Archive for the ‘Bobo’ Category

It’s Bobo time again…

September 26, 2017

Well, the title pretty much sums up what Bobo’s peddling today.  He’s extruded something called “The Abbie Hoffman of the Right: Donald Trump” in which he gurgles that Trump is winning at shredding the dominant American culture.  Yes, it’s as wrong-headed as the title suggests, and “gemli” from Boston will have a rebuttal.  Here’s Bobo:

It has to be admitted that Donald Trump is doing exactly what he was elected to do.

He was not elected to be a legislative president. He never showed any real interest in policy during the campaign. He was elected to be a cultural president. He was elected to shred the dominant American culture and to give voice to those who felt voiceless in that culture. He’s doing that every day.

What’s troubling to me is that those who are the targets of his assaults seem to have no clue about what is going on. When they feel the most righteous, like this past weekend, they are actually losing and in the most peril.

Let me try to explain what I think is happening:

After World War II the Protestant establishment dominated the high ground of American culture and politics. That establishment eventually failed. It tolerated segregation and sexism, led the nation into war in Vietnam and became stultifying.

So in the late 1960s along came a group of provocateurs like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and the rest of the counterculture to upend the Protestant establishment. People like Hoffman were buffoons, but also masters of political theater.

They never attracted majority support for their antics, but they didn’t have to. All they had to do was provoke, offend the crew-cut crowd, generate outrage and set off a cycle that ripped apart the cultural consensus.

The late 1960s were a time of intense cultural conflict, which left a lot of wreckage in its wake. But eventually a new establishment came into being, which we will call the meritocratic establishment.

These were the tame heirs to Hoffman and Rubin. They were well educated. They cut their moral teeth on the civil rights and feminist movements. They embraced economic, social and moral individualism. They came to dominate the institutions of American society on both left and right.

Hillary Clinton is part of this more educated cohort. So are parts of the conservative establishment. If you’re reading this newspaper, you probably are, too, as am I.

This establishment, too, has had its failures. It created an economy that benefits itself and leaves everybody else out. It led America into war in Iraq and sent the working class off to fight it. It has developed its own brand of cultural snobbery. Its media, film and music industries make members of the working class feel invisible and disrespected.

So in 2016, members of the outraged working class elected their own Abbie Hoffman as president. Trump is not good at much, but he is wickedly good at sticking his thumb in the eye of the educated elites. He doesn’t have to build a new culture, or even attract a majority. He just has to tear down the old one.

That’s exactly what he’s doing. Donald Trump came into a segmenting culture and he is further tearing apart every fissure. He has a nose for every wound in the body politic and day after day he sticks a red-hot poker in one wound or another and rips it open.

Day by day Trump is turning us into a nation of different planets. Each planet feels more righteous about itself and is more isolated from and offended by the other planets.

The members of the educated class saw this past weekend’s N.F.L. fracas as a fight over racism. They felt mobilized and unified in that fight and full of righteous energy. Members of the working class saw the fracas as a fight about American identity. They saw Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin try to dissuade Alejandro Villanueva, a three-time combat veteran, from celebrating the flag he risked his life for. Members of this class also felt mobilized, unified and full of righteous energy.

I don’t know which planet is bigger, or which would win an election, but that frankly doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Trump is shredding the culture and ending the dominance of the meritocratic establishment.

He continually goes after racial matters in part because he’s a bigot but also in part because multiculturalism is the theology of the educated class and it’s the leverage point he can most effectively use to isolate the educated class from everyone else.

He is so destructive because his enemies help him. He ramps up the aggression. His enemies ramp it up more, to preserve their own dignity. But the ensuing cultural violence only serves Trump’s long-term destructive purpose. America is seeing nearly as much cultural conflict as it did in the late 1960s. It’s quite possible that after four years of this Trump will have effectively destroyed the prevailing culture. The reign of the meritocratic establishment will be just as over as the reign of the Protestant establishment now is

Of course Donald Trump is a buffoon. Buffoonery is his most effective weapon. Because of him, a new culture will have to be built, new values promulgated and a new social fabric will have to be woven, one that brings the different planets back into relation with one another.

That’s the work of the next 20 years.

Words fail me…  Thank goodness they don’t fail “gemli:”

“I told you so, says Mr. Brooks. You children of the ‘60s embraced buffoons like Hoffman and Rubin, people who ignored just authority, offended the conservative establishment, protested ill-considered wars, fought for racial equality and women’s rights, and thought pot should be legal. If they had been around a bit later, they’d have probably occupied Wall Street, the ungrateful hippies.

Sounds like the Obama era to me. But Brooks wags his finger, and says these anti-war, socially aware defenders of economic freedom ultimately led us into Iraq, wrecked the economy and feathered their own nests.

Huh? What he’s describing is the Bush/Cheney era, when ignorance flourished, tax cuts were for the wealthy, health care was throttled by insurance companies and the low-information voter reigned supreme.

Brooks sideswipes multiculturalism as the theology of the educated class. He makes meritocracy sound like a bad thing, as if what’s important is not what you know, like those snobbish, Obama-style elites, but who you are. What’s bred in the bone is what matters.

Somehow, the low-info crowd who put a destructive moron in the White House is the fault of liberals. So Brooks scolds us with exasperated glee. Now there’s chaos, and we’ll have to build a new world order all over again. So long, meritocracy. Adios, multicultural whiners.

Hello, stupid people, says Brooks. Thanks for wrecking this experiment in liberal democracy. We’ll take it from here.”

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Brooks and Krugman

September 22, 2017

In “The Coming War on Business” Bobo babbles that a quarter century ago, Sam Francis was championing the things that got Donald Trump elected last year.  Sam Francis was a crank and a racist, so I guess he’s a good precursor for Trump…  Prof. Krugman, in “Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies,” says Graham-Cassidy says a lot about the Republican Party, none of it good.  Here’s Bobo:

The only time I saw Sam Francis face-to-face — in the Washington Times cafeteria sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s — I thought he was a crank, but it’s clear now that he was at that moment becoming one of the most prescient writers of the past 50 years. There’s very little Donald Trump has done or said that Francis didn’t champion a quarter century ago.

In a series of essays for conservative magazines like Chronicles, Francis hammered home three key insights. The first was that globalization was screwing Middle America. The Cold War had just ended, capitalism seemed triumphant and the Clinton years seemed to be an era of broad prosperity. But Francis stressed that the service economy was ruining small farms and taking jobs from the working class.

His second insight was that the Republican and conservative establishment did not understand what was happening. He railed against the pro-business “Economic Men” who thought G.D.P. growth could solve the nation’s problems, and the Washington Republicans, who he thought were infected with the values of the educated elites.

In 1991, when his political mentor, Pat Buchanan, was contemplating a presidential bid, Francis told him to break with the conservative movement. “These people are defunct,” Francis told Buchanan. “Go to New Hampshire and call yourself a patriot, a nationalist, an America Firster, but don’t even use the word ‘conservative.’ It doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

His third insight was that politics was no longer about left versus right. Instead, a series of smaller conflicts — religious versus secular, nationalist versus globalist, white versus nonwhite — were all merging into a larger polarity, ruling class versus Middle America.

“Middle American groups are more and more coming to perceive their exploitation at the hands of the dominant elites. The exploitation works on several fronts — economically, by hypertaxation and the design of a globalized economy dependent on exports and services in place of manufacturing; culturally, by the managed destruction of Middle American norms and institutions; and politically, by the regimentation of Middle Americans under the federal leviathan.”

Middle American voters, he wrote, were stuck without a party, appalled by pro-corporate Republican economic policies on the one hand and liberal cultural radicalism on the other. They swung to whichever party seemed most likely to resist the ruling class, but neither party really provided a solution. “A nationalist reaction is almost inevitable and will probably assume populist form when it arrives. The sooner it comes the better.”

The Buchanan campaign was the first run at what we now know as Trumpian populism. In a profile of Francis called “The Castaway,” Michael Brendan Dougherty smartly observed that Buchanan and Francis weren’t just against government, they were against the entire cultural hegemony of the ruling class.

Francis wrote a wickedly brilliant 1996 essay on Buchanan, “From Household to Nation”: “The ‘culture war’ for Buchanan is not Republican swaggering about family values and dirty movies but a battle over whether the nation itself can continue to exist under the onslaught of the militant secularism, acquisitive egoism, economic and political globalism, demographic inundation, and unchecked state centralism supported by the ruling class.”

Francis urged Buchanan to run an unorthodox campaign (of the sort Trump ended up running), and was ignored. “If Buchanan loses the nomination, it will be because his time has not yet come,” Francis wrote. The moment would end up coming in 2016, 11 years after Francis’ death.

Francis’ thought was infected by the same cancer that may destroy Trumpism. Francis was a racist. His friends and allies counseled him not to express his racist views openly, but people like that always go there, sooner or later.

The Civil War was an open wound for many in his circle, and in 1994 Francis told a conference, “The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”

He was fired by The Washington Times and cast out of the conservative movement by William F. Buckley and others.

