Archive for the ‘Cohen’ Category

Blow, Cohen, and Kristof

April 14, 2016

In “Campaigns of Ultimate Disappointment” Mr. Blow says this country wasn’t designed to facilitate change. It took centuries to arrive at its current condition and will need time to shift away from it.  Mr. Cohen is wringing his hands and weeping over “The Death of Liberalism.”  He moans that authoritarianism is ascendant and with it anti-rational bigotry. History does not end. It eddies, he says.  Mr. Kristof reminds us of the glaringly obvious in “The Real Welfare Cheats.”  He says the tax code is rigged to give America’s biggest corporations a free ride.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I’m already completely exhausted by this presidential campaign season. The candidates seem to share that fatigue. Nerves are fraying as story lines grow stale.

There is the demagogic, megalomaniac Republican front-runner who simply appears to be winging it, just as surprised as the rest of us that he has duped enough people to position himself to have a strong chance of securing the nomination.

There is Ted Cruz, a power-hungry extremist who never learned how to play well with others, who wears other folks’ hatred of him as a badge (or many badges), and whose policies in many cases are even more strident and worrisome than those of the front-runner.

There is John Kasich, the mealy-mouthed “other option” who won only one state — his own — and whose primary pitch is that he is not the front-runner or Cruz and therefore stands the greatest chance of beating the eventual Democratic nominee.

Speaking of Democratic nominees: You have Hillary Clinton, whose greatest strength is pragmatic reality — a message that doesn’t exactly sizzle — and whose saving grace is strong support from minorities, without which her candidacy would have long ago tanked. And yet she is surrounded by people, like her husband, who seem to be working assiduously to damage that minority support. Just last week, Bill Clinton launched into an awkward, rambling defense of the 1994 crime bill and his wife’s use of the term “superpredator.” This week her supporter Bill de Blasio, New York City’s mayor, made a cringe-worthy joke (with which she happily played along!) about running on “C.P. time,” which I have always understood to be “colored-people’s time,” a corrosive stereotype of the perpetual lateness of black people.

And then there’s Bernie Sanders, the pied piper of pipe dreams, who articulates a noble set of principles but outlines unworkable and, in some cases, outlandish policies that will never see the light of day with the next Congress, which is not likely to be dissimilar from the existing Congress. The New York Daily News was brutal in its endorsement of Clinton this week: the paper’s editorial board referred to Sanders as “a fantasist who’s at passionate war with reality” who has “proved utterly unprepared for the Oval Office while confirming that the central thrusts of his campaign are politically impossible.” Ouch.

And the truth is that very little about this race has changed in the last month, though some might argue that Cruz has a gust of wind in his sails and Sanders’s string of recent victories is impressive. But what largely gives the appearance of change is that contests have been held in states that favor a particular candidate over others. This gives the impression of momentum, when in fact it is simply a function of the map.

The basic foundation of support remains relatively unchanged, and if those dynamics persist until all the contests have been completed, simple math tell us that the front-runners now will be the front-runners then.

We are just watching cars crash in slow motion.

That’s boring. There is a tremendous political media infrastructure whose job it is to make this sound like it’s still interesting, fascinating even, but it’s just not. It’s boring.

It won’t truly be interesting again, at least not for me, until we reach the potential chaos of the conventions, and after that, move into the general election, where the contrasts in visions for the future of this country will likely be as stark as they’ve ever been.

But that said, this whole political season seems to me rife with profound disappointment. Too many people are making too many big promises that they know full well they can’t deliver, but the individual voters believe that they can and the media establishment is doing far too little to disabuse voters of those notions.

Last month the president spoke at the Toner journalism prize ceremony, saying:

A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more. The electorate would be better served if that happened. It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.[Applause.] And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them. I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that. But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word. When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.

I fear that the cynicism the president describes is inevitable because this country, in its founding documents, wasn’t designed to easily facilitate change, let alone revolutionary change.

It took centuries for this country to arrive at its current condition and will take time to shift away from it.

That isn’t what people want to hear in an anti-establishment, revolutionary change cycle, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I fear that we are going to move from the race’s current banality to an eventual, and most assured, sense of betrayal in which armies of voters see promises of radical change come crashing to earth. That to me is unfortunate and even frightening.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

Liberalism is dead. Or at least it is on the ropes. Triumphant a quarter-century ago, when liberal democracy appeared to have prevailed definitively over the totalitarian utopias that exacted such a toll in blood, it is now under siege from without and within.

Nationalism and authoritarianism, reinforced by technology, have come together to exercise new forms of control and manipulation over human beings whose susceptibility to greed, prejudice, ignorance, domination, subservience and fear was not, after all, swept away by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As Communism fell, and closed societies were forced open, and an age of rapid globalization dawned, and the United States earned the moniker of “hyperpower,” it seemed reasonable to believe, as Francis Fukuyama argued in 1989, that, “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.” Therefore, per Fukuyama, the end point of history had been reached with “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

This was a rational argument. It made sense. Hundreds of millions of people enslaved within the Soviet imperium had just been freed. They knew — everyone knew — which system worked better. The problem is that the hold of reason in human affairs is always tenuous.

Looking back at human history, the liberal democratic experiment – with its Enlightenment-derived belief in the capacity of individuals possessed of certain inalienable rights to shape their destinies in liberty through the exercise of their will — is but a brief interlude. Far more lasting have been the eras of infallible sovereignty, absolute power derived from God, domination and serfdom, and subjection to what Isaiah Berlin called “the forces of anti-rational mystical bigotry.”

Such anti-rational forces are everywhere these days — in Donald Trump’s America, in Marine Le Pen’s France, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, throughout much of the Middle East, in North Korea. Representative government under the rule of law has proved to be insipid fare for an age that traffics in heady images of power and violence through solipsistic social media and online games.

Berlin, well before Fukuyama, identified a potential weakness of liberalism. In “The Crooked Timber of Humanity,” he wrote: “A liberal sermon which recommends machinery designed to prevent people from doing each other too much harm, giving each human group sufficient room to realize its own idiosyncratic, unique, particular ends without too much interference with the ends of others, is not a passionate battle-cry to inspire men to sacrifice and martyrdom and heroic feats.”

No, but as the framers of the U.S. Constitution knew, machinery of such liberal inspiration is the best hope to afford citizens a lasting defense against tyranny.

Liberty, however, requires certain things. Liberalism demands acceptance of our human differences and the ability to mediate them through democratic institutions. It demands acceptance of multiple, perhaps incompatible truths. In an age of declamation and shouting, of polarization and vilification, of politics-for-sale and the insidious submersion of politics in fact-lite entertainment, the emergence of Trump is as unsurprising as it is menacing.

No wonder Putin admires him. Russian authoritarianism is all about the muscular trappings of power and popular adulation cultivated through fawning media for a Czar-like figure. Berlin noted there was “some truth” to the conservative writer Joseph de Maistre’s view that “the desire to immolate oneself, to suffer, to prostrate oneself before authority, indeed before superior power, no matter whence it comes, and the desire to dominate, to exert authority, to pursue power for its own sake” are forces that are “historically at least as strong as desire for peace, prosperity, liberty, justice, happiness, equality.”

And so history does not end. It eddies back and forth.

The broad failure of the Arab Awakening — the greatest liberation movement since 1989, an attempt by Arab peoples to empower themselves — had many causes, but a central one was the absence of any liberal constituency in societies from Egypt to Libya. Even a country with a large middle class like Egypt was not ready to accept the mediation of multiple truths through democratic institutions. So power went back to the generals, and the Islamists — even the moderates among them — were condemned to prison or worse.

In Russia, and now in countries from Hungary to Poland, and in China, forms of authoritarianism are ascendant and liberalism (or even modest liberalization) are in retreat. In the Middle East, the Islamic State casts its long, digitized shadow. In Western societies beset by growing inequality (neo-liberal economics has also sapped the credentials of liberalism), political discourse, debate on college campuses and ranting on social media all reflect a new impatience with multiple truths, a new intolerance and unwillingness to make the compromises that permit liberal democracy to work.

The threat for liberal Western societies is within and without. Liberalism may be feeble as a battle cry, but nothing is more important for human dignity and decency.

Geez, Roger… Take a pill, or get a stiff drink…  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

We often hear how damaging welfare dependency is, stifling initiative and corroding the human soul. So I worry about the way we coddle executives in their suites.

A study to be released Thursday says that for each dollar America’s 50 biggest companies paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2014, they received $27 back in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

Goodness! What will that do to their character? Won’t that sap their initiative?

The study was compiled by Oxfam and it comes on top of a mountain of evidence from international agencies and economic journals underscoring the degree to which major companies have rigged the tax code.

O.K., O.K., I know you see the words “tax code” and your eyes desperately scan for something else to read! Anything about a sex scandal?

But hold on: The tax system is rigged against us precisely because taxation is the Least Sexy Topic on Earth. So we doze, and our pockets get picked.

John Oliver has a point when he says, “If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.” The beneficiaries of tax distortions are counting on you to fall asleep, but this is a topic as important as it is dry.

It’s because the issues seem arcane that corporate lobbyists get away with murder. The Oxfam report says that each $1 the biggest companies spent on lobbying was associated with $130 in tax breaks and more than $4,000 in federal loans, loan guarantees and bailouts.

And why would a humanitarian nonprofit like Oxfam spend its time poring over offshore accounts and tax dodges? “The global economic system is becoming increasingly rigged” in ways that exacerbate inequality, laments Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

One academic study found that tax dodging by major corporations costs the U.S. Treasury up to $111 billion a year. By my math, less than one-fifth of that annually would be more than enough to pay the additional costs of full-day prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds in America ($15 billion), prevent lead poisoning in tens of thousands of children ($2 billion), provide books and parent coaching for at-risk kids across the country ($1 billion) and end family homelessness ($2 billion).

The Panama Papers should be a wake-up call, shining a light on dysfunctional tax codes around the world — but much of the problem has been staring us in the face. Among the 500 corporations in the S.&P. 500-stock index, 27 were both profitable in 2015 and paid no net income taxglobally, according to an analysis by USA Today.

