Archive for the ‘Bruni’ Category

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

September 28, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom asks “Trump? How Could We?” and says it would be insanity to put him in the White House.  Mr. Cohen. in “Clinton’s Victory Without Breakthrough,” says Trump revealed all of his shortcomings in the debate. But does it matter?  Not to the knuckle-walkers, Roger.  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Sympathy for the Donald:”  What’s a man to do when all is rigged against him?  Gee — maybe seek some competent psychiatric help?  Here’s TMOW:

My reaction to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate can be summarized with one word: “How?”

How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord?

NATO is not a shopping mall; it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who does not know enough “beef” about key policies to finish a two-minute answer on any issue without the hamburger helper of bluster, insults and repetition?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who suggests that the recent spate of cyberattacks — which any senior U.S. intelligence official will tell you came without question from Russia — might not have come from Russia but could have been done by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who boasts that he tries to pay zero federal taxes but then complains that our airports and roads are falling apart and there is not enough money for our veterans?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who claims he was against the Iraq war, because he said he privately told that to his pal Sean Hannity of Fox News — even though he publicly supported the war when it began. Trump is so obsessed with proving his infallibility that he missed scoring an easy debate point for himself by saying, “Yes, I supported the Iraq war as a citizen, but Hillary voted for it as a senator when she had access to the intelligence and her job was to make the right judgment.”

How do we put in the Oval Office someone who says we should not have gone into Iraq, but since we did, “we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form … because the oil was their primary source of income.”

ISIS formed before it managed to pump any oil, and it sustained itself with millions of dollars that it stole from Iraq’s central bank in Mosul. Meanwhile, Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves — 140 billion barrels. Can you imagine how many years we’d have to stay there to pump it all and how much doing so would tarnish our moral standing around the world and energize every jihadist?

How do we put in the Oval Office someone whose campaign manager has to go on every morning show after the debate and lie to try to make up for the nonsense her boss spouted? Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Tuesday morning that when it comes to climate change, “We don’t know what Hillary Clinton believes, because nobody ever asks her.”

Say what? As secretary of state, Clinton backed every global climate negotiation and clean energy initiative. That’s like saying no one knows Hillary’s position on women’s rights.

Conway then went on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and argued that Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, had never created a job and was partly responsible for the lack of adequate “roads and bridges” in our country. When challenged on that by MGM Resorts’s C.E.O., James Murren — who argued that his business was up, that the economy was improving and that Clinton’s job as secretary of state was to create stability — Conway responded that Clinton had nothing to do with any improvements in the economy because “she’s never been president so she’s created no financial stability.”

I see: Everything wrong is Clinton’s fault and anything good is to the president’s credit alone. Silly.

The “Squawk Box” segment was devoted to the fact that while Trump claims that he will get the economy growing, very few C.E.O.s of major U.S. companies are supporting him. Also, interesting how positively the stock market reacted to Trump’s debate defeat. Maybe because C.E.O.s and investors know that Trump and Conway are con artists and that recent statistics show income gaps are actually narrowing, wages are rising and poverty is easing.

The Trump-Conway shtick is to trash the country so they can make us great again. Fact: We have problems and not everyone is enjoying the fruits of our economy, but if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington, D.C., but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance. I see it everywhere I go.

I am not enamored of Clinton’s stale, liberal, centralized view of politics, but she is sane and responsible; she’ll do her homework, can grow in the job, and might even work well with Republicans, as she did as a senator.

Trump promises change, but change that comes from someone who thinks people who pay taxes are suckers and who thinks he can show up before an audience of 100 million without preparation or real plans and talk about serious issues with no more sophistication than your crazy uncle — and expect to get away with it — is change the country can’t afford.

Electing such a man would be insanity.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

About midway through their first debate, Hillary Clinton said of Donald Trump: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

It was one of her best moments, an understated swipe at Trump’s evident lack of preparation for the responsibilities of the Oval Office, and it got to the heart of their often disjointed exchanges: Clinton was measured and assured, if a little too much of a policy wonk at times, while Trump was as erratic and peevish as he has been since the beginning of his campaign.

This has worked for him up to now; it may work still in what has become a close race. A lot of Americans want change; Trump is the political upstart and Clinton the political establishment. Nothing that transpired in the debate will have altered the fact that millions of Americans want rupture not continuity, and they see in Trump the potential for a radical break from politics as usual.

But if Trump’s aim was to come across as presidential, in the sense of possessing judgment and some actual knowledge of issues, he failed. He ranted more than he reasoned. He repeated untruths, and he repeated himself over and over. His core supporters won’t care, of course, but the undecided voters who will decide the election might.

Clinton, for her part, came across as a steady hand, at once patient and resolute. She picked Trump apart on his failure to disclose his tax return, turning on him when he lamented the state of American airports, roads, bridges and tunnels: “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years.” She pilloried his treatment of women to great effect, and led the prickly Trump into a rabbit-hole of tired allegations as she held his long embrace of lies about President Obama’s place of birth up for deserved ridicule. Trump, when he gets defensive, is a bore. This was amply illustrated under Clinton’s fire.

Still, for Clinton, a candidate struggling to overcome distrust and enthuse dubious young Americans, this was a polished rather than breakthrough performance. She delivered all that could be expected of her. But hesitant voters are looking for a glimpse of the unexpected and unscripted in her, a human connection rather than a political one. They will still be waiting.

She was at her worst when she talked about how “independent experts” favor her economic plans over Trump’s and when, more than once, she urged viewers to go to her website for real-time fact checking of her opponent’s words. People were not watching Clinton to be directed to the efforts of Clinton’s staff. They know the Clinton campaign is competent.

Besides, not all Clinton’s facts were straight. Under fire from Trump for her flip-flopping on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — Clinton was a strong supporter before opposing it — she said she had merely “hoped it would be a good deal.” In fact, just as Trump insisted, she had called it “the gold standard” in trade agreements.

“Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts,” Clinton said during this sharp discussion of trade, which constituted Trump’s most effective moment. Clinton’s reversal on the free trade that has, on balance, been good for the American economy for decades has left her vulnerable, defending positions of which she herself is unconvinced. Bernie Sanders pushed her left of her comfort zone on trade, and now she is cornered.

But this was an isolated moment of ascendancy for Trump. Where Clinton dealt effectively with her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state by saying, simply, that it was a mistake, Trump could not utter that word. Mistake and the Republican candidate do not inhabit the same universe.

He repeated the lie that he had initially opposed the Iraq war, denied dismissive statements he made about climate change, blathered about his taxes, displayed complete ignorance of the effectiveness of the Iran nuclear deal, and even strayed into a no-go area by attacking the Federal Reserve. Such was his scattershot incoherence on foreign policy that Clinton’s tired defense of a plodding approach to the ISIS threat — a defense that was utterly unpersuasive — seemed at least grounded in a modicum of bitter experience. Clinton assured American allies that mutual defense treaties would be honored. Trump is plainly convinced he can reinvent the world without studying it, a dangerous delusion.

His case to be president came down to saying it was time that the United States is run by somebody who understands money. But, even if Trump does know his way around money, an uncertain proposition, that is insufficient preparation for leading the free world.

Toward the end, Trump questioned Clinton’s stamina. The response was instant: “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

It was a brilliant dismissal of Trump’s nasty innuendo. In a normal campaign, it might drive home why Clinton is far better prepared to be president. But this is not a normal campaign. Clinton won Monday night, by any conventional reckoning. But whether that makes victory for her on Nov. 8 any more likely is unclear.

And last but not least we have Mr. Bruni:

Go ahead and laugh at Donald Trump’s claims that he was foiled by a finicky microphone on Monday night, but I can relate. When I write a bad column, it’s all my keyboard’s fault.

The other columnists have reliable keyboards. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but they do. Reach your own conclusions. When one of them taps out a beautiful sentence, a beautiful sentence appears on the computer screen, just the way it’s supposed to.

When I try to tap out an even more beautiful sentence — and my sentences are amazing sentences; you can’t believe these sentences — I have to press and bang and hunch closer to the desk and bang even harder and still you never know.

The sentence winds up mangled. It lacks a verb. Or it sprouts an adverb (“bigly,” anyone?) that sounds ridiculous, though I’m not. Readers experience a rant where, really, there was eloquent reflection — or would have been, if not for my keyboard. A “sniffle” sneaks into the equation when there wasn’t any “sniffle” at all. It’s just a nasty trick of that keyboard. A defective keyboard, which the other columnists don’t have.

And the extra effort that this keyboard demands means that I’m dehydrated and have to drink more water than they do. It’s not that I have flop sweat. I’m no Marco Rubio, for crying out loud. It’s not that I lack stamina. I’m no Hillary Clinton.

You’ve read this far and you’re thinking: Dear God, he didn’t prepare for this column. Not a whit. We were warned that he might not, but we dismissed that as expectations-lowering spin, because surely he appreciated the magnitude of the moment, the consequence of his task, an analysis of the first-ever general-election debate between a woman and a circus act. But instead of boning up on the issues, reviewing past debates and crafting a few can’t-miss zingers, he just pumped air into his hair and more air into his head and sauntered into action as if the sheer, inimitable wonder of his presence would be enough.

To which I say: President Obama plays too much golf. And Rosie O’Donnell has been vicious to me. Very vicious.

Patti Solis Doyle. Wolf Blitzer. Sidney Blumenthal.

I like to use proper nouns in poorly explained contexts, even if most readers will have no idea what I’m babbling about.

I like to test my audience’s math skills. Only one of the following four sentences is arithmetically plausible; you tell me which. Clinton has been fighting ISIS her entire adult life. If she hadn’t been involved in the Vietnam War, it would have ended sooner and better. By leading from behind, she enabled Adolf Hitler’s rise. My federal tax rate over the last five years is a negative integer.

I also like to show restraint. There are all sorts of things I could bring up in this column that I’m not going to. I could talk about the candidates’ marital histories. I could summon sexual scandal. But, see, I’m not doing that, because that’s beneath me, though I reserve the right to do it in my next debate column, because it might not be beneath me then.

If there is a next debate column. We’ll see. Rudy Giuliani says I should skip it, because I’m not being treated fairly, and if this journalism thing is rigged against me, I can’t just sniffle and bear it, can I?

