Archive for the ‘Bruni’ Category

Friedman and Bruni

February 15, 2017

The Moustache of Wisdom has a question:  “Mr. Trump, Will You Save the Jews?”  He seems to believe that Mr. Trump may be the last person who can preserve the hope of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.   As if…  Mr. Bruni says “Flynn Is Exactly What Trump Deserves,” and that our cavalier president chose top administration officials for their bluster.  Here’s TMOW:

Dear President Trump:

These are the moments that make or break a presidency.

First you were tested by a rival — Russia — and utterly failed to appreciate the corrosive impact on our democracy of your indulgence of Russia’s hacking our election. And on Wednesday you’re going to be tested by a friend — Israel — and its prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Can you appreciate the corrosive impact on Israel’s democracy of what it’s now doing in the West Bank? I ask because you may be the last man standing between Israel and a complete, self-inflicted disaster for the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Let me explain it in terms you’ll appreciate: golf.

Did you happen to follow the story involving Barack Obama and Woodmont Country Club? Woodmont is the mostly Jewish golf club in Maryland, just outside D.C., where Obama played as a guest several times during his presidency. Near the end of his term it was rumored that Obama would seek membership there.

Then he clashed with Netanyahu over Obama’s refusal to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s relentless expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Shortly thereafter, The Washington Post reported that a Woodmont member, Faith Goldstein, had sent a private email to the club’s president declaring that Obama “is not welcome at Woodmont” because of his U.N. vote.

It was appalling to think that Jews, who for so many years were themselves excluded from joining certain country clubs, would consider excluding our first black president, especially for his acting on the basis of what half of Israel believes — that continued expansion of Jewish settlements into Palestinian-populated zones of the West Bank will eventually make the separation of Israelis and Palestinians in a two-state solution impossible, and thereby threaten Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.

Fortunately, in the end, the decent members of Woodmont prevailed. As The Washington Post reported, the club’s president, Barry Forman, invited the Obamas to join, declaring that “it is all the more important that Woodmont be a place where people of varying views and beliefs can enjoy fellowship.”

Why am I telling you this story? Because Israel is getting closer every day to wiping out any possibility of a two-state solution. Just last week, Netanyahu’s government pushed through the Knesset a shameful new law declaring that wildcat Jewish settlers who had illegally set up caravans on private West Bank Palestinian land, and erected their own settlement there, will have their settlements legalized, although the Palestinian landowners have to be compensated.

Hopefully Israel’s Supreme Court will strike down the law, but, in the meantime, Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, did not mince words. He reportedly warned at a private meeting that Israel can’t just “apply and enforce its laws on territories that are not under its sovereignty. If it does so, it is a legal cacophony. It will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which it is not.” Seen as an apartheid state!

And that is why Jewish history has its eyes on you, Mr. Trump.

As long as the two-state solution was on the table, the debate among Jews on Israel was “right versus left” and “more security versus less security.” Some thought the border should be here; others thought it should be there. But we could mostly all agree that for Israel to remain a Jewish democratic state, it had to securely separate from most of the 2.7 million West Bank Palestinians. That debate could and did go on in every synagogue, Jewish institution and Jewish country club, without tearing them apart.

But if Netanyahu’s weak leadership and the overreach of the settlers in his party end up erasing the two-state solution, the debate within the Jewish community will move from “left versus right” to “right versus wrong.” That debate will not be about which are the best borders to defend the state of Israel, said the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, “but whether the state is worth defending in moral terms.”

I don’t expect Israel to just up and leave the West Bank without a Palestinian partner for a secure peace, which Israel doesn’t now have. But legalizing this land grab by settlers deep in Palestinian areas is not an act of security — it will actually create security problems. It is an act of moral turpitude that will make it even harder to ever find that Palestinian partner and will undermine the moral foundations of the state. This is about right versus wrong.

And if that is where the debate goes, what happened at Woodmont golf club will happen everywhere. That debate will tear apart virtually every synagogue, Jewish organization and Jewish group on every campus in America, and around the world. Israel will divide world Jewry.

There is only one person who can now stop this disaster — you. Bibi & Co. used the G.O.P. to outflank Obama. But if you, with your party, make clear that there must be absolutely no Jewish settlements beyond the blocks already designated for a two-state solution, you could make a huge difference. This is on your watch.

President Trump, you may not be interested in Jewish history, but Jewish history is now interested in you.

Friedman and Bruni

February 1, 2017

Mr. Friedman gives us “A Concerned Citizen’s Plea to America’s Business Leaders” and moans that only the likes of Bill Gates, Jamie Dimon and Elon Musk may be able to save the country from President Trump.  I wonder if Tommy has called his Senators and his Congressman to make his thoughts known…  Somehow I doubt it.  Mr. Bruni asks “Where is Jared Kushner?” and whines that Donald Trump’s son-in-law was supposed to be a positive influence, but Steve Bannon has taken charge.  Well, Frank, have you noticed that the most egregious crap that spews from the Dark House happens late Friday?  Jared and his wife (whose name shall not be mentioned here) are Jewish and observe Shabbat.  And why on earth either of them would feel comfortable around a gang of Nazis befuddles me…  Here’s TMOW:

Dear America’s Business Leaders:

I am writing you today because it will soon become clear that you’re going to need to do a job that you’ve never thought of doing before: saving the country from a leader with a truly distorted view of how the world works and the role America should play in it.

There is no Republican Party today to restrain President Trump’s worst instincts. Save for a few courageous senators, the G.O.P. has melted into spinelessness. The mainstream media can expose misbehavior, but can’t veto legislation. The Democrats control no levers of power. And Jared Kushner couldn’t even stop the Steve Bannon-led White House from issuing a Holocaust Remembrance Day decree that deliberately omitted any reference to Jews.

The only group whom Trump has some respect for, who can get access to him and who can maybe counter the malign ideological instincts of Bannon & Company are the likes of Bill Gates, Tim Cook, Jeff Immelt, Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt, Jamie Dimon, Mike Bloomberg, Elon Musk, Indra Nooyi, Ginni Rometty, Dennis Muilenburg and Doug McMillon.

Sure, if Trump executes on his promises for deregulation, infrastructure and tax reform, your companies will enjoy a quick sugar high. But if you listen to what Trump and Bannon are saying, their vision of America and the world is unlike anything you business leaders have encountered before.

They are playing with, and happy to dispense with, big systems — like Nafta, the World Trade Organization and the European Union — that drive so much of the global economy. They believe things that are provably wrong — that the majority of job loss in America is from Mexicans and Chinese, when in fact it’s from microchips and computers, i.e., improved productivity.

Yes, some things are true even if Trump believes them: Islam does have problems with gender and religious pluralism, and integration in Western societies. Ignoring that is reckless.

But some things are true even if liberals believe them: that America has integrated Muslims better than any European country, because we are a melting pot. And making Muslims part of our community at home and our alliances abroad — rather than treating them as permanent aliens — has made us safer since 9/11. Ignoring that is dangerous.

And while we’re talking dangerous, why are there record numbers of migrants flooding out of sub-Saharan Africa, the Mideast and Central America, trying to get into Europe and America? Two big reasons are droughts and population explosions. And what do Trump and Bannon propose? Ignoring climate change and halting U.S. government help with family planning in the developing world.

Nothing is connected in their world. Everything is just a box to check or wall to build.

The Washington Post on Monday quoted Bannon as saying that he and Jeff Sessions were at the center of Trump’s “pro-America movement” that was “poorly understood by cosmopolitan elites in the media. … What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.”

When someone tells you he is giving birth to a “new political order” in America, be afraid. Yes, the acceleration in technology and globalization has particularly benefited higher-skilled knowledge workers in the West and lower-skilled rising middle classes in Asia. And, yes, it did squeeze middle-skilled workers in the West, who were more vulnerable to outsourcing, algorithms and automation. More needs to be done to help them.

If Trump is simply out to negotiate better trade deals for America and get our allies to share the burdens of defending the free world more equitably, God bless him. That can be a win for our workers.

But I fear that Bannon is manipulating Trump into a more messianic mission — that his “new political order” is not just about jobs, but culture, an attempt to recreate an America of the 1950s: a country dominated by white Christians, not “cosmopolitans”; where no one spoke Spanish at the grocery store; where America’s biggest C.E.O.s weren’t named Satya or Sundar; where every worker could have a high-wage middle-skilled job; and where trade walls and the slow pace of automation meant you didn’t have to be a lifelong learner.

If that’s where Trump is going, it will take us to a dark place. The way we lift American workers is not by building higher walls, but rather stronger communities — where business, philanthropies, the local school system and local government forge adaptive coalitions to enable every worker to engage in lifelong learning and every company to access global markets and every town to attract the smart risk-takers who start companies.

That is exactly what is happening in America’s best communities, and the job of government is to scale it, and the job of big business is to defend it. So don’t be fooled by a Trump sugar high; your businesses will thrive only if America is the country that prepares itself and its workers to live in a world without walls, not one that goes around erecting them.

This is the “new political order” we need and that you must defend. You ignore this mission at your — and our — peril.

Correction: February 1, 2017 An earlier version of this column misstated, in two instances, the surname of the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase. He is Jamie Dimon, not Diamond.

Oh, dear, sweet baby Jesus…  Either TMOW is a world-class moron or whatever software they have checking spelling (I doubt the Times bothers with actual copy editors any more) is being managed by a world-class moron.  Cripes…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Remember the good old days — by which I mean just a few weeks ago — when there was hope and talk that Donald Trump’s 36-year-old son-in-law would play the angel to Steve Bannon’s devil, tempering the president’s policies and keeping his crudest and most belligerent tendencies in check?

Well, the devil is running rampant in the Trump administration so far. The angel looks ever paler and frailer, with a halo that’s hard to find.

Jared Kushner, where are you?

I ask that specifically, in terms of Trump’s inner circle and Bannon’s obviously greater sway. But I ask it in a broader sense as well. Where among Trump’s sanest advisers and the most reasonable Republicans in Congress is the degree of pushback that’s called for? Where are the sufficiently loud voices of dissent? Right now Trump has too many mum collaborators too content to hope for the best. I put Kushner in that pack.

Bannon certainly knows how to manipulate the president and get what he wants. He’s Trump’s unabashed Iago, whispering sweet fictions about the magnitude of the “movement” that the president is leading and specifying how to feed it. He has a seat on the National Security Council. Kushner has his hand on Ivanka Trump’s seat.

If you haven’t seen that photo of the couple, do find it, and bear in mind when Ivanka posted it on her social media accounts: around midnight on Saturday. Her father’s hastily, sloppily composed immigration ban was just being implemented. Many confused, frightened travelers languished in detention or limbo. Protests had erupted at American airports. But she and her husband were on the town! They beamed, resplendent in formal wear and peerless in tone deafness.

A clever observer tweeted an image of Ivanka in her metallic gown next to one of a Syrian girl in a metallic emergency blanket, asking: “Who wore it better?”

If Kushner has sturdy principles or half the say that Bannon does, then explain the wording of the statement that the president put out on Friday in remembrance of the Holocaust. It failed to mention Jews, an omission so glaring that it incited a furor among Jewish Republican groups. And rather than apologize to them, the administration dug in, reprimanding them for being too touchy.

This had all the markings of Bannon, who deplores what he deems the politically correct coddling of minority groups. But it seemed to go against what Kushner holds dearest. He’s the descendant of Holocaust survivors, including a grandmother who helped to found the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and once complained of America’s reluctance to take in Jewish refugees who were trying to avoid extermination.

His family is famous for its Jewish philanthropy. He and Ivanka, who converted to Judaism for their marriage, observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. And yet his father-in-law fell short of the presidents before him in recognizing the horrors inflicted on Jews.

Some observers point to the Sabbath as proof that Kushner does indeed exert a taming force in Trump World. They say that the president is most reckless during these periods, because Ivanka and her husband aren’t around to babysit.