When you look at today’s world through the prism of Francis’ work, a few things seem clear: Trump is not a one-time phenomenon; the populist tide has been rising for years. His base sticks with him through scandal because it’s not just about him; it’s a movement defined against the so-called ruling class. Congressional Republicans get all tangled on health care and other issues because they l don’t understand their voters. Finally, Trump may not be the culmination, but merely a way station toward an even purer populism.

Trump is nominally pro-business. The next populism will probably take his ethnic nationalism and add an anti-corporate, anti-tech layer. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple stand for everything Francis hated — economically, culturally, demographically and nationalistically.

As the tech behemoths intrude more deeply into daily life and our very minds, they will become a defining issue in American politics. It wouldn’t surprise me if a new demagogue emerged, one that is even more pure Francis.

Yeah, Bobo, one that is even more pure fascist, wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.

Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good.

The Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low, created a three-legged stool: regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, a requirement that individuals have adequate insurance (and thus pay into the system while healthy) and subsidies to make that insurance affordable. For the lowest-income families, insurance is provided directly by Medicaid.

Graham-Cassidy saws off all three legs of that stool. Like other Republican plans, it eliminates the individual mandate. It replaces direct aid to individuals with block grants to states, under a formula that sharply reduces funding relative to current law, and especially penalizes states that have done a good job of reducing the number of uninsured. And it effectively eliminates protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Did Graham-Cassidy’s sponsors know what they were doing when putting this bill together? Almost surely not, or they wouldn’t have produced something that everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows anything about health care warns would cause chaos.

It’s not just progressives: The American Medical Association, the insurance industry and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have all warned that markets would be destabilized and millions would lose coverage.

How many people would lose insurance? Republicans are trying to ram the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office has time to analyze it — an attempt that is in itself a violation of all previous norms, and amounts to an admission that the bill can’t bear scrutiny. But C.B.O. has analyzed other bills containing some of Graham-Cassidy’s provisions, and these previous analyses suggest that it would add more than 30 million people to the ranks of the uninsured.

Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and the bill’s other sponsors have responded to these critiques the old-fashioned way — with lies.

Both Cassidy and Graham insist that their bill would continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that will come as news to the A.M.A., Blue Cross and everyone else who has read the bill’s text.

Cassidy has also circulated a spreadsheet that purports to show most states actually getting increased funding under his bill. But the spreadsheet doesn’t compare funding with current law, which is the relevant question. Instead, it shows changes over time in dollar amounts.

That’s actually a well-known dodge, one that Republicans have been using since Newt Gingrich tried to gut Medicare in the 1990s. As everyone in Congress — even Cassidy — surely knows, such comparisons drastically understate the real size of cuts, since under current law spending is expected to rise with inflation and population growth.

Independent analyses find that most states would, in fact, experience serious cuts in federal aid — and everyone would face huge cuts after 2027.

So we’re looking at an incompetently drafted bill that would hurt millions of people, whose sponsors are trying to sell it with transparently false claims. How is it that this bill might nonetheless pass the Senate?

One answer is that Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy in any way possible, no matter how many American lives they ruin in the process.

Another answer is that most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. This is especially true on health care, where they never tried to understand why Obamacare looks the way it does, or how to devise a nonvicious alternative. Vox asked a number of G.O.P. senators to explain what Graham-Cassidy does; the answers ranged from incoherence to belligerence to belligerent incoherence.

I’d add that the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. The trick of converting federal programs into block grants, then pretending that this wouldn’t mean savage cuts, was central to every one of Paul Ryan’s much-hyped budgets. The trick of comparing dollar numbers over time to conceal huge benefit cuts has, as I already noted, been around since the 1990s.

In other words, Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans.

Will this awful bill become law? I have no idea. But even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. will remain.

It’s sort of a pre-existing condition, and it’s poisoning America.

As Charlie Pierce at Esquire says, they are the mole people.

Bobo and Bruni

September 19, 2017

Because obviously nothing much important is going on in the nation Bobo and Mr. Bruni have decided to look elsewhere for column fodder.  Bobo, he of the failed marriage, is burbling on about Maslow and marriage.  In “When Life Asks For Everything” he gurgles that two models of human development involve self, with one transcending it and the other actualizing it.  Mr. Bruni, on the other hand, has his panties in a wad over “The Shameful Embrace of Sean Spicer at the Emmys.”  Here’s Bobo:

I’d like to offer you two models of human development.

The first is what you might call The Four Kinds of Happiness. The lowest kind of happiness is material pleasure, having nice food and clothing and a nice house. Then there is achievement, the pleasure we get from earned and recognized success. Third, there is generativity, the pleasure we get from giving back to others. Finally, the highest kind of happiness is moral joy, the glowing satisfaction we get when we have surrendered ourselves to some noble cause or unconditional love.

The second model is Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs. In this conception, we start out trying to satisfy our physical needs, like hunger or thirst. Once those are satisfied we move up to safety needs, economic and physical security. Once those are satisfied we can move up to belonging and love. Then when those are satisfied we can move up to self-esteem. And when that is satisfied we can move up to the pinnacle of development, self-actualization, which is experiencing autonomy and living in a way that expresses our authentic self.

The big difference between these two schemes is that The Four Kinds of Happiness moves from the self-transcendence individual to the relational and finally to the transcendent and collective. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, on the other hand, moves from the collective to the relational and, at its peak, to the individual. In one the pinnacle of human existence is in quieting and transcending the self; in the other it is liberating and actualizing the self.

Most religions and moral systems have aimed for self-quieting and, figuring that the great human problem is selfishness. But around the middle of the 20th century, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and others aimed to liberate and enlarge the self. They brought us the self-esteem movement, humanistic psychology, and their thinking is still very influential today.

For example, on Tuesday one of America’s leading marriage researchers, Eli J. Finkel, publishes an important book called “The All-or-Nothing Marriage.” It’s quite a good book, full of interesting insights on contemporary marriage. But it conceives marriage completely within the Maslow frame.

In this conception, a marriage exists to support the individual self-actualization of each of the partners. In a marriage, the psychologist Otto Rank wrote, “one individual is helping the other to develop and grow, without infringing too much on the other’s personality.” You should choose the spouse who will help you elicit the best version of yourself. Spouses coach each other as each seeks to realize his or her most authentic self.

“Increasingly,” Finkel writes, “Americans view this definition as a crucial component of the marital relationship.”

Now I confess, this strikes me as a cold and detached conception of marriage. If you go into marriage seeking self-actualization, you will always feel frustrated because marriage, and especially parenting, will constantly be dragging you away from the goals of self.

In the Four Happiness frame, by contrast, marriage can be a school in joy. You might go into marriage in a fit of passion, but, if all works out, pretty soon you’re chopping vegetables side by side in the kitchen, chasing a naked toddler as he careens giddily down the hall after bath -time, staying up nights anxiously waiting for your absent teenager, and every once in a while looking out over a picnic table at the whole crew on some summer evening, feeling a wave of gratitude sweep over you, and experiencing a joy that is greater than anything you could feel as a “self.”

And it all happens precisely because the self melded into a single unit called the marriage. Your identity changed. The distinction between giving and receiving, altruism and selfishness faded away because in giving to the unit you are giving to a piece of yourself.

It’s not just in marriage, but in everything, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has always pointed toward a chilly, unsatisfying version of self-fulfillment. Most people experience their deepest sense of meaning not when they have placidly met their other needs, but when they come together in crisis.

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman’s life was fraught with every insecurity when he marched with Dr. King in Selma, but, he reported: “We felt connected, in song, to the transcendental, the ineffable. We felt triumph and celebration. We felt that things change for the good and nothing is congealed forever. That was a warming, transcendental spiritual experience. Meaning and purpose and mission were beyond exact words.”

In one of his many interesting data points, Finkel reports that starting around 1995, both fathers and mothers began spending a lot more time looking after their children. Today, parents spend almost three times more hours in shared parenting than parents in 1975 did. Finkel says this is an extension of the Maslow/Rogers pursuit of self-actualization.

I’d say it’s evidence of a repudiation of it. I’d say many of today’s parents are moving away from the me-generation ethos and toward covenant, fusion and surrendering love.

None of us lives up to our ideals in marriage or anything else. But at least we can aim high. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs too easily devolves into self-absorption. It’s time to put it away.

We’ll draw the veil of charity over that.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

I’m an awards-show geek who usually spends the morning after the Emmys or Oscars nattering about who was unjustly robbed, who was unwisely dressed and whether it’s a felony in Hollywood to consume more than 300 calories a meal, because it sure looks that way.

But that’s not my banter or my mood today, because what I and anyone else who tuned in to Hollywood’s latest self-congratulatory orgy on Sunday saw wasn’t good fun. It was bad news — a ringing, stinging confirmation that fame truly is its own reward and celebrity really does trump everything and redeem everyone.

Object of ridicule or object of reverence: Is there a difference? Not if you’re a household name, not if you’re a proven agent of ratings and not if you’re likely to deliver more of them. Our commander in chief took that crude philosophy to heart and rode it all the way to the White House. Sean Spicer took a page from the president and then a bow on the Emmys stage.

