Archive for the ‘Bruni’ Category

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.

Friedman and Bruni

July 13, 2016

In “The (G.O.P.) Party’s Over” The Moustache of Wisdom says Republican Party hasn’t been a productive part in a two-party democracy for a long time, but a crushing loss this fall could force it to change.  And how many Friedman Units will that take, Tommy?  After a crushing defeat all they’ll decide is that Trump wasn’t a pure enough conservative, and they’ll double down on racism, bigotry, misogyny, and everything else they stand for.  Mr. Bruni, in “Has Barack Obama Hurt Race Relations?”, says as the president spoke at a Dallas memorial, critics carped that he has set us back. Don’t believe it.  I think that editors create the headlines of their columns, and whoever produced this one should be shit canned.  Here’s TMOW:

This column has argued for a while now that there is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy. At least a one-party autocracy can order things to get done.

A one-party democracy — that is, a two-party system where only one party is interested in governing and the other is in constant blocking mode, which has characterized America in recent years — is much worse. It can’t do anything big, hard or important.

We can survive a few years of such deadlock in Washington, but we sure can’t take another four or eight years without real decay setting in, and that explains what I’m rooting for in this fall’s elections: I hope Hillary Clinton wins all 50 states and the Democrats take the presidency, the House, the Senate and, effectively, the Supreme Court.

That is the best thing that could happen to America, at least for the next two years — that Donald Trump is not just defeated, but is crushed at the polls. That would have multiple advantages for our country.

First, if Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance (depending on the size of a Democratic majority in the Senate) to pass common-sense gun laws. That would mean restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, which was enacted as part of the 1994 federal crime bill but expired after 10 years, and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun.

I don’t want to touch any citizen’s Second Amendment rights, but the notion that we can’t restrict military weapons that are increasingly being used in mass murders defies common sense — yet it can’t be fixed as long as today’s G.O.P. controls any branch of government.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can borrow $100 billion at close to zero interest for a national infrastructure rebuild to deal with some of the nation’s shameful deferred maintenance of roads, bridges, airports and rails and its inadequate bandwidth, and create more blue-collar jobs that would stimulate growth.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance to put in place a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would stimulate more clean energy production and allow us to reduce both corporate taxes and personal income taxes, which would also help spur growth.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can fix whatever needs fixing with Obamacare, without having to junk the whole thing. Right now we have the worst of all worlds: The G.O.P. will not participate in any improvements to Obamacare nor has it offered a credible alternative.

At the same time, if Clinton crushes Trump in November, the message will be sent by the American people that the game he played to become the Republican nominee — through mainstreaming bigotry; name-calling; insulting women, the handicapped, Latinos and Muslims; retweeting posts by hate groups; ignorance of the Constitution; and a willingness to lie and make stuff up with an ease and regularity never seen before at the presidential campaign level — should never be tried by anyone again. The voters’ message, “Go away,” would be deafening.

Finally, if Trump presides over a devastating Republican defeat across all branches of government, the G.O.P. will be forced to do what it has needed to do for a long time: take a time out in the corner. In that corner Republicans could pull out a blank sheet of paper and on one side define the biggest forces shaping the world today — and the challenges and opportunities they pose to America — and on the other side define conservative, market-based policies to address them.

Our country needs a healthy center-right party that can compete with a healthy center-left party. Right now, the G.O.P. is not a healthy center-right party. It is a mishmash of religious conservatives; angry white males who fear they are becoming a minority in their own country and hate trade; gun-control opponents; pro-lifers; anti-regulation and free-market small-business owners; and pro- and anti-free trade entrepreneurs.

The party was once held together by the Cold War. But as that faded away it has been held together only by renting itself out to whomever could energize its base and keep it in power — Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, the National Rifle Association. But at its core there was no real common dominator, no take on the world, no real conservative framework.

The party grew into a messy, untended garden, and Donald Trump was like an invasive species that finally just took over the whole thing.

Party leaders can all still call themselves Republicans. They can even hold a convention with a lot of G.O.P. elephant balloons. But the truth is, the party’s over. Thoughtful Republicans have started to admit that. John Boehner gave up being speaker of the House because he knew that his caucus had become a madhouse, incapable of governing.

A Clinton sweep in November would force more Republicans to start rebuilding a center-right party ready to govern and compromise. And a Clinton sweep would also mean Hillary could govern from the place where her true political soul resides — the center-left, not the far left.

I make no predictions about who will win in November. But I sure knowwhat I’m praying for — and why.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I have many qualms about Barack Obama’s presidency. I worry that he exhausted too much political capital too soon on Obamacare. That he overcorrected for his predecessor’s foreign debacle. That he wore his disdain for Congress too conspicuously.