I have a club in Palm Beach, investments in Charlotte, property in Chicago. That’s not relevant to the previous sentiment, but I don’t stack my points in some coherent, logical order. That’s what overly programmed, endlessly rehearsed columnists do. Besides which, I like to brag.

I’ve been endorsed by organizations that have never endorsed a columnist before. A few may not even exist. But they see in me something that they haven’t seen in my peers. Just ask Giuliani, though you’ll have to wait your turn. He has live appearances on three different networks over the next two hours, including a medical panel, moderated by Sean Hannity, on the question: “Clinton: Fully Recovered or Drugged Out the Wazoo?”

I don’t need drugs, because I have a great temperament. Great humility, too, but I’d put my temperament above even that. I don’t complain when people gang up on me, and they’re constantly ganging up on me: It’s disgusting how they behave.

Whatever. I wrote a great column anyway. I’m thrilled with this column. All of the polls show that it’s a huge success. Wait, what … they don’t? You must be looking at the wrong polls. Or the pollsters aren’t honest. So many dishonest people out there. Not that I’m complaining.

Friedman and Bruni

September 14, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom, in “Donald Trump’s Putin Crush,” says Trump doesn’t let reality, including the harm the Russian leader has brought to his own people, get in the way of his post-truth politics.  Mr. Bruni considers “Hillary Clinton’s Sick Days” and has a question:  How are her coughing fits more alarming than Donald Trump’s hissy fits?  Here’s TMOW:

When it comes to rebutting Donald Trump’s idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader — “far more than our president has been a leader” — it is hard to top the assessment of Russian-born Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, which The Times’s Andrew Higgins quoted in his story from Moscow: “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal K.G.B. dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”

Indeed, Kasparov’s point cuts to the core of what is so scary about a Trump presidency: Trump is what The Economist has called “the leading exponent of ‘post-truth’ politics — a reliance on assertions that ‘feel true’ but have no basis in fact,” and, sadly, “his brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” When politics becomes “like pro-wrestling,” society pays a huge cost, The Economist added, because any complex explanation of any problem is dismissed as experts just trying “to bamboozle everyone else.”

So Trump just skips from blaming Mexican immigrants for high murder rates, to President Obama for inventing ISIS, to China for creating the concept of global warming, to thousands of Muslims in New Jersey for celebrating 9/11, to Obama for really having been born in Kenya, to an I.R.S. audit for preventing him from showing us his tax returns — which would probably show that he paid no taxes.

Every word of it is a lie that most in his own party won’t call out. Can you imagine the damage Trump could do to the fabric of our democracy if he had the White House pulpit from which to preach his post-truth politics — how it would filter down into public discourse at large and infect every policy debate?

“Donald Trump has not only brought haters into the mainstream, he has normalized hate for a much broader swathe of the population who were perhaps already disaffected but had their grievances and latent prejudices held in check by social norms,” observed Josh Marshall, publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com, in his blog on Saturday. “This isn’t some minor point or critique. It’s a fundamental part of what is at stake in this election, what makes it different from Obama v. Romney. … This election has become a battle to combat the moral and civic cancer Trump has [been] injecting into the body politic.”

Think about the ridiculous trope Trump has been peddling, that if only Obama were as “strong” as Putin. Well, if he were, here are some of the benefits America would enjoy:

A 2015 report in The Moscow Times noted that “life expectancy in Russia has been growing several times slower than in the rest of the world for the past 20 years, according to a research by the U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.” That coincides almost exactly with Putin’s leadership of the country. The article explained, “During the period of 1990-2013 [life expectancy] only grew by 1.8 years in Russia, while the global average number increased by 6.2 years, pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position — between Iraq and North Korea.”

Why don’t we have a leader strong enough to slow gains in the life expectancy of an entire nation?

An investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency released last summer found that Putin’s Russia was operating a state-sponsored doping scheme for four years across the “vast majority” of Summer and Winter Olympic sports. According to a July 18, 2016, BBC report on the investigation, “Russia’s sports ministry ‘directed, controlled and oversaw’ manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.” Scores of Russian athletes were barred from the Rio Olympics as a result.

I get it: A weak president doesn’t dare tamper with his Olympic athletes. A strong president dopes up his Summer and Winter Olympic teams for multiple Games.

Since Putin invaded Ukraine to shore up his faltering domestic popularity, and then got hit with Western economic sanctions, the dollar-ruble exchange rate has gone from around 36 rubles to the dollar to 65 rubles to the dollar. Russia’s economic growth fell 3.7 percent in 2015, and the I.M.F. predicts it will fall 1 percent in 2016. Inflation in Russia doubled to 15.4 percent in 2015, compared with 7.8 percent in 2014. A World Bank report quoted by the BBC in April said “the number of Russians living below the poverty line will grow at its fastest pace in more than 17 years in 2016.”

It takes a strong leader to shrink his currency by 50 percent, double inflation and vastly accelerate poverty in just two years. A weak leader could never do that.

Putin is a leader who is always looking for dignity in all the wrong places — by investing in bullying wars, not in his own people; by jailing and likely poisoning his opponents; and by being so insecure that he just shut Russia’s last independent polling firm after it indicated that many Russians may not vote in the coming parliamentary elections because, among other things, they think they’re “rigged.”

This is the man Donald Trump admires more than our own president.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Before we delve any further into the coughs heard round the world and the swoon that changed history, some perspective:

Running for president isn’t hard. It’s brutal. The oddity isn’t that one of the candidates would succumb to illness and be forced off the trail for a few days. The oddity is that all of the candidates don’t drop like flies.

What we ask of them is less preparation than mortification, physical as well as psychological. Between formal speeches and informal rallies and briefings and fund-raisers and long flights and short bus rides and coffee-shop huddles and state-fairground scrums, they endure 20-hour days in which they cram in twice that many hours of work. They’re miracles of perseverance, so much so that a certain 68-year-old Democratic nominee can get a pneumonia diagnosis and deliver a big (if cloddishly rendered) speech at a fund-raiser that same night.

Their stamina isn’t at issue, just their sanity.

We haven’t learned anything new about Hillary Clinton’s penchant for secrecy. We’ve had it confirmed — for the millionth time. Her self-protection is a perverse form of self-destruction. It’s borderline pathological. But it’s something that most voters accepted or rejected somewhere along the quarter-century timeline from Travelgate to her emails. A roadside crumpling and a round of antibiotics aren’t going to change that.

Her lack of transparency might well be disqualifying if her opponent were the political equivalent of freshly Windexed glass. Her opponent is the political equivalent of a thickly armored car.

Donald Trump won’t show us his taxes. He won’t illuminate his philanthropic activity or the workings of his charity, which, according to David Fahrenthold’s terrific reporting in The Washington Post, operates in a bizarrely self-aggrandizing fashion.

He’s promising more detailed health information and a sit-down with Dr. Oz, who is Trump with a stethoscope, approaching matters of great seriousness with great silliness. (Next up: Judge Judy hears the Trump University lawsuit.)

But what Trump presented previously — a few gushing sentences from a physician who later admitted to ginning them up on the fly — was a Valentine’s Day card masquerading as medicine. I’m surprised there weren’t hearts and Cupids in the margins.

Apart from it, there’s no evidence of Trump as Hercules. More like Nero, with a coterie of sycophants fanning him and peeling his grapes.

He’s the master of phoning in to news shows rather than appearing on set, which would require more exertion. He has often done just one event a day, near an airport, so he can fly home in his plush private jet and sleep in his own comfy bed. He’s the rare exception to the slog I described above. During the primaries, it was huge news when he finally overnighted in a chain hotel in Iowa and, that same weekend, sat through all 60 minutes of a church service. Praise the Lord and pass the Gatorade.

Although his hair refuses to accept it, he’s 70 years old, and if there’s footage out there of him doing the P90X workout, I missed it. I haveseen him playing golf, which isn’t much more aerobically demanding than backgammon.

All of this makes him a singularly ineffective critic of Clinton’s health. And his surrogates and supporters are bungling the case by overstating it. To hear them talk, she’s some sporadically animated cadaver, a mash-up of “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “The Candidate.” They’re going to look ridiculous when she stands sturdily on the debate stage for 90 minutes and speaks in sentences fuller, more coherent and more grammatical than his.

Of course events could unfold differently. She could have a debate so terrible that naysaying about her health is the least of her worries. She could continue to struggle with illness, compromising the intensity with which she stumps. She could shortchange us on the additional medical records that she has rightly pledged to share, yanking her campaign off message yet again. She could have a lurking malady — as could Trump.

But we don’t have any more proof of her physical unfitness for the presidency than we did a week ago. There’s no clear link between the blood clot of 2013 and Sunday’s swoon.

What we have is a stress-aggravated instance of frailty from one of two senior citizens engaged in a marathon. Will it really eclipse the race’s other dynamics?

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 36 percent of respondents said that Trump was qualified to be president. I can’t imagine any one of the other 64 percent reasoning: “He’s ignorant, but so robustlyignorant. A liar, but such a strapping one. Forget those hateful tirades; look at those cholesterol levels.”

I can’t see her coughing fits excusing his hissy fits, which are scarier and harder to cure.

Friedman and Bruni

September 7, 2016

In “We Are All Noah Now” The Moustache of Wisdom says we and our kids are rapidly becoming charged with saving each species’ last pairs.  Mr. Bruni, in “Elites Neglect Veterans,” says the dearth of ex-military students at some colleges is shameful.  Here’s TMOW, writing from Honolulu:

Robert Macfarlane, in his book “Landmarks,” about the connection between words and landscapes, tells a revealing but stunning story about how recent editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (aimed at 7-year-olds) dropped certain “nature words” that its editors deemed less relevant to the lives of modern children. These included “acorn,” “dandelion,” “fern,” “nectar,” “otter,” “pasture” and “willow.” The terms introduced in their place, he noted, included “broadband,” “blog,” “cut-and-paste,” “MP3 player” and “voice-mail.”

While this news was first disclosed in 2015, reading it in Macfarlane’s book still shocks me for what it signifies. But who can blame the Oxford editors for dumping Amazon words for Amazon.com ones? Our natural world is rapidly disappearing. Just how fast was the major topic here last week at the global conference held every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which I participated in along with some 8,000 scientists, nature reserve specialists and environmentalists.

