Archive for the ‘Bruni’ Category

Friedman and Bruni

May 18, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has some advice for Teh Donald.  In “Donald, Save Your Golf Greens, and the Planet” he says Trump could protect his financial interest, America’s interest and his grandkids’ if he embraced the reality of climate change.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  If it doesn’t involve tweeting or insulting someone Teh Donald ain’t interested.  Mr. Bruni, in “Where Republican Dreams Die?”, says in a tumultuous patch of the South, some of 2016’s biggest themes and questions will play out.  Here’s TMOW:

MEMO TO: DONALD TRUMP

FROM: TOM FRIEDMAN

SUBJECT: GOLF COURSES

Dear Donald,

It’s been a while since we talked on the practice tee at Doral. (Nice course you built.) I am only going to do this once, but I am going to offer you some free advice — and it’s about all the things you love most: yourself, your kids, winning, money and golf. Have I got a deal for you …

You see, Donald, I was looking at all the golf courses you own. Some of them are real gems, like Doral, Turnberry, Doonbeg, Palm Beach, Aberdeenshire. But you know what else I noticed? How many of them are on or near coastlines. And do you know what’s going to happen to those golf courses, Donald, if the climate scientists are even half right? They’re going to go from oceanfront property to ocean-floor property. Because ice melt and sea level rise are going to threaten all of them. Here’s a July 21, 2015, story from Weather.com:

“As our seas continue to rise, some cities, like Miami, are planning to spend billions on revamping infrastructure. But some scientists say sea level rise will lead to another phenomenon in South Florida, and local leaders need to start preparing for it now. The region that’s home to thousands of high-priced homes nestled against the water is expected to be threatened directly by the rising seas in the coming decades, and when the harsh reality sets in, a mass exodus could commence. … In short, there’s no way to save South Florida, and lawmakers should start to prepare for millions to move north. … More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. … ‘This is not a future problem. It’s a current problem,’ Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, told PBS.”

In other words, Donald, there is no candidate in this race who is more exposed to climate change than … you. And I am not talking only about your coastal golf courses. Global warming doesn’t mean the weather, on average, just gets hotter. It means the weather gets weirder. You get more weather extremes — hotter hot days, wetter wet ones, longer droughts, fiercer storms, heavier snows.

The Climate Wire quoted a United States Golf Association turf expert in August 2014 as saying that “individual golfers and club leadership are becoming aware that these are real issues.” I can only imagine what this will mean for insurance rates for golf course. And that was before Nature magazine published a new study in March indicating that sea levels could rise almost twice as much as previously predicted by the end of the century — “an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe,” as The Washington Post noted, unless we curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Ask your golf course greens keepers how many of them think climate change is a hoax?

So here’s the advice: I know that you’ve tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Just as an aside, Donald, that’s incredibly stupid. The Chinese are ahead of us in putting a price on carbon because they can’t breathe.) But let’s put that aside. We both know that you know as much about climate change as you did about abortion rights and the nuclear triad. It was just one of those things you put out there to keep you looking like a Republican good ol’ boy.

Donald, you’ve done something truly revolutionary: You’ve single-handedly reshaped the agenda of the Republican Party, mixing some left-of-center and centrist positions with the G.O.P.’s traditional right-of-center stuff. You should do the same now, embrace the reality of climate change and vow as president that you will be “huge, huuuuuge” on this issue — that “I’ll make the whole planet great again.”

It would be in your financial interest, America’s interest and your grandkids’ interest. Nobody who voted for you in the primaries did so because of climate, except maybe coal miners in West Virginia. Your base does not care about this issue, and, by the way, all their kids are telling them climate change is real. The reason the G.O.P. has its head in the sand on climate is the oil companies force it to. But you don’t need Big Oil’s money.

Here’s what you need: some Bernie Sanders voters. You can’t win without some of them. And they’re all greens. If you promised to take climate change seriously, you’d make it much easier for some of them, who dislike Hillary, to hold their noses and vote for you. You’d also get a lot of other people to give you a second look. Most important, it would tip the G.O.P. on this issue.

Cards on the table, Donald, I won’t be voting for you. But if you really want to make this race interesting, continue to reshape the G.O.P., raise the odds of winning Florida, preserve your wealth and do something to make America great again, tweet this: “Talked to some scientists, smartest in the world, changing position on climate change. Feeling the burn. Gotta protect our kids.”

After all, Donald, you don’t want to be remembered as the politician who’ll be the answer to the question, “Who lost Florida?”

If TMOW thinks any Sanders supporters will go to Trump I’d love to have some of what he’s smoking.  Here’s Mr. Bruni, writing from Raleigh, NC:

Ohio and Florida. Florida and Ohio. What a pair of election-year divas, always preening for the pundits. Enough. There are other comely swing states on the stage.

Let’s gawk at North Carolina.

If Donald Trump drags down Republicans across the board, this is one of the places where they’ll flail. Its Republican governor, nearing the end of a tumultuous first term, is in trouble. One of the state’s two Republican senators is facing a tougher re-election battle than was predicted just months ago. Democrats are circling. Make that drooling.

Although purple, North Carolina turned deceptively red over the last few years, and Republican lawmakers have behaved with a potentially suicidal swagger. In the process they’ve managed to enrage corporate America, exposing a newly profound tension in the G.O.P. between its business-minded wing and the religious right.

Some of the most interesting crosswinds of American politics blow through this state.

In 2008 it voted for Barack Obama — by a margin of just .32 percent. Enthusiasm for him helped to propel Democratic women to the Senate and the governor’s office.

Both are gone now, replaced by Republican men, and Mitt Romney won the state narrowly in 2012. But the more sweeping change has been in the state legislature, where an overwhelming Republican majority took hold and hurtled forward (or, rather, backward).

Take the recently passed measure known as H.B. 2. It’s the law that mandates that people use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, gambled that it would energize elements of the party’s base.

But it went much, much further than that supposed solution to a nonexistent problem, overriding local anti-discrimination statutes. Many prominent companies denounced it. Some withdrew business from the state — or are threatening to. Conventions have been canceled. Tourism has declined. By some estimates, the state has already lost tens of millions of dollars.

“I’m talking to businesspeople all the time,” Deborah Ross told me when I sat down with her in Raleigh last week. “They are livid.”

Ross is the Democratic challenger to Senator Richard Burr. She’s a fierce underdog: an articulate, energetic lawyer who served for decades in the legislature. She’d be the third woman sent to the Senate by North Carolinians, after Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan.

But her résumé also includes work for the A.C.L.U., and Republicans detect a gold mine of negative ads. I wager that the Koch brothers and other big G.O.P. donors will flood this state with money. How much could be decisive.

There are other pivotal questions, reflecting crucial dynamics around the country.

Will new voter-identification laws hurt Democrats? Since the last presidential election, Republicans here significantly tightened rules and requirements — and not out of the goodness of their hearts.

Which demographic and economic trends will hold the greatest sway? North Carolina is America in miniature: Its minority population has grown and it has urbanized, developments that favor Democrats, but it has also hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, so it brims with the sorts of displaced workers who’ve rallied to Trump.

A recent Pew Research Center study listed three of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas among the 10 nationally that had “lost the most in economic status” between 2000 and 2014. By that measure, it fared worse than any Rust Belt state.

“There’s a lot of economic anxiety here, mixed with race and cultural change, that will keep Trump and other Republicans viable,” said Ferrel Guillory, a longtime analyst of state politics who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Can Republicans profit from a culture war? They failed with H.B. 2. But the Obama administration’s new directive advising schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity may scramble the situation, allowing the G.O.P. to pin the charge of overreach on the federal government.

“There’s a possibility that the Obama directive is something of a lifeline to Republicans,” said Pope McCorkle, a former Democratic consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Just how toxic is Trump? McCorkle noted, with a chuckle, that the state’s Democrats have usually been the ones fretting about their party’s presidential nominee: “Do you go to the airport to greet him? Touch him? Allow a picture?”

“What’s interesting,” he added, “is how much the shoe is on the other foot this time.” Burr hasn’t said whether he’ll campaign with Trump.

Perhaps he noticed several polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a lead over Trump in a head-to-head matchup in this state, which has 15 electoral votes, just three fewer than Ohio. It matters. And it’s ready for its close-up.

Friedman and Bruni

May 11, 2016

In “Trump’s Miss Universe Foreign Policy” The Moustache of Wisdom says he based it on a beauty pageant, a convenience store and statements of fiction.  Mr. Bruni, in “Obama’s Gorgeous Goodbye,” says as he prepares to exit, the president makes a final plea about cooperation and common purpose.  Here’s TMOW:

O.K., it’s easy to pick on Donald Trump’s foreign policy. But just because he recently referred to the attack on the World Trade Center as happening on “7/11” — which is a convenience store — instead of 9/11, and just because he claimed that “I know Russia well” because he held a “major event in Russia two or three years ago — [the] Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event” — doesn’t make him unqualified.

I’m sure you can learn a lot schmoozing with Miss Argentina. You can also learn a lot eating at the International House of Pancakes. I never fully understood Arab politics until I ate hummus — or was it Hamas?

And, by the way, just because Trump’s big foreign policy speech was salted with falsehoods — like “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libyan oil” — it doesn’t make him unqualified.

The New York Times Magazine just profiled one of the president’s deputy national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, reporting how he and his aides boasted of using social media, what the writer called a “largely manufactured” narrative, and a pliant press to, in essence, dupe the country into supporting the Iran nuclear deal. The Donald is not the only one given to knuckleheaded bluster and misrepresentation on foreign policy.

Life is imitating Twitter everywhere now.

Indeed, criticizing Trump for inconsistency when it comes to foreign policy is a bit rich when you consider that both Democrats and Republicans have treated Pakistan as an ally, knowing full well that its secret service has trucked with terrorists and coddled the Taliban — the people killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; they’ve both treated Saudi Arabia as an ally because we needed its oil, knowing full well that its export of Salafist Islam has fueled jihadists; they both supported decapitating Libya and then not staying around to support a new security order, thus opening a gaping hole on the African coast for migrants to flow into Europe; they’ve both supported NATO expansion into Russia’s face and then wondered aloud why the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is so truculent.

No, if I were critiquing Trump’s foreign policy views it would not be on inconsistency, hypocrisy or lying. It would be that he shows no sign of having asked the most important question: What are the real foreign policy challenges the next president will face? I don’t think he has a clue, because if he did, he wouldn’t want the job. This is one of the worst times to be conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Consider some of the questions that will greet the Oval Office’s next occupant. For starters, what does the new president do when the necessary is impossible but the impossible is necessary? Yes, we’ve proved in Iraq and Afghanistan that we don’t know how to do nation-building in other people’s countries. But just leaving Libya, Syria and parts of Iraq and Yemen ungoverned, and spewing out refugees, has led to a flood of migrants hitting Europe and stressing the cohesion of the European Union; that refugee flood could very well lead to Britain’s exit from the E.U.

