Archive for the ‘Bruni’ Category

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.”

Friedman and Bruni

November 23, 2016

Oh, FFS…  The Moustache of Wisdom is the latest to fall for Mein Fubar’s “I’m not so bad” act.  In “At Lunch, Donald Trump Gives Critics Hope” he tells us that the campaign is over, but the struggle for Trump’s soul has just begun.  Tommy, the use of the word “soul” assumes facts not in evidence.  Mr. Bruni may have a slightly clearer vision of what’s going on.  In “Donald Trump’s Demand for Love” he says his meeting with The Times was a marvel of boasting and bending.  Here’s TMOW:

Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb CO2 emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

When asked where he stood on that climate change issue — which in the past he dismissed as a hoax — and last December’s U.S.-led Paris emissions-reduction accord, the president-elect did not hesitate for a second: “I’m looking at it very closely. … I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. … You can make lots of cases for different views. … I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal-clean water is vitally important.”

Do you think climate change is caused by human activity?

“I think there is some connectivity,” Trump answered. It is not clear “how much,” and what he will do about it “depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.” Trump said he would study the issue “very hard” and hinted that if, after study, he was to moderate his views, his voice would be influential with climate skeptics.

On the question of whether the U.S. military should use waterboarding and other forms of torture to break suspected terrorists — a position he advocated frequently during the campaign to great applause — Trump bluntly stated that he had changed his mind after talking with James N. Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general, who headed the United States Central Command.

Trump said Mattis told him of torture: “I’ve never found it to be useful.” (Many in the military and the C.I.A. have long held this view.)

He quoted Mattis as saying, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I always do better” than anyone using torture. Concluded Trump, “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Speaking of the Middle East, Trump said unprompted: “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” adding, “I have reason to believe I can do that.” And he hinted that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could be his special envoy and “he’d be very good at it. … He knows the region.” (Wow, watching Trump try to forge a deal between Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians would be pay-per-view!)

The one area where I think Trump is going to have the hardest time delivering on his campaign promises is to create “millions” of good-paying jobs by incentivizing and pressuring American companies to manufacture more in the U.S. He still talks about America as a manufacturing wasteland when, in fact, manufacturing remains the largest sector of the U.S. economy but employs far fewer workers.

As the management consultant Warren Bennis famously observed: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Bottom line: The campaign is over, but the struggle for Donald Trump’s soul has just begun. Trump clearly learns by talking to people, not reading. Because so few thought he would win, many of those who gathered around him and had his ear were extreme characters.

But now that he has been elected president he is exposing himself to, and hearing from, a much wider net of people. He mentioned that he had had telephone conversations with Bill Gates and with Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook. And he stressed repeatedly that he wants to succeed: “I am doing this to do a good job.”

To do that he needs to moderate many views and learn from a much wider network of people. For those of us who opposed Trump’s election, it is not time to let down our guard and stop drawing redlines where necessary. But for moderate Republicans and Democratic business leaders, like a Bill Gates, who can gain his ear and respect, and who have made big investments in clean energy, Trump may be — may be — persuadable on some key issues. They need to dive in now and try to pull him toward the center.

For a meeting between the newsmaker and this news organization that has covered him without fear or favor, the lunch was fairly relaxed, but not without some jousting. Asked if he read The New York Times, Trump said: “I do read it. Unfortunately. I would live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”

Well, that was just pitiful.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I had just shaken the president-elect’s normal-size hand and he was moving on to the next person when he wheeled around, took a half step back, touched my arm and looked me in the eye anew.

“I’m going to get you to write some good stuff about me,” Donald Trump said.

It’s entirely possible. I keep an open mind. But I’m decided on this much: Winning the most powerful office in the world did nothing to diminish his epic ache for adoration or outsize need to tell everyone how much he deserves it.

He sat down for more than an hour with about two dozen of us at The Times on Tuesday afternoon, and what subject do you suppose he spent his first eight minutes on? When the floor was his, to use as he pleased?

The incredibleness of his win two weeks ago.

“A great victory,” he said as he went back, unbidden, through all the Trump-affirming highlights: the size of his crowds; the screens and loudspeakers for the overflow; the enthusiasm gap between his rallies and poor Hillary Clinton’s. It’s a song I’ve heard so often I could sing it in my sleep.

He volunteered that until he came along, Republican presidential candidates had been foiled in both Michigan and Pennsylvania for “38 years or something.” The “something” apparently covered the actual figure, 28.

He said that he got close to 15 percent of African-Americans’ votes, though exit polls suggest it was just 8 percent, and he asserted that their modest turnout was in fact a huge compliment to him, demonstrating that “they liked what I was saying” and thus didn’t bother to show up for Clinton.

He mentioned the popular vote before any of us could — to let us know that he would have won it if it had mattered and his strategy had been devised accordingly.

“The popular vote would have been a lot easier,” he said, making clear that his Electoral College triumph was the truly remarkable one.

For Trump, bragging is like breathing: continuous, spontaneous. He wants nothing more than for his audience to be impressed.

And when his audience is a group of people, like us, who haven’t clapped the way he’d like?

He sands down his edges. Modulates his voice. Bends.

That was perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting, the one that makes his presidency such a question mark. Will he tilt in whatever direction, and toward whichever constituency, is the surest source of applause? Is our best hope for the best Trump to be so fantastically adulatory when he’s reasonable that he’s motivated to stay on that course, lest the adulation wane?

The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall.

He more or less told us to disregard all the huffing and puffing he’d done about curtailing press freedoms, and he looked forward to another meeting — a year from now — when we’d all reunite in a spirit of newfound amity to celebrate his administration’s uncontroversial accomplishments. I could see the big group hug. I could hear “Kumbaya.”

And though one of his splenetic tweets just seven hours before our meeting had again branded The Times a “failing” news organization, he said to our faces that we weren’t just a “great, great American jewel” but a “world jewel.”

There was a lesson here about his desire to be approved of and his hunger to be loved. There was another about the shockingly unformed, pliable nature of the clay that is our 70-year-old president-elect.

His reservations about waterboarding, he said, arose from a conversation he’d just had with James Mattis, a retired Marine general under consideration for secretary of defense. During that talk Mattis had bluntly questioned waterboarding’s effectiveness — and so, now, did Trump.