But I cry foul at the complaint that he has significantly aggravated racial animosity and widened the racial divide in this country. It’s a simplistic read of what’s happening, and it lays too much blame on the doorstep of a man who has sought — imperfectly on some occasions, expertly on others — to speak for all Americans.

That complaint trailed him to Dallas, where he appeared on Tuesday at a memorial for the five police officers killed by a sniper last week. He was there not just to eulogize them — which he did, magnificently — but to try to steady a nation reeling from their deaths and the ones just beforehand of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

He painted a profoundly admiring portrait of cops, asking their detractors to consider how it feels to be “unfairly maligned” by hyperbolic cries of pervasive police misconduct. Then he painted a profoundly sympathetic portrait of protesters, explaining why so many African-Americans feel “unfairly targeted.”

“Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?” he said. He may not have phrased the question that way before, but to my ears, it’s what he’s been asking all along.

His sternest critics have decided to hear something different, homing in on his references to racial disparities in criminal justice to charge that he has brought the country to a boil.

In the last few days alone, he has been accused of abetting a “fundamental misreading of American society as irremediably racist,” of consistently choosing “to see things through the eyes of an aggrieved black activist”’ and of being possibly “the worst president in U.S. history” specifically because he “set back American race relations by 50 years.”

It’s true that Obama has sometimes spoken of discrimination before all the facts of a given killing were known. But those remarks touched on wider realities and were usually important acknowledgments of the fury that many Americans were feeling.

Imagine that he instead stood mute or told those Americans to treat the killings as isolated incidents and quietly move on. That might well have raised the temperature, not lowered it.

Besides which, he hasn’t discussedonly discrimination. In Warsaw last week, when he expressed concern about the deaths of Sterling and Castile, he repeatedly mentioned the fine work of most police officers and the need to keep them safe.

“When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter,” he said, and this was before the Dallas carnage. His critics edit that out.

They point to data like a Gallup poll from three months ago in which 35 percent of Americans said that they worried “a great deal” about race relations. That number had doubled over the prior two years, a period coinciding with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was also the highest number since Gallup first began asking this question 15 years ago.

But it may well reflect alarm about how we navigate an overdue conversation rather than a belief that the conversation lacks merit. It’s surely the outgrowth of technological advances. Ask yourself: Are these protests the consequence of Obama’s words or of smartphone images and their documentation of events never glimpsed so intimately and immediately before? There’s no contest.

It’s also possible that the election of the first black president gave some wishful Americans hope of suddenly perfect racial harmony and that the current bitterness grew in the gap between expectations and reality. That’s not Obama’s fault.

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have been able to shrug off Joe Biden’s 2007 comment that he was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean” and then make Biden his vice president and friend.

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have used his graduation speech at Howard University in May to caution its black students not to ignore enormous racial progress and to assure them that if they could choose a time to be “young, gifted and black in America, you’d choose right now.”

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have pulled off what he did in Dallas on Tuesday, a nuanced balancing act in an era without much nuance or balance.

Just before his speech, Michelle Obama bent toward and reached out to the person seated to her right. That tender image — of her hand on George W. Bush’s — is one I’ll hold on to, and it’s a fitting retort to the nonsense that Obama is sowing hate.

Bruni, solo

July 6, 2016

In “Barack Obama’s Final Fight” Mr. Bruni says it’s not simply for Hillary Clinton. It’s for an optimism and a set of values at the very core of his own story.  Here he is:

You introduce yourself to voters as a son of Kansas and Kenya, an emblem of this country’s openness to outsiders and its embrace of difference. Your election and re-election affirm the distance that the United States has traveled, or so you believe. So you hope.

Then you look up toward the end of your second term to behold a Republican presidential nominee who is cynically exploiting racism and xenophobia to put the White House within his own reach. He’s not merely your adversary; he’s your antithesis. And his victory would do more than endanger your policies. It would question the very moral of your journey, the very bend of the arc you frequently invoke.

That’s what Barack Obama confronts right now, and that’s why he hit the campaign trail on Tuesday, appearing onstage with Hillary Clinton in North Carolina and proclaiming without reservation that “there has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office” than she. That’s why he’ll say words like those again and again, with the same fire, in the months ahead.

For the nation’s first black president, Clinton isn’t just the better candidate. She’s the better America. She wins and he holds on to his rosiest convictions about what he and his presidency symbolize. Donald Trump wins and that’s a tricky thing to do.