President Obama has been patting himself on the back a lot lately for not intervening in Syria. I truly sympathized with how hard that call was — until I heard the president and his aides boasting about how smart their decision was and how stupid all their critics are. The human and geopolitical spillover from Syria is not over. It’s destabilizing the E.U., Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan and Jordan. The choices are hellish. I would not want the responsibility for making them. But nobody has a monopoly on genius here, and neither Obama’s victory lap around this smoldering ruin nor Trump’s bombastic and simplistic solutions are pretty to watch.

And there are more of these stressors coming: Falling oil prices, climate change and population bombs are going to blow up more weak states, hemorrhaging refugees in all directions.

There’s also the question of what you should do about the networked nihilists? Ever since the rise of Osama bin Laden, super-empowered angry men have challenged us. But at least Bin Laden had an identifiable cause and set of demands: cleansing the Arabian Peninsula of Western influence. But now we are seeing a mutation. Can anyone tell me what the terrorists who killed all those people in Brussels, Paris or San Bernardino wanted? They didn’t even leave a note; their act was their note. These suicidal jihadist-nihilists are not trying to win; they just want to make us lose. That’s a tough foe. They can’t destroy us — now — but they will ratchet up the pain if they get the ammo. Curbing them while maintaining an open society, with personal privacy on your cellphone and the Internet, will be a challenge.

And then there are Russia and China. They’re back in the game of traditional sphere-of-influence geopolitics. But both Russia and China face huge economic strains that will tempt their leaders to distract attention at home with nationalist adventures abroad.

The days of clear-cut, satisfying victories overseas, like opening up China or tearing down the Berlin Wall, are over. U.S. foreign policy now is all about containing disorder and messes. It is the exact opposite of running a beauty pageant. There’s no winner, and each contestant is uglier than the last.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

In this twilight of his presidency, Barack Obama is unlikely to deliver much in the way of meaningful legislation.

But he’s giving us a pointed, powerful civics lesson.

Consider his speech to new graduates of Howard University last weekend. While it brimmed with the usual kudos for hard work, it also bristled with caveats about the mistakes that he sees some young people making.

He chided them for demonizing enemies and silencing opponents. He cautioned them against a sense of grievance too exaggerated and an outrage bereft of perspective. “If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, ‘young, gifted and black’ in America, you would choose right now,” he said. “To deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”

He was by no means telling them to be satisfied, and he wasn’t talking only or even chiefly to them. He was talking to all of us — to America — and saying: enough. Enough with a kind of identity politics that can shove aside common purpose. Enough with a partisanship so caustic that it bleeds into hatred.

Enough with such deafening sound and blinding fury in our public debate. They make for entertainment, not enlightenment, and stand in the way of progress.

His remarks at Howard were an extension of those in his final State of the Union address in January and of those to the Illinois General Assembly in February, nine years to the day after he announced his history-making bid for the presidency. The Illinois speech, wise and gorgeous, received less attention than it deserved.

“We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas,” he said then. Otherwise, he warned, “Extreme voices fill the void.” This current presidential campaign has borne him out.

Obama detractors and skeptics probably hear in all of this a professorial haughtiness that has plagued him and alienated them before. And there’s legitimate disagreement about the degree to which he has been an agent as well as a casualty of the poisoned environment he rues. His administration’s actions haven’t always been as high-minded as his words.

But we should all listen to him nonetheless, for several reasons.

One is that he’s not just taking jabs at opponents. He’s issuing challenges to groups — African-Americans, college students — from whom he has drawn strong support and with whom he has real credibility.

“We must expand our moral imaginations,” he told black students at Howard, imploring them to recognize “the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.”

Just two weeks earlier, at a town-hall-style meeting in London, hevolunteered a critique of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that once “elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can’t just keep on yelling at them.”

Another reason to listen to Obama is the accuracy and eloquence with which he’s diagnosing current ills. In Illinois he noted that while ugly partisanship has always existed, it’s fed in our digital era by voters’ ability to curate information from only those news sources and social-media feeds that echo and amplify their prejudices.

“We can choose our own facts,” he lamented. “We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.” Advocacy groups often make matters worse, he added, by “keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.”

At Howard, Obama insisted that change “requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.”

“If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want,” he continued. “So don’t try to shut folks out. Don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.”

At this late point, his message isn’t a self-serving one about the political climate that he personally wants to operate in and benefit from. It’s about the climate that would serve everyone best. If it draws attention to the improvements that he pledged but couldn’t accomplish, he’s O.K. with that. It still needs saying.

And so he’s fashioning this blunt, soulful goodbye, a reflection on our troubled democracy that, I fear, will be lost in the din of the Trump-Clinton death match. It brings him full circle, from the audacity to the tenacity of hope.

Friedman and Bruni

May 4, 2016

In “Trump and the Lord’s Work” The Moustache of Wisdom says that in order to get the nation’s politics unstuck, the intransigent version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed.  Mr. Bruni considers “Ted Cruz’s Bitter End” and says sour, smug and nakedly ambitious, the Texas senator was never built to go the distance.  To which I say “Thank God!”  Here’s TMOW:

Like many others, I watched the video that President Obama showed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday of him inviting former House Speaker John Boehner over to solicit his advice on what Obama should do post-presidency. It was remarkable to see the real Boehner and the real Obama acting like best buddies in the White House movie theater. Boehner even tells Obama that he finally got a “grand bargain” — only it was on a Chevy Tahoe, not the one they tried to negotiate on the economy.

I watched that video with Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” and he had the exact same reaction I had: “Where was that brotherly love when America needed it” for a real grand bargain?

That scene plucked the deepest emotional chord in the country today: The nonstop fighting between our two political parties has left many Americans feeling like the children of two permanently divorcing parents. The country is starved to see its two major parties do big hard things together again. And getting a glimpse — even just a pretend one — of Obama and Boehner teaming up reminds you what’s been lost.

I think what’s propelling Donald Trump’s success more than anything is the feeling of many Americans that our politics are totally stuck. There is an overwhelming sense of “stuckness” — and the fantasy that Trump plays to, and plays up, is that he can pull the sword from the stone and do deals. No one was more responsible for this “stuckness,” though, than today’s Republican Party. When Mitch McConnell, the G.O.P. leader in the Senate, said in October 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he described the Republicans’ dominant strategy since 2008. The party stopped thinking seriously about market-based alternatives. Into that emptiness entered Trump, like an invasive species.

This was a really bad time for us to be stuck. I’m just finishing writing a new book, which is partly about the inflection point we hit around 2007. In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone, beginning the smartphone/apps revolution; in late 2006 Facebook opened its doors to anyone, not just college and high school students, and took off like a rocket; Google came out with the Android operating system in 2007; Hadoop launched in 2007, helping create the storage/processing power for the big data revolution; Github, launched in 2007, scaling open-source software; Twitter was spun off as its own separate platform in 2007. Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Airbnb started in 2007.

In short, on the eve of Obama’s presidency, something big happened:Everything started getting digitized and made mobile — work, commerce, billing, finance, education — reshaping the economy. A lot of things started to get very fast all at once. It was precisely when we needed to double down on our formula for success and update it for a new era — more lifelong learning opportunities for every worker, better infrastructure (roads, airports, rails and bandwidth) to promote the flow of commerce, better rules to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness, better immigration policies to attract the world’s smartest minds, and more government-funded research to push out the boundaries of science and sow the seeds for the next generation of start-ups.

That was the real grand bargain we needed. Instead, we had the 2008 economic meltdown, which set off more polarization, and way too much gridlock, given how much rethinking, reimagining and retooling we needed to do. In this vortex a lot of the public got unmoored and disoriented, opening the way for populists with simple answers. Get rid of immigrants, end trade with China or eliminate big banks and all will be fine. It’s nonsense.

We got strong as a country through democracy and capitalism. We got rich as a country through trade. We got smart and powerful as a country through immigration. We got fair as a country through Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare. They all lead to vastly more winners than losers. This is no time to lose confidence in what got us here. If you’re running for president and are not for all these things, you’re wrong — and I hope you lose.

But if you’re for these things only as they now exist, you’re also wrong. Each one needs retooling. It’s clear: Free trade with China has hurt more people than originally thought. It’s clear: Low-skilled illegal immigration has hurt more American workers than we’ve fully understood. (And more high-skilled immigration in a knowledge age would enhance our economy more than most people understand.) It’s clear: Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare all need fixes to remain sustainable. It’s clear: Capitalism driven more by machines and robots poses new challenges for both white-collar and blue-collar workers.

Every one of these challenges can be met if we put our heads and hands together. For that to happen, though, this version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed, so a thinking center-right party can emerge. If that is what Trump has done, he’s done the Lord’s work. We also need Democrats to be a center-left party, though, and not let Bernie Sanders pull them to the far left. If both happen, maybe something good can actually emerge from this crazy election.

Oh, FFS…  Bernie Sanders is about as “far left” as FDR.  And Eisenhower.  And I wonder how many Friedman Units it will take before what’s left of the Republican party comes to its senses.  I doubt that I’ll be alive to see it…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If you listened much to Ted Cruz over these last furious months, you heard him talk frequently about “the abyss,” as in what this country was teetering on the edge of. If you listened to him over these last furious hours, you heard him mention the “yawning cavern of insecurity” that motivates Donald Trump and other bullies.

Cruz should take up spelunking. He’s obviously fascinated by unfathomable depths, and with his loss in Indiana on Tuesday, his candidacy for the presidency is finished, giving him a whole lot of extra time. A new hobby is definitely in order.

As we bid Cruz adieu, we should give him his due: He took a mien and manner spectacularly ill suited to the art of seducing voters about as far as they could go. He outlasted the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He outperformed Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Like him, Santorum and Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses and built from there, courting the religious right with particular fervor. But they lacked the intensity of Cruz’s professed disdain for Washington, which was his other big sales pitch, made at its moment of maximum potency. He peddled extravagant piety and extreme contempt in equal measure.

If that sounds paradoxical, it is, and the tension between contradictory Cruzes is what ultimately did him in.

He spoke out of both sides of his scowl, itching to be the voice of the common man but equally eager to demonstrate what a highfalutin, Harvard-trained intellect he possessed. He wed a populist message to a plummy vocabulary. And while the line separating smart and smart aleck isn’t all that thin or blurry, he never could stay on the winning side of it.

He wore cowboy boots, but his favorites are made of ostrich.

Two peacocks in a pod, he and Trump, and what ghastly plumage they showed on Tuesday.

