on parity with the presidency; federal judges aren’t. This is the behavior of a bully.

As a candidate, Trump claimed that the federal judge Gonzalo P. Curiel shouldn’t be able to preside over his Trump University fraud case because, as Trump put it:

“I’m building the wall, I’m building the wall. I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”

This of course was a lie. Curiel is an American citizen born in East Chicago, Ind.

Last week, when a federal judge ruled against his Muslim ban, Trump lashed out on Twitter (where else?):

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The next day, Trump again took to Twitter:

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On Wednesday, while speaking to a gathering of police chiefs, Trump again lashed out at the court and the appeals process, reading a section of law and sniping, “A bad high school student would understand this.”

Trump should know. As a child, he got into so much trouble and became such an embarrassment to his parents that they sent him up the river, quite literally, to a military academy in the Hudson Valley for high school.

This constant, lowbrow attack on the courts is not an insignificant thing and not without consequence. And it is a major break from the way modern presidents have related to and dissented from the opinions of the judicial branch.

The New York Times’s Adam Liptak spoke with Peter G. Verniero, a former justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, after Obama’s 2010 State of the Union, and Liptak reported the exchange this way:

“The court’s legitimacy is derived from the persuasiveness of its opinions and the expectation that those opinions are rendered free of partisan, political influences,” Mr. Verniero said. “The more that individual justices are drawn into public debates, the more the court as an institution will be seen in political terms, which was not the intent of the founders.”

Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court, condemned the president’s attacks on the judges as demoralizing and disheartening.”

In the same way and for the same reason Trump is attacking the press, he is attacking the courts: They are the only real checks on his power and raging ego, while most congressional Republicans sit on their hands and swallow their pride.

The only courts or press that Trump sees as legitimate are those that bow to his will. All others are fake, very, very dishonest, unfair or some such. Trump’s intent here is to besmirch the means and motives of his opponents, to drag them down from their perches of principle, to make them more vulnerable to grievous political injury.

He always wants to grind the opposition underfoot. This is how democracy slips away, not always by a singular eruption, but sometimes by slow, constant erosion, the way the river carves itself into the rock.

This is not the behavior of a man who respects the independence of the judiciary or who grants any “deference to separation of powers,” as Obama improvised in 2010. This is a tyrant who sees power as a zero-sum game: The exercise of it by another branch means diminution of his own.

He doesn’t want to be president, but emperor.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Some people stand up to President Trump in the courts, others in street protests. And the poets among us, they battle President Trump with an arsenal of verse.

The Republican man of the hour
Is a wellspring of bluster and glower.
Trump is rich and he’s white,
How’s he leading the fight
Against entrenched Establishment power?

That’s by Bill McGloughlin, a librarian in Charlotte, N.C., who was one of the winners of my Donald Trump Poetry Contest. We had about 2,000 entries, and today I’m publishing the winners.

Some relied on humor — while complaining that almost nothing rhymes with “orange”! — and that’s the tack taken by Stephen Benko, a retired businessman in Fairfield, Conn. Benko has published an entire book of poems about Trump, but this one is new:

If God made man in his image
Please explain our new President’s visage
That pucker and scowl
Look like murder most foul
What in heaven, Lord, earned us this priv’lege?

Dan Letwin, a history professor at Penn State, wrote a timely “ode to alternative facts”:

Well now, Kellyanne Conway has lately conceived
Of a new understanding of what to believe
When the truth gives you heartburn, don’t worry, relax
You can always resort to alternative facts!

Oh it works for the Donald and all of his hacks
As they go ’bout promoting their retrograde acts
Don’t fret if your documentation is lax
You can always get by with alternative facts!

Don’t fear all those women with signs on their backs
The straight and the queer, the whites and blacks
You can trivialize them with snide little cracks
And wash them away with alternative facts!

Just as loggers might swing an alternative ax
And fell a great tree with alternative whacks
When the truth won’t cooperate, try some new tacks
We live in an age of alternative facts!

I sought out pro-Trump poems, but poets seem to be disproportionately aghast at his presidency. One of the most personal poems came from Amit Majmudar, the poet laureate of Ohio, who submitted a moving poem about his mother becoming a U.S. citizen. It’s a long poem, but it ends:

In the year of our liar 2016
My mom became the citizen
Of a strange America.
Improbability, too, is a force of nature.
We couldn’t not watch.
Unnatural untruths become natural lies.

In 2016, my mom became a naturalized

Citizen just in time to watch
America denature.

Najma Menai of West Lafayette, Ind., a student at Purdue, says that writing poetry is “one of the chief ways I’m keeping myself sane these days.” She submitted this poem warning against Trump’s antics distracting us from critical issues:

He will say something awful
And cause quite the fuss
Until that one thing
Is all we discuss.…

So when Trump says
The wall will now be a fence
Worry more about
Bannon and Priebus and Pence….

And when he acts like a child
On the global stage
Worry more about
How you, yes you, must engage

Richard Kenney, a poet who teaches at the University of Washington, offered a lovely poem about our “commander in tweet.” Two excerpts:

We mustn’t slander our Twitter Commander,
he’ll burble our bird and snatch our bander
and fire off a tweet with his hot little hand, or
maybe report us, so stay discreet—
Commander in Tweet! Commander in Tweet!
Muster the army, commission the fleet!
He’s a patsy for Putin, buffoon complete—
(And that old Constitution? Hit Delete—)

I held this contest partly because we’ve all heard so much commentary about Trump, and I figured that verse might offer a new lens through which to see our president. It also struck me that there are fears that Trump will slash budgets for the humanities and the arts, including the National Endowment for the Arts. So it seemed appropriate to applaud the artists fighting the perverse with verse — and in that spirit, I’ll give the last word to Susan McLean, a poet and English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University:

Trump seethes at what the writers say.
He’ll pull the plug on the N.E.A.
The joke’s on him. Art doesn’t pay.
We write our satires anyway.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

It’s a dark and dismal time for American liberals. Except for the part where the opposition keeps shooting itself in the foot.

We will now pause to contemplate the fact that this week the Senate Republicans attempted to forward their agenda by silencing Elizabeth Warren while she was reading a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.

In explanation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically called Warren a pushy girl.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Never has a political party reached such a pinnacle of success, and then instantly begun using it to inspire the opposition.

We’re less than three weeks into the Trump administration, and almost every day the people in power stop delivering the message of the day and veer off into a Strange Tale.

Which do you think the Democrats found most empowering — Trump’s first full day in the White House, when he marched off to the C.I.A. to deliver a rambling tirade about the inauguration crowd size? The Holocaust Remembrance Day proclamation that eliminated any reference to the Jews? Or the new Supreme Court nominee saying the president who named him was being “demoralizing” and “disheartening”?

Or this Senate-silencing moment? The subject at hand was the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The debate was going to be endless. It was evening and nobody was listening. Warren was taking her turn and reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote about Sessions in 1986.

That was when Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship on the basis of an impressive record of racial insensitivity as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. The charges included referring to a black assistant U.S. attorney as “boy,” joking about the Ku Klux Klan and referring to the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American.”

His supporters say he’s changed. Indeed, Sessions has evolved into a senator who is well liked by his peers and obsessed with illegal immigrants. Totally different person.

Mrs. King’s letter was not flattering. (“…has used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”) Neither were the quotes Warren read from the late Senator Edward Kennedy (“a disgrace”). But none of it was exactly a surprise, and all of Washington knew the nomination was eventually going to pass. Yet McConnell decided to shut down Warren, claiming she had “impugned the motives and conduct” of a fellow senator.

McConnell cited Rule 19, which is more than a century old. It comes up about once a generation, when somebody calls a colleague an idiot or a liar. But this was totally different. The other senators were startled — or would have been if most of them had not been napping or back in their offices, dialing up donors.

“She was warned,” McConnell said later. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Wow, nothing worse than a woman who won’t stop talking.