Those poor companies! Think how the character of those C.E.O.s must be corroding! And imagine the plunging morale as board members realize that they are “takers” not “makers.”

American companies game the system in many ways, including shifting profits to overseas tax havens. In 2012, American companies reported more profit in low-tax Bermuda than in Japan, China, Germany and France combined, even though their employees in Bermuda account for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of their worldwide totals.

Over all, the share of corporate taxation in federal revenue has declined since 1952 from 32 percent to 11 percent. In that same period, the portion coming from payroll taxes, which hit the working poor, has climbed.

Look, the period of the Oxfam study included the auto and banking bailouts, which were good for America (and the loans were repaid); it’s also true that the official 35 percent corporate tax rate in the U.S. is too high, encouraging dodging strategies. But we have created perverse incentives: C.E.O.s have a responsibility to shareholders to make money, and tax dodging accomplishes that. This isn’t individual crookedness but an entire political/economic system that induces companies to rip off fellow citizens quite legally.

It’s now widely recognized that corporations have manipulated the tax code. The U.S. Treasury, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, theEuropean Union and professional economic journals are all trying to respond to issues of tax evasion.

Bravo to the Obama administration for cracking down on corporations that try to move abroad to get out of taxes. Congress should now pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, and it should stop slashing the I.R.S. budget (by 17 percent in real terms over the last six years).

When congressional Republicans like Ted Cruz denounce the I.R.S., they empower corporate tax cheats. Because of I.R.S. cuts, the amount of time revenue agents spend auditing large companies has fallen by 34 percent since 2010. A Syracuse University analysis finds that the lost revenue from the decline in corporate audits may be as much as $15 billion a year — enough to make full-day pre-K universal.

Meanwhile, no need to fret so much about welfare abuse in the inner city. The big problem of welfare dependency in America now involves entitled corporations. So let’s help those moochers in business suits pick themselves up and stop sponging off the government.

Brooks and Cohen

April 12, 2016

Oh, gawd…  Bobo has decided to tell us all what’s wrong with politics.  (Hint — it has nothing to do with Republicans.  Apparently it’s all due to sex, drugs and rock & roll… or something.)  The title alone is worthy of a spit take:  “How to Fix Politics.”  In this opus he babbles that we should shrink it, and surround it with other social bonds.  In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say:  “False equivalence, thy name is Brooks.  The Democrats have never shut down the government but Viet Nam draft dodger Gingrich and Ayatollah Ted have, twice.  …  It is only the republicans who have the multi-billion dollar disinformation/ agitation propaganda operations of the continuing criminal enterprises of serial Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violator Faux Noise and the eco terrorists of Koch Sedition, Propaganda & Pollution, working 24/7/365 to subvert our democracy.”  Mr. Cohen, in “The Islamic State of Molenbeek,” says a district of Brussels had in effect seceded from Belgium, and that Europe must fight an ideological battle against Wahhabi Islam.  In the comments “Roland Menestres” from Raleigh, NC had this to say:  “Roger Cohen fails to mention that those Wahhabi clerics who hijacked those lost young Muslims are all paid and supported by our “friend” Saudi Arabia. The same Saudi Arabia that produced the twin towers terrorists and financed Al Qaeda and ISIS. Maybe, instead of blaming Belgium, a tiny country that has gone out of its way to integrate economical and political Muslim refugees/immigrants, maybe, just maybe we should go to the source of that religious extremism and shut it down saving ourselves lots of future blood shedding.”  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

In the middle of this depressing presidential campaign I sometimes wonder, How could we make our politics better?

It’s possible to imagine an elite solution. The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: “We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.” That kind of leadership might trickle down.

But it’s increasingly clear that the roots of political dysfunction lie deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in.

In healthy societies, people live their lives within a galaxy of warm places. They are members of a family, neighborhood, school, civic organization, hobby group, company, faith, regional culture, nation, continent and world. Each layer of life is nestled in the others to form a varied but coherent whole.

But starting just after World War II, America’s community/membership mind-set gave way to an individualistic/autonomy mind-set. The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others.

By 1981, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich noticed the effects: “Throughout most of this century Americans believed that self-denial made sense, sacrificing made sense, obeying the rules made sense, subordinating oneself to the institution made sense. But now doubts have set in, and Americans now believe that the old giving/getting compact needlessly restricts the individual while advancing the power of large institutions … who use the power to enhance their own interests at the expense of the public.”

The individualist turn had great effects but also accumulating downsides. By 2005, 47 percent of Americans reported that they knew none or just a few of their neighbors by name. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of people who report that they have no close friends to confide in.

Civic life has suffered. As Marc J. Dunkelman writes in his compelling book “The Vanishing Neighbor,” people are good at tending their inner-ring relationships — their family and friends. They’re pretty good at tending to outer-ring relationships — their hundreds of Facebook acquaintances, their fellow progressives, or their TED and Harley fans.

But Americans spend less time with middle-ring township relationships — the PTA, the neighborhood watch.

Middle-ring relationships, Dunkelman argues, help people become skilled at deliberation. The guy sitting next to you at the volunteer fire company may have political opinions you find abhorrent, but you still have to get stuff done with him, week after week.

Middle-ring relationships also diversify the sources of identity. You might be an O’Rourke, an Irish Catholic and a professor, but you are also a citizen, importantly of the Montrose neighborhood in Houston.

With middle-ring memberships deteriorating, Americans have become worse at public deliberation. People find it easier to ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts. Partisanship becomes a preconscious lens through which people see the world.

They report being optimistic or pessimistic depending on whether their team is in power. They become unrealistic. Trump voters don’t seem to realize how unelectable their man is because they hang out with people like themselves.

We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves. (Have you noticed that most people who call themselves “connectors” are actually excluders because they create groups restricted to people with similar status levels?)

With fewer sources of ethnic and local identity, people ask politics to fill the void. Being a Democrat or a Republican becomes their ethnicity. People put politics at the center of their psychological, emotional and even spiritual life.

This is asking too much of politics. Once politics becomes your ethnic and moral identity, it becomes impossible to compromise, because compromise becomes dishonor. If you put politics at the center of identity, you end up asking the state to eclipse every social authority but itself. Presidential campaigns become these gargantuan two-year national rituals that swallow everything else in national life.

If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within. We probably have to scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far.

If we make this cultural shift, we may even end up happier. For there is a paradox to longing. If each of us fulfill all of our discrete individual desires, we end up with a society that is not what we want at all.

The highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization, is actually connected to the lowest level, group survival. People experience their highest joy in helping their neighbors make it through the day.

So he finds this presidential campaign depressing.  One wonders why.  It couldn’t POSSIBLY be because of the collection of buffoons and losers his party has vomited up, could it?  He is SUCH a foof.  Here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Brussels:

There are military trucks parked in Molenbeek, and soldiers with submachine guns patrol the jittery streets of the Brussels district that has been the epicenter of European terrorism in recent months. On the Place Communale idle youths loiter, shooting glances at the police. This is where the Paris and Brussels attacks, with their 162 dead, overlap.

Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving direct participant in the Paris attacks, hid in Molenbeek before his arrest on March 18. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected chief planner of the Paris attacks, lived in Molenbeek. In all, at least 14 people tied to both attacks were either Belgian or lived in Brussels.

One of them is Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian of Moroccan origin who grew up in Molenbeek and was arrested in Brussels on Friday. He has told the police he is “the man in the hat” caught on surveillance cameras leaving Brussels airport after two accomplices blew themselves up on March 22. Cameras also placed him in Paris last November with the Paris attackers.

Sleepy Brussels: goodbye to that image. Yet even today there’s something soporific about this French-speaking city marooned within Flemish-speaking Flanders, beset by administrative and linguistic divisions and the lethargy that stems from them, home to a poorly integrated immigrant population of mainly Moroccan and Turkish descent (41 percent of the population of Molenbeek is Muslim), and housing the major institutions of a fraying European Union.

It is hard to resist the symbolism of the Islamic State establishing a base for its murderous designs in the so-called capital of Europe at a time when the European idea is weaker than at any time since the 1950s. A jihadi loves a vacuum, as Syria demonstrates. Belgium as a state, and Belgium as the heart of the European Union are as close to a vacuum as Europe offers these days.

Belgium — a hodgepodge of three regions (Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and Brussels), three linguistic communities (Flemish, French and German) and a weak federal government — is dysfunctional. That dysfunction finds its most powerful expression in the capital, where Flemish geography and French culture do not align. The administrative breakdown assumes critical proportions in Molenbeek, the second-poorest commune in the country, with 36 percent of people younger than 25 unemployed.

As Julia Lynch noted recently in The Washington Post, Molenbeek’s radicalism is not new. It was “home to one of the attackers in the 2004 commuter train bombings in Madrid and to the Frenchman who shot four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in August 2014. The Moroccan shooter on the Brussels-Paris Thalys train in August 2015 stayed with his sister there.”

This is an outrage. Splintered Belgium had lost control of Molenbeek. A heavily Muslim district of Brussels had in effect seceded. If this were the extent of the problem, it would be grave. But Molenbeek is just the most acute manifestation of a European failure.

The large-scale immigration from Turkey and North Africa that began a half-century ago at a time of economic boom has — at a time of economic stagnation — led to near-ghettos in or around many European cities where the jobless descendants of those migrants are sometimes radicalized by Wahhabi clerics. As the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, warned recently, an extremist minority is “winning the ideological and cultural battle” within French Islam.

The fact that the jihadis, often Syrian-trained, are a minority, and that many Muslims who immigrate to Europe are leading successful and integrated lives, is little consolation. After the carnage in Paris and Brussels, the laissez-faire approach that had allowed those clerics to proselytize, private Muslim schools to multiply in France, prisons to serve as incubators of jihadism, youths to drift to ISIS land in Syria and back, and districts like Molenbeek or Schaerbeek to drift into a void of negligence, has to cease. Improved intelligence is not enough. There is an ideological battle going on; it has to be waged on that level, where it has been lost up to now. The moderate Muslim communities of Europe need to do much more.

