Archive for the ‘Blow’ Category

Blow and Krugman

July 25, 2016

In “More Damned Emails” Mr. Blow moans that while the Republicans have a horrible candidate, many Democrats have little faith in their own.  Prof. Krugman, in “Delusions of Chaos,” says some are seeing America through blood-colored glasses, despite the evidence all around us.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Following last week’s Republican calamity in Cleveland, the Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia on Monday with big opportunities and big challenges.

Many Democrats will come with enthusiasm, but also with reservations.

Unlike the Republican Convention’s speaker lineup, which was backfilled with Donald Trump’s children because there were so few party heavyweights to anchor it, the Democratic Convention will have a litany of A-listers: The president, the first lady, Bernie Sanders and former President Bill Clinton among them.

These speakers will paint a vastly different picture of the country and its future than the unremittingly dark and dangerous one portrayed by the Republicans.

There will also likely be less acrimony in Philadelphia, as the Democrats review the failed stagecraft of Cleveland and work hard not to replicate it.

But, all is not roses for the Democrats.

The presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, has a battered image — partly due to a concerted effort by Republicans to batter it, and partly the result of her own poor choices. Two-thirds of registered voters don’t believe that she’s honest and trustworthy, and trustworthiness is one of those attributes that tends to be difficult to quickly and easily alter.

Clinton’s honesty numbers are even worse than Trump’s, but not by much. They both have some unbelievable negatives. As The New York Times reported earlier this month:

“In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy. Only half of voters say Mrs. Clinton is prepared to be president, while an astonishing two-thirds say that Mr. Trump is not ready for the job — including four in 10 Republicans.”

But, being about as bad as Trump is hardly a good thing. Trump is a horrible candidate who shouldn’t have a shot, but in this race he does. Although Clinton remains the favorite to win in November, the race is too close for comfort. There are paths to victory — uphill though they may be — for Trump to win.

(Just typing that sent shivers down my spine. The idea that a man who used a racist attack on a judge in one of his own cases might get to pick the next one — or even two or three — Supreme Court justices is in itself unfathomable. The fact that he’s even competitive makes me question the electoral competency of America.)

Too many voters find themselves in the worst possible position: They have a choice between a Republican of whom they are frightened and disgusted and a Democrat of whom they are leery and unenthused.

Last week Clinton had a chance to shake up the race with her vice-presidential pick, but instead she chose the safer route, choosing the Democratic centrist Tim Kaine.

Kaine has his virtues — he is solid and affable, a solid liberal from the crucial state of Virginia — but this is not the sort of pick that taps into the progressive populism sweeping the party or the expansive diversity that constitutes the party.

Kaine reinforces Clinton’s “steady hand” message, but that is a message, however valid and necessary, that’s completely devoid of sizzle.

Trump is campaigning on fear, change and winning, all intense and even seductive ideas, even though his proposals are insular, unrealistic or hollow. “Steady” just doesn’t have the same emotional appeal. And although I hate to boil a historic election, and monumental policy challenges, down to emotions, I’ve been around long enough to know that this sort of visceral sensibility can swing elections.

The Democrats also have to deal with the resurgent idea of a primary process and party apparatus that favored Clinton and wasn’t completely fair to Sanders.

This was reignited in the conversation last week when WikiLeaks released nearly 20,000 internal emails from the Democratic National Committee in which some officers expressed antipathy and outright hostility to Sanders and his candidacy.

No matter whom one supported during the primaries, or even what party one aligns with, this should turn the stomach. This kind of collusion is precisely what is poisoning faith in our politics.

This reinforced the feeling of many that the system was rigged from the beginning.

CNN reported on Sunday that in the wake of the scandal, the tainted party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, agreed to step down from her role at the conclusion of the convention.

But the injury is already inflicted.

These leaks further damage an already damaged faith in the Democratic nominating process. In March, thePew Research Center found:

“Forty two percent of Republican voters have a positive view of the primary process, compared with 30 percent of Democrats. The share of Democrats expressing a positive view of the primary process has declined 22 percentage points (from 52 percent) in February 2008. Republicans views are little different than in 2000 or 2008.”

What are those Democratic voters supposed to do who don’t trust the candidate, the party or the process, even if they view The Donald as the Devil? This is one of the convention’s conundrums.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city’s worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it’s not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn’t the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they’re right — it has gotten much better.

How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that “I alone” can bring the chaos under control?

Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time — and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world’s most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).

But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can’t check against their own experience. Most people don’t have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it’s hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out.

Yet there’s no question that many voters — including, almost surely, a majority of white men — will indeed buy into that vision. Why?

One answer is that, according to Gallup, Americans always seem to believe that crime is increasing, even when it is in fact dropping rapidly. Part of this may be the wording of the question: People may have a vague, headline-fueled sense that crime is up this year even while being aware that it’s much lower than it used to be. There may also be some version of the “bad things are happening somewhere else” syndrome we see in consumer surveys, where people are far more positive about their personal situation than they are about the economy as a whole.

Again, however, it’s one thing to have a shaky grasp on crime statistics, but something quite different to accept a nightmare vision of America that conflicts so drastically with everyday experience. So what’s going on?

Well, I do have a hypothesis, namely, that Trump supporters really do feel, with some reason, that the social order they knew is coming apart. It’s not just race, where the country has become both more diverse and less racist (even if it still has a long way to go). It’s also about gender roles — when Mr. Trump talks about making America great again, you can be sure that many of his supporters are imagining a return to the (partly imagined) days of male breadwinners and stay-at-home wives.

Not incidentally, Mike Pence, Mr. Trump’s running mate, used to fulminate about the damage done by working mothers, not to mention penning an outraged attack on Disney in 1999 for featuring a martially-minded heroine in its movie Mulan.

But what are the consequences of these changes in the social order? Back when crime was rising, conservatives insistently drew a connection to social change — that was what the whole early ’90s fuss over “family values” was about. Loose the bonds of traditional society, and chaos would follow.

Then a funny thing happened: Crime plunged instead of continuing to rise. Other indicators also improved dramatically — for example, the teen birthrate has fallen 60 percent since 1991. Instead of societal collapse, we’ve seen what amounts to a mass outbreak of societal health. The truth is that we don’t know exactly why. Hypotheses range from the changing age distribution of the population to reduced lead poisoning; but in any case, the predicted apocalypse notably failed to arrive.

The point, however, is that in the minds of those disturbed by social change, chaos in the streets was supposed to follow, and they are all too willing to believe that it did, in the teeth of the evidence.

The question now is how many such people, people determined to live in a nightmare of their own imagining, there really are. I guess we’ll find out in November.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 21, 2016

In “Making America Safe for Whom?” Mr. Blow says Republicans are holding their convention just 10 minutes away from where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in the stomach.  Mr. Kristof ponders “What Republicans Really Think About Trump” and says bigot, madman, bully, fraud and serial philanderer are just a sampling of the terms used by influential conservatives.  Ms. Collins, in “Pence Versus Trump Kids,” says Trump’s running mate got the spotlight for a while but got upstaged.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So far, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been a slapdash spectacle of the absurd, with processions of B-list politicians and Z-list celebrities jockeying for the title of biggest embarrassment.

Tuesday was supposed to follow the theme of “Make America Work Again” — something President Obama has already done to a large degree, for the record — but instead of presenting work programs, policies or proposals, the convention got the vice-presidential also-ran Chris Christie to conduct a Salem witch trial against Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon with permanent brain freeze, tried to link Clinton to Lucifer.

Oh, to what depths has the Grand Old Party descended?

But the first day, the one themed “Make America Safe Again,” was perhaps the most egregious.

Again there was a prosecution of Clinton — and also Obama — more than a promotion of the already too self-promoting standard-bearer. It was an unending stream of fear, outrage and escalating agitation, as if the speakers were tossing chum to sharks. Rather than an expansive vision, they delivered restrictive insecurity. It was philosophically small.

One piece of this message involved the lifting up and honoring of America’s police, shouts of “Blue Lives Matter!” and an unhinged Rudy Giuliani screaming about an alternate universe of race-blind policing.

Recognizing that the police have hard jobs, and, when properly performed, those jobs are both honorable and necessary, is fine. But there is another part of the equation that was barely voiced in the hall, which is the lack of safety that black and brown Americans feel, and indeed experience, when facing the police.

Giuliani’s only hint at this (and the only one I heard from any of the speakers) was this:

“We also reach out. We reach out our arms with understanding and compassion to those who have lost loved ones because of police shootings — some justified, some unjustified.”

It was in no way lost on me that the Republicans are holding their convention in an arena just 10 minutes away from Cudell Recreation Center, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice, playing with a pellet gun in an adjacent park, was shot in the stomach (within two seconds of officers’ arriving on the scene). He later died of his injuries.

Tamir’s ashes now rest in a blue and white marble urn, surrounded by his toys, in a curio cabinet in the dining room of his mother, Samaria. She cannot rest. She cannot be set right. The grand jury for the case declined to indict the officer who killed Tamir.

Independent investigations into the case determined that the officer who shot Tamir had behaved “reasonably.”

But, as Olevia Boykin, Christopher Desir and Jed Rubenfeld pointed out in The New York Times in January:

“Racial bias can affect what seems reasonable. Individuals of all races in America perceive black people as more aggressive and dangerous than white people. Studies show that black people are seen as being physically stronger and less prone to feeling pain than people of other races, and black children are often perceived to be older than they are. When faced with an armed black target, shooters are both more likely to shoot and quicker to shoot than they are when faced with an armed white target. These biases can affect the way we think, judge and act. As a result, force that may seem unreasonable if used against a white person may seem perfectly “reasonable” when used against a black person.”

In April the city of Cleveland settled a wrongful-death suit brought by Tamir’s family for $6 million. And while that money may eventually be able to buy physical comforts, it can’t provide spiritual consolation.

I called Samaria Rice to ask if anyone from the R.N.C. had reached out their arms to her with “understanding and compassion.” Not a one. Especially not Giuliani, who one day after Tamir was shot, told Prof. Michael Eric Dyson (who is black) on “Meet the Press” that white officers wouldn’t be in black neighborhoods “if you weren’t killing each other.” The inclusivity of the “you” racializes that statement. Whom had Dyson killed, or Tamir? No one. The common denominator for murderous proclivities in the former mayor’s mind was coded in melanin.

This erasure of black pain to create space for blue platitudes does not stand. It’s not either/or, but both/and. Too many groups in America now — the police and citizens alike — feel threatened. Tamir and all the other people who have lost their lives in highly questionable police shootings will not simply be shunted aside. There can be no complete healing until there has been some sense of restorative justice.

On Wednesday, I met Samaria for lunch to remember Tamir and discuss how she and her family were doing since the last time I interviewed her for a column on the anniversary of Tamir’s shooting.