Not exactly a bow, and there are Emmys production folks and television industry figures who are telling themselves that during his fleeting appearance at the ceremony, Spicer was being slyly demeaned, not sanitized.

What bunk. The message of his presence was not only that we can all laugh at his service and sycophancy in the Trump administration, but that he’s welcome to laugh with us.

What an adventure you had, Sean! What a hoot you were! Here’s your invitation to the after-party. Of course it’s a plus-one. You’re Spicey!

For anyone who missed the show or hasn’t caught wind of the brouhaha since, Spicer came onto the stage behind the kind of podium that Melissa McCarthy used in her impersonations of him and told the Emmys host, Stephen Colbert, “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period — both in person and around the world.”

His words alluded, obviously, to his fictitious claim — at his very first news conference as the White House press secretary — about the crowds for Trump’s inauguration. But that claim wasn’t merely ludicrous. It was precisely and perfectly emblematic of Trump’s all-out, continuing assault on facts and on truth itself. And it signaled Spicer’s full collaboration in that war, which is arguably the most dangerous facet of Trump’s politics, with the most far-reaching, long-lasting consequences.

Reportedly, Colbert himself had the idea to include Spicer in the Emmys, and that’s especially rich, as the Brits like to say. On his late-night talk show, Colbert has flamboyantly mined his ostensible contempt for Trump and outrage over the president’s misdeeds to find a spark that was missing from the program and a viewership that had eluded it.

On top of which, it was Colbert, years ago, who coined the term “truthiness,” pointedly exposing — and skewering — politicians’ self-servingly cavalier relationship with reality.

Truthiness was a pale, wan forebear of Trump’s pathology, distilled in Spicer’s inauguration boast. But at the Emmys, Colbert abetted Spicer’s image overhaul and probably upped Spicer’s speaking fees by letting him demonstrate what a self-effacing sport he could be. The moment went viral, and I suppose that’s the point. You grab the eyeballs however you can. Trump taught America that, too.

This is bigger than any one awards show, as many outraged observers have smartly tweeted and as I examined in a recent column about the hasty and successful gold rush by people who have earned renown or notoriety — I’m not sure those nouns are so distinct from each other anymore — as a result of their time with Trump.

More than ever, someone who arouses curiosity or makes you gape can monetize that as easily as someone who inspires admiration can profit from your genuine regard. Fascination comes in many shades, and at this morally addled moment in America, the bright ones and the dark ones are almost equally lucrative.

So Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci and Corey Lewandowski are all graduating to greater recognition and riches, never mind that they willingly promoted, ignored or sugarcoated actions and pronouncements by Trump that went well beyond the established norms of partisan politics.

Spicer and Lewandowski will be fellows at Harvard, never mind their volitional submission to someone whose lack of character, grace and basic maturity was just affirmed anew by his retweet of a video of him hitting a golf ball into Hillary Clinton and knocking her over.

By teaming with Trump, they stood at the apex of the government, in an intense spotlight. By surviving him, they’re reaping the same dividends accorded the former aides of far nobler politicians. There’s no discernment, not at Harvard and not in the entertainment world, where self-conscious liberalism and promulgations of virtue routinely take a back seat to any story line, casting decision or gag that’s guaranteed to seize attention.

Both Harvard and Hollywood are probably trying to shed the tag of elitism, and Harvard is no doubt reasoning that to close itself off from this president’s enablers is to forfeit an opportunity to understand why so many Americans voted from Trump.

But there are other, better ways to make that gesture and explore that phenomenon, ways that don’t play down and pretty up the ugliness of Trump’s ascent, ways that don’t bestow rewards on operatives who stomached stuff and peddled wares that no responsible patriot, regardless of his or her political leanings, should.

The embrace of Trump’s alumni says that finagling proximity to power, getting your face on TV and having your name trend on Twitter are accomplishments in and of themselves and will always pay off. Sure, some catcalls will come your way. But that’s nothing compared with a cameo at the Emmys.

Bobo, solo

August 29, 2017

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How Trump Kills the G.O.P.  It apparently just suddenly dawned on him that the Republican Party has become a vehicle for white identity and racial conflict.  What a revelation!  Some of us, however, have known that for 40 years or so.  “William” from Syracuse will have a few things to say.  Here’s Bobo:

It’s ironic that race was the issue that created the Republican Party and that race could very well be the issue that destroys it.

The G.O.P. was founded to fight slavery, and through most of its history it had a decent record on civil rights. A greater percentage of congressional Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act than Democrats.

It’s become more of a white party in recent years, of course, and adopted some wrongheaded positions on civil rights enforcement, but it was still possible to be a Republican without feeling like you were violating basic decency on matters of race. Most of the Republican establishment, from the Bushes to McCain and Romney, fought bigotry, and racism was not a common feature in the conservative moment.

Between 1984 and 2003 I worked at National Review, The Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and The Weekly Standard. Most of my friends were Republicans.

In that time, I never heard blatantly racist comments at dinner parties, and there were probably fewer than a dozen times I heard some veiled comment that could have suggested racism. To be honest, I heard more racial condescension in progressive circles than in conservative ones.

But the Republican Party has changed since 2005. It has become the vehicle for white identity politics. In 2005 only six percent of Republicans felt that whites faced “a great deal” of discrimination, the same number of Democrats who felt this. By 2016, the percentage of Republicans who felt this had tripled.

Recent surveys suggest that roughly 47 percent of Republicans are what you might call conservative universalists and maybe 40 percent are what you might call conservative white identitarians. White universalists believe in conservative principles and think they apply to all people and their white identity is not particularly salient to them. White identitarians are conservative, but their white identity is quite important to them, sometimes even more important than their conservatism.

These white identitarians have taken the multicultural worldview taught in schools, universities and the culture and, rightly or wrongly, have applied it to themselves. As Marxism saw history through the lens of class conflict, multiculturalism sees history through the lens of racial conflict and group oppression.

According to a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, for example, about 48 percent of Republicans believe there is “a lot of discrimination” against Christians in America and about 43 percent believe there is a lot of discrimination against whites.

I’d love to see more research on the relationship between white identity politics and simple racism. There’s clear overlap, but I suspect they’re not quite the same thing. Racism is about feeling others are inferior. White identitarianism is about feeling downtrodden and aggrieved yourself.

In the P.R.R.I. survey, for example, roughly as many Republicans believe Muslims, immigrants and trans people face a lot of discrimination as believe whites and Christians do. According to a Quinnipiac poll, 59 percent of those in the white working class believe white supremacist groups are a threat to the country.

But three things are clear: First, identity politics on the right is at least as corrosive as identity politics on the left, probably more so. If you reduce the complex array of identities that make up a human being into one crude ethno-political category, you’re going to do violence to yourself and everything around you.

Second, it is wrong to try to make a parallel between Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter. To pretend that these tendencies are somehow comparable is to ignore American history and current realities.

Third, white identity politics as it plays out in the political arena is completely noxious. Donald Trump is the maestro here. He established his political identity through birtherism, he won the Republican nomination on the Muslim ban, he campaigned on the Mexican wall, he governed by being neutral on Charlottesville and pardoning the racialist Joe Arpaio.

Each individual Republican is now compelled to embrace this garbage or not. The choice is unavoidable, and white resentment is bound to define Republicanism more and more in the months ahead. It’s what Trump cares about. The identity warriors on the left will deface statues or whatever and set up mutually beneficial confrontations with the identity warriors on the right. Things will get uglier.

And this is where the dissolution of the G.O.P. comes in. Conservative universalists are coming to realize their party has become a vehicle for white identity and racial conflict. This faction is prior to and deeper than Trump.

When you have an intraparty fight about foreign or domestic issues, you think your rivals are wrong. When you have an intraparty fight on race, you think your rivals are disgusting. That’s what’s happening. Friendships are now ending across the right. People who supported Trump for partisan reasons now feel locked in to support him on race, and they are making themselves repellent.

It may someday be possible to reduce the influence of white identity politics, but probably not while Trump is in office. As long as he is in power the G.O.P. is a house viciously divided against itself, and cannot stand.

And many of us pray that they go the way of the Whigs.  Here’s “William” from Syracuse:

“I guess Mr Brooks is asking us to forgot the race baiting use of William (Willie) Horton by the George HW Bush campaign or the call to arms of the “great silent majority” by Richard Nixon or Pat Buchanan’s 1992 primary campaign that defined the culture wars and culminated in his fiery speech at the year’s Republican convention.

Trump is the natural and logical heir to the party envisioned by republican leaders like Nixon, Buchanan, Gingrich, Atwater and yeah even the Bushes. This line of thought goes back over 50 years not 12.

There are just fewer of us who remember that.”

Bobo and Krugman

August 25, 2017

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “This American Land.”  He gurgles that the nation’s identity has been shaped by nature, by how our wilderness molds, inspires and binds us.  Of course, Mein Fubar and his merry gang are trying their damndest to do away with them…  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have something to say.  Prof. Krugman gets to the heart of the matter in “Trump and Pruitt, Making America Polluted Again,” where he says their environmental legacy will literally be toxic.  Here’s Bobo:

We’re living in the middle of a national crisis of solidarity — rising racial bitterness, pervasive distrust, political dysfunction. So what are the resources we can use to pull ourselves together? What can we draw upon to tell a better American story than the one Donald Trump tells, one that will unite us instead of divide us, and yield hopeful answers instead of selfish ones?