Europe, of which Brussels is a symbol, presents an alarming picture today. The Dutch, susceptible to propaganda from Russia, have just voted in a referendum against a trade agreement with Ukraine for which more than 100 Ukrainians died in an uprising in 2014. The British are set to vote in June on whether to leave the Union. The euro has sapped economies insufficiently integrated for a common currency. A huge refugee flow has raised questions about a borderless Europe. President Putin plots daily to do his worst for the European Union.

There is a vacuum. Vacuums are dangerous. The answer is a reformed, reinvigorated and stronger Europe, not the kind of division that produced Molenbeek — a microcosm of what fragmentation can bring.

My two older children were born in Schaerbeek. My daughter, now a doctor in New Mexico, took some of her first steps at Brussels airport. This is not the Europe I imagined for them.

Brooks and Cohen

March 29, 2016

Oh, God help us…  Bobo has decided to give us his “thoughts” on “The Sexual Politics of 2016.”  He breathlessly tells us that Donald Trump has given misogyny a twist.  Sigh.  In the comments “kaw7” from Manchester had this to say:  “Mr. Brooks, As you have made perfectly clear, in column after column, Donald Trump does not represent the version of the Republican Party you espouse. We get it. However, what you have yet to address are the antics of the Republicans who refuse to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Since the death of Antonin Scalia, you’ve penned over a dozen columns, but not one has been about the ongoing intransigence of Senate Republicans and their conservative allies. You have fussed and fumed over Trump’s subversion of the Republican Party, but said nothing about the Republicans’ subversion of the Constitution. Your silence on this matter is all too telling and too typical. Either you are too afraid to chastise your Republican pals, or you agree with their stance and are too embarrassed to admit it. Either way, another column on Donald Trump is merely a distraction. It is past time for you, Mr. Brooks, to address the elephant in the room.”  That will happen when pigs fly.  Mr. Cohen addresses “Trump’s New World Disorder” and says Trump thinks America is being ripped off and NATO is obsolete, but war in Estonia or the East China Sea could be the biggest rip-off of all.  In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say:  “Another Roger Cohen paean to the beauty, need and desirability of perpetual war.  We don’t need no stinkin’ lead free water in our schools.  Who needs smooth roads and safe bridges?  Let those commie Chinese build 12,000 miles of high speed rail, we don’t need it.  Per Roger Cohen we must garrison the planet in perpetuity.”  Here, alas, is Bobo:

In the middle of the Civil War a colonel named Robert McAllister from the 11th Regiment of New Jersey tried to improve the moral fiber of his men. A Presbyterian railroad contractor in private life, he lobbied and preached against profanity, drinking, prostitution and gambling. Some of the line officers in the regiment, from less genteel backgrounds, rebelled.

They formed an organization called the Independent Order of Trumps. In sort of a mischievous, laddie way, the Trumps championed boozing and whoring, cursing and card-playing.

In her book “The Gentlemen and the Roughs,” Lorien Foote notes that this wasn’t just a battle over pleasure. It was a contest between two different ideals of masculinity. McAllister’s was based on gentlemanly chivalry and self-restraint. Trumpian masculinity was based on physical domination and sexual conquest. “Perceptions of manliness were deeply intertwined with perceptions of social status,” Foote writes.

And so it is today.

These days we’re living through another great redefinition of masculinity. Today, both men and women are called upon to live up to the traditional ideals of both genders. So the ideal man, at least in polite society, gracefully achieves a series of balances. He is steady and strong, but also verbal and vulnerable. He is emotionally open and willing to cry, but also restrained and resilient. He is physical, and also intellectual.

Today’s ideal man honors the women in his life in whatever they want to do. He treats them with respect in the workplace and romance in the bedroom. He is successful in the competitive world of the marketplace but enthusiastic in the kitchen and gentle during kids’ bath time.

This new masculine ideal is an unalloyed improvement on all the earlier masculine ideals. It’s a great achievement of our culture. But it is demanding and involves reconciling a difficult series of tensions. And it has sparked a bad-boy protest movement and counterculture, currently led by a group we might once again call the Independent Order of Trumps.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a revolution in manners, a rejection of the civility codes of the educated class. As part of this, he rejects the new and balanced masculine/feminine ideal that has emerged over the past generation. Trump embraces a masculine identity — old in some ways, new in others — built upon unvarnished misogyny.

Trump’s misogyny is not the historical moralistic misogyny. Traditional misogyny blames women for the lustful, licentious and powerful urges that men sometimes feel in their presence. In this misogyny, women are the powerful, disgusting corrupters — the vixens, sirens and monsters. This gynophobic misogyny demands that women be surrounded with taboos and purgation rituals, along with severe restrictions on behavior and dress.

Trump’s misogyny, on the other hand, has a commercial flavor. The central arena of life is male competition. Women are objects men use to win points in that competition. The purpose of a woman’s body is to reflect status on a man. One way to emasculate a rival man is to insult or conquer his woman.

Writing for Slate, Frank Foer has one of the best (and most disgusting) compilations of Donald Trump’s history with women. Most of the episodes are pure dominance display.

For example, A. J. Benza was a writer who confessed that his girlfriend had left him for Trump. Trump called into a radio show he was appearing on to brag: “I’ve been successful with your girlfriend, I’ll tell you that,” Trump said. “While you were getting onto the plane to go to California thinking she was your girlfriend, she was some place that you wouldn’t have been very happy with.”

When the commentator Tucker Carlson criticized him, Trump left voice mail bragging about how much more sex he gets. He told an interviewer that you have to treat women like dirt.

It’s not quite right to say that Trump is a throwback to midcentury sexism. At least in those days negative behavior toward women and family members was restrained by the chivalry code. Political candidates didn’t go attacking their rivals’ wives based on their looks. Trump’s objectification is uncontrolled. It’s pure ego competition with a pornogrified flavor.

In this way, Trump represents the spread of something brutal. He takes economic anxiety and turns it into sexual hostility. He effectively tells men: You may be struggling, but at least you’re better than women, Mexicans and Muslims.

I’ve grappled with determining how much to blame Trump’s supporters for his rise. Many of them are victims of economic dislocation and it is hard to fault them for seeking a change, of course, even if it is simplistic and ignorant.

But in the realm of cultural politics, Trump voters do need to be held to account. They are participating in a descent into darkness. They are supporting a degrading wrong. This is the world your daughters are going to grow up in.

And now we’re faced with Mr. Cohen:

Goodbye to all that. Now we know that Donald Trump would rip up the post-1945 world order, trash an “obsolete” NATO, lean toward a Japan with nukes rather than the “one-sided agreement” that leaves the United States responsible for Japanese defense, tell Saudi Arabia that it “wouldn’t be around for very long” without American protection, and generally make clear that “we cannot be the policeman of the world.”

So much for Pax Americana; it was a bad deal, you see, and in the Trump universe the deal is everything. American power and far-flung American garrisons may have underwritten global security and averted nuclear war for more than seven decades, but they cannot be sustained by the “poor country” the United States has become. Why? Because, he insists, the whole postwar setup is a scam.

That Trump could be the next president of the United States is no longer a fanciful notion. Americans don’t want business as usual; Trump is not business as usual. He’s ranting and schmoozing his way to the White House as the man who, through some alchemy, will make an anxious America proud again. The world — already more combustible than at any time in recent decades — may be about to become a much more dangerous place.

Trump, in interviews with my colleagues Maggie Haberman and David Sanger, said: “We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many, many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher. We were the big bully, but we were not smartly led.” America was “systematically ripped off by everybody. From China to Japan to South Korea to the Middle East, many states in the Middle East, for instance protecting Saudi Arabia and not being properly reimbursed for every penny that we spend.”

Bottom line of Trump foreign policy: “We will not be ripped off anymore” because “we don’t have any money.” He would like to see the United States “really starting to go robust,” as it did around 1900.

A lot of what Trump said was just plain wrong. He declared that he was “all for Ukraine, I have friends that live in Ukraine,” but those friends don’t seem to have explained what’s going on. He is irked because countries like Germany “didn’t seem to be very much involved” when Russia got “very confrontational” (a.k.a. annexed Crimea and started a war in eastern Ukraine), and so the burden fell on the United States.

In fact, Germany has taken a central role in orchestrating sanctions against Russia and, unlike the United States, is at the table in the Minsk peace process for Ukraine. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Trump dismisses Germany’s role in that he believes Europe’s most powerful nation by far is “being destroyed” by “tremendous crime” (presumably on the part of unmentioned Muslim refugees) and by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “naïveté or worse” (presumably in letting said Syrian refugees in). He also believes that the United States is “obsolete in cyber,” a view Iran would not share, and that “our country doesn’t have money” (it does have some).

But that Trump and facts are uneasy partners is already well known. What was not so apparent before these interviews was how radical a President Trump would be in dismantling the architecture of postwar stability — unless, of course, he changed his mind to demonstrate the unpredictability he prizes.

To say NATO is obsolete — a view Moscow has been pressing since the end of the Cold War as a means to get the United States out of Europe — at a time when President Vladimir Putin is determined to assert Russian power is dangerous folly. Ask the Baltic States that have been spared Putin’s aggression only because they are now NATO members. NATO remains the pillar of the trans-Atlantic cooperation that forged a Europe whole and free from the ruins and divisions of 1945.

To countenance a nuclear-armed Japan at a time when China’s rapid rise and designs in the East China Sea have sharpened tensions between the two countries is also to play a high-risk game. The presence of the United States as an Asian power offsetting China’s rise and reassuring smaller nations in the hemisphere is a principal reason that rise has been peaceful.

As for the disintegration of Saudi Arabia, which Trump seems ready to accept if the Saudis don’t step up to the plate financially and militarily, it may well make Syria look like a playground.

Trump is right about one thing. The world of 2016 is not that of 1945 or 1990. The United States is relatively weaker, power is shifting, there are pressing domestic priorities. But his version of “America First” — which interestingly converges with the views of many on the left who are convinced that the United States should stop policing the world — looks like a recipe for cataclysm.