She seemed well, but weathered. Tamir’s siblings are in counseling. His sister, who Samaria told me stopped eating after her brother died and lost significant weight, is eating well again.

Samaria herself sounds like a woman on a mission, advocating for her son in particular, but also for “human rights” in general, as she put it, because she fears the normalization of the killings of black people by the police.

Voices like Samaria’s cannot — must not! — be absent from any discussion about keeping America safe. Tamir’s blood cries out for inclusion. His mother’s heart aches for it.

She can never get back what was taken. She can’t rewind the world.

She looked up at me solemnly over lunch and said, “I would like to be normal, and I’m not normal … anymore.” She paused, then continued, “You may be normal, but I’m not.”

Pain and loss are her new normal.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the G.O.P. and in the Trump campaign.

Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.

Pundits like me are gnashing our teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.

So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.” — Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina

“I don’t think this guy has any more core principles than a Kardashian marriage.” — Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska

“We saw and looked at true hate in the eyes last year in Charleston. I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party.” — Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina

“A moral degenerate.” — Peter Wehner, evangelical Christian commentator who served in last three Republican administrations

“Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped,” — Bobby Jindal, former Republican governor of Louisiana

“I won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he isn’t. He isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a truth teller. … I also won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” — Norm Coleman, former Republican senator from Minnesota

“To support Trump is to support a bigot. It’s really that simple.” —Stuart Stevens, chief strategist to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

“Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey.” — Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise C.E.O. and former national finance co-chairwoman for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign

“I thought he was an embarrassment to my party; I think he’s an embarrassment to my country. … I can’t vote for him.” — Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush

“I would not vote for Trump, clearly. If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” — Mel Martinez, former Republican senator from Florida and former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“The G.O.P., in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism. This troubles me deeply as a Republican, but it troubles me even more as an American. … Never Trump.” — Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under George W. Bush

“Hillary is preferable to Trump, just like malaria is preferable to Ebola. … If it’s Trump-Hillary with no serious third-party option in the fall, as hard as it is for me to believe I am actually writing these words, there is just no question: I’d take a Tums and cast my ballot for Hillary.” — Jamie Weinstein, senior writer, the Daily Caller, a conservative website

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” — Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee for president

“When you’ve got a guy favorably quoting Mussolini, I don’t care what party you’re in, I’m not voting for that guy.” — Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund

“Donald Trump is a scam. Evangelical voters should back away.” — The Christian Post, a popular U.S. evangelical website

“Listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. … The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery. How proud he is. Describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.” — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

“A man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences … whose personal record of chicanery and wild rhetoric of bigotry, misogyny and misplaced belligerence are without parallel in the modern history of either major party.” — Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush

“Leaders don’t need to do research to reject Klan support. #NeverTrump” — Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“God bless this man” — Daily Stormer, white supremacist website

And you can safely bet your last dime that every single one of those hypocrites will vote for Trump.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio … make America great … Mike Pence … unbelievable vice president.

“Welcome to Cleveland,” said Pence. It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich being on strike from the convention. It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great … amazing job. Kids congratulations. Fantastic job.”)

Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and to the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.

The kids have been a relatively heartwarming feature, considering that virtually everybody else, including the conventioneers, has spent a large chunk of time demanding that Hillary Clinton be sent directly to the pokey. (“Lock her up!”)

This is a whole new world when it comes to nominating a president. The candidate pops up all over the place, like Pokémon. When he’s not around, the delegates listen to his relatives, or speakers calling for the imprisonment of his opponent.

Look back nostalgically on the days when you’d hear a description like that and think, maybe, Gambia.

For all the hate-Hillary hysteria, the convention had been a bit of a snooze — until we got to Ted Cruz. He began with a shout-out to LeBron James, then congratulated Trump “on winning the nomination last night.” The emotional high point of the evening came when the enraged delegates realized he was never going to mention the nominee again. You have to hand it to Ted Cruz. His ability to drive people crazy is unparalleled.

By the end of the evening, hating Cruz was almost as popular as hating Hillary. But the latter, of course, has more staying power.

A New Hampshire delegate — who is also a well-known Trump adviser on veterans’ affairs — upped the ante, telling a radio interviewer that Clinton should be “shot for treason.” State Representative Al Baldasaro is what is known as a colorful politician. There is one in every legislature, where “colorful” is a synonym for “stark raving nuts but still repeatedly elected.”

The leader of New Hampshire’s Republican Party called on Baldasaro to take it back, but being a Trumpite means never having to say you’re sorry.

Refusal to apologize is definitely one of the overarching themes of the Cleveland experience. We’d still be debating the Melania’s Cribbed Quotes crisis if a hitherto unknown Trump employee hadn’t finally taken responsibility. (On the plus side, a day and a half of stonewalling gave us the opportunity to hear the Republican spokesman dismiss the whole affair with a quote from Twilight Sparkle in “My Little Pony.”)

But about Mike Pence. His speech is destined to be totally forgotten in the Cruzmania. But he did a grand job of returning the auditorium to the early-evening theme of sleepiness. Every single one of the Trump children turns out to be a more exciting speaker than the prospective vice-president. Tiffany’s story about how Donald wrote notes on her report cards suddenly took on new and compelling dimensions.

Even Pence, however, drew a “Lock her up!” chant from the floor. It’s what they’ve got.

In case you missed it, Pence promised that his new partner would solve all of our problems, from ISIS to the national debt. There was no explanation of how Trump — whose current tax-cutting plan would send the debt soaring like a grand new skyscraper — was going to manage that. This is definitely not a convention that sweats the details.

So far the most interesting look at the Pence-Trump relationship came on “60 Minutes,” when Lesley Stahl asked Pence if he thought that as vice president he’d ever be able to go to his boss and say that he’d “crossed the line” and needed to apologize. Pence stammered desperately until Trump broke in and said: “Absolutely. I might not apologize. … I might not do that. But I would absolutely want him to come in.”

Some people believe the Republican vice-presidential selection is more important than usual because Trump is capable of getting bored with the actual duties of presidency and tossing everything short of declaring nuclear war over to his veep. It’s possible. But of course if that happened, he could just as easily put Donald Jr. in charge.

The one thing we know for sure is that if Trump did something terrible, Pence would have no chance whatsoever to get him to say he’s sorry. But the vice-presidential nominee has total rights to go into his office and be ignored.

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

July 18, 2016

In “Trump’s Chance to Reboot” Mr. Blow says the Republican candidate has a golden opportunity at the convention to improve his standing with the voters, but don’t count on it.  Mr. Cohen considers “Turkey’s Coup That Wasn’t” and says a failed coup in Turkey does not mean democracy is the winner. In fact Erdogan may now undermine democracy further.  Prof. Krugman, in “Both Sides Now?,” says many in the news media feel the need to set up a false equivalence between a candidate who lies repeatedly and his opponent.  He’s a voice crying in the wilderness.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

As the Republican National Convention kicks off Monday, Donald Trump has a tremendous opportunity to rebrand and reboot his campaign, to make it look and feel more professional and less petulant.

Even for the people who loathe him — and there are many — the intensity of outrage inevitably wanes. This says less about those people’s commitment to their core principles or the veracity of their objections, and more about the very human propensity toward fatigue.

Sustained outrage can be exhausting. Some folks eventually succumb to resignation or tacit acceptance. That’s just the way people are built.

Outrage is a beast that needs constant feeding to remain strong, and over the last few weeks, following the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the police officers in Dallas, Trump has been noticeably more in control and controversy-free.

It seems almost certain that someone has gotten through to him, convincing him that he needs to tamp down the tweets and pump up the scripted speeches.

None of this changes the essence of the man. The intolerance, bigotry and narcissism are not so easily alterable. But public personas are protean. And that’s why a convention offers an incredible opportunity for a candidate.

All Trump — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter — has to do is to move a relative few of the people who now say, “I could never…” toward a position of “I could possibly…”

Conventions offer the most unfiltered and uninterrupted visions of parties and presidential candidates during a campaign. They are about shaping a message and conveying it. They allow candidates to completely reframe the conversation and to remake people’s perceptions.

These are big-money, high-stakes, focused-attention affairs. Voters who don’t follow every machination and who don’t stay glued to the television are likely to tune in just for the pageantry and spectacle of it all.

And these conventions usually are great shows. When the political parties concentrate on their candidates and put the totality of their attention into a single message, they can even doll up the devil.

But something tells me that Trump does not have the constitutional restraint and self-interested prudence to allow this to happen.

One of Trump’s greatest flaws — putting aside for the moment his utter vileness and ignorance of virtually every issue — is that he simply can’t stop being himself. He can’t coast; he must careen. He doesn’t trust drift, only drive.

This instinct may have served him well in business (although the many bankruptcies and lawsuits, as well as the unreleased tax returns, suggest that his business acumen and personal wealth may be in some part an illusion) but it creates conditions that are prime for a cascade of errors.

Unconventional campaigns can handicap what a political convention is great at providing — clarity.

Trump seems allergic to clarity.

Just take the rollout of his vice-presidential pick, Mike Pence, about as drab and boring a public figure as one could imagine. Of course this all disguises a man who is rabidly opposed to things like gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, but the political minds inside the campaign were apparently able to convince Trump that boring was the perfect balance to his own bombast.

First he orchestrated the selection like a reality show. It was hard to know if one was watching the final decision of a candidate or the final episode of The Bachelor.

In the end, Pence prevailed, although there were rumblings and reports that Trump still had trepidations up until the last minute.

Was this Trump’s preferred choice or simply a bow to pressure? Both, according to the meandering, sleep-on-my-sofa-because-you-may-be-drunk speech Trump gave to introduce Pence. In the speech Trump said that Pence was both his “first choice” and a choice for “party unity.”

Yes, there are many in Trump’s own party who still have serious misgivings about him, who no doubt wake up occasionally like I do in a cold sweat, with the realization that this man actually will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

Pence is meant to assuage those fears.

In a way, Trump picked Pence, a man who presents as an adult, so that Trump himself can continue to behave like a child. The vice-presidential pick has the presidential disposition on the ticket. Go figure.

But this arranged marriage looks as uncomfortable as it sounds and signals a precarious prelude to a convention that holds the potential to catapult Trump into greater acceptability before the Democrats and their all-star lineup of heavy hitters pick him apart at next week’s Democratic National Convention.

It would not surprise me one iota if Trump squanders this opportunity. He is proving to be a horrible general election campaigner. The man seems tragically prone to self-sabotage. For instance, after Sunday’s killing of police officers in Baton Rouge, Trump was back to sending incendiary tweets calling America a “divided crime scene” when he should have focused on Cleveland and unity.