Trump somehow saw fit to bring up a National Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz exploded, branding Trump a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.” He also brought up an interview from many years ago in which Trump told Howard Stern that his effort to steer clear of sexually transmitted diseases was his “personal Vietnam.”

Where was this rant six months ago, when the Republican field was crowded and Cruz played footsie with Trump? Back then he was wagering that Trump would fade, and he wanted to be in a friendly position to inherit the billionaire’s supporters.

But by Tuesday, Trump was the main obstacle between Cruz and the Republican presidential nomination, and Cruz has just one true compass: his own advancement.

The nakedness of his vanity and transparency of his ambition were always his biggest problem. He routinely excoriated other politicians for self-centeredness while repeatedly hogging center stage, his remarks interminable — after his Iowa victory, for example, or when he presumptuously introduced Carly Fiorina as his running mate — and his pauses so theatrically drawn out that you could watch the entirety of “The Revenant” during some of them.

He trashed “the establishment” and wore its rejection of him as a badge of honor only until it stopped rejecting him and its help was his best hope to wrest the nomination away from Trump. At that point he did dizzy cartwheels over every prominent endorsement that came his way.

He took great pride in an adversarial relationship with the media, decreeing us irrelevant, until he went in hunt of a fresh excuse for losing to Trump and decided over the last few days that it was all our fault. We didn’t matter and then we did, depending on which estimation flattered him.

He purported to be more high-minded than his peers but pettily mocked Michelle Obama for urging schoolchildren to eat leafy greens. When Heidi Cruz is first lady, he pledged, “French fries are coming back to the cafeteria.” Heidi Cruz is not going to be first lady, so she’ll need some other platform for the promotion of calorie bombs and second chins.

And where in her husband was the humility that a Christian faith as frequently proclaimed as his should encompass? It wasn’t evident when he stormed into the Senate in early 2013, an upstart intent on upstaging the veterans.

There were flickers of it on Tuesday night, as he conceded defeat not just in Indiana but in the presidential contest, announcing that he was suspending his campaign “with a heavy heart.” He articulated gratitude to those Americans — no small number of them — who had buoyed him.

He went overboard in his praise of Fiorina, merely reminding us all of what an odd and oddly timed alliance theirs was. “An incredible, phenomenal running mate,” he called her, as if they’d been on some epic journey. It was less than a week long. How many phenomena could she accomplish in that time?

He left Trump out of his remarks. There were no congratulations. There was no indication of whether he’d publicly back Trump in the months to come. There was nothing to purge the memory of what he’d said earlier Tuesday, when he described Trump as “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.” Yes, we have, and so has he, every day, in the mirror.

That’s why he’ll undoubtedly be back to try for the presidency again. But this bid is moribund. It’s time for Cruz to rest in peevishness.

As far as I’m concerned it’s past time for the Lord to call him home…

Friedman and Bruni

April 27, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom is in Dakar, Senegal.  In “Out of Africa, Part III” he says that in Senegal, a rap artist and a weatherman both worry for their nation’s future.  Mr. Bruni considers “The Cult of Sore Losers” and moans that in 2016, there’s seemingly no legitimate victory or gracious defeat.   He says that spells trouble for all of us.  Here’s TMOW:

You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.

The rapper, Babacar Niang, known simply as Matador, the 40-year-old voice of the voiceless and one of the pioneers of African rap, emerged from the oft-flooded Thiaroye slum of Dakar to become the godfather of the underground hip-hop scene here. I attended his concert at a cultural center a few nights ago. I confess it was my first hip-hop concert and it took a little getting used to. The guy behind me had a big can of bug repellent that he would spray and light the plume, creating a makeshift flamethrower, which he used to express his approval of key lyrics — and heat up the back of my neck.

But it never distracted from the hypnotic beat of Matador’s rap, which appeals to young Senegalese not to join the migration to Europe — now driven by a toxic brew of government failures, overpopulation and extreme floods and droughts — but to stay home and build their country.

The weatherman is Ousmane Ndiaye, head of the climate unit for the National Civil Aviation and Meteorology Agency. He trained at Columbia in climate science. His stage is a drab office at Dakar Airport. His voice is a monotone. His audience of one was me. His flamethrower is his graphs, displaying the recent extreme weather patterns and the oscillating beat of parched and drenched soils from which Matador and his followers emerged.

I met them both while filming a documentary, “Years of Living Dangerously,” on climate change that is to air in the fall on National Geographic Television.

Matador showed me the Thiaroye slum, where he grew up and began rapping with his pals. Starting with the droughts of the 1970s, many rural migrants moved to Dakar for work, and many settled in the only open space: marshland dried up by the drought. But around 2000 the rains returned, often torrential, and Thiaroye became uninhabitable — but fully inhabited. Today it’s one of those grim intersections where climate, migration, population and the lack of urban planning all meet.

The home where Matador got his start is literally engulfed by giant weeds. Putrid sewage and standing water abound. But people are living anywhere there are four walls and a dry enough floor. He notes that Senegal’s government recently spent millions on a new sports stadium but has no money to properly drain his old neighborhood. One of his biggest hits — rapped in Wolof, the local language — is a homage to this place. It’s called “Catastrophe,” and here’s some of it:

Clouds piling up from the north announce the rain to come.
People’s faces read worry first, then fear
With the first rains come the first wave of departures
Those who prayed for rain sure got their prayers answered
Long gone are the days where we would beg the spirits for water
Today the rain is falling and it won’t stop
The stagnant waters keep piling up
And soon the floods will sweep away our homes
The torrent chases us out to reclaim its bed
You can try to keep nature out, it will always return
After the drought, now we face the rain.
Wading in the mud, day in, day out
Using the flood as a pretext, some empty their septic tanks at night
As the tanks overflow, it’s neighbor against neighbor
Puddles become streams and rivers in which crocodiles and snakes swim
At night, the hum of mosquitoes and frogs turns into a racket
A drowned newborn is pulled from the muddy flow
Then malaria and cholera finish off the survivors
If there was aid money on its way, we never saw it

Standing next to a broken drainage pipe, Matador says to me: “It pains me because the people, they’re forced to leave. To build Senegal we need those young people. But how can we keep them here in these conditions?” No wonder Matador has a popular rap lyric, which plays on an alliteration, that describes the choice for too many of his generation: “Barça or Barsak” — either catch a boat to Barcelona or to the beyond — i.e., die.

Out at the airport, Ndiaye, the climate expert, click, click, clicks through his climate graphs for me on his Dell desktop, providing his own backup beat to Matador’s rap.

“Last week the weather was five degrees Celsius above the normal average temperature, which is a very extreme temperature for this time of year,” he explains. Click to Graph 2. “From 1950 to 2015 average temperature in Senegal has gone up two degrees Celsius,” says Ndiaye, adding that the whole Paris U.N. climate conference was about how to avoid a two-degree rise in the global average temperature since the Industrial Revolution … and Senegal is already there.

Click. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “in 2010 gave four scenarios for Senegal, and the worst was unbelievable — and now,” he says, “the observation says we’re following that path even faster than we imagined, and it leads to four degrees Celsius rise in average temperature by 2100. People are still doubting climate change, and we are living it.” Click.

Matador’s most famous rap song is called “Tukki,” which means “trip.” It’s a migrant’s lament — the story of life as a tumbleweed. Africans have a long history of migration, but mostly within Africa and their own countries.

But the land and the climate cannot sustain enough of them anymore. And they don’t want a benefit concert in Central Park or Hyde Park. They want what they see on their cellphones — Europe, which involves a trek across the desert and a boat across the sea. But who can blame them?

Matador is torn between understanding his generation’s need to find work and money to send home and his gut instinct that it is better to be poor in one’s home than a stranger in a strange land — so stay and build Senegal. Some of the “Tukki” verses are:

Go to France to Belgium to Italy
To Spain to Switzerland to go to Denmark to the Netherlands
One must go to Germany
Norway Sweden China Japan Portugal go to Brazil
Mexico and Great Britain
All these places are great to earn a living
All work is noble all means are good to survive
Master the system and assert yourself
Play hide-and-seek with the police
In the blistering cold, one fights how one can …
Eating the leftovers from restaurants
You cannot return and you don’t know when you’ll get back
Illegal and undocumented who makes you think you’ll go back to your country
Everyone for himself and God for us all
Headphones screwed on your head ears blocked
A stare that reminds you that no one wants you here …
Ready to leave for better tomorrows and without hope
One ends up discouraged
A lot of money for a distant tomb
You won’t even end up in a cemetery
Setting sail or passing through the desert
Our scarce savings for a visa
Face the borders …
Calls from the home country multiply
Everyone has a request not a moment’s rest
When will you sign up for your return? When will you send the money?

The weatherman can’t rap as well, but he sure can annotate the lyrics. “The only hope is that humankind will see we are one body,” says Ndiaye, “because if it goes the other way and everyone is for themselves — and just builds a wall — this will be really, really crazy. People will just get out of here.”

When human beings are under stress, he adds, “they will do anything to survive. You live here and you see on TV people having a good life, and democracy [in Europe], and here you are in a poor life, people have to do something — people now are taking any kind of boat to get to Europe. And even if they see people dying, they are still going. They don’t have the tools to survive here. The human being is just a more intelligent animal, and if [he or she] is pushed to the extreme, the animal instinct will come out to survive. Everyone wants a better life.”

Click.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Bernie Sanders isn’t losing. Just ask many of his backers or listen to some of his own complaints. He’s being robbed, a victim of antiquated rules, voter suppression, shady arithmetic and a corrupt Democratic establishment. The swindle includes the South’s getting inordinate sway and the poor none at all. If Americans really had a voice, they would shout “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” until too hoarse to shout anymore.

Donald Trump isn’t winning. Just ask Ted Cruz, by whose strange and self-serving logic it is “the will of the people” (his actual words) that he and John Kasich collude to prevent Trump from amassing a majority of delegates so that some runner-up with less demonstrable support can leapfrog past him to become the Republican presidential nominee. Democracy in action!

I agree that Trump’s nomination would be frightening. I disagree that Cruz’s would be better. It certainly wouldn’t be more justified, but such rational thinking has gone missing in this year of losing gracelessly.

And in this era of irresolution. All too often, contests don’t yield accepted conclusions and a grudging acquiescence by those who didn’t get their way. They prompt accusations of thievery, cries of illegitimacy and a determination to neuter the victor, nullify the results or reverse them as soon as possible.

Elections don’t settle disputes, not even for some fleeting honeymoon. They accelerate them, because there’s a pernicious insistence that they’re not referendums on the public mood but elaborate board games in which the triumphant player used the wickedest skulduggery.

When you honestly believe or disingenuously assert that you’ve been outmaneuvered rather than outvoted, why declare a truce, let alone cooperate, in the aftermath?