It was during the Sabbath that Trump pressed the National Park Service for more-flattering inauguration photos and gave that cockamamie, vainglorious speech to the C.I.A. It was the next day that he calmed down and tweeted a tribute to the Women’s March, calling peaceful protests “a hallmark of our democracy.”

Both before Trump’s candidacy and at its start, Kushner was pegged as someone with mild political views. He and Ivanka ran in socially liberal crowds, and their presence beside Trump provided at least an iota of reassurance for some of the many people aghast at his racially incendiary tactics.

But for Kushner, the campaign was less a political journey than an emotional one. His family had felt the lash of disdain after his father was sent to prison years earlier, and he was intent on redemption, revenge or something along those lines. Trump represented a road to a summit from which his son-in-law could lord it over the elitists who had looked down on him.

Maybe he didn’t register all the ugly swerves along the way. Maybe he convinced himself that they weren’t so ugly. Maybe he believed that he’d be able to grab the wheel and correct the course. Maybe he still tells himself that, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Sometimes I study him and see someone drained of color, even thinner than before, haunted. More often I see an emblem of our morally compromised capital, full of people willing to let the Trump juggernaut flatten essential American values just as long as they get to go along for the ride.

The entire pack of them are beneath contempt and should be shunned like pariahs by decent people.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 25, 2017

The Moustache of Wisdom thinks he knows all about “Smart Approaches, Not Strong-Arm Tactics, to Jobs” and he, as usual, informs us that Democrats need to take the long view.  Mr. Cohen, in “The Banal Belligerence of Donald Trump,” says Americans will have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why.  Mr. Bruni is sure he knows all about “The Wrong Way to Take On Trump,” and says if we insult his youngest son, curse, or surrender the high ground we’ll lose it all.  There will be a comment from one of the ladies after that…  Here’s TMOW, writing from London:

I’ve actually been watching the early Trump presidency from London. (I would have gone to the moon, but I couldn’t get a ride.) Even from here I have vertigo.

My head is swirling from “alternative facts,” trade deals canceled, pipelines initiated, Obamacare in the Twilight Zone and utterly bizarre rants about attendance on Inauguration Day and fake voters on Election Day. Whatever this cost Vladimir Putin, he’s already gotten his money’s worth — a chaos president. Pass the vodka.

But moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who opposed Donald Trump need to beware. He can make you so nuts — he can so vacuum your brains out — that you can’t think clearly about the most important questions today: What things are true even if Trump believes them, and therefore merit support? And where can Democrats offer smarter approaches on issues, like jobs, for instance — approaches that can connect to the guts of working-class voters as Trump did, but provide a smarter path forward.

Where Trump’s instinct is not wrong is on the need to strike a better long-term trading arrangement with China. But I worry about his pugnacious tactics. I would be negotiating with Beijing in total secret. Let everybody save face. If he smacks China with “America First,” China will smack him with “China First,” and soon we’ll have a good ol’ trade war.

Where I think Democrats should focus their critique, and fresh thinking, is how we actually bring back more middle-class jobs. A day barely goes by without Trump threatening some company that plans to move jobs abroad or build a factory in Mexico, not America.

If Trump’s bullying can actually save good jobs, God bless him. But what Trump doesn’t see is that while this may get him some short-term jobs headlines, in the long-run C.E.O.s may prefer not to build their next factory in America, precisely because it will be hostage to Trump’s Twitter lashings. They also may quietly replace more workers with robots faster, because Trump can’t see or complain about that.

“Trump wants to protect jobs,” explained Gidi Grinstein, who heads the Israeli policy institute Reut. “What we really need is to protect workers.”

You need to protect workers, not jobs, because every worker today will most likely have to transition multiple times to multiple jobs as the pace of change accelerates. So the best way you help workers is by ensuring that they are flexible — that they have the skills, safety nets, health care and lifelong learning opportunities to make those leaps and that they live in cities open to innovation, entrepreneurship and high-I.Q. risk-takers.

The societal units protecting workers best are our healthy communities — where local businesses, philanthropies, the public school system and universities, and local government come together to support a permanent education-to-work-to-life-long-skill-building pipeline.

Businesses signal to schools and colleges, in real time, the skills they need to thrive in the global economy, and philanthropies fund innovative programs for supplemental education and training. Schools also serve as adult learning and social service centers — and local and state governments support them all, including reaching out globally for investors and new markets.

Eric Beinhocker, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford, calls this the “new progressive localism.” For too long, he argues, “progressives have been so focused on Washington, they’ve missed the fact that most of the progress on the issues they care about — environment, education, economic opportunity and work-force skills — has happened at the local level. Because that is where trust lives.” Trust is what enables you to adapt quickly and experiment often, i.e., to be flexible. And there is so much more trust on the local level than the national level in America today.

When Trump strong-arms a company to retain jobs, but kills Obamacare without a credible alternative, he is saving jobs but hurting workers, because he is making workers less secure and less flexible.

Another of Trump’s jobs fallacies is that regulation always holds companies back. In some cases it does, and thoughtful deregulation can help. But Trump’s argument that we must ignore climate science because steadily upgrading clean energy standards for our power, auto and construction companies kills jobs is pure nonsense.

Fact: California has some of the highest clean energy standards for cars, buildings and electric utilities in America. And those standards have kept California one of the world’s leaders in clean-tech companies and start-ups, and its jobs and overall economy have grown steadily since 2010.

“The Golden State has more than half a million advanced energy jobs,” says Energy Innovation C.E.O. Hal Harvey. “That’s 10 times more — in this state alone — than total U.S. coal jobs.” Trump’s strategy is to “make America last” on clean energy and to double down on coal. Insane.

In sum, Democrats should and can take the language of “strength” away from Trump and own it themselves. They should be for strong workers, not strong walls; for building strong communities, not relying on a strongman to strong-arm employers; and for strong standards to create strong companies. Those would be my fightin’ words.

Well, at least this time he’s not suggesting that we take our gently used designer frocks to the consignment store to earn money.  Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

The soldiers, millions of them, came home from the war. They dispersed across the country, in big towns and small. It was not easy to recount what had happened to them, and for the dead it was impossible.

Something in the nature of their sacrifice was unsayable. The country was not especially interested. War had not brought the nation together but had divided it. The sudden flash, the boom, the acrid stench and utter randomness of death were as haunting as they were incommunicable.

This was war without victory, the kind that invites silence. For the soldiers, who fought in the belief that their cause was right and their nation just, the silence was humiliating. They bore their injuries, visible and invisible, with stoicism.

Resentments accumulated. The years went by, bringing only mediocrity. Glory and victory were forgotten words. Perhaps someone might mutter, “Thank you for your service.” That was it. There was no national memorial, for what would be memorialized?

Savings evaporated overnight in an economic meltdown engineered by financiers and facilitated by the abolishers of risk.

Democracy, the great diluter, slow and compromised, was inadequate for the expression of the soldiers’ emotions. Reasonable leaders with rational arguments could not assuage the loss. They seemed to belittle it with their parsing of every question and their half-decisions.

No, what was needed was a leader with answers, somebody to marshal a popular movement and cut through hesitations, a strongman who would put the nation first and mythologize its greatness, a figure ready to scapegoat without mercy, a unifier giving voice to the trampled masses, a man who could use democracy without being its slave.

Over 15 years national embitterment festered and yearning intensified. But which 15 years? Anyone these days may be forgiven for moments of disorientation. The 15 years from the devastating German defeat of 1918 to the electoral victory (with 43.9 percent of the vote) of Adolf Hitler in 1933? Or the 15 years from the devastating 9/11 attack on the United States to the electoral victory (with 46.1 percent of the vote) of Donald Trump in 2016?

National humiliation is long in gestation and violent in resolution.

German soldiers, two million of them killed in the Great War, came home to fractious and uneasy democratic politics, the ignominy of reparations, the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, the crash of 1929, and the paralysis of a political system held hostage by the extremes of left and right.

Some 2.7 million American soldiers came home to a country that had been shopping while they served in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, with 6,893 killed and more than 52,000 injured. They returned to an increasingly dysfunctional and polarized polity; to the financial disaster of 2008; to the mystery of what the spending of trillions of dollars in those wars had achieved; to stagnant incomes; to the steady diminishment of American uniqueness and the apparent erosion of its power.

Every American should look at the map in Kael Weston’s powerful book, “The Mirror Test.” It shows, with dots, the hometowns of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. No state is spared. The map should be hung in classrooms across the country.

I have tried to tread carefully with analogies between the Fascist ideologies of 1930s Europe and Trump. American democracy is resilient. But the first days of the Trump presidency — whose roots of course lie in far more than the American military debacles since 9/11 — pushed me over the top. The president is playing with fire.

To say, as he did, that the elected representatives of American democracy are worthless and that the people are everything is to lay the foundations of totalitarianism. It is to say that democratic institutions are irrelevant and all that counts is the great leader and the masses he arouses. To speak of “American carnage” is to deploy the dangerous lexicon of blood, soil and nation. To boast of “a historic movement, the likes of the which the world has never seen before” is to demonstrate consuming megalomania. To declaim “America first” and again, “America first,” is to recall the darkest clarion calls of nationalist dictators. To exalt protectionism is to risk a return to a world of barriers and confrontation. To utter falsehood after falsehood, directly or through a spokesman, is to foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen.

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window but a guard snatched it away. “Warum?” Levi asked (why?). To which the guard responded, “Hier ist kein warum” (here there is no why).

As the great historian Fritz Stern observed, “This denial of ‘why’ was the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization.”

Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why against the banal belligerence of Trump.

And now we get to Mr. Bruni:

You know how Donald Trump wins? I don’t mean a second term or major legislative victories. I’m talking about the battle between incivility and dignity.

He triumphs when opponents trade righteous anger for crude tantrums. When they lose sight of the line between protest and catcalls.

When a writer for “Saturday Night Live” jokes publicly that Trump’s 10-year-old son has the mien and makings of a killer.

“Barron will be this country’s first home-school shooter,” the writer, Katie Rich, tweeted. I cringe at repeating it. But there’s no other way to take proper note of its ugliness.

That tweet ignited a firestorm — and rightly so — but it didn’t really surprise me. It was just a matter of time. This is the trajectory that we’re traveling. This, increasingly, is what passes for impassioned advocacy.

Look elsewhere on Twitter. Or on Facebook. Or at Madonna, whose many positive contributions don’t include her turn at the microphone at the Women’s March in Washington, where she said that she’d “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House,” erupted into profanity and tweaked the lyrics to one of her songs so that they instructed Trump to perform a particular sex act.

What a sure way to undercut the high-mindedness of most of the women (and men) around her on that inspiring day. What a wasted opportunity to try to reach the many Americans who still haven’t decided how alarmed about Trump to be. I doubt that even one of them listened to her and thought: To the barricades I go! If Madonna’s dropping the F bomb, I must spring into action.

All of this plays right into Trump’s hands. It pulls eyes and ears away from the unpreparedness, conflicts of interest and extreme conservatism of so many of his cabinet nominees; from the evolving explanations for why he won’t release his tax returns; from his latest delusion or falsehood, such as his renewed insistence that illegally cast ballots cost him the popular vote; from other evidence of an egomania so profound that it’s an impediment to governing and an invitation to national disaster.

There’s so much substantive ground on which to confront Trump. There are acres upon acres. Why swerve into the gutter? Why help him dismiss his detractors as people in thrall to the theater of their outrage and no better than he is?

And why risk that disaffected Americans, tuning in only occasionally, hear one big mash of insults and insulters, and tune out, when there’s a contest — over what this country stands for, over where it will go — that couldn’t be more serious.