I will pay close attention this week to see if this candidate transforms an event that has always served as a moment of ascendance into a moment of collapse. If I were a betting man…

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

As coups go, the Turkish effort was a study in ineptitude: No serious attempt to capture or muzzle the political leadership, no leader ready to step in, no communication strategy (or even awareness of social media), no ability to mobilize a critical mass within either the armed forces or society. In their place a platoon of hapless soldiers on a bridge in Istanbul and the apparently uncoordinated targeting of a few government buildings in Ankara.

It was enough for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app, to call supporters into the streets for the insurrection to fold. That Erdogan will no doubt be the chief beneficiary of this turmoil, using it to further his push for an autocratic Islamist Turkey, does not mean that he staged it. The Turkish Army remains isolated from society. It is entirely plausible that a coterie of officers believed a polarized and disgruntled society would rise up once given a cue. If so, they were wrong — and the error has cost more than 260 lives.

But in Erdogan’s Turkey, mystery and instability have become the coin of the realm. It is no wonder that conspiracy theories abound. Since an electoral setback in 2015, the president has overseen a Turkey that is ever more violent. This dangerous lurch has enabled him to bounce back in a second election in November and portray himself as the anointed one averting mayhem. His attempt to blame, without any evidence, the attempted coup on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and erstwhile ally living in Pennsylvania, forms part of a pattern of murkiness and intrigue.

Through Erdogan’s fog this much seems clear: Over 35 years after the last coup, and almost 20 years after the 1997 military intervention, Turks do not want a return to the seesawing military and civilian rule that marked the country between 1960 and 1980. On the contrary, they are attached to their democratic institutions and the constitutional order. The army, a pillar of Kemal Atatürk’s secular order, is weaker. Every major political party condemned the attempted coup. Whatever their growing anger against the president, Turks do not want to go backward.

A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the Anatolian heartland, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams echoed the president’s call for people to pour into the street. There can be little doubt that any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The blow to what is left in the Middle East of democratic institutions and the rule of law would have been devastating.

No wonder President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence of bloodshed.”

But “restraint” is not part of Erdogan’s vocabulary. As Philip Gordon, a former special assistant to Obama on the Middle East, told me: “Rather than use this as an opportunity to heal divisions, Erdogan may well do the opposite: go after adversaries, limit press and other freedoms further, and accumulate even more power.” Within hours, over 2,800 military personnel had been detained and 2,745 judges removed from duty.

A prolonged crackdown on so-called “Gulenists,” whoever Erdogan deems them to be, and the Kemalist “deep state” (supporters of the old secular order) is likely. An already divided society will grow more fissured. Secular Turkey will not quickly forget the cries of “Allahu akbar” echoing from some mosques and from crowds in the streets.

A rapid push by Erdogan to reform the Constitution by referendum and create a presidency with sweeping powers is possible. He now has a case to say only such powers will keep enemies at bay.

“It may well be that democracy has triumphed in Turkey only to be strangled at a slower pace,” Jonathan Eyal, the international director at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, told me. There can be little doubt the expressions of support for Erdogan from Western capitals came through gritted teeth.

For the Obama administration, the dilemmas of the Middle East could scarcely have been more vividly illustrated. When an Egyptian general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, led a coup three years ago against the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Obama did not support the democratic government, as he has now in Turkey. The administration even avoided use of the word “coup” in Egypt. In effect, the president sided with the generals in the name of order.

True, Morsi was deeply unpopular. The Egyptian coup had massive support. It was a fait accompli by the time Obama weighed in. Still, principles in the Middle East are worth little. Policy often amounts to choosing the least bad option.

The least bad — Erdogan’s survival — has prevailed. That does not mean much worse won’t follow. A failed coup doesn’t mean democracy is the winner. The worst of this prickly autocrat may now be unleashed upon Turkey, with America and its allies able to do little about it.

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

When Donald Trump began his run for the White House, many people treated it as a joke. Nothing he has done or said since makes him look better. On the contrary, his policy ignorance has become even more striking, his positions more extreme, the flaws in his character more obvious, and he has repeatedly demonstrated a level of contempt for the truth that is unprecedented in American politics.

Yet while most polls suggest that he’s running behind in the general election, the margin isn’t overwhelming, and there’s still a real chance that he might win. How is that possible? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that voters don’t fully appreciate his awfulness. And the reason is that too much of the news media still can’t break with bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.

Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that distorted news coverage is the whole story, that nobody would support Trumpism if the media were doing their job. The presumptive Republican nominee wouldn’t have gotten this far if he weren’t tapping into some deep resentments. Furthermore, America is a deeply divided country, at least in its political life, and the great majority of Republicans will support their party’s nominee no matter what. Still, the fact is that voters who don’t have the time or inclination to do their own research, who get their news analysis from TV or regular news pages, are fed a daily diet of false equivalence.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush was flatly dishonest about his policy proposals; his numbers didn’t add up, and he claimed repeatedly that his tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the 1 percent, were aimed at the middle class. Yet mainstream coverage never made this clear. In frustration, I wrote at the time that if a presidential candidate were to assert that the earth was flat, news analysis articles would have the headline “Shape of the planet: Both sides have a point.”

And Mr. Trump is far from being the only current political figure who benefits from the determination to find balance where none exists. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has a reputation as a policy wonk, committed to fiscal responsibility, that is utterly incomprehensible if you look at the slapdash, fundamentally dishonest policy documents he actually puts out. But the cult of balance requires that someone on the Republican side be portrayed as a serious, honest fiscal expert, so Mr. Ryan gets slotted into that role no matter how much a con man he may be in reality.

Still, there are con men, and then there are con men. You might think that Donald Trump, who lies so much that fact-checkers have a hard time keeping up, who keeps repeating falsehoods even after they’ve been proved wrong, and who combines all of this with a general level of thuggishness aimed in part at the press, would be too much even for the balance cultists to excuse.

But you would be wrong.

To be fair, some reporters and news organizations try to point out Trump statements that are false, frightening, or both. All too often, however, they still try to maintain their treasured balance by devoting equal time — and, as far as readers and viewers can tell, equal or greater passion — to denouncing far less important misstatements from Hillary Clinton. In fact, surveys show that Mrs. Clinton has, overall, received much more negative coverage than her opponent.

And in the last few days we’ve seen a spectacular demonstration of bothsidesism in action: an op-ed article from the incoming and outgoing heads of the White House Correspondents’ Association, with the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press.” How so? Well, Mr. Trump has selectively banned news organizations he considers hostile; he has also, although the op-ed didn’t mention it, attacked both those organizations and individual reporters, and refused to condemn supporters who, for example, have harassed reporters with anti-Semitic insults.

Meanwhile, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t done any of these things, and has a staff that readily responds to fact-checking questions, she doesn’t like to hold press conferences. Equivalence!

Stung by criticism, the authors of the op-ed issued a statement denying that they had engaged in “false equivalency” — I guess saying that the candidates are acting “similarly” doesn’t mean saying that they are acting similarly. And they once again refused to indicate which candidate was behaving worse.

As I said, bothsidesism isn’t new, and it has always been an evasion of responsibility. But taking the position that “both sides do it” now, in the face of this campaign and this candidate, is an act of mind-boggling irresponsibility.

Blow, Kristof and Collins

July 14, 2016

In “Blood on Your Hands, Too” Mr. Blow says interpersonal and systemic racism are only part of the equation. There is also class conflict between those who are better off and those who are not.  Mr. Kristof considers “A History of White Delusion” and says we’re  in denial of racial inequity.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump Reaps a Veep,” says Indiana is the center of the universe.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There is no question that we should examine incidents of police violence for traces of bias, if for no other reason than to rule it out if it isn’t present. Indeed, we should all search ourselves for manifestations of racial bias.

But the current conversation is — and must be — larger than that.

Interpersonal racism, when it exists, is only one part of the equation. Another part is systemic, structurally racist policies, and yet another is class conflict between the police and the poorest, most dangerous communities they patrol, and between those who are better off and those who are not. That strand is nearly absent from this conversation altogether.

At the Tuesday memorial service in Dallas for five murdered police officers, President Obama said:

“As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book. And then we tell the police, ‘You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor.’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

The comment underscores that this is not simply a conflict between police departments and minority communities that everyone else can watch from a comfortable distance, convinced that the battle doesn’t belong to them.

No, this issue is about everyone. We have areas of concentrated poverty in our cities in part because of a long legacy of discriminatory urban policies. We don’t sufficiently address the effects of that legacy, in part because it is rooted in a myth of racial pathology and endemic poor choice. We choose to be blind to the policy choices our politicians have made — and that many have benefited from, while others suffered — while simultaneously holding firmly to the belief that all of our own successes and comforts are simply the result of our and our families’ drive, ambition and resourcefulness. Other people lack physical comforts because they lack our character strength.

It is from this bed of lies that our policing policies spring. When the president says, “We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs,” who is the “we”?

It’s not the blue-collar civil servants in law enforcement or the working-class and poor communities, which are aggressively patrolled. No. The “we” is the middle and moneyed classes.

While the blue, black and brown groups on the lower end of the spectrum are forced into more interaction — on one hand to contain disruption within communities, and on the other to finance police departments and civic governance — everyone else goes about their business unaware and unbothered until something causes “political blowback or inconvenience” and disturbs the more prosperous half’s “peace of mind.”

As the Dallas police chief, David Brown, said Sunday:

“These officers risk their lives for $40,000 a year. Forty thousand dollars a year. And this is not sustainable, not to support these people. We’re not perfect. There’s cops that don’t need to be cops. I have been the first to say, we need to separate employment with those types of cops — 1 percent or 2 percent. The 98 percent or 99 percent of cops come to work, do this job, come to work for 40 grand. It’s not sustainable.”

Russel Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, on Monday told the CNN anchor Don Lemon: “We ask a lot from our police in terms of sacrifice. You know, in Baton Rouge, the starting salary for a police officer, less than $31,000.” Alton Sterling was killed last week by the police in that city.

Honoré continued:

“Matter of fact, their pay would go up if the federal minimum wage was passed, $15 an hour. They make less than $15 an hour. We ask a lot from these young police officers which means, Don, they’ve got to get another job. They have to have a second job to support their families, most of them. We’ve got to take that stress off of them, too. So we got to make sure they’re properly trained and they don’t have to work all this overtime so they can maintain their family. A stressful police officer who’s working another 30 hours overtime a week is coming to work tired. And he’s stressed out. We’ve got to fix that.”

We take this underpaid and highly stressed group of officers, with guns and any biases they may harbor, explicit or implicit, and flood disadvantaged communities with them, where uncivil behavior can often take root, and then “we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

These are communities where people are often already scratching to survive, where some are engaged in makeshift work in the shadow economy: Eric Garner, who was killed by the police on Staten Island, had sold loose cigarettes for years, and Sterling had sold CDs in the parking lot of a convenience store for years.