One resource is the land. Throughout our history, the American identity has been shaped by nature, by how our wilderness molds, inspires and binds us. Up until now, most U.S. presidents have somehow been connected to nature. Washington surveyed, T.R. hunted, Reagan and Bush cleared brush. Trump is unusual in that he seems untouched by wilderness, by the awe and humility that comes from the encounter with nature. He only drives around golf courses, which, though sometimes lovely, are dominated, artificial forms of nature.

From the nation’s founding, Americans had a sense that their continent’s vast and beautiful abundance gave their nation a unifying destiny and mission. The land made them feel apart from Europe — their manners simpler, their admiration for practical work more fervent and their ambitions more epic:

“A European, when he first arrives, seems limited in his intentions as well as in his views,” Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur wrote, “but he very suddenly alters his scale; two hundred miles formerly appeared a very great distance, it is now but a trifle. He no sooner breathes our air than he forms schemes and embarks on designs he never would have thought of in his own country.”

The abundance mentality did not lead to decadence, but to optimism, a sense that there was room for all to spread out. It nurtured a future-minded mentality — seeing the present from the vantage point of the future.

“It requires but a small portion of the gift of discernment for anyone to foresee that providence will erect a mighty empire in America,” Samuel Adams wrote, at a time when America was 13 scraggly colonies hugging one coast. This job, constructing a new order for the ages, gave generations of Americans a sense of purpose, something to devote their lives to.

The biggest thing nature did was offer ideals. Different Americans came up with different character types for how to engage with nature. Each type offered a model for how to live an admirable life.

According to one type, character was forged by tilling the land; according to another it was forged by being tested by the land; and in another it was formed by being cleansed by the land. These types wove together to form the American mythos.

The first ideal was the Steward. This is the small yeoman farmer and craftsman who lives close to the soil — self-reliant, upright, humble before creation and bonded to his local community.

“The name of our proper connection to the earth is ‘good work,’” Wendell Berry wrote, “for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing. Good work is always modestly scaled.”

The second ideal was the Pioneer. This is the person who pushes against the wilderness and develops skill, courage and virility. This is the daring innovator who ushers progress by venturing to the edge of the known.

“Life consists with wildness,” Thoreau decreed. “The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him. One who pressed forward incessantly and never rested from his labors, who grew fast and made infinite demands on life, would always find himself in a new country or wilderness, and surrounded by the raw material of life. He would be climbing over the prostrate stems of primitive forest-trees.”

The third ideal was the Elevated Spirit. This is the person who slips off the conformist materialism of commercial society and is both purified and enlarged by nature’s grandeur. This is John Muir in Yosemite, Ansel Adams in the Grand Canyon.

Such an awakened soul often comes back singing with Walt Whitman, filled with electric love for the enlarged individual, celebrating the infinite variety of life, feeling part of an endless and ancient web of connections: “I will plant companionship thick as trees along all the rivers of America,/and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,/I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other’s necks,/By the love of comrades.”

These days I often ask people what percentage of our nation’s problems can be solved through policy and politics. Most people say that most of America’s problems are pre-political. What’s needed is a revival of values, fraternity and a binding American story.

I don’t know all the ways that revival of spirit can come about, but even in the age of the driverless car and Reddit, I suspect some of the answers are to be found in reconnecting with our ancient ideals and reconnecting with the land.

Sweet Mother of God, what drivel.  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“Imagine Donald Trump hiking in the Grand Tetons or on the Appalachian Trail…or swimming in the ocean on Cape Cod or in a country lake….or riding an Iowa farm tractor or standing side-by-side with this country’s Latino farm workers picking the nation’s crops for market.

Impossible on all counts.

Not only does Donald Trump have no connection to American ideals, he has no connection to American land, water or air…..except for land soiled by one of his golden skyscrapers or putting greens or a Confederate monument, water enriched with deregulated pollution, and sky with a HUGE Trump jet stuck in the middle of it.

Trump and his Environmental Pollution Agency will ‘connect’ with America’s land by drilling into it, bulldozing it, mining it, burning it and letting the waste flow downstream and out the industrial chimney of unfettered greed.

Instead of farming our great land with solar farms, wind farms, geothermal farms, tidal farms and alternative energy farms and jobs like a modern visionary, Donald Trump is soiling it with filthy 19th century coal.

Just the other day, Trump and Scott Pruitt ordered National Academy of Sciences researchers to stop work on an independent evaluation of health effects from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Nature has no meaning to America’s 300-alarm Presidential fire.

It’s all one big Trump Toilet to our Polluter-In-Chief.

Mother Earth is all we have, and all our Assaulter-In-Chief wants to do is grab her by the pudendum.”

Next up we have Prof. Krugman, who needs to sit Bobo down and, using very simple words, explain to him why he is such an ass:

Efforts to kill Obamacare have failed, at least for now. Tax “reform” — which really means big tax cuts for the rich — faces doubtful prospects. Indeed, these prospects may have become even more doubtful thanks to Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: Her now infamous Instagram rant may open at least a few voters’ eyes to the contempt “populist” Donald Trump’s inner circle really feels for the little people.

So many observers are asking whether Trump can restart his stalled agenda. But that turns out to be a bad question, in a couple of ways.

First, Trump doesn’t really have an agenda beyond “winning.” He has instincts and prejudices, but no interest in the details, or even the broad outlines, of policy. For example, it’s obvious that he never had any idea what was in his own party’s health care plan. And he has definitely shown no interest in turning his populist rhetoric into anything concrete.

As a result, whatever personal feuds Trump may have with the Republican establishment, that establishment — the same interest groups and ideologues who’ve been driving G.O.P. positions for decades — is setting his administration’s policy agenda.

Which brings me to my second point: While the legislative agenda does indeed appear stalled, a lot of what those interest groups want doesn’t require legislation, and is anything but stalled. This is especially true for environmental policy, where decisions about how to interpret and enforce laws already on the books can have a huge impact.

So Trump’s true legacy may well be defined not by the laws he does or more likely doesn’t pass, but by his decision to put Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt effectively acted as a servant, not of the public, but of polluting industries. That’s not an accusation; it’s confirmed by his own email trail.

Now, at a time when much of the Trump administration seems paralyzed by lack of leadership and key personnel, Pruitt is firing on all cylinders — but not because he’s making the E.P.A. more effective. On the contrary, he’s engaged in sabotage from the top, moving quickly to undermine his own agency’s mission — not just its efforts against climate change, but its role in protecting the environment across the board.

Trump won’t make America great again, but Pruitt, who clearly has Trump’s full backing, can do a lot to make it polluted again.

This is an unpopular agenda, or it would be if people knew about it.

The improvement in air and water quality since the E.P.A. was founded in 1970 is one of America’s great policy success stories. It’s also largely unsung.

When Donald Trump was young, New York’s air was filthy, and killer smogs sometimes killed hundreds; meanwhile, New York’s own governor described the Hudson as “one great septic tank.” But Trump probably doesn’t remember that or realize that regulation made the difference, and neither do many voters.

True, that could change quickly if people realized that the relatively clean air and water they take for granted was being put at risk. Think of how support for the Affordable Care Act surged once people realized that coverage for millions might really be taken away. There would be a similar but even bigger surge in support for environmental protection if, say, Republicans tried to repeal the Clean Water Act.

As I said, however, Pruitt can do a lot of harm without changing the law. He can, for example, reverse the ban on a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists say may damage children’s nervous systems. Or he can move to scrap a rule that would limit heavy-metal contamination from power-plant wastewater.

And he can cripple enforcement of the rules he doesn’t undo simply by working with Trump to starve his own agency of personnel and funds. The Trump budget released in May won’t actually become law, but it was an indication of priorities — and it called for cutting funding for the E.P.A. by 31 percent, more than any other agency.

Individually, no one of these actions is likely to be treated as front-page news, especially given everything else going on. Cumulatively, however, they will kill or cripple large numbers of Americans — for that is what pollution does, even if the damage is gradual and sometimes invisible.

By the way, if you’re wondering whether an anti-environmental agenda will at least be good for job creation, the answer is no, it won’t. Coal jobs, in particular, aren’t coming back no matter how much leeway we give corporations to blow the tops off mountains and dump toxins in waterways. This agenda will, however, be worth billions to certain campaign donors.

So don’t say that the administration’s agenda is stalled. Some parts are, but other parts are moving right along. When it comes to environmental policy, Trump will definitely change America — and his legacy will literally be toxic.

And once again I’m glad that I’m A Old and won’t have to choke on the air.

Solo Bobo

August 22, 2017

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “What Moderates Believe.”  He babbles that instead of ideology, moderation is a way of coping with the complexity of the world.  “Gemli” from Boston will have a few words to say.  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump is not the answer to this nation’s problems, so the great questions of the moment are: If not Trump, what? What does the reaction to Trump look like?