After Rich’s tweet, “Saturday Night Live” suspended her, and she was broadly condemned, by Democrats as well as Republicans, for violating the unofficial rule against attacks on the young children of presidents. Chelsea Clinton, on her Facebook page, urged people to give Barron space and peace — something that wasn’t always done for her, for George W. Bush’s daughters or for Barack Obama’s.

But the treatment of presidential progeny isn’t the real story here. And that’s a complicated saga anyway, because so many presidents and candidates try to have things both ways, putting family on display when it suits them and then declaring them off limits when it doesn’t.

The larger, more pressing issues are how low we’re prepared to sink in our partisan back-and-forth and what’s accomplished by descending to Trump’s subterranean level. His behavior has been grotesque, and it’s human nature to want to repay him in kind. It feels good. It sometimes even feels right.

Many people I know thrilled to the viral footage a few days ago of the vile white supremacist Richard Spencer being punched in the head during a television interview. But that attack does more to help him than to hurt him.

Many people I know thrilled to BuzzFeed’s publication of a dossier with unsubstantiated allegations about Trump. But that decision bolstered his ludicrous insistence that journalists are uniquely unfair to him. It gave him a fresh weapon in his war on the media.

If Trump’s presidency mirrors its dangerous prelude, one of the fundamental challenges will be to respond to him, his abettors and his agenda in the most tactically prudent way and not just the most emotionally satisfying one. To rant less and organize more. To resist taunts and stick with facts. To answer invective with intelligence.

And to show, in the process, that there are two very different sets of values here, manifest in two very distinct modes of discourse. If that doesn’t happen, Trump may be victorious in more than setting newly coarse terms for our political debate. He may indeed win on many fronts, over many years.

I’m not the only woman who is sick unto death of being told how to behave by the likes of David Brooks and Frank Bruni.  Here’s a comment on this POS by “Lorie” from Portland, OR:

“And there you have it, ladies. First David Brooks and now Mr. Bruni schooling women on how to respond to the election to the highest office in the country of a man who has admitted to sexually assaulting women, and we are expected to immediately take the high road. Do you know how well acting “ladylike” has worked for us? All you need to do is look at the picture of seven white men reinstating the gag order. The gloves need to come off. Please stop telling us how we need to express our anger in a gentle way so as not to be displeasing to the delicate sensibilities of men (and some women) who find profanity too much for their adult minds to bear. And enough with this “stop picking on Barron” nonsense. It was one tweet, and a few other comments – nothing compared to the barrage of horrible, profane comments “conservatives” unleashed on the Obama girls when one celebrated her 15th birthday and the other announced her intention to attend Harvard. There is no comparison. Again, we are being asked to accept a false equivalence in the name of “civility”. Can we women at least have a few months to express our anger how we want before the men swoop in to tell us how wrong we are doing it? Or is that just too much to ask?”

I’m sure it is, Lorie.  And maybe I’d be more willing to keep my mouth shut if there were substantial numbers of men protesting as well.  But, of course, Trump and his minions aren’t about to get all up in their vaginas, are they?

Kristof and Bruni

January 22, 2017

In “Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever” Mr. Kristof says that for much of humanity, things keep getting better.  Mr. Bruni, in “The President Who Buried Humility,” says Donald Trump’s inauguration heralds a new age of arrogance and says something sad and scary.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

There’s a broad consensus that the world is falling apart, with every headline reminding us that life is getting worse.

Except that it isn’t. In fact, by some important metrics, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity. And 2017 will probably be better still.

How can this be? I’m as appalled as anyone by the election of Donald Trump, the bloodshed in Syria, and so on. But while I fear what Trump will do to America and the world, and I applaud those standing up to him, the Trump administration isn’t the most important thing going on. Here, take my quiz:

On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:

A.) Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.

B.) Stays about the same.

C.) Drops by 250,000.

Polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same. But in fact, the correct answer is C. Every day, an average of about a quarter-million people worldwide graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures.

Or if you need more of a blast of good news, consider this: Just since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that’s only half as likely today as in 1990.

When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be. (Extreme poverty is defined as less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for inflation.)

For nearly all of human history, extreme poverty has been the default condition of our species, and now, on our watch, we are pretty much wiping it out. That’s a stunning transformation that I believe is the most important thing happening in the world today — whatever the news from Washington.

There will, of course, be continued poverty of a less extreme kind, smaller numbers of children will continue to die unnecessarily, and inequality remains immense. Oxfam calculated this month that just eight rich men own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

Yet global income inequality is actually declining. While income inequality has increased within the U.S., it has declined on a global level because China and India have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty.

All this may seem distant or irrelevant at a time when many Americans are traumatized by Trump’s inauguration. But let me try to reassure you, along with myself.

On a recent trip to Madagascar to report on climate change, I was struck that several mothers I interviewed had never heard of Trump, or of Barack Obama, or even of the United States. Their obsession was more desperate: keeping their children alive. And the astonishing thing was that those children, despite severe malnutrition, were all alive, because of improvements in aid and health care — reflecting trends that are grander than any one man.

Some of the most remarkable progress has been over diseases that — thank God! — Americans very rarely encounter. Elephantiasis is a horrible, disfiguring, humiliating disease usually caused by a parasite, leading a person’s legs to expand hugely until they resemble an elephant’s. In men, the disease can make the scrotum swell to grotesque proportions, so that when they walk they must carry their scrotum on a homemade wheelbarrow.

Yet some 40 countries are now on track to eliminate elephantiasis. When you’ve seen the anguish caused by elephantiasis — or leprosy, or Guinea worm, or polio, or river blindness, or blinding trachoma — it’s impossible not to feel giddy at the gains registered against all of them.

There’s similar progress in empowering women and in reducing illiteracy. Until the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate; now, 85 percent of adults are literate. And almost nothing makes more difference in a society than being able to read and write.

Michael Elliott, who died last year after leading the One Campaign, which battles poverty, used to say that we are living in an “age of miracles.” He was right, yet the progress is still too slow, and a basic question is whether President Trump will continue bipartisan U.S. efforts to fight global poverty. A four-page questionnaire from the Trump team to the State Department seems to suggest doubts about the value of humanitarian aid.

One reason for the Trump team’s skepticism may be the belief that global poverty is hopeless, that nothing makes a difference. So let’s keep perspective. Yes, Trump may cause enormous damage to America and the world in the coming years, and by all means we should challenge him at every turn. But when the headlines make me sick, I soothe myself with the reflection that there are forces in the world that are larger than Trump, and that in the long history of humanity, this still will likely be the very best year yet.

Remember: The most important thing happening is not a Trump tweet. What’s infinitely more important is that today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

The word popped up in the opening sentence of Barack Obama’s first Inaugural Address and in the opening paragraphs of George W. Bush’s.

“Humbled,” each man said of himself, and while it was pure cliché, it was also what we wanted and needed: a sign, no matter how rote, that even someone self-assured enough to pursue the presidency was taking the measure of that responsibility and asking if he was worthy of it.

Does that question cross Donald Trump’s mind?

I don’t think so. I certainly didn’t get that sense from his inaugural remarks, and not just because “humbled” went missing. As he stood just feet from four of the last six presidents, he trashed them, talking about a Washington establishment blind and deaf to the struggles of less fortunate Americans.

He characterized his election as part of “a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen.” Forget about his loss of the popular vote. Or his 40 percent favorability rating. Or the puny crowd at his inauguration in comparison with the throngs at Obama’s eight years ago. Trump remained a singular man on a singular mission — a legend in his own mind.

We’ve already become so accustomed to his egomania that we sometimes forget how remarkable it is. He’s a braggart beyond his predecessors in the Oval Office, and that says something sad and scary about the country that elected him and the kind of leader he’s likely to be. With Trump we enter a new age of arrogance. He’s the cock crowing at its dawn.

His first stop after arriving here on Thursday afternoon for the inaugural festivities was his recently opened hotel, a transformation of the Old Post Office. He pronounced its principal ballroom “gorgeous” and declared that “a total genius must have built this place.” He was referring to himself.

Then, talking about his nominees for top administration jobs, he said: “We have, by far, the highest I.Q. of any cabinet ever assembled.” That’s obviously unknowable. But it’s entirely in keeping with his nonstop insistence that everything about him is magical, epochal, amazing.

As he went through the traditional inaugural paces, he toggled between the dignified bearing expected of a man in his role and the coarse bravado that he prefers.

His remarks to his supporters at the Lincoln Memorial early Thursday evening included the assertion that his victory was really theirs. “You had much more to do with it than I did,” he told them. “I’m just the messenger.”

But then he recited, for perhaps the thousandth time, how emphatically he defied so many pundits’ predictions and how huge his rallies were. He has indulged this tangent so repeatedly that Politico recently published a story with the headline “Trump Can’t Stop Talking About How He Won.”

And while he kept his remarks at the inauguration brief and said “you” and “we” much more often than “I,” that’s exactly why they were so flaccid. To find his full voice, he must be singing his own praises.

It was a dark speech, bemoaning “this American carnage” of gangs and drugs. It was a mean speech, insulting every one of his new colleagues by describing politicians as “all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.”

But mostly it was a flat speech, bereft of the poetry that this tense juncture called for. He used pared-down language, simple sentences and a sluggish delivery, as if he were reading to children. Call it the “Goodnight Moon” of Inaugural Addresses.

He does as he pleases, expectations be damned, and indeed the most striking aspect of Trump’s transition was an absence of humility. Although he owed his Electoral College win to just 77,000 votes in three states, and it was clouded by questions about James Comey and the Russians, he didn’t bother much with outreach to adversaries or appeals for unity.

He put together that high-I.Q. team of his with few of the usual courtesies and considerations. None of his cabinet nominees are Democrats. None is Latino. Only one, Ben Carson, his choice for housing secretary, is black.

Many are billionaires or bigmouths whose outsize vanity mirrors Trump’s. Rick Perry came to his assignment as energy secretary from a stint on “Dancing With the Stars.” Carson’s palatial Maryland home has been described as a gaudy shrine to … Ben Carson, with plaques that honor him and photographs that glamorize him on prominent display.

Every president in my lifetime has been conceited. It’s more or less a job requirement. Bush had a bloated faith in his gut and his charm, while Obama fancied himself the smartest, most soulful person in almost any room.

But they were nothing like Trump, who’s a preening cartoon. He brags like he breathes. It’s autonomic. And he gloats the way our parents and teachers always told us not to.

But that admonition predated Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Social media have blurred the line between sharing and showing off, and they’ve turned self-promotion into a tic. In our private and our professional lives, we’re prodded to burnish our images, to advertise our assets, to sell, sell, sell. Is it any wonder, then, that we looked up on Friday to see, in front of the Capitol, taking the oath of office, a gaudy confidence man who’s all about the sale? Is it any accident?

His campaign was an unprecedented orgy of self-congratulation. At the start of almost every rally, he trumpeted his poll numbers, and I don’t mean a few quick bleats — I mean a vulgar music that could go on for minutes. At the conclusion of almost every debate, he announced how brilliantly he’d done.

When he stepped up to a microphone to introduce Mike Pence as his running mate, he seemed to forget all about him, and instead paid tribute to himself in a rambling soliloquy more than 20 minutes long. He didn’t stick around onstage for Pence’s remarks.

At the Republican National Convention, warning of national decline, he thundered, “I alone can fix it.” And in the months before and after, he complimented himself out loud and lavishly on everything from the magnitude of his wealth to the majesty of his phallus. That might have disqualified him in another era, but Americans stomached it. More than that, they rewarded it, proving that ours is a different moment, with different mores.

Trump took credit for a drop in the television viewership for pro football: He was providing a superior spectacle. When the ratings for “The New Celebrity Apprentice” with Arnold Schwarzenegger were revealed, he tweeted that they paled next to those for the original “Apprentice,” which starred “the ratings machine, DJT.”