The process has never been smooth and the defeated seldom docile. To pluck just one example from the annals of acrimony, Teddy Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party in 1912 as a revolt against the Republicans’ nomination of the incumbent president, William Howard Taft, rather than him.

But an epoch of unrelieved mutual suspicion between competitors — and especially between Republicans and Democrats — took hold somewhere on a timeline that runs through Watergate; the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas; the serial investigations into the Clintons; and Mitch McConnell’s vow to thwart President Obama at every turn.

In the midst of that came Bush v. Gore, in which a majority of Republican appointees on the Supreme Court decided a presidential election in the Republican candidate’s favor.

All trust, most etiquette and many rules went out the window. And while Republicans have been more audacious than Democrats, the manifold accusations made by Sanders supporters show that the effort to delegitimize winners is a pan-partisan tic.

The pro-Sanders actor Tim Robbins fired off a tweet this week with the charge that “this election is being stolen,” the hashtag #VoterFraud and the insinuation that The Times and CNN were essentially conspiring with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Sanders camp is right to raise questions about voting irregularities in a few places, including New York, where there’s an investigation underway, and about the odd patchwork of closed and open primaries across the country.

But all of the candidates knew about that patchwork going in, and Clinton’s successful navigation of it — she has a multi-million-vote lead over Sanders — is more persuasive than any dark claims of dastardly tricks.

On the Republican side, Trump and Cruz have each bellowed about the other’s supposedly unfair advantages at a volume that’s hardly constructive. It’s self-promotion with a side of cynicism.

The graceless losing of 2016 owes something to this election’s particular characters. When you’re not just a man but a revolution (Sanders), you can never quit the fight or flee the front.

When you’re the Don Quixote of extreme conservatism (Cruz), you can never ditch your armor. And it’s easy to tell yourself — because it’s easy forall of us to tell ourselves — that surrendering to Trump is surrendering your patriotism.

But there’s more at work. The refusal to grant victors legitimacy bundles together so much about America today: the coarseness of our discourse; the blind tribalism coloring our debates; the elevation of individualism far above common purpose; the ethos that everybody should and can feel like a winner on every day.

Our system for electing presidents is indeed a mess. It estranges voters and is ripe for reform. I explored that last week.

But pushing for change is different from rejecting any unwelcome outcome as the bastard fruit of a poisoned tree. If grievances are never retired, then progress has no chance. If everything is rigged, then all is fair, not just in love and war but on the banks of the Potomac, where we can look forward to four more years of inertia and ugliness.

Well, we sure can look forward to more years of inertia and ugliness as long as the current batch of Republican’ts is there.

Friedman and Bruni

April 20, 2016

In “Out of Africa, Part II” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that a farming village too parched to sustain crops is also losing its men, who leave in search of work to support their families.  Mr. Bruni, in “No Way to Elect a President,” says beyond New York’s primary is a system and sourness we must address.  Here’s TMOW, writing from Ndiamaguene, Senegal:

I am visiting Ndiamaguene village in the far northwest of Senegal. If I were giving you directions I’d tell you that it’s the last stop after the last stop — it’s the village after the highway ends, after the paved road ends, after the gravel road ends and after the desert track ends. Turn left at the last baobab tree.

It’s worth the trek, though, if you’re looking for the headwaters of the immigration flood now flowing from Africa to Europe via Libya. It starts here.

It begins with a trickle of migrants from a thousand little villages and towns across West Africa like Ndiamaguene, a five-hour drive from the capital, Dakar. I visited with a team working on the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the connection between climate change and human migration, which will appear this fall on the National Geographic Channel. The day we came, April 14, it was 113 degrees — far above the historical average for the day, a crazy level of extreme weather.

But there is an even bigger abnormality in Ndiamaguene, a farming village of mud-brick homes and thatch-roof huts. The village chief gathered virtually everyone in his community to receive us, and they formed a welcoming circle of women in colorful prints and cheerful boys and girls with incandescent smiles, home from school for lunch. But the second you sit down with them you realize that something is wrong with this picture.

There are almost no young or middle-aged men in this village of 300. They’re gone.

It wasn’t disease. They’ve all hit the road. The village’s climate-hammered farmlands can no longer sustain them, and with so many kids — 42 percent of Senegal’s population is under 14 years old — there are too many mouths to feed from the declining yields. So the men have scattered to the four winds in search of any job that will pay them enough to live on and send some money back to their wives or parents.

This trend is repeating itself all across West Africa, which is why every month thousands of men try to migrate to Europe by boat, bus, foot or plane. Meanwhile, refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are doing the same. Together, these two flows pose a huge challenge for the future of Europe.

Tell these young African men that their odds of getting to Europe are tiny and they will tell you, as one did me, that when you don’t have enough money to buy even an aspirin for your sick mother, you don’t calculate the odds. You just go.

“We are mostly farmers, and we depend on farming, but it is not working now,” the village chief, Ndiougua Ndiaye, explained to me in Wolof, through a translator. After a series of on/off droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, the weather patterns stabilized a bit, “until about 10 years ago,” the chief added. Then, the weather got really weird.

The rainy season used to always begin in June and run to October. Now the first rains might not start until August, then they stop for a while, leaving fields to dry out, and then they begin again. But they come back as torrential downpours that create floods. “So whatever you plant, the crops get spoiled,” the chief said. “You reap no profits.”

The chief, who gave his age as 70 but didn’t know for sure, could remember one thing for certain: When he was young he could walk out to his fields any time during the planting season “and your feet would sink into” the moist earth. “The soil was slippery and oily and it would stick to your legs and feet and you would have to scrape it off.” Now, he said, picking up a fistful of hot sand, the soil “is like a powder — it is not living anymore.”

Has he ever heard of something called “climate change”? I asked. “We heard about it on the radio, and we have seen it with our own eyes,” he answered. The temperature is different. The winds are different. They’re hot when they should be cold.

The chief’s impressions are not wrong. Senegal’s national weather bureau says that from 1950 to 2015, the average temperature in the country rose two degrees Celsius, much faster than anticipated, and since 1950, the average annual rainfall has declined by about 50 millimeters (about two inches). So the men of Ndiamaguene have no choice but to migrate to bigger towns or out of the country.

The lucky few find ways to get smuggled into Spain or Germany, via Libya. Libya was like a cork on Africa, and when the U.S. and NATO toppled the Libyan dictator — but did not put troops on the ground to help secure a new order — they essentially uncorked Africa, creating a massive funnel through chaotic Libya to the Mediterranean coast.

The less lucky find work in Dakar or Libya or Algeria or Mauritania, and the least lucky get marooned somewhere along the way — caught in the humiliating twilight of having left and gained nothing and having nothing to return to. This is creating more and more tempting recruiting targets for jihadist groups like Boko Haram, which can offer a few hundred dollars a month.

The chief introduced me to Mayoro Ndiaeye, the father of a boy who left to find work. “My son left for Libya one year ago, and since then we have no news — no telephone, nothing,” he explained. “He left a wife and two children. He was a tile fixer. After he made some money [in the nearby town] he went to Mauritania and then to Niger and then up to Libya. But we have not heard from him since.”

The father started to tear up. These people live so close to the edge. One reason they have so many children is that the offspring are a safety net for aging parents. But the boys are all leaving and the edge is getting even closer.

Which means they are losing the only thing they were rich in: a deep sense of community. Here, you grow up with your family, parents look after children and children then look after parents, and everyone eats and lives together. But now with the land no longer producing enough, “everyone has a [male] family member who has had to leave,” said the chief. “When I was young, everyone in the family was together. … The mother would be in the house and the man would go to the farm. And everyone stayed with their family, and now it is not what it used to be. I am afraid of losing my community, because my people can’t live here anymore.”

Africa has always had migrants, but this time is different. There are so many more people and so much less natural capital — Lake Chad alone has lost 90 percent of its water — and with cellphones everyone can see a better world in Europe.

Gardens or walls? It’s really not a choice. We have to help them fix their gardens because no walls will keep them home.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

With Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s victories in New York, we’re one furious contest closer to the end of this spectacle. But we’ve known for a while now where we’re headed, and it isn’t anyplace good.

American voters are displeased with the candidates they’ve been given. They’re disengaged from the process that winnows the field.

And that process disregards the political center, erodes common ground and leaves us with a government that can’t build the necessary consensus for, let alone implement, sensible action in regard to taxes, to infrastructure, to immigration, to guns, to just about anything.

Make America great again? We need to start by making it functional.

This election has certainly been extraordinary for its characters, but it’s equally remarkable for its context, one of profound, paralyzing sourness.

A poll released by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal on Sunday showed that 68 percent of American voters couldn’t imagine themselves casting a vote in the general election for Trump, while 61 percent said the same about Ted Cruz and 58 percent about Clinton.

A much, much higher percentage of voters viewed each of these three unfavorably than favorably. “Unpopularity Contest” was the headline on the story on the NBC News website, which rightly asked how well any president of such polarizing effect would be able to govern.

We’ve had such presidents (and candidates) before. And pessimism isn’t new.

But there have been developments and differences in 2016 that may well be making the situation worse.

The media, for one. This election isn’t being covered so much as marketed, by news organizations whose desperation for eyeballs has turned many of them into drama queens. Each new poll is a major scoop. There are countdown clocks for events as humdrum as candidate town halls. Debates are teased with ominous soundtracks and photographs better befitting prizefights.

When you treat a campaign as if it were an athletic competition, you turn it into more of a blood sport than it already is. And when you breathlessly promote it the way you would a hit TV show’s season finale, it becomes just another piece of theater. Neither approach encourages sober-minded engagement.

Nor does the manner in which so many voters use the Internet in general and social media in particular, to curate and wallow in echo chambers that amplify their prejudices, exacerbate their tribalism and widen the fault lines between us. The online behavior of the Bernie Bros is a great example, but it’s hardly the only one.

Additionally, the precise unfolding of the Republican and Democratic races this time around, along with complaints from the candidates themselves, has exposed the undemocratic quirks and mess of the process: the peculiarity of caucuses; the seduction of delegates and superdelegates; closed versus open primaries; states that are winner-take-all as opposed to states that are winner-take-most; the possibility of a brokered convention at which an interloper could be crowned.

To prevail, a candidate doesn’t even have to persuade an especially large share of the electorate, given how splintered and detached voters are. In an important commentary published in The Hill on Monday, the Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Penn extrapolated from Trump’s and Clinton’s vote tallies to note that, in his estimation, “We now have a system in which it takes just 10 million votes out of 321 million people to seize one of the two coveted nominations.”