War in Estonia or the East China Sea could end up being a very bad deal indeed, a real rip-off for all humanity.

Blow, Cohen, and Krugman

March 14, 2016

In “Carson Endorses the Demagogue” Mr. Blow says the former candidate’s backing of Donald Trump shows that his calls for civility were hollow.  Mr. Cohen considers “The Trump-Berlusconi Syndrome” and finds lessons from Italy on the rise of a showman in a time of anxiety.  Prof. Krugman says “Trump Is No Accident” and that Republican leaders have long laid the groundwork for the current G.O.P. front-runner’s strategy.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Friday, I watched yet another bizarre scene from an already bizarre election cycle: The affable but hopelessly vacant Ben Carson endorsing the demagogic real estate developer who once said of Carson that he had a “pathological temper” as a child and compared him to a child molester.

Carson said in his endorsement speech that there are actually “two different” sides to the front-runner.

What does this mean? Which one is real? Are they both? Is there a Jekyll to this Hyde? It was an exceedingly strange and feeble attempt to diminish the danger that this man poses, but in a way, if anyone could understand this duality, it would be Carson.

This is the same Ben Carson who has inveighed against the “purveyors of division,” who played a video at his presidential campaign announcement in Detroit in which the narrator said in part:

“If America is to survive the challenges of the modern world, we need to heal, we need to be inspired, and we need to revive the exceptional spirit that built America. Never before have we been so closely connected to each other, but more divided as a country.”

This is the same Ben Carson who used this closing statement at the sixth Republican presidential debate in North Charleston, S.C., by imploring Americans to join him “in truth and honesty and integrity.”

And yet, on Friday, Carson endorsed one of the most dangerous and divisive demagogues in recent presidential election history, a man for whom “truth and honesty and integrity” are infinitely malleable, and easily discarded, concepts, and whose rallies have been plagued by vileness and violence.

Carson, like so many conservatives, isn’t truly interested in unity as much as silent submission, a quiet in which one can pretend that hostility has been quashed, all evidence to the contrary.

These are folks who view discussions about reducing racial inequity and increasing queer equality as divisive. They are people who see efforts to protect women’s health, in particular their full range of reproductive options, including abortion, and to reverse our staggering income inequality as divisive. Indeed, the very words white supremacy, privilege, racism, bias, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, and poverty are seen as divisive.

Somehow, they think, these very real oppressive forces will simply die if only deprived of conversational oxygen. In fact, the opposite is true. By not naming these forces and continuously confronting, they strengthen and spread.

Carson’s endorsement further tarnished his already tarnished reputation. He validated and rubber-stamped a grandiloquent fascist who is supported by a former grand wizard.

All Carson’s calls for civility were in that moment proven hollow.

No wonder so many Americans despise politicians and see them as soulless and without principle. And although both these men pride themselves on being political outsiders who’ve never held political office, they are undoubtedly political animals and relentless personal brand promoters who chase a check over a cliff.

But the more I thought about it, the more sense it began to make. Carson and the real estate developer are not so different from one another in this predilection for outrageous utterances, it’s just that one smiles and the other scowls.

This is the same Ben Carson who called President Obama a psychopath who is possibly guilty of treason and was, oh my, “raised white.” He has accused President Obama of working to “destroy this nation” and compared Obama’s supporters to Nazi sympathizers.

This is the same Ben Carson who on a radio show in 2013 said of white liberals:

“Well, they’re the most racist people there are because, you know, they put you in a little category, a little box — you have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?”

This is the same Ben Carson who has compared women who have abortions to slave owners, who said Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery — yes, he’s obsessed with slavery — and that being gay is a choice because people go to prison straight and leave gay. On the issue of whether a Muslim should allowed to be president, he said:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Carson isn’t the only one. Chris Christie’s endorsement of the front-runner is just as baffling and unprincipled. As The Los Angeles Times put it:

“Christie had spent years curating an image as a policy-focused administrator who reached out to Muslims and Latinos, and he was rewarded with rock star status in the national Republican Party. Now he’s backing a candidate who has insulted minorities, shown a casual disregard for policy discussions and is reviled by the party’s establishment.”

And yet it is Carson’s endorsement that I find more interesting, not because it will have a greater impact, but because he and the front-runner are two sides of the same coin: they are both dangerous, but one is a narcissist who just might win the nomination and the other is a near-narcoleptic who never had a chance.

Brooks and Cohen

March 8, 2016

In “It’s Not Too Late!” Bobo moans that Republicans still have time to reject Donald Trump, avoid Ted Cruz and pick a nominee who allows them to maintain their standards.  The poor S.O.B.  I’d almost feel sorry for him if he hadn’t been playing Gunga Din to the worst of the worst for decades.  In the comments “soxared040713” from Crete, IL had this to say:  “Mr. Brooks, the desperation in your column (and the panic in the headline over it) reveal the barren landscape that has defined your party for half a century.”  Mr. Cohen is seeing “An Anti-Semitism of the Left” and says this was overheard at Oberlin: The Holocaust was mere “white on white crime.”  He got taken to the woodshed in the comments.  “Peter Feld” from New York had this to say:  “Any definition of anti-Semitism that relies on attitudes toward Zionism, Israel or the Palestinians is corrupt. How does rejecting settler-colonialism, or showing “uncritical” support for Palestinians (who had their land stolen by Israel and now live under ethnic repression or in exile) make anyone anti-Semitic? I will never condone anti-Semitism but it is we Jews who have turned our own Star of David into a symbol of terror and apartheid by putting it on the flag of a supremacist ethnocracy.”  Here’s Bobo:

It’s 2 a.m. The bar is closing. Republicans have had a series of strong and nasty Trump cocktails. Suddenly Ted Cruz is beginning to look kind of attractive. At least he’s sort of predictable, and he doesn’t talk about his sexual organs in presidential debates!

Well, Republicans, have your standards really fallen so low so fast? Are you really that desperate? Can you remember your 8 p.m. selves, and all the hope you had about entering a campaign with such a deep bench of talented candidates?

Back in the early evening, before the current panic set in, Republicans understood that Ted Cruz would be a terrible general election candidate, at least as unelectable as Donald Trump and maybe more so. He is the single most conservative Republican in Congress, far adrift from the American mainstream. He’s been doing well in primaries because of the support of “extremely conservative” voters in very conservative states, and he really hasn’t broken out of that lane. His political profile is a slightly enlarged Rick Santorum but without the heart.

On policy grounds, he would be unacceptable to a large majority in this country. But his policy disadvantages are overshadowed by his public image ones. His rhetorical style will come across to young and independent voters as smarmy and oleaginous. In Congress, he had two accomplishments: the disastrous government shutdown and persuading all his colleagues to dislike him.

There is another path, one that doesn’t leave you self-loathing in the morning. It’s a long shot, but given the alternatives, it’s worth trying. First, hit the pause button on the rush to Cruz. Second, continue the Romneyesque assault on Trump. The results on Saturday, when late voters swung sharply against the Donald, suggest it may be working.

Third, work for a Marco Rubio miracle in Florida on March 15. Fourth, clear the field for John Kasich in Ohio. If Rubio and Kasich win their home states, Trump will need to take nearly 70 percent of the remaining delegates to secure a majority. That would be unlikely; he’s only winning 44 percent of the delegates now.

The party would go to the convention without a clear nominee. It would be bedlam for a few days, but a broadly acceptable new option might emerge. It would be better than going into the fall with Trump, which would be a moral error, or Cruz, who in November would manage to win several important counties in Mississippi.

This isn’t about winning the presidency in 2016 anymore. This is about something much bigger. Every 50 or 60 years, parties undergo a transformation. The G.O.P. is undergoing one right now. What happens this year will set the party’s trajectory for decades.

Since Goldwater/Reagan, the G.O.P. has been governed by a free-market, anti-government philosophy. But over the ensuing decades new problems have emerged. First, the economy has gotten crueler. Technology is displacing workers and globalization is dampening wages. Second, the social structure has atomized and frayed, especially among the less educated. Third, demography is shifting.

Orthodox Republicans, seeing no positive role for government, have had no affirmative agenda to help people deal with these new problems. Occasionally some conservative policy mavens have proposed such an agenda — anti-poverty programs, human capital policies, wage subsidies and the like — but the proposals were killed, usually in the House, by the anti-government crowd.

The 1980s anti-government orthodoxy still has many followers; Ted Cruz is the extreme embodiment of this tendency. But it has grown increasingly rigid, unresponsive and obsolete.

Along comes Donald Trump offering to replace it and change the nature of the G.O.P. He tramples all over the anti-government ideology of modern Republicanism. He would replace the free-market orthodoxy with authoritarian nationalism.

He offers to use government on behalf of the American working class, but in negative and defensive ways: to build walls, to close trade, to ban outside groups, to smash enemies. According to him, America’s problems aren’t caused by deep structural shifts. They’re caused by morons and parasites. The Great Leader will take them down.

If the G.O.P. is going to survive as a decent and viable national party, it can’t cling to the fading orthodoxy Cruz represents. But it can’t shift to ugly Trumpian nationalism, either. It has to find a third alternative: limited but energetic use of government to expand mobility and widen openness and opportunity. That is what Kasich, Rubio, Paul Ryan and others are stumbling toward.

Amid all the vulgarity and pettiness, that is what is being fought over this month: going back to the past, veering into an ugly future, or finding a third way. This is something worth fighting for, worth burning the boats behind you for.

The hour is late and the odds may be long. But there is still hope. It’s a moment for audacity, not settling for Ted Cruz simply because he’s the Titanic you know.

And then he tottered off to his fainting couch…  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

Last month, a co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, quit in protest at what he described as rampant anti-Semitism among members. A “large proportion” of the club “and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews,” he said in a statement.

Chalmers referred to members of the executive committee “throwing around the term ‘Zio’” — an insult used by the Ku Klux Klan; high-level expressions of “solidarity with Hamas” and explicit defense of “their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”; and the dismissal of any concern about anti-Semitism as “just the Zionists crying wolf.”