Police departments can then use these already poor people as a kind of municipal cash machine, plugging budgetary shortfalls by performing an inordinate number of stops, writing an outrageous number of tickets and having the courts impose even more fines.

Now where would this revenue come from if it were not being bled from poor people? That’s right, the rest of the population. The tax dollar that your local government refused to exact from you is being exacted from dark flesh. That same city service that your town can’t truly afford but refused to forgo is being paid for by gouging poor people who have almost nothing.

You may think that you are not a part of this, but you are wrong. That’s just a lie that your willful ignorance and purposeful blindness perpetuates, to protect your conscience. This is absolutely about you, many, many of you. There are more bloody hands than meet the eye.

Mr. Blow, if you’re a Republican that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

This complacency among us white Americans has been a historical constant. Even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police, and four out of five whites have said that black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education. In short, the history of white Americans’ attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.

Just as in 1963, when many well-meaning whites glanced about and couldn’t see a problem, many well-meaning whites look around today, see a black president, and declare problem solved.

That’s the backdrop for racial tensions roiling America today.

Of course, there have been advances. In 1939, 83 percent of Americans believed that blacks should be kept out of neighborhoods where white people lived. But if one lesson from that old figure is that we have made progress, another is how easy it is for a majority to “otherize” minorities in ways that in hindsight strike us all as repugnant.

In fairness, the evidence shows black delusions, too. But what is striking in looking back at historical data is that blacks didn’t exaggerate discrimination but downplayed it.

In 1962, for example, a majority of blacks said that black children had the same educational opportunities as white children, and nearly one-quarter of blacks said that they had the same job opportunities as whites. That was preposterous: History hasn’t discredited the complaints of blacks but rather has shown that they were muted.

My hunch is that we will likewise look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.

Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”

That’s a narrative that many white Americans are oblivious to. Half of white Americans today say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. Really? That contradicts overwhelming research showing that blacks are more likely to be suspended from preschool, to be prosecuted for drug use, to receive longer sentences, to be discriminated against in housing, to be denied job interviews, to be rejected by doctors’ offices, to suffer bias in almost every measurable sector of daily life.

In my mind, an even bigger civil rights outrage in America than abuses by some police officers may be an education system that routinely sends the neediest black students to underfunded, third-rate schools, while directing bountiful resources to affluent white schools.

“If America is to be America, we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system,” notes Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “If you were to examine most of the institutions that underpin our democracy — higher education, K-12 education, the housing system, the transportation system, the criminal justice system — you will find systemic racism embedded in those systems.”

Yet Walker is an optimist, partly because of his own trajectory. In 1965, as an African-American child in rural Texas, he was able to enroll in Head Start soon after it was founded — and everything changed. “It transformed my life and created possibilities for me and a glide path,” he says. “It provided me with a life I would never have imagined.”

As Walker’s journey suggests, we have tools that can help, although, of course, racial inequity is complex, involving not just discrimination but also jobs, education, family structure and more. A starting point is for us whites to wake from our ongoing mass delusions, to recognize that in practice black lives have not mattered as much as white lives, and that this is an affront to values that we all profess to believe in.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

I am embarrassed to admit how much I’ve enjoyed the Donald Trump vice-presidential search. There’s nothing like a bunch of egomaniacs humiliating themselves in public to cheer up a dark day.

We got to sit through a series of very public tryouts — who can introduce Trump at a rally in the loudest, most craven manner possible? My blue ribbon went to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who hollered that Trump has “never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands,” apparently skipping over all the construction workers he’s stiffed in his real estate business. Pence has also started twittering like a howling dog. (“We will not rest until we elect @realDonaldTrump as the next President of the United States of America!”)

On Wednesday, for mysterious reasons that may have been connected to trouble with the Trump plane, Indiana became the center of the veep universe. Pence was visited by a delegation that included Trump, Trump’s daughter, Trump’s sons, Trump’s son-in-law and — oh yeah, the campaign manager.

Then Newt Gingrich flew in for a sit-down with the kids, apparently followed by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. The only major vice-presidential prospect who wasn’t in Indiana was Chris Christie.

But Trump and Christie were famously close already, despite the fact that Christie once sent Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law to prison. Yes, indeed. When he was U.S. attorney, Christie prosecuted Charles Kushner, who wound up spending 14 months in the clink for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. One of the case highlights involved a family business feud, during which Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law.

Kushner’s son Jared — Ivanka’s husband — is very influential in the Trump campaign and seems to have gotten over the send-Dad-to-the-clink issue completely. You can see why everyone has been comparing the vice-presidential search to a reality TV show. All we needed was an announcement that the final four would be competing in a challenge that involves eating raw groundhog livers.

For those of us who love obscure political factoids, it seemed appropriate that this was all going on in Indiana. The state has often been at the center of vice-presidential politics. (Dan Quayle!) Nearly a dozen Hoosiers have been nominated for the job since the Civil War. (Dan Quayle!) Several have won. (Dan Quayle!)

Former Indiana Gov. Thomas Hendricks’s pull in his home state got Grover Cleveland critical electoral votes he needed to become president after the 1884 election. It was one of the very few times that the vice-presidential selection made a big difference.

Hendricks had a long-running rivalry with another governor, Oliver Morton, which produced my favorite headline of all time, from The Chicago Times:Hendricks a Man of the Purest Social Relations, but Morton a Foe to Society, a Seducer and a Libertine … The Former’s Name Untrammeled by Lust; the Latter’s Reeking With Filth and Slime. A Few of the Hellish Liaisons of, and Attempted Seductions by, Indiana’s Favorite Stud-Horse.”

So stop complaining about the terrible tone of the modern media.

O.K., enough about Indiana. I just wanted to share. I’ve also been rooting for Senator Sessions to show up in the vetting so I could point out that the only person ever elected to a national office from Alabama was William King, the only bachelor vice president, who was once a very close friend and sometimes roommate with James Buchanan, the only bachelor president.

See, how can you not like this stuff?

But about the Trump contenders. Each of them has a special something. Gingrich, like Trump, has been married three times. (Six-wife ticket!) Bringing Newt back would also allow the nation to revisit his interesting plan to replace unionized school janitors with poor children.

Christie has exhibited a marvelous ability to suck up abuse. Trump has made fun of him for everything from being AWOL from the governor’s office to eating Oreos. There are pictures of Trump holding a huge umbrella over his own famous head and letting Christie get wet. When you’ve currently got a 26 percent approval rating in your home state, I guess you take whatever they throw at you. However, Christie’s office denied reports that Trump once sent him out to get hamburgers.

I have a theory that women will never vote for a male presidential candidate who yells, because it reminds them of their worst boyfriends. A Trump-Christie ticket would be like the worst boyfriend sitting in the living room with his thuglike pal, watching football with their shoes off and demanding that you cook them pizza from scratch.

A Trump-Gingrich ticket would be a total of 143 years old.

None of the options are really all that terrific. But then you’ve got to be in a pretty bad place to begin with if you’re yearning for the spot beneath Donald Trump. I just hope that if the decision came down to that liver-eating contest, somebody took pictures. It’d be a great feature for the Cleveland convention.

Gail, Gail, Gail…  It’s not raw groundhog livers, it’s salted rat dicks.

Blow and Krugman

July 11, 2016

In “A Week From Hell” Mr. Blow says we as a society will not extinguish violence quickly, but individuals can make a start today.  Prof. Krugman says “Cheap Money Talks,” and that  what it says is to invest in the future.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Last week was yet another week that tore at the very fiber of our nation.

After two videos emerged showing the gruesome killings of two black men by police officers, one in Baton Rouge, La., and the other in Falcon Heights, Minn., a black man shot and killed five officers in a cowardly ambush at an otherwise peaceful protest and wounded nine more people. The Dallas police chief, David O. Brown, said, “He was upset about Black Lives Matter” and “about the recent police shootings” and “was upset at white people” and “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”

We seem caught in a cycle of escalating atrocities without an easy way out, without enough clear voices of calm, without tools for reduction, without resolutions that will satisfy.

There is so much loss and pain. There are so many families whose hearts hurt for a loved one needlessly taken, never to be embraced again.

There is so much disintegrating trust, so much animosity stirring.

So many — too many — Americans now seem to be living with an ambient terror that someone is somehow targeting them.

Friday morning, after the Dallas shootings, my college student daughter entered my room before heading out to her summer job. She hugged me and said: “Dad, I’m scared. Are you scared?” We talked about what had happened in the preceding days, and I tried to allay her fears and soothe her anxiety.

How does a father answer such a question? I’m still not sure I got it precisely right.

Truth is, I am afraid. Not so much for my own safety, which is what my daughter was fretting about, but more for the country I love.

This is not a level of stress and strain that a civil society can long endure.

I feel numb, and anguished and heartbroken, and I fear that I am far from alone.

And yet, I also fear that time is a requirement for remedy. We didn’t arrive at this place overnight and we won’t move on from it overnight.

Centuries of American policy, culture and tribalism are simply being revealed as the frothy tide of hagiographic history recedes.

Our American “ghettos” were created by policy and design. These areas of concentrated poverty became fertile ground for crime and violence. Municipalities used heavy police forces to try to cap that violence. Too often, aggressive policing began to feel like oppressive policing. Relationships between communities and cops became strained. A small number of criminals poisoned police beliefs about whole communities, and a small number of dishonorable officers poisoned communities’ beliefs about entire police forces. And then, too often the unimaginable happened and someone ended up dead at the hands of the police.

Since people have camera phones, we are actually seeing these deaths, live and in living color. Now a terrorist with a racist worldview has taken it upon himself to co-opt a cause and mow down innocent officers.

This is a time when communities, institutions, movements and even nations are tested. Will the people of moral clarity, good character and righteous cause be able to drown out the chorus of voices that seek to use each dead body as a societal wedge?

Will the people who can see clearly that there is no such thing as selective, discriminatory, exclusionary outrage and grieving when lives are taken, be heard above those who see every tragedy as a plus or minus for a cumulative argument?

Will the people who see both the protests over police killings and the killings of police officers as fundamentally about the value of life rise above those who see political opportunity in this arms race of atrocities?

These are very serious questions — soul-of-a-nation questions — that we dare not ignore.

We must see all unwarranted violence for what it is: A corrosion of culture.

I know well that when people speak of love and empathy and honor in the face of violence, it can feel like meeting hard power with soft, like there is inherent weakness in an approach that leans so heavily on things so ephemeral and even clichéd.

But that is simply an illusion fostered by those of little faith.

Anger and vengeance and violence are exceedingly easy to access and almost effortlessly unleashed.

The higher calling — the harder trial — is the belief in the ultimate moral justice and the inevitable victory of righteousness over wrong.