“They were waiting to Rule 19 someone and they specifically targeted Elizabeth,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I think because she’s effective.”

The social media exploded. You have to admit we live in wondrous times, people. There was a day when people only took to Facebook to post pictures of their vacation. On Wednesday they were pouring in to watch Elizabeth Warren read her forbidden letter.

Dark and extremely conspiratorial minds suggested the whole thing was a Republican plot to promote Warren as a presidential candidate, since they believe Trump could defeat her in 2020. This presumes that McConnell is suffering from a pathological case of advance planning.

More likely he’s simply exhausted from dealing with a White House occupant who’s managed, just this week, to accuse the media of not covering terrorism, to suggest that George W. Bush was more of a killer than Vladimir Putin, and to use the official presidential account to tweet an attack on Nordstrom’s for discontinuing his daughter’s fashion line.

And the Republicans in Congress can’t figure out how to work around him. The other day the House majority refused to approve a Democratic resolution affirming “that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetuation of the Holocaust.” It obviously was an attempt to remind people of that Holocaust Memorial Week debacle. But still.

“They’re definitely squirming,” said Representative Joe Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, in a phone interview. Crowley was on his way to Baltimore for a party strategy conference. I believe I speak for a great many Americans when I say a strategy would be a very good thing.

The Democrats are immersed in an ongoing battle between centrists and progressives and a long way from coming up with a united message. “There’s still anger and a bit of depression, but … they’re giving us incredible fodder to use against them,” Crowley said.

It’s true. Always look for a silver lining. Or at least a little fodder. Keep talking, Elizabeth.

Blow and Krugman

February 6, 2017

Mr. Blow believes that the President* needs “A Lesson in Black History” and that Donald Trump has much to learn from Frederick Douglass.  First off that he’s no longer with us…  Prof. Krugman, in “Springtime for Scammers,” says they’re making financial predators great again.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Last week at a supposed Black History Month “listening session” at the White House, Donald Trump made this baffling statement: “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job that is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

It sounded a bit like he thought the inimitable Douglass, who died in 1895, was some lesser-known black leader who was still alive.

When Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked what Trump meant by his Douglass comments, Spicer responded:

“I think he wants to highlight the contributions that he has made. And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”

Assuming that the “he” in that sentence refers to Douglass, these numbskulls are actually referring to him as a living person and have absolutely no clue who Douglass is and what he means to America.

Social media had a field day with this, relentlessly mocking the team, but for me the emotion was overwhelming sadness: How could the American “president” or a White House press secretary, or any American citizen for that matter, not know who Douglass is?

Let’s be absolutely clear here: Frederick Douglass is a singular, towering figure of American history. The entire legacy of black intellectual thought and civil rights activism flows in some way through Douglass, from W.E.B. DuBois to Booker T. Washington, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to President Barack Obama himself.

Douglass was one of the most brilliant thinkers, writers and orators America has ever produced. Furthermore, he harnessed and mastered the media of his day: Writing an acclaimed autobiography, establishing his own newspaper and becoming the most photographed American of the 19th century.

Put another way: If modern social media existed during Douglass’s time, he would have been one of its kings.

Douglass also was a friend of Susan B. Anthony and an advocate for women’s civil rights as well as the civil rights of black people, understanding even then the intersectionality of oppressions. In fact, the motto of his newspaper, The North Star, was “Right is of no Sex — Truth is of no Color — God is the Father of us all, and we are all Brethren.”

But perhaps one of the best reasons Trump and Spicer need to bone up on Douglass is to understand his relationship with Abraham Lincoln and to get a better sense of what true leadership looks like.

Douglass was a blistering critic of Lincoln from the beginning. In Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address, he quoted from one of his previous speeches in which he had said “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists,” and he went on to defend the Fugitive Slave Act, promising the slave states full enforcement of it as long as it was on the books.

This incensed Douglass, who said of the remarks: “Not content with the broadest recognition of the right of property in the souls and bodies of men in the slave states, Mr. Lincoln next proceeds, with nerves of steel, to tell the slaveholders what an excellent slave hound he is.”

Although Douglass’s cutting critique of Lincoln began to soften after Lincoln announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Douglass continued to be unhappy throughout the Civil War about the unequal treatment of black soldiers in the Union Army. But even in the midst of this criticism, Lincoln entertained Douglass at the White House.

Although Douglass wasn’t fully satisfied with Lincoln’s positions, Douglass remarked of the meeting: “Mr. Lincoln listened with earnest attention and with very apparent sympathy, and replied to each point in his own peculiar, forcible way.”

This stands in stark contrast to Trump’s avoidance of black intellectuals and even any real critics. Trump’s “listening session” seemed to be populated only by his black appointees and supporters.

Lincoln and Douglass would go on to develop a genuine friendship and Douglass would become something of Lincoln’s conscience on the slave issue. In fact, Lincoln called Douglass “one of the most meritorious men, if not the most meritorious man, in the United States.”

That is what leadership and growth look like. Lincoln grew from the association with and counsel from his onetime critic, to become one of the greatest presidents America has ever known.

Indeed Black History Month began not as a month but a week: Negro History week, the second week of February. It was established in 1926 by noted black historian Carter G. Woodson, and choosing February was no coincidence: It honored the birthdays of Lincoln, who freed the slaves, and Douglass, who helped direct his conscience.

Trump would do well to study this history; he has much to learn from it. As the historian Woodson’s personal motto went: “It’s never too late to learn.”

Trump study?  When pigs fly.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

People keep saying that Donald Trump is a populist. I do not think that word means what they think it means.

OK, it’s true that our so-called president — hey, if he can say that about a judge who ruled against him, surely we can say that about him — is channeling the racism and bigotry of some ordinary Americans, and in so doing sticking it to squeamish elites that take the Constitution both seriously and literally. But so far his economic policies are all about empowering ethically challenged businesses to cheat and exploit the little guy.

In particular, he and his allies in Congress are making it a priority to unravel financial reform — and specifically the parts of financial reform that protect consumers against predators.

Last week Mr. Trump released a memorandum calling on the Department of Labor to reconsider its new “fiduciary rule,” which requires financial advisers to act in their clients’ best interests — as opposed to, say, steering them into investments on which the advisers get big commissions. He also issued an executive order designed to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform, enacted in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Both moves are very much in line with the priorities of congressional Republicans and, of course, the financial industry. For both groups really, really hate financial regulation, especially when it helps protect families against sharp practice.

Why, after all, was the fiduciary rule created? The main issue here is retirement savings — the 401(k)’s and other plans that are Americans’ main source of retirement income over and above Social Security. To invest these funds, people have turned to financial professionals — but most probably weren’t aware that these professionals were under no legal obligation to give advice that maximized clients’ returns rather than their own incomes.

This is a big deal. A 2015 Obama administration study concluded that “conflicted investment advice” has been reducing the return on retirement savings by around one percentage point, costing ordinary Americans around $17 billion each year. Where has that $17 billion been going? Largely into the pockets of various financial-industry players. And now we have a White House trying to ensure that this game goes on.

On Dodd-Frank: Republicans would like to repeal the whole law, but probably don’t have the votes. What they can do is try to cripple enforcement, especially by undermining the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose goal is to protect ordinary families from financial scams.

Unlike other parts of Dodd-Frank, which are supposed to reduce the risk of a future financial crisis — and won’t be fully tested until the next major shock hits — the bureau is designed to deal with problems that afflict consumers in good times and bad. And by all accounts it has been a huge success, increasing transparency, reducing fees, and exposing fraud. Remember the Wells Fargo scandal, in which the bank was found to have signed millions of customers up for accounts, credit cards, and services without their consent or knowledge? This scandal only came to light thanks to the bureau.

So why are consumer protections in the Trump firing line?