“The result,” he wrote, “is a democracy that is veering off course, increasingly reflecting the will of powerful activist groups and the political extremes.” Would-be nominees needn’t worry much about the roughly 40 percent of Americans who at least technically consider themselves independents — a group that’s grown over the last decade — or the 60 percent who say that a third political party is needed.

No, these candidates “can just double down on elements of their base,” Penn observed. “Rather than bring the country together, they demonize their opponents to hype turnout among select groups, targeted by race, religion or ethnicity.”

Penn suggested several smart reforms to increase voters’ participation and sense of investment, including the abolition of caucuses and a rotation of the order in which states vote, so that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina don’t always get such outsize sway.

I wish we could also find a way to shorten these presidential campaigns significantly, so that they’re not such a soul-draining, throat-ravaging turnoff to almost anyone who’s not an epic narcissist or mired in politics to the point of no return.

Then maybe we’d look up one of these years and be choosing among the greater of goods, not the lesser of evils, and the victor would be left, physically and ideologically, with a voice that still carries.

Friedman and Bruni

March 30, 2016

In “When the Necessary Is Impossible” The Moustache of Wisdom says stabilizing Iraq and Syria depends on crushing ISIS and Shiites and Sunnis agreeing to share power.  And I’m sure it’ll be just peachy keen in 1 or 2 Friedman Units…  Mr. Bruni, in “College Admissions Shocker!,” says the future has arrived, and it’s the thinnest of envelopes.  Here’s TMOW, writing from Sulaimaniya, Iraq:

Being back in Iraq after two years’ absence has helped me to put my finger on the central question bedeviling U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East today: What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?

Crushing the Islamic State, or ISIS, is necessary for stabilizing Iraq and Syria, but it is impossible as long as Shiites and Sunnis there refuse to truly share power, and yet ignoring the ISIS cancer and its ability to metastasize is impossible as well. See: Belgium.

And if all that isn’t impossible enough, our trying to make Iraq safe for democracy is requiring us to turn a blind eye to the fact that our most important NATO “ally” in the region, Turkey, is being converted from a democracy into a dictatorship by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who should now be called “Sultan Erdogan” for the way he is closing opposition newspapers and putting journalists on trial. But because we need Turkey’s air bases and cooperation to foster a modicum of democracy in Iraq tomorrow, we are silent on Erdogan destroying democracy in Turkey today. Go figure.

And to think that in America we have all these people competing to become president to get a chance to take responsibility for this problem! Has no one told them this is absolutely the worst time in 70 years to be managing U.S. foreign policy?

Obama has my sympathies. If you think there is a simple answer to this problem, you ought to come out here for a week. Just trying to figure out the differences among the Kurdish parties and militias in Syria and Iraq — the Y.P.G., P.Y.D., P.U.K., K.D.P. and P.K.K. — took me a day.

Let’s go back to the future of Iraq. “The problem in Iraq is not ISIS,” Najmaldin Karim, the wise governor of Kirkuk Province, which is partly occupied by ISIS, remarked to me. “ISIS is the symptom of mismanagement and sectarianism.” So even if ISIS is evicted from its stronghold in Mosul, he noted, if the infighting and mismanagement in Baghdad and sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis are not diffused, “the situation in Iraq could be even worse after” ISIS is toppled.

Why? Because there will just be another huge scramble among Iraqi Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens, Shiite militias, Turkey and Iran over who controls these territories now held by ISIS. There is simply no consensus here on how power will be shared in the Sunni areas that ISIS has seized. So if one day you hear that we’ve eliminated the ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and lowered the ISIS flag over Mosul, hold your applause.

And here is another not so fun fact from Northern Iraq: Despite all that you have read about “foreign fighters” who have joined ISIS, a vast majority of the people in Kirkuk Province who have come to fight with ISIS were local Sunnis, who saw ISIS as a force protecting them from the pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad. Or, they were more impoverished Sunnis who saw joining ISIS as a way of gaining power over wealthier, upper-class Sunnis.

Also, many Sunni tribes in the Mosul area split, with some members joining ISIS and others not. Kurdish intelligence officials tell me there will be a lot of revenge against those Sunnis who joined ISIS, exacted by those who didn’t — if and when ISIS is defeated. Women from Iraq’s Yazidi sect who were captured and raped by ISIS fighters and eventually escaped to refugee camps in Kurdistan have told Kurdish relief workers that in more than a few cases they were raped, not by some foreign fighters from Chechnya or Libya, but by Iraqi Sunnis from their own hometowns. “They will never trust their neighbors again,” an aid worker told me.

I don’t know anymore what is sufficient to eradicate ISIS — and create a decent order in its place — but it is obvious what is necessary: The struggle between Sunnis and Shiites, fueled by Saudi Arabia and Iran, has to be tempered.

ISIS is a rocket whose guidance system is a direct descendant of the puritanical, anti-Shiite, anti-pluralistic Saudi Wahhabi ideology, and its fuel system is a direct reaction to Shiite Iran’s aggressive push to keep Iraqi Sunnis permanently weak. As long as Iran and Saudi Arabia are going at it, there will always be another ISIS. Which is why the “peace process” the Middle East needs most today is between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But just waiting for that is no easy option, either. The impossible is impossible to ignore because ISIS is wicked and wickedly smart. The longer it hangs around, the more dangerous it becomes. Britain’s Independent newspaper recently reported that ISIS militants were plotting to take a Belgian nuclear scientist hostage in order to get access to Belgium’s nuclear research facility.

Obama is probably doing about the best one can with ISIS: Degrade it, contain it and downplay it, and keep nudging Sunnis and Shiites to come to their senses. But I have a bad feeling about the ISIS boys. They are networked and they have cast off all civilized norms. And we don’t have the answer for them.

It takes a village. Only Arabs and Muslims can truly take down and delegitimize ISIS and right now their village is too divided, angry, ambivalent and confused to do it.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Cementing its standing as the most selective institution of higher education in the country, Stanford University announced this week that it had once again received a record-setting number of applications and that its acceptance rate — which had dropped to a previously uncharted low of 5 percent last year — plummeted all the way to its inevitable conclusion of 0 percent.

With no one admitted to the class of 2020, Stanford is assured that no other school can match its desirability in the near future.

“We had exceptional applicants, yes, but not a single student we couldn’t live without,” said a Stanford administrator who requested anonymity. “In the stack of applications that I reviewed, I didn’t see any gold medalists from the last Olympics — Summer or Winter Games — and while there was a 17-year-old who’d performed surgery, it wasn’t open-heart or a transplant or anything like that. She’ll thrive at Yale.”

News of Stanford’s unprecedented selectiveness sent shock waves through the Ivy League, along with Amherst, Northwestern and at least a dozen other elite schools where, as a consequence, there could be substantial turnover among underperforming deans of admission.

Administrators at several of these institutions, mortified by acceptance rates still north of 6 percent, chided themselves for insufficient international outreach. Carnegie Mellon vowed that over the next five years, it would quadruple the number of applicants from Greenland. The University of Chicago announced plans to host a college fair in Ulan Bator.

Officials at the University of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, realized that sweatshirts, T-shirts and glossy print and web catalogs weren’t doing nearly enough to advertise its charms, and that the university wasn’t fully leveraging the mystique of its world-renowned business school. So early next fall, every high school senior in America who scored in the top 4 percent nationally on the SAT will receive, in the mail, a complimentary spray bottle of Wharton: The Fragrance, which has a top note of sandalwood and a bottom note of crisp, freshly minted $100 bills.

Seniors who scored in the top 2 percent will get the scented shower gel and reed diffuser set as well.

On campuses from coast to coast, there was soul searching about ways in which colleges might be unintentionally deterring prospective applicants.

Were the applications themselves too laborious? Brown may give next year’s aspirants the option of submitting, in lieu of several essays, one haiku and one original recipe using organic kale.

“Compositions of 750 or even 500 words give some students syllable fatigue,” said a school official, “while others exhibit their greatest creativity around roughage. We want to meet them on their turf, especially if it’s leafy and a rich source of vitamin B6.”

Current high school seniors who had set their sights on Stanford responded to its announcement with astonishment and fury.

“This is the worst thing that has happened to anyone, ever,” said Alissa Parker, 18, a senior at Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C. She added that whether she accepts an offer of admission from M.I.T. or one from Duke, she’ll defer enrollment and take a gap year to regain her confidence.

Taylor Abramovich, a 15-year-old senior at the Horace Mann School in New York City, blamed his parents for his dashed Stanford dream. When he was a toddler, they hired the lawyer David Boies and successfully sued Horace Mann to let Taylor begin kindergarten far ahead of schedule.

“If I’d been held back a year, I would have been applying to the Stanford class of 2021, when the school might start accepting students again,” Taylor fumed. He said that his one consolation for not getting in was knowing that none of his peers did, either.

At first blush, Stanford’s decision would seem to jeopardize its fund-raising. The thousands of rejected applicants included hundreds of children of alumni who’d donated lavishly over the years, their expectations obvious in the fact that they affixed their $50,000 checks to photographs of Emma playing an obscure woodwind in an Umbrian chamber orchestra or Scott donning the traditional dress of an indigenous people for whom he tailored a special social-media network while on spring break.

But over recent years, Stanford administrators noticed that as the school rejected more and more comers, it received bigger and bigger donations, its endowment rising in tandem with its exclusivity, its luster a magnet for Silicon Valley lucre.

In fact just 12 hours after the university’s rejection of all comers, an alumnus stepped forward with a financial gift prodigious enough for Stanford to begin construction on its long-planned Center for Social Justice, a first-ever collaboration of Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the pedestrian bridge that will connect it to the student napping meadows.

Christ, but I wish they’d all stop trying to out-MoDo MoDo.  She’s bad enough…  (Which is why I’ve been sparing us all her offerings, as well as those of the Pasty Little Putz, wee Ross “Don’t” Douthat.)

Bruni and Collins

March 26, 2016

In “Lose With Cruz: A Love Story” Mr. Bruni says the G.O.P.’s faux swoon for a far-right loon is something to behold.  Ms. Collins considers “Trump, Cruz, Kasich and the Ladies” and says one thing these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the women of America.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

It was clear to me weeks ago, even before Marco Rubio threw in the towel, that the G.O.P. was getting ready to cuddle with Ted Cruz.

But I never expected a love quite like this to bloom.

It’s a singularly tortured love, one that grits its teeth, girds its loins and pines for a contested convention.

It’s hate worn down into resignation, disgust repurposed as calculation. Stopping a ludicrous billionaire means submitting to a loathsome senator. And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.

Will they still respect themselves in the morning?

I’m not sure we’ve ever witnessed a capitulation this grudging, a cynicism this grotesque, a reversal of regard this fraudulent and flat-out hilarious. While politics is an impure arena in which yesterday’s enemies routinely become tomorrow’s allies, the transmogrification of Cruz goes beyond that, proving that in the right circumstances, with the right motivation, you can see just about anyone in a newly flattering light.