This requires an almost religious faith in fate, and that can be hard for some to accept, but accept it we must.

The moment any person comes to accept as justifiable an act of violence upon another — whether physical, spiritual or otherwise — that person has already lost the moral battle, even if he is currently winning the somatic one.

When we all can see clearly that the ultimate goal is harmony and not hate, rectification and not retribution, we have a chance to see our way forward. But we all need to start here and now, by doing this simple thing: Seeing every person as fully human, deserving every day to make it home to the people he loves.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

What with everything else going on, from Trump to Brexit to the horror in Dallas, it’s hard to focus on developments in financial markets — especially because we’re not facing any immediate crisis. But extraordinary things have been happening lately, especially in bond markets. And because money still makes the world go ’round, attention must be paid to what the markets are trying to tell us.

Specifically, there has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. Late last year the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds was around 2.3 percent, already historically low; on Friday it was just 1.36 percent.  German bonds, the safe asset of the eurozone, are yielding minus — that’s right, minus — 0.19 percent. Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?

Some commentators blame the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, accusing them of engineering “artificially low” interest rates that encourage speculation and distort the economy. These are, by the way, largely the same people who used to predict that budget deficits would cause interest rates to soar. In any case, however, it’s important to understand that they’re not making sense.

For what does “artificially low” mean in this context? Compared to what? Historically, the consequence of excessively easy money — the way you know that money is too easy — has been out-of-control inflation. That’s not happening in America, where inflation is still below the Fed’s target, and it’s definitely not happening in Europe, where the central bank has been trying to raise inflation, without success.

If anything, developments in the real economies of the advanced world are telling us that interest rates aren’t low enough — that is, while low rates may be having their usual effects of boosting the housing sector and, to some extent, the stock market, those effects aren’t big enough to produce a strong recovery. But why?

In some past episodes of very low government borrowing costs, the story has been one of a flight to safety: investors piling into U.S. or German bonds because they’re afraid to buy riskier assets. But there’s little sign of such a fear-driven process now. The premiums on risky corporate bonds, which soared during the 2008 financial crisis, have stayed fairly low. European bond spreads, like the difference between Italian and German interest rates, have also stayed low. And stock prices have been hitting new highs.

By the way, the financial fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union looks fairly limited, at least so far. The pound is down, and investors have been pulling money from funds that invest in the London property market. But British stocks are up, and there’s nothing like the kind of panic some pre-referendum rhetoric seemed to predict. All that seems to have happened is an intensification of the trend toward ever-lower interest rates.

So what’s going on? I think of it as the Great Capitulation.

A number of economists — most famously Larry Summers, but also yours truly and others — have been warning for a while that the whole world may be turning Japanese. That is, it looks as if weak demand and a bias toward deflation are enduring problems. Until recently, however, investors acted as if they still expected a return to what we used to consider normal conditions. Now they’ve thrown in the towel, in effect conceding that persistent weakness is the new normal. This means low short-term interest rates for a very long time, and low long-term rates right away.

Many people don’t like what’s happening, but raising rates in the face of weak economies would be an act of folly that might well push us back into recession.

What policy makers should be doing, instead, is accepting the markets’ offer of incredibly cheap financing. Investors are willing to pay the German government to take their money; the U.S. situation is less extreme, but even here interest rates adjusted for inflation are negative.

Meanwhile, there are huge unmet demands for public investment on both sides of the Atlantic. America’s aging infrastructure is legendary, but not unique: years of austerity have left German roads and railways in worse shape than most people realize. So why not borrow money at these low, low rates and do some much-needed repair and renovation? This would be eminently worth doing even if it wouldn’t also create jobs, but it would do that too.

I know, deficit scolds would issue dire warnings about the evils of public debt. But they have been wrong about everything for at least the past eight years, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously.

They say that money talks; well, cheap money is speaking very clearly right now, and it’s telling us to invest in our future.

Blow and Collins

July 7, 2016

In “Hillary Clinton: Ma’am Survivor” Mr. Blow says you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery, the constant flirtation with self-destruction.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary, Beyond Email,” says it’s a good time for Clinton to make changes so she doesn’t win simply by default.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The Clintons — both Hillary and Bill — are very smart, but also quite reckless. They play too close to the edge and sometimes go over. They parse words to parry attacks. They possess a sort of preternatural political ability, but also a political paranoia.

Anyone who has followed the Clintons over the years already knows this. So hearing the stinging rebuke by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, of Hillary Clinton over her email usage in some ways made no waves, at least not for me. As obviously qualified as Clinton is — at a Charlotte, N.C., campaign rally, President Obama said, “There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton, ever, and that’s the truth” — and as clearly superior to the puffed-up presumptive Republican nominee as she is, there is something about Clinton, and indeed the Clintons, that makes me uneasy.

But Comey refused to bring charges against Clinton, which seems to be the right call, and also seems in line with the Clinton history.

I know that Republicans have attacked the Clintons for decades. Many of those attacks were baseless, opponents driven mad by the Clintons seeming imperviousness, an endless search for a presumed fire beneath a fog they perceive as smoke. But some of those attacks come because of the Clintons’ own carelessness, as it did in this case. Sometimes there actually is a fire, however large or small, that the Clintons themselves have set.

With the Clintons, you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery. They have a constant flirtation with self-destruction.

But it seems to me that most voters have actually adjusted their expectations for this reality, whether they support or oppose her.

If nothing else, the Clintons are the ultimate survivors.

When an Iowa caucusgoer asked Hillary in January why young people are not enthusiastic about her campaign, she replied, in part:

You know, look, I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me. And you know, I can’t keep up with it. I just keep going forward. They fall by the wayside. They come up with these outlandish things. They make these charges. I just keep going forward because there’s nothing to it. They throw all this stuff at me, and I’m still standing.

That is true. But the attacks and her impressive ability to dodge them seem to lead to a sort of Wonder Woman syndrome, in which the evasion of calamity creates an expanding sense of invincibility.

Rather than possessing strategic discipline, the Clintons’ Republican opponents have displayed an uncanny, uncontrollable impulse to overplay their hand, like a poker player with three deuces betting the house.

Donald Trump suggested that Clinton had bribed Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the case, although the decision to recommend no charges was made by Comey, and as USA Today reported last week, “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday that she will accept the decision of career prosecutors, investigators and F.B.I. Director James Comey on whether to bring criminal charges” in the case.

Republicans, smarting over once again not bagging a Clinton when they were sure they had one trapped, have called Comey to the Hill to testify — or to be grilled, as will likely be the case — Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Republicans will turn a damaging episode for Clinton, one that would otherwise reinforce the specter of mistrust that they have labored so diligently to foster in the public around her, into another spectacle of the absurd.

They have a near algebraic ability to turn a positive into a negative, and vice versa.

They were hanging their hats on a stronger action against Clinton because they are wringing their hands with consternation over Trump.

In any other election cycle with pretty much any other candidate, the damage they have done to Clinton would be enough to fell her. But this year, she is running against the most inept, unqualified, ill-equipped, abrasive candidate imaginable.

In this context, in which a damaged candidate is up against a deranged one, Clinton will likely emerge with little more than yet another battle scar from this episode. And while Clinton won’t face charges, it is a fact that Trump is embroiled in two class action lawsuits over Trump University, as well as a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Clinton’s case is now in the realm of what might have been, but Trump’s cases are in the realm of what actually is. Indeed, in every way when you compare Clinton to Trump, her shortcomings shrink.

Clinton’s survival instinct will likely allow her to weather whatever Trump and the Republicans throw at her.

Specifically, in the case of the “damn emails,” as Bernie Sanders called them, the Clinton magic — wiggling out of danger and constriction to great amazement — remains intact. Unfortunately, belief in magic also requires a certain amount of naïveté.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Chances are, Hillary Clinton did not grow up dreaming that someday she’d be a woman of whom it could be said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her.

But think positive: Between the F.B.I.’s 11-month email investigation and the eight congressional Benghazi inquiries, Clinton has now probably been examined more thoroughly than any candidate not up for canonization in the Catholic Church. How many times have you, as a concerned citizen, witnessed a famous politician felled by a terrible revelation and thought, “My God, who knew?” Not likely to be a problem with this one.

In his big press appearance Tuesday, F.B.I. Director James Comey took the now-familiar prosecutorial path of smearing the target he couldn’t nail. But the bottom line was that Clinton had used less-than-secure private email servers rather than the State Department system, which was the proper procedure, albeit possibly even less less-than-secure. Worse, she did not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when she was cornered.

It’s a problem for campaign strategists, but not much of a surprise for voters. We already knew that she was paranoid about privacy. Perhaps that was why some people decided, in 2008, that they preferred Barack Obama, who was promising presidential transparency. Whose administration then set new Olympics-level records when it came to rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests and persecuting suspected leakers of information to the media.

We obviously haven’t heard the last of the email scandal — Comey is testifying before a House committee on Thursday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is going to be dragged before another committee next week to answer questions about that private meeting she had with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac at the worst moment humanly possible.

The Republicans will broadcast Comey’s “extremely careless” quote from now through November. “People have been convicted for far less,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said as he happily made the cable TV rounds after the F.B.I. announcement. This came between the moment in which Ryan had to distance himself from Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet and the moment in which he had to distance himself from the speech in which Trump praised Saddam Hussein.

Oh yes, Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate who had a “university” that wrung thousands of dollars out of credulous students with get-rich-quick promises, which was linked to an extremely shady seminar program that plagiarized course materials from an old real estate manual. And which is now subject to lawsuits, some of which are being heard by a distinguished federal judge from Indiana. Who Trump slammed as a biased “Mexican,” triggering a Paul Ryan distancing of epic proportions.

Every problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign comes attached to a reminder that the alternative is the businessman with a terrible business record and attraction to murderous tyrants. It’s hard to imagine anything that she could do that would make her look like the worse option in this particular contest. It’s a lucky candidate who gets the chance to divert attention from her problems by giving a speech in the city where her opponent bankrupted several casinos and dodged the bills of a long line of small businesses.

But nobody wants to be remembering 2016 as the year America elected its first woman president by default. Since at least she didn’t get indicted.

Clinton can spend the next four months listing all the ways Trump would be worse. Or she can use her intelligence, experience and fortitude to turn her story around. So that when the confetti falls in Philadelphia, we’ve got something more to celebrate than a new entry in the Guinness World Records book.

A few suggestions:

■ Send Bill home. This is an easy call. At best, he’s a reminder that she didn’t get where she’s at entirely on her own. At worst — well, plane. Attorney general.

■ Hold a news conference every week. Clinton has not met with the press corps for an open-ended question-and-answer session this calendar year. Her strategists aren’t stupid; they know that the chances of making unwelcome news at these encounters are high. They’ll keep dodging them if they simply want to make sure she can stagger across the finish line this fall. The only argument on the other side is that she’s prepared to demonstrate she’s not just better than Trump; she’s better than her own current background noise.