Gary Cohn, the Goldman Sachs banker appointed to head Mr. Trump’s National Economic Council — populism! — says that the fiduciary rule is like “putting only healthy food on the menu” and denying people the right to eat unhealthy food if they want it. Of course, it doesn’t do anything like that. If you want a better analogy, it’s like preventing restaurants from claiming that their 1400-calorie portions are health food.

Mr. Trump offers a different explanation for his hostility to financial reform: It’s hurting credit availability. “I have so many people, friends of mine that had nice businesses, they can’t borrow money.” It would be interesting to learn what these “nice businesses” are. What we do know is that U.S. banks have generally shunned Mr. Trump’s own businesses — from which, by the way, he hasn’t separated himself at all — perhaps because of his history of defaults.

Other would-be borrowers, however, don’t seem to be having problems. Only 4 percent of the small firms surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business report themselves unsatisfied with loan availability, a historic low. Overall bank lending in the United States has been quite robust since Dodd-Frank was enacted.

So what’s motivating the attack on financial regulation? Well, there’s a lot of money at stake — money that the financial industry has been extracting from unwitting, unprotected consumers. Financial reform was starting to roll back these abuses, but we clearly now have a political leadership determined to roll back the rollback. Make financial predation great again!

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 2, 2017

In “Fruit of a Poison Tree” Mr. Blow says Democrats must oppose Neil Gorsuch on principle.  Mr. Kristof offers “An Apology to Muslims for President Trump” and says we Americans should condemn our extremist.  A majority of us do, Nick, and voted against him.  Ms. Collins has a question in “Pence’s Presidential Pet:” Whose hand is busy behind the curtain?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So the “president,” who was “elected” under the fog of Russian interference (now under investigation by both houses of Congress) and with a boost from the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (now under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general), has just made a nomination to the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver.

Pundits have been applauding like a pod of trained seals in the hours since the announcement, gushing about how brilliant Donald Trump’s rollout of Gorsuch was, how immensely qualified he is and how difficult it would be for Democrats to block his nomination if they chose to do so.

Let’s tackle each of these individually, but let’s do so under the umbrella of this ultimatum that I believe the liberal base is sending to the Democratic Party: Fight this, tooth and nail. Never give up and never give in.

This seat on the Supreme Court was stolen from Barack Obama when Republicans refused to even hold hearings for his nominee, and the election was stolen from the American public by maleficent figures, foul of motive and moving in shadows.

This nominee is the fruit of a poison tree and no amount of educational pedigree or persuasive elocution can cleanse him of that contamination.

If Trump can impose a Muslim ban until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with national security threats, we can withhold approval of his Supreme Court nominee until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with threats to our national elections.

As for the “brilliant” rollout, let’s be clear: It was a solid rollout, but the bar for Trump has been set so low that merely behaving like an adult, deferring to counsel, not stepping on your own message with idiocy and building support makes a blathering half-wit look like he’s had a stroke of genius.

As for Gorsuch himself, he’s a rather standard right-of-center, religiously deferential judge. He seems to be a smart man with a long and solid résumé, but all of the justices are smart, whether you agree with the way they interpret the law or not. That’s not the question.

Democrats must oppose Gorsuch on principle. Democrats have grown too soft. They are still trying to fight a gentleman’s war in the middle of a guerrilla war. Their efforts to reach across the aisle keep being met by hands wielding machetes; their overwhelming impulse to take the high road ignores the fact that Republicans have already blown up the bridge on the high road.

Democrats want to point to the civility and decorum with which government is supposed to work, but this ignores the fact that government is broken and completely overtaken by the people who broke it.

Some people worry that if the Democrats filibuster this nomination in the Senate, it will only force the Republicans’ hand to employ the “nuclear option” — change the rules so that the nominee would need only a simple majority to be confirmed. The logic goes that this would mean Trump would have an easy route to confirmation should another vacancy arise on the court during his tenure, a vacancy that could shift the balance of the court, unlike this one.

I say let them. In fact, make them. They are likely to confirm this nominee anyway. What liberals don’t want is to have Democratic fingerprints on this political crime scene. Make the asterisk president’s nominee become an asterisk jurist, the only one confirmed under an altered set of rules.

Even if Republicans change the rules now, there is no guarantee — with the incredible amount of public oppositional energy and engagement we now see against this president — that the Republicans will even be able to maintain control of the Senate beyond the midterms.

Furthermore, and this is just a wild theory of mine, it is not clear to me that Trump will hang around for a full term, not so much because he might do something to spark an impeachment proceeding, but because it’s not clear to me that he wants to serve out the term.

Trump is simply not behaving like a president with an eye trained on longevity. He is a singularly unpopular new president who is doing absolutely nothing to increase his popularity and everything to constrict it.

His furious, prodigious pace of edicts also bespeaks a man who feels like he’s on a clock and his time is running out. He seems like a man about to burn out or be kicked out — but of course that could just be my wishful thinking.

At any rate, Democrats should look at Gorsuch as an instrument of the enemy. Some say that Democrats should not have acquiesced to voting for Trump’s cabinet appointees. While I agree, at least they’ll leave when this administration comes to an end. But we would be stuck with Gorsuch, who is just 49, for generations, probably long after Trump is dead.

Senate Democrats, grow a spine. Buck up! Fight like your lives depend on it, because in the end, the lives of your children, and ours, just might.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Whenever an extremist in the Muslim world does something crazy, people demand that moderate Muslims step forward to condemn the extremism. So let’s take our own advice: We Americans should now condemn our own extremist.

In that spirit, I hereby apologize to Muslims. The mindlessness and heartlessness of the travel ban should humiliate us, not you. Understand this: President Trump is not America!

I apologize to Nadia Murad, the brave young Yazidi woman from Iraq who was made a sex slave — but since escaping, has campaigned around the world against ISIS and sexual slavery. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, yet is now barred from the United States.

I apologize to Edna Adan, a heroic Somali woman who has battled for decades for women’s health and led the fight against female genital mutilation. Edna speaks at American universities, champions girls’ education and defies extremists — and she’s one of those inspiring me to do the same.

I don’t want to take Trump-as-an-extremist too far: He’s not beheading anyone, and the security challenge is real. Nobody has a problem with improving safety, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both oversaw improvements in vetting. Yet Trump tackled the issue in a way that bolsters the ISIS narrative and thus makes us less safe.

In effect, Trump took a real problem, inflated it with hysteria, handled it with incompetence and created an unjust policy that targets seven mostly impoverished Muslim countries that haven’t produced a single person involved in a lethal terrorist attack in America since before 9/11. Islamophobia swirls through the order, and Rudy Giuliani has helpfully explained that Trump asked him to devise a way to create a Muslim ban and “do it legally.”

There’s a certain symmetry here.

I’ve sat down in mosques in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen and heard jihadists justify intolerance. Those men (always men!) “otherize” infidels as fundamentally different, as threats who must be confronted; Trump “otherizes” Muslims in a similar way.

Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn, has referred to Islam as a “cancer” and has shared a video asserting that Islam “wants 80 percent of humanity enslaved or exterminated.” That’s the mirror image of the bigotry I hear from jihadists who tell me that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks.

The real chasm is not between Muslims and others, but between the moderates and the extremists of whatever religion.

A Reuters poll found that many Americans approve of Trump’s travel ban, but that’s not surprising. The same was true of barring Jewish refugees in the 1930s, and of interning Japanese-Americans in 1942. When we’re fearful, we’re vulnerable to politicians who play on our fears and scapegoat immigrants; in the fullness of time, we come to regret our xenophobic behavior and to appreciate the immigrants.

So I apologize to Muslims. I have seen the worst of Islam, but also the best.

The newly chosen Rhodes scholars include a Somali refugee, Ahmed Ahmed, who was born in a Kenya refugee camp and was admitted to the U.S. as a 1-year-old. Raised by a struggling single mom, sometimes showing up at high school at 5:30 a.m. to study, he attended Cornell and won the university’s outstanding student award. Such people don’t threaten us, but enrich us.