It was as if he’d never really thought through the issue during that endless campaign, and it suggested that the most influential voice in Trumplandia is the last one he happened to listen to. That’s worrying, because some of the voices he has thus far put closest to him — those of Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions — aren’t the most constructive, restrained, unifying ones.

And to my eyes and ears, Trump still has grandiose intentions in lieu of concrete plans. Toward the end of our meeting, he went so far as to prophesy that he might be able to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t and broker a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

That’d definitely do the trick. We’d all be writing nothing but very, very good stuff about him then.

Friedman and Bruni

November 16, 2016

Poor little Tommy.  He’s gone delusional…  In “Donald Trump, Help Heal the Planet’s Climate Change Problem” he whines “Sir, please revisit your claim that it’s all a hoax.”  I guess he hasn’t heard that a premier climate change denier, Myron Ebell, is being bandied about as head of the EPA.  In “Obama in Trumpland” Mr. Bruni asks us to behold the president’s wishful bid to tame the president-elect.  Here’s TMOW:

Dear President-elect Trump:

Well, you won. You were not my choice, but you’re soon going to be my president. I have no intention of forgetting or forgiving the abhorrent things you said and did during the campaign. They hurt real people, debased our political process and erased social norms vital for keeping our diverse society together. I am not done resisting all that just because you won.

However, I’m not going to spend every day hoping you fail. Too much is at stake. Since you’re clearly rethinking some of your extreme campaign promises, the right response for me is principled engagement. So let’s start now: Please revisit your claim that climate change is a hoax.

Nothing would get the attention of your opponents more than if you declared your intent to take a fresh look at the climate issue. It would force many of them to give you a second look — and virtually none of your supporters would care, because few voted for you on this issue and they all know that their kids understand the climate is changing and would be heartened if you did, too.

Speaking of kids, Mr. Trump, yours run your golf course business. Surely they’ve mentioned that Doral will be your first course threatened by global warming, because parts of Miami are already flooding due to sea-level rise from melting ice. According to The Real Deal, which covers South Florida real estate news, “Parts of Miami Beach could be inundated with floodwaters in as little as 15 years.” That would make your oceanside courses into ocean-floor courses.

This is no hoax. The U.S. just experienced its third-warmest October on record, and, as The Washington Post noted on Thursday, “North America’s most astonishing warmth this week has focused in Canada, where temperatures have been up to 30 degrees warmer than normal.” That’s unprecedented.

When you visit the Pentagon, ask the generals about climate change. Here’s what they’ll tell you: A majority of immigrants flooding Europe today are not coming from Syria or Iraq. Three-quarters are from arid zones in central Africa, where the combination of climate change and runaway population growth are making small-scale farming unsustainable.

Last April, as part of a National Geographic Channel documentary, I followed a group of these refugees from Senegal through Niger on their way to Libya and Europe. Thousands make this trek every month. The same thing will happen in our hemisphere — and no wall will keep them back. You can’t ignore climate change and think you have an immigration policy.

At the same time, please understand, if you appoint a climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency and walk America away from the Paris accord, which committed 190 countries to reduce their emissions of the carbon dioxide pollutants that warm the planet, you will trigger a ferocious reaction by young people in America and across Europe. The backlash in Europe will totally undermine your ability to lead the Western alliance.

And as the climate physicist Joe Romm put it to me, do you really want to risk “going down in history as the man who killed the world’s last, best chance to avoid catastrophic warming”?

There is a better way — for you. You can frame the entire shift in your position in terms of free-market economics.

Hal Harvey, who advises major companies on climate and energy policy, notes that thanks to technological advances, “the cost of solar energy has dropped more than 80 percent since 2008, wind costs dropped more than 50 percent since 2008, battery costs dropped more than 70 percent since 2008, and LED lighting costs dropped more than 90 percent since 2008. As a result, a clean future now costs less than a dirty one.”

Today, from California to Mexico to the Middle East, solar and wind prices are as low as 3 cents a kilowatt-hour. Added Harvey: “That compares to about 6 cents for a new natural gas power plant, and double that for new coal. And remember: Commodity costs — coal, oil, gas — fluctuate, but technology costs — wind, solar, LEDs — follow irreversible trends downward, and so when a new technology crosses the cost line with an old commodity, it’s goodbye to the old commodity for good.”

Have you seen the pictures from New Delhi and Beijing lately? People there can’t breathe, owing to the pollution from burning crops and fossil fuels. So what are the Indians doing? They’re curbing the burning of crops, the use of diesel cars, and they just shut down the coal-based Badarpur power plant. They have to find alternatives to fossil fuels. So they’re investing heavily in clean tech.

Is your strategy to keep America addicted to coal and scuttle our lead in clean tech — which is destined to become the next great global export industry and is already spawning good blue-collar jobs — so we can import clean energy systems from India and China?

Mr. Trump, you won Florida, but do you know who lost there besides Hillary? Old-line utilities. They spent over $20 million pushing a referendum intended to curb the growth of solar energy in the state.

So Floridians said “yes” to Trump, “yes” to solar energy and “no” to those who wanted to stop both. There is a message for you in that bottle.

Tell it to Myron Ebell.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If Election Day seemed to be a dream (or, rather, nightmare) devoid of logic, the week since has done little to render the world more coherent.

Let’s review:

Donald Trump, exulting in his big win, addressed the question of The Wall. You know, the central pledge of his candidacy, reiterated at every rally. A mighty barrier between the United States and Mexico that only he was potent enough to erect.

And what did he have to say?

That it might be a mere fence in spots.

A fence! Just three days after his victory, he was downscaling, backtracking. At this rate, he’ll be talking at his inauguration about a glorious hedge along the border. By April it’ll be flowering shrubs, with blossoms that spell out “Welcome to America.” And by June? Some sort of new Christo installation, maybe the world’s largest-ever topiary display.

As for Obamacare, it’s apparently not so awful after all. Trump said he liked the part that lets kids stay on their parents’ insurance plans, which is, if you think about it, sort of what Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric have been doing all along. He also liked the part that prevents insurers from disqualifying people for pre-existing conditions.

My hunch? If some crafty Democrat drafts legislation to keep the Affordable Care Act as is but rechristen it Trumpcare, he’ll sign the bill in a nanosecond. He’s a man in thrall to ego, not policy.

President Obama is betting on that. He’s suddenly professing faith in Trump — or, rather, playing a fascinating mind game in which he endeavors to save his legacy by complimenting Trump into compliance.