For some people, the warriors of the populist right must be replaced by warriors of the populist left. For these people, Trump has revealed an ugly authoritarian tendency in American society that has to be fought with relentless fervor and moral clarity.

For others, it’s Trump’s warrior mentality itself that must be replaced. Warriors on one side inevitably call forth warriors on the other, and that just means more culture war, more barbarism, more dishonesty and more dysfunction.

The people in this camp we will call moderates. Like most of you, I dislike the word moderate. It is too milquetoast. But I’ve been inspired by Aurelian Craiutu’s great book “Faces of Moderation” to stick with this word, at least until a better one comes along.

Moderates do not see politics as warfare. Instead, national politics is a voyage with a fractious fleet. Wisdom is finding the right formation of ships for each specific circumstance so the whole assembly can ride the waves forward for another day. Moderation is not an ideology; it’s a way of coping with the complexity of the world. Moderates tend to embrace certain ideas:

The truth is plural. There is no one and correct answer to the big political questions. Instead, politics is usually a tension between two or more views, each of which possesses a piece of the truth. Sometimes immigration restrictions should be loosened to bring in new people and new dynamism; sometimes they should be tightened to ensure national cohesion. Leadership is about determining which viewpoint is more needed at that moment. Politics is a dynamic unfolding, not a debate that can ever be settled once and for all.

Politics is a limited activity. Zealots look to the political realm for salvation and self-fulfillment. They turn politics into a secular religion and ultimately an apocalyptic war of religion because they try to impose one correct answer on all of life. Moderates believe that, at most, government can create a platform upon which the beautiful things in life can flourish. But it cannot itself provide those beautiful things. Government can create economic and physical security and a just order, but meaning, joy and the good life flow from loving relationships, thick communities and wise friends. The moderate is prudent and temperate about political life because he is so passionate about emotional, spiritual and intellectual life.

Creativity is syncretistic. Voyagers don’t just pull their ideas from the center of the ideological spectrum. They believe creativity happens when you merge galaxies of belief that seem at first blush incompatible. They might combine left-wing ideas about labor unions with right-wing ideas about local community to come up with a new conception of labor law. Because they are syncretistic, they are careful to spend time in opposing camps, always opening lines of communication. The wise moderate can hold two or more opposing ideas together in her mind at the same time.

In politics, the lows are lower than the highs are high. The harm government does when it screws up — wars, depressions — is larger than the benefits government produces when it does well. Therefore the moderate operates from a politics of skepticism, not a politics of faith. He understands that most of the choices are among bad options (North Korea), so he prefers steady incremental reform to sudden revolutionary change.

Truth before justice. All political movements must face inconvenient facts — thoughts and data that seem to aid their foes. If you try to suppress those facts, by banning a speaker or firing an employee, then you are putting the goals of your cause, no matter how noble, above the search for truth. This is the path to fanaticism, and it always backfires in the end.

Beware the danger of a single identity. Before they brutalize politics, warriors brutalize themselves. Instead of living out several identities — Latina/lesbian/gun-owning/Christian — that pull in different directions, they turn themselves into monads. They prioritize one identity, one narrative and one comforting distortion.

Partisanship is necessary but blinding. Partisan debate sharpens opinion, but partisans tend to justify their own sins by pointing to the other side’s sins. Moderates are problematic members of their party. They tend to be hard on their peers and sympathetic to their foes.

Humility is the fundamental virtue. Humility is a radical self-awareness from a position outside yourself — a form of radical honesty. The more the moderate grapples with reality the more she understands how much is beyond our understanding.

Moderation requires courage. Moderates don’t operate from the safety of their ideologically pure galleons. They are unafraid to face the cross currents, detached from clan, acknowledging how little they know.

If you have elected a man who is not awed by the complexity of the world, but who filters the world to suit his own narcissism, then woe to you, because such a man is the opposite of the moderate voyager type. He will reap a whirlwind.

Christ, what a load of horse pucky.  I love the “If you have elected” bit — actually, Bobo, Mein Fubar lost the popular vote.  Here’s what “gemli” has to say:

“There might have been a time when political moderation meant something, but those times ended long ago. These days, moderation means opting for a political solution that ensures a moderate number of women have back-alley abortions, or imprisons no more than, say, ten percent of an entire minority population for non-violent drug crimes, or accepts that just a few million of the old, sick and poor will have no health care.

We know a lot more than we did a generation or two ago, and moderation and knowledge are incompatible. When you know that gay people are simply ordinary human beings and not disgusting immoral monsters who wantonly flaunt God’s laws, you can’t watch them get turned out of businesses or prevent them from bonding with the people they love.

We can’t opt for a moderate amount of global climate catastrophe, by drawing the line when Florida is under water, or when a storm of the century occurs more often than once a week.

Moderation was nowhere to be found when Barack Obama was president, and the opposition party stonewalled his every moderate initiative. And yet we’re currently watching a Congress full of moderate Republicans having trouble distancing themselves from a crotch-grabbing narcissistic megamoron who’s defending neo-Nazis, blaming their dead victims and threating nuclear war with North Korea.

There is only one way to characterize what has become of the United States, and that’s to say we’ve gone moderately insane as a nation.”

Bobo and Bruni

August 15, 2017

Bobo has decided to tell us all about “How to Roll Back Fanaticism.”  He gurgles that modesty is the most powerful answer. It means having the courage to see the world as complicated and progress as a product of balancing competing truths.  Just like Mein Fubar, right Bobo?  Cripes…  Mr. Bruni says “President Trump Cannot Redeem Himself” and that his new words on Charlottesville — muted and late — weren’t enough.  Here’s Bobo, followed by a very brief comment by “JBC” from Indianapolis:

We’re living in an age of anxiety. The country is being transformed by complex forces like changing demographics and technological disruption. Many people live within a bewildering freedom, without institutions to trust, unattached to compelling religions and sources of meaning, uncertain about their own lives. Anxiety is not so much a fear of a specific thing but a fear of everything, an unnamable dread about the future. People will do anything to escape it.

Donald Trump is the perfect snake oil salesman for this moment. He lacks inwardness and therefore is terrified by the possibility of anxiety. He has been escaping self-scrutiny his whole life and has become a genius at the self-exculpating rationalization. He took a nation beset by uncertainty and he gave it a series of “explanations” that were simple, crude, affirming and wrong.

Trump gave people a quick pass out of anxiety. Everything could be blamed on foreigners, the idiotic elites. The problems are clear, and the answers are easy. He has loosed a certain style of thinking. The true link between the Trump administration and those pathetic loons in Charlottesville is not just bigotry, but also conspiracy mongering.

In the White House you have pseudo-intellectuals like Steve Bannon who think the world is secretly controlled by the “deep state.” You have memos like the one written by the recently fired Rich Higgins, positing a massive worldwide conspiracy involving the A.C.L.U., the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Nations and global Marxism. The alt-right, which has emerged in support of the Trump administration, is marked by the same conspiratorial epistemology. It provides explanations for complex events that allow its followers to avoid anxiety. The leaders of the alt-right claim to possess superior understanding that pierces through the myths that blind common mortals.

The world is secretly controlled by the globalists. The Sandy Hook school shooting never happened. There’s a child abuse ring run by Clintonites out of a pizzeria in Northwest D.C. All the ambiguities of life can be explained by pointing to the malevolent webs of secret power that only you — you precious, superior few — can see and understand.

From here it’s a short leap to those losers in Charlottesville. If the alt-right thinks the globalists secretly and malevolently control society, the neo-Nazis go back to the original version and believe that a conspiracy of Jewish bankers does. For them, tribalism is not only a way to feel some vestige of pride in their own lonely selves, it’s also an explanatory tool. The world can be a bewildering place, but not if you see it as a righteous war between whites and blacks, between straights and gays. The neo-Nazis are not the first group to discover that war is a force that can give an empty life meaning, even a race war.

The age of anxiety inevitably leads to an age of fanaticism, as people seek crude palliatives for the dizziness of freedom. I’m beginning to think the whole depressing spectacle of this moment — the Trump presidency and beyond — is caused by a breakdown of intellectual virtue, a breakdown in America’s ability to face evidence objectively, to pay due respect to reality, to deal with complex and unpleasant truths. The intellectual virtues may seem elitist, but once a country tolerates dishonesty, incuriosity and intellectual laziness, then everything else falls apart.

The temptation is simply to blast the neo-Nazis, the alt-right, the Trumpkins and the rest for being bigoted, vicious and hate-filled. And some of that is necessary. The boundaries of common decency have to be defined.

But throughout history the wiser minds have understood that anger and moral posturing are not a good antidote to rage and fanaticism. Competing vitriols only build on each other.

In fact, the most powerful answer to fanaticism is modesty. Modesty is an epistemology directly opposed to the conspiracy mongering mind-set. It means having the courage to understand that the world is too complicated to fit into one political belief system. It means understanding there are no easy answers or malevolent conspiracies that can explain the big political questions or the existential problems. Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths — between freedom and security, diversity and solidarity. There’s always going to be counter-evidence and mystery. There is no final arrangement that will end conflict, just endless searching and adjustment.