Attila the Hun? True, he was truculent, but what a can-do spirit! Torquemada? A tad rigid, yes, but that’s what righteousness sometimes looks like.

Cruz has gone from the insufferable nemesis of Republican traditionalists to their last, best hope, and the likes of Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush have now given him endorsements — or approximations thereof — that will go down in political history as some of the most constipated hosannas ever rendered.

They hardly mention Cruz’s name. They barely manage to assign him a single virtue.

“Consistent,” Jeb Bush called him — in a Facebook post. He apparently couldn’t rouse or debase himself to a proper news conference.

He was following the lead of his younger brother Neil, who had signed up with Cruz a few weeks earlier and explained, “I commit this from my head, not my heart.” There’s a sentence you won’t find on a Valentine’s Day card.

Graham professed his devotion during an interview on “The Daily Show.”

“I’m on the Ted train, absolutely,” he told Trevor Noah, but when Noah pressed him about the charms of that particular mode of transportation, he confessed that he would have preferred another — possibly an Edsel, maybe even a tricycle with a wobbly front wheel. “He was my 15th choice. What can I say?”

Not much that’s laudatory, apparently. Cruz is the love that chokes on its own words.

It’s a surprise-every-second love. On Friday, Cruz made public reference to — and furiously denied — a National Enquirer story that accused him of affairs.

It’s also a love that makes no promises of its endurance. In fact, many of the Republicans in a faux swoon for the far-right loon don’t really want to see him fly all the way to the White House — or, for that matter, to the nomination.

There’s a tangle of mind-sets at work and strategies in play. They all involve thwarting Trump, but with different outcomes in the end. Bear with me. This requires a bit of explanation.

Few of the Cruz converts actually think he can amass a majority of delegates and win the nomination before the convention. For that to happen, their endorsements of Cruz would have to scare off John Kasich and turn the contest into a two-man race, and Kasich doesn’t seem to be scaring.

The real goal is to buck up Cruz to a point where he prevents Trump from getting that majority and either passes him in the delegate count or draws close. Abracadabra: a contested convention.

Some of the new Cruz devotees indeed hope that he would be the beneficiary of that and the ultimate victor. They expect Cruz to lose the presidency. But then they also expect Trump to lose it — and to lose it in an uglier, more divisive fashion that drags down Republicans running for the House and Senate too. This lose-with-Cruz faction figures that a reset of the party after a Cruz defeat would be possible, whereas Trump might not leave them with much of party to reset.

Others who have crawled into bed with Cruz are also after a contested convention, but would use it to crawl out of that bed and into the arms of some Republican Romeo waiting in the wings. Maybe Paul Ryan, though he’s playing Hamlet: to be drafted or not to be drafted? Maybe Mitt Romney, who seems readier to commit.

Both Ryan and Romney have stepped forward with high-minded soliloquies about the G.O.P.’s values and future, and while that may well be a reflection of conscience, mightn’t it also be a fig leaf over ambition?

And at least a few of those canoodling with Cruz see him as a bridge to Kasich. In this convoluted scenario, endorsing Kasich now serves no purpose: He has too few delegates to compete with, and foil, Trump. But if the convention turns into a free-for-all, then Republicans will be free to realize what polling has repeatedly told them, and what is almost indisputably true: Kasich would be their best bet against Hillary Clinton, if only they could see his sex appeal.

Poor Kasich. He governs the crucial battleground of Ohio, has high approval ratings there, has made a stand for decency in an indecent age, and is out there on the campaign trail wrapping his arms around every last American who will stand still long enough to let him. Even so he’s spurned.

“Does Kasich have a following?” wrote the conservative columnist John Podhoretz just days ago. “Yes, he does, of people who still cry when they listen to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and its invocation of ‘all the lonely people’ and who want a hug because their Aunt Minnie has the shingles.”

So the answer, at least for now, is Cruz? In this bitter season, yes. Sixty percent of Republicans are embarrassed by their party’s presidential race, according to a recent survey by The Times and CBS News, and a Gallup poll released on Friday revealed that only 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leading independents think that the election process is working properly. Cruz is the pinup for pessimistic times.

Even John McCain, who once dismissed him and Rand Paul as “wacko birds,” said last week that Cruz has what it takes to manage the mess of the Middle East. He hastened to add that he would feel obliged to work with, and support, any Republican who is elected president, and “to put aside my anger.”

That’s the way Republican leaders fall for Cruz — with apologies, asterisks, angst. The terms of endearment are teary ones, because this isn’t the relationship they wanted. It’s the only relationship that’s left. He gets their love because someone must. Isn’t it romantic?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Let’s talk about the Republican presidential candidates … and women.

Not the fight about who has the prettiest wife, which truly tops this week’s list of Things We Never Thought We’d See in a Presidential Election. That was the dust-up in which Donald Trump tweeted an image of his wife, Melania, a former model, next to a rather unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Cruz called Trump “a sniveling coward” and delivered a stirring tribute to his spouse that would have been even more moving if it had not been lifted from the 1995 film “The American President.”

He also said, “Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.” There was no indication what the hell that meant, but it definitely did not come from an old Michael Douglas movie.

This was also the week in which Cruz accused Trump of having his “henchmen” plant a National Enquirer story alleging that Cruz might have had five secret mistresses. Stories suggesting that conservative politicians have had affairs do not come under the heading of Things We Thought We’d Never See, so we will let that one go and move on.

To the issues: One thing that all these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the entire female half of the country. Trump used to be pro-choice, but he “evolved” at some undisclosed point in the 21st century. Ted Cruz opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. John Kasich is willing to allow a troubled teenager to get an abortion if she’s seduced by her father, but not if the seducer is the next-door neighbor. This is why Kasich’s the moderate.

Everybody knows you can’t believe in abortion rights and win the Republican nomination. But then the candidates ought to be eager to make family planning services accessible, right? The best way to reduce abortion is to limit unwanted pregnancies.

Ted Cruz made his position on contraception clear while campaigning in Iowa. It’s so charming that I am going to quote it in full: “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom; you put 50 cents in and voilà. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

Women whose family planning needs go beyond a vending machine will have to fend for themselves. Cruz is opposed to requiring employers to include contraception in their health care plans. He hates Planned Parenthood so much that he wanted to shut down the federal government to end its funding. Said government funding pays for contraceptives as well as myriad other health services, none involving abortion except for the part where the contraceptives help avoid unwanted pregnancies.

John Kasich isn’t much different. His state has been in a war against Planned Parenthood that has closed down health clinics, cutting off everything from family planning to programs for at-risk expectant mothers. Kasich has said that there are “many different entities” that can take care of the women who were cut adrift. Last year, legislators who supported the defunding put together a list of those entities. They turned out, on second glance, to include senior centers, dentist offices and a food bank.

This is a crisis situation. States around the country have been stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds, leaving low-income women to fend for themselves. In Texas, women who used to have access to efficient methods of birth control like injectable contraceptives are showing huge jumps in pregnancy rates. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill effectively defunding the clinics in Florida.

The only Republican presidential candidate who has acknowledged the invaluable role Planned Parenthood plays is Donald Trump. (“Millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.”) Of course, he’s also said that it should be defunded. (“I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”) And when asked if he would be willing to shut down the government in pursuit of the cause, Trump declined to answer “because I want to show unpredictability.”

This is exactly where we wind up on so many issues, people. Two Republican candidates take clear, consistent, terrible positions. Neither Cruz nor Kasich has made any effort to come to grips with the health care services poor women would need if Planned Parenthood closed up shop. And they’re doing everything they can to make sure that the unwanted pregnancies that follow can’t be terminated.

Trump seems more open, sort of. Except it’s the openness of a large, vacant pit with an issues-pendulum careening wildly, smashing from one side to the other. On the subject of women, all we know for sure is that he thinks his wife is a real looker.

And the campaign is a man’s world.

He also thinks his daughter is a real looker, and has said that if he weren’t her father…  Whata buncha pervs.

Friedman and Bruni

March 16, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom says “Let Trump Make Our Trans-Pacific Trade Deal.”  He offers a list of U.S.-friendly demands he’d no doubt make and win.  It’s satire, but it still operates under the idea that the TPP is really about trade instead of giving corporations more power.  Mr. Bruni considers “Rubio’s Exit and the G.O.P.’s Spoiled Buffet” and says the Republican race is down to three, two of whom still make party leaders queasy.  Here’s TMOW:

What if the United States had had a truly savvy deal maker like Donald Trump negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord instead of the wimpy Obama team? I mean, be honest, folks, would you let Barack Obama sell your house? I’ve researched the deal and concluded Trump would have gotten us this:

He would have begun by saying “a baby could figure out” that since 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners come into our country duty-free already, and so much of our stuff is still hit with tariffs in their countries, if we eliminate 18,000 tariffs we’ll be able to keep more production at home and sell more abroad. “We’ll export so much we’ll actually get tired of exporting,” Trump would say.

After all, America’s total manufacturing output was nearing an all-time high at the end of 2015. True, it was with more robots and fewer people, but we’ve still created nearly 900,000 manufacturing jobs since 2010 because we have cheap energy, skilled workers and good rule of law. Our workers can compete if we level the playing field, so Trump would have told opponents of the trade deal, “Just do the math, people.” Our average applied tariff is already only 1.5 percent while the tariffs of these Pacific countries can range much higher — Vietnam has peak tariffs of over 50 percent on cars and machines — so if we get rid of those tariffs our exporters are poised to benefit.

Since Trump cares about blue-collar workers, unlike the elitist Obama, he’d have demanded that in return for free access to our markets the 11 other TPP countries had to agree, some for the first time, to freedom for their workers to form independent trade unions, to elect their own labor leaders, to collectively bargain and to eliminate all child and forced labor practices. He’d also have insisted that they adopt laws on minimum wages, hours of work and occupational safety and health, again, precisely to level the playing field with U.S. workers.

Trump would also have required that the deal prohibit all customs duties for digital products, make sure companies did not have to share source codes in order to get into new markets and ensure free access for all cloud computing services in all TPP countries — all areas of growing U.S. strength.

Trump, because he respects women, surely would have demanded that this deal require all signatories — especially Malaysia — to take real steps to halt human trafficking from such countries as Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh and require each signatory to improve access for human rights groups to assist victims of trafficking. If you don’t comply, you lose your trade benefits. (Trump’s no sucker for a wink and a smile.)

Moreover, Trump would have made sure that the accord, in a first for any trade deal, put restrictions on state-owned companies that compete with our private businesses, like Vietnam’s oil company. These state-owned companies often get special benefits that enable them to undercut our companies. Trump’s trade deal would also have been the first requiring criminal penalties for stealing our industrial secrets.