The dominant theme running through the I.U.C.N.’s seminars was the fact that we are bumping up against and piercing planetary boundaries — on forests, oceans, ice melt, species extinctions and temperature — from which Mother Nature will not be able to recover. When the coral and elephants are all gone, no 3-D printer will be able to recreate them.

In short, we and our kids are rapidly becoming the Noah generation, charged with saving the last pairs. (This is no time to be electing a climate-change denier like Donald Trump for president.)

Sylvia Earle, the renowned oceanographer, put it well to a sustainability conference hosted here by the East-West Center alongside the I.U.C.N. meetings. In her lifetime, said Earle, she has felt as if she’s been “witness to the greatest era of discovery and the greatest era of loss” in our planet’s history.

So now, she said, “we are at a crossroads. What we do right now or fail to do will determine the future — not just for us, but for all life on earth.”

Those really are the stakes — there is a reason nature words are being removed from children’s dictionaries. Last week, for instance, The Times reported on a study that revealed how “the African elephant population is in drastic decline, having shrunk about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014. … The deterioration is accelerating: Largely because of poaching, the population is dropping 8 percent a year, according to the Great Elephant Census. … Patricia Awori, an official with the African Elephant Coalition, said, ‘These numbers are shocking.’”

O.K., so you don’t care that your kids may never see an elephant in the wild, only in a zoo. That’s not all. The species extinction rate is now about “1,000 times faster than before the global spread of humanity,” explained the great biodiversity expert E. O. Wilson, another speaker here. “Half of the species described today will be gone by the end of the century, unless we take drastic action.”

These species, he noted, evolved over 3.5 billion years “to create an exquisite and careful balance of interconnected resilience.” These plants and animals and their ecosystems sustain the foundations of life on which we depend. When we lose the trees that maintain watersheds, the coastal mangroves that protect against storm surges, the glaciers that store fresh water and the coral reefs that feed fish, we humans become less resilient. Indeed, strip them all away, said Wilson, “and the world as we know it will unravel.”

The magazine Discover just noted that we’ve been tracking average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces since 1880 — or for 1,639 months. Due to global warming, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2016 was the hottest “of all 1,639 months on record.”

That is why the actress Alison Sudol, an I.U.C.N. good-will ambassador, opened the plenary by observing that our planet is now “under attack” — by us.

“Our vast oceans, full of mysteries and wonders, are thick with plastic and mercury,” she noted. “Rain forests — abundant sources of oxygen and medicine; land of ancient lore and tradition; home to thousands of species of wildlife, many as yet unknown to us — are being plowed down before we have a chance to properly discover what it is we are losing.

“These are lungs of the earth, the oceans and the forests, and we are destroying them. Deeply, desperately, we are hoping someone will do something before it is too late. That someone we are hoping for is you.”

So do we have a plan? Wilson has one — a big, audacious plan. It’s the title of his latest book, “Half-Earth,” a call to action to commit half of the planet’s surface — land and oceans — to protected zones.

Right now, the I.U.C.N. says, close to 15 percent of the earth’s land and 10 percent of its territorial waters are covered by national parks and protected areas. If we protect half the global surface, Wilson argues, the fraction of species protected will be about 85 percent, which would keep life on earth, including the human species, in a safe zone.

Naïve, you say? Not so. Naïve is thinking we humans will survive without the healthy natural systems that got us here. Naïveté is the new realism — or else we, the human species, will become just another bad biological experiment.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

At a special presidential forum on Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will appear back-to-back, take questions from military veterans and talk about how our country treats them.

Wick Sloane’s complaint probably won’t come up, but I wish it would.

Sloane teaches at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and eight years ago, after discovering veterans among his students, he reached out to officials at his own alma maters, Williams College and Yale University, for any guidance they might have about working with this particular group.

“They were bewildered,” he told me, because they’d had so little contact with veterans.

He began collecting data, and for several years now, on Veterans Day, he has published an accounting of how many veterans, among a population of more than two million eligible for federal higher-education benefits, wind up at America’s most elite colleges. It appears on the website Inside Higher Ed, and this is from the first paragraph of his November 2015 tally: “Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; Williams, one.” Harvard didn’t grant his request for information, he said.

The tally noted just two veterans among undergraduates at Duke, one at M.I.T., one at Pomona and zero at Carleton.

“These schools all wring their hands and say, ‘We’d love to have more, but they just don’t apply,’ ” Sloane said. “That’s what offends me. These schools have incredibly sophisticated recruitment teams. They recruit quarterbacks. They fill the physics lab. They visit high schools. How many visits did they make for veterans?”

The schools in question educate only a small percentage of this country’s college students, and their behavior isn’t the most pressing concern for college-minded veterans, who have graduation rates slightly below other students’ and who don’t get adequate guidance about how best to use their government benefits, too much of which go to for-profit institutions with poor records.

But it’s symbolic. It sends a message: about how much we prize veterans; about the potential we see in them.

And not-for-profit private colleges like the ones I mentioned should feel a powerful obligation. They’re exempt from all sorts of taxes. Donations to them are tax-deductible. So they’re getting enormous help from the country.

Do they, in turn, go out of their way to embrace the young men and women — veterans — who have helped the country the most?

Some, yes. Vassar, Wesleyan and Dartmouth are all part of the Posse Veterans Program, which commits them, each year, to admitting 10 veterans who have been identified by the Posse Foundation as people of exemplary character and sufficient academic promise. Vassar was the first on board, four years ago, while Dartmouth just joined.

Deborah Bial, the founder and president of Posse, told me that the program is already developed enough to provide 10 qualified veterans annually to another three colleges, and that elite institutions know about it.

So why haven’t more signed up?

“That’s a great question,” she said.

Some schools have turned to other organizations that, like Posse, try to point veterans to elite colleges. Yale recently entered into such a partnership with the group Service to School; a Yale official told me that the count of veterans among undergraduates has risen to 11 as of this new academic year. He said that it was six last year, out of nearly 5,500 undergraduates, and that Yale had given Sloane the wrong number.

There is also positive change — if not nearly enough — elsewhere. Williams and Pomona each added two veterans this year, bringing their totals to three. M.I.T. is up to four.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” said Beth Morgan, the executive director of Service to School.

And there are elite schools that have been laudably ahead of the curve, including Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Brown, Stanford and U.S.C.

But there are huge discrepancies: The three veterans at Williams — out of about 2,000 students — compares with 33 at Vassar, out of about 2,400.

And there’s evasiveness. A Harvard official said that she’d prefer to give me a combined count of veterans at Harvard College and the Harvard Extension School, a much different entity. I asked for separate numbers, which she then said she couldn’t provide by my deadline.

These institutions pride themselves on trying to reflect America’s diversity, broadening students’ horizons, filling in their blind spots and preparing tomorrow’s leaders, whose decisions could well include matters of war.

For those reasons and more, the schools should be integrating veterans to an extent that some have only just begun to and many still don’t.

Sloane, whose community college has more than 400 veterans out of some 14,000 students, suggested that elite schools commit to at least “as many veterans as freshman football players.” Great idea. I invite Clinton and Trump to echo his call.

Brooks, Bruni, and Krugman

September 2, 2016

Bobo has delivered himself of a whine called “Identity Politics Run Amok” in which he moans that politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.  As usual Bobo will be followed by what “gemli” in Boston had to say to him.  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Crying Wolf, Then Confronting Trump.”  He asks whether Democrats exhausted their alarm before they needed it most.  Prof. Krugman, in “Black Lead Matters,” says Poisoning kids is a partisan matter.  Here, gawd help us, is Bobo:

Once, I seem to recall, we had philosophical and ideological differences. Once, politics was a debate between liberals and conservatives, between different views of government, different views on values and America’s role in the world.

But this year, it seems, everything has been stripped down to the bone. Politics is dividing along crude identity lines — along race and class. Are you a native-born white or are you an outsider? Are you one of the people or one of the elites?

Politics is no longer about argument or discussion; it’s about trying to put your opponents into the box of the untouchables.

Donald Trump didn’t invent this game, but he embodies it. His advisers tried to dress him up on Wednesday afternoon as some sort of mature summiteer. But he just can’t be phony.

By his evening immigration speech he’d returned to the class and race tropes that have defined his campaign: that the American government is in the grips of a rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit; that the American people are besieged by foreigners, who take their jobs and threaten their lives.

It’s not that these two ideas are completely wrong. The rich do have more influence. There are indeed some foreigners who seek to harm us. It is just that Trump (like other race and class warriors) takes these kernels of truth and grows them into a lie.

Trump argues that immigration has sown chaos across middle-class neighborhoods. This is false. Research suggests that the recent surge in immigration has made America’s streets safer. That’s because foreign-born men are very unlikely to commit violent crime.

According to one study, only 2 or 3 percent of Mexican-, Guatemalan- or Salvadoran-born men without a high school degree end up incarcerated, compared with 11 percent of their American-born counterparts.

Trump argues that the flood of immigrants is taking jobs away from unskilled native workers. But this is mainly false, too. There’s an intricate debate among economists about this, but if you survey the whole literature on the subject you find that most research shows immigration has very little effect on native wage or unemployment levels.

That’s because immigrants flow into different types of unskilled jobs. Unskilled immigrants tend to become maids, cooks and farm workers — jobs that require less English. Unskilled natives tend to become cashiers and drivers. If immigrants are driving down wages, it is mostly those of other immigrants.

Trump claims the rich benefit from immigration while everyone else suffers. Doctors get cheap nannies, everyone else gets the shaft.

This is false, too. The fact is, a vast majority of Americans benefit. A study by John McLaren of U.Va. and Gihoon Hong of Indiana University found that each new immigrant produced about 1.2 new jobs, because immigrants are producers and consumers and increase overall economic activity.

A report from the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011. Between 2006 and 2012, over 40 percent of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder.

The cities that are doing best economically work hard to attract new immigrants because the benefits are widely shared. As Ted Hesson points out in The Atlantic, New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles account for about 20 percent of America’s economic output, and in those places, immigrants can make up as much as 44 percent of the total labor supply.

Identity politics distorts politics in two ways. First, it is Manichaean. It cleanly divides the world into opposing forces of light and darkness. You are a worker or an elite. You are American or foreigner.