That was some through-the-looking-glass news conference on Monday, when Obama, who had previously warned that Trump was all four horsemen of the apocalypse rolled into one shocking jockey, spoke of Trump’s “gifts” and how “gregarious” he could be.

“I don’t think he is ideological,” Obama said. “Ultimately, he is pragmatic.” From your lips, Mr. President, to God’s ear.

He said that their initial meeting had gone so well that he could, on this last foreign trip of his presidency, allay our allies’ anxieties.

Never mind that Trump and Vladimir Putin were already whispering sweet nothings to each other over the phone. (“You’re the man.” “No, you’re the man.”) Or that Steve Bannon was en route to the West Wing.

Perhaps the Bannon appointment didn’t sink in fully until Tuesday, when Obama, in Greece, had chillier words of warning about the direction in which a Trump administration might — but mustn’t — turn.

“We are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism,” he said. That’s hardly the extent of the vigil. Trump is reportedly seeking security clearances for his children, who will be running his business, and a former State Department official watching an increasingly messy transition process took to Twitter to warn other Republicans to “stay away” from Trump’s “angry, arrogant” team.

Obama is partly trying to save face after Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss. In the weeks before the election, he implored Americans: Honor me by choosing her. Not enough of them did, and at Monday’s news conference, he seemed to steal a page from Trump’s playbook and take issue with her stamina.

He never said her name but noted, pointedly, how he had trudged through “every small town and fair and fish fry” in Iowa, a state that he won in 2008 and 2012 and that she, with less trudging, lost.

He also repeatedly recited a litany of yardsticks by which he was leaving the country in fantastic fettle. Was he reassuring us — or himself?

From his electrifying address at the 2004 Democratic convention through his stirring 2008 presidential campaign, he spoke of transcending blue and red, uniting black and white, healing.

And here we are. It has to gall him. It definitely gives him incentive to use whatever psychological jujitsu necessary to nudge and manipulate Trump. He doesn’t want historians to write that he opened the door to a monster. So he’s pressing for a sunnier tale: the monster defanged, the nation safe and sound.

And he’s a patriot, always has been, which is what’s so rich here. Trump bangs on about putting America first, when he really puts himself before all else. That shriveled, unhinged hood ornament of his, Rudy Giuliani, is on the record questioning Obama’s love for America.

But Obama loves this country enough to summon the same grace for his successor that other presidents did for theirs, though his is a nasty, juvenile breed apart.

And he loves this country enough to try to calm it when it most needs calming, even if that means a willed optimism about Trump that’s oh so difficult to share.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

November 9, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom is feeling “Homeless in America.”  He says Americans’ feeling of having lost their community may explain Trump’s victory, but that victory now makes him feel lost.  Mr. Cohen, in “President Donald Trump,” says he had an intuition about American anger, and the country’s liberal elites were too arrogant to take him seriously.  Mr. Bruni considers “Donald Trump’s Shocking Success” and says there are crucial lessons in the 2016 race’s cruel turn.  Here’s TMOW:

I began election night writing a column that started with words from an immigrant, my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”

With Donald Trump now elected president, I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could do just that — break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function.

From the moment Trump emerged as a candidate, I’ve taken seriously the possibility that he could win; this column never predicted otherwise, although it certainly wished for it. That doesn’t mean the reality of it is not shocking to me.

As much as I knew that it was a possibility, the stark fact that a majority of Americans wanted radical, disruptive change so badly and simply did not care who the change agent was, what sort of role model he could be for our children, whether he really had any ability to execute on his plan — or even really had a plan to execute on — is profoundly disturbing.

Before I lay out all my fears, is there any silver lining to be found in this vote? I’ve been searching for hours, and the only one I can find is this: I don’t think Trump was truly committed to a single word or policy he offered during the campaign, except one phrase: “I want to win.”

But Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.

I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.

I assume that Trump will not want to go down as the worst president in history, let alone the one who presided over the deepest fracturing of our country since the Civil War. It would shake the whole world. Therefore, I can only hope that he will, as president, seek to surround himself with the best people he can, which surely doesn’t include the likes of Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, let alone the alt-right extremists who energized his campaign.

But there is also a deeply worrying side to Trump’s obsession with “winning.” For him, life is always a zero-sum game: I win, you lose. But when you’re running the United States of America, everything can’t be a zero-sum game.

“The world only stays stable when countries are embedded in win-win relationships, in healthy interdependencies,” observed Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which advises companies on leadership, and the author of the book “How.”

For instance, America undertook the Marshall Plan after World War II — giving millions of dollars to Europe — to build it up into a trading partner and into a relationship that turned out to be of great mutual benefit. Does Trump understand that? Do those who voted for him understand how many of their jobs depend on America being embedded in healthy interdependencies around the world?

How do I explain Trump’s victory? Way too soon to say for sure, but my gut tells me that it has much less to do with trade or income gaps and much more to do with culture and many Americans’ feeling of “homelessness.”

There is nothing that can make people more angry or disoriented than feeling they have lost their home. For some it is because America is becoming a minority-majority country and this has threatened the sense of community of many middle-class whites, particularly those living outside the more cosmopolitan urban areas.

For others it is the dizzying whirlwind of technological change we’re now caught up in. It has either wiped out their job or transformed their workplace in ways they find disorienting — or has put stressful demands on them for lifelong learning. When the two most important things in your life are upended — the workplace and community that anchor you and give you identity — it’s not surprising that people are disoriented and reach for the simplistic solutions touted by a would-be strongman.

What I do know for certain is this: The Republican Party and Donald Trump will have control of all the levers of government, from the courts to the Congress to the White House. That is an awesome responsibility, and it is all going to be on them. Do they understand that?

Personally, I will not wish them ill. Too much is at stake for my country and my children. Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail. So yes, I will hope that a better man emerges than we saw in this campaign.

But at the moment I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

President Donald Trump. Get used to it. The world as we knew it is no more.

To give Trump credit, he had a single formidable intuition: That American anger and uncertainty in the face of the inexorable march of globalization and technology had reached such a pitch that voters were ready for disruption at any cost.

Enough of elites; enough of experts; enough of the status quo; enough of the politically correct; enough of the liberal intelligentsia and cultural overlords with their predominant place in the media; enough of the financial wizards who brought the 2008 meltdown and stagnant incomes and jobs disappearing offshore. That, in essence, was Trump’s message. A New Yorker, he contrived to channel the frustrations of the heartland, a remarkable sleight of hand. Ohio and Wisconsin lurched into the Trump camp.