Modesty means having the courage to rest in anxiety and not try to quickly escape it. Modesty means being tough enough to endure the pain of uncertainty and coming to appreciate that pain. Uncertainty and anxiety throw you off the smug island of certainty and force you into the free waters of creativity and learning. As Kierkegaard put it, “The more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety.”

Over the next few months I’m hoping to write several columns on why modesty and moderation are superior to the spiraling purity movements we see today. It seems like a good time for assertive modesty to take a stand.

And now here’s “JBC,” destroying Bobo in 24 words:

“So basically Brooks wants Obama back, a man who embodied the modesty and respect for the complexity of the world in which we live.”

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

We saw Donald Trump’s true colors on Saturday, when he was given the chance — a ready-made moment for presidential grace — to denounce the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., and instead found wrongdoing “on many sides.” That was Trump minus the pressure and the planning. That was his initial instinct, his first impulse.

We saw a different palette at a lectern in the White House on early Monday afternoon, but it was pure artifice, and muted and unpersuasive because of that.

Sure, he got some of the brush strokes right: the succinct assertion that “racism is evil”; the specific callout of the “K.K.K.” and “white supremacists”; the remembrance — finally — of Heather Heyer, who died as a consequence of the precise hatred that it took him more than two days to name.

But we should note that just hours before he stepped up to that lectern, supposedly to make things right, he used that infernal Twitter account of his to taunt a black chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, for resigning from an administration advisory board. That was unscripted Trump. And he was peeved and hostile, not penitential and healing.

We should also note that he began his brief statement on Monday by congratulating himself on the American economy and implicitly taking credit for what he said were a million new jobs. This is what our self-consumed, ungenerous president prefers to do — brag. He thumps his chest when he should be on his knees.

Atone? Adjust? Inspire? These are outside of his character and beyond his ken. We can’t hope for any better, not at this point. And neither can his fellow Republicans, who find themselves at another juncture — maybe the most important one yet — where they must decide whether to continue showing him allegiance or carve out greater space between him and them. They’re no doubt judging the politics of it all and looking to the numbers. How I wish they’d judge the morality of it all and look to their souls.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d rather that Trump said what he did on Monday than maintain his silence, which was breathtaking, galling — and spectacularly revealing. He needed to speak, and to say some of the very words he did.

But the length of his delay upped the ante on his delivery, which was passionless. He barely cleared the bar of grudging. He fell miles short of stirring:

“Justice will be delivered.” “No matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws.” “We are all made by the same Almighty God.” “Racism is evil.”

Amen, amen, amen and amen, but this preacher’s sermons have been wildly inconsistent and as often designed to divide as to unite. That was his path to power, one much uglier than most politicians travel, and his election didn’t do what so many of the Republicans who reluctantly supported him hoped that it would and make him a bigger person.

No, Trump is the yardstick by which all other Republicans measure large. He makes you yearn for leaders you never in your wildest dreams considered yearn-worthy.

When, before Trump, did you find yourself wishing that someone could just summon the courage, clarity and compassion of … Ted Cruz? If only the Texas senator were our president! Back on Saturday, when Trump was still hemming, hawing and hiding, Cruz released a statement superior to what Trump, with more time and the help of many aides, delivered on Monday.

“The Nazis, the K.K.K. and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism and hatred they propagate,” Cruz said. “These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail.”

He was emphatic and eloquent. So were Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. As I heard their voices and read their words, I saw a glimmer of something positive: Trump’s failings are prompting G.O.P. leaders to enunciate certain principles in a clearer and more unequivocal way than they did before. Because of him, they’re drawing lines in the sand — at least semantically.

Of course the winds of opportunism and convenience could wipe out those lines in an instant. Of course Republicans have upbraided Trump before, only to hug him anew.

But there can be no doubt: He’s past the point of hugging. His pretend amends at the White House on Monday didn’t color him warm, cuddly and redeemed. They were just Trump trying to get through another miserable day. And you, Republican members of Congress, have to figure out how your party and the rest of us get through the next miserable years.

Bobo and Krugman

August 11, 2017

Oh, dear, oh dear!  Bobo’s delicate, fragile, white male sensibilities have been wounded.  Time to head to the fainting couch and clutch the pearls.  In “Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.” he moans that his handling of the fallout from James Damore’s memo shows he’s in the wrong job.  There will be 2 rebuttals, one from “LT” in Chicago and one from “gemli” in Boston.  Prof. Krugman, who doesn’t seem to have his panties in a bunch about this, addresses “The Axis of Climate Evil” and says bad faith may destroy civilization.  Here’s Bobo:

There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the C.E.O., Sundar Pichai.

The first actor is James Damore, who wrote the memo. In it, he was trying to explain why 80 percent of Google’s tech employees are male. He agreed that there are large cultural biases but also pointed to a genetic component. Then he described some of the ways the distribution of qualities differs across male and female populations.

Damore was tapping into the long and contentious debate about genes and behavior. On one side are those who believe that humans come out as blank slates and are formed by social structures. On the other are the evolutionary psychologists who argue that genes interact with environment and play a large role in shaping who we are. In general the evolutionary psychologists have been winning this debate.

When it comes to the genetic differences between male and female brains, I’d say the mainstream view is that male and female abilities are the same across the vast majority of domains — I.Q., the ability to do math, etc. But there are some ways that male and female brains are, on average, different. There seems to be more connectivity between the hemispheres, on average, in female brains. Prenatal exposure to different levels of androgen does seem to produce different effects throughout the life span.

In his memo, Damore cites a series of studies, making the case, for example, that men tend to be more interested in things and women more interested in people. (Interest is not the same as ability.) Several scientists in the field have backed up his summary of the data. “Despite how it’s been portrayed, the memo was fair and factually accurate,” Debra Soh wrote in The Globe and Mail in Toronto.

Geoffrey Miller, a prominent evolutionary psychologist, wrote in Quillette, “For what it’s worth, I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate.”

Damore was especially careful to say this research applies only to populations, not individuals: “Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population-level distributions.”

That’s the crucial point. But of course we don’t live as populations; we live our individual lives.

We should all have a lot of sympathy for the second group of actors in this drama, the women in tech who felt the memo made their lives harder. Picture yourself in a hostile male-dominated environment, getting interrupted at meetings, being ignored, having your abilities doubted, and along comes some guy arguing that women are on average less status hungry and more vulnerable to stress. Of course you’d object.

What we have is a legitimate tension. Damore is describing a truth on one level; his sensible critics are describing a different truth, one that exists on another level. He is championing scientific research; they are championing gender equality. It takes a little subtlety to harmonize these strands, but it’s doable.

Of course subtlety is in hibernation in modern America. The third player in the drama is Google’s diversity officer, Danielle Brown. She didn’t wrestle with any of the evidence behind Damore’s memo. She just wrote his views “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” This is ideology obliterating reason.

The fourth actor is the media. The coverage of the memo has been atrocious.

As Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic, “I cannot remember the last time so many outlets and observers mischaracterized so many aspects of a text everyone possessed.” Various reporters and critics apparently decided that Damore opposes all things Enlightened People believe and therefore they don’t have to afford him the basic standards of intellectual fairness.

The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos.

Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.”

That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob.

Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most.

Now, here’s what “LT” from Chicago has to say to Bobo:

“Mr Brooks, as someone paid to express opinions instead of say, writing software, you may be surprised to learn that most companies are not interested in providing a platform for employees to express controversial opinions outside of their job scope.

When such opinions interfere with the employees ability to effectively perform their job they are often asked to leave.

Mr. Damore expressed his thoughts in a way that made leading and working with a diverse team of engineers who may not share his opinion, difficult if not impossible.

You may feel Damore made several good points but Google is not a debating club and Pichai had every right to fire him.

And if next week someone at Apple or Microsoft or Walmart, decides that their company needs to read their valuable thoughts about say, Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve” , perhaps they should remember they are not a columnist before they press send.”

And “gemli” from Boston also had a few thoughts about this:

“Well, there are differences between men and women. I mean, vive la différence! Hubba hubba!

Also, women are supposed to take care of Wally and the Beaver, putter around the kitchen in dresses and high heels and prepare meals for the breadwinner, who’s an executive at a big company that is quite diverse, in that it probably hires black people to run the elevators.

I exaggerate to make a point. I read James Damore’s memo, and I don’t think I was as shocked as a liberal is supposed to be. Then again, I’m a little insensitive to bunny-hugging college kids who need trigger warnings before sensitive topics, like literature and history, are discussed in class.

But I’m not sure what Damore was trying to accomplish in this memo that justified what amounted to juggling nitroglycerine, or why defending himself on right-wing AM radio seemed like the best venue for defending his thesis.

Is Google not making enough technological progress? Is taking over the world being slowed by offices full of hysterical females?