Trump forged his bond with bigots by essentially calling Obama an impostor and demanding to see his birth certificate. But that particular stunt weighs less on Obama than Trump’s sustained behavior during the 2016 presidential race does, according to people close to the president.

“The thing that I’m sure aggravates him — enrages him — is the invocation of race and ethnicity in our politics,” David Axelrod, a former White House aide, told me. “Obama’s message is about the emerging America and the strength of our diversity. He represents it. And when Trump says ‘Make America great again,’ there’s an element of turning the clock back to the days when minorities were at the back of the bus.”

“That goes to the character of our country,” Axelrod added. “The president is someone who would be uniquely sensitive to that.”

Uniquely sensitive and utterly impassioned. In North Carolina he didn’t so much urge voters as command them, with a testimonial about Clinton that was gushing and epic. I swear I saw her blush.

Was Trump on Obama’s mind? I suspect. “Everybody can tweet,” he said, adding that it’s no preparation or qualification for the presidency. He brought up his younger daughter. “Sasha tweets, but she doesn’t think that she thereby should be sitting behind the desk.”

Was Trump on Clinton’s mind? Clearly. She complimented Obama as “someone who has never forgotten where he came from — and Donald, if you’re out there tweeting, it’s Hawaii.”

The 2016 campaign keeps showing us things that we’re not accustomed to, and a second-term president campaigning with unfettered vigor for his desired successor is another of those. George W. Bush didn’t do it: He was so toxic at this point in his administration that John McCain’s most fervent wish was to tuck him into a broom closet.

Bill Clinton didn’t do it, because Al Gore was intent on coming across as his own, less priapic man. Neither did Ronald Reagan, because Bush’s father similarly felt the need to flex his own muscle, outside of anyone’s shadow, and Reagan’s energy was flagging anyway.

Dwight Eisenhower? When asked what Richard Nixon had accomplished as his vice president, he said that he needed a week to think about it.

Obama and Hillary Clinton have arrived at a place of obvious respect for each other, and of palpable fondness. His high approval ratings put him in a position to help. Her stature puts her in a position not to be eclipsed by his presence or belittled by that assistance.

Campaigning together is an imperfect arrangement, inasmuch as she may seem to be arguing for the status quo instead of a better tomorrow. But Americans hold Obama in significantly higher esteem than they do her or Trump. There are far riskier things than letting the president carry the ball.

And he’s a player in this regardless, given the larger context, which was clear when Clinton asked the North Carolina audience to think of “the early patriots who met in Philadelphia” in 1776.

“Nobody who looked like Barack Obama or me would have been included back then,” she said. “But we’re here today because the story of America is the story of hard-fought, hard-won progress.”

That’s the tale that Obama has always told. It’s the narrative that so many of us cling to. Where does Trump fit into it, and does it survive him? Instead of just wondering and worrying, the departing president has joined the fight.

Friedman and Bruni

June 29, 2016

In “You Break It, You Own It” The Moustache of Wisdom says that the British vote by a narrow majority to leave the European Union is not the end of the world — but it does show us how we can get there.  Hmmm…  If only Tommy had thought about “you break it, you own it” before he was banging his wee tin drum celebrating the fustercluck in Iraq…  Mr. Bruni takes a look at “A Bachelor Named Britain, Looking for Love” and says the U.K. is due for some serious matchmaking. Albania, anyone?  Here’s TMOW:

The British vote by a narrow majority to leave the European Union is not the end of the world — but it does show us how we can get there.

A major European power, a longtime defender of liberal democracy, pluralism and free markets, falls under the sway of a few cynical politicians who see a chance to exploit public fears of immigration to advance their careers. They create a stark binary choice on an incredibly complex issue, of which few people understand the full scope — stay in or quit the E.U.

These politicians assume that the dog will never catch the car and they will have the best of all worlds — opposing something unpopular but not having to deal with the implications of the public actually voting to get rid of it. But they so dumb down the debate with lies, fear-mongering and misdirection, and with only a simple majority required to win, that the leave-the-E.U. crowd carries the day by a small margin. Presto: the dog catches the car. And, of course, it has no idea now what to do with this car. There is no plan. There is just barking.

Like I said, not the end of the world yet, but if a few more E.U. countries try this trick we’ll have quite a little mess on our hands. Attention Donald Trump voters: this is what happens to a country that falls for hucksters who think that life can just imitate Twitter — that there are simple answers to hard questions — and that small men can rearrange big complex systems by just erecting a wall and everything will be peachy.

But I digress.

Because although withdrawing from the E.U. is not the right answer for Britain, the fact that this argument won, albeit with lies, tells you that people are feeling deeply anxious about something. It’s the story of our time: the pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for some citizens to keep up.