The zeitgeist on campuses these days, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one of identity and liberation politics. Jews, of course, are a minority, but through a fashionable cultural prism they are seen as the minority that isn’t — that is to say white, privileged and identified with an “imperialist-colonialist” state, Israel. They are the anti-victims in a prevalent culture of victimhood; Jews, it seems, are the sole historical victim whose claim is dubious.

A recent Oberlin alumna, Isabel Storch Sherrell, wrote in a Facebook post of the students she’d heard dismissing the Holocaust as mere “white on white crime.” As reported by David Bernstein in The Washington Post, she wrote of Jewish students, “Our struggle does not intersect with other forms of racism.”

Noa Lessof-Gendler, a student at Cambridge University, complained last month in Varsity, a campus newspaper, that anti-Semitism was felt “in the word ‘Zio’” flung around in left-wing groups.” She wrote, “I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I have Palestinian blood on my hands,” or should feel nervous “about conversations in Hall when an Israeli speaker visits.”

The rise of the leftist Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour Party appears to have empowered a far left for whom support of the Palestinians is uncritical and for whom, in the words of Alan Johnson, a British political theorist, “that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”

Corbyn is no anti-Semite. But he has called Hamas and Hezbollah agents of “long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region,” and once invited to Parliament a Palestinian Islamist, Raed Salah, who has suggested Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Corbyn called him an “honored citizen.” The “Corbynistas” on British campuses extol their fight against the “racist colonization of Palestine,” as one Oxford student, James Elliott, put it. Elliott was narrowly defeated last month in a bid to become youth representative on Labour’s national executive committee.

What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with, the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This was not “colonialism” but the post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.

As Simon Schama, the historian, put it last month in The Financial Times, the Israel of 1948 came into being as a result of the “centuries-long dehumanization of the Jews.”

The Jewish state was needed. History had demonstrated that. That is why I am a Zionist — now a dirty word in Europe.

Today, it is Palestinians in the West Bank who are dehumanized through Israeli dominion, settlement expansion and violence. The West Bank is the tomb of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Palestinians, in turn, incite against Jews and resort to violence, including random stabbings.

The oppression of Palestinians should trouble every Jewish conscience. But nothing can justify the odious “anti-Semitic anti-Zionism” (Johnson’s term) that caused Chalmers to quit and is seeping into British and American campuses.

I talked to Aaron Simons, an Oxford student who was president of the university’s Jewish society. “There’s an odd mental noise,” he said. “In tone and attitude the way you are talked to as a Jew in these left political circles reeks of hostility. These people have an astonishingly high bar for what constitutes anti-Semitism.”

Johnson, writing in Fathom Journal, outlined three components to left-wing anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. First, “the abolition of the Jewish homeland; not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel.” Second, “a demonizing intellectual discourse” that holds that “Zionism is racism” and pursues the “systematic Nazification of Israel.” Third, a global social movement to “exclude one state — and only one state — from the economic, cultural and educational life of humanity.”

Criticism of Israel is one thing; it’s needed in vigorous form. Demonization of Israel is another, a familiar scourge refashioned by the very politics — of identity and liberation — that should comprehend the millennial Jewish struggle against persecution.

Blow, Cohen, and Krugman

February 29, 2016

In “‘I’m Not a Super Predator'” Mr. Blow says a graduate student’s bold confrontation of Hillary Clinton raised an issue that needed to be raised.  Mr. Cohen is losing sleep over “Trump’s Il Duce Routine” and says Europe knows that democracies can collapse. It watches Trump with memories of when the sky darkened.  They should probably be more afraid of Cruz…  Prof. Krugman, in “Planet on the Ballot,” says it appears that the goal of drastically reducing emissions is within reach, but the wrong leader could still get in the way of saving the planet.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Days before Hillary Clinton thundered to an overwhelming victory over rival Bernie Sanders in South Carolina — largely on the strength of black voters who supported her by an even higher percentage than theysupported Barack Obama with in 2008 — a young, proudly queer, black activist, Ashley Williams, was in Charlotte, N.C., plotting an action that would make a statement of its own.

She was planning to attend a private Clinton fund-raiser in Charleston, S.C., and confront the candidate about her support of policies — specifically the 1994 crime bill — that contributed to the explosion of racially tilted mass incarceration in this country.

Williams and her friends decided to make a sign — but what to put on it? They toyed with phrases from a now infamous speech Clinton gave in 1996 — when the 23-year-old Williams was a toddler — in which Clinton said:

“We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super predators: no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

They settled on a phrase and over a couple of hours they blocked out the letters on a pillowcase. Williams practiced in a bathroom mirror folding the banner into her bra and whipping it out. (She figured that she’d have to hide it on her body so that it wouldn’t be confiscated before she revealed it at the fund-raiser.) But it was too thick. So she cut away the back half that had no writing. Perfect.

The night of the event, she nervously made her way through security with her secret banner hidden away, and took up position near where she assumed Clinton was to speak. As soon as Clinton descended the stairs of the mansion, took the microphone and began her remarks, Williams turned to the crowd and unfurled her banner. Then she turned to Clinton, who was confronted with her own worst words:

“We have to bring them to heel.”

On the video of the encounter, recorded by a friend of Williams who accompanied her to the event (After all, in this age, an action without a video is like a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear it), an exchange follows:

Williams: “We want you to apologize for mass incarceration.”

Clinton: “O.K., we’ll talk about…

Williams: “I’m not a super predator, Hillary Clinton.”

Clinton, obviously caught off guard, struggles to find an appropriate response as Williams continues to pressure her and the crowd begins to grumble, “That’s inappropriate,” and the Secret Service closes in on Williams.

Then Clinton says something about answering for her statement and mass incarceration in general that left me flabbergasted:

“You know what, nobody’s ever asked me before. You’re the first person to ask me, and I’m happy to address it, but you are the first person to ask me, dear.”

Could this be true? How was this possible? How is it that of all the black audiences she has been before in the interceding two decades, and all the black relationships she has cultivated, no one person ever asked her what this young graduate student was asking?

In that movement, I knew that the people of my generation had failed the people of Williams’s. Her whole life has borne the bruises of what was done, largely by Democrats, when I was the age she is now.

She said she has grown up knowing families and whole communities devastated by vanishing black people, swept away into a criminal justice system that pathologized their very personage. That night, Williams forced a reckoning.

For it, Williams has been viciously, and I believe, unfairly attacked as a political operative on a hit mission, all of which she denied to me in detail during our phone interview on Saturday. She also said that Sanders was wrong for actually voting for the bill.

Perhaps most stinging was Bill Maher, who used an expletive to call protesters like Williams “idiots,” and said: “People need to learn the difference between an imperfect friend and a deadly enemy. You want to tear Hillary Clinton down? Great. Then enjoy President Trump.”

But this is a false choice, one too often posed to young activists who insist on holding power accountable. It’s the same argument they hear from the police: Allow us to operate in your communities with impunity and abandon or the criminals will do so to even more devastating effect. Following this line of reasoning, silent absorption of pain and suffering is the only option. I wholly reject that.

After the encounter, Clinton said in a statement published by The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart: “Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today.”

The statement isn’t really an apology for championing the bill itself, and as such, I find it wanting. But at least Williams’s action provoked a response that many of us who came before her failed to demand.

For that, Ashley Williams, and activists like her, should be celebrated for shaming silence.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

Europe, the soil on which Fascism took root, is watching the rise of Donald Trump with dismay. Contempt for the excesses of America is a European reflex, but when the United States seems tempted by a latter-day Mussolini, smugness in London, Paris and Berlin gives way to alarm. Europe knows that democracies can collapse.

It’s not just that Trump re-tweets to his six million followers a quote attributed to Mussolini: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” It’s not just that Trump refuses to condemn David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who has expressed support for him. It’s not just that violence is woven into Trump’s language as indelibly as the snarl woven into his features — the talk of shooting somebody or punching a protester in the face, the insulting of the disabled, the macho mockery of women, the anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican tirades. It’s not just that he could become Silvio Berlusconi with nukes.

It’s the echoes, now unmistakable, of times when the skies darkened. Europe knows how democracies collapse, after lost wars, in times of fear and anger and economic hardship, when the pouting demagogue appears with his pageantry and promises. America’s Weimar-lite democratic dysfunction is plain to see. A corrupted polity tends toward collapse.

Trump is telling people something is rotten in the state of America. The message resonates because the rot is there.

He has emerged from a political system corrupted by money, locked in an echo chamber of insults, reduced to the show business of an endless campaign, blocked by a kind of partisanship run amok that leads Republican members of Congress to declare they will not meet with President Obama’s eventual nominee for the Supreme Court, let alone listen to him or her. This is an outrage! The public interest has become less than an afterthought.

Enter the smart, savvy, scowling showman. He is self-financed and promises restored greatness. He has a bully’s instinct for the jugular and a sense of how sick an angry America is of politics as usual and political correctness. He hijacks a Republican Party that has paved the way for him with years of ranting, bigotry, bellicosity and what Robert Kagan, in the Washington Post, has rightly called “racially tinged derangement syndrome” with respect to President Obama.

Trump is a man repeatedly underestimated by the very elites who made Trumpism possible. He’s smarter than most of his belittlers, and quicker on his feet, which only makes him more dangerous.

He’s the anti-Obama, all theater where the president is all prudence, the mouth-that-spews to the presidential teleprompter, rage against reason, the back-slapper against the maestro of aloofness, the rabble-rouser to the cerebral law professor, the dealmaker to the diligent observer. If Obama in another life could have been a successful European social democrat, Trump is only and absolutely of America.

Part of the Trump danger is that he’s captured an American irredentism, a desire to reclaim something — power, confidence, rising incomes — that many people feel is lost. Trump is a late harvest of 9/11 and the fears that took hold that day. He’s the focus of vague hopes and dim resentments that have turned him into a savior-in-waiting. As with Ronald Reagan, it’s not the specifics with Trump, it’s a feeling, a vibration — and no matter how much he dissembles, reveals himself as a thug, traffics in contradictions, the raptness persists.