This upset victory over Hillary Clinton, the representative par excellence of the American political establishment, amounted to Brexit in American form. Ever since Britain’s perverse, self-defeating vote last June to leave the European Union, it seemed plausible that the same anti-globalization, often xenophobic forces could carry Trump to victory.

And so it proved. The disenfranchised, often living lives of great precariousness, arose and spoke. Clinton never quite seemed to understand their frustrations, as her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, did.

I write in a New York stunned into silence. What a difference from the victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 when cheering crowds gathered in Times Square! The silence in this great city, a stronghold of Clinton and the Democratic Party, is revealing: The elites of the East and West coasts, betraying a dangerous arrogance, were dismissive and ignorant to the last of the heartland anger feeding Trump’s rise.

This is the revenge of Middle America, above all of a white working-class America troubled by changing social and cultural mores — not every American loves choose-your-gender bathrooms — and by the shifting demographics that will make minorities the majority by midcentury.

Barack Obama is popular, but racism did not die with America’s first black president. Sexism is also alive and well, as Trump’s misogyny-sullied road to victory illustrates. For some Americans – and this is painful to admit – a woman following a black man to the White House was simply too much to swallow.

This is a dangerous moment in world affairs, fraught with uncertainty. The institutions of American democracy are strong; the United States is not Weimar Germany. But Trump has shown a worrying contempt for core American values, including respect for diversity, inclusiveness, an independent judiciary, and, at one point, the democratic process itself.

With the Republican Party retaining control of the House and Senate, Trump will have enormous power, more than Obama who faced a hostile Congress. He is a man ill prepared for the highest office, without political experience beyond this bruising campaign. The past months have revealed a personality given to impetuous anger, meanness, mendacity and petulance. How far the people he chooses to place around him will be able to control these instincts will be of critical importance.

Leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran favored Trump for a reason: They believe he will make America weaker, the trans-Atlantic alliance weaker, and the American-buttressed post-1945 global order weaker. They could well be right.

Trump has spoken in ways that have undermined NATO and the American commitment to its allies in Europe and Asia. From Estonia to Japan, people wonder if Trump’s America will really defend them in the breach. This is a welcome development for all those, like Putin, who want nothing more than to probe American weakness, be it in Syria or the Baltics. Trump will have to work very hard to reassure the world.

His first words were encouraging: It was now time, he said in his acceptance speech, “for us to come together as one united people.” But then Trump has said everything and the contrary of everything. He has lied repeatedly. The divisions in this bruised America emerging from the most ugly of campaigns should not be underestimated.

Democracy is unpredictable but must be respected. It is, as Churchill noted, the worst system of government except for all others that have been tried. The country wanted change. Clinton could not embody that. People were tired of the Clinton machine, with its culture of secrecy and evasion, and its way of walking a fine line — too fine — between noble political causes and dubious personal enrichment. Bill Clinton entered the White House almost a quarter-century ago. America tends to want to roll the dice and move forward.

In this case, with Trump, it has taken an extraordinary risk.

I fear the worst. Trump intuited and revealed the worst traits of worried Americans — their search for scapegoats, their desire to prostrate themselves before an autocratic savior, their bigotry. If Trump governs as he has campaigned, America and the world face real and present danger.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Just days ago I was in Ohio. I was talking to Republicans, and this was the refrain I kept hearing: Donald Trump is throwing this election away. He has no real campaign here. No get-out-the-vote operation. No ground game. Nothing that signifies or befits a truly serious presidential candidate.

These Republicans thought that he’d win the state — barely. But they didn’t think that he could snatch victories in some of the other places that he did on Tuesday, or draw so close to Hillary Clinton elsewhere, or compete so tightly in the election over all. It was done, over, finished.

She had the best experts that money could buy, the most sophisticated data operation that the smartest wonks could put together, and the dutiful troops who went door to door, handing out “Stronger Together” literature and pleading her case.

He had his hair and his ego.

And yet Donald Trump was just elected the 45th president of the United States, soon to take a seat at the most important desk in the most august office in the most consequential residence of the world. Yes, Donald Trump. That gale-force sigh of relief you heard was Chris Christie’s. That demonic cackle of glee was Rudy Giuliani’s.

That shriek of horror was mine.

Trump defied the predictions of pundits and pollsters, more than a few of whom foresaw an Electoral College landslide for Hillary Clinton. That’s what their numbers told them.

But that’s not what America had to say.

On Election Day, Trump did what he had throughout his surreal campaign: exploded the traditional assumptions, upended the usual expectations and forced us to look afresh at the accepted truisms and hoary clichés of our political life. There are important lessons to learn and crucial questions to ask.

Democrats are in the same position that Republicans were when Trump romped to their party’s nomination, which they were convinced for so long he could never get. They need to look seriously at the way they do business and how they arrived at this surprising, humbling destination.

Are the unglamorous, tedious approaches to rounding up votes as powerful as the booming voice of a celebrity with hours of free television time and millions of rapt Twitter followers? Does the imprimatur of the establishment and a towering stack of endorsements and a bulging retinue of pop stars and Hollywood actors make any difference when there’s a fury out there that you haven’t fully and earnestly tried to understand? Does accurate polling lag behind the nature of contemporary American life?

And is a party being remotely realistic — or entirely reckless — to try to sell a candidate who personifies the status quo to an electorate that’s clearly hungry for some kind of shock to the system?

There was an arrogance and foolishness to lining up behind Hillary Clinton as soon as so many Democratic leaders did, and to putting all their chips on her.

She fit the circumstances of 2016 awkwardly, in the same way that Jeb Bush did.

She was a profoundly flawed candidate unable to make an easy connection with voters. She was forever surrounded by messes: some of her own making, some blown out of proportion by the news media, all of them exhausting to voters who had lived through a quarter century of political melodrama with her.

She never found a pithy, pointed message. One Ohio resident noted to me that while Clinton’s campaign workers showed up at his doorstep several times a week, they dropped off pamphlets dense with the rationale for her candidacy, the policies she’d espouse, the promises she was making.

To read it was a commitment, and you couldn’t reduce to one sentence, or even two, what the meaning of her candidacy was.