We have globalized trade and manufacturing, and we have introduced robots and artificial intelligent systems, far faster than we have designed the social safety nets, trade surge protectors and educational advancement options that would allow people caught in this transition to have the time, space and tools to thrive. It’s left a lot of people dizzy and dislocated.

At the same time, we have opened borders deliberately — or experienced the influx of illegal migration from failing states at an unprecedented scale — and this too has left some people feeling culturally unanchored, that they are losing their “home” in the deepest sense of that word. The physical reality of immigration, particularly in Europe, has run ahead of not only the host countries’ ability to integrate people but also of the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves — and both are necessary for social stability.

And these rapid changes are taking place when our politics has never been more gridlocked and unable to respond with just common sense — like governments borrowing money at near zero interest to invest in much-needed infrastructure that creates jobs and enables us to better exploit these technologies.

“Political power in the West has been failing its own test of legitimacy and accountability since 2008 — and in its desperation has chosen to erode it further by unforgivably abdicating responsibility through the use of a referendum on the E.U.,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the London-based global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

But we need to understand that “the issue before us is ‘integration’ not ‘immigration,’” Mousavizadeh added. The lived experience in most cities in Europe today, is the fact that “a pluralistic, multiethnic society has grown up here, actually rather peacefully, and it has brought enormous benefits and prosperity. We need to change the focus of the problem — and the solution — from the physical reality of immigration to the political and economic challenge of integration.” Schools, hospitals and public institutions generally will not rise to the challenge of the 21st century “if social integration is failing.”

Indeed, in my view, the countries that nurture pluralism the best will be the ones that thrive the most in the 21st century. They will have the most political stability, attract the most talent and be able to collaborate with the most people. But it’s hard work.

Yet in an age when technology is integrating us more tightly together and delivering tremendous flows of innovation, knowledge, connectivity and commerce, the future belongs to those who build webs not walls, who can integrate not separate, to get the most out of these flows. Britain leaving the E.U. is a lose-lose proposition. I hope the “Regrexit” campaign can reverse Brexit and that Americans will dump Trump.

Never forget, after the destruction of World War II, the E.U. project “emerged as a force for peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom in the world,” noted Eric Beinhocker, the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford. “This is one of humankind’s great achievements. Rather than let it be destroyed we must use the shock of the Brexit vote to reimagine, reform, and rebuild a new Europe.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

It has been forever since Britain was single, and there will be many lonesome and disorienting nights ahead.

Maybe we should fix it up with Switzerland.

Not immediately, of course. The divorce from the European Union was just announced. The paperwork hasn’t been filed. There could be a loss of nerve, a relaxing of conjugal rules, tulips from Holland, chocolates from Belgium. Greece and Portugal could promise to stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink, Germany to quit hogging the remote.

But as things stand now, Britain will soon stand apart, and we all know how that goes: exhilaration, followed by panic, leading to an age-inappropriate Tinder account. Oh, look, here’s Iceland, flashing its most voluptuous volcanoes. Nah, too stony and lugubrious, and you can listen to only so much Björk. Swipe left.

Britain on its own is unfathomable. Think of its relationship history: epic trans-Atlantic romances, audacious trans-Pacific affairs, flings in this jungle, hookups on that dune. It was usually dominant, occasionally submissive but always coupled — if not tripled, quadrupled or quintupled. It had a lust for entanglement if no talent for fidelity.

But it’s not the overlord it once was. Those imperial pheromones are gone. Where a crown once rested, a bald spot spreads. Britain’s going to need primping, prodding, perhaps a prescription.

And introductions. So: Switzerland?

If marrying rich is the goal, marrying Switzerland is the jackpot. And Switzerland won’t do what Britain loathed in its current spouse and encourage poorer, darker people to drop in for fondue.

But it’s so worryingly petite. So wearyingly standoffish, resisting the E.U. even while enveloped and protected by it. And it’s sure to insist on a prenup longer than all of the Harry Potter novels combined. Britain needs freer and easier love than that, especially as its jowls sag and its pound droops.

Maybe that means Albania, Montenegro or Macedonia. They’re the mail-order brides of the continent, dreaming of an “I do” from the E.U. Surely they’d settle for Britain.

But would Britain settle for them? The bloated pride that brought it to this juncture won’t allow for a significant other that’s too other and insignificant, and most outsiders can’t locate Albania on a map. (Go south to the heel of Italy, turn left, cross the Adriatic, hope for the best.) There are better charted, more ego-salving corners of Europe that haven’t bedded down with Brussels and are still on the market.