Seeing this way is understandable if you are scared, but it is also a sign of intellectual laziness. The reality is that people can’t be reduced to a single story. An issue as complex as immigration can’t be reduced to a cartoon. It is simultaneously true that immigration fuels American dynamism and that the mixture of mass unskilled immigration and the high-tech economy threatens to create a permanent underclass.

Second and most important, identity politics is inherently the politics of division. But on most issues — whether it is immigration or the economy or national security — we rise and fall together. Immigration, even a reasonable amount of illegal immigration, helps a vast majority of Americans. An economy that grows at 3 percent would help all Americans.

Identity politics, as practiced by Trump, but also by others on the left and the right, distracts from the reality that we are one nation. It corrodes the sense of solidarity. It breeds suspicion, cynicism and distrust.

Human beings are too complicated to be defined by skin color, income or citizenship status. Those who try to reduce politics to these identities do real violence to national life.

Of course, he had to work in some “both sides do it…”  Here’s what “gemli” had to say about his moaning:

“You know things have gotten out of hand when conservative pundits start telling the truth. The only reason Republicans are upset with Trump is that he lays their message bare, without providing the usual camouflage of finesse and plausible deniability.

Republicans clutch a bible and talk the talk about family values and jobs for Americans. Yet we know immigration isn’t a scourge that is taking jobs from Americans. In 2011 Georgia Republicans tried to put their mouth where their money is and passed laws that prevented immigrants from harvesting crops. Those crops rotted in the fields.

We know Republicans don’t care about family values, or real families for that matter. Just two years ago Republicans accused President Obama of domestic Caesarism and threatened him with impeachment when he issued an executive order to prevent cruel summary deportation of millions of illegal immigrants that would have separated parents from their children.

The right has reviled Mr. Obama as the antiChrist, but in fact he’s the antiTrump. Every decent, compassionate act that Obama has performed, from providing affordable medical care to treating LGBT citizens as human beings, has been met with virulent attacks from so-called compassionate conservatives.

The rich oligarchy that distorts everything for its benefit has every right to feel threatened. All the poisons that lurk in the Republican mud have hatched out, and they have taken the form of Donald Trump.”  Nice “I, Claudius” reference there…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Conservative commentators and die-hard Republicans often brush off denunciations of Donald Trump as an unprincipled hatemonger by saying: Yeah, yeah, that’s what Democrats wail about every Republican they’re trying to take down. Sing me a song I haven’t heard so many times before.

Howard Wolfson would be outraged by that response if he didn’t recognize its aptness.

“There’s enough truth to it to compel some self-reflection,” Wolfson, who was the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2008, told me this week.

In fact, he finds himself thinking about it a whole lot: how extreme the put-downs of political adversaries have become; how automatically combatants adopt postures of unalloyed outrage; what this means when they come upon a crossroads — and a candidate — of much greater, graver danger.

“I worked on the presidential campaign in 2004,” he said, referring to John Kerry’s contest against George W. Bush. He added that he was also “active in discussing” John McCain when he ran for the presidency in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

“And I’m quite confident I employed language that, in retrospect, was hyperbolic and inaccurate, language that cheapened my ability — our ability — to talk about this moment with accuracy and credibility.”

Did Democrats cry wolf so many times before Trump that no one hears or heeds them now?

That’s a question being asked with increasing frequency, though mostly in conservative circles and publications. An essay by Jonah Goldberg in National Review in late July had this headline: “How the Media’s History of Smearing Republicans Now Helps Trump.”

In Commentary, Noah Rothman has repeatedly examined this subject. He wrote back in March that when “honorable and decent men” like McCain and Romney “are reflexively dubbed racists simply for opposing Democratic policies, the result is a G.O.P. electorate that doesn’t listen to admonitions when the genuine article is in their midst.”

“Today,” he added, “they point and shout ‘racist’ into the void, but Democrats only have themselves to blame for the fact that so many on the right are no longer listening.”

I think he’s being more than a bit disingenuous about the potential receptiveness of the right — or the left — to anything that the other side says in this polarized, partisan age. There hasn’t been all that much listening for some time.

Also, the Democratic condemnations of McCain and Romney weren’t as widespread and operatic as the ones of Trump.

And this is a two-way street. Republicans paint a broad spectrum of Democrats as socialist kooks, and Obama has been as strong a magnet for hyperbole as any politician in my lifetime. Let us not forget Dinesh D’Souza’s 2010 book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” or Newt Gingrich’s assertion that “only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior” can you grasp Obama’s method of governing, or Trump’s insistence that Obama produce his American birth certificate.

The sad truth is that we conduct the bulk of our political debate in a key of near-hysteria. And this renders complaints of discrepant urgency, about politicians of different recklessness, into one big, ignorable mush of partisan rancor.

What stands out in this presidential campaign aren’t the alarms that Democrats are sounding about the Republican nominee but the ones that an unusual number of Republican defectors are. That’s what’s unfamiliar. And that’s what’s wounding Trump.

Democrats were indeed dire about Romney, even though many of them, including President Obama, now speak of him fondly, as a Republican whose prescriptions might be flawed but whose heart is true.

Four years ago, he was a bloodsucking capitalist vampire whose indictment of Obamacare was ipso facto proof of his racism. In The Daily Beast, he was called a “race-mongering pyromaniac.” On MSNBC, he was accused, by a black commentator, of the “niggerization” of Obama into “the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.”

Romney was supposedly out of touch with reality — never mind that he had governed a blue state, Massachusetts, without cataclysmic incident — just as McCain was described, in some quarters, as a combustible hothead who couldn’t be allowed anywhere near the nuclear codes. He was Trump before Trump, which makes Trump less Trump.

And those are just the presidential candidates. Plenty of other Republicans have confronted charges of florid racism and incipient fascism that apply to some of them infinitely better than to others. Gradations disappear. Distinctions vanish.

Important words are hollowed out, so that they lose their precision and their sting, and exist mainly to perpetuate a paralyzing climate of reciprocal hatred between political parties.

After Clinton’s 2008 campaign, Wolfson went on to work for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat who became a Republican and then an independent. He’s still in the former mayor’s employ, as a senior adviser.

That’s the vantage point from which he has watched Trump’s ascent, and from which he’s making some crucial observations.

“It’s only when you find yourself describing someone who really is the definition of an extremist — who really is, essentially, in my opinion, a fascist — that you recognize that the language that you’ve used in the past to describe other people was hyperbolic and inappropriate and cheap,” Wolfson said.

“It doesn’t mean that you somehow retrospectively agree with their positions on issues,” he added. “But when the system confronts an actual, honest-to-God menace, it should compel some rethinking on our part about how we describe people who are far short of that.”

“We should take stock of this moment,” he said, “and recognize that our language really needs to be more accountable and more appropriate to the circumstances.” I hope we do.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump is still claiming that “inner-city crime is reaching record levels,” promising to save African-Americans from the “slaughter.” In fact, this urban apocalypse is a figment of his imagination; urban crime is actually at historically low levels. But he’s not the kind of guy to care about another “Pants on Fire” verdict from PolitiFact.

Yet some things are, of course, far from fine in our cities, and there is a lot we should be doing to help black communities. We could, for example, stop pumping lead into their children’s blood.

You may think that I’m talking about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which justifiably caused national outrage early this year, only to fade from the headlines. But Flint was just an extreme example of a much bigger problem. And it’s a problem that should be part of our political debate: Like it or not, poisoning kids is a partisan issue.

To be sure, there’s a lot less lead poisoning in today’s America than there was back in what Trump supporters regard as the good old days. Indeed, some analysts believe that declining lead pollution has been an important factor in declining crime.

But I’ve just been reading a new study by a team of economists and health experts confirming the growing consensus that even low levels of lead in children’s bloodstreams have significant adverse effects on cognitive performance. And lead exposure is still strongly correlated with growing up in a disadvantaged household.

But how can this be going on in a country that claims to believe in equality of opportunity? Just in case it’s not obvious: Children who are being poisoned by their environment don’t have the same opportunities as children who aren’t.

For a longer perspective I’ve been reading the 2013 book “Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and Fate of America’s Children.” The tale the book tells is not, to be honest, all that surprising. But it’s still depressing. For we’ve known about the harm lead does for generations; yet action came slowly, and remains highly incomplete even today.

You can guess how it went. The lead industry didn’t want to see its business cramped by pesky regulations, so it belittled the science while vastly exaggerating the cost of protecting the public — a strategy all too familiar to anyone who has followed debates from acid rain to ozone to climate change.

In the case of lead, however, there was an additional element of blaming the victims: asserting that lead poisoning was only a problem among ignorant “Negro and Puerto Rican families” who didn’t fix up their dwellings and take care of their children.

This strategy succeeded in delaying action for decades — decades that left a literally toxic legacy in the form of millions of homes and apartments slathered in lead paint.

Lead paint was finally taken off the market in 1978, but then ideology stepped in. The Reagan administration insisted that government was always the problem, never the solution — and if science pointed to problems that needed a government solution, it was time to deny the science and bully the scientists, or at least make sure that panels helping set official policy were stuffed with industry-friendly flacks. The administration of George W. Bush did the same thing.

Which brings us back to the current political scene. What with everything else filling the airwaves, it may be hard to focus on lead poisoning, or environmental issues in general. But there’s a huge difference between the candidates, and the parties, on such issues. And it’s a difference that will matter whatever happens to Congress: A lot of environmental policy consists in deciding how to apply existing laws, so that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she can have substantial influence even if she faces obstruction from a Republican Congress.

And the partisan divide is exactly what you would expect.

Mrs. Clinton has pledged to “remove lead from everywhere” within five years. She probably wouldn’t be able to get Congress to pay for that ambitious an agenda, but everything in her history, especially her decades-long focus on family policy, suggests that she would make a serious effort.

On the other side, Mr. Trump — oh, never mind. He rants against government regulations of all kinds, and you can imagine what his real estate friends would think about being forced to get the remaining lead out of their buildings. Now, maybe he could be persuaded by scientific evidence to do the right thing. Also, maybe he could be convinced to become a Buddhist monk, which seems about equally likely.

The point is that the divide over lead should be seen not just as important in itself but as an indicator of the broader stakes. If you believe that science should inform policy and that children should be protected from poison, well, that’s a partisan position.