Presidential? Hah! But neither was the tweet that wished a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

It’s staggering, and it’s endless. During his only real news conference as president-elect, he mused that he could master the management of the country and of his business simultaneously, noting that while the law bars other government officials from such double duty, there’s no such formal restriction on the president.

“I would be the only one that would be able to do that,” he said. “I could run the Trump Organization — great, great company — and I could run the country. I’d do a very good job.” It was like a Russian nesting doll of self-infatuation: boast within boast within boast.

If Trump and his tribe were humble or humbled, they wouldn’t have been caught trying to monetize his political currency, as when one of his sons peddled coffee with Ivanka or when her company hawked copies of the dress she wore at the convention and the jewelry she flashed on “60 Minutes.”

The Trumps are extreme, but they’re also emblematic of a creeping crassness and lack of restraint in public life. I think of the North Carolina Republicans who gallingly moved to dilute the governorship’s power before it could change hands from someone in their party to a Democrat.

I think of an interview that Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader, recently gave to New York magazine’s Jason Zengerle as he prepared to retire from the Senate. “I’ve done stuff no one else will do,” Reid volunteered, and then recalled — proudly, it seemed — the time during the 2012 presidential campaign when he falsely accused Mitt Romney of not having paid taxes. There was no modesty in that lie, and there’s no modesty in his apparent peace with it.

Still, he’s no Trump. Who is? Maybe Howard Roark, the protagonist of “The Fountainhead,” by Ayn Rand. Roark must defend his creative genius against the meddling of lesser mortals. Trump once described the novel as profound.

He has other Rand fans around him. Last month, The Washington Post’s James Hohmann identified a batch of cabinet nominees, including Rex Tillerson, who are taken with her philosophy and work.

What does that bode for the coming months? We’ve seen hints in the past ones. Under fire, Trump rages, rails and frequently doubles down on his convictions and even his fictions. He rearranges reality to suit his self-regard, flinging accusations of “rigged” surveys and “fake news.”

A humbler man would doubt himself, extend an olive branch to his enemies, contemplate a middle ground. But then a humbler man wouldn’t have come down that escalator at Trump Tower and proceed to say what Trump said and do what he did. As I watched him flourish, I watched humility die. On Friday, our 45th president said its last rites.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 18, 2017

In “Retweeting Donald Trump” The Moustache of Wisdom asks us to imagine the benefits to the country if the president-elect’s messages were nice, not nasty.  Yeah, Tommy…  And if wishes were horses beggars would ride, and if my aunt had wheels she’d be a bus.  I don’t usually put up comments to Friedman’s stuff, but this time “Bruce Rozenblit” from Kansas City, MO has something important to tell The Moustache of Wisdom.  Mr. Cohen, in “Israel as the Lights Go Out,” says in America, there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.  Mr. Bruni asks “This Year #OscarsSoBlack?” and says against a backdrop of tense race relations, three widely praised movies should bring needed diversity to this year’s Academy Award nominations.  Here’s TMOW:

When Donald Trump was elected president, it felt to me like the most reckless thing our country had done in my lifetime. But like many Americans, I hoped for the best: He’ll grow into the job. He’ll surround himself with good people. The country could use a jolt of fresh thinking. He’ll back off some of his most extreme views.

But now that Trump is about to put his hand on the Bible and be sworn in, I’ve never been more worried for my country. It’s for many reasons, but most of all because of the impulsive, petty and juvenile tweeting the president-elect has engaged in during his transition.

It suggests an immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency that could roil his government and divide the country. I fear that we’re about to stress our unity and institutions in ways not seen since the Vietnam War.

As a leader, you only have one chance to make a second impression. And it is troubling how badly Trump wasted his. A recent Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his transition — compared with 83 percent for President Obama’s and 61 percent for George W. Bush’s.

Yes, I know, in his Inaugural Address Trump will again summon us to “bind the wounds of division.” But given all his impulsive digital ax wielding, those words will ring hollow. He’s already emptied them of all emotional force with his venomous tweets and refusal to bring even one Democrat into his cabinet.

Trump is hardly the first person elected president to have his legitimacy attacked. Indeed, he led the onslaught on President Obama’s legitimacy. But more than any president since Richard Nixon, Trump has shown himself incapable of turning the other cheek and converting doubters into allies. In an age that demands giant leadership, he’s behaved utterly small.

What if, after Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to decry Trump’s cruel impersonation of a handicapped reporter, Trump — instead of ridiculously calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” — had tweeted: “Meryl Streep, greatest actress ever, ever, ever. Stuff happens in campaigns, Meryl. Even I have regrets. But watch, I’ll make you proud of my presidency!!!!”

What if, after John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights hero, questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s election, Trump hadn’t sneered that Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk” and “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape.” What if Trump instead tweeted: “John Lewis, a great American, let’s walk together through your district and develop a plan to improve people’s lives there. Obama was all talk. I’m all action. Call me Friday after 1 p.m. 202-456-1414. I’ll show you how legit I am.”

What if on New Year’s Trump — instead of tweeting “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies” who “lost so badly they just don’t know what to do” — had tweeted: “Happy New Year to every American — especially to Hillary Clinton and her supporters who fought a tough campaign — very tough. Let’s together make 2017 amazing (!!!!!!) for every American. Love!”

What if, after a cast member of the musical “Hamilton” appealed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence to “uphold our American values” and “work on behalf of all of us,” Trump — instead of denouncing the actor as being “very rude and insulting” and claiming he “couldn’t even memorize lines” — had instead tweeted: “To the cast of Hamilton: Appreciate your sincere concern for our country. When I am in the room where it happens, good stuff will happen. I will not throw away my shot to work on behalf of all of us!!!”

What if Trump — instead of calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “head clown” — had tweeted: “Chuck, you are THE MAN!!! Top Democrat now that Obama’s gone!!! You love to deal. Send me your best health care experts and we’ll fix this thing together in 24 hours, so every American gets better, cheaper care. We’ll both be heroes (well, me just a little bit more). Call me!!!”

That is the sound of magnanimity. It would have generated a flood of good will that would make solving every big problem easier. And it would have cost Trump nothing.

I’ve noted before that one of my favorite movies is “Invictus,” which tells how Nelson Mandela, when he became South Africa’s president, built trust with the white community. Shortly after Mandela took power, his sports advisers wanted to change the name and colors of the country’s famed rugby team — the almost all-white “Springboks” — to something more reflective of black African identity.

Mandela refused. He told his black aides that the key to making whites feel at home in a black-led South Africa was not uprooting all of their cherished symbols. “We have to surprise them with restraint and generosity,” said Mandela.

Most Americans are good-hearted people who are actually starved to feel united again. Many who voted against Trump would have given him a second look had he surprised them with generosity and grace. He did just the opposite. Sad.

And now here’s “Bruce Rozenblit” in response:

“Mr. Friedman is getting close to the root of the problem with Trump. He accurately outlines Trump’s character flaws, demonstrating that he is unfit to be president. He dances around the root issue. Mr. Friedman, like most of the world is still clinging to their denial about Trump.

Trump is unfit to lead because his mind is unfit. Trump can’t lead because his mental defects corral his decisions into either adulation or attack. Everyone around him is trying to manage him. Just today, The Times is running an article stating that Reince Priebus is Trump’s tamer. To make such a statement is to conclude that Trump is unfit to lead. The president isn’t supposed to be tamed. He should do the taming.

Just Sunday, The Times ran an article about women who voted for Trump. The theme was they looked past the bad in hopes of the good. More denial. They created hopes of good when faced with disqualifying bad. Horrible bad.

When my uncle was dying, he refused to accept that the end was near. The doctors were wrong he said. That is when I learned about extreme denial. He clung to life until he finally accepted his fate and then quickly past. He let go.

We have yet to let go of our denial about Trump. We have yet to accept our fate. The truth is too difficult to bear. We continue to reject it.

The truth is that we have elected an incompetent, mentally unstable, man child to the White House. Words do matter. Start listening.”

And next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Washington:

The bizarre burst of diplomatic activity on IsraelPalestine in the waning days of the Obama administration has been tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything. The rest of the time political cowardice in the form of silence prevails.

In a matter of weeks we have had a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory;” a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry setting out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two-state peace agreement and defending the American abstention that allowed the U.N. resolution to pass; and a Paris peace conference that urged Israelis and Palestinians, neither of them present, to take concrete steps to get the two-state idea off life support.

None of this piety will change anything on the ground, where settlements continue to grow, the daily humiliations that constitute Palestinian life continue to accumulate, and the occupation that will mark its 50th anniversary this year continues to entrench itself. The only possible change will come with President-elect Donald Trump, whose dalliance with moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amounts to pyromania, and whose choice of ambassador, his sometime lawyer David Friedman, suggests hard-line American support for Israeli settlements.

Trump’s thirst for the “ultimate deal” in the Holy Land could not be more far-fetched, however much his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hones his skills with Henry Kissinger. There’s nobody and nothing to work with after a half-century of moral corrosion and progressive estrangement.

Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.

U.N. resolution 2334 infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who called it “shameful.” He seemed surprised that ignoring Obama’s veto of an earlier settlements resolution in 2011 would have consequences. Obama ran out of patience because, despite his forbearance, Israel went right on planning housing for tens of thousands more settlers while absorbing “more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing,” in Kerry’s words. Gratitude is not Netanyahu’s forte.

There was little new in the resolution, given America’s consistent opposition to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over several decades. In fact, the twinning of criticism of Israel with condemnation under international law of “incitement” — a reference to persistent Palestinian practice — was among the fresher elements. Still, the language was sharp. The resolution called on states to distinguish “in their relevant dealings” between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967”; and it declared that “The cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it. Annexation would be awkward; some 2.75 million Palestinians would demand the vote. Better to play games and let millions of strangers squirm.

Kerry’s speech was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.

It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

Kerry finally set out the terms of a two-state peace: secure borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps; a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people where the rights of all citizens (Arabs in Israel, Jews in an eventual Palestine) are upheld; a just solution for Palestinian refugees including compensation and acknowledgment of suffering but without changing “the fundamental character of Israel” — so only very limited return to Israel proper; Jerusalem as “the capital of the two states;” a demilitarized Palestinian state, a full end to the occupation after an agreed transition, and elaborate Israeli security guarantees; an end to the conflict and all outstanding claims along with broader peace for Israel with all its Arab neighbors and a regional security partnership.

Why was this unremarkable formula unsayable for so long? Because cowardice inhabits Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah: This little diplomatic flurry has been obscene. Kerry was honorable; Obama lacked courage. Netanyahu dismissed the “last twitches of yesterday’s world.” It is a measure of where we are that tomorrow’s may well be worse.

And last but not least we come to Mr. Bruni:

On the bright side, at least Jenna Bush Hager didn’t say “Hidden Fences in the Moonlight,” mashing together all three of the critically acclaimed movies about African-Americans that are in theaters right now.

I’m referring to that cringe-worthy moment at the Golden Globes when Hager, a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show, mistakenly referred to “Hidden Figures” as “Hidden Fences,” something that the actor Michael Keaton also did later that same night. “Fences” is its own production, and it, “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” are all in the hunt for Oscar nominations, to be announced next Tuesday.

They tell unrelated stories in unrelated styles. And they’re not equally accomplished, not to my eye. “Moonlight” has a daring, a visual poetry and a jolting intimacy that lift it well above the other two.

But they are indeed linked, because together they represent a real chance, after the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, for a bit of an #OscarsSoBlack correction, or at least an #OscarsMoreDiverse one. The number of nominations that these three movies do or don’t receive will be one of the main lenses through which the 2017 Academy Awards are analyzed, especially in light of this tense juncture for race relations.

The president-elect feuds in an unnecessary, undignified fashion with a hero of the civil rights movement. (Then again, the president-elect feuds in that fashion with a sprawling cast.) He built a political base partly on the lie that our first black president was born outside the country. Because of that and much more, many black members of Congress, among other Democrats, won’t attend his inauguration.