Europe is transfixed. The German newsweekly “Der Spiegel” has called Trump “the world’s most dangerous man” and even waxed nostalgic for President George W. Bush, which for a European publication is like suddenly discovering a soft spot for Dracula.

The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has tweeted that Trump “fuels hatred.” In Britain Prime Minister David Cameron has attacked Trump’s proposed ban on non-American Muslims entering the United States, and more than half-a-million people have signed a petition urging that he be kept out of Britain. This weekend Britain’s Sunday Times ran a page-size photo of Trump in Lord Kitchener pose with a blaring headline: “America wants me.”

So do a few Europeans, among them the French rightist Jean-Marie Le Pen. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is a fan, as are some Russian oligarchs. Judge a man by the company he keeps.

This disoriented America just might want Trump — and that possibility should be taken very seriously, before it is too late, by every believer in American government of the people, by the people, for the people. The power of the Oval Office and the temperament of a bully make for an explosive combination, especially when he has shown contempt for the press, a taste for violence, a consistent inhumanity, a devouring ego and an above-the-law swagger.

As Europe knows, democracies do die. Often, they are the midwives of their own demise. Once lost, the cost of recovery is high.

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

We now have a pretty good idea who will be on the ballot in November: Hillary Clinton, almost surely (after the South Carolina blowout, prediction markets give her a 96 percent probability of securing her party’s nomination), and Donald Trump, with high likelihood (currently 80 percent probability on the markets). But even if there’s a stunning upset in what’s left of the primaries, we already know very well what will be at stake — namely, the fate of the planet.

Why do I say this?

Obviously, the partisan divide on environmental policy has been growing ever wider. Just eight years ago the G.O.P. nominated John McCain, whose platform included a call for a “cap and trade” system — that is, a system that restricts emissions, but allows pollution permits to be bought and sold — to limit greenhouse gases. Since then, however, denial of climate science and opposition to anything that might avert catastrophe have become essential pillars of Republican identity. So the choice in 2016 is starker than ever before.

Yet that partisan divide would not, in itself, be enough to make this a truly crucial year. After all, electing a pro-environment president wouldn’t make much difference if he or (much more likely) she weren’t in a position to steer us away from the precipice. And the truth is that given Republican retrogression and the G.O.P.’s near-lock on the House of Representatives, even a blowout Democratic victory this year probably wouldn’t create a political environment in which anything like Mr. McCain’s 2008 proposal could pass Congress.

But here’s the thing: the next president won’t need to pass comprehensive legislation, or indeed any legislation, to take a big step toward saving the planet. Dramatic progress in energy technology has put us in a position where executive action — action that relies on existing law — can achieve great things. All we need is an executive willing to take that action, and a Supreme Court that won’t stand in its way.

And this year’s election will determine whether those conditions hold.

Many people, including some who should know better, still seem oddly oblivious to the ongoing revolution in renewable energy. Recently Bill Gates declared, as he has a number of times over the past few years, that we need an “energy miracle” — some kind of amazing technological breakthrough — to contain climate change. But we’ve already had that miracle: the cost of electricity generated by wind and sun has dropped dramatically, while costs of storage, crucial to making renewables fully competitive with conventional energy, are plunging as we speak.

The result is that we’re only a few years from a world in which carbon-neutral sources of energy could replace much of our consumption of fossil fuels at quite modest cost. True, Republicans still robotically repeat that any attempt to limit emissions would “destroy the economy.” But at this point such assertions are absurd. As both a technical matter and an economic one, drastic reductions in emissions would, in fact, be quite easy to achieve. All it would take to push us across the line would be moderately pro-environment policies.

As a card-carrying economist, I am obliged to say that it would be best if these policies took the form of a comprehensive system like cap and trade or carbon taxes, which would provide incentives to reduce emissions all across the economy. But something like the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would use flexible regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on major emitters, should be enough to get us a long way toward the goal.

And as I said, no new legislation would be needed, just a president willing to act and a Supreme Court that won’t stand in that president’s way, sacrificing the planet in the name of conservative ideology. What’s more, the Paris agreement from last year means that if the U.S. moves forward on climate action, much of the world will follow our lead.

I don’t know about you, but this situation makes me very nervous. As long as the prospect of effective action on climate seemed remote, sheer despair kept me, and I’m sure many others, comfortably numb — you knew nothing was going to happen, so you just soldiered on. Now, however, salvation is clearly within our grasp, but it remains all too possible that we’ll manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And this is by far the most important issue there is; it, er, trumps even such things as health care, financial reform, and inequality.

So I’m going to be hanging on by my fingernails all through this election. No doubt there will be plenty of entertainment along the way, given the freak show taking place on one side of the aisle. But I won’t forget that the stakes this time around are deadly serious. And neither should you.

Bruni, Cohen and Krugman

February 22, 2016

Mr. Bruni has a question:  “Is There Any Stopping Donald Trump?”  He says there was thought—and hope—that he’d fade. Think again.  In “Smartphone Era Politics” Mr. Cohen says people are outpaced by forces they can’t grasp, and that in political discourse, reasonableness dies, provocation works.  Prof. Krugman considers the “Cranks on Top” and says the illusions of the G.O.P. elite may be no better than those of the leading candidate.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

Over the last few months and even weeks, the question among many flabbergasted Republican traditionalists and incredulous political analysts was when the forces of gravity would catch up with Donald Trump and send him tumbling to earth.

It was going to happen. Of course it was going to happen. You just had to be patient. You just had to be strong.

But in the wake of his victories in New Hampshire and now South Carolina, the question is no longer “when.” It’s “if.” And the answer isn’t clear at all.

Consider this: From 1980 forward, no Republican presidential candidate has won both the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries and gone on to lose the party’s nomination.

And this: Over that same time period, only one Republican victor in South Carolina failed to become the nominee, and that was Newt Gingrich, in 2012. But Gingrich didn’t have Trump’s durable (and sizeable) lead in national polls. He didn’t dominate the race’s narrative and capture an exasperated electorate’s mood the way Trump has.

As it happens, Gingrich was on Fox News on Saturday night to discuss Trump’s latest triumph, and he didn’t say: “South Carolina? It’s a muggy, marshy, inconsequential tease. I bagged it four years ago and all it got me was this gig babbling in the wee hours about election returns.”

No, Gingrich marveled at what he made clear was “a huge night for Donald Trump.”

“Nobody should kid themselves,” he added.

Trump didn’t just win South Carolina, and he didn’t just win it by a margin of 10 points. He won it despite what looked, over recent days, like a concerted effort to lose it. He won it after what appeared to be one of the worst weeks that a candidate could have.

It began at the most recent debate, where he trashed the last Republican president, George W. Bush, and accused him of lying to the American people as he led them into war in Iraq. He sounded like a liberal Democrat. Republican primary voters, especially those in the South, aren’t typically receptive to that.

Over the next days, Trump sounded even more like a liberal Democrat, at least as described by Ted Cruz, who went after him relentlessly, armed with Trump’s own past statements in support of abortion rights and Planned Parenthood.

The week got messier from there. Trump picked a fight with the Pope. Trump picked a fight with Apple. It became evident that no personage or brand, no matter how beloved, was safe from his wrath. You had to wonder what or whom he’d go after next. Kittens? Betty Crocker? Betty White?

Then Trump spoke up for a key aspect of Obamacare before realizing what he’d done and assuring everyone that he deplored every aspect of Obamacare, which paled in comparison with Trumpcare, whatever that might turn out to be.

This prompted extensive commentary on Trump’s inconsistencies and a fresh round of murmuring about an imminent tumble.

But what we incredulous political analysts keep failing to take into account—what I was reminded of when I went to a Trump rally last week and listened hard to his supporters—is that the people voting for him aren’t evaluating him through any usual ideological lens. They’re not asking what kind of Republican he is. They’re not troubling themselves with whether the position he’s selling today matches the position he was selling yesterday or even what that old position was.

They want to try something utterly different—utterly disruptive, to use the locution du jour—and that leaves them, on the Republican side, with the options of Trump and Ben Carson. Trump has the fire.

One woman told me that she loves the idea of a billionaire who is funding his own candidacy and won’t be beholden to contributors and special interests. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? Couldn’t that be transformative? Why not give it a shot?

She’d also been to a Marco Rubio rally and was impressed: what a nice young man. But she’s not in the market for nice and young, not this time around.

Another woman told me that she craves a president who is fearless, reallyfearless, and that of all the candidates in the race, Trump seems the least bowed, the least cowed. She trusts him to fight. All he does is fight. And a fight is what’s in order.

A man who served in the Air Force and now works as a trucker told me that over several decades, through several presidents, the Veterans Administration has remained dysfunctional and his wages haven’t gone up. If he keeps voting the same way, for the same run-of-the-mill politicians, shouldn’t he expect more of the same? Trump isn’t the same.

Gingrich analyzed his appeal perfectly during that Fox News appearance. “It’s a very simple rule,” he said. “If you think Washington is so sick you want someone to kick over the kitchen table, then you like Donald Trump and you frankly don’t care about the details.”

In an exit poll of voters who participated in the Republican primary on Saturday, there was a near even split between those who said that the best preparation for the presidency was political experience and those who put more faith in someone from outside the political establishment. Rubio performed best with the former group, getting 38 percent of their votes. But Trump performed best with the latter group—and got 63 percent of theirs.

Going forward, Rubio is probably the bigger threat to Trump than Cruz, who won only 26 percent of South Carolina voters who identified themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians despite having campaigned as narrowly and fiercely as possible for their favor. More of them chose Trump, who got 34 percent of the evangelical vote, and plenty of them chose Rubio, who got 21 percent.

That potentially spells trouble for Cruz in the Southern states on Super Tuesday that he’d hoped to dominate. Rubio, meanwhile, is better positioned than Cruz to pick up former supporters of Jeb Bush, who ended his candidacy Saturday night, and to compete well in states outside the South.