“No more ripping off America,” Trump would have said.

He certainly would have insisted on strong intellectual property protections for America’s software industry, one of our greatest export assets, and taken an approach to pharmaceuticals that splits the difference between what the big drug companies want in the way of intellectual property protection time for their products and what the generic manufacturers want. Everybody would have gotten something but nobody would have gotten everything. It’s called “the art of the deal,” folks!

Trump would also surely have required that all signatories combat trafficking in endangered wildlife parts, like elephant tusks and rhino horns, and end all their subsidies that stimulate overfishing.

And Trump, who has a lot of Chinese restaurants in his hotels, would know that if we walk away from the TPP all our friends in the Pacific will just sign up for China’s R.C.E.P., or Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will set trade rules in Asia and include weak intellectual property protections, no labor or environmental protections and no disciplines on state-owned industries.

So that’s the Pacific trade deal Trump would have struck! And by now I hope you’ve figured something out: This is the trade deal Obama actually struck.

You don’t know that because Trump doesn’t know it himself; because Bernie Sanders knows it and doesn’t want to tell you; and because Hillary Clinton knows it but, sadly, won’t tell you, choosing instead to play “Bernie Lite.” (Remind me how that worked out for her in Michigan.)

No trade deal is perfect. No single deal will save every job or remake our economy. And we must be more generous in caring for workers hurt by trade. But we also have to recognize that smart deals, like the TPP, help keep us the most efficient and innovative economy in the world and strengthen our security alliances — as opposed to abandoning our allies to regimes that don’t support our values.

Thank goodness we had a former community organizer negotiating for us.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

As he exited the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday night, Marco Rubio told a crowd of dispirited supporters that “this may not have been the year for a hopeful and optimistic message.”

I’ll say. It’s a year for florid disruption, fisticuffs and a rejection of anyone and anything blessed by the guardians of the status quo.

Rubio was thus blessed, and so he was cursed. There’s little surprise in his political demise, though it was a mesmerizing development, given how long and confidently many Republican leaders and pundits clung to their forecasts of his eventual transcendence.

Equally mesmerizing was Donald Trump’s string of Tuesday victories, including his trouncing of Rubio in Florida, because they came after several tumultuous days of violent campaign rallies, intensified denunciations of his candidacy and a barrage of negative advertising against him. He easily weathered it all.

For party stalwarts, the race for the Republican presidential nomination began in a state of euphoric excitement about a buffet of political talent, with governors and ex-governors galore.

Tuesday’s results left the party with slim pickings. John Kasich, who notched a life-and-death victory in Ohio, is the best of the remaining three candidates and would be fiercest in the general election, but has little to no chance of pulling past either of the other two in the delegate count. Those two, Trump and Ted Cruz, are merely different flavors of rancid fare.

Trump had a much bigger night than Cruz. He not only overwhelmed Rubio in Florida but also won Illinois and North Carolina, where Cruz had hoped to stage upsets. Those triumphs bolstered his lead and showed that the turmoil of recent days — and the violence at his rallies — didn’t scare off his fans.

But it’s not over. Not even close. And many Republicans are still faced with grim calculations, compromises and reckonings.

They see a probable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, who is so personally flawed, politically clumsy and out of sync with this anti-establishment moment that she’s ripe for defeat. Then they look at their own contest and see an outcome that might well ensure her victory.

Kasich and Cruz together should do well enough in the states ahead to prevent Trump from getting a majority of delegates. That foretells a chaotic convention, and it’s hard to see how the bedlam will position the party well.

There’s no consensus yet among Republicans. There’s more acrimony than clarity. Who’s to say whether former Rubio supporters and donors flock to Kasich, Cruz . . . or even Trump?

There are traditionalists rooting for Trump over Cruz, and the thinking of some goes like this: Neither candidate can win the presidency. But while Cruz has almost no crossover appeal beyond committed Republicans, Trump might draw enough independents, blue-collar Democrats and new voters in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania to buoy Republicans in tight Senate races there.

Besides which, he scrambles all rules and all precedents so thoroughly that you never know. Victory isn’t unthinkable, and better a Republican who’s allergic to caution, oblivious to actual information and altogether dangerous than a Democrat who’ll dole out all the plum administration jobs to her own party.

Republican traditionalists who prefer Cruz are no more ebullient in their outlooks.

“Cruz is a disaster for the party,” one of them told me. “Trump is a disaster for the country.”

“If Cruz is the nominee, we get wiped out,” he added, with a resigned voice. “And we rebuild.” The party needs that anyway.

In fact, some Republicans have insisted to me that a Cruz nomination and subsequent defeat would have a long-term upside. It would put to rest the stubborn argument, promoted by Cruz and others on the party’s far right, that the G.O.P. has lost presidential elections over recent decades because its nominees weren’t conservative enough.

If anything, those nominees weren’t sufficiently moderate. A Cruz wipeout would prove as much.

He moved assertively over recent days to send a message to Republican leaders who loathe him that a partnership is still possible — that love could yet bloom! The talk of Trump’s culpability for his menacing rallies has given Cruz a new opening to encourage supporters of other candidates to take the Cruz plunge.

“Come on in,” he said at a rally in North Carolina on Sunday. “The water’s fine.”

Sounds like something someone in “Jaws” blurted out right before the shark made an appetizer of her ankle. The water’s fine only if the alternative is the River Trump, a bloody churn of piranhas and Palins.

Republicans started out with what they thought was a feast of possibilities. Now they’re poised to be eaten alive.

Brooks, Bruni, and Krugman

March 4, 2016

Another outpouring of angst from Bobo.  In “Donald Trump, the Great Betrayer” he wails that Republican officials have a responsibility to their country to spread the nasty truths about Trump.  Right, Bobo.  But in their debate last night all the others said they’d vote for The Donald if he got the nomination.  In the comments “Jack Chicago” from Chicago had this to say:  “That Trump’s leading competitors for the nomination can express their opposition to him in such crude terms, that he admittedly introduced, and yet then state their support if he wins the nomination, says it all. GOP politics is about the sacrifice of principle for power. The electorate don’t know which way to turn when their supposed leaders are such a cynical bunch of rogues! I cannot express adequately my feeling of helplessness as the country seems to be circling the drains.”  And “gemli” from Boston began his comment with this:  “This is rich. The party of scammers, betrayers and lying egomaniacs is warning us about Trump.”  Mr. Bruni has “Five Big Questions After a Vulgar Republican Debate,” and says it was a night of truth, consequences and puerile boasting for Donald Trump.  Prof. Krugman considers the “Clash of Republican Con Artists” and says Donald Trump isn’t the only fraud running for the Republican nomination.  Here’s Bobo, drenched in flop sweat:

Now, at long last, the big guns are being brought to bear. Now, at long last, some major Republicans like Mitt Romney are speaking up to lay waste to Donald Trump.

For months Trump’s rivals and other Republicans have either retreated in silence or tentatively and ineptly criticized him for exactly those traits that voters like about him: for being a slapdash, politically incorrect money-hungry bully.

But now finally — at long last — major Republicans are raising their heads and highlighting Trump’s actual vulnerability: his inability to think for an extended time about anybody but himself.

He seduces people with his confidence and his promises. People invest time, love and money in him. But in the end he cares only about himself. He betrays those who trust him and leaves them high and dry.

It’s unpleasant to have to play politics on this personal level. But this is a message that can sway potential Trump supporters, many of whom have only the barest information on what Trump’s life and career have actually been like.

This is a message that can work in a sour and cynical time among voters who already feel betrayed. This is a message that can work because it’s a personality type everyone understands. This is a time when it is not in fact too late, when it may still be possible to prevent his nomination.

The campaign against Trump has to be specific and relentless: a series of clear examples, rolled out day upon day with the same message. Donald Trump betrays.

It can start with Trump University, where Trump betrayed schoolteachers and others who dreamed of building a better life for themselves.

Trump billed his university as a place people could go to learn everything necessary about real estate investing. According to a 2013 lawsuit filed by New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, more than 5,000 people paid $40 million, a quarter of which went to Trump himself.

Internal Trump University documents suggest that the university wasn’t really oriented around teaching, but rather around luring customers into buying more and more courses.

According to the New York lawsuit, instructors filled out course evaluations themselves or had students fill out the non-anonymous forms in front of them, pressuring them into giving positive reviews. During breaks students were told to call their credit card companies to increase their credit limits. They were given a script encouraging them to exaggerate their incomes. The Better Business Bureau gave the school a D- rating in 2010.

“They lure you in with false promises,” one student, Patricia Murphy, toldThe Times in 2011. Murphy said she had spent about $12,000 on Trump University classes, much of it racked up on her credit cards. “I was scammed,” she said.

The barrage can continue with Trump Mortgage. On the campaign trail, Trump tells people he saw the mortgage crisis coming. “I told a lot of people,” he has said, “and I was right. You know, I’m pretty good at that stuff.”

Trump’s biggest lies are the ones he tells himself. The reality is that Trump opened his mortgage company in 2006. Others smelled a bubble, but not Trump. “I think it’s a great time to start a mortgage company,” he told CNBC. “The real estate market is going to be very strong for a long time to come.”

Part of the operation was a boiler room where people cold-called clients, sometimes pushing subprime loans and offering easy approval.

Jennifer McGovern had trusted Trump and went to work for him. But she got stiffed in the end. In 2008 a New York State Supreme Court judgeordered Trump Mortgage to pay her the $298,274 she was owed. The bill wasn’t paid. “The company was set up in a way that we could never recover what we were owed,” she told The Washington Post.

The stories can go on and on. The betrayal of investors when his casino businesses went bankrupt. The betrayal of his first wife with his flagrant public affair with Marla Maples. The betrayal of American workers when he decided to hire illegals. The people left in the wake of other debacles: Trump Air, Trump Vodka, Trump Financial, etc.

These weren’t just risks that went bad. They were shams, built like his campaign around empty promises and on Trump’s fragile and overweening pride.

The burden of responsibility now falls on Republican officials, elected and nonelected, at all levels. For years they have built relationships in their communities, earned the right to be heard. If they now feel that Donald Trump would be a reckless and dangerous president, then they have a responsibility to their country to tell those people the truth, to rally all their energies against this man.

Since the start of his campaign Trump has had more energy and more courage than his opponents. Maybe that’s now changing.