Like Norway. It and Britain have plenty in common — they’re both wintry, watery, fishy, boozy — but also bring different, complementary assets to the table. In Norway’s case, oil. In Britain’s, Adele. If that’s not a recipe for global domination, what is?

Britain isn’t a bachelor like most. It has been married so many times that it has pretty much run through the available options.

Its predicament reminds me of the movie “What’s Your Number?,” which I saw so that you wouldn’t have to. Anna Faris plays a Bostonian who believes that she has reached her maximum allotment of sexual partners and that her only hope for a husband is to circle back and reconnect with someone she disconnected from previously.

For Britain that could be India. Australia. Much of Africa. Some of the Middle East. Its exes are everywhere, though approaching any of them would require a new humility, as the Britain of yesteryear wasn’t a particularly modest or accommodating suitor. It typically got the better end of the deal, until the E.U. came along and the arrangement wasn’t so lopsided.

America is Britain’s most prominent ex of all: the Elizabeth Taylor to its Richard Burton. Should our onetime colonial master become our 51st state? If we acted quickly enough, Boris Johnson could be tapped as Donald Trump’s running mate, creating a tandem of tresses so perversely dazzling that it alone makes the case. This may have been Johnson’s plan all along.

Britain is no more geographically nonsensical for us than Hawaii or Alaska, though it’s probably too long a cultural stretch. It simply lacks the requisite prevalence of gun ownership.

Which makes it a better fit for Canada. Canada is saner, except about ice hockey. It’s Britain’s obvious match: comparably affluent, sufficiently English-speaking. Together Britain and Canada can laugh at the crudeness of us Americans, a favorite shared pastime and an understandable one.

Britain is suddenly leaderless, while Canada suddenly has a leader, Justin Trudeau, who’s an international heartthrob. He can expand his portfolio to two continents, and has tidy hair. Sorry, Boris.

And the monarchy survives! Canada never ceased its ceremonial fealty to it, and bows before Queen Elizabeth II much as Britain does. It’s a source of puzzlement, but it’s a bridge to Britain, which is going to need the love.

Friedman and Bruni

June 15, 2016

In “Lessons of Hiroshima and Orlando” The Moustache of Wisdom says we need to think about the moral implications of where technology is taking us.  In “A Time to Stand With Gay Americans” Mr. Bruni says don’t scrub the letters L.G.B.T. from what happened in Orlando.  Here’s TMOW:

I want to talk today about the horrific human tragedy of Orlando. But first I want to talk about Hiroshima — or, more precisely, the profound speech that President Obama gave there on May 27 that got lost in all the campaign noise here.

Hiroshima, Obama suggested, represents a world in which for the first time ever a country possessed the power to kill all of us — and if it had to be any country, I am glad it was America. But today, he said, we’re entering a world where small groups — maybe even soon a single super-empowered person — will be able to kill all of us; therefore we’d better start thinking about the moral implications of where technology is taking us.

“Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines,” the president noted. “The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

What the president was describing is the central strategic issue of our time: the growing mismatch between the combined rapid evolution of our technological prowess and the powers this gives to a single individual or group to destroy at scale (you can make your own gun now with a 3-D-printer), and the pace of our moral and social evolution to govern and use these powers responsibly.

And that brings me to the Orlando massacre — to what happens when, on a smaller scale, we refuse to reimagine the social and legal changes we need to manage a world where one loser can now kill so many innocent people. The notion that such a person — any person — should be able to buy a military-style assault rifle is insane. That the Republican Party cannot see the wisdom of common-sense guns laws is just begging for bigger massacres.

At the same time, year after year, we keep seeing young Muslim men drawing inspiration and permission from Islam to kill large numbers of civilians in the West and, even more so, killing other Muslims in Muslim lands.

I’ve lived too long in the Muslim world, and experienced the decency of Muslim communities, to believe that this is the essence of Islam. But I have seen too much of this suicidal violence for too long to believe that it has nothing to do with the puritanical, anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-female, anti-religious-pluralism versions of Islam that are too often promoted by sources in the Arab world, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The websites, social networks and mosques that promote these intolerant ideas can “light up” lost souls anywhere in the world. Until that stops, we’re just waiting around for the next Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino or Orlando.

And the only thing that can stop them is from the inside: a meaningful mass movement by Muslim governments, clergymen and citizens to delegitimize this behavior. It takes a village and only stops when the village clearly says, “No more!” And that has not happened at the scale and consistency it needs to happen.

Finally, in an age when individuals can become super-empowered, we need to ensure our government has all the surveillance powers it needs — under appropriate judicial review — to monitor and arrest violent extremists of all stripes. The bad guys now have too many tools to elude detection.