It’s insane that a pledge to “make America great again” works better, because the vow is so starry-eyed and pat. But it’s concise. Digestible. It takes emotion into account. Democrats in general and Clinton in particular aren’t always good at that.

The party had a night so miserable that its leaders cannot chalk it up to the Russians or to James Comey, though there will be plenty of talk about that, much of it warranted. They had a gorgeous chance to retake their Senate majority, and not only did they fail to do so, but Democratic candidates who were thought to be in tight races lost by significant margins.

Clinton struggled more than had been predicted in the so-called Rust Belt — states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — in yet another illustration of how disaffected working-class white men had become and how estranged from a new economy and a new age they felt.

Their anger was the story of the primaries, the fuel not just for Trump’s campaign but for Bernie Sanders’s as well. And it manifested itself in the general election. Both parties are going to have to reckon with it.

And they should. If this were all that Trump had shown us, we’d owe him our thanks.

But there are darker implications here, too. After all the lies he told, all the fantasy he indulged in, all the hate he spewed and all the divisions he sharpened, he was rewarded with the highest office in the land. What does that portend for the politics of the next few years, for the kinds of congressional candidates we’ll see in 2018, for the presidential race of 2020?

I can’t bear to think about the conflagrations to come.

Friedman and Bruni

November 2, 2016

In “Donald Trump Voters, Just Hear Me Out” The Moustache of Wisdom says fellow Americans, your concerns should be taken seriously. But let’s also look seriously at the candidates.  Mr. Bruni considers “Hillary’s Male Tormentors” and says Clinton’s story is one of men’s weaknesses as well as a woman’s strength.  Here’s TMOW:

This is my last column until after the election, so I’d like to address the people least likely to read it: Donald Trump voters. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and a few of them will buy fish wrapped in this column, and they’ll accidentally peruse it! Desperate times call for desperate measures.

While I’ve opposed the Trump candidacy from the start, I’ve never disparaged Trump voters. Some are friends and neighbors; they’re all fellow Americans. We should take their concerns seriously. But we should also demand that they be serious, that they draw distinctions between these two presidential candidates.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is a flawed leader — but in the way so many presidents were. We know her flaws: She has a weakness for secrecy, occasionally fudges truths, has fawning aides and a husband who lacks discipline when it comes to moneymaking and women. But she is not indecent, and that is an important distinction. And she’s studious, has sought out people of substance on every issue and has taken the job of running for president seriously.

Trump is not only a flawed politician, he’s an indecent human being. He’s boasted of assaulting women — prompting 11 to come forward to testify that he did just that to them; his defense is that he could not have assaulted these women because they weren’t pretty enough.

He’s created a university that was charged with defrauding its students. He’s been charged with discriminating against racial minorities in his rental properties. He’s stiffed countless vendors, from piano sellers to major contractors. He’s refused to disclose his tax returns because they likely reveal that he’s paid no federal taxes for years, is in bed with dodgy financiers and doesn’t give like he says to charity.

He’s compared the sacrifice of parents of a soldier killed in Iraq to his “sacrifice” of building tall buildings. He’s vowed, if elected, to prosecute his campaign rival.

We have never seen such behaviors in a presidential candidate.

At the same time, Trump has shown no ability to talk about any policy issue with any depth. Harlan Coben’s debate-night tweet last month had it right: “On Aleppo he sounds like a fifth grader giving a book report on a book he never read.”

I understand why many Trump supporters have lost faith in Washington and want to just “shake things up.” When you shake things up with a studied plan and a clear idea of where you want to get to, you can open new futures. But when you shake things up, guided by one-liners and no moral compass, you can cause enormous instability and systemic vertigo.

But there is an even more important reason Trump supporters, particularly less-educated white males, should be wary of his bluster: His policies won’t help them. Trump promises to bring their jobs back. But most of their jobs didn’t go to a Mexican. They went to a microchip.

The idea that large numbers of manual factory jobs can be returned to America if we put up a wall with Mexico or renegotiate our trade deals is a fantasy. Trump ignores the fact that manufacturing is still by far the largest sector of the U.S. economy. Indeed, our factories now produce twice what they did in 1984 — but with one-third fewer workers.

Trump can’t change that. Machines and software will keep devouring, and spawning, more work of all kinds. Did you hear that IBM’s cognitive computer, Watson, helped to create a pop song, “Not Easy,” with the Grammy-winning producer Alex da Kid? The song was released on Oct. 21, IBM noted, and within 48 hours it climbed to No. 4 on iTunes’s Hot Tracks.

No one knows for certain how we deal with this new race with and against machines, but I can assure you it’s not Trump’s way — build walls, restrict trade, give huge tax cuts to the rich. The best jobs in the future are going to be what I call “STEMpathy jobs — jobs that blend STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, math) with human empathy. We don’t know what many of them will look like yet.

The smartest thing we can do now is to keep our economy as open and flexible as possible — to get the change signals first and be able to quickly adapt; create the opportunity for every American to engage in lifelong learning, because whatever jobs emerge will require more knowledge; make sure that learning stresses as much of the humanities and human interactive skills as hard sciences; make sure we have an immigration policy that continues to attract the world’s most imaginative risk-takers; and strengthen our safety nets, because this era will leave more people behind.

This is the only true path to American greatness in the 21st century. Trump wants to make America great in ways that are just not available anymore. “What do we have to lose” by trying his way? Trump asks. The answer is: everything that actually makes us great. When the world gets this fast, small errors in navigation have huge consequences.

While Clinton has failed to inspire, her instincts and ideas will keep us hewing to basically the right course. And however great her flaws, she is still in the zone of human decency. Trump is not.

We can never be great as a country with a president with the warped values of Donald Trump. I pray that in the end at least some Trump voters, my fellow Americans, will see that.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Weiner or no Weiner, Hillary Clinton is likely to be our next president.

But she can’t seem to escape insatiable men.

She married one — for better, for “bimbo eruptions,” for two terms in the White House, for impeachment.

She’s in the climactic week of a grotesque battle with another. If she prevails, his boasts of sexual aggression will partly be why.

And if she fails? Again there’s a priapic protagonist. The F.B.I. wouldn’t be examining Anthony Weiner’s laptop if he hadn’t invited so many strangers to examine his lap, and her fate is enmeshed once more with the wanton misdeeds of the weaker sex.

Over so many of her travails hangs a cloud of testosterone.