Back when my parents were born, women couldn’t vote. When I was born, the front page of the local newspaper reported that a woman(!) was a jury member in a murder trial. It’s been an uphill slog for women to gain fully human status and a modicum of respect, and it’s alarming that despite so much progress, crotch groping is not a disqualification for the presidency.

Damore needn’t grease the skids. They’re plenty greasy enough.”

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

“It’s Not Your Imagination: Summers Are Getting Hotter.” So read a recent headline in The Times, highlighting a decade-by-decade statistical analysis by climate expert James Hansen. “Most summers,” the analysis concluded, “are now either hot or extremely hot compared with the mid-20th century.”

So what else is new? At this point the evidence for human-caused global warming just keeps getting more overwhelming, and the plausible scenarios for the future — extreme weather events, rising sea levels, drought, and more — just keep getting scarier.

In a rational world urgent action to limit climate change would be the overwhelming policy priority for governments everywhere.

But the U.S. government is, of course, now controlled by a party within which climate denial — rejecting not just scientific evidence but also obvious lived experience, and fiercely opposing any effort to slow the trend — has become a defining marker of tribal identity.

Put it this way: Republicans can’t seem to repeal Obamacare, and recriminations between Senate leaders and the tweeter in chief are making headlines. But the G.O.P. is completely united behind its project of destroying civilization, and it’s making good progress toward that goal.

So where does climate denial come from?

Just to be clear, experts aren’t always right; even an overwhelming scientific consensus sometimes turns out to have been wrong. And if someone offers a good-faith critique of conventional views, a serious effort to get at the truth, he or she deserves a hearing.

What becomes clear to anyone following the climate debate, however, is that hardly any climate skeptics are in fact trying to get at the truth. I’m not a climate scientist, but I do know what bogus arguments look like — and I can’t think of a single prominent climate skeptic who isn’t obviously arguing in bad faith.

Take, for example, all the people who seized on the fact that 1998 was an unusually warm year to claim that global warming stopped 20 years ago — as if one unseasonably hot day in May proves that summer is a myth. Or all the people who cited out-of-context quotes from climate researchers as evidence of a vast scientific conspiracy.

Or for that matter, think of anyone who cites “uncertainty” as a reason to do nothing — when it should be obvious that the risks of faster-than-expected climate change if we do too little dwarf the risks of doing too much if change is slower than expected.

But what’s driving this epidemic of bad faith? The answer, I’d argue, is that there are actually three groups involved — a sort of axis of climate evil.

First, and most obvious, there’s the fossil fuel industry — think the Koch brothers — which has an obvious financial stake in continuing to sell dirty energy. And the industry — following the same well-worn pathindustry groups used to create doubt about the dangers of tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, and more — has systematically showered money on think tanks and scientists willing to express skepticism about climate change. Many — perhaps even most — authors purporting to cast doubt on global warming turn out, on investigation, to have received financial support from the fossil fuel sector.

Still, the mercenary interests of fossil fuel companies aren’t the whole story here. There’s also ideology.

An influential part of the U.S. political spectrum — think the Wall Street Journal editorial page — is opposed to any and all forms of government economic regulation; it’s committed to Reagan’s doctrine that government is always the problem, never the solution.

Such people have always had a problem with pollution: When unregulated individual actions impose costs on others, it’s hard to see how you avoid supporting some form of government intervention. And climate change is the mother of all pollution issues.

Some conservatives are willing to face this reality and support market-friendly intervention to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But all too many prefer simply to deny the existence of the issue — if facts conflict with their ideology, they deny the facts.

Finally, there are a few public intellectuals — less important than the plutocrats and ideologues, but if you ask me even more shameful — who adopt a pose of climate skepticism out of sheer ego. In effect, they say: “Look at me! I’m smart! I’m contrarian! I’ll show you how clever I am by denying the scientific consensus!” And for the sake of this posturing, they’re willing to nudge us further down the road to catastrophe.

Which brings me back to the current political situation. Right now progressives are feeling better than they expected to a few months ago: Donald Trump and his frenemies in Congress are accomplishing a lot less than they hoped, and their opponents feared. But that doesn’t change the reality that the axis of climate evil is now firmly in control of U.S. policy, and the world may never recover.

And again I think God that I’m An Old.

Bobo.

August 8, 2017

Bobo is wailing about “Getting Trump Out of My Brain” and laments that things won’t just snap back to “normal” after Trump’s gone.  “Jasoturner” from Boston will have something to say.  Here’s Bobo:

Last week The Washington Post published transcripts of Donald Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders. A dear friend sent me an email suggesting I read them because they reveal how Trump’s mind works. But as I tried to click the link a Bartleby-like voice in my head said, “I would prefer not to.” I tried to click again and the voice said: “No thanks. I’m full.”

For the past two years Trump has taken up an amazing amount of my brain space. My brain has apparently decided that it’s not interested in devoting more neurons to that guy. There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is more degrading than informative.

Now a lot of people are clearly still addicted to Trump. My Twitter feed is all him. Some people treat the Trump White House as the “Breaking Bad” serial drama they’ve been binge watching for six months. For some of us, Trump-bashing has become educated-class meth. We derive endless satisfaction from feeling morally superior to him — and as Leon Wieseltier put it, affirmation is the new sex.

But I thought I might try to listen to my brain for a change. That would mean trying, probably unsuccessfully, to spend less time thinking about Trump the soap opera and more time on questions that surround the Trump phenomena and this moment of history.

How much permanent damage is he doing to our global alliances? Have Americans really decided they no longer want to be a universal nation with a special mission to spread freedom around the world? Is populism now the lingua franca of politics so the Democrats’ only hope is to match Trump’s populism with their own?

These sorts of questions revolve around one big question: What lessons are people drawing from this debacle and how will those lessons shape what comes next?

It’s clear that Trump is not just a parenthesis. After he leaves things will not just snap back to “normal.” Instead, he represents the farcical culmination of a lot of dying old orders — demographic, political, even moral — and what comes after will be a reaction against rather than a continuing from.

For example, let’s look at our moral culture. For most of American history mainline Protestants — the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and so on — set the dominant cultural tone. Most of the big social movements, like abolitionism, the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement, came out of the mainline churches.

As Joseph Bottum wrote in “An Anxious Age,” mainline Protestants created a kind of unifying culture that bound people of different political views. You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman. Leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama hewed to a similar mainline standard for what is decent in public life and what is beyond the pale.

Over the last several decades mainline Protestantism has withered. The country became more diverse. The WASPs lost their perch atop society. The mainline denominations lost their vitality.

For a time, we lived off the moral capital of the past. But the election of Trump shows just how desiccated the mainline code has become. A nation guided by that ethic would not have elected a guy who is a daily affront to it, a guy who nakedly loves money, who boasts, who objectifies women, who is incapable of hypocrisy because he acknowledges no standard of propriety other than that which he feels like doing at any given moment.

Donald Trump has smashed through the behavior standards that once governed public life. His election demonstrates that as the unifying glue of the mainline culture receded, the country divided into at least three blocks: white evangelical Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than caritas; secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism, environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and realist nationalism that gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group solidarity.

If Trump falls in disgrace or defeat, and people’s partisan pride is no longer at stake, I hope that even his supporters will have enough moral memory to acknowledge that character really does matter. A guy can promise change, but if he is dishonest, disloyal and selfish, the change he delivers is not going to be effective or good.

But where are people going to go for a new standard of decency? They’re not going to go back to the old WASP ideal. That’s dead. Trump revealed the vacuum, but who is going to fill it and with what?

I could describe a similar vacuum when it comes to domestic policy thinking, to American identity, to America’s role in the world. Trump exposes the void but doesn’t fill it. That’s why the reaction against Trump is now more important than the man himself.

One way or another I’m gonna wash that man right outta what’s left of my hair.

Oh, go eat a yoooge plate of salted rat dicks, Bobo.  You can certainly afford to ignore Trump, and only wail about what he’s doing.  You’re certain that YOU had nothing whatsoever to do with “those” Republicans and “their” policies, right?  RIGHT???  Here’s what “Jasoturner” in Boston had to say:’

“Awfully weak tea. Brooks has a tendency to write very passive, almost victimized columns when his precious GOP ideology fails to the point where denial or obfuscation is infeasible. Rather than “wash Mr. Trump right outta [his] hair”, Brooks would do well to look at the grotesque ideological trends in the GOP that allowed Trump to rise to power. Would it embarrass or shame Mr. Brooks to admit his complicity? Probably. But confession, they say, is good for the soul. It would certainly be good for his readers to get some hard headed thinking instead of this scribbling.”

Brooks and Cohen

August 1, 2017

Bobo has decided to discuss the time “Before Manliness Lost Its Virtue.”  He gurgles that the ancient Greeks wouldn’t recognize the Trump administration’s concept of manliness.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have a response.  Mr. Cohen, in “Goodbye to the Scaramouche,” discusses a president with a codpiece and a former Marine Corps general trying to rein him in.  Here’s Bobo:

The Trump administration is certainly giving us an education in the varieties of wannabe manliness.