Obama closed his speech at Hiroshima with words that could easily have been said of Orlando: “Those who died, they are like us. … They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

We need to make choices appropriate for our age when technology can so amplify the power of one. We need common-sense gun laws, common-sense gender equality and religious pluralism and common-sense privacy laws.

But that takes common-sense leaders, not ones who think the complexities of this age can be bombed away, walled away, willed away or insulted away. Stop for a moment and reflect on what this week would have been like had Donald Trump been president — the carpet-bombing he’d have ordered in the Middle East, the fear and isolation his Muslim ban would have engendered in every Muslim-American, the joy that ISIS would have taken from being at war with all of America, the license this would have given to crazies in our own society to firebomb a mosque. And the backlash that would engender among Muslims around the world, the most radical of whom would be firebombing our embassies. When America goes nuts, the world goes nuts.

I don’t agree with Obama on all aspects of this issue, but the guy is thinking deeply and acting responsibly. Trump is shooting from the hip, spraying insults 360 degrees, telling lies, stoking fears and making threats that many in our military and the F.B.I. would refuse to implement. If you Republican senators and congressmen support Trump for president, he will own you — and you will own everything he does.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Some of June’s gay pride celebrations happened last weekend, but many are still ahead. The one in Louisville, Ky., is among them. There’s a parade scheduled for Friday.

That’s your state, Mitch McConnell. You should go.

If you’re not comfortable marching, mingle on the sidelines. If parades aren’t your thing, make an appearance at one of the other pride events in Kentucky in coming days.

Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of “gay” or “L.G.B.T.” in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre — and in the statements of so many other prominent Republicans — isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign that stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it.

For more than 48 hours, Paul Ryan also seemed to avoid any mention of the kind of nightclub that the Orlando gunman chose and one of the reasons its revelers were marked for death.

On Tuesday morning that silence finally ended, as Ryan told journalists in Washington that he wanted to “be clear.”

“Members of the L.G.B.T. community were the targets,” he said. “They were simply attacked for who they are.”

He thus joined his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney, who sent out a tweet midday Monday offering “a special prayer for the L.G.B.T. community that was the focus of this attack.”

Ryan also joined Donald Trump, who mentioned L.G.B.T. Americans repeatedly in his formal remarks on Monday afternoon, expressing “solidarity with the members of Orlando’s L.G.B.T. community” and asserting that the gunman wanted “to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.”

But more conspicuous than what Romney and Trump said was what so many other Republicans didn’t.

Bemoaning the carnage, they justly condemned the Islamic State and violent extremists. They rightly paid tribute to “first responders.”

But this specificity didn’t extend to the lives and loves of the people killed. Even Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, initially sidestepped the subject, failing to emphasize that many of them spent their final terrified minutes in a place where they had sought precisely the comfort and belonging that they didn’t always feel on the other side of its walls.

We still have much to learn about the exact mix of the gunman’s motives. There are reports that he cased other locations. His unhinged diatribes apparently extended to women, blacks and Jews as well as gays.

His past behavior and his call to 911 demonstrated an overarching hatred of America, with its celebration of diversity and individual liberty. The revelers in Pulse epitomized that liberty, and what happened to them is part of a bigger story and a bigger struggle that affect all Americans.

But that doesn’t preclude an acknowledgment of their sexual orientations, and it doesn’t excuse any reluctance to discuss that.

Roman Catholic leaders, too, shied away. Statements by the bishop of Orlando and by the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said nothing about a gay nightclub or gays.

Such omissions so troubled the Rev. James Martin, a best-selling Jesuit author, that he posted a video commentary about them on Facebook on Monday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, it had been viewed about 700,000 times.

“If the murders had happened, God forbid, in a church of a particular Christian denomination, Catholic leaders would decry the murders and then naturally express their solidarity with members of that denomination,” he said in the video, adding that for the most part, “this was not done for the grieving L.G.B.T. community.”

He told me on Tuesday that there were exceptions, including Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., who wrote a blog post in which he conceded that religion, including Catholicism, “often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,” and that this contempt can lead to violence. Lynch stressed that the Orlando victims “were all made in the image and likeness of God.”

“We teach that,” Lynch wrote. “We should believe that. We must stand for that.”

“We” includes leaders of both parties. If Ted Cruz can mourn Orlando as an attack on gay people — which, in fact, he did — then every other Republican can, too.

This is one of those moments, in the wake of terror, when we find the most apt and evocative ways to underscore our oneness and renounce our fear. When we make grand gestures. When we make pointed ones.