Race has already been a significant part of Oscar talk, with disputes about why Casey Affleck, the white star of “Manchester by the Sea,” is teed up for a best actor nomination (and, possibly, a win) when Nate Parker, the star and director of “The Birth of a Nation,” is almost certain to be passed over. Parker has been dogged by a long-ago rape accusation; Affleck has confronted more recent sexual harassment suits. Is it the difference in the allegations, in the quality of their movies or in the color of their skin that explains their divergent fates?

After there were no black nominees in the acting and directing categories for the last two years, the Academy instituted plans to diversify its membership. No matter how this year’s voting goes, I expect complaints: that the pendulum swung too far or not far enough; that merit is being inflated or denied.

And so I’d like to dwell, beforehand, on the happy, hopeful fact of these three movies themselves. Along with other examinations of race on screens big and small, they have a grace and an insight missing in so much of our public debate. Better still, they’re finding appreciative audiences.

That was one takeaway from the Globes, where “Moonlight” and the television comedies “Atlanta” and “black-ish” won big. It’s also evident in the triumph of “Hidden Figures” as the top-grossing movie in America each of the last two weekends.

“Hidden Figures” tells the fact-based story of three black women who were unheralded heroes at NASA in the 1960s. It has a vital message, affectingly rendered: Prejudice not only strangles individual dreams but stupidly bleeds a society of the talents it needs to reach its fullest potential.

“Fences,” adapted from August Wilson’s play, concentrates on one black family in the 1950s, in particular one black man, played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the movie. It shows how insidiously an awareness of unjustly imposed limits eats away at a person.

Although “Moonlight” comes at the wages of racism less bluntly, its depiction of a tormented boy’s journey to manhood asks big, haunting questions about the social and cultural forces that doom too many young, disadvantaged African-Americans today. Its director, Barry Jenkins, sees a hurt that you can’t turn away from and a hope that you can’t ignore where so many news stories and politicians see only statistics. Maybe that’s because he’s black. Or maybe it’s because he’s brilliant.

I don’t mean to hold up the movies as some uniquely enlightened antidote to the ugliness elsewhere. Meryl Streep’s Hollywood-flattering speech at the Globes conveniently overlooked the industry’s habit of pairing male stars with female ones half their age, thwarting female directors, stereotyping minorities, glamorizing reprobates and putting money above morality time and again.

Movies give us some of our worst ideas about ourselves. But then, like great fiction, they’re our bridges to insufficiently understood lives, our compasses to inadequately learned truths. That’s the case with the three films I just described.

They may yield a best supporting actress nominee apiece and thus an Oscar first: three black contenders in one acting category. That would hardly make up for all the oversights past. But it would be cause for celebration nonetheless.

And a small personal housekeeping matter — Welcome to Savannah, Jay!  I left you a reply to your comment.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 11, 2017

In “Online and Scared” The Moustache of Wisdom says a critical mass of our interactions has moved to a realm where we’re all connected but no one’s in charge.  Mr. Cohen, in “Streep vs. Trump for America,” says Americans have been duped by a showman, but to unseat him, liberals must reckon with how they lost sight of their country.  Would that be because we don’t pander to racists, homophobes and neonazis?  Mr. Bruni, in “The Dark Magic of Kellyanne Conway,” says Donald Trump’s cheeriest defender is a political wonder.  Well, that’s one thing you could call her…  Here’s TMOW:

And so it came to pass that in the winter of 2016 the world hit a tipping point that was revealed by the most unlikely collection of actors: Vladimir Putin, Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and the Macy’s department store. Who’d have thunk it?

And what was this tipping point?

It was the moment when we realized that a critical mass of our lives and work had shifted away from the terrestrial world to a realm known as “cyberspace.” That is to say, a critical mass of our interactions had moved to a realm where we’re all connected but no one’s in charge.

After all, there are no stoplights in cyberspace, no police officers walking the beat, no courts, no judges, no God who smites evil and rewards good, and certainly no “1-800-Call-If-Putin-Hacks-Your-Election.” If someone slimes you on Twitter or Facebook, well, unless it is a death threat, good luck getting it removed, especially if it is done anonymously, which in cyberspace is quite common.

And yet this realm is where we now spend increasing hours of our day. Cyberspace is now where we do more of our shopping, more of our dating, more of our friendship-making and sustaining, more of our learning, more of our commerce, more of our teaching, more of our communicating, more of our news-broadcasting and news-seeking and more of our selling of goods, services and ideas.

It’s where both our president-elect and the leader of ISIS can communicate with equal ease with tens of millions of their respective followers through Twitter — without editors, fact-checkers, libel lawyers or other filters.

And, I would argue, 2016 will be remembered as the year when we fully grasped just how scary that can be — how easy it was for a presidential candidate to tweet out untruths and half-truths faster than anyone could correct them, how cheap it was for Russia to intervene on Trump’s behalf with hacks of Democratic operatives’ computers and how unnerving it was to hear Yahoo’s chief information security officer, Bob Lord, say that his company still had “not been able to identify” how one billion Yahoo accounts and their sensitive user information were hacked in 2013.

Even President Obama was taken aback by the speed at which this tipping point tipped. “I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyberhacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies,” he told ABC News’s “This Week.”

At Christmas, Amazon.com taught yet more traditional retailers how hard the cybertipping point has hit retailing. Last week, Macy’s said it was slashing 10,000 jobs and closing dozens of stores because, according to The Wall Street Journal, “Macy’s hasn’t been able to solve consumers’ shift to online shopping.”

At first Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, insisted that fake news stories carried by Facebook “surely had no impact” on the election and that saying so was “a pretty crazy idea.” But in a very close election it was not crazy at all.

Facebook — which wants all the readers and advertisers of the mainstream media but not to be saddled with its human editors and fact-checkers — is now taking more seriously its responsibilities as a news purveyor in cyberspace.

Alan S. Cohen, chief commercial officer of the cybersecurity firm Illumio (I am a small shareholder), noted in an interview on siliconAngle.com that the reason this tipping point tipped now was because so many companies, governments, universities, political parties and individuals have concentrated a critical mass of their data in enterprise data centers and cloud computing environments.

Ten years ago, said Cohen, bad guys did not have the capabilities to get at all this data and extract it, but “now they do,” and as more creative tools like big data and artificial intelligence get “weaponized,” this will become an even bigger problem. It’s a huge legal, moral and strategic problem, and it will require, said Cohen, “a new social compact” to defuse.

Work on that compact has to start with every school teaching children digital civics. And that begins with teaching them that the internet is an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information, where they need to bring skepticism and critical thinking to everything they read and basic civic decency to everything they write.

A Stanford Graduate School of Education study published in November found “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the internet. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from. … One assessment required middle schoolers to explain why they might not trust an article on financial planning that was written by a bank executive and sponsored by a bank. The researchers found that many students did not cite authorship or article sponsorship as key reasons for not believing the article.”

Prof. Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report, said: “Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite to be true.”

In an era when more and more of our lives have moved to this digital realm, that is downright scary.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

There are economic tensions in the United States, insufficient to explain the election of a petulant egomaniac to the highest office in the land, and there’s an all-out culture war that does explain it.

Donald Trump will become president next week because a sufficient number of Americans have had it with the confining, tiptoeing, politically correct form of speech and interaction favored by liberal elites on the coasts who believe they hold a monopoly on wisdom and the only key to progress.

It’s the culture, stupid.

The issues that afflict the economy — rising inequality, stagnant middle-class incomes, marginalization — are not enough to explain Americans’ decision to leap off a cliff and entrust their fate to a collection of billionaires and ex-generals under the diktat of a thin-skinned showman of conspicuous “cruelty and ignorance,” in the words of Garrison Keillor.

Meryl Streep, in a speech at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, waded into this culture war. She was Hollywood lambasting the people’s choice. Without naming the president-elect, she singled out his cruelty, as expressed in Trump’s mocking imitation during the campaign of a reporter with a disability. They did that in the Middle Ages, you know.

Trump, goaded, is like a child whose candy has been taken away. He throws a fit. His version of a scream is a tweet (or in this case several) calling Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” and a “Hillary flunky,” and claiming — grotesquely — that he never mocked the reporter, my colleague Serge Kovaleski. Trump finished up with his usual gibe at the “very dishonest media.”

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

Streep did an important thing in pointing to how Trump’s bullying allows open season for everyone’s inner bigot. A time of violence is upon us. She did another important thing in saying that, “We need the principled press to hold power to account.” If Trump sees himself as America’s “voice,” every countervoice is needed, loud and clear and persistent.

But will Streep’s words have any impact with Trump’s tens of millions of supporters, or will they redouble these people’s anger toward elites in Hollywood and other centers of dogmatic liberalism?

Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of Senator John McCain, tweeted that, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will get him re-elected.” She has a point. Trump lost the popular vote in November by 2.8 million. But outside California and New York, he won by 3 million. That’s America’s story in a nutshell.

Getting America out of its mess begins with the acknowledgment that New York and California do not have a stranglehold on truth, any more than Kansas and Missouri do. Out there in God-fearing gun country there are plenty of smart, upstanding Americans who, as Mark Lilla of Columbia University put it, paraphrasing Bernie Sanders, are “sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.”

Lilla, in the same important piece, identified the “moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message” as a principal cause of the Democrats’ defeat; and he also called out a “generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups” — specifically the working-class whites who voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

For this, of course, Lilla was widely vilified by the thought police of identity politics. His colleague at Columbia University, Katherine Franke, suggested he was doing the “nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.” That’s an outrageous allegation but not one untypical of our times.

It’s not only the alt-right that wants to silence dissenting views. The alt-left is in full mobilization. Trump is a travesty. But just denouncing him without understanding him leads nowhere. As Michael Wolff pointed out in Newsweek, where liberals see an attack on free speech, Trump supporters see the media stifling “real speech.”

The weeks since Nov. 8 have demonstrated Trump’s contempt for his supporters. He wants to “drain the swamp” through nepotism, empower the marginalized through the coddling of the superrich, and toss the ethics of hard-working heartland Americans out the window of that gold-daubed apartment atop his tower. It’s been a stomach-turning display.

With time, more Americans will side with Streep. They will see that a mean, shallow actor has duped them. But to finish with Trump, liberals will also have to reckon with how they lost sight of their country.

Stuff it up your butt, Roger.  I’m sick unto death of being told I’m not a “real American” because I’m not a gun-humping, screeching member of y’all-Qaeda.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If you happened to watch CNN on Friday morning, you saw a brutal exchange about Russian hacking between a righteous anchor with steam coming out of his ears and a right-wing operative with ice in her veins.

“Chris Cuomo bulldozes Kellyanne Conway,” said a headline in one of the many publications so impressed by the encounter that they reported on it.

If you happened to watch CNN on Monday morning, you saw that Conway was actually back with Cuomo for more.

Surprised? Then you don’t know the first thing about her.

She’s no mere mouthpiece, no measly surrogate. She’s more like the David Blaine of political spin, intent on working feats of magic that few others would attempt and surviving situations that would cripple any ordinary mortal. He catches a bullet in his mouth; she makes Donald Trump sound like a humble servant of the common man. He lasts 44 days in a plexiglass case over the Thames; she lasts 40 minutes with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

She reunited with Cuomo not just to pooh-pooh Vladimir Putin’s misdeeds anew but to answer Meryl Streep’s complaint about the way Trump once mocked a disabled journalist. And she came up with that gem about disregarding the president-elect’s words and judging him instead by what’s in his heart, which she apparently knows to be good. She has done Blaine one better. She’s a stuntwoman and a cardiologist.

As the cabinet nominees submit to their inquisitions and Trump holds his first news conference since the election, there’s a surfeit of political spectacle this week.