■ Take a hard position, just because. Clinton has been rolling out some smart, progressive and well thought out proposals on issues like student loans. But it doesn’t exactly require a profile in courage to be against college debt. A brave and specific series of recommendations on, say, trade would be something else. Or a plan to fix Obamacare that would involve tough news for the pharmaceutical industry. Or pretty much any reform that would make big-money Democratic campaign contributors unhappy.

She can win without doing anything. It’s just the difference between making great history and being the lesser of two evils.

Blow and Krugman

July 4, 2016

In “Giving Clinton Her Due” Mr. Blow says of the two flawed presidential candidates, one is clearly out-campaigning the other.  Prof. Krugman considers “Trump, Trade and Workers” and says bashing China doesn’t make you labor’s friend.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It is easy in an election cycle that has seen the improbable rise of the preposterous presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to center all discussion about the race on him: how poorly he’s doing, how outrageous this week’s comments were, how damning a new investigative report into his past has proved.

But doing so exposes a bias toward the sensational, underselling another rather remarkable story, at least for the month of June: Hillary Clinton ran an incredibly strong campaign last month.

First, let’s start with the obvious. As Gallup pointed out last week: “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.” But the article continued: “In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42 percent highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33 percent. Prior to now, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater had the highest negative score, with 26 percent rating him highly unfavorably in October 1964.”

A couple of weeks ago Gallup found that “Americans’ views of Donald Trump have drifted slightly more negative over the past month and a half, with his net favorable rating slipping to -33 for June 13-19 from -28 in the first week of May. Americans’ views of Hillary Clinton have remained significantly less negative than their views of Trump — and have been more stable, with her current -13 net favorable rating almost identical to her -14 from early May.”

Both Clinton and Trump are flawed and damaged candidates, but they aren’t equally flawed and damaged. And while Trump is digging his holes deeper, Clinton is remaining steady in some and climbing out of others.

Clinton began the month with a major foreign policy speech that CNN called an “evisceration of Donald Trump,” and she never let up. She delivered a stinging critique of Trump as dangerous in an economic policy speech in Ohio. In an article about the speech, The New York Times pointed out: “The barrage comes at a perilous moment for Mr. Trump, who fired his campaign manager on Monday and faces severe disadvantages in fund-raising and on-the-ground organization. One supporter introducing Mrs. Clinton said gleefully that the campaign had more staff members in Ohio than Mr. Trump had nationwide.”

How did Trump respond to this speech? He live-tweeted his objections.

When he did give a major speech in response, it was roundly condemned for the numerous falsehoods it contained. But this is nothing new for Trump. Of all the statements by Trump that have been examined by the fact-checking site PolitiFact, most have been rated false or “pants on fire.”

Trump simply can’t muster the discipline that is one of Clinton’s hallmarks. While giving a trade speech in New Hampshire last week, Trump departed from the subject to again go after Mexico. What is this man’s issue with Mexico, anyway?

As The Times observed: “Donald J. Trump was seven minutes into an address on Thursday on the loading dock of a shuttered lighting plant here in New Hampshire, reading from prepared remarks, when he turned his attention to Mexico. That country’s leaders are smarter than those in the United States, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. Then, as the sound of a plane overhead drowned out his voice, Mr. Trump went off his script. ‘In fact,’ Mr. Trump said, pointing his finger toward the sky, ‘that could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.’”

At times last month, Clinton and her campaign so outmatched Trump that the competition wasn’t even close.

And perhaps most intriguingly, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Turkey and the Brexit vote in England, Clinton turned what many had seen as a negative for her into a positive: Her cautious delivery, which can sometimes feel a bit guarded and robotic, began to sound steady, reassuring and presidential.

Trump, in contrast, stumbled terribly, because rather than rise in these moments of trauma and volatility, he sinks to being more, well, Trump. He made everything about him.

After the Orlando massacre, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Following the Brexit vote, MSNBC reported: “Asked about economic turmoil and the degree to which the Brexit results are undermining the value of the British pound,” Trump replied “that the market decline is good news — for him. ‘If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,’ he said, referring to the location of his resort. ‘For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.’ ”

There’s no way to know if this will continue, especially in light of the ongoing F.B.I. investigation of her emails, but last month Clinton out-campaigned and outclassed Trump at every turn. It’s important that she is given her due.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump gave a speech on economic policy last week. Just about every factual assertion he made was wrong, but I’m not going to do a line-by-line critique. What I want to do, instead, is talk about the general thrust: the candidate’s claim to be on the side of American workers.

Of course, that’s what they all say. But Trumponomics goes beyond the usual Republican assertions that cutting taxes on corporations and the rich, ending environmental regulation and so on will conjure up the magic of the marketplace and make everyone prosper. It also involves posing as a populist, claiming that getting tough on foreigners and ripping up our trade agreements will bring back the well-paying jobs America has lost.

That’s a departure, although not as much as you may think — people forget that Mitt Romney similarly threatened a trade war with China during the 2012 campaign. Still, it was interesting to see a Republican presidential candidate name-check not just Bernie Sanders but the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which has long been critical of globalization.

But the institute is having none of it: Lawrence Mishel, the think tank’s president, put out a derisive reply to what he called the “Trump trade scam.” His point was that even if you think, as he does, that trade agreements have hurt American workers, they’re only part of a much broader set of anti-labor policies. And on everything else, Donald Trump is very much on the wrong side of the issues.

About globalization: There’s no question that rising imports, especially from China, have reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in America. One widely-cited paper estimates that China’s rise reduced U.S. manufacturing employment by around one million between 1999 and 2011. My own back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that completely eliminating the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods would add about two million manufacturing jobs.

But America is a big place, and total employment exceeds 140 million. Shifting two million workers back into manufacturing would raise that sector’s share of employment back from around 10 percent to around 11.5 percent. To get some perspective: in 1979, on the eve of the great surge in inequality, manufacturing accounted for more than 20 percent of employment. In the 1960s it was more than 25 percent. I’m not sure when, exactly, Mr. Trump thinks America was great, but Trumponomics wouldn’t come close to bringing the old days back.

In any case, falling manufacturing employment is only one factor in the decline of the middle class. As Mr. Mishel says, there have been “many other intentional policies” driving wages down even as top incomes soar: union-bashing, the failure to raise the minimum wage with inflation, austerity, financial deregulation, the tax-cut obsession.

And Mr. Trump buys fully into the ideology that has driven these wage-destroying policies.

In fact, even as he tried to pose as a populist he repeated the same falsehoods usually used to justify anti-worker policies. We are, he declared, “one of the highest taxed nations in the world.” Actually, among 34 advanced countries, we’re No. 31. And, regulations are “an even greater impediment” to our competitiveness than taxes: Actually, we’re far less regulated than, say, Germany, which runs a gigantic trade surplus.

As Mr. Mishel wrote, “if is he so keen to help working people, why does he then steer the discussion back toward the traditional corporate agenda of tax cuts for corporations and the rich?” I think we know the answer.

But never mind Mr. Trump’s motivations. What’s important is that voters not mistake tough talk on trade for a pro-worker agenda.

No matter what we do on trade, America is going to be mainly a service economy for the foreseeable future. If we want to be a middle-class nation, we need policies that give service-sector workers the essentials of a middle-class life. This means guaranteed health insurance — Obamacare brought insurance to 20 million Americans, but Republicans want to repeal it and also take Medicare away from millions. It means the right of workers to organize and bargain for better wages — which all Republicans oppose. It means adequate support in retirement from Social Security — which Democrats want to expand, but Republicans want to cut and privatize.

Is Mr. Trump for any of these things? Not as far as anyone can tell. And it should go without saying that a populist agenda won’t be possible if we’re also pushing through a Trump-style tax plan, which would offer the top 1 percent huge tax cuts and add trillions to the national debt.

Sorry, but adding a bit of China-bashing to a fundamentally anti-labor agenda does no more to make you a friend of workers than eating a taco bowl does to make you a friend of Latinos.

Blow and Collins

June 30, 2016

In “The State of Race in America” Mr. Blow says what is worrisome in a new report is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about relations improving.  Ms. Collins has a “Patriotic Presidential Quiz.”  She says if you’re still following the race, here’s a reward for your dedication.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Monday, the Pew Research Center released a fascinating and expansive report on the state of race relations in America. It serves as a stark reminder that although events like this insane and historic presidential election, continuing terrorist attacks and global shocks like Brexit overtake news cycles, the issue of racial inequality is just as urgent as ever.

2015 was the year of Black Lives Matter. Discussion of police interactions with minority communities; institutions and interpersonal racism; and “safe spaces” dominated popular literature, film, television, talks shows and newspaper column inches. It seemed everyone, everywhere, was talking about race in some capacity.

Now, at least in the media, the heat around the subject has cooled. The media has moved on. There are new stories to chase. There are new awards to win.

But the issue of racial inequality — as a lived experience — remains unaltered, and many in fact believe that it’s actually getting worse.

Racial inequality is not a trendy issue; it is an entrenched issue.

A year, or even two, of intense focus does not provide sufficient alteration of a condition in a country that has developed over centuries.

And so it is in this simmering wake of unfinished business that the Pew report lands.

It is the kind of report that demands more space that I can give it in a column, but please allow me to quote it here liberally, both the optimistic and pessimistic components of it, and to weigh in on it to the degree that I feel I must.

It is no surprise that whites and black would see racial issues and barriers to racial equality differently, or that differences would be manifest in the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

What is more worrisome is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about race relations improving. As the report puts it:

An overwhelming majority of blacks (88 percent) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43 percent are skeptical that such changes will ever occur. An additional 42 percent of blacks believe that the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and just 8 percent say the country has already made the necessary changes.

It continues:

A much lower share of whites (53 percent) say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, and only 11 percent express doubt that these changes will come. Four in 10 whites believe the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights, and about the same share (38 percent) say enough changes have already been made.

This gulf in optimism is incredibly troubling. What happens to a people when they stop believing, stop hoping, stop trusting that a concerted effort toward improvement will bear fruit?

Part of the problem here is that white and black people have such vastly divergent views about the lived black experience in America. According to the report:

By large margins, blacks are more likely than whites to say black people are treated less fairly in the workplace (a difference of 42 percentage points), when applying for a loan or mortgage (41 points), in dealing with the police (34 points), in the courts (32 points), in stores or restaurants (28 points), and when voting in elections (23 points). By a margin of at least 20 percentage points, blacks are also more likely than whites to say racial discrimination (70 percent versus 36 percent), lower quality schools (75 percent versus 53 percent) and lack of jobs (66 percent versus 45 percent) are major reasons that blacks may have a harder time getting ahead than whites.