Friedman and Bruni

August 31, 2016

In “Win, Lose, But No Compromise” The Moustache of Wisdom says our politics increasingly resembles the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.  Mr. Bruni thinks he knows about “Donald Trump’s Irredeemable Twin” and says Anthony Weiner is the Republican nominee’s partner in compulsion.  It’s another stellar example of comparing apples and oranges, with an overlay of “both sides do it-ism.”  Here’s TMOW:

Anyone who says it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins this election needs their head examined. The damage that Trump could do to our nation with his blend of intellectual laziness, towering policy ignorance and reckless impulsiveness is in a league of its own. Hillary has some real personal ethics issues she needs to confront, but she’s got the chops to be president.

What interests me most right now, though, is a different question. It’s not, “Who are they — our politicians?” It’s, “Who are we — the voters?”

To be specific: Are we all just Shiites and Sunnis now?

More and more of our politics resembles the core sectarian conflict in the Middle East between these two branches of Islam, and that is not good. Because whether you’re talking about Shiites and Sunnis — or Iranians and Saudis, Israelis and Palestinians, Turks and Kurds — a simple binary rule dominates their politics: “I am strong, why should I compromise? I am weak, how can I compromise?”

With rare exceptions, the politics of the Middle East is just a seesaw game between those two modes of zero-sum, rule-or-die thinking. Rarely, these days, does either party stop to seek or forge common ground. It’s just: I am strong, so I don’t have to meet you in the middle, or I am weak, so I can’t meet you in the middle. You can see how well it’s worked for them.

Politico last week reported that while some G.O.P. officials may vote for Hillary, they are already sketching plans “to stymie a President Hillary Clinton agenda.” Liberals are already warning Clinton not to bring Republicans into her cabinet or explore meeting them halfway. Have a nice day.

That kind of sectarian/tribal thinking, now reinforced by left-right social media enforcers, gerrymandering and giant campaign funders, gives you the sorry spectacle of House Speaker Paul Ryan saying, without embarrassment, that Trump’s pronouncements are a “textbook” example of racism, but he’s supporting Trump anyway.

And it gives you the sorry spectacle of Clinton surrogates turning themselves into pretzels to defend her, even though it’s obvious that she embraced a pattern of major donors to the Clinton Foundation being given preferential access to her as secretary of state.

Shiites stick with Shiites. Sunnis stick with Sunnis. It’s rule or die, baby. Nothing else matters.

That is not always true in other walks of life. We just got that lesson at the Olympics. American runner Abbey D’Agostino clipped New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin from behind in the women’s 5000-meter qualifying heat, sending both tumbling to the ground well short of the finish.

The Associated Press reported: “D’Agostino got up, but Hamblin was just lying there. She appeared to be crying. Instead of running in pursuit of the others, D’Agostino crouched down and put her hand on the New Zealander’s shoulder, then under her arms to help her up, and softly urged her not to quit.” They embraced at the finish.

Contrast that with the Egyptian Olympic judoka who, under pressure from his society, refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent. And how’s Egypt doing these days? Drifting aimlessly.

Yes, I know, politics ain’t bean bag. It’s about winning. But it’s also about winning with a mandate to govern. And right now, everything suggests that the next four years will be just like the last eight: a gridlocked, toxic, Sunni-Shiite, Democrat-Republican civil war, with little search for common ground. That’s how you ruin, not run, a great country.

How will we improve Obamacare? How will we invest in infrastructure? How will we recreate the compromise on immigration that a few brave Republican and Democratic legislators tried in 2013? How will we get corporate tax reform, a carbon tax and some fiscal policy that we so desperately need to propel the economy and control the deficit?

There is no doubt that Republicans during the Obama presidency pioneered and perfected this scorched-earth politics and have now paid a price for it. They let themselves be led around by a group of no-compromise talk-radio gasbags, think-tank ideologues in the pay of one industry or another, Fox News know-nothings and an alt-right fringe, who, together, so poisoned the G.O.P. garden that an invasive species, Donald Trump, just took it over.

That is all the more reason for Clinton to reach out, at the right time, and see if any of them have learned their lesson. There is no way she’ll get anything big done otherwise. We have to break this fever.

It will be a tragedy if center-right Republicans conclude that their only problem is Donald Trump, and that once he’s gone the G.O.P. will be theirs again. Their party is over. They either have to become conservative Democrats or redefine a responsible center-right G.O.P. — with a different base. But it will be equally sad if Clinton wastes the opportunity of a potentially substantial victory, achieved with some Republican votes, to rebuild the political center in this country.

As Americans, we were once summoned by our politics to be participants in a race to the moon. Lately we’ve been summoned by our politics to be spectators in a race to the bottom. We can do better, and we must.

Tommy, you are SUCH a schmuck.  You think the Republican’s scorched earth policy was something with Obama?  Just WAIT until Hillary is President.  Not only is she a Democrat, but she lacks a penis.  And you think she should “reach out.”  Right.  And have her hand cut off.  Here’s Bruni:

It’s rich, as the English would say, that Donald Trump is trying to profit from Anthony Weiner’s latest mortification, because Trump is to his persevering supporters what Weiner was to his long-suffering wife: a scoundrel undeserving of so many second chances; a head case incapable of the redemption that’s supposedly just a few extra measures of discipline away; someone selling himself as a servant of the public although he’s really a slave to his own raging ego and unquenchable needs.

When Trump looks in the mirror, there’s a whole lot of Weiner staring back at him.

The details are tawdrier in Weiner’s case, and the stakes far smaller. But both men are creatures of potent want and pure compulsion who lucked into forgiving audiences. Weiner’s finally stopped forgiving: Huma Abedin announced that she was formally separating from him after six years of marriage.

Trump still has legions by his side. But for how long?

On the home page of The Times’s website on Monday, coincident withthe news story about Weiner’s latest sexting and Abedin’s break with him, was a chart documenting when and why 110 G.O.P. leaders gave up on Trump.

The left side of the chart presented a timeline of his apostasies and indecencies, and it alone was transfixing: a reminder that any other candidate at any other time would have been undone by just one or two of these outrages; an illustration of the way they keep coming, no matter how ardently his inner circle pleads with him for calm, no matter how furiously the outside world reacts. He can’t help himself.

The right side of the chart presented another timeline, this one showing the points at which each of the 110 Republicans bolted. The surprise was how delayed their departures were. Hope is a stubborn thing.

And at some point, it’s too rosy a word for what’s really going on, which is denial, delusion.

There’s also brutal calculation: Does Trump’s function as a barrier against a Democratic president — against Hillary Clinton, in particular — outweigh his cruelty, his incivility, his bigotry, his utter fraudulence? Too many Republicans have convinced themselves of that, in part by minimizing those vices, seeing them as ephemeral, or simply averting their gazes.

Some of these Republicans are living in the same fairy tale that some spouses are. They’re telling themselves the same lie: that fidelity matters more than dignity and common sense. But if a crucial part of wisdom is knowing when to invest, an equally crucial part is knowing when to let go.

The Weiner-Abedin marriage had apparently devolved, even before the latest revelation of fresh sexting, into a blunt child care arrangement, with Mr. Weiner’s attentions to their 4-year-old son making her heavy travel schedule with Clinton possible.

That’s an implication from recent comments that she made to Voguemagazine. It’s the clear takeaway from a Monday-night story in The New York Post, which quotes him telling his sexting partner that he doubted he’d be relocating with his wife to Washington from New York if Clinton were elected president and Abedin made the move.

And it undercuts Trump’s complaint that national security might have been endangered by the “close proximity to highly classified information” that a “very sick guy” like Weiner had through conversations with Abedin. There probably wasn’t much pillow talk there.

If Trump wants to make Abedin an issue, he’s on fairer, sturdier ground with the extra pay from outside sources that Clinton arranged for her when they worked together at the State Department.

He’s on dangerous turf when he goes after Weiner as a “sicko” and a “pervert.” He’s no paragon of rectitude, no pillar of restraint.

This is someone who once joked to Howard Stern — on the air — that his own Vietnam was the danger he courted as a libidinous man in an era of sexually transmitted diseases. This is someone who publicly drooled over his daughter Ivanka, saying that he might date her if he hadn’t sired her.

Weiner sent strangers pictures of his bulge. Trump assured the viewers of a nationally televised debate that he was amply endowed.

These impulses — these boasts — aren’t unrelated.

A scene in the documentary “Weiner,” about his ill-fated run for New York City mayor, depicts him at a computer, raptly watching and reliving one of his appearances on MSNBC. Trump is famous for marinating in all of the television time devoted to him. He tallies it. He crows about it. He’s Weiner with extra traction, Weiner with added gilt.

It forces an important question: Have we constructed a politics with such bright, invasive lights that those who find it more attractive than repulsive include an unhealthy number of insecure exhibitionists out for affirmation above all else?

Bruni, solo

August 28, 2016

In “The Misery of the Mini-Trumps” Mr. Bruni says subtract Trump’s celebrity and his crudely articulated approach doesn’t fly. Just ask the candidates parroting him.  Here he is:

In his race against Marco Rubio to become the Republican nominee for one of Florida’s two seats in the Senate, the rich, brash homebuilder Carlos Beruff could not be welding himself more tightly to Donald Trump.

A recent television ad of his attacked Rubio for not being as tough as Trump. He affirmed and then one-upped Trump’s past call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, suggesting a prohibition against anyone from the Middle East except Israel.

His tweets are Trumpian, including this proclamation: “I won’t read a bunch of political crap off a teleprompter.” The Miami New Times crowned him “the Cuban-American Donald Trump.” “Little Trump of Florida,” said the publication Roll Call.

So how’s that working out for Beruff?

Not so well.

Polls put him anywhere from 30 to 60 points behind Rubio in the primary, which takes place Tuesday. He trailed by double-digit margins even before Trump wanly and dutifully signaled support for Rubio earlier this month.

And that’s not because Florida Republicans are Rubio stalwarts. In the state’s presidential primary last March, Trump trounced him by almost 20 points.

But it turns out that Trump’s magic, if you can call it that, resists cloning. It’s not easily transferable, either. Unlike other political supernovas, Trump doesn’t have coattails or for that matter a coat — not even a windbreaker.