But for sheer, jaw-dropping wonder, I doubt that any of it will improve on a typical Conway television interview, which is a circus of euphemisms, a festival of distractions and a testament to the stamina of a willed smile. She looks cheery when attacking, even cheerier when attacked and absolutely radiant when descending into a bog of half-truths and fictions. It’s always sunny on Conway’s side of the street.

And it’s always a landslide when her candidate wins. She describes Trump’s victory as a mandate — never mind its narrowness or all that Russian nefariousness — and dismisses his critics by citing their inability to see that heady triumph coming. They had no foresight. Now they have no grounds.

Waving away what Hollywood stars said about Trump at the Golden Globes, she told Cuomo: “That place, this network, frankly, all believed the election would turn out a different way.”

She also questioned why Streep would go after Trump and not the “four young African-American adults in Chicago screaming racial anti-Trump expletives” at a disabled young man in that chilling Facebook Live video. Is this the new bar for taking Trump to task? You can’t do it until you’ve completed a roll call of every bully in the news?

“Saturday Night Live” is transfixed by Conway, but they don’t get her quite right. As portrayed by Kate McKinnon, she experiences pinpricks of horror over abetting Trump’s ascent. The real-life Conway shows no such remorse. She’s exultant to the point of taunting Hillary Clinton’s aides for their defeat, as she did when she appeared with them at Harvard in December for an election post-mortem.

That was the occasion of my favorite Conway-ism. She was asked if Trump’s baseless insistence that he would have won the popular vote except for millions of illegal ballots constituted presidential behavior.

“He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior,” she said.

Many journalists don’t get Conway quite right, either, assigning her more power in Trump World than she has. When you’re doing that much TV, you can be in only so many meetings.

What she possesses is a showmanship that Trump can’t help appreciating. I know dozens of people who despise her politics but are mesmerized by her performances. She’s the Streep of “Fox & Friends” (of “Morning Joe,” too) and a perfect emblem of these polarized times, when no claim is too laughable or denial too ludicrous if it counters the supposed insidiousness of the other side.

She’s also the gold-haired standard for a rising generation of unflappable partisans. I imagine that Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump apologist on CNN, studies her moves the way a backup quarterback watches the starter. Should Conway go down with a broken fibula, McEnany’s ready to lead the drive.

The Trump booster Anthony Scaramucci is perhaps another of the sorceress’ apprentices. With MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle last week, he was Conway-esque in pivoting from the questions he was asked to the answers he preferred to give.

But he needs practice: I heard nothing at the altitude of Conway’s claim this week that the Democrats demanding more financial information from Trump’s nominees were “political peeping Toms.” What pith. What alliteration. What a year we’re in for.

Kristof and Bruni

January 8, 2017

In “As Donald Trump Denies Climate Change, These Kids Die of It” Mr. Kristof says droughts caused by global warming have left southern Africa starved for food.  Mr. Bruni, in “Rumors of Hillary Clinton’s Comeback,” says Donald Trump only thought he got rid of her.  Here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Tsihombe, Madagascar:

She is just a frightened mom, worrying if her son will survive, and certainly not fretting about American politics — for she has never heard of either President Obama or Donald Trump.

What about America itself? Ranomasy, who lives in an isolated village on this island of Madagascar off southern Africa, shakes her head. It doesn’t ring any bells.

Yet we Americans may be inadvertently killing her infant son. Climate change, disproportionately caused by carbon emissions from America, seems to be behind a severe drought that has led crops to wilt across seven countries in southern Africa. The result is acute malnutrition for 1.3 million children in the region, the United Nations says.

Trump has repeatedly mocked climate change, once even calling it a hoax fabricated by China. But climate change here is as tangible as its victims. Trump should come and feel these children’s ribs and watch them struggle for life. It’s true that the links between our carbon emissions and any particular drought are convoluted, but over all, climate change is as palpable as a wizened, glassy-eyed child dying of starvation. Like Ranomasy’s 18-month-old son, Tsapasoa.

Southern Africa’s drought and food crisis have gone largely unnoticed around the world. The situation has been particularly severe in Madagascar, a lovely island nation known for deserted sandy beaches and playful long-tailed primates called lemurs.

But the southern part of the island doesn’t look anything like the animated movie “Madagascar”: Families are slowly starving because rains and crops have failed for the last few years. They are reduced to eating cactus and even rocks or ashes. The United Nations estimates that nearly one million people in Madagascar alone need emergency food assistance.

I met Ranomasy at an emergency feeding station run by Catholic nuns who were trying to save her baby. Ranomasy had carried Tsapasoa 12 hours on a trek through the desert to get to the nuns, walking barefoot because most villagers have already sold everything from shoes to spoons to survive.

“I feel so powerless as a mother, because I know how much I love my child,” she said. “But whatever I do just doesn’t work.”

The drought is also severe in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and a related drought has devastated East Africa and the Horn of Africa and is expected to continue this year. The U.N. World Food Program has urgently appealed for assistance, but only half the money needed has been donated.

The immediate cause of the droughts was an extremely warm El Niño event, which came on top of a larger drying trend in the last few decades in parts of Africa. New research, just published in the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, concludes that human-caused climate change exacerbated El Niño’s intensity and significantly reduced rainfall in parts of Ethiopia and southern Africa.

The researchers calculated that human contributions to global warming reduced water runoff in southern Africa by 48 percent and concluded that these human contributions “have contributed to substantial food crises.”

As an American, I’m proud to see U.S. assistance saving lives here. If it weren’t for U.S.A.I.D., the American aid agency, and nonprofit groups like Catholic Relief Services that work in these villages, far more cadavers would be piling up. But my pride is mixed with guilt: The United States single-handedly accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions over the last 150 years, more than twice as much as any other country.

The basic injustice is that we rich countries produced the carbon that is devastating impoverished people from Madagascar to Bangladesh. In America, climate change costs families beach homes; in poor countries, parents lose their children.

In one Madagascar hamlet I visited, villagers used to get water from a well a three-hour walk away, but then it went dry. Now they hike the three hours and then buy water from a man who trucks it in. But they have almost no money. Not one of the children in the village has ever had a bath.

Families in this region traditionally raised cattle, but many have sold their herds to buy food to survive. Selling pressure has sent the price of a cow tumbling from $300 to less than $100.

Families are also pulling their children out of school, to send them foraging for edible plants. In one village I visited, fewer than 15 percent of the children are attending primary school this year.

One of the children who dropped out is Fombasoa, who should be in the third grade but now spends her days scouring the desert for a wild red cactus fruit. Fombasoa’s family is also ready to marry her off, even though she is just 10, because then her husband would be responsible for feeding her.

“If I can find her a husband, I would marry her,” said her father, Sonjona, who, like many villagers, has just one name. “But these days there is no man who wants her” — because no one can afford the bride price of about $32.

Sonjona realizes that it is wrong to marry off a 10-year-old, but he also knows it is wrong to see his daughter starve. “I feel despair,” he said. “I don’t feel a man any more. I used to have muscles; now I have only bones. I feel guilty, because my job was to care for my children, and now they have only red cactus fruit.”

Other families showed me how they pick rocks of chalk from the ground, break them into dust and cook the dust into soup. “It fills our stomachs at least,” explained Limbiaza, a 20-year-old woman in one remote village. As it becomes more difficult to find the chalk rocks, some families make soup from ashes from old cooking fires.

Scientists used to think that the horror of starvation was principally the dying children. Now they understand there is a far broader toll: When children in utero and in the first few years of life are malnourished, their brains don’t develop properly. As a result, they may suffer permanently impaired brain function.

“If children are stunted and do not receive the nutrition and attention in these first 1,000 days, it is very difficult to catch back up,” noted Joshua Poole, the Madagascar director of Catholic Relief Services. “Nutritional neglect during this critical period prevents children from reaching their full mental potential.”

For the next half century or so, we will see students learning less in school and economies held back, because in 2017 we allowed more than a million kids to be malnourished just here in southern Africa, collateral damage from our carbon-intensive way of life.

The struggling people of Madagascar are caught between their own corrupt, ineffective government, which denies the scale of the crisis, and overseas governments that don’t want to curb carbon emissions.

Whatever we do to limit the growth of carbon, climate problems will worsen for decades to come. Those of us in the rich world who have emitted most of the carbon bear a special responsibility to help people like these Madagascar villagers who are simultaneously least responsible for climate change and most vulnerable to it.

The challenges are not hopeless, and I saw programs here that worked. The World Food Program runs school feeding programs that use local volunteers and, at a cost of 25 cents per child per day, give children a free daily meal that staves off starvation and creates an incentive to keep children in school.

We need these emergency relief efforts — and constant vigilance to intervene early to avert famines — but we can also do far more to help local people help themselves.

Catholic Relief Services provides emergency food aid, but it also promotes drought-resistant seed varieties and is showing farmers near the coast how to fish. It is also working with American scientists on new technologies to supply water in Madagascar, using condensation or small-scale desalination.

American technology helped create the problem, and it would be nice to see American technology used more aggressively to mitigate the burden on the victims.

For me, the most wrenching sight of this trip was of two starving boys near the southern tip of Madagascar. Their parents are climate refugees who fled their village to try to find a way to survive, leaving the boys in the care of an aunt, even though she doesn’t have enough food for her own two daughters.

I met the boys, Fokondraza, 5, and Voriavy, 3, in the evening, and they said that so far that day they hadn’t eaten or drunk anything (the closest well, producing somewhat salty water, is several hours away by foot, and fetching a pail of water becomes more burdensome when everyone is malnourished and anemic). Their aunt, Fideline, began to prepare the day’s meal.

She broke off cactus pads, scraped off the thorns and boiled them briefly, and the boys ate them — even though they provide little nutrition. “My heart is breaking because I have nothing to give them,” Fideline said. “I have no choice.”

At night, the boys sometimes cry from hunger, she said. But that is a good sign. When a person is near starvation, the body shuts down emotion, becoming zombielike as every calorie goes to keeping the heart and lungs working. It is the children who don’t cry, those quiet and expressionless, who are at greatest risk — and the two boys are becoming more like that.

I don’t pretend that the links between climate change and this food crisis are simple, or that the solutions are straightforward. I flew halfway around the world and then drove for two days to get to these villages, pumping out carbon the whole way.

Yet we do know what will help in the long run: sticking with the Paris agreement to limit global warming, as well as with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. We must also put a price on carbon and invest much more heavily in research on renewable energy.

In the short and medium term, we must step up assistance to climate refugees and sufferers, both to provide relief and to assist with new livelihoods that adjust to new climate realities. (For individuals who want to help, the organization most active in the areas I visited was Catholic Relief Services, which accepts donations for southern Madagascar.)

The most basic starting point is for the American president-elect to acknowledge what even illiterate Madagascar villagers understand: Climate change is real.

As the sun set, I told Fideline that there was a powerful man named Trump half a world away, in a country she had never heard of, who just might be able to have some impact, over many years, on the climate here. I asked her what she would tell him.

“I would ask him to do what he can, so that once more I can grow cassava, corn, black-eyed peas and sorghum,” she said. “We’re desperate.”

Mr. President-elect, are you listening?

No, Mr. Kristof, he isn’t.  There’s no way for him to make a buck…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Hillary Clinton as New York City mayor?

Imagine the fun:

City building inspectors start to show up daily at Trump Tower, where they find a wobbly beam here, a missing smoke detector there, outdated wiring all over the place. City health inspectors fan out through Trump’s hotels, writing citations for clogged drains in the kitchens and expired milk in the minibars.

The potholes near his properties go unfilled. Those neighborhoods are the last to be plowed. There’s a problem with the flow of water to his Bronx golf course, whose greens are suddenly brown. And the Russian Consulate keeps experiencing power failures. It’s the darnedest thing. Clinton vows to look into it, just as soon as she returns from the Hamptons.