There is the slovenly “I don’t care what you think” manliness of Steve Bannon. There’s the look-at-me-I-can-curse manliness that Anthony Scaramucci learned from “Glengarry Glen Ross.” There is the affirmation-hungry “I long to be the man my father was” parody of manliness performed by Donald Trump. There are all those authentically manly Marine generals Trump hires to supplement his own. There’s Trump’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin and the firing of insufficiently manly Reince Priebus.

With this crowd, it’s man-craving all the way down.

It’s worth remembering, when we are surrounded by all this thrusting masculinity, what substantive manliness once looked like. For example, 2,400 years ago the Greeks had a more fully developed vision of manliness than anything we see in or around the White House today.

Greek manliness started from a different place than ours does now. For the ancient Greeks, it would have been incomprehensible to count yourself an alpha male simply because you can run a trading floor or sell an apartment because you gilded a faucet handle.

For them, real men defended or served their city, or performed some noble public service. Braying after money was the opposite of manliness. For the Greeks, that was just avariciousness, an activity that shrunk you down into a people-pleasing marketer or hollowed you out because you pursued hollow things.

The Greeks admired what you might call spiritedness. The spirited man defies death in battle, performs deeds of honor and is respected by those whose esteem is worth having.

The classical Greek concept of manliness emphasizes certain traits. The bedrock virtue is courage. The manly man puts himself on the line and risks death and criticism. The manly man is assertive. He does not hang back but instead wades into any fray. The manly man is competitive. He looks for ways to compete with others, to demonstrate his prowessand to be the best. The manly man is self-confident. He knows his own worth. But he is also touchy. He is outraged if others do not grant him the honor that is his due.

That version of manliness gave Greece its dynamism. But the Greeks came to understand the problem with manly men. They are hard to live with. They are constantly picking fights and engaging in peacock displays.

Take the savage feuding that marks the Trump White House and put it on steroids and you get some idea of Greek culture. The Greek tragedies describe cycles of revenge and counter-revenge as manly men and women wreak death and destruction on each other.

So the Greeks took manliness to the next level. On top of the honor code, they gave us the concept of magnanimity. Pericles is the perfect magnanimous man (and in America, George Washington and George Marshall were his heirs). The magnanimous leader possesses all the spirited traits described above, but he uses his traits not just to puff himself up, but to create a just political order.

The magnanimous man tries to master the profession of statecraft because he believes, with the Athenian ruler Solon, that the well-governed city “makes all things wise and perfect in the world of men.” The magnanimous leader tries to beautify his city, to arouse people’s pride in and love for it. He encourages citizens to get involved in great civic projects that will give their lives meaning and allow everybody to partake in the heroic action that was once reserved for the aristocratic few.

The magnanimous man has a certain style. He is a bit aloof, marked more by gravitas than familiarity. He shows perfect self-control because he has mastered his passions. He does not show his vulnerability. His relationships are not reciprocal. He is eager to grant favors but is ashamed of receiving them. His personal life can wither because he has devoted himself to disinterested public service.

The magnanimous man believes that politics practiced well is the noblest of all professions. No other arena requires as much wisdom, tenacity, foresight and empathy. No other field places such stress on conversation and persuasion. The English word “idiot” comes from the ancient Greek word for the person who is uninterested in politics but capable only of running his or her own private affairs.

Today, we’re in a crisis of masculinity. Some men are unable to compete in schools and in labor markets because the stereotype of what is considered “man’s work” is so narrow. In the White House, we have phony manliness run amok.

But we still have all these older models to draw from. Of all the politicians I’ve covered, John McCain comes closest to the old magnanimous ideal. Last week, when he went to the Senate and flipped his thumb down on the pretzeled-up health care bill, we saw one version of manliness trumping another. When John Kelly elbowed out Anthony Scaramucci, one version of manliness replaced another.

The old virtues aren’t totally lost. So there’s hope.

Isn’t it odd that Bobo couldn’t come up with Barack Obama as an example of the magnanimous man…  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“The real lesson of the Trump administration is that it’s giving us a daily education in the fruits of the nihilistic Republican platform of unfettered greed complemented by infinitely cultured American stupidity.

What led us to this obvious catastrophe was 35-plus years of sustained psychopathic right-wing greed while simultaneously drowning the national IQ in a bathtub of God-Guns-Gays, hate radio, Fake News channel and Up Is Down stupidity.

The Republican political platform, fundamentally and comprehensively predicated on excess greed and excess stupidity, was bound to wreck something if left to blossom.

There’s nothing manly about greediness or stupidity, our Moron-In-Chief’s two shining attributes.

In the Art of the Idiot, our Idiot-In-Chief said:

“The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”

Dumber words were never written or spoken.

The fact that 60 million systematically stupified Americans thought it wise to place a lecherous, unlearned, lying Lothario and demonstrated Con Artist grifter in supreme power is evidence not of wannabe manliness, but of real exceptional stupidity.

The word ‘idiot’ means a “person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning”, “simple man, uneducated person, layman”, “ignorant person.”

That Trump is in the Oval Office wreaking national and international stupidity on an hourly basis is the manifest destiny of the Party of Stupid.

Perhaps collapsing the national IQ for cold cash wasn’t such a bright idea after all.”

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

So the Scaramouch, a stock clown figure of old Italian comedy, is goneas White House communications director. Anthony Scaramucci’s foul mouth was never going to pass muster in a White House run by a retired United States Marine Corps general. John Kelly, President Trump’s new chief of staff, duly took care of him.

Scaramucci was perfect right down to his name. The Scaramouch, to quote my Webster’s dictionary, was a “braggart and a poltroon” in the theater that emerged in 16th-century Italy. Boastfulness and cowardice are Trump trademarks, one the other face of the other. In his White House job, Scaramucci communicated stupidity above all.

Good riddance to him. After he’d unloaded his bile, Scaramucci askedus all in a tweet to pray for his family, which seemed a bit rich. Still, I do want to thank the Scaramouch. He came straight from Central Casting. In his total absence of dignity and decorum, his violence and his vulgarity, he was the emblem par excellence of the Trump White House. That reports of his wife filing for divorce surfaced during his brief apotheosis completed the picture. Fast-talking and fatuous, self-important and servile, he embodied the “commedia dell’arte” of Trump’s dysfunctional crew.

The commedia featured larger-than-life stock characters like the Scaramouch. They included deluded old men, devious servants, craven braggarts and starry-eyed lovers. The president, at 71, is clearly a “vecchio,” or elder. He is probably best imagined as the miserly Venetian known as Pantalone wandering around in red breeches with the oversized codpiece of the would-be womanizer.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, fits the bill as the “Dottore,” who, as Jennifer Meagher writes in an essay, is “usually depicted as obese and red-cheeked from drinking.” I’m tempted to offer the role of the belligerent, windy “Il Capitano,” or Captain, to Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, who recently told the BBC that, “The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up.”

The lovers, of course, have to be Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner — they of the almost bloodless perfection — whose doting father complicates their sumptuous lives by bestowing upon them titles and tasks for which they are unqualified. The lovers grow quieter and quieter but are so pale they are unable to blush.

Will Kelly close down the “commedia?” The White House is supposed to run the free world. It’s time for seriousness. The president, busy and colorful and burrowing as a chipmunk, appears to have awoken to some vague desire for discipline that Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus, was unable to provide.

It has to be said, in passing, that Priebus and “cojones” are utter strangers to each other. Ousted, Priebus confused taking the high road — territory unknown to this administration — with gelatinous loyalty to the president who knifed him. It is hard to keep up with these guys. If one tries too hard the urge to take a shower and scrub off the oleaginous ooze becomes overwhelming.

But back to Kelly: I doubt, however tough the new chief of staff may be, that the commedia is at an end. The Scaramouch was just a stand-in for the president he professed to love. The real “braggart and poltroon” sits in the Oval Office. The key to understanding him is probably that oversize codpiece.

What but some profound sense of inadequacy could explain the neediness and the nastiness, the pout and the pettiness, the vanity and the vulgarity, the anger and the aggression? This president gets off on the humiliation of others. He is inhabited by some deep violence to which self-control is a stranger. It is almost painful to watch the degree to which he pursues self-aggrandizement. He confounds masculinity with machismo. As J.K. Rowling put it in a tweet: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”

In a single week, Trump reminded everyone — if a reminder were needed — just how mean he is. He tweeted an announcement that he had reinstated a ban on transgender individuals serving in “any capacity” in the United States armed forces, and suggested during a visit to Suffolk County Community College in New York that he wanted law enforcement to be “rough” on suspects.

The transgender decision (the one Gorka defended to the BBC by exalting the military’s mission to kill people) was, in the words of Stephen Burbank, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, “an engine of malice.” It illustrated how, “In the realm of moral leadership, President Trump is leading a race to the bottom.” The military promptly said policy would remain unchanged until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules. The police department in Suffolk County also pushed back; it would not tolerate brutality.

Multiple forces in American society are pushing back against Trump. But this is the president we have: turbulent, chaotic, boastful, cowardly and violent. He thrives on the commedia that brought the bilious Scaramouch to the White House. Kelly’s task is enormous. Because life is not comedy, much depends on his success: things like war and peace, for example.