And that casts serious doubt on the existence of Trumpism minus Trump.

Has he created anything along the lines of the movement that he sometimes brags about? Has he assembled a coalition of voters that will outlast his candidacy and can deliver victory to a candidate who emulates him but lacks the reality-show stardom, the glittering towers, the garish tresses?

Beruff’s situation suggests not, and so do the sorry fates of other Republican candidates who channeled Trump or genuflected before him — including, most prominently, Paul Nehlen, whose early August primary face-off with Paul Ryan in Wisconsin drew national attention.

Part of Nehlen’s case against Ryan was that he’d “shown more passion in attacking Trump than he has ever shown in defending Americans,” according to one statement that his campaign released.

Trump lavished Twitter love on Nehlen before party leaders shamed him into grudgingly endorsing Ryan. Prominent Trump surrogates, including Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter, beat the drums for Nehlen. Coulter visited Wisconsin to stump for him, telling voters: “This is it. This is your last chance to save America.”

America was not saved. Voters chose Ryan over Nehlen by nearly 70 points.

Without doubt, Trump has exposed fissures in — and the fragility of — the Republican base. He has tapped into a potent, pervasive anger among American voters, and some of the positions that he’s staked out are much, much more popular than was previously understood.

Bernie Sanders’s surprisingly strong showing against Hillary Clinton helped to prove that. While Sanders didn’t share Trump’s anti-immigrant rants or racist appeals, he, too, questioned America’s open trade practices, the scope of its military interventions, the power of money in elections, and the degree to which the economy was stacked in favor of corporate interests and entrenched elites.

That complaint will survive Trump, no matter how his candidacy ultimately fares, and both the Republican and Democratic parties will be forced to grapple with it seriously going forward.

But wrapping it in a package of florid bigotry, provocative propositions, crude insults and callous language doesn’t seem to have much traction beyond Trump.

Trumpism isn’t the kind of force in 2016 that the Tea Party was in 2010. The next Congress won’t be full of Republicans who ran on Trump’s signature ideas or have any particular investment in them.

And not one of those ideas — his extreme brand of protectionism, his call to re-examine military alliances, his threat of mass deportations — shows any sign of becoming Republican dogma the way that supply-side economics did in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s evangelism for it. There’s less evidence of Republicans’ moving en masse toward Trump’s platform than of Trump himself retreating from it, as he did on immigration last week.

By Election Day, there may not even be Trumpism with Trump.

As for the mini-Trumps, they’ve known nothing but misery. Consider Kentucky’s Mike Pape, who set his sights on a congressional seat. He ran a television ad that shows three ostensibly Mexican men with flashlights and wire cutters approaching a fence that says “U.S. Border Do Not Cross.”

“Once through,” one of them vows, “we’ll stop Donald Trump!” Another chimes in that they’ll also have to stop Pape, because he’ll “help Trump build the wall.”

The commercial generated more commentary than votes. In the Republican primary in May, he lost to James Comer by 37 points.

That was a squeaker of a contest compared with the 58-point loss by Eugene Yu in a Republican congressional primary in Georgia, also in May. Yu had run — and lost — before, but was convinced that Trump’s success augured victory this time around.

“This is the man I’ve been looking for,” Yu said during his campaign. “Everything he says, I’ve been saying all along.”

It fell on deaf ears yet again.

Jim McKelvey in Virginia, Matt Erickson in Minnesota, Andrew Heaney in New York: All wrapped themselves in the Trump banner as they sought the Republican nomination for congressional seats, and all suffered huge, humiliating defeats.

In a fiercely contested Republican primary in North Carolina, Representative Renee Ellmers didn’t exactly style herself after Trump, but she did receive the first congressional endorsement he made after becoming the de facto Republican presidential nominee. She was beaten nonetheless.

The mini-Trumps aren’t all that many, and each had flaws unrelated to their messages, so it’s hard to know precisely how much to read into them.

But their failure to bloom under Trump’s sun is a fitting metaphor. In a bid for the White House as suffused with self-love as the rest of his life, he doesn’t direct his light outward. It shines only on him.

And the usual symbiosis between a major party’s presidential nominee and its other candidates doesn’t really exist with Trump. He’s not developing a ground game that might benefit Republicans in other races.

Last month Hillary Clinton “spent almost $3 million to field a staff of 700 people at her Brooklyn headquarters and in swing states around the country,” Nicholas Confessore and Rachel Shorey noted recently in The Times. Trump, in contrast, “spent more money on renting arenas for his speeches than he did on payroll.”

His operation, they wrote, is “more concert tour than presidential campaign.”

Its music is peculiar to him, and it’s fading fast.

Well, Frank, sooner or later some of you “pundits” will have to address the fact that the monster of racism, misogyny, bigotry and know-nothingism that the Republican Party has worked for 40 years to create, the culmination of which is the candidacy of Donald Trump, will remain after he’s gone.  Any clever ideas on what to do about that?

Bruni, solo

August 24, 2016

In “Hillary Health Shocker!” Mr. Bruni says Google and Twitter never lie. There’s something afoot with Clinton.  Here he is:

Although she has gone to extraordinary lengths to distract and deceive American voters, the truth is finally coming out: Hillary Clinton has an 11th toe.

I don’t have the medical records. She refuses to release them. But just try to come up with some other explanation for why she’s so infrequently photographed in sandals or flip-flops; why she seldom appears barefoot in public; why, during debates, she keeps her legs, especially the lower halves, tucked carefully behind the lectern.

She’s covering something up, and it’s that freakish, disqualifying digit.

Have you watched her walk? Look closely. She wobbles a bit, or maybe it’s more of a teeter, combined with a lurch, and the likeliest cause is podiatric asymmetry. I consulted foot specialists. At least they referred to themselves that way online, and when I assured them that an interview with me could be their springboard to Sean Hannity, they opened up.

“Does Hillary Clinton have a superfluous toe?” I asked one of them.

“I can’t definitively rule that out,” he said.

“Hillary Clinton: Hobbled and hiding it?” I asked the other, who agreed that “until she permits a thorough examination of her feet — and I mean both of them — how can we be sure?”

I’m not holding my breath. Clinton doesn’t volunteer information; she waits for the subpoena. A letter from her longtime physician that she provided last year was all of two pages long, and that’s not nearly enough medical detail about a 68-year-old raring to take on one of the most grueling jobs on the planet, let alone a 68-year-old facing a swirl of questions — a swirl, mind you! — about her gait.

Admittedly, Donald Trump, 70, gave us considerably less, even though he’d be the oldest first-term president ever. In a paltry cluster of sentences, his supposed doctor pronounced his health “astonishingly excellent,” a diagnostic term heretofore absent from the medical literature, and that same sycophant — I mean doctor — demonstrated impressive retroactive omniscience, saying that he could “state unequivocally” that no American president had been in shape as splendiferous as Trump’s.

This testimonial was less science than sonnet: gushing, besotted.

I’m pretty sure it was written in iambic pentameter. Phrases were plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s 2008 physical.

But you merely need to watch Trump lope from his comfy chauffeured car to his plush private jet to know that everything below his waist is working magnificently, including his toes, of which there are an even number. They’re amazing toes. You won’t believe these toes. Vladimir Putin once offered several Russian oil fields in exchange for them. Paul Manafort drew up the contract, including his 40 percent commission for the swap.

But back to Clinton. In her physician’s report, did you see anything about her feet? No. Rudy Giuliani pointed this out. He was on Fox News, raving about what an obvious invalid she is and leaving out the part about his decision not to run against her for a Senate seat in 2000 because he was battling prostate cancer while she was sturdy as an ox. An ox with an extra toe, that is, although her critics didn’t catch it at the time.

Maybe they weren’t Googling aggressively enough. We’re only now realizing the full potential of the internet, which connects visionary dissidents once dismissed as isolated crackpots and gives them a big, ready billboard for their hallucinations — oops, revelations. They can tweet the unvarnished, unshod truth, and who needs cumbersome Freedom of Information Act requests or tedious investigative journalism when you have hashtags? #ShowTheToe.

The lamestream media pussyfoots around all of this, protecting Clinton by persecuting Trump for his unshared tax returns. It’s a classic diversionary tactic. But while a man’s bank account is personal, a woman’s body is public. It’s in the Constitution, maybe one of the amendments, or should be.

Besides, there are ramifications to whatever’s going on inside Clinton’s clogs. An extra toe means an extra toenail, and can a country in straits as dire as ours suffer a commander in chief whose pedicure takes minutes longer than the average American’s?

If it’s on her left foot, which is what some carefully edited video suggests, it means she’s pulled constantly to the left. We can’t have that.

Not everyone in the Clinton Conspiracy Industry agrees that this is a matter to be pressed as forcefully as others. They say it jumbles together issues of vastly discrepant seriousness: her emails, the Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, Birkenstocks. They say it turns each assertion of scandal into more white noise.

But that’s flawed thinking — and a defeatist attitude to boot. When you’re hunting game as slippery as Clinton, you use every weapon you have, never knowing which will trip her up and take her down. Mark my words. This toe could be her Achilles’ heel.

[snort]  I can’t wait to see this show up on some RWNJ site.

Bruni, solo

August 10, 2016

In “The Olympics Make a Grown Man Cry” Mr. Bruni says behold Simone Biles. Marvel at Michael Phelps. Try not to tear up.  Here he is:

Somewhere between the Zika stories, the doping stories and the stories about what a fetid, toxic swamp Rio really is, I got the message: I was supposed to feel cynical about these Olympics, the way we feel cynical about pretty much everything these days.

I was supposed to marvel at our talent for making messes, cutting corners, evading responsibility, procrastinating. Rio was a testament to that, both as the host of the Games and as a sublime, wretched theater of humanity. All the promises we fail to keep, all the plans that go awry: They were and would be on vivid display. I was supposed to shake my head in disgust. Sigh in frustration.

Instead I cried, and I mean good tears. It was Monday morning, and I was telling someone what he’d missed on Sunday night: how the American swimmer Michael Phelps defied age and his own stabs at self-destruction to swim toward yet another gold, in a men’s relay.

How the American gymnast Simone Biles, in the team qualifying round, responded to the gaudy expectations for her not by crumbling but by meeting, even surpassing, every one of them.