If we need an inspiring example of how moderates can successfully challenge extremists, consider an extraordinary Somali gynecologist, Dr. Hawa Abdi, who ran a displaced persons camp in Somalia, including a 400-bed hospital (and a jail for men who beat their wives). Islamic militants, enraged that a woman was running such an important enterprise, ordered her to hand it over. When she refused, 750 armed militants from the Party of Islam attacked the camp and ordered Dr. Abdi to run it under their direction. She refused.

Yet Dr. Abdi’s camp, serving 90,000 people, was just about the only thing working properly in Somalia, and Somalis at home and around the world united to denounce the militants and speak up for her. The pressure on the gunmen grew. Finally, they slunk off.

If Somalis can stand up to extremists, we can, too.

Indeed, that is happening. When Japanese-Americans were rounded up, other Americans were silent. Today, it is heartwarming to see Americans of all creeds standing up against similar bigotry. In Victoria, Tex., after a mysterious fire destroyed the only mosque just hours after Trump announced his travel ban, local Jewish leaders gave Muslims a key to their synagogue. Four churches also offered their space for as long as needed, and in just a few days, people of all faiths contributed $1 million to build a new mosque.

At an airport protest, one much-shared photo showed a Jewish man and a Muslim man protesting side by side, each with a child on his shoulders.

My dream is of the day when Jews protest Islamophobia, Muslims denounce the persecution of Christians and Christians stand against anti-Semitism. That’s why I apologize to Muslims, and it’s why ALL of us, not just Muslims, should stand up to condemn extremism in our midst.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

The world was a-swoon over Donald Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court. And the way Trump announced it.

“How normal!” enthused a CNN commentator.

Yes! Trump managed to introduce Judge Neil Gorsuch to an audience of supporters without bragging about the size of the crowd. However, he did suggest he’s “studied” Gorsuch’s work. Since the judge does not have a history of either tweeting or writing about Donald Trump, serious presidential perusal seems highly unlikely.

Gorsuch is what they call an originalist, a judicial breed that cynics define as people who believe that if the founding fathers were around today, they would be best friends and agree on everything. He’s extremely conservative.

Colleagues say he’s pleasant and thoughtful, which will do you no good whatsoever if you’re worried about reproductive rights or federal regulation to reduce climate change. But it had the Republicans in Congress doing happy dances all over the Capitol. Really, they were afraid Trump was going to nominate Don King.

Democrats, meanwhile, were bitterly remembering that last year Barack Obama had nominated an intelligent, well-spoken moderate moderate in the form of Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even hold a hearing. Now Trump was expecting them to roll out the welcome mat for his guy.

What to do? The Democrats could filibuster, but then McConnell might try to change the rules so it would only take a simple majority to push a Supreme Court nominee through. This is known as the “nuclear option,” a colorful but rather unnerving nickname now that we’ve got President Trump speaking so enthusiastically about going nuclear.

The Gorsuch nomination is important, but there could be an even more critical one later if either Justice Anthony Kennedy or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the court. Kennedy is 80 and Ginsburg turns 84 next month. She once told me that she does the Canadian Air Force stretching and warming exercises almost every day at home, along with a more strenuous workout with a trainer twice a week. Close your eye and say a prayer for the Canadian Air Force.

Meanwhile, about Gorsuch. Do you think the Democrats should:

A) Fight! Fight! Fight!

B) Save their ammunition. Things are just going to get worse.

C) I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to crawl back under the bed.

I’m sorry, you cannot pick C. We’ve had the discussion about not crawling under the bed many times already. A lot of people are probably going to go for A, given the Trump administration’s genius for generating fear and loathing. The other day I attempted to blot out the world by playing an online game called Two Dots, which is exactly as profound as it sounds. But instead of the dots, I got an announcement asking me to support the American Civil Liberties Union.

“In 48 hours we sent 500,000 people to the A.C.L.U.’s donation page,” said Paul Murphy, the C.E.O. of Dots. “It’s pretty awesome.”

On Wednesday Judge Gorsuch was starting his visiting-the-senators rounds in the company of Vice President Mike Pence. Do you think this is all Pence’s work, people? The judge seems way more Pence-like than Trumpian. And there are other signs — like all this anti-abortion fervor — that Trump might be in his veep’s thrall.

Query: If Trump is really the vice president’s lap dog, do you think we should call him:

A) Pence’s Poodle.

B) Pence’s Pomeranian.

C) Pence’s Pekingese.

Feel free to go any way you want on this. Just be sure to consider the matter of elaborately combed blond hair.

The best thing about referring to the president as Pence’s, um, pet is that it would drive Trump nuts. But feel free to make other suggestions.

Some wise minds have wondered if the guy pulling the strings is Steve Bannon, the president’s alt-right, sharp-elbowed chief strategist. There have been a lot of Bannon-ish moves coming out of the White House — the anti-immigrant anti-Muslim shutdown, the decision not to mention Jews in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The fact that the president of the United States calls people “dudes.”

Others think it’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, or son-in-law Jared Kushner. But nobody sees the hand of Donald Trump behind the screen. For sure not on judicial nominations. Trump, you’ll remember, once said he thought a great Supreme Court justice would be one who would put on the robe, sit down and begin investigating Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

There are, admittedly, some things the president does that are definitely his own. On Wednesday he was promoting Black History Month by praising the great 19th-century abolition leader, writer and activist Frederick Douglass. Trump called him “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

Take that, dudes.

Blow and Krugman

January 30, 2017

Mr. Blow says “No, Trump, Not on Our Watch” and that if  politicians won’t stand up to Trump, the American people will.  Prof. Krugman, in “Building a Wall of Ignorance,” discusses a Mexican standoff that epitomizes Trumpism.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

When Barack Obama was in office — remember the good old days, just over a week ago, when we didn’t wake up every morning and wonder what new atrocity was emanating from the White House — Republicans were apoplectic about his use of executive orders. They called them “unilateral edicts” and “power grabs.” As Iowa Senator Charles Grassley once said in a floor speech: “The president looks more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace.”

What a difference a week makes.

Now many of those Republicans are as quiet as church mice as Donald Trump pumps out executive orders at a fevered pitch, doing exactly what he said he’d do during the campaign, for all of those who were paying attention: advancing a white nationalist agenda and vision of America, whether that be by demonizing blacks in the “inner city,” Mexicans at the border or Muslims from the Middle East.

Trump’s America is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s.

Trump’s America is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.

And that is a vision of America that most of the people in this country cannot and will not abide. That is a vision of America that has galvanized ordinary American citizens in opposition in a way that is almost without precedent. We are inching toward anarchy as both the people and the president refuse to back down.

Not only is Trump a literacy-lite, conspiracy-chasing, compulsively lying bigot, he is also a narcissistic workaholic who now wields the power of the presidency. You could not have conceived of a more dangerous combination of characteristics. He is the paragon of the clueless and an idol of the Ku Kluxers. Already, people feel deluged by a never-ending flood of national damage and despair. But Americans are not prone to suffering in silence. America’s period of mourning has ended; the time of anger and active opposition has dawned. The greatest two motivators of electoral activism in this country are a desire for change and durable fear: In Trump, those two are wed.

The most recent move to excite and outrage the opposition was Trump’s move to “indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States,” according to a New York Times editorial.

The ban is nonsensical and likely unconstitutional, as well as chaotic and damaging to our national security interests.

As The Times noted Saturday: “Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order’s 120-day visa ban, according to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.”

The report continued: “There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.”

Furthermore, as CNN reported on Sunday, on Friday night the Department of Homeland Security decided that the restrictions “did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.”

The report continued, however: “The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.”