And in the days and weeks to come, Rubio will get even more help and money than he has so far from Republican bigwigs who are desperate to see someone less truculent and divisive than Trump or Cruz burst into the lead. His South Carolina showing redeemed his New Hampshire embarrassment and renewed their faith.

But Rubio hasn’t notched a single victory yet. Trump has notched two, and whether they fully lived up to the advance polling is irrelevant. They’re victories, plural. They’re no fluke, no fad.

Naysayers can’t claim that he’s just a bad gaffe or an ugly revelation away from doom. There have already been gaffes aplenty—if you can call them gaffes. There have been revelations galore.

All Trump’s fans see is someone barreling forward without apology and with a largeness that makes them feel a little less small. They see a winner. And it’s no longer an illusion.

They’re morons.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

The time has come for a painful confession: I have spent my life with words, yet I am illiterate. I can ape the vocabulary of my times but it is not mine. Certain things I cannot say, only mouth.

I grew up with readers and, by extension, readership. The readers have vanished like migrating birds. They have been replaced by users and by viewers and by audience. The verbal experience has given way to the visual experience. Where pages were turned images are clicked. Words, those obdurate jewels, have been processed to form content, a commodity like any other. The letter has given way to the link.

I do not have the words to be at ease in this world of steep migration from desktop to mobile, of search-engine optimization, of device-agnostic bundles, of cascading metrics and dashboards and buckets, of post-print onboarding and social-media FOMO (fear of missing out).

I was more at home with the yarn du jour.

Jour was once an apt first syllable for the word journalism; hour would now be more appropriate. The yarn of the day, culled from the local press, was the foreign correspondent’s bread and butter. “Yesterday’s news, today’s story!”

That was in the time of distance. Disconnection equaled immersion. Today, connection equals distraction.

I read therefore I am. I am “liked” therefore I am. I am of the place I am in. I am of the device I inhabit. Talk to me. Facebook me. These are distinct ways of being. They lead to distinct ways of communicating.

We find ourselves at a pivot point. How we exist in relation to one another is in the midst of radical redefinition, from working to flirting. The smartphone is a Faustian device, at once liberation and enslavement. It frees us to be anywhere and everywhere — and most of all nowhere. It widens horizons. It makes those horizons invisible. Upright homo sapiens, millions of years in the making, has yielded in a decade to the stooped homo sapiens of downward device-dazzled gaze.

A smartphone is no longer enough. We must have a smart car and a smart home. Or so we are told. A low-I.Q. home feels good enough to me.

Perhaps this is how the calligrapher felt after 1440, when it began to be clear what Gutenberg had wrought. A world is gone. Another, as poor Jeb Bush (!) has discovered, is being born — one where words mean everything and the contrary of everything, where sentences have lost their weight, where volume drowns truth.

You have to respect American voters. They are changing the lexicon in their anger with the status quo. They don’t care about consistency. They care about energy. Reasonableness dies. Provocation works. Whether you are for or against something, or both at the same time, is secondary to the rise your position gets. Our times are unpunctuated. Politics, too, has a new language, spoken above all by the Republican front-runner as he repeats that, “There is something going on.”

Yes, there is something going on. The phrase resonates with people who feel they have somehow lost control. Stuck, they seek movement above all.

I am not alone in my illiteracy. All around me I see people struggling to understand, anxious they cannot keep up, outpaced by forces they cannot grasp. With knowledge of, and access to, the billions of people sharing the planet has come a new loneliness. How cold and callous is the little screen of our insidious temptation, working our fingers so hard to produce so little!

That acronym, FOMO, is used by Nir Eyal, a former game designer, in his book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.” In it he describes the fear-of-missing-out mood that triggers people to turn and return to a successful app: “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation.”

I nodded my head at this in Jacob Weisberg’s review in The New York Review of Books. In the same review, Weisberg writes, “Once out of bed, we check our phones 221 times a day — an average of every 4.3 minutes — according to a U.K. study.” He also notes that one thing young people don’t do on their smartphones “is actually speak to one another.”

This appears to be some form of addictive delirium. It is probably dangerous in some still unknowable way.

But if this is a confession, it is not a lament. Yes, I feel illiterate. Technology has upended not only newspapers. It has upended language itself, which is none other than a community’s system of communication. What is a community today? Can there be community at all with downward gazes? I am not sure. But I am certain that cross-platform content has its beauty and its promise if only I could learn the right words to describe them.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

If prediction markets (and most hardheaded analysis) are to be believed, Hillary Clinton, having demonstrated her staying power, is the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination. The Republican race, by contrast, has seen a lot of consolidation — it’s pretty much down to a two-man race — but the outcome is still up for grabs.

The thing is, one of the two men who may still have a good chance of becoming the Republican nominee is a scary character. His notions on foreign policy seem to boil down to the belief that America can bully everyone into doing its bidding, and that engaging in diplomacy is a sign of weakness. His ideas on domestic policy are deeply ignorant and irresponsible, and would be disastrous if put into effect.

The other man, of course, has very peculiar hair.

Marco Rubio has yet to win anything, but by losing less badly than other non-Trump candidates he has become the overwhelming choice of the Republican establishment. Does this give him a real chance of overtaking the man who probably just won all of South Carolina’s delegates? I have no idea.

But what I do know is that one shouldn’t treat establishment support as an indication that Mr. Rubio is moderate and sensible. On the contrary, not long ago someone holding his policy views would have been considered a fringe crank.

Let me leave aside Mr. Rubio’s terrifying statements on foreign policy and his evident willingness to make a bonfire of civil liberties, and focus on what I know best, economics.

You probably know that Mr. Rubio is proposing big tax cuts, and may know that among other things he proposes completely eliminating taxes oninvestment income — which would mean, for example, that Mitt Romney would end up owing precisely zero in federal taxes.

What you may not know is that Mr. Rubio’s tax cuts would be almost twice as big as George W. Bush’s as a percentage of gross domestic product — despite the fact that federal debt is much higher than it was 15 years ago, and Republicans have spent the Obama years warning incessantly that budget deficits will destroy America, any day now.

But not to worry: Mr. Rubio insists that his tax cuts would pay for themselves, by unleashing incredible economic growth. Never mind the complete absence of any evidence for this claim — in fact, the last two Democratic presidents, both of whom raised taxes on the rich, both presided over better private-sector job growth than Mr. Bush did (and that’s even if you leave out the catastrophe of Mr. Bush’s last year in office).

Then there’s Mr. Rubio’s call for a balanced-budget amendment, which, aside from making no sense at the same time he is calling for budget-busting tax cuts, would have been catastrophic during the Great Recession.

Finally, there’s monetary policy. Republicans have spent years inveighing against the Fed’s efforts to stave off economic disaster, warning again and again that runaway inflation is just around the corner — and being wrong all the way. But Mr. Rubio hasn’t changed his monetary tune at all, declaring a few days ago that it’s “not the Fed’s job to stimulate the economy” (although the law says that it is).

In short, Mr. Rubio is peddling crank economics. What’s interesting, however, is why. You see, he’s not pandering to ignorant voters; he’s pandering to an ignorant elite.

Donald Trump’s rise has confirmed something polling data already suggested, namely, that most Republican voters don’t actually subscribe to much of the party’s official orthodoxy. Mr. Trump has said the unsayable on multiple issues, from declaring that we were deceived into war to calling for higher taxes on the wealthy (although his own plan does no such thing). Each time, party insiders have waited to see his campaign collapse as a result, and each time he has ended up paying no political price.

So when Mr. Rubio genuflects at the altars of supply-side economics and hard money, he isn’t telling ordinary Republicans what they want to hear — by and large the party’s base couldn’t care less. He is, instead, pandering to the party’s elite, consisting mainly of big donors and the network of apparatchiks at think tanks, media organizations, and so on.

In the G.O.P., crank doctrines in economics and elsewhere aren’t bubbling up from below, they’re being imposed from the top down.

What this means, in turn, is that Mr. Rubio’s consolidation of establishment support isn’t a testament to his good sense. In fact, it’s almost the opposite, a reward for his willingness to echo party orthodoxy even, or perhaps especially, when it’s nonsense.

So don’t let anyone tell you that the Republican primary is a fight between a crazy guy and someone reasonable. It’s idiosyncratic, self-invented crankery versus establishment-approved crankery, and it’s not at all clear which is worse.

Blow, Cohen and Collins

February 18, 2016

In “Politics:  All in My Family” Mr. Blow tells how a father tries to better understand the political awakening and sensibilities of his children.  Mr. Cohen, in “Syria’s White Rose,” moans that the West has capitulated, and Syria is a land of the dead and the dying, in need of heroes to redeem humanity.  In the comments “Burroughs” from the Western Lands had this to say:  “Cohen is a sentimental man and his argument here is little more than a clutter of literary citations (Brecht, Milosz), humanistic platitudes (all of mankind is involved), wishful fantasies (we need a hero!), an evocation of heroic resistance to the Nazis (White Rose), German etymology, and an attempt to generate guilt (all while we “slumber”). All this inspiring stuff comes down to this: Cohen wants to send Americans to kill people and be killed–and for what? At best, another bartered peace with a cobbled government ready to fall apart again. It’s not worth a single American life.”  Ms. Collins gives us “Republicans See How Long They Can Hold Their Breath” and says if the president makes a Supreme Court nomination, they’ll cover their eyes and become invisible.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

One of the more interesting features of the Democratic primary process is the generational divide among support for candidates — older Democratic voters generally prefer Hillary Clinton, and younger ones overwhelmingly prefer Bernie Sanders.

Being, um, older myself, I have some historical and experiential basis for understanding and analyzing that portion of the electorate. But as with most older folks, understanding what motivates younger people can be a mystery. This seems like some sort of evolutionary artifact of aging: obtuseness to youth.

Therefore, writing as an older person about what younger people are doing and feeling is rife with the possibility of “back in my day,” “those crazy kids,” “get off my lawn” tone deafness. So much so that wise writers often steer clear of the topic.

But this, I hope, is not that. This is a father trying to better understand the political awakening and sensibilities of his own children, and trying to understand what informs their leanings.