No woman before her earned a major party’s presidential nomination, drawing this close to the Oval Office. Should she reach that milestone and make that history, she’d probably also work with a Congress in which there are more female lawmakers than ever before.

But her journey doesn’t only reflect the advances of women. It has also been shaped by the appetites and anxieties of men. (Maybe the two dynamics go hand in hand.) And it has exposed gross male behavior while prompting fresh examples of it. Prominent men on the edge of obsolescence have never acted so wounded, so angry, so desperate. Yes, Newt Gingrich, I’m looking at you, though you’ll have to wait your turn while I assess your master.

Donald Trump’s candidacy is an unalloyed expression of male id: Yield to me, worship me, never question the expanse of my reach, do not impugn the majesty of my endowment. It’s less a political mission than a hormonal one, and it harks back to an era when women were arm candy and a man reveled in his sweet tooth.

His archaic masculinity is her opportunity: a stroke of good fortune in a presidential bid with plenty of bad luck, too. When he seethed that she was a “nasty woman,” he might as well have been offering to carry her luggage into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s hardly the first time that a man’s cravings colored her fate. How much of her Achilles’-heel defensiveness is a byproduct of her marriage to Bill? When he was governor of Arkansas and when he ran for president in 1992, there were constant rumors of his philandering and a ceaseless effort to keep them from spreading. She learned early on to see the media as invasive, her opponents as merciless, and privacy as something to be guarded at all costs. That doesn’t excuse her use of a private email server as secretary of state, but it does help to explain it.

Her husband converged with Gingrich in Washington in the 1990s, and when Gingrich’s Republican troops conquered Congress in 1994, it was widely characterized as the revenge of angry white men, whose provocations included her assertiveness. The president and Gingrich were both portraits of epic neediness. They were as impulsive and messy as little boys. They were destined to torment each other, and did.

The humiliations that she suffered — and the public sympathy that she reaped — were inextricable from the dueling displays of male vanity around her.

Fast forward two decades. While there are still angry white men and they favor Trump, it appears that there aren’t enough to counter her advantage with women, who are poised to get the president of their wishes. Not everyone is taking this well.

Just days after Trump called Clinton a “nasty woman,” Gingrich lashed out at Megyn Kelly of Fox News for being unduly “fascinated with sex,” a rich remark from a thrice-married man with a record of affairs. He wasn’t just a pol jousting with a journalist. He was a portly, toppled despot aghast at how stubbornly an intelligent woman refused to defer to him. He was an aged Everyman, reeling at changed roles and altered rules.

Around the country there are Senate and House races with a similar flavor: older man, younger woman, stew of resentments. In Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk, 57, made fun of the Thai heritage of his challenger, Representative Tammy Duckworth, 48, and when I watched the exchange, I wondered if the tension between them was a function of gender as well as race.

In Florida, Representative John Mica, 73, dismissed Stephanie Murphy, the 37-year-old college professor who is running against him, as a “nice lady” who just isn’t ready for prime time.

Maybe he has always been that big a boor and having a female opponent just made it obvious. But Clinton gets under Trump’s skin in a way that male rivals didn’t. In that sense, her gender is not a weakness but a weapon.

It’s about time.

Friedman and Bruni

October 26, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Alien to All That’s Great” The Moustache of Wisdom says we know who he is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?  Mr. Bruni, in “Hillary Clinton’s Resounding Mandate,” says there would be enormous meaning and clear messages in her election.  Here’s TMOW:

It’s taken me a while to put my finger on exactly what political label best describes Donald Trump as his presidential campaign snarls and spits to a finish. I think I’ve finally got it: Donald Trump is a “legal alien.”

That’s right, the man who has spent the last year railing against those dastardly “illegal aliens” supposedly wreaking havoc on our country turns out to be a legal alien — someone born in America but whose values are completely alien to all that has made this country great.

Who do you know who has denigrated immigrants, the handicapped, Muslims and Mexicans; trashed all our recent trade agreements; mounted a fraudulent campaign claiming our president was not born in this country; insulted the whole presidential selection process by running for the highest office without doing a shred of homework; boasted of grabbing women by their genitals; disparaged our NATO allies; praised the dictatorial president of Russia and encouraged him to hack Democratic Party emails; vowed to prosecute his campaign rival if he got elected; threatened to curb the freedom of the press; suggested that gun rights advocates might take the law into their own hands if Hillary Clinton won; insulted the parents of a slain Iraq war hero; been accused by 11 women of sexual assault or other unwelcome physical advances; sought to undermine America’s electoral system by claiming, without a shred of evidence, that it is so “rigged” he can’t promise to concede if he loses; and been cited for lying about more things more times in more ways on more days than any presidential aspirant in history?

This cocktail of toxic behaviors and attitudes is utterly alien to anyone who has ever run for president — and for good reason. But that is who Trump is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?

1) The American people. Who are we? Hopefully, an overwhelming majority will crush Trump at the polls and send the message that he is the one who needs to be morally deported, with a pathway back to the American mainstream only if he changes his ways.

If Trump loses and decides to start a media company — a kind of “Trump Ink” — to keep injecting his conspiratorial venom into the veins of U.S. politics and terrorize moderate Republicans, he will pay dearly. Trump Ink will blacken Trump Inc.

Already there are myriad reports of people avoiding Trump hotels and golf courses, because of his poisonous behavior. The PGA Tour recently moved its longstanding tournament from Trump’s Doral course in Miami to a course in … Mexico!

2) The Republican Party. Whose party is this? Almost all of the G.O.P.’s leaders have chosen to stand with Trump because they love their jobs (and the party that sustains them) more than their country. If Trump loses, will the G.O.P. leadership try to chase that big chunk of its base that went with Trump and become an alt-right party, or will this G.O.P. fracture and the decent conservatives go off and form a new, healthy Republican Party?

The country desperately needs a healthy center-right party that embraces the full rainbow of American society, promotes market-based solutions for climate change, celebrates risk-taking over redistribution, pushes for smaller government, expands trade that benefits the many but takes care of those hurt by it, invests in infrastructure, offers tax and entitlement reforms — and liberates itself from right-wing thought police like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist, who have prevented the G.O.P. from compromising and being a governing party.

3) The Democratic Party. Whose party is this? In truth, Bernie Sanders’s movement fractured the Democratic Party almost as much as Trump did the G.O.P., but that fissure has been temporarily plastered over by the overriding need to defeat Trump.