Yes, that Steve Bannon, the one who was recruited to the Trump campaign from his job as executive chairman of Breitbart News and is now Trump’s chief strategist, the one who said of Breitbart to Mother Jones in July: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.” Alt-right is just a slick, euphemistic repackaging and relabeling of white nationalists, whether they be white separatists, white supremacists or actual Nazis.

Also, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, Trump added Bannon to the National Security Council while removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is outrageous. What does Bannon know about national security? It is becoming worrisome that in this reign of bigotry, Bannon may be the brain and Trump the brawn; Bannon the spiritual president and Trump the spurious packaging.

America will not stand for this, so if obsequious conservative politicians or lily-livered liberal ones won’t sufficiently stand up to this demagogic dictator, then the American people will do the job themselves.

Over the weekend, protesters spontaneously popped up at airports across the country to send an unambiguous message: Not in our name; not on our watch. It is my great hope that this will be a permanent motif of Trump’s term. If no one else is going to fight for American values, it falls to the American people themselves to do so.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

We’re just over a week into the Trump-Putin regime, and it’s already getting hard to keep track of the disasters. Remember the president’s temper tantrum over his embarrassingly small inauguration crowd? It already seems like ancient history.

But I want to hold on, just for a minute, to the story that dominated the news on Thursday, before it was, er, trumped by the uproar over the refugee ban. As you may recall — or maybe you don’t, with the crazy coming so thick and fast — the White House first seemed to say that it would impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexico, but may have been talking about a tax plan, proposed by Republicans in the House, that would do no such thing; then said that it was just an idea; then dropped the subject, at least for now.

For sheer viciousness, loose talk about tariffs isn’t going to match slamming the door on refugees, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. But the tariff tale nonetheless epitomizes the pattern we’re already seeing in this shambolic administration — a pattern of dysfunction, ignorance, incompetence, and betrayal of trust.

The story seems, like so much that’s happened lately, to have started with President Trump’s insecure ego: People were making fun of him because Mexico will not, as he promised during the campaign, pay for that useless wall along the border. So his spokesman, Sean Spicer, went out and declared that a border tax on Mexican products would, in fact, pay for the wall. So there!

As economists quickly pointed out, however, tariffs aren’t paid by the exporter. With some minor qualifications, basically they’re paid for by the buyers — that is, a tariff on Mexican goods would be a tax on U.S. consumers. America, not Mexico, would therefore end up paying for the wall.

Oops. But that wasn’t the only problem. America is part of a system of agreements — a system we built — that sets rules for trade policy, and one of the key rules is that you can’t just unilaterally hike tariffs that were reduced in previous negotiations.

If America were to casually break that rule, the consequences would be severe. The risk wouldn’t so much be one of retaliation — although that, too — as of emulation: If we treat the rules with contempt, so will everyone else. The whole trading system would start to unravel, with hugely disruptive effects everywhere, very much including U.S. manufacturing.

So is the White House actually planning to go down that route? By focusing on imports from Mexico, Mr. Spicer conveyed that impression; but he also said that he was talking about “comprehensive tax reform as a means to tax imports from countries that we have a trade deficit from.” That seemed to be a reference to a proposed overhaul of corporate taxes, which would include “adjustable border taxes.”

But here’s the thing: that overhaul wouldn’t at all have the effects he was suggesting. It wouldn’t target countries with which we run deficits, let alone Mexico; it would apply to all trade. And it wouldn’t really be a tax on imports.

To be fair, this is a widely misunderstood point. Many people who should know better believe that value-added taxes, which many countries impose, discourage imports and subsidize exports. Mr. Spicer echoed that misperception. In fact, however, value-added taxes are basically national sales taxes, which neither discourage nor encourage imports. (Yes, imports pay the tax, but so do domestic products.)

And the proposed change in corporate taxes, while differing from value-added taxation in some ways, would similarly be neutral in its effects on trade. What this means, in particular, is that it would do nothing whatsoever to make Mexico pay for the wall.

Some of this is a bit technical — see my blog for more details. But isn’t the U.S. government supposed to get stuff right before floating what sounds like a declaration of trade war?

So let’s sum it up: The White House press secretary created a diplomatic crisis while trying to protect the president from ridicule over his foolish boasting. In the process he demonstrated that nobody in authority understands basic economics. Then he tried to walk the whole thing back.

All of this should be placed in the larger context of America’s quickly collapsing credibility.

Our government hasn’t always done the right thing. But it has kept its promises, to nations and individuals alike.

Now all of that is in question. Everyone, from small nations who thought they were protected against Russian aggression, to Mexican entrepreneurs who thought they had guaranteed access to our markets, to Iraqi interpreters who thought their service with the U.S. meant an assurance of sanctuary, now has to wonder whether they’ll be treated like stiffed contractors at a Trump hotel.

That’s a very big loss. And it’s probably irreversible.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

January 26, 2017

In “A Lie By Any Other Name” Mr. Blow restates the obvious, that our president is a pathological liar.  Mr. Kristof says “President Trump’s War on Women Begins” and that a “pro-life” order will mean more abortions and women dying.  Ms. Collins tells us “Mike Pence Pulls President Trump’s Strings” and that the president can’t stand up to his vice.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

This is not a presentation of “alternative facts,” whatever that may mean, as Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s mistress of misdirection, posited over the weekend.

These are lies; good old-fashioned lies, baldfaced and flat-out lies.

Some have suggested that we in the media should focus a bit less on these lies — some of them issued in tweets and some in interviews or news conferences — and focus more on policies, particularly the ineptitude of the gathering cabinet and the raft of executive orders that Trump himself is signing.

But I take the position that this is all worthy of coverage, that there are simply different kinds of news being unearthed about this administration that exist on different strata.

To take it even further, it may be these seemingly smaller infractions that produce the greater injury because the implications are more profound. Trump does not simply have “a running war with the media,” as he so indecorously and disrespectfully spouted off while standing on the hallowed ground before the C.I.A. Memorial Wall. He is in fact having a running war with the truth itself.

Donald Trump is a proven liar. He lies often and effortlessly. He lies about the profound and the trivial. He lies to avoid guilt and invite glory. He lies when his pride is injured and when his pomposity is challenged.

Indeed, one of the greatest threats Trump poses is that he corrupts and corrodes the absoluteness of truth, facts and science.

It is no coincidence that the rise of Trump is concurrent with the rise of “fake news.” It is no coincidence that his rise comes during an age of severely damaged faith in institutions.

And now that he has been elected, Trump wants absolute control over the flow of information, to dictate his own version of facts rather than live with the reality of accepted facts. Trump is in a battle to bend the truth to his benefit.

He hates members of the press because, when properly performing, they are truth seekers rather than ego-strokers. The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right. A truly independent press is not stocked with political acolytes but political adversaries.

This doesn’t sit well with an administration that wants to be perpetually patted on the back and never rapped on the knuckles.

After Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, got called out by the press for lying about Trump’s inauguration crowd size and viewership, Spicer limped back to the mic and whined of Trump’s press coverage: “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing.”

No, sir, the default is to call a lie a lie; lies are negative because they are the opposite of the truth; and Trump continuously lies. Also, he who is devoid of morality is immune to demoralization. You can’t wring water from a rock.

The bone you have to pick is not with the press but with the “president.”

Trump’s team seems to need to control narratives and to staunch what they view as negative, even if it’s true. This compulsion may in fact be spilling over into the Trump administration’s approach to government agencies, particularly those with a more scientific leaning.

As The Hill reported Tuesday, “The Trump administration is clamping down on public communications by agencies as it seeks to assert control over the federal bureaucracy.”

The site continued:

New restrictions on social media use and interaction with press and lawmakers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and the Interior have sparked concerns of a President Trump-backed effort to silence dissenting views.

Although The Hill granted, “it’s not unusual for incoming administrations to seek control over agency communications,” it cited “experts on the federal work force” who said “they have never seen a White House take the type of steps Trump’s administration has to curb public communications.”