Brooks, Bruni, and Krugman

February 26, 2016

Bobo has taken to his fainting couch, clutching his pearls and moaning.  In “The Governing Cancer of Our Time” he wails that Donald Trump’s candidacy is the culmination of 30 years of antipolitics.  He tried to weasel in some “both-siderism” but got called out in the comments.  In the comments “DNcgo” had this to say:  “”But not exclusive to the right”! – ??? Mr. Brooks, please devote a future column detailing all the “left-leaning” politicians who support a scorched earth policy. I suspect not much ink will be needed.”   (This comment was also a NYT pick.)  Also in the comments “Don Salmon” from Asheville, NC had this to say:  “”But not exclusive to the right”! – ??? Mr. Brooks, please devote a future column detailing all the “left-leaning” politicians who support a scorched earth policy. I suspect not much ink will be needed.”  Mr. Bruni, in “Five Big Questions After a G.O.P. Debate That Targeted Trump,” tells us what the Republican candidates accomplished and risked in their latest showdown.  Prof. Krugman, in “Twilight of the Apparatchiks,” says the Republican establishment’s “wingnut welfare” made Trump possible.  Here’s Bobo:

We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.

As Bernard Crick wrote in his book, “In Defence of Politics,” “Politics is a way of ruling divided societies without undue violence.”

Over the past generation we have seen the rise of a group of people who are against politics. These groups — best exemplified by the Tea Party but not exclusive to the right — want to elect people who have no political experience. They want “outsiders.” They delegitimize compromise and deal-making. They’re willing to trample the customs and rules that give legitimacy to legislative decision-making if it helps them gain power.

Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interests and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.

This antipolitics tendency has had a wretched effect on our democracy. It has led to a series of overlapping downward spirals:

The antipolitics people elect legislators who have no political skills or experience. That incompetence leads to dysfunctional government, which leads to more disgust with government, which leads to a demand for even more outsiders.

The antipolitics people don’t accept that politics is a limited activity. They make soaring promises and raise ridiculous expectations. When those expectations are not met, voters grow cynical and, disgusted, turn even further in the direction of antipolitics.

The antipolitics people refuse compromise and so block the legislative process. The absence of accomplishment destroys public trust. The decline in trust makes deal-making harder.

We’re now at a point where the Senate says it won’t even hold hearings on a presidential Supreme Court nominee, in clear defiance of custom and the Constitution. We’re now at a point in which politicians live in fear if they try to compromise and legislate. We’re now at a point in which normal political conversation has broken down. People feel unheard, which makes them shout even louder, which further destroys conversation.

And in walks Donald Trump. People say that Trump is an unconventional candidate and that he represents a break from politics as usual. That’s not true. Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.

Trump represents the path the founders rejected. There is a hint of violence undergirding his campaign. There is always a whiff, and sometimes more than a whiff, of “I’d like to punch him in the face.”

I printed out a Times list of the insults Trump has hurled on Twitter. The list took up 33 pages. Trump’s style is bashing and pummeling. Everyone who opposes or disagrees with him is an idiot, a moron or a loser. The implied promise of his campaign is that he will come to Washington and bully his way through.

Trump’s supporters aren’t looking for a political process to address their needs. They are looking for a superhero. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams found, the one trait that best predicts whether you’re a Trump supporter is how high you score on tests that measure authoritarianism.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon. Politics is in retreat and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. The answer to Trump is politics. It’s acknowledging other people exist. It’s taking pleasure in that difference and hammering out workable arrangements. As Harold Laski put it, “We shall make the basis of our state consent to disagreement. Therein shall we ensure its deepest harmony.”

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

Were Brakes Just Put on the Trump Juggernaut?

Something profound happened on the stage in Houston on Thursday night. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz stopped focusing on each other long enough to turn toward the person who is actually beating both of them and at this point favored to win the Republican nomination: Donald Trump.

Cruz dismissed Trump as someone who’d discovered certain concerns — who’d discovered conservatism, really — only when he became a candidate. Cruz said that while he was working to combat the illegal immigration that so inflames Trump now, “Where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”

But Rubio turned in Trump’s direction with particular force. Withferociousness, in fact. He recited a meticulously memorized litany of Trump’s transgressions, especially those that contradict Trump’s words now: the illegal immigrants that Trump reportedly hired for his construction projects, the litigation against a college bearing his name, multiple bankruptcies associated with him.

Referring to Trump’s promised barrier along the Mexican border, Rubio sniped: “If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it.”

He went after the notion that Trump is a good businessman. He went after the idea that Trump is a straight talker. He called Trump a liar — repeatedly.

In other words, he finally hit Trump where Trump lives: image-wise. Thishad to happen, because one explanation for Trump’s success is how reluctant his adversaries have been to confront him as they quarreled with one another instead.

And this had to hurt Trump, because he was shown in a harsher light than he’d been shown in at any previous debate, and his face reddened in the glare.

But Thursday night may well have been too late, and Trump has been made to mimic a ripe tomato before — with minimal political damage to him.

Besides which, Trump at times pushed back as effectively as possible, brushing off charges of hypocrisy and painting Rubio as a pipsqueak with no knowledge of business, and Cruz as an obnoxious scold despised by his Senate colleagues. Those were the smart colors to apply to them.

Did Rubio Go Too Far?

Almost each of his attacks on Trump made good sense. All were entirely fair. But as they piled up higher than even the most majestic Trump-envisioned border wall could ever reach, he came across as strident, mocking, condescending, bratty.

And it was impossible not to wonder if he was doing precisely what Chris Christie had when he tried to take Rubio down in the debate just before the New Hampshire primary: bloodying his adversary at a cost of seriously wounding himself.

He talked over Trump. Trump talked over him. He talked louder over Trump. Trump talked even louder over him. There was one extended exchange, with each of them accusing the other of being more robotic and programmed, that will live on in highlight reels forevermore.

“Now he’s repeating himself,” Rubio pointed out, referring to Trump.

“I don’t repeat myself,” said Trump.

“You don’t repeat yourself,” Rubio responded — disbelievingly, facetiously.

And so it went. Rubio’s hectoring melody overlapped Trump’s exasperated harmony.

But when music gets that ugly, everyone involved can wind up sounding equally bad. And the flip side of Rubio’s — and Cruz’s — assertiveness was desperation. They were both on the offensive on Thursday night because they were both on the ropes. Some viewers undoubtedly perceived it that way.

What’s more, Rubio undercut his considerable efforts so far to be — and to label himself as — the candidate of optimism, uplift, positivity. He took another risk as well. He incurred Trump’s wrath, and while Trump has savaged Cruz and Jeb Bush during this campaign, he hasn’t vilified Rubio to the same extent.

Tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, he will.

How Much Does the Vagueness of Trump’s Proposals Matter?

It was predictable that Rubio and Cruz would portray Trump as someone whose campaign contributions over time, comments from yesteryear and herky-jerky swerves in the present all call into question how committed and trustworthy a conservative he is.

But they lavished nearly as much energy on revealing Trump as an empty suit — as someone who cannot provide any policy details because he doesn’t have any detailed policies. They asked for those details. Again and again. He responded with insults and boasts.

The moderators pressed him for those details. He responded with boasts and insults. And at one cringe-inducing moment, he batted away a question from Hugh Hewitt by saying: “Very few people listen to your radio show.”

Trump never got around to explaining how his health care plan would keep people from dying in the streets without committing the government to significantly increased spending. He never got around to explaining much of anything.

And in the context of that void — and of Rubio’s imitation of a typical Trump answer — his most shopworn, banal phrases stood out.

“We’re going to win a lot,” Trump said, for the millionth time.

And now we finally get to Prof. Krugman:

Lack of self-awareness can be fatal. The haplessness of the Republican establishment in the face of Trumpism is a case in point.

As many have noted, it’s remarkable how shocked — shocked! — that establishment has been at the success of Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic campaign. Who knew that this kind of thing would appeal to the party’s base? Isn’t the G.O.P. the party of Ronald Reagan, who sold conservatism with high-minded philosophical messages, like talking about a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks?

Seriously, Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century. So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles.

What I find even more amazing, however, are the Republican establishment’s delusions about what its own voters are for. You see, all indications are that the party elite imagines that base voters share its own faith in conservative principles, when that not only isn’t true, it never has been.

Here’s an example: Last summer, back when Mr. Trump was just beginning his rise, he promised not to cut Social Security, and insiders like William Kristol gleefully declared that he was “willing to lose the primary to win the general.” In reality, however, Republican voters don’t at all share the elite’s enthusiasm for entitlement cuts — remember, George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security ran aground in the face of disapproval from Republicans as well as Democrats.

Yet the Republican establishment still seems unable to understand that hardly any of its own voters, let alone the voters it would need to win in the general election, are committed to free-market, small-government ideology. Indeed, although Marco Rubio — the establishment’s last hope — has finally started to go after the front-runner, so far his attack seems to rest almost entirely on questioning the coiffed one’s ideological purity. Why does he imagine that voters care?

Oh, and the G.O.P. establishment was also sure that Mr. Trump would pay a heavy price for asserting that we were misled into Iraq — evidently unaware just how widespread that (correct) belief is among Americans of all political persuasions.

So what’s the source of this obliviousness? The answer, I’d suggest, is that in recent years — and, in fact, for the past couple of decades — becoming a conservative activist has actually been a low-risk, comfortable career choice. Most Republican officeholders hold safe seats, which they can count on keeping if they are sufficiently orthodox. Moreover, if they should stumble, they can fall back on “wingnut welfare,” the array of positions at right-wing media organizations, think tanks and so on that are always there for loyal spear carriers.

And loyalty is almost the only thing that matters. Does an economist at a right-wing think tank have a remarkable record of embarrassing mistakes? Does a pundit have an almost surreal history of bad calls? No matter, as long as they hew to the orthodox line.

There is, by the way, nothing comparable on the Democratic side. Of course there’s an establishment, but it’s much more diffuse, much less lavishly funded, much less insistent on orthodoxy and forgiving of loyal incompetence.

But back to the hermetic world of the Republican elite: This world has, as I said, existed for decades. The result is an establishment comprising apparatchiks, men (mainly) who have spent their entire professional lives in an environment where repeating approved orthodoxy guarantees an easy life, while any deviation from that orthodoxy means excommunication. They know that people outside their party disagree, but that doesn’t matter much for their careers.

Now, however, they face the reality that most voters inside their party don’t agree with the orthodoxy, either. And all signs are that they still can’t wrap their minds around that fact. They just keep waiting for Donald Trump to suffer the fall from grace that, in their world, always happens to anyone who questions the eternal truth of supply-side economics or the gospel of 9/11. Even now, when it’s almost too late to stop the Trump Express, they still imagine that “But he’s not a true conservative!” is an effective attack.

Things would be very different, obviously, if Mr. Trump were in fact to lock in the Republican nomination (which could happen in a few weeks). Would his raw appeal to white Americans’ baser instincts continue to work? I don’t think so. But given the ineffectuality of his party’s elite, my guess is that we will get a chance to find out.


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