And then there was that tiny wisp of a Brazilian girl — 4-foot-4, 16 years old — who floated onto the balance beam, whirled the length of it and turned in a near perfect routine that no one expected. The roar from her hometown crowd was so loud, so true, that I’m certain it crossed time zones. I bet it traversed the stratosphere. No lottery winner, no matter the purse, has ever matched the glow of elation on her face.

I hadn’t even reached the part about the British gymnast who tumbled onto her head, stood up dazed and kept on going when I myself had to stop, because I was suddenly so choked up that I couldn’t get another word out.

Don’t tell me what’s wrong with the Olympics. Let me tell you what’s right with them.

In a world rife with failure and bitter compromise, they’re dedicated to dreaming and to the proposition that limits are entirely negotiable, because they reflect only what has been done to date and not what’s doable in time.

They make the case that part of being fully alive is pushing yourself as far as you can go. Every Olympic record, every personal best and every unlikely comeback is an individual achievement, yes, but it’s also a universal example and metaphor.

The swimmer Dana Vollmer, a gold medalist in 2012, stopped training, became a mother and attended to her newborn. But the pool still beckoned, and last weekend, just 17 months after giving birth, she won a silver and a bronze in Rio. Good for her. Good for all women who don’t want to obey some timeline that they never signed on to or stay in a box of someone else’s construction.

These champions usually aren’t children of extreme privilege. Biles was separated from her mother, who battled drug and alcohol addiction, at an early age. Others had worse odds and more daunting setbacks.

But they had a drive more powerful than that. They swapped resentment for goals. And they worked. By God, did they work. We tend to marvel at their freakish gifts, but we should marvel even more at their freakish devotion. That’s what made the difference.

They invested hour upon hour, day after day. They sacrificed idle time and other pursuits. They honed a confidence that eludes most of us and summoned a poise that we can only imagine. They took risks, big ones.

And they pressed on, because there was this thing that they wanted so very, very badly and the only way to know if they could get it was to put everything on the line.

I’m no naïf. I know that there’s another, darker side to this — that some of them are overly preoccupied with fame, with riches. At least they’re earning it.

I know that there are flaws in the system, even corruption. I’m reading and I’m hearing plenty about that, about the inane remarks that NBC’s commentators have made, and about the excessive commercial breaks that the network builds into the prime-time telecast. A certain crassness and greed have taken over. It’s true.

But I fear that with the Olympics, as with so much else, we’ve let the language of complaint supplant the language of wonder, and there’s wonder aplenty here.

Just watch Phelps kick or Biles vault heavenward, a force of will seemingly bound for the stars. Just think about what it means to aim that high, commit that much and invite the eyes of the world to see it all come together or all fall apart.

If that doesn’t put a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, you’re made of stone.

Friedman and Bruni

August 3, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has decided to tell us all about “How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out.”  He tells us that she could win over Republicans who now feel orphaned if she had the right pro-growth economic policies.  That last phrase is the kicker.  I don’t usually add a reply to his stuff, but this one is worthy of it.  We’ll let “Matthew Carnicelli” from Brooklyn take him on.  Mr. Bruni says people should “Stop Indulging Trump,” and that for the G.O.P., the moment of reckoning with the billionaire’s unfitness for office is here.  Here’s TMOW:

Maybe I just missed it. But in all the testimonials at the Democratic convention about what Hillary Clinton has done for other people, I don’t recall anyone saying, “I started a business because of Hillary Clinton.” Or, “I hired someone because of Hillary Clinton.”

We heard from first responders, veterans, grieving parents and victims of terrorism, rape and various forms of discrimination. There was just one group that was conspicuously absent: the people who drive our economy by inventing things or by borrowing money to start companies that actually employ people.

Watching the convention, you would never know that what also makes America great is that generation after generation, people full of ideas risk their savings to start companies that provide work and paychecks. And only by generating more of these risk-takers will more people get hired for the good jobs Clinton promised.

The only things that were remotely growth-related in her speech were glancing references to a government-led infrastructure investment program (Go for it!) and her vow “to give small businesses a boost. Make it easier to get credit.”

To do that, though, would run smack into the anti-bank sentiment of the Democratic Party, since small community banks provide about half the loans to small businesses, and it is precisely those banks that have been most choked by the post-2008 regulations. We need to prevent recklessness, not risk-taking.

I raise this for two reasons. The first: Donald Trump may not stay stupid forever (although he might!), and therefore Hillary will have to beat him on the central economic issue of growth. Trump spent the past few days trashing the parents of a heroic Muslim American soldier who lost his life in Iraq. The parents had — rightly — criticized Trump. But in his return fire, Trump shot himself in both feet, losing support in his own party.

Trump defended his Twitter tantrum against the soldier’s parents with a sixth-grader’s playground defense: “He called me a name.” He forgot that his own convention engaged in a mad chant of “lock her up” about Clinton, but she ignored it and stayed on her message. That’s what adults do.

Mind you, I hope Trump remains in his total whack-job mode, because it distracted attention from the latest economic news — that was perfectly set up for Trump to take political advantage of — that the economy grew an anemic 1.2 percent in the second quarter, and growth in the first quarter was revised downward. That economic news was teed up for Trump, the self-styled job-creator, and he shanked it deep into the woods, for it never to be heard from again.

Trump has gone amazingly far without having done an ounce of homework in preparation for the presidency, relying instead on feeding tweets to an anxious G.O.P. base. His candidacy should be over by now. But it isn’t.

It scares me that people are so fed up with elites, so hate and mistrust Clinton and are so worried about the future — jobs, globalization and terrorism — that a bare majority could still fall for this self-infatuated carnival barker if he exhibited half a political brain.

And that leads to my second reason for pushing Clinton to inject some capitalism into her economic plan: The coalition she could lead. If there is one thing that is not going to revive growth right now, it is an anti-trade, regulatory heavy, socialist-lite agenda the Democratic Party has drifted to under the sway of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor. Capitalism makes people unequally rich, but I would much rather grow our pie bigger and faster and better adjust the slices than redivide a shrinking one.

There are a lot of center-right, business Republicans today feeling orphaned by Trump. They can’t vote for him — but a lot of them still claim they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary, either. Clinton should be reaching out to them with a real pro-growth, start-up, deregulation, entrepreneurship agenda and give them a positive reason to vote for her.

It makes sense politically: Take Trump on at his self-proclaimed strength. And it makes sense economically: If Clinton wins, she will need to get stuff done, not just give stuff away.

I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth; the rising anti-immigration sentiments in the country can be defused only with economic growth; the general anxiety feeding Trumpism can be eased only with economic growth.

Sanders had no plan whatsoever for growth. Trump doesn’t, either, but he can fake it. It’s time that Hillary pivoted. The country today doesn’t need the first female president. It needs the first president in a long time who can govern with a center-left, center-right coalition, and actually end the gridlock on fiscal policy in a smart way.

If Trump continues to melt down into a puddle of bile, more and more Republicans will be up for grabs. With the right pro-growth economic policies, Clinton would have an opening to not only enlist them to help her win, but to build a governing coalition for the morning after.

Now here’s what “Matthew Carnicelli” had to say about that:

“Tom, I believe that I need to explain the facts of political life to you. I shouldn’t have to do this, but some of us are evidently too comfortable living in glass houses.

Regulations are nothing but an extension of the bedrock constitutional principle of checks and balances, extended to the corporate and personal sphere. We have regulations because men are not angels, have been total screw ups in the recent past, and are not likely to become angels any time soon.

You are a perfect illustration of how purveyors of elite opinion can be a total screw up, and yet never be held accountable for their role in setting in motion train wrecks that will likely haunt us for decades.

Now, if you have a specific point about excessive regulation of community banks that you wish to make, then you should make that – instead of indulging in your unbecoming sneer.

Tom, the reality is that ours is consequence-free society. No one is held responsible for their bad ideas – as you weren’t in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle, or your role as an apologist for a top-down style of globalism.

The reality is that the moment you begin sneering at regulations is the moment that you give license to the climate change deniers and those individuals who refuse to learn from history precisely because doing so might negatively impact their bottom line, even if it would bring us a safer, more harmonious planet.

Tom, the only feasible alternative to a capitalism run amok is a regulated one.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of you: It’s time to stop suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t represent you, because he does represent you. He’s your party’s nominee, with your endorsements. Until you withdraw those, he has your blessing. Your permission.

And if you keep forgiving him and prioritizing your political survival over the country’s stability, he could wind up representing all of us.

Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Do it with a straight face.

Senator McCain, Representative Ryan, he’s just given you fresh cause to bolt, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t support either of you in your respective Republican primary contests.

From the standpoint of tradition, this is shocking. From the standpoint of Trump, not so much. You’ve upbraided him (mildly). You’ve bruised his tender ego. So now he gets to stick out his tongue at you.

It has to make you wonder why you twisted and turned and tried to justify your support of him in the face of his petulant, gratuitous attack on the Muslim parents of a soldier who died fighting for America. Or why so many G.O.P. leaders twisted and turned after his petulant, gratuitous attack on a Mexican-American judge. Or why you all should stick around to twist and turn the next time.

Trump isn’t slouching toward gravitas. He’s having a tantrum, and to threaten him with timeouts that never come only encourages it. Spare the rod, spoil the Donald.

This isn’t a normal presidential election, he isn’t a normal political candidate, and you know it. We all do. And it’s well past time to reckon fully with that.

Not just you but all of us keep according larger historical sense to his candidacy and trying to fit it into pre-existing frames, but I fear that when we do that, we minimize the outright outrage and singular farce of it.

We throw around terms like demagogue and fascist, but I’m not sure he’s coherent, consistent or weighty enough for either.

We label him anti-establishment, and that’s a howler. He grew up affluent. Went to an Ivy League college. Sent his kids to posh boarding schools. Mingled with Bill and Hillary Clinton at his (third) wedding. He is the power elite, albeit an ostentatiously gold-tufted version of it.

In presidential races past, we’ve seen protectionists, nativists, even racists. What we haven’t seen, not in my lifetime, is a major-party nominee who is such an unabashed and unrepentant fabulist, with so little control over his temper and a worldview shaped entirely by what and who flatter him.

Never has a nominee pouted with his grandeur. Never has one bragged with his abandon.