And Trump for his part continues to rage about three to five million illegal votes causing him to lose the popular vote in November. This, too, is a lie. A lie. Not the euphemisms you hear on television, like “unsubstantiated,” or “unproven,” or “baseless.” It is a lie, pure and simple.

But Trump won’t let it go. His pride is hurt, his vanity tarnished. The man who prides himself on winning lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes, the biggest popular vote loss by a winning candidate in American history. That stings.

So, even after his lie is reported and rejected, he continues to perpetuate it. This is what makes Trump qualitatively different from our leaders who came before him: He believes that truth is what he says it is, and the only reason it has yet to be accepted is that it has yet to be sufficiently repeated.

Unbowed, Trump published two tweets on Wednesday morning that read together:

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

This is just like Trump, whose inclination is never to admit a mistake, and instead to redouble his self-righteousness even in the midst of his wrong. This statement weakens our democracy and strengthens voter suppression efforts.

We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.

I think I’m going to take up Charlie Pierce’s usage — referring to Mein Fubar as President* Trump, or the president*.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Should we journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trump’s most manifest falsehoods?

That debate has roiled the news world. The Times this week used the word “lie” in a front-page headline, and I agreed with that decision, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods.

So in 2017 we reach a mortifying moment for a great democracy: We must decide whether our 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Yet the costliest presidential falsehoods and delusions are not the ones that people are talking about, such as those concerning the inauguration crowd or electoral fraud. The most horrific chicanery involves Trump’s new actions on women’s health that will cause deaths around the globe.

It followed the weekend’s stunning women’s marches: At least 3.2 million people apparently participated in all 50 states, amounting to 1 percent of the U.S. population. In a slap at all who marched, Trump this week signed an order that will cut off access to contraception to vast numbers of women, particularly in Africa.

It will also curb access to cancer screenings and maybe even undermine vaccination campaigns and efforts against H.I.V. and the Zika virus. The upshot: Thousands of impoverished, vulnerable women will die.

Americans have focused on the executive actions about building a wall, or expediting oil pipelines, but nothing is more devastating than the edict on women’s health (signed in front of a group composed almost entirely of smiling men in suits).

In fairness, Trump probably thought he was doing a good thing; that’s a measure of his delusion. He reinstated what’s called the Mexico City policy, which stipulates that family planning funds cannot go to foreign aid groups that ever discuss abortion. (Federal funds already don’t go for abortions.)

Presumably Trump thought this policy would reduce abortions, and was thus “pro-life.” In fact, this is a “pro-death” approach that actually increases abortions, as well as deaths among women.

How can that be? Many groups, like Marie Stopes International and Planned Parenthood International, lose funding in poor countries from this policy. In 2001, when President George W. Bush imposed a more limited version, 16 developing countries lost shipments of contraceptives from the U.S.

Stanford University researchers found that the Bush version of the policy reduced contraceptive use in Africa — and increased abortion rates.

This all sounds wonkish and antiseptic, but in poor countries, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is become pregnant. I’ve seen too many women dying or suffering in filth on stained cots in remote villages because of childbirth.

I wish Trump could see them: a mother of three in Cameroon dying after her birth attendant sat on her stomach to hasten delivery; a woman in Niger collapsing from a common complication called eclampsia; a 15-year-old girl in Chad whose family dealt with her labor complications by taking her to a healer who diagnosed sorcery and burned her arm as she lay in a coma.

With this new order, Trump will inadvertently cause more of these horrific scenes. Maybe “war on women” sounds hyperbolic, but not if gasping, dying women are seared in your memory.

Worse, Trump expanded this “global gag rule” — as critics call it, because it bars groups from mentioning abortion — so that it apparently will cover all kinds of health services, including efforts to tackle polio or Zika or H.I.V., even programs to help women who have been trafficked into brothels. (The White House didn’t respond to my inquiries.)

I hope all of the marchers call the White House, 202-456-1111, or their members of Congress, 202-224-3121, to protest.

Marie Stopes alone estimated that if it cannot find replacement funding, the new policy will result in 6.5 million unintentional pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.

The victims invariably are among the most voiceless, powerless people in the world. When Bush imposed his version of the policy, it meant that no contraceptives reached a village in northern Ghana. As a result, a young woman named Kolgu Inusah became pregnant.

She tried to abort the pregnancy herself using herbs, but something went wrong and she suffered terrible abdominal pains. She was rushed to a clinic, but doctors couldn’t save her. Her two children now have no mom.

President Trump, you may think you are “pro-life” and preventing abortions, but that’s a lie or a delusion. In fact, you are increasing the number of abortions and of dying women.

And to those women and men who marched last weekend, remember that this isn’t about symbols, speeches or pussy hats. It’s about the lives of women and girls.

Please, please, keep on marching, keep on calling.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Do you think Donald Trump is just Mike Pence’s puppet?

Interesting idea, right? Particularly since the very idea would make our new president totally nuts. Hehehehe.

And it’s possible. Trump is not a man who concentrates on policy issues. So far, the parts of the job that have obsessed him most are crowd size and vote size. And yeah, the wall. But there has to be somebody behind the scenes deciding the non-ego questions. Pass the word that it’s Pence.

The best early evidence is reproductive rights. Not an issue Trump seemed all that interested in during the campaign — you generally had to sort of poke him to bring it up. Yet one of the first things he did as president was to sign an order that will eliminate American aid to international health programs that provide information on abortion.

Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has issued the order, which is often referred to as the global gag rule. But Trump’s seems much worse. The Reagan-Bush-Bush version covered family planning programs. Trump’s targets global health in general.

So when it comes to combating the Zika virus in South America, we’ll only be helping organizations that are willing to order their staffs never to bring up the fact that abortion exists. We’re talking about a potential loss of billions of dollars in American aid.

I know some of you are having trouble giving the president credit for anything right now. But this doesn’t sound like him.

If a woman Trump knew was pregnant and learned she had a virus that could cause terrible brain damage to the fetus, his immediate reaction would not be barring everybody from mentioning the word abortion. The only politician who would behave like that would be someone who had spent his entire career trying to impose his deeply held conservative religious values on people who had different beliefs.

That would be Mike Pence. This is the guy who, as a member of Congress, co-sponsored a bill that would allow hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women who would die without the procedure. Whose war against Planned Parenthood when he was governor of Indiana led to the closing of five clinics. (None of them did abortions. They did, however, provide testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the counties where a clinic was closed suffered a big H.I.V. outbreak.)

Pence, by the way, also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter act for equal pay for women. He once argued that having two working parents would lead to “stunted emotional growth” in children. In 2006, he said same-sex couples were a sign of “societal collapse.” I am just mentioning this for you to remember the next time you hear people say they hope President Trump is impeached.

Trump was once very vocally pro-choice. When he became politically ambitious, his attitude went through a dramatic change — in terms of evolution, it was as if a little amoeba floating in the ocean suddenly turned into a killer whale. In 2016 he went all the way over the deep end and told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that he thought once abortion was illegal, women who got them should be punished.

He backtracked on that one. “I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis,” he explained.

Obviously that doesn’t make any sense, but you do get the general idea that Trump was getting his talking points from someplace other than his deepest heart.

The early Trump administration, however, looks as if it’s being run by somebody who can’t wait to jump into the abortion fray. Republicans in Congress are working away on defunding Planned Parenthood — an organization Trump once said he admired. And the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees women’s right to get birth control coverage in their health insurance, is of course target one.

“Women who are economically stressed and counting on those benefits are so frightened,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. Richards said Planned Parenthood clinics are fielding desperate calls from women who want to get birth control while they can — many of them opting for IUDs under the theory that they’ll need something that could last four years.

They also ask what they can do to fight back. She’s telling them to call their senators, or member of Congress, and show up if their legislator holds a town hall — possibly wearing one of those pink hats.