She makes Alec Baldwin her cultural affairs commissioner, Alicia Machado the head of the city’s office of food policy. She invites the Rockettes to perform at every official city event. Without any hand-wringing, all of them accept.

And she’s the belle of the international ball. When foreign dignitaries cycle through the United Nations, they make sure to drop by City Hall, especially because she was once the country’s secretary of state. She winds up meeting with some of them more often than Trump does. He handles this as any grown-up in a position of extraordinary responsibility would, with crack-of-dawn tweets about what a lumpy loser Angela Merkel is and where he places her on a scale of 1 to Melania.

“Sad!” he fumes, but Clinton couldn’t be happier. His hometown is her fief. She’s the boss of him whenever he’s in the Big Apple, and he’s in the Big Apple a whole lot.

I’m fantasizing, yes, but with a glimmer of encouragement. On Wednesday Newsmax, a conservative outlet, reported that Democrats who couldn’t abide the city’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, were courting Clinton to run against him in a Democratic primary this year and deny him a second term. The Times weighed in on Thursday, noting that speculation about a Clinton candidacy had been “bubbling up for weeks” and was intensifying.

Neither source actually suggested that she’d follow through with this, and several prominent, well-connected Democrats assure me that it won’t happen. So does my gut. Lofty as the perch of New York City mayor is, it’s still a big comedown from what she had in her sights — twice. By campaigning for it, she’d risk coming off as a has-been hankering for any old place at the table.

And if she lost? Yikes. She’d be one of the starkest cases of dashed hopes and downward mobility in modern American politics.

But she’d almost certainly beat de Blasio, and you have to admit that the idea of a Clinton mayoralty is genius. It’s revenge, redemption and a chance for New Yorkers to be rescued from his shortcomings all in one.

Also, Clinton can’t spend the rest of her days in hiding and on nature walks. The woods around Chappaqua, N.Y., are lovely, dark and deep, but really. No one ever mistook her for a forest nymph. She’s a creature of pavement, pantsuits and politics. Shouldn’t she get back to all three?

De Blasio’s first term has been a turbulent mix of successes and frustrations. He delivered on his promise of universal prekindergarten for children in New York, and he put plans for affordable housing in motion. But to live here, as I do, is to notice deteriorations since the end of Mike Bloomberg’s administration: public spaces that seem dirtier, subways that feel more packed, an apparent rise in the number of homeless people on the streets.

De Blasio and aides of his are under investigation for their fund-raising activities, with grand jury decisions expected soon. Any indictments could open the door to several Democrats who have eyed the 2017 mayor’s race and so far balked at jumping into it.

But Clinton has assets that they don’t: the name recognition, donors and intense popularity among New Yorkers to nullify de Blasio’s strengths, no matter his legal fate. In the presidential election, 79 percent of New Yorkers voted for her over Trump.

That she isn’t actually a resident of the city doesn’t matter, so long as she fixed that by the time voters headed to the polls. And she might be a terrific mayor. Bloomberg evidently thought so: Back when his 12 years in City Hall were ending, he tried to persuade her to succeed him. She weds a technocrat’s love of details with an idealist’s expansive gaze, befitting an assignment with concrete local responsibilities and ceremonial obligations that transcend New York.

She’d get to shatter a glass ceiling: New York has not yet had a female mayor.

Besides, there are so many scores she could settle, so many ways she could meddle. In vanquishing de Blasio, she’d be punishing someone whose endorsement of her in last year’s Democratic presidential primary struck many Democrats as late and lackluster.

She’d get back at Anthony Weiner, whose uncontrolled lust and unconcealed loins indirectly led to the F.B.I. director James Comey’s disrupting the final weeks of her presidential campaign. Weiner once sought the mayoralty himself. Now he’d watch as his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, waltzed into and out of Gracie Mansion at Clinton’s side, not his.

Clinton would have a special role in the 2020 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, because New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, is obviously angling for it. One of his favorite gubernatorial sports has been trying to crush de Blasio like a cockroach, but he’d have to play nice with her, given her political weight. How highly and readily she praised him would be a factor in his fate, and that would give her a leverage with the state that de Blasio doesn’t have.

She’d be the mayor of the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who lives in Brooklyn. So she’d be able to jockey for public attention with a showboat who has never exactly been a bosom buddy.

But above all there’d be the torturing of Trump, who so gleefully tortures his own political foes and even some of his political friends. (Just ask Chris Christie.) Within a few months of her inauguration, the prevalence of his name on high-rises in Manhattan would pale next to the omnipresence of her face on billboards in all five boroughs.

The city’s Mexican Day Parade would be rerouted, from Madison Avenue over to Fifth, right past Trump Tower. A new city zoning experiment would locate detention centers in the strangest places. And in the city’s libraries, “The Art of the Deal” would be impossible to find, while upfront, on vivid display, there’d be copies galore of “It Takes a Village” and “Hard Choices.”

Some choices aren’t hard at all. Run, Hillary, run.

Friedman and Bruni

January 4, 2017

In “From Hands to Heads to Hearts” The Moustache of Wisdom says that remembering what makes us human is how to show economic value in the age of smarter and smarter machines.  It’s a very typical Friedman column…  Mr. Bruni, in “Donald Trump’s Disastrous Example,” says the mess over a congressional ethics office reflects the muck of his own behavior.  Here’s TMOW:

Software has started writing poetry, sports stories and business news. IBM’s Watson is co-writing pop hits. Uber has begun deploying self-driving taxis on real city streets and, last month, Amazon delivered its first package by drone to a customer in rural England.

Add it all up and you quickly realize that Donald Trump’s election isn’t the only thing disrupting society today. The far more profound disruption is happening in the workplace and in the economy at large, as the relentless march of technology has brought us to a point where machines and software are not just outworking us but starting to outthink us in more and more realms.

To reflect on this rapid change, I sat down with my teacher and friend Dov Seidman, C.E.O. of LRN, which advises companies on leadership and how to build ethical cultures, for his take. “What we are experiencing today bears striking similarities in size and implications to the scientific revolution that began in the 16th century,” said Seidman. “The discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo, which spurred that scientific revolution, challenged our whole understanding of the world around and beyond us — and forced us as humans to rethink our place within it.”

Once scientific methods became enshrined, we used science and reason to navigate our way forward, he added, so much so that “the French philosopher René Descartes crystallized this age of reason in one phrase: ‘I think, therefore I am.’” Descartes’s point, said Seidman, “was that it was our ability to ‘think’ that most distinguished humans from all other animals on earth.”

The technological revolution of the 21st century is as consequential as the scientific revolution, argued Seidman, and it is “forcing us to answer a most profound question — one we’ve never had to ask before: ‘What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines?’”

In short: If machines can compete with people in thinking, what makes us humans unique? And what will enable us to continue to create social and economic value? The answer, said Seidman, is the one thing machines will never have: “a heart.”

“It will be all the things that the heart can do,” he explained. “Humans can love, they can have compassion, they can dream. While humans can act from fear and anger, and be harmful, at their most elevated, they can inspire and be virtuous. And while machines can reliably interoperate, humans, uniquely, can build deep relationships of trust.”

Therefore, Seidman added, our highest self-conception needs to be redefined from “I think, therefore I am” to “I care, therefore I am; I hope, therefore I am; I imagine, therefore I am. I am ethical, therefore I am. I have a purpose, therefore I am. I pause and reflect, therefore I am.”

We will still need manual labor, and people will continue working with machines to do extraordinary things. Seidman is simply arguing that the tech revolution will force humans to create more value with hearts and between hearts. I agree. When machines and software control more and more of our lives, people will seek out more human-to-human connections — all the things you can’t download but have to upload the old-fashioned way, one human to another.

Seidman reminded me of a Talmudic adage: “What comes from the heart, enters the heart.” Which is why even jobs that still have a large technical component will benefit from more heart. I call these STEMpathy jobs — jobs that combine STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills with human empathy, like the doctor who can extract the best diagnosis from IBM’s Watson on cancer and then best relate it to a patient.

No wonder one of the fastest-growing U.S. franchises today is Paint Nite, which runs paint-while-drinking classes for adults. Bloomberg Businessweek explained in a 2015 story that Paint Nite “throws after-work parties for patrons who are largely lawyers, teachers and tech workers eager for a creative hobby.” The artist-teachers who work five nights a week can make $50,000 a year connecting people to their hearts.

Economies get labeled according to the predominant way people create value, pointed out Seidman, also author of the book “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.” So, the industrial economy, he noted, “was about hired hands. The knowledge economy was about hired heads. The technology revolution is thrusting us into ‘the human economy,’ which will be more about creating value with hired hearts — all the attributes that can’t be programmed into software, like passion, character and collaborative spirit.”

It’s no surprise that the French government began requiring French companies on Jan. 1 to guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology — when they are not at work — trying to combat the “always on” work culture.

Leaders, businesses and communities will still leverage technology to gain advantage, but those that put human connection at the center of everything they do — and how they do it — will be the enduring winners, insisted Seidman: “Machines can be programmed to do the next thing right. But only humans can do the next right thing.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Donald Trump rightly reprimanded House Republicans on Tuesday for their move to disembowel the Office of Congressional Ethics, but let’s not be duped or dumb. This was like a crackhead dad fuming at his kids for smoking a little weed.

Their conduct hardly measured up to his, which obviously encouraged it. When they look at him, here’s what they see: a presidential candidate who broke with decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns and thus shine a light on his conflicts of interest. A president-elect who has yet to spell out how he would eliminate those conflicts — and who has, instead, repeatedly reminded reporters and voters that he’s under no explicit legal obligation to eliminate them at all. A plutocrat whose children have toggled back and forth between his government activities and his corporate interests, raising questions about the separation of the two.

Is it any wonder that House Republicans felt O.K. about trying to slip free of some of their own ethical shackles, no matter how ugly the optics?

The story here isn’t what, specifically, they attempted to do. Nor is it their abandonment of the plan once the media gasped and their dear leader wagged his finger at them.

It’s the tone that Trump has set and the culture that he’s creating. He operates with an in-your-face defiance, so these House Republicans did, too. He puts his own desires and comfort first, so they reserved the right to do the same. With more than a few of his cabinet picks, he demonstrated little sense of fidelity to what he promised voters and even less concern about appearances. House Republicans decided to treat themselves to a taste of that freedom.

In this instance, they were slapped down, though I sincerely doubt that they came away from the confrontation with the feeling that Trump had higher standards than they imagined. No, they just realized that he’s even more hypocritical and inconstant than they expected.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is no model operation. Democrats as well as Republicans have chafed at what some of them see as its occasional overzealousness and disregard for due process. Had House Republicans called for a bipartisan and transparent review of its role and tactics, they might not have encountered all that much resistance.

But that’s not what happened. In a secretive closed-door meeting late Monday, before the first official day of the new Congress, the House Republican Conference voted to diminish the office’s power and independence. This was dark-of-night, no-prying-eyes stuff, done over the objections of Paul Ryan, the House speaker, who could sense how disastrously it would play in the media.

After it played precisely that disastrously, Trump sent out two tweets Tuesday morning asking why House Republicans would take aim at the ethics office when there was so much other important work to do. House Republicans then dropped the plan.

The whole mess said a whole lot about the chaotic days to come. Although Ryan on Tuesday was re-elected to his leadership post, his grip on his caucus isn’t exactly a firm one. And the wires between Trump and House Republicans are evidently crossed.

For that matter, the wires between Trump and Kellyanne Conway are as well: Mere hours before he tweeted his disapproval of what the Republicans were doing, she appeared on “Good Morning America” and defended their actions as part of the “mandate” — her word, or rather hallucination — that they and Trump had received from voters to shake things up.

I suppose that gutting the ethics office would indeed qualify as a shake-up. But so would declaring Thursdays in the Senate to be clothing-optional or having the Rockettes perform during the State of the Union. Not all shake-ups are created equal.