So Majority Leader McConnell, pick your rally. Speaker Ryan, accompany him. Governor Scott, attend the funerals of gay victims. Other Republicans and Democrats, recognize L.G.B.T. Americans with both your words and your presence at gay pride celebrations.

You want to show our enemies what America stands for? Then stand with us.

Brooks and Bruni

June 7, 2016

Oh, now it’s getting VERY tiresome.  Bobo suggests “Let’s Have a Better Culture War.”  He whines that instead of fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity, we need a new traditionalism, one fueled by love and contact with the transcendent.  Bobo, what party is “fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity?”  In the comments “James Landi” of Salisbury, MD had this to say:  “Sometimes I wonder about the alternate dimension Mr. Brooks inhabits. As post WW II America has grown in to the leadership position of the free world, we have had to face social challenges to our constitutional ideals about just how to protect the individual and the concept of “pluralism” in our free society from the ravages and crushing forces of majoritarian “mores and norms.” Does not Brooks recall how unthinkable that black people should be permitted use a white bathroom, attend a white school, join a white country club?… How can Brooks not see that the “Culture Wars” are simply an alignment of what remains of white supremacy– the last vestiges of angry white baby boomers who feel cheated and manipulated by a federal government that has a constitutional responsibility to protect the rights of the minority. This latest set of wedge issues/ culture wars are special ingredients and an “octane boost” that is helping to fuel a new American dictator and bigot in waiting. Mr. Brooks, wake up please.”  That I doubt will happen.  Mr. Bruni considers “An Obama Nominee’s Crushed Hopes” and says that she was ready. She was qualified. But she was forced to wait and wait — until it was too late.  Gee — I wonder why?  Maybe Bobo could explain it all to us…  Speaking of Bobo, here, FSM save us, he is:

The recent fight over transgender bathrooms represents the reductio ad absurdum of the culture war.

We argue about cultural and moral matters in the first place because we care about our characters and the characters of our children. We understand that a free society requires individuals who are capable of handling that freedom — people who can be counted on to play their social roles as caring parents, responsible workers and dependable neighbors.

Further, we know that this sort of character formation can’t be done just individually. It’s carried out in families, schools and communities. It depends on some common assumptions about what’s right and wrong, admired and not admired — a common moral ecosystem.

So we care intensely about the health of that ecosystem and we argue about how to improve it.

The laws commanding where transgender people go to the bathroom, on the other hand, show how the culture war has devolved into an overpoliticized set of gestures designed to push people’s emotional hot buttons.

These laws are in response to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist. They are in response to a threat of sexual predators that has no relation to the existence of transgender people. They are about legislating a group, not about what constitutes good behavior. They are an attempt to erect crude barriers when a little local consideration and accommodation could get the job done.

For some reason, some defenders of traditional values are addicted to sideshows that end with the whiff of intolerance. At the same time, the larger culture itself has become morally empty, and therefore marked by fragmentation, distrust and powermongering.

The larger culture itself needs to be revived in four distinct ways: We need to be more communal in an age that’s overly individualistic; we need to be more morally minded in an age that’s overly utilitarian; we need to be more spiritually literate in an age that’s overly materialistic; and we need to be more emotionally intelligent in an age that is overly cognitive.

Rather than fighting endless losing battles over sexual identity, we need a better culture war. We need a new traditionalism.

A tradition, whether it’s Thanksgiving dinner, an annual family reunion or a burial ceremony, takes a physical activity and infuses it with enchantment. There’s a warmth to our traditions and rituals that is fueled by love and contact with the transcendent.

That has to be the opening assertion of a new traditionalism — that we’re not primarily physical creatures. There’s a ghost in the machine. We have souls or consciousness or whatever you want to call it. The first step of a new traditionalism would be to put the spiritual and moral implications of everyday life front and center.

If public life were truly infused with the sense that people have souls, we would educate young people to have vocations and not just careers. We would comfortably tell them that sex is a fusion of loving souls and not just a physical act. We’d celebrate marriage as a covenantal bond. We’d understand that citizenship is a covenant, too, and we have a duty to feel connected to those who disagree with us.

We’d see cloning and the death penalty as reckless acts that tamper with something mysterious. When we talked about foreign policy we’d talk not just about our material interests but also about what purpose we’ve been called to play in history.

If we talked as if people had souls, then we’d have a thick view of what is at stake in everyday activities. The soul can be elevated and degraded at every second, even when you’re alone not hurting anybody. Each thought or act etches a new line into the core piece of oneself.