All that makes perfect sense. But given the kind of guy Donald Trump is, I propose you also spread the word that the president has only gone on this anti-reproductive rights bender because he’s under Mike Pence’s thumb.

How do you think he’d feel about being referred to as Lap Dog Trump? Let’s go for it.

Blow and Krugman

January 23, 2017

In “We Are Dissidents; We Are Legion” Mr. Blow says the Women’s March was an uprising.  Prof. Krugman says “Things Can Only Get Worse” and has a question:  What comes after “American carnage”?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Friday, Donald J. Trump, the embodiment, instrument and provocateur of American animus, was installed — and I use that word with purpose and displeasure — as America’s 45th president. He delivered a particularly inauspicious speech to a seemingly sparse crowd, presenting a vision for America that would best be described as aggressive atavism, a retrograde positioning of policy that threatens to drag the country back to a time of division and fear and hostility, when some stand in the light by casting others into darkness.

The speech was replete with phrases never before uttered in an Inaugural Address. Bleed, carnage, depletion and disrepair. Ripped, rusted and stolen. Tombstones, trapped and windswept. Urban, sad and Islamic. It felt at times as though he were reading aloud from a post-apocalyptic movie script.

Indeed, some have pointed out that portions of the speech sounded eerily familiar to one delivered by the movie villain Bane in the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.” Bane, too, promises: “We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you, the people,” even as he plunges the fictitious city into chaos.

There were few overtures to his opponents, let alone his enemies, little attempt to seek unity and amity. The Dean of Discord made clear his purpose and his plan: It is not to bring America together but to rip it asunder.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the speech was partly written by Steve Bannon, Trump’s white-nationalist chief strategist and senior counselor. At one point in the speech, Trump delivered the bewildering line: “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” Patriotism does not drive out prejudice; to the contrary, it can actually enshrine it. No one was more patriotic than our founding fathers, and yet most of the prominent founding fathers were slave owners.

Trump set forth a portentous proposition on Friday. Saturday’s Women’s Marches across the country and around the world answered with a thundering roar.

The marches, whose participants vastly outnumbered inauguration attendees, offered a stinging rebuke to the election of a man who threatens women’s rights and boasts of grabbing women’s genitalia.

And the marches, which included quite a few men and boys as well, also represented more than that. They were a rebuke of bigotry and a call for equality and inclusion. They demonstrated the awesome power of individual outrage joined to collective action. And it was a message to America that the majority did not support this president or his plans and will not simply tuck tail and cower in the face of the threat. This was an uprising; this was a fighting back. This was a resistance.

Members of Congress, laboring under the delusion that they operate with a mandate and feeling compelled to rubber-stamp Trump’s predilections, should heed well the message those marches sent on Saturday: You are on notice. America is ticked off.

There has been much hand-wringing and navel gazing since the election about how liberalism was blind to a rising and hidden populism, about how identity politics were liberals’ fatal flaw, about how Democrats needed to attract voters who were willing to ignore Trump’s racial, ethnic and religious bigotry, his misogyny, and his xenophobia.

I call bunk on all of that.

I have given quite a few speeches since the election and inevitably some variation of this “reaching out” issue is raised in the form of a question, and my answer is always the same: The Enlightenment must never bow to the Inquisition.

Recognizing and even celebrating individual identity groups doesn’t make America weaker; it makes America stronger. Acknowledging that identity groups have not always been — and indeed, continue not to be — treated equally in this country should not be a cause for agitation, but a call to action. Parity is not born of forced erasure but rather respectful subsumption.

Janelle Monáe, singer and star of the acclaimed film “Hidden Figures,” put it this way at the march in Washington: “Continue to embrace the things that make you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear.”

If my difference frightens you, you have a problem, not me. If my discussion of my pain makes you ill at ease, you have a problem, not me. If you feel that the excavation of my history presages the burial of yours, then you have a problem, not me.

It is possible that Trump has reactivated something President Obama couldn’t maintain, and Hillary Clinton couldn’t fully tap into: A unified, mission-driven left that puts bodies into the streets. The women’s marches sent a clear signal: Your comfort will not be built on our constriction. We are America. We are loud, “nasty” and fed up. We are motivated dissidents and we are legion.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

If America had a parliamentary system, Donald Trump — who spent his first full day in office having a temper tantrum, railing against accurate reports of small crowds at his inauguration — would already be facing a vote of no confidence. But we don’t; somehow we’re going to have to survive four years of this.

And how is he going to react to disappointing numbers about things that actually matter?

In his lurid, ghastly Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump portrayed a nation in dire straits — “American carnage.” The real America looks nothing like that; it has plenty of problems, but things could be worse. In fact, it’s likely that they will indeed get worse. How will a man who evidently can’t handle even the smallest blow to his ego deal with it?

Let’s talk about the predictable bad news.

First, the economy. Listening to Mr. Trump, you might have thought America was in the midst of a full-scale depression, with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation.” Manufacturing employment is indeed down since 2000; but overall employment is way up, and the unemployment rate is low by historical standards.

And it’s not just one number that looks pretty good: Rising wages and the growing number of Americans confident enough to quit their jobs suggest an economy close to full employment.

What this means is that unemployment probably can’t fall much from here, so that even with good policies and good luck, job creation will be much slower than it was in the Obama years. And since bad stuff does happen, there’s a strong likelihood that unemployment will be higher four years from now than it is today.

Oh, and Trumpist budget deficits will probably widen the trade deficit, so that manufacturing employment in particular is likely to fall, not rise.

A second front on which things will almost surely get worse is health care. Obamacare caused the percentage of Americans without insurance to fall sharply, to the lowest level ever. Repeal would send the numbers right back up — 18 million newly uninsured in just the first year, eventually rising to more than 30 million, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And no, Republicans who have spent seven years failing to come up with a real replacement won’t develop one in the next few weeks, or ever.

On a third front, crime, the future direction is unclear. The Trump vision of an urban America ravaged by “the crime and the gangs and the drugs” is a dystopian fantasy: Violent crime is, in fact, way down despite highly publicized recent murder increases in a few cities. Crime could, I suppose, fall further, but it could also rise. What we do know is that the Trump administration can’t pacify America’s urban war zones, because those zones don’t exist.

So how will Mr. Trump handle the bad news of rising unemployment, plunging health coverage, and little if any crime reduction? That’s obvious: He’ll deny reality, the way he always does when it threatens his narcissism. But will his supporters go along with his fantasy?

They might. After all, they blocked out the good news from the Obama era. Two-thirds of Trump voters believe, falsely, that the unemployment rate rose under Obama. (Three-quarters believe George Soros is paying people to protest Mr. Trump.) Only 17 percent of self-identified Republicans are aware that the number of uninsured is at a historic low. Most people thought crime was rising even when it was falling. So maybe they will block out bad news in the Trump years.

But it probably won’t be that easy. For one thing, people tend to attribute improvements in their personal situation to their own efforts; surely many voters who gained jobs over the past eight years believe that they did it despite, not thanks to, Obama policies. Will they correspondingly blame themselves, not Donald Trump, for lost jobs and health insurance? Unlikely.

On top of that, Mr. Trump made big promises during the campaign, so the risk of disillusionment is especially high.

Will he respond to bad news by accepting responsibility and trying to do better? Will he renounce his fortune and enter a monastery? That seems equally likely.

No, the insecure egomaniac-in-chief will almost surely deny awkward truths, and berate the media for reporting them. And — this is what worries me — it’s very likely that he’ll try to use his power to shoot the messengers.

Seriously, how do you think the man who compared the C.I.A. to Nazis will react when the Bureau of Labor Statistics first reports a significant uptick in unemployment or decline in manufacturing jobs? What’s he going to do when the Centers for Disease Control and the Census Bureau report spiking numbers of uninsured Americans?