And turning “mandate” into a mantra, which is a favorite Republican tactic right now, doesn’t turn it into a truth. There’s no mandate here, not when Hillary Clinton received roughly three million more votes than Trump did. Not when there are lingering questions about meddling that may have worked in Trump’s favor. Not when the Republicans’ majorities in the Senate and House just shrank. Not when their edge in the House owes more to gerrymandering than to any tidal wave of demonstrable enthusiasm for their agenda.

I’m not disputing the election results or Republicans’ right — heck, their obligation — to seize the reins of leadership. I’m arguing against the shamelessness of what they just tried to do with the ethics office.

And I’m pleading that Trump stop behaving in a way that sets the stage for it. The new Congress — the new Washington — will be no more or less swampy than its new top gator. Best that he wash away his own muck.

He won’t.

Friedman and Bruni

December 7, 2016

Little Tommy Friedman has decided to go whistling past the graveyard again.  In “Say What, Al Gore, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump?” he babbles about what he thinks is an opening for lessons in climate change.  As if…  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Paul Ryan’s Dangerous Silence on Donald Trump:”  How long can the House speaker bite his tongue about the president-elect?  Forever, Frank, as long as he thinks his career will benefit.  Here’s TMOW:

Good for Al Gore for meeting with Donald Trump on Monday. Good for Ivanka Trump for inviting Gore to come in for a talk on climate change, and good for President-elect Trump for embracing the encounter.

Alas, though, a single meeting does not an environmental policy make; skepticism is in order. The ultimate proof will only come from the appointments Trump makes for his key environmental and energy jobs and the direction he gives them — whether to press ahead with U.S. leadership on mitigating climate change and introducing clean energy and efficiency standards, or abandon that role, as Trump previously indicated he might, and try to revive the U.S. coal industry and unleash more drilling for fossil fuels from sea to shining sea.

Ivanka clearly has an influence on her father’s thinking, and the fact that she went out of her way to set up a meeting with Gore, who has done more to alert the world to the perils of climate change than anyone else on the planet, and the fact that Gore described the meeting as “a sincere search for areas of common ground … to be continued,” offer a glimmer of hope.

When my publisher had Trump in to The Times recently, it became clear to me that very few people had thought he would win election, and so the people who were gathered around him for the last year and a half were not exactly America’s best and brightest.

Extreme, long-shot campaigns often attract a Star Wars bar collection of extreme opportunists and conspiracy theorists — and the Trump campaign was the Good Ship Lollipop for many such types.

For a man who seems to learn mostly from those in his friendship circle, or from TV news shows, such an unbalanced team made many of Trump’s bad instincts worse. Some of those characters were from the coal and oil industries, and they saw in Trump their last chance to kill the renewable energy revolution at a time when many other Republicans were already moving on.

One hopes that Ivanka is telling her father that nothing would force his critics — in America and abroad — to give him a second look more than if he names serious scientists to the key environmental jobs.

And I suspect that Trump himself discovered during the campaign that outside of the U.S.’s coal-mining regions, a vast majority of Americans understand not only that human-generated climate change is real, but also that when residents of both Beijing and New Delhi can’t breathe, clean energy systems will become the next great global industry. They represent a huge manufacturing export market.

It would be flat-out crazy for America to give up its leadership in this field by turning back to burning dirty lumps of coal when wind and solar are beginning to beat fossil fuels in price without subsidies.

I don’t expect Trump to abandon his effort to increase oil drilling or to ban coal. But I laud Gore for trying to work with him on this issue, because if Trump was to embrace the science of climate change, it would be game over for the fossilized climate deniers who remain in his own party. (Many Republican lawmakers would be relieved.) It’s also probably his single best peacetime possibility to unite Americans.

A fantasy? Maybe. But it is worth remembering how the last G.O.P. administration evolved. Texas oilman George W. Bush went from shocking the world by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto climate treaty to embracing “wind and solar” and calling for Americans “to address the serious challenge of climate change” in his 2007 State of the Union address.

Bush also appointed experts in environmental law and practitioners — like Andy Karsner and Jim Connaughton, two of the smartest people I know on energy and the environment — and directed them to promote clean energy through bipartisan legislation and regulation that remain the basis of a lot of policy today. Bush decried the fact that America was “addicted to oil” and ended up creating a “major emitters” conference that helped pave the way for the Paris climate agreement.

In short, I am not sure Trump realizes all this — that impugning climate science and just unleashing coal and oil would be a departure from the last two Republican administrations. It was George H.W. Bush, in 1989, who first proposed using a cap-and-trade system to slash by 50 percent sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

I detest what Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party movement have put our nation through, prioritizing their need for our president to fail over the good of our country. I am not over that. But you also have to think where we are: The stakes couldn’t be higher. When so many big forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating at once, small errors in navigation can have huge consequences. We can get really far off track, really fast.

As long as Trump is open to learning on the environment, we have to push our best and brightest through the doors of Trump Tower to constructively engage him. The more the better. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised and supportive of any turns to the positive. But the minute his door closes to learning and evolving, man the barricades.

He actually seems to think that Trump gives a crap about anything except himself and his money and his cronies.  How cute…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.

Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.

Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.

I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.

“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?

Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.

Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud. My command of English is clearly slipping.

Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.

I do understand the position that he and many pols in both parties are in. They’re alarmed by Trump, and frequently aghast at him, but they want enough peace to steer him in the directions they desire and to minimize the damage over all.

They have seen how prone he can be to manipulation, how susceptible to flattery, how influenced by the last voice in his ear. So they’re trying to stick close enough to whisper, and one of the main stories of the Trump presidency, unless it goes completely off the rails, will be their ceaseless calculations about when they can afford to stay mum and when they can’t.

But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.

The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering. Flynn’s son, who was his chief of staff, perpetuated the whole “pizzagate” madness. And then of course there’s Ben Carson, the housing secretary to be, with his conviction that the pyramids were grain silos.

Is Ryan really content to look the other way just for an Obamacare repeal and some tax reform? There’s plenty he can’t count on getting from Trump, who pledged not to monkey with Medicare, which Ryan yearns to change, and is talking about steep tariffs that run counter to Ryan’s philosophy.

Ryan has at least hinted about his opposition to those tariffs. But he and other supposedly principled conservatives publicly applauded Trump’s dealings with the air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier, a degree of meddling in the free market that they would have savaged President Obama for.

On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.

Discussing Trump on “60 Minutes,” he had a manner that was borderline coquettish. He said that Trump, with his tweets, was “basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless.”

Sometimes, yes. But many times, Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.

Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine. Until that happens, this sadly groveling Boy Scout will be lost in the woods.

Bruni, solo

November 30, 2016

Mr. Bruni thinks he can make “The Case For Mitt Romney.”  He says Donald Trump’s smartest move would be to make one of his fiercest critics his secretary of state.  And, given today’s NYT lead headline and story, it would appear that the Mittbot 2.0 has been sufficiently reprogrammed to suck up to Mein Fubar.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

A show of hands, please: How many of you would like Donald Trump to step away — far away — from his Twitter account? I’m pretty sure I have a majority, but to be safe: How many can at least agree on no tweets before breakfast?

Yowza. I’m above 95 percent. Reince, you don’t have to nod wildly and jump up and down; the raised hand alone will do. And you get one hand, Melania, not two. Two is a real, provable case of voter fraud.

Thanks in part to the president-elect’s predilection for outbursts of fewer than 140 characters, he routinely comes across as petty and mercurial. But right now he has an opportunity for the opposite impression. He can choose Mitt Romney as his secretary of state.

That he’s actually mulling this — the two had a second meeting about it, over dinner in Manhattan, Tuesday night — is alone extraordinary. Trump knows how to carry a grudge the way Jim Brown knew how to carry a football, and Romney gave him cause for vengefulness, with a major speech during the Republican primaries that labeled him a fraud and exhorted Americans to reject him.

Had some knowledgeable intimate of Trump’s told me on Nov. 9 that an unexpected fate awaited Romney, the State Department would have been my millionth guess. The stockade would have been my first.

If Trump taps Romney, he’ll be sending a powerful message to an anxious world that he’s not hostage to the darkest parts of his character. He needs to project that as much as we need to see it.

Granted, Romney’s résumé isn’t the most logical for the job. He has spent most of his life as a businessman, and his lone public office was governor of Massachusetts.

But not all our secretaries of state were steeped in foreign affairs from an early point, like Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Many had backgrounds principally devoted to other concerns. That was true of James Baker, who held the post under the first President Bush, and of Hillary Clinton, though she traveled the world as first lady and served on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Besides which, Romney isn’t competing against the entire universe of possibilities. He’s competing against Rudy Giuliani, who, over recent years, has done such a masterful impersonation of a raving lunatic that I doubt he could get seasonal retail work at the Container Store.

David Petraeus is also in play, but his supposed brilliance matters less in this case than his conviction for mishandling classified information. Picking him would brand Trump an utter hypocrite, given how vehemently he threatened to jail Clinton for related trespasses.

As for Senator Bob Corker, he’s a real Washington insider, unlike Romney, and doesn’t have the useful political celebrity that Clinton and then John Kerry brought to the position. Romney does.

Over his own two presidential campaigns, Romney became ever more fluent in international issues, and he even showed some prescience, identifying Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a grave menace before other politicians woke up to that. He was ridiculed for dwelling in the past. Turns out he was living in the future.

That wariness and his advocacy of free trade put him at odds with Trump but also make him a prudent counterbalance, if Trump can find the modesty and confidence to size up the situation that way. (That’s a big if.) So do Romney’s seriousness and unflappability. He’d temper Trump’s tantrums. Giuliani would just goad Trump on.

With Trump’s cabinet and staff picks so far, he has repaid his staunchest supporters. With Romney, he would be taking a more inclusive, conciliatory approach that befits his lack of any mandate, tries to move the country past such a divisive campaign and reassures jittery allies. It would be an open-minded, big-hearted, self-aware move that challenges Americans to see him in a more nuanced light. It would help him govern, by signaling that he’s bigger than his grievances.

Despite the howls of protest from some on the right, it would hardly be an undignified, unprecedented surrender: There was bad blood aplenty between Clinton and President Obama before he brought her aboard.

It would also reward someone who seems to have the country’s best interests at heart. Romney, interestingly, would be following the example of his father, George, who went from Richard Nixon’s adversary to his housing secretary, because a person can arguably do more on the field, under a flawed coach, than on the sidelines, griping. A person can potentially steer the game in a better direction.

So there’s a Trump tweet I do hope to see, at whatever hour he likes: “Impressive dinner with Mitt Romney. I believe he can help us MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. He’s hired!”

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

Wait until this afternoon, Frank.  The winds will shift again…  And “gemli” from Boston had something to say to Mr. Bruni too.  Here he is:

“Considering the way the Groper in Chief is furnishing his administration, Romney would be a chandelier in an outhouse. Romney’s not someone who would have been a likely candidate for Secretary of State under normal circumstances, but normal has left the building. Romney’s just another guy who was born on third base, with inherited wealth and a family name that opened doors without his having to touch a doorknob.

But in this administration he looks like the voice of reason, mostly because he has good posture and wears nice suits. He doesn’t have that leering quality of a Bannon, and he’s not a wackadoodle like Giuliani, or most of the other picks for the new Alt-White House. And he has foreign credentials, if you count the Olympics thing.

But the idea that Romney would send some kind of signal that the new administration is trying to be inclusive is simply ludicrous. Read the 2012 Republican platform, and see what Romney had planned for women, poor people and the LGBT community. Listen again to what he said on that tape, when he thought no one was listening. Have we forgotten all of this? Is the awfulness of the new “president” capable of causing amnesia, along with intestinal cramps and scrofula?

Romney isn’t going to save America from international condemnation, or make us more respected on a world stage. That stage left the station on November 8th.”