He’s best described not in political terms but in developmental ones. He’s a toddler. I’d say “infant” but infants are pre-verbal, and he has afew words, most of them monosyllabic.

Only a toddler could be so self-justifying and tone-deaf that he’d compare the sacrifice of Humayun Khan — the soldier I mentioned who was killed in Iraq — to his own professional work of erecting tall buildings and simultaneously enriching himself.

Only a toddler would respond to Michael Bloomberg’s digs at him bysaying that when they golfed together, “I hit the ball a lot longer.” Yes, Donald, everything about you is longer. We haven’t forgotten that G.O.P. presidential debate.

Over the last few days, the word “decency” has popped up a lot, and it’s on target.

“There’s just no sense of decency from this man,” Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who worked for Ted Cruz, told Politico.

“He has no decency,” Khizr Khan, the fallen soldier’s father, told ABC News.

Trump isn’t just uninformed, as his recent comments on Ukraine reaffirmed. He’s a repository of almost every character trait that we reprimand children for.

And the examples of his indecency get lost in the sheer volume of them. Any one might end another candidate’s quest. But they’re the white noise of his bid. He’s redeemed by his own repulsiveness.

I appreciate that for many conservatives, a Supreme Court shaped by Hillary Clinton would be an abomination. But can they really elevate that concern above national security and entrust the country to a tyrant-loving, Putin-flirting, NATO-dissing novice?

I understand that renouncing him means abetting her, which hurts, given her considerable flaws and their genuine qualms.

But there are bigger things at stake. That’s why so many loyal Republicans have already fled, to regroup over the next four years.

I get it: If McCain and other congressional Republicans turn off Trump’s supporters, they might get turned out themselves.

But as the Post interview made clear, Trump is already giving those supporters license to do as they wish. Besides which, isn’t there a point at which principle must kick in? Aren’t there bounds to partisanship and personal interest? I ask that not in favor of Clinton or the Democrats but out of concern — no, alarm — for America, which needs a grown-up who honors our values, not a brat who shreds them.

Friedman and Bruni

July 20, 2016

In “Trump and the Sultan” The Moustache of Wisdom says American voters should learn from Turkey’s experience with an out-of-control leader.  Mr. Bruni points out the blindingly obvious in “Ted Loves Trump.”  He says well, not exactly. But Cruz’s appearance at the G.O.P. convention shows how self-interest routinely muscles principle aside.  Cruz’s ONLY principle is self-interest, Frank.  Here’s TMOW:

Turkey is a long way from Cleveland, where the Republicans are holding their presidential convention. But I’d urge you to study the recent failed military coup against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. America is not Turkey — but in terms of personality and political strategy, Erdogan and Donald Trump were separated at birth.

And the drama playing out in Turkey today is the story of just how off track a once successful country can get when a leader who demonizes all his rivals and dabbles in crazy conspiracy theories comes to believe that he alone is The Man — the only one who can make his country great again — and ensconces himself in power.

Let’s start with Erdogan, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2014, but then maneuvered himself into the previously symbolic role of president and got all key powers shifted to that position. I confess that when I first heard the news of the July 15 coup attempt, my first instinct was to consult that great foreign policy expert Miss Manners, The Washington Post’s etiquette columnist, because I was asking myself, “What is the right response when bad things happen to bad people?”

“Dear Miss Manners: I instinctively oppose military coups against democratically elected governments, like the one in Turkey. But am I a bad person if part of me felt that Turkey’s president had it coming?”

Anyone who has been following Turkey closely knows that Erdogan has been mounting a silent, drip-by-drip coup of his own against Turkish democracy for years — jailing reporters, hounding rivals with giant tax bills, reviving an internal war against Turkish Kurds to stoke nationalist passions to propel his efforts to grab more powers — and by generally making himself into a modern-day sultan for life.

I’m glad the coup failed, especially the way it did — with many secular Turks who actually opposed Erdogan’s autocratic rule, and had been abused by it, nevertheless coming out against the plotters on the principle that Turkish democracy must be upheld. That was a truly impressive act of collective wisdom and a display of democratic sensibilities.

The maturity of the Turkish people resulted in Erdogan’s getting what golfers call a mulligan, or a do-over, to demonstrate that he is committed to the universal precepts of democracy. Will he? Or will Erdogan go right back to his preferred means of staying in power: dividing Turks into his supporters and enemies of the state, weaving conspiracy theories and using the failed coup as a license for a witch hunt, not only for plotters but for anyone who has dared to cross his path?

The early signs are bad. A day after the failed coup, Erdogan dismissed 2,745 judges and prosecutors. How did he know exactly who to fire in one day? Did he already have an enemies list? To date, he has now reportedly purged 1,500 university deans, revoked the licenses of 21,000 teachers and either purged or detained nearly 35,000 members of the military, security forces and judiciary as part of his “cleansing” of coup supporters.

Here’s the real tragedy: Erdogan was an outstanding leader his first five years and truly lifted the country’s economy and middle class. But since then it’s all gone to his head, and he has gotten away with increasingly bad behavior by creating an us-versus-them divide between his loyal, more religious followers, and the more secular communities in Turkey.

Because his followers see their dignity wrapped up in his remaining in power, he can say and do anything and never pay a political price. His base will always rally to his us-versus-them dog whistles. But Turkey in the long run suffers.

Sound familiar?

Trump relies on the same tactics: He fabricates facts and figures on an industrial scale. He regularly puts out conspiracy theories — his latest is that President Obama’s “body language” suggests that “there’s something going on” with the president — hinting that Obama is not comfortable condemning the killing of cops by African-American gunmen and has sympathy for radical Islamists.

Trump also relies on the us-versus-them bond with his followers to avoid punishment for any of his misbehavior. He, too, is obsessed with his own prowess, and he uses Twitter to get around traditional media gatekeepers — and fact-checkers — to inject anything he wants into the nation’s media bloodstream. (Erodgan just uses his own friendly media.) And most of the people Trump has surrounded himself with are either family or second-raters looking for a star turn, including his vice-presidential choice and the person who wrote his wife’s convention speech and clearly plagiarized part of it from Michelle Obama. The whole thing reeks of flimflam.

If Trump is elected, I don’t think there will be a military coup, but I guarantee you that Jeb Bush’s prediction will be proved true, that he’ll be “a chaos president” just as he’s been a “chaos candidate.” Americans will regularly be in the streets, because they are not going to follow — on any big issue — a man who lies as he breathes, who has not done an ounce of homework to prepare for the job and who generates support by conspiracy theories and making people afraid of the future and one another.

If you like what’s going on in Turkey today, you’ll love Trump’s America.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

One of the last times you saw Ted Cruz, flames were shooting from his head and spittle was flying from his mouth — metaphorically, at least — as he branded Donald Trump “a pathological liar,” “a serial philanderer,” “utterly amoral” and a “narcissist” on a level this country had seldom seen. It was the day of Indiana’s Republican primary, Trump had just insinuated a connection between Cruz’s father and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Cruz announced that he must at long last tell the world “what I really think” of Trump.

But when you see the Texas senator on the convention stage here on Wednesday night, that contempt and candor will be absent. He may not exactly praise Trump, but he’ll almost certainly swallow whatever misgivings he still feels, and his presence alone will be taken by some viewers as a gesture of implicit, tentative support.

It will also be an example of what he always says he can’t stand about other politicians and what voters loathe as well: the elasticity of their convictions, the urgency of their self-interest and the alacrity with which they take an eraser to their past words.

There’s a lot of erasing going on these days, and Trump is a big reason. For many Republicans, rallying round him means conveniently forgetting how much they disagreed with or even detested him before, a breach much wider than the one that typically exists between opponents within a political party.

Mike Pence had to do a memory purge so complete it may well constitute a lobotomy. Once upon a time he deemed Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States “offensive and unconstitutional,” but Trump’s slight tweak to that — a focus on immigrants from Muslim-heavy countries that seem to be fertile for terrorists — is something Pence now praises. People say the vice presidency is a miserable job, but what misery politicians go through in pursuit of it.

Pence is also among the large crowd of lawmakers whom Trump savages for having supported the invasion of Iraq. He’s an advocate of the trade deals that Trump mocks. And in that Indiana primary? Pence endorsed Cruz. But now he’s all aboard and all about the good ship Trump, because it has the plusher staterooms and is sailing toward the snazzier port.

I shouldn’t beat up on Pence. Whatever reservations he expressed about Trump were mild next to those mentioned by Rick Perry, who called Trump “a barking carnival act” and “a cancer” before endorsing him and showing up in support of him here.

And it’s not just Trump who brings out the squish in politicians. Their spines jellify in all sorts of situations.

Remember Marco Rubio’s insistence that he’d be leaving the Senate after 2016? In May he gave his latest guarantee, tweeting: “I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.” Rubio wasn’t just resolute; he was flabbergasted that anyone could doubt his resoluteness. As it turns out, though, a vow doesn’t become an ironclad guarantee until it’s made 20,000 times. In June, he announced his candidacy for re-election.

Pranksters write in disappearing ink; politicians speak in it. And that certainly includes Democrats — Evan Bayh, for one. When he left the Senate six years ago, he did so in an indignant, operatically aggrieved fashion, describing it as hopelessly partisan and corrupted by money and outside influences. He then joined the outside influencers, going to work for a lobbying and law firm. But he apparently missed all that partisanship and corruption, because now he wants back in. The negative ads write themselves.

Cruz isn’t up for re-election to the Senate until 2018, but what’s on his mind is 2020. He clearly began plotting his comeback the moment he exited the Republican primaries. His convention speech will be a part of it and warrants careful study as a road map to where he thinks the post-Trump G.O.P. is headed.

He has even repaired his pride (to the extent that it ever needs repair) and reasserted his dominance by coming up with a conspiracy theory for how the Republican nomination was actually stolen from him — by the news media! As he explained to Politico’s Glenn Thrush: “I think many of the mainstream media players are liberal Democrats. They intend to vote for Hillary. They believed Donald was the easiest candidate for Hillary to beat. And I think many of them wanted him to win the nomination. I don’t think it was innocent decision making behind this.”

I take back what I wrote earlier about his fickleness. He is 100 percent constant — in his adoration and exaltation of Ted Cruz.