The awareness of that constant process of elevation and degradation adds urgency to a bunch of questions. For example, what are we doing to a prisoner’s soul when we throw him in solitary? Can we really tolerate having so many people falling out of the labor force and unable to realize the dignity that comes with steady work? In what ways do our phones lead to attachment or isolation? When is shopping fun and when is it degrading?

We’d also need a new political science. The old one was based on the model that we’re utility-maximizing individuals, seeking power. That’s true, but love is the elemental desire of the spirit. People are desperately motivated to love something well, and be loved. A core task of communities is to arouse and educate the loves, to widen and deepen the opportunities for love and to appraise people by how well and what they love.

Our culture is overpoliticized and undermoralized. This new traditionalism would shift the debate and involve a thicker way of seeing and talking about public life. The debates that would follow would not be divided along the conventional lines.

Bobo, if you believed 0.001% of that you’d flee the Republican party and declare yourself a Democrat.  Since you haven’t one must decide that you continue to be a pearl-clutching hypocrite.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

In early 2014, after decades of government and nonprofit work that reflected a passion for public service, Cassandra Butts got a reward — or so she thought. She was nominated by President Obama to be the next United States ambassador to the Bahamas.

It wasn’t an especially high-profile gig at the crossroads of the day’s most urgent issues, but it was a longstanding diplomatic post that needed to be filled, and she had concrete ideas about how best to do the job.

“She was very excited,” her sister, Deidra Abbott, told me.

The Senate held a hearing about her nomination in May 2014, and then … nothing. Summer came and went. So did fall. A new year arrived. Then another new year after that.

When I met her last month, she’d been waiting more than 820 days to be confirmed. She died suddenly two weeks later, still waiting. She was 50 years old.

The delay had nothing to do with her qualifications, which were impeccable. It had everything to do with Washington. She was a pawn in its power games and partisanship.

At one point Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, had a “hold” on all political nominees for State Department positions, partly as a way of punishing President Obama for the Iran nuclear deal.

At another point Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, put a hold specifically on Butts and on nominees for the ambassadorships to Sweden and Norway. He had a legitimate gripe with the Obama administration over a Secret Service leak of private information about a fellow member of Congress, and he was trying to pressure Obama to take punitive action. But that issue was unrelated to Butts and the Bahamas.

Cotton eventually released the two other holds, but not the one on Butts. She told me that she once went to see him about it, and he explained that he knew that she was a close friend of Obama’s — the two first encountered each other on a line for financial-aid forms at Harvard Law School, where they were classmates — and that blocking her was a way to inflict special pain on the president.

Cotton’s spokeswoman did not dispute Butts’s characterization of that meeting, and stressed, in separate emails, that Cotton had enormous respect for her and her career.

That’s Washington for you. Deeply admiring someone is supposed to be a consolation for — and not a contradiction of — using him or her as a weapon.

Senators from both parties have long employed short holds on nominations for leverage with the White House. But right now the practice is extreme and egregious: a tactic that’s turned into a tantrum.

Because of such holds, Norway didn’t have an ambassador for more than 850 days, and confirmation of the new ambassador to Sweden took nearly 500 days.

When Butts died on May 25 — she had acute leukemia, but didn’t know it and hadn’t felt ill until just beforehand — the Bahamas had gone without an ambassador for 1,647 days.

“All Cassandra wanted to do was serve her country,” Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, told me. “Looking back, it is devastating to think that through no fault of her own, she spent the last 835 days of her life waiting for confirmation.”

Maybe the Bahamas, Norway and Sweden aren’t pivotal to us. But we have relations with each. We have ambassadors — or mean to. How do we guarantee the country’s security and get its business effectively done when the Senate shows such disregard for that? How do we look on the world stage?

And how do we attract the best people to government if they’re subject to the crazy crosswinds that Butts found herself in?

With her Harvard degree and, later, her connection to Obama, she could have turned to the private sector and really cashed in. That wasn’t her way. She worked for various Democratic office holders on Capitol Hill, for the N.A.A.C.P.’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, for the Center for American Progress and for Obama, including as deputy White House counsel.

Butts knew that she wouldn’t be instantly confirmed as an ambassador, her sister told me, but never expected such an enduring limbo. Some friends advised her to give up. That wasn’t her way, either.

I learned the details of her situation when I found myself at a dinner with her in Chapel Hill, N.C., where we both attended college. As she told the story, I kept looking for signs of anger and disgust, but she’d clearly worked past any such emotions.

Instead she communicated something like bemused resignation. I was glad for her that she’d reached that point. I was sorry for the rest of us. We should never be resigned to this dysfunctional pettiness, and there’s nothing amusing about it.

Go have a talk with Bobo and see if he can explain why that had to happen.


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