These gaps are enormous. The question is whether or not these divergent beliefs are also intractable. If we can’t come to an agreement on the basic facts of life, how on earth can we come to an agreement on the fundamentals of a united path forward?

About six in 10 (59 percent) white Republicans say too much attention is paid to race and racial issues these days, while only 21 percent of Democrats agree.

Finally, we continue to be deceived about the enormous and epidemic nature of often-invisible institutional racism, preferring instead to direct our ire at the more easily identified and vilified interpersonal racism. The report puts it this way:

On balance, the public thinks that when it comes to discrimination against black people in the U.S. today, discrimination that is based on the prejudice of individual people is a bigger problem than discrimination that is built into the nation’s laws and institutions. This is the case among both blacks and whites, but while whites offer this opinion by a large margin (70 percent to 19 percent), blacks are more evenly divided (48 percent to 40 percent).

Although it may feel interminable, this election won’t last forever. In November, America will make a choice.

But the choices that America has already made mean that the persistent question of race will still be with us, unresolved, waiting for yet another moment to explode. No amount of fatigue will change this. Only a true and earnest effort to address race relations fundamentally and honestly will provide the overdue and necessary fix.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Independence Day weekend’s coming — time to show a little patriotism. Budweiser beer just renamed itself “America,” for heaven’s sake. If a Belgian brewing company can do that, the least you can do is show you’re a well-educated citizen. Let’s see whether you’ve been keeping up with the presidential race:

1  Since endorsing Donald Trump for president, Chris Christie …

  • Tracked down the man he once chased down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone and apologized.

  • Got the support of a full 18 percent of New Jersey voters on whether Trump should pick Christie as his running mate.

  • Told reporters he does not want to be the vice-presidential nominee because “really, my life is ruined already.”

2  When Marco Rubio ran for president, he made it clear he was done with being a senator forever. (“I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”) This month he …

  • Told reporters he was pursuing a lifelong dream of playing defensive back for the Miami Dolphins.

  • Said he was running for re-election because “I’ve discovered I’m not worth nearly as much money as I thought in the private sector.”

  • Said he was running for re-election because “Control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.”

3  After the demise of his presidential campaign, Ben Carson joined the Trump team. When his candidate claimed a federal judge was biased due to his Mexican heritage, Carson said that Trump …

  • “… was probably talking out loud rather than thinking.”

  • Believes all jurists should be examined for “the fruit salad of their life.”

  • Has many good Mexican friends among the caddies at his golf courses.

4  Paul Ryan began the month by endorsing Donald Trump for president. Since then, he’s denounced several of the candidate’s more outrageous statements. When asked how many times he could do this without washing his hands of the whole campaign, Ryan said …

  • “Four.”

  • “I don’t know the answer to that, either.”

  • “Did I tell you I saw John Boehner in Florida? God, that man looks happy.”

5  Duncan Hunter of California, one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, announced he’s going to stop trying to answer for things the candidate says. But he’s still on the Trump bandwagon because …

  • “Everybody makes mistakes”

  • “… him talking about things and saying things about things is different than him saying what he’s going to do.”

  • “Hell, I don’t know. Go ask Paul Ryan.”

6  After he dropped out of the Republican race, Senator Lindsey Graham endorsed Ted Cruz, whom he loathes. Then when Cruz dropped out, he …

  • Endorsed William Howard Taft, noting, “He’s dead, but nobody’s perfect.”

  • Said he’d “probably write somebody in or just skip the presidential.”

  • Compared the current campaign to “Game of Thrones” and announced that it was “time for a woman president, but only if it’s Daenerys the Dragon Queen.”

7  Bernie Sanders’s biggest post-primary news was that …

  • He’s going to endorse Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’ll vote for her).

  • He’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’s endorsing her).

  • He needs to take one more look at Martin O’Malley.

8  When Britain voted to exit the European Union, Donald Trump was visiting his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. Asked for his analysis of the big event, Trump said …

  • “You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

  • “Analysts have drastically overstated the impact on the British economy; we will of course have to keep a close eye on the manufacturing sector.”

  • “Vote? What vote?”

9  A former White House Secret Service officer has written a tell-all book about the Clintons in which he claims to have seen evidence that Hillary once …

  • Broke a law.

  • Broke a promise.

  • Broke a vase.

10  Campaigning in New York, Hillary Clinton demonstrated she had lost some of her old city sophistication when she …

  • Had trouble getting into the subway.

  • Made eye contact with a fellow passenger in the subway.

  • Posed for a selfie in front of Trump Tower.

11  When Clinton made her big speech on foreign policy this month, people couldn’t help noticing that she appeared on stage in front of…

  • Huge pictures of Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey and the pope.

  • Her grandchildren.

  • 19 American flags.

12  Which of the following is NOT one of Trump’s arguments for why his business credentials are a great preparation for the presidency …

  • He’s run the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

  • Running a country is much like running a golf course. (“You’ll be amazed how similar it is.”)

  • The nation needs a leader who has extensive experience in filing for bankruptcy.

 

The answer key:   1B, 2C, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9C 10A, 11C, 12C

 

Blow and Cohen

June 27, 2016

In “White Savior, Rape and Romance?” Mr. Blow says that the full brutality of slavery is strangely missing in a retelling of a Civil War story.  Mr. Cohen, in “Britain to Leave Europe for a Lie,” says the E.U. is flawed. But the dream is noble and still worth the fight. It did not deserve to be trashed by hucksters.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The movie “Free State of Jones” certainly doesn’t lack in ambition — it sprawls so that it feels like several films stitched together — but I still found it woefully lacking.

The story itself is quite interesting. It’s about Newton Knight, a white man in Mississippi during and after the Civil War, who organizes and mounts a somewhat successful rebellion against the Confederacy. He falls in love with a mixed-race slave named Rachel, and they establish a small community of racially ambiguous relatives that a book of the same title calls “white Negroes.”

It is easy to see why this story would appeal to Hollywood executives. It has a bit of everything, with eerie echoes of modern issues.

It comes in the wake of “12 Years a Slave,” at a time when slave narratives are en vogue, only this story emphasizes white heroism and centers on the ally instead of the enslaved.

It tries desperately to cast the Civil War, and specifically dissent within the Confederacy, as more a populism-versus-elitism class struggle in which poor white men were forced to fight a rich white man’s war and protect the cotton trade, rather than equally a conflict about the moral abhorrence of black slavery.

Throughout, there is the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class, with Newt himself saying at the burial of poor white characters, “somehow, some way, sometime, everybody is just somebody else’s nigger.”

And, by extension, there is the lingering suggestion of post-racialism because, as the author Victoria E. Bynum writes in the book’s preface, the relationship between Newt and Rachel “added the specter of interracial intimacy to the story.”

But, protruding from each of the film’s virtues are the jagged edges of its flaws.

First, there is the obvious “white savior” motif, which others have already noted.

In the book Bynum remarks, “At best, Newton Knight became a primeval Robin Hood, a kind of Anglo-Saxon Noble Savage.” But in the film there are also tired flashes of the Tarzan narrative: a white man who, dropped into a jungle, masters it better than the natives.

For instance when Newt is delivered to a swamp encampment of runaway slaves, the runaways are eating whatever they can, making fires in the hollows of trees and sleeping on the ground and in the open. By the time Newt leaves the swamp, he has grown and armed the encampment, built shelters, ambushed soldiers, organized feasts of roasted pig and corn and, as Rachel put it, he even “grew crops in a swamp.”

Newt conquered the swamp in a way the runaway slaves never had.

Second, there is little space in the film for righteous black rage and vengeance, but plenty for black humor and conciliation. After Moses, one of the runaways from the swamp, is lynched after registering blacks to vote, Newt gives his eulogy, remarking: “The man had so many reasons to be full of hate, and yet he never was. That, Lord, is one of your greatest miracles.” This is too often the way people want to think of black folks in the wake of trauma: as magically, transcendently merciful and spiritually restrained.

But perhaps the most disturbing feature of the film is the near erasure of slavery altogether and the downplaying of slave rape in particular to further a Shakespearean love story.

First, there are only two slaves of note in the film who are shown still in servitude, and both apparently house slaves: Rachel and a man named George.

Although Bynum points out that Newt’s part of Mississippi “was not a major slaveholding region,” the movie reduced slavery to an ancillary ephemerality and purges it of too much of its barbarism.

One of the only hints at the savagery of the institution is the rape of Rachel by her enslaver, but even that is treated so delicately as to offend — he approaches as her eyes dart. This is particularly perplexing in a film that relishes its gore. Later, when Newton notices a plate-sized stain of blood seeping through the back of her dress, she says tearfully:

“I wouldn’t let him. All the other times I just let him. What could I do?”

This genteel treatment, along with grossly inappropriate descriptors, appears in the book as well, when the author writes:

“Through encounters with women such as Rachel, Newt knew that white men regularly crossed the color line despite laws and social taboos that forbade interracial liaisons and marriages. Rachel, light-skinned and physically attractive, was the sort of slave after whom many white men lusted. The fact that she had a white-skinned child announced to interested men that she had already been ‘initiated’ into the world of interracial sexual relations.”

Encounters? Liaisons? Initiated? Sexual relations?

As long as she was a slave this was rape! Always. Period.

Also, according to the book, Newt’s grandfather bought Rachel when she was 16 and she already had “a small daughter” — which means that her rape likely started at an odiously young age.

This fascinating story was full of cinematic and educational potential, but there are so many moments in the film that strike a sour chord — particularly coming from a Hollywood that delivers a dearth of black-focused stories — that rather than contextualizing and clarifying, it performs the passive violence of distortion.

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

I have been overcome by gloom since Britain voted to leave the European Union. It’s not just the stupidity of the decision. It’s not merely the lies of the charlatans who led the “Leave” campaign. It’s not only the absence, now so evident, of any “Nextit.” It’s not even the betrayal of British youth. It’s far more: a personal loss. Europa, however flawed, was the dream of my generation. The European Union was an entity, bloodless noun, yet it had a beating heart.

Riding a European train, gazing at the lines of swaying poplars, the villages huddled around their church spires, it was often impossible, at least for me, not to look past the tranquility to the blood-seeped soil and the tens of millions who gave their lives in Europe’s collective suicides. Well, as the Germans say, we had the blessing of late birth; and the duty inherent in that blessing was to build a united Europe.

Covering the European Parliament between 1980 and 1982, I would drive down from Brussels to Strasbourg. The Parliament was a bit of a farce. Unwieldy bundles of documents translated into Europe’s many languages were carted back and forth. Yet, in its cumbersome way, the Parliament embodied something important: the hard trade-offs of European construction, union conjured from Babel.