If Clinton wins, that fissure will quickly reopen and some basic questions will have to be answered: Do Democrats support any trade expansion? Do Democrats believe in the principled use of force? Do they believe that America’s risk-takers who create jobs are a profit engine to be unleashed or a menace only to be regulated and taxed? Do they believe we need to expand safety nets to catch those being left behind by this age of accelerating change but also control entitlements so they will be sustainable?

How does the Democratic Party process the fact that while Trump is a legal alien, his supporters are not. They are our neighbors. They need to be heard, and where possible they need to be helped. But they also need to be challenged to learn faster and make good choices, because the world is not slowing down for them.

Bottom line: We’re in the middle of a massive technological shift. It’s changing every job, workplace and community. Government can help, but there is no quick fix, and a lot more will depend on what Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, calls “the start-up of you.” You need a plan to succeed today.

To the extent that the center-left and the center-right can come together on programs to help every American get the most out of this world and cushion the worst, we’ll all be better off. But the more we get tribally divided, the more the American dream will become an alien concept to us all.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I hear two observations about the 2016 presidential race so incessantly that they’re like hit songs at peak ubiquity. The lyrics are seared into my brain.

One is that the Republican and Democratic nominees leave voters with no real choice. That’s nuts, because it implies that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are equally unpalatable and it misunderstands “choice” as profoundly as Trump misreads polls. He and Clinton may not be the political buffet of our dreams. But one entree is perilous, while the other has tired ingredients in a suboptimal sauce. Salmonella or salmon with cucumber and dill: That’s a choice. I know what I’m putting on my plate.

The other observation is that when Clinton is elected — sorry, if Clinton is elected — she’ll have shaky authority and murky marching orders, because she’ll be the beneficiary of an anti-Trump vote, not a pro-Clinton one. This, too, misses the mark. Even if we grant that voters aren’t so much rushing to her as fleeing him, they’re fleeing for specific reasons. They’re expressing particular values. Those reasons and values are her marching orders, and there’s nothing murky about them.

I’d go even further and say that they amount to a mandate, which is this: to safeguard the very America — compassionate, collaborative, decent — that he routinely degrades.

First, though, some math. As Damon Linker explains in The Week, Clinton is in a position to notch a resounding victory by historical standards.

As of late Tuesday, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls put her 5.4 percentage points ahead of Trump in a four-way race and 5.1 ahead in a one-on-one matchup. In three of the last six presidential elections, the margin of victory was significantly smaller than that; in the other three it was larger, although only slightly in the 1992 contest (5.5 percent), which her husband won.

Given early-voting patterns, Trump’s erratic behavior and her campaign’s superior ground game, I think she’ll exceed current projections; an ABC News tracking poll last weekend had her up by 12. The largest national margin since Ronald Reagan’s 18.2-point advantage in 1984 was the 8.5-point spread with which her husband was re-elected, and that was 20 years ago.

It’s true that none of the victors in the contests over the last three decades had an opponent as unprepared, unsteady and unsavory as Trump. But it’s also true that Trump is the protest candidate — the “change agent,” in prognosticators’ preferred parlance — at a juncture unfavorable to an insider like Clinton, who’s no darling of voters to begin with.

So if voters hand him an overwhelming defeat, it’s a bold statement, with undeniable messages.

They’d be saying that sexism like his is intolerable. That’s evident in the yawning gender gap that he confronts, in the disproportionate number of women who are voting early and in the possible surge, after Election Day, of women in Congress. The Year of Trump is turning out to be the true Year of the Woman, and not only because of a glass ceiling’s shattering.

This gives Clinton a mandate to make sure our public discourse and laws never treat women as subordinate to men.

Voters who weren’t intrinsically anti-Trump but ended up in that column are punishing him for the way he attacked the Khan family, Alicia Machado and so many others before and since. That’s clear in the words and timing of Republican leaders who defected from Trump. Each reached a point where, for reasons moral or political, Trump’s pettiness and viciousness could no longer be shrugged off.

There’s a mandate for Clinton in this as well. It’s to rise above and push back at the corrosive politics of insult, and she did more to betray than to honor this with her “basket of deplorables.”

An unorthodox candidate, Trump has run an unholy campaign that pits honest-to-goodness Americans, whoever they are, against others, including Mexican rapists, a Mexican-American judge, a president with Kenya in his blood and anyone with the Quran on a night stand. This appeals to an unsettlingly sizable group of voters.

But its repudiation by a definitive majority would tell Clinton that she’s being trusted, as Trump never could be, to lift us above such labeling and — to borrow a bit from her own stump speech — build bridges instead of walls.

While her election might not be any validation of her prescriptions for health care, the Middle East or trade, it would say loudly and clearly that the country cannot survive the divisiveness that Trump promotes and will not abide the bigotry that he projects.

Acting in accordance with that wouldn’t give our first female president most (or even much) of the legislation that she wants. But it would give her all of the authority that she needs.

Friedman and Bruni

October 19, 2016

In “WikiHillary for President” The Moustache of Wisdom says hackers exposed Clinton as a smart politician with a vision and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.  Mr. Bruni, in “Trump in a Bikini,” says he relentlessly scrutinizes others. Let’s conduct various examinations of him.  Here’s TMOW:

Thank God for WikiLeaks.

I confess, I was starting to wonder about what the real Hillary Clinton — the one you never get to see behind closed doors — really stood for. But now that, thanks to WikiLeaks, I’ve had a chance to peruse her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, I am more convinced than ever she can be the president America needs today.

Seriously, those speeches are great! They show someone with a vision, a pragmatic approach to getting things done and a healthy instinct for balancing the need to strengthen our social safety nets with unleashing America’s business class to create the growth required to sustain social programs.

So thank you, Vladimir Putin, for revealing how Hillary really hopes to govern. I just wish more of that Hillary were campaigning right now and building a mandate for what she really believes.

WikiHillary? I’m with her.

Why? Let’s start with what WikiLeaks says she said at Brazil’s Banco Itaú event in May 2013: “I think we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade … and we have to resist protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade.”

She also said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

That’s music to my ears. A hemisphere where nations are trading with one another, and where more people can collaborate and interact for work, study, tourism and commerce, is a region that is likely to be growing more prosperous with fewer conflicts, especially if more of that growth is based on clean energy.