You may have thought that last weekend’s temper tantrum was bad. But there’s much, much worse to come.

Blow and Kristof

January 19, 2017

Mr. Blow asks “Are You Not Alarmed?” and says Donald Trump may push us into another war.  Well, I guess he’s heard that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia…  Mr. Kristof is “Missing Barack Obama Already,” and says for eight years, the president and his family have set an impeccable example, for which we’ll soon feel nostalgia.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I continue to be astonished that not enough Americans are sufficiently alarmed and abashed by the dangerous idiocies that continue to usher forth from the mouth of the man who will on Friday be inaugurated as president of the United States.

Toss ideology out of the window. This is about democracy and fascism, war and peace, life and death. I wish that I could write those words with the callous commercialism with which some will no doubt read them, as overheated rhetoric simply designed to stir agitation, provoke controversy and garner clicks. But alas, they are not. These words are the sincere dispatches of an observer, writer and citizen who continues to see worrisome signs of a slide toward the exceedingly unimaginable by a man who is utterly unprepared.

In a series of interviews and testimonies Donald Trump and his cronies have granted in the last several days, they have demonstrated repeatedly how destabilizing, unpredictable and indeed unhinged the incoming administration may be. Their comments underscore the degree to which this administration may not simply alter our democracy beyond recognition, but also potentially push us into armed conflict.

Last week, Trump’s secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, said during his confirmation hearing that the United States had to “send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

The only way to do this is with some sort of naval blockade, which China would undoubtedly interpret as an act of war.

Indeed, as Business Insider reported, Chinese state-run media responded in an editorial, “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”

Business Insider quoted Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who pointed out that Tillerson’s position could easily result in war.

If the United States put “a cordon of ships around one or all of the islands, and the Chinese flew in aircraft to one of their new islands, what are we going to do? Shoot it down?” Glaser asked. “We’d certainly end up in a shooting war with China.”

But even short of the conflict over the islands, The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne suggested Tuesday, Trump’s talk on trade alone could escalate into an armed conflict with China. Trump has said he will make continued adherence to the “one China” policy — which recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China — conditional on negotiations over what he sees as currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices by China.

As Browne points out:

“The gambit has profound security and military implications. Taiwan is a regional flash point. Beijing regards the island as an inalienable part of Chinese territory; ‘One China’ expresses not just its political desire for unification but a core part of Chinese identity. Chinese leaders will fight for it. They can’t lose Taiwan.”

Make no mistake: As bad of an actor as China is, the United States actually depends on China. It is one of our biggest trade partners, but furthermore it is one of the last remaining checks on an erratic North Korea. China could simply stop using its influence to make North Korea behave.

And as you may recall, during the campaign Trump suggested that the way to contain North Korea was for nuclear proliferation in the region. In March, Trump said of nuclear weapons: “You have so many countries already — China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia — you have so many countries right now that have them.” He continued: “Now, wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

Then there is the destabilizing and downright frightening random rhetoric. Trump has suggested that he equally trusts America’s friend-in-arms Angela Merkel and his friend-in-spirit Vladimir Putin.

Trump told The Washington Post this week that he may start having military parades in major American cities à la North Korea: “Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country.” He continued: “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

And, Trump continues to trash NATO, calling it “obsolete.”

This is insanity. But too many Americans don’t want to see this threat for what it is. International affairs and the very real threat of escalating militarization and possibly even military conflict seems much harder to grasp than the latest inflammatory tweet.

Maybe people think this possibility is unthinkable. Maybe people are just hoping and praying that cooler heads will prevail. Maybe they think that Trump’s advisers will smarten him up and talk him down.

But where is your precedent for that? When has this man been cautious or considerate? This man with loose lips and tweeting thumbs may very well push us into another war, and not with a country like Afghanistan, but with a nuclear-armed country with something to prove.

Are you not alarmed?

No, Mr. Blow I’m not alarmed.  I think gibbering terror would describe it better.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Barack Obama’s legacy is being systematically unraveled even before he leaves office, with The Wall Street Journal scoffing that he “has been a historic president but perhaps not a consequential one.”

Historians will also note that the Democratic Party is in far worse shape today than when Obama took office: It has lost its House and Senate majorities, as well as 13 governorships and more than 900 state legislative seats.

More broadly, the sunny Obama optimism of “Yes, we can” has faded into a rancorous miasma of distrust and dysfunction. One example of that rancor is unfolding at the Woodmont Country Club outside Washington, where hawkish pro-Israeli members are campaigning to deny Obama membership — even though there’s no official indication he will even apply.

Yet here’s my prediction: America and the world will soon be craving that Obama Cool again.

Voters are fickle and promiscuous, suffering an eight-year itch for a fling with someone who is the opposite of their last infatuation. Sick of Bill Clinton, we turned to a Texas governor who was utterly different. Eight years later, weary of George W. Bush, we elected his polar opposite, a liberal black law professor. And now we’ve elected Obama’s antipode.

Polls suggest that voters are already souring on Donald Trump, in ways that may soon create nostalgia for Obama. Newly elected presidents usually enjoy a honeymoon, but Gallup says Trump’s approval is at the lowest level the pollster has recorded in a presidential transition.

Mostly, I think we journalists overdo the personal and pay insufficient attention to policies — such as those that led Obama’s presidency to enjoy the longest streak of consecutive private-sector job creation in the 78 years the statistic has been recorded. But while Obama’s policy legacy is being whittled away, he also has an important personal legacy that Trump inadvertently burnishes.

A president inevitably is not just commander in chief, but also a role model, a symbol of American values around the world. We won the Cold War not only with American missiles, but also with American “soft power,” and one element of our soft power arsenal is a president who commands respect and admiration at home and abroad. We want our children and the world’s to admire our president — and that is where Obama is strongest and Trump weakest.

Trump spews emotional tweets impetuously and vindictively, lacing his venom with misspellings or grammatical mistakes. We’ll be craving Obama’s prudence, intellect and reserve.

The personal differences between them aren’t just that Obama was an African-American son of a single mom, while Trump was the scion of a real estate tycoon. It’s more the behaviors they model. Trump has had five children by three wives, has boasted of his infidelities, has shrugged at conflicts of interest and is a walking scandal.

“He will never, ever, let you down. … Donald is intensely loyal,” we were told at the Republican convention — by his third wife. In contrast, Obama has the most boring personal life imaginable, and is the rare president who got through a second term without significant scandals.

That seems to be because of extreme caution. When Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he solicited a 13-page memo from Justice Department lawyers verifying that there was absolutely no conflict in accepting it. And then he donated the money to charities.

Whatever our views of Obama’s politics, we should be able to agree that he is a superlative family man. For eight years, this family has made us proud. The graciousness that the Obamas displayed toward the Trumps, even as in private they must have been beating their heads against the wall, exemplified class.

When Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago this month, he was accompanied by Michelle and his older daughter, Malia, but 15-year-old Sasha was missing. Twitter was abuzz, and #WheresSasha was soon trending. It turned out that she wasn’t in a drunken stupor, or staying away in an angry teenage sulk. Rather, it seemed that the Obamas had Sasha stay home to study for an exam the next morning.

If I were Sasha, I’d be annoyed: “C’mon, Dad! You coulda written me a note!” But I’m proud of a first family that so values education, and is so averse to asserting privilege.

We can argue about Obama’s policies. For my part, I deplored his passivity on Syria. But even on issues that I disagreed with him on, I never doubted his integrity or intelligence, his decency or honor.

Trump may dismantle Obamacare and pull out of the Paris climate accord. But he cannot undo Obama’s legacy of dignity and old-fashioned virtue, and the impression he made on all of us.

And if, as I fear, we see the White House transformed into a bog of scandals flowing from an unprincipled narcissist, we as a nation will be more appreciative of a first family that set an impeccable example for all the world.