When I moved to Italy, with its large Communist Party and spasms of political violence, I would hear how “scaling the Alps” into the core of Europe was critical to the country’s stability. The E.U. was insurance against the worst. For Mediterranean countries like Spain and Portugal that emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s it was something close to salvation.

Memories: feckless Europe at the time of the Bosnian war and the thirst, nonetheless, of the small nations reborn in Yugoslavia’s death to join the European Union and escape the bloody Balkan gyre. Watching Germany move its capital back to Berlin from Bonn in 1999 and thinking, the German question is solved and Europe is home free! Driving, when I lived in Berlin, into Poland and pinching myself to recall the unspeakable suffering overcome by German-Polish reconciliation as Poland prepared for E.U. membership.

No miracle was ever so dull. Britain tended to see the E.U. in prosaic terms: It had not been delivered from ignominy or tyranny by European integration. Still, it gave the union heft, a free-market prod, a universal language and its second-largest economy. It was that recalcitrant member any good club needs.

Sure, the challenges mounted. The 30-year postwar economic miracle ended — and with it full employment. The Franco-German balance at the heart of the union collapsed. German dominance stirred unease. The creation of a single currency, the euro, was bungled. The admission of former Communist states spurred large migrant movements. The European welfare state was strained. Resentments multiplied.

Technology accelerated globalization, pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in Asia but also offshoring millions of European jobs. Societies disaggregated. For each City honcho receiving a daily Christmas delivery from Amazon Prime there was some poor sod out there in Nowheresville working a precarious warehouse nightshift packaging stuff.

Britain, too, now has its “flyover country,” a nationalist heartland distant from the metropolis. This is how globalization divides the world.

Boris Johnson understood, in his scurrilous way, that the E.U. had become a perfect scapegoat for Western societies beset by the dilemmas of modernity. Opposed to Brexit early this year, he became its chief advocate, playing on every base instinct. Brexit was a tool, a plaything, never a principle. If he looks so glum in triumph it is because the adrenalin has run out.

There will be no extra $470 million for the National Health Service from European Union savings, after all. Immigration is not about to fall. Some of the regions that voted for Brexit are also those that get most funds from Brussels. “There is now no need for haste,” Johnson says. Oh, really? “We are part of Europe, our children and our grandchildren will continue to have a wonderful future as Europeans,” he says. Oh, please!

If Johnson becomes prime minister in the fall, he will be an unelected leader, just like all those “unaccountable” high rollers in Brussels. When he tries to extricate Britain from the union, he will face a hostile Parliament. Last time I checked, Britain was a parliamentary, not direct, democracy. So perhaps there is still hope. If words mean their opposite, as they do in Johnson’s mouth, anything is possible. Europa is worth the fight.

The union, for all its failings, did not deserve to be betrayed by a huckster. It will not die because of this imbecilic vote, but something broke — a form of optimism about humankind, the promise of 1989.

My children will not inherit the Europe I hoped for. I look at my hands and see my father’s emerging, the veins now more pronounced. Life feels diminished. Some things are unavoidable. This was not.

Blow and Collins

June 23, 2016

In “Trump, Champion of the Downtrodden? Ha!” Mr. Blow says his speech was garbage, pure and simple — false and flimsy, an effort to paint himself as an advocate for the people who loathe him most.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary Gossip Redux,” says a book with little credibility is digging up the shards of the 1990s.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a meandering, fact-challenged speech — read from a teleprompter, no less — that framed him and the Republican Party as champions of America’s women and racial, ethnic and L.G.B.T. minorities. I laughed out loud, repeatedly.

Trump continues to make the incredible claim that his religion-based anti-Muslim policies on immigration and refugees would be good for members of the L.G.B.T. communities because many of those people come from countries with brutally anti-gay records.

As Trump put it: “I only want to admit people who share our values and love our people. Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death.”

What? Not only has Trump never specified a values-based exemption to his Muslim ban, but also how on earth would a values test be administered? And where is the specific proof that Clinton explicitly “wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death”?

Who is buying that nonsense? I know, I know, a disturbingly large percentage of the electorate, but still: This is just a string of lies stitched together with a silver thread.

At another point, Trump said that Clinton “took millions” from countries that “pushed oppressive Shariah law” or otherwise “horribly abuse women and the L.G.B.T. citizens” while not disclosing that, as CNN reported last week:

“[Trump], too, has financial ties to some of the same companies. From licensing his name to a golf club in Dubai to leasing his suburban New York estate to former Libyan strongman Muammar el-Gaddafi, Trump has launched several new business ventures connected to Middle Eastern countries since 2000.”

This man gives new meaning to the word hypocrisy.

But he didn’t stop there. He also framed himself as the best candidate for African-Americans (a group he once said he hated counting his money) and Hispanics (even though he has labeled many Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals).

Trump said of Clinton:

“She has pledged to grant mass amnesty and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement, and thus create totally open borders for the United States. The first victims of her radical policies will be poor African-American and Hispanic workers who need jobs. They’re also the ones she will hurt the most, by far.”

He continued:

“She can’t claim to care about African-American and Hispanic workers when she wants to bring in millions of new low-wage earners to compete against them.”

This is the epitome of the politics of public division that seeks to pit one part of the electorate against the other, a way of making starving dogs fight for scraps. It’s revolting and un-American — not only the liberal vision of America, but also the conservative vision of America as articulated by Paul Ryan in 2011 when he was hammering President Obama for engaging in what he thought was class warfare.

At the time, Ryan told The Heritage Foundation:

“The perfection of our Union, especially our commitment to equality of opportunity, has been a story of constant striving to live up to our Founding principles. This is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, ‘In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.’ ”

Ryan continued:

“The American Idea is not tried in times of prosperity. Instead, it is tested when times are tough: when the pie is shrinking, when businesses are closing, and when workers are losing their jobs. Those are the times when America’s commitment to equality of opportunity is called into question. That’s when the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns — when many in Washington use the politics of division to evade responsibility for their failures and to advance their own narrow political interests.”

Who is now exploiting fear and envy, Speaker Ryan? Oh yeah, the man you’ve endorsed.

The question that ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Ryan earlier this month still lingers in search of a sufficient answer:

“You’ve said, in explaining why you’re standing by your endorsement of Mr. Trump, what matters more to you than anything are our core principles. But what core principle is more important to the party of Lincoln than stepping up against racism?”

Trump ended his specious speech with a string of baseless boasts about all the fairy-tale, utopian improvements that a Trump presidency would somehow magically induce. One of those boasts was that “inner cities” — invariably a term of art in American politics for poor minority neighborhoods — “which have been horribly abused by Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, will finally, finally, finally be rebuilt.”

Again, what on earth does “rebuilt” mean? Never mind. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything specific, or have any policy substance, but rather simply to sound positive and impressive.

Trump’s speech was garbage, pure and simple. Not only was it too often false, it was also flimsy, an effort to paint himself as a champion of the people who loathe him most.

Maybe the people who support him despise Clinton more than they cherish the truth, but for those who can see this man’s naked bigotry for what it is, this speech fell like seeds on a stony place. Nothing will come of it.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

I am so excited to tell you that we’re returning to the question of whether or not Hillary Clinton threw a vase at her husband in the White House.

Really, this one hasn’t come up for about 20 years. But Gary Byrne says he saw the pieces! In a box! Byrne is a former Secret Service officer who has written a tell-all book, “Crisis of Character,” about the (horrible/embarrassing/appalling) things he purportedly witnessed during the Bill Clinton presidency.

It’s coming out next week to what’s supposed to be a big rollout in the conservative media. Donald Trump has been twittering about it, and he quoted from it in his speech on Wednesday. (That was the speech in which the new, measured Trump said Clinton “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” whose “decisions spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched.”)

Byrne was a low-ranking officer who could never have gotten near enough to the Clintons to see all the things he says he knew firsthand. His juiciest anecdotes are just a rehash of old rumors. “One must question the veracity and content of any book which implies that its author played such an integral part of so many (claimed) incidents,” said the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service, which issued a denunciation.

This is typical of what concerned citizens are going through this year. We ought to be diligently examining the downside of Hillary’s history as part of our civic duties. But having Trump on the other side of the ledger makes Travelgate and the Goldman Sachs speeches seem sort of irrelevant. “Crisis of Character” is supposed to give us an insight into the old White House messes, but it’s written by a guy who has doubts about whether Vince Foster really killed himself.

One of the legends Byrne rakes up is that Hillary mistreated her security detail. (He claims the first lady’s bullying drove some of his comrades to alcohol, drugs, prostitutes or — this is a little unusual — performance enhancers.) This is old gossip, but not everyone agrees.

“Those stories have always kind of been out there. I don’t know why; she’s more than pleasant,” said a higher-ranking agent who had been on the Clinton security detail. “I spent close to two years with her — most days, to be honest. I never found Mrs. Clinton to be anything but professional.”

Speaking in a phone interview, on the condition of anonymity, the agent said Hillary tended to get irritable mainly when the agents pushed people out of the way when she was walking, or stopped traffic for her when she was driving: “She’s just kind of someone who wants to swim with the fish. She didn’t like royal treatment.”

Although the book is being promoted as a cautionary tale about Hillary’s character, beyond the rudeness stories there’s actually only one juicy anecdote about her. That’s the vase-throwing story. It’s been around almost since the Clintons arrived in Washington, although the object being hurled has traditionally been described as a lamp.

I remember going home to Ohio a few weeks after the inauguration and telling it to my mother, who had already heard it on Rush Limbaugh. Several months later, Katie Couric went on a tour of the White House with the first lady and asked her to “point out just where you were when you threw the lamp at your husband.”

“Well, you know … I’m looking for that spot, too,” Hillary replied.

Gossip is, in part, an expression of public anxiety — people speculated, endlessly, about which politicians might be secretly gay back when there was an overriding fear of homosexuality, and before that, we had periodic rumors about presidential candidates with “Negro blood.” It’s possible the Hillary-lamp stories stemmed from nervousness about a first lady who intended to wield actual political power in the job.

As time went on, a Bible and “punches” were added to the things that Hillary was rumored to have thrown at her husband. Then 23 years later a former Secret Service officer, writing a tell-all book about people he barely glimpsed in the course of duty, breathlessly announced he had once spotted a telltale box full of vase shards. (“The rumors were true.”)

Most of the Byrne book is actually devoted to the sex escapades of Bill Clinton. There’s one bit about an alleged affair with a woman who’s not alive to defend herself. Beyond that, it’s likely that those of us who were around for the Monica Lewinsky era know as much as Byrne does about the subject. We’ve already been there. The country has already demonstrated that it is prepared to accept leaders with stupendously imperfect personal lives if they get us where we want to go in public.

But I vote that if Hillary threw a vase, more power to her.


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