Compare our hemisphere, or the European Union, or the Asian trading nations with, say, the Middle East — where the flow of trade, tourism, knowledge and labor among nations has long been restricted — and the case for Hillary’s vision becomes obvious.

The way Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made trade and globalization dirty words is ridiculous. Globalization and trade have helped to bring more people out of poverty in the last 50 years than at any other time in history.

Do we need to make adjustments so the minority of the U.S. population that is hurt by freer trade and movements of labor is compensated and better protected? You bet we do. That’s called fixing a problem — not throwing out a whole system that we know from a long historical record contributes on balance to economic growth, competitiveness and more open societies.

In a speech to a Morgan Stanley group on April 18, 2013, WikiHillary praised the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which included reforming the tax code to increase investment and entrepreneurship and raising certain taxes and trimming some spending and entitlements to make them more sustainable.

The ultimate shape of that grand bargain could take many forms, she said, but Hillary stressed behind closed doors: “Simpson-Bowles … put forth the right framework. Namely, we have to restrain spending, we have to have adequate revenues and we have to incentivize growth. It’s a three-part formula.”

She is right. We’ll never get out of this economic rut, and protect future generations, unless the business and social sectors, Democrats and Republicans, all give and get something — and that’s exactly where WikiHillary was coming from.

In an October 2013 speech for Goldman Sachs, Clinton seemed to suggest the need to review the regulations imposed on banks by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010. Her idea was not to get rid of all of the rules but rather to make sure they were not imposing needless burdens that limited lending to small businesses and start-ups.

As Clinton put it, “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here.” Again, exactly right.

You can also find WikiHillary, or her aides, musing about a “carbon tax” and whether or not to come out in favor of it, as Sanders did. She chose not to now, probably to avoid being saddled by Republicans with calling for a new tax in the general election campaign, but I am confident she’d make pricing carbon part of her climate policy.

When I read WikiHillary, I hear a smart, pragmatic, center-left politician who will be inclined to work with both the business community and Republicans to keep America tilted toward trade expansion, entrepreneurship and global integration, while redoubling efforts to cushion workers from the downsides of these policies.

I’m just sorry that campaign Hillary felt she could not speak like WikiHillary to build a proper mandate for President Hillary. She would have gained respect for daring to speak the truth to her own constituency — and demonstrating leadership — not lost votes.

Nonetheless, thanks to WikiLeaks, I am reassured that she has the right balance of instincts on the issues I care about most. So, again, thank you, Putin, for exposing that Hillary. She could make a pretty good president for these times.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Is it too late for Hillary Clinton to surrender to Donald Trump’s demand that she take a drug test before this last presidential debate?

I think she should — if he agrees to a few tests of his own. He can choose any three of the following:

CITIZENSHIP TEST This is what the immigrants he feels so warm and fuzzy about must master to become full-fledged Americans and, for example, vote in presidential elections against the likes of Trump.

But would he himself pass one?

He’d surely be able to say who the current speaker of the House of Representatives is, given that he spends much of his time sticking pins in his personal Paul Ryan voodoo doll.

But the exact count of voting representatives in the House? That’s also on the test.

We could give him hints: your number of wives plus 432. The amount of federal income taxes you paid in 1995 plus 435.

The test has questions about the dynamics of the federal government and the contents of the Constitution. Neither is Trump’s strong suit.

He demonstrated staggering ignorance of what the judiciary branch does with an emphatic reference to a “bill” that several federal judges had “signed.” He seems to believe that the president can jail a political foe, hire and fire generals at will, and command the military to break the law.

He’s clueless about free speech. He threatened to sue Ted Cruz for showing a video of his actual, undisputed pro-abortion comments from the past. After the conservative journalist Rich Lowry assessed his candidacy unkindly, Trump suggested that the Federal Communications Commission fine him.

The history portion of the exam could be trickiest of all. To the question of who Susan B. Anthony is, the answer is not: “A total liar. Never happened. Look at her. She would not be my first choice.”

HEARING TEST The conventional wisdom is that Trump refuses to listen to his advisers. Maybe he just can’t make out what they’re saying. Perhaps it’s an excess of hair spray in the ear canals.

CREDIT CHECK His businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times. He has a thoroughly documented habit of stiffing vendors. He and his companies have been defendants in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Does he qualify for so much as a Discover card with a $50 limit?

RORSCHACH Imagine the fun. Trump is shown an inkblot that looks to most people like a melting pumpkin.

“You’re using my picture without my consent. My lawyers will be in touch about a licensing fee.”

Trump is shown an inkblot that resembles a misshapen crab.

“It’s an illegal immigrant disguised as a crustacean.”

DRIVING TEST What are the chances that he cedes the right of way to anyone, ever?

MINNESOTA MULTIPHASIC PERSONALITY INVENTORY This psychological profile makes assessments about such traits as paranoia (check!), hypomania (check!) and more.

Interpreted by the right psychiatrist, it might help tell us what ails Trump in addition to arrested development (he and Billy Bush were essentially “teenage boys,” Melania just told Anderson Cooper, in her husband’s defense) and a plague of malfunctioning microphones.

Is his case a classic one of narcissistic personality disorder? Does he fit the criteria for borderline personality disorder, which can include outbursts, obsessions and a primitive ego structure?

Or is it something more esoteric? I’m no Freud and I’m no longer Jung, but I detect a mix of auditory hallucinations (he experiences wild applause even when there isn’t any), erotomania (the delusional certainty that other people lust for you) and rosiephobia (a pathological fear of mouthy female talk-show hosts).

VISION TEST Are cataracts the explanation for looking in the mirror and seeing a desirable hairstyle?

SAT Highfalutin vocabulary doesn’t factor quite as prominently into this test as it once did, but a command of language remains bigly essential. Mar-a-Lago, we have a problem.

PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST If only this were as comprehensive as its name suggests. It’s what grade-school students were once required to do: situps, pull-ups and such in front of censorious, fat-shaming peers.

Donning swimwear instead of his mercifully roomy suits, Trump can perform this for an audience of all the beauty-pageant contestants he has ever barged in on. They’ll get to see, in the man who actually regaled his supporters with a derisive appraisal of Clinton’s backside, what all those cheeseburgers have wrought.

EKG There has been no evidence to date that he has a heart. Confirmation would be nice.

LIE-DETECTOR TEST Preferably during the debate. I imagine smoke billowing from the overtaxed wires before the whole contraption bursts into flames.