I have a 22-year-old son who voted in the 2012 presidential election and 18-year-old girl/boy twins for whom this will be their first chance to vote. (I don’t ask them whom they voted for or will vote for. We talk broadly about issues and candidates.)

First, they are unimpressed by the Republican candidates for president, and are even afraid of some. That means that our discussions can be narrowly focused on the Democratic race.

They like Bernie Sanders and don’t fully trust Hillary Clinton, though they don’t believe Sanders is electable and would therefore “settle for” Clinton in that case, as my youngest son put it.

They view Sanders as the more “authentic” (that word kept coming up) and consistent of the two, and the one with whom they have the most ideological agreement, even though they generally believed that his positions would most likely be impossible to implement.

My children went to high school in the city that gave birth to Occupy Wall Street, and as such we had many an evening discussion about income inequality at the dinner table. In a way, Bernie Sanders is the first Occupy Wall Street presidential candidate. There is little daylight between their positions.

All of my children, including my sons, describe themselves as feminists. Indeed, I once wrote about my oldest son’s firm belief that “it’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”

And yet, none of them, including my daughter, was moved by the fact that, if elected, Clinton would be this country’s first female president.

The particular phenomenon of young women expressing no fealty for Clinton on the basis of gender is a head scratcher for many older Americans, particularly pioneering feminists, who have been part of the struggle to bring women’s rights as far as they’ve come.

Kate Cronin-Furman and Mira Rapp-Hooper point out in an article on Vox that this is understandable for young women who exist in educational environments where they regularly equal or even outperform young men.

But they caution that these young women, upon entering the work force, are likely to encounter what they call “late-breaking sexism,” defined as “the sudden realization that you don’t have the same opportunities as a man, that you will struggle to have both a family and a career, that your participation in the public sphere will always be caveated by your gender.”

My children were 7 and 4 on 9/11. That day, after working late into the night trying to make sense of the trauma and the tragedy, I finally made it home. They were asleep, but I woke them. I told them what they already knew, that some bad men had done a bad thing, but I reassured them that they were safe and would remain so.

From that year to this one, America has been at war. Indeed, if you are under 30, this country has been at war for half or more of your life. Therefore, the most noninterventionist, least hawkish candidates probably hold more appeal than the others, even with the current threat of the Islamic State.

My children can’t remember a time when terrorism wasn’t a threat. They have lived most of their lives with the ambient possibility of calamity. In the same way that I grew up with — and am numb to — the possibility of global thermonuclear war, so they are with the threat of terror.

The one area where they struggled with both candidates was on the issue of racial and social justice.

The 1990s, when they were born, saw the incredible rise of multiculturalism and political correctness as a concept. But those concepts didn’t strike at the root of systemic racism and the white supremacy that begot it, but rather provided more palatable ways to address difference. Nowhere was this more evident than in pop culture. For instance, hip-hop crossed over, and most of the Disney princesses introduced that decade were not white: Jasmine was Middle Eastern, Pocahontas was Native American and Mulan was Chinese. (As a dad with a daughter, I got my fill of Disney princesses.)

But there has been an abrupt racial awaking for my children and a historical reclamation of memory as they have begun to wrestle with the persistence and perniciousness of racism and have come to identify with the goals of Black Lives Matter.

They see the new proposals by both candidates as pandering to black votes, although they each mentioned that Sanders had been active in the civil rights movement. My eldest son said that he was disappointed about Clinton’s involvement with the 1994 crime bill and mass incarceration. He was born in 1994.

I must say that I have no memory of the bill’s passage. I was a young man with a young family who had just moved from the Deep South to Detroit.

It is possible that the bill’s passage isn’t marked by a memory for me because so many liberals were behind the bill: Joe Biden took credit for it, Bernie Sanders voted for it, Bill Clinton signed it and Hillary Clinton lobbied for it. Furthermore, many members of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for it. Indeed, the bill got more Democratic votes than Republican ones.

I do, however, remember the Whitewater investigation from 1994, one of the first Clinton administration scandals, the one that also spawned Travelgate and Filegate. The Clintons were never prosecuted in any of those investigations, but they emerged scarred.

Hillary Clinton often brags about surviving unending political attacks, but others see too much smoke for there to be no fire. The continued investigations added to my children’s mistrust of her. Maybe that’s what Republicans want; maybe some of their leeriness is warranted; maybe there is some place between smear campaign and smoking gun where reasonable people can be reasonably apprehensive.

Whatever the case, she seems to me weakened by the decades of questions, which may have even more of a deleterious effect on young people’s willingness to trust her.

This is hardly a broad survey, and shouldn’t be taken as such. No sweeping conclusions can be drawn from this column, nor are they meant to be. This is simply a view into one family’s conversations about politics, and how one father came away with a deeper respect for the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of his children.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

At the end of Bertolt Brecht’s “Life of Galileo,” there is a sharp exchange. Andrea Sarti, a student of the astronomer, says, “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero.” To which Galileo shoots back: “No, Andrea. Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”

Michael Wolffsohn, a German historian, mentioned Galileo’s line the other evening with reference to Syria, an unhappy land of the dead and dying in need of heroes to redeem humanity. The hopelessness of resistance does not diminish its redemptive power in terrorized societies; in fact hopelessness may even be one of the defining characteristics of heroic resistance.

Abdalaziz Alhamza, the young man sitting beside Wolffsohn at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, prompted the historian’s reflections. “We don’t have the necessity today to resist in Germanybecause this is a free country,” Wolffsohn said. “Resistance is the readiness to incur lethal personal risk.”

That is what Alhamza has done. He is from Raqqa, the stronghold of the Islamic State, a town now synonymous with beheadings, immolation, enslavement of women and every form of barbarism. Alhamza, who is 24, left Syria two years ago and in April 2014 founded a resistance organization called “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” (RBSS). ISIS has killed four of its members.

I was in the southern Turkish town of Sanliurfa in November to write about one of those murders. On Oct. 30, 2015, ISIS beheaded Ibrahim Abdel Qader, age 22. Qader had been working to publicize and document ISIS atrocities in Raqqa through online video and other reportage.

“We won’t stop,” Alhmaza said. “We have too many friends and family dead. The only way we will stop is if ISIS kills us all or we go back home.”

RBSS will not stop its efforts to spread word of the crimes of ISIS. To record is to resist evil; to forget is to permit its spread. As Czeslaw Milosz wrote, “The poet remembers. You can kill one, but another is born.”

Wolffsohn drew a parallel between Alhamza’s resistance and that of the White Rose group to the Third Reich. Formed in 1942 by Munich University students and their professor, the White Rose members, in the face of certain death, distributed leaflets denouncing Nazism. The first read:

“Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes — crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure — reach the light of day.”

The “dimensions of shame” awaiting the perpetrators and bystanders to the crimes of the Syrian war are as yet unknown, but they will be ample. German has a better word than bystander for those — always the majority — who make their accommodations with evil. That word is “mitläufer” — roughly “fellow traveler.”

There has been a lot of discussion of the origins of ISIS, of the complexity of defeating it, of its digital slickness, but little of its pure evil — its desecration of human life and its exaltation of death (even delivered by children).

To dwell on the group’s iniquity — its contempt for humanity — would be to suggest the necessity of its immediate extirpation; and no Western government wants to deploy soldiers to do that. That is a moral capitulation, whatever else it may be.

Of course, ISIS is far from the Third Reich, as Wolffsohn conceded, even if its “absence of consideration for human life” is identical. But the parallels between the White Rose and RBSS are strong. As the historian told me: “The White Rose knew from the very beginning that they would lose but that their loss was necessary to show that humanity and human dignity cannot be wiped out completely. It’s the same with the Raqqa group.”

White Rose distributed leaflets, six before its members were executed. The work of RBSS, some of whose members are still in Raqqa, is the digital leaflet. On the existence of that work our humanity hinges.

Alhamza, like most RBSS members in exile, now lives in Germany, having moved on from Turkey where the ISIS threat was too great. His younger brother drowned trying to escape Syria. Countless family and friends are dead. One friend, a doctor, joined ISIS; he needed money. Terror bends most people’s will — but not all.

“It’s been more than two years,” Alhamza told me. “Western powers have held a lot of meetings, made speeches and done nothing, although the Syrian regime crossed every red line. The regime created ISIS. We do not believe the West will help.”

The second White Rose leaflet spoke of how hundreds of thousands of Jews had been killed by the Nazis in Poland while “the German people slumber on in dull, stupid sleep and encourage the Fascist criminals.”

The United States and its allies slumber on. The loss and the risk are all of humanity’s.

Then send your son to go fight…  Here’s Ms. Collins:

Maybe we’d better refrain from having any new opinions until after the election.

Follow the leader. Mitch McConnell says the Senate shouldn’t do anything about the Supreme Court’s vacancy as long as Barack Obama is president. Not even go through the motions of pretending to think about it. We’ve hit a whole new level in the politics of obstruction.

Why stop there? For the next 11 months it’s probably better if we let everything go except for the purchase of food staples.

Don’t even bother to fake it. Virtually every Republican with a job more elevated than zoning commissioner thinks the best thing to do with any Supreme Court nomination is to act as if it isn’t there, like a wad of gum on the sidewalk.

“Delay, delay, delay!” cried Donald Trump at the last debate. Some listeners might have presumed he was calling for the return of the former House majority leader who resigned during a campaign finance scandal and later rehabilitated himself by doing the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars.” Exactly the kind of guy Donald Trump would like. But in this case he was talking about stonewalling any Supreme Court nomination.

“If I were president … I guess I’d put in a name,” Trump admitted in a phone call to Stephen Colbert. This is extremely mild language for the leading Republican presidential candidate. Normally you’d expect Trump to say something like: “If I were president I’d nominate somebody who would scare the hell out of them. Putin! I’d nominate Putin. And then they’d be so nervous that they’d let me have anybody I wanted, which of course would be Sarah Palin.”

People, do you remember what Mitch McConnell used to say when he was the powerless Senate minority leader? Of course you don’t. There’s just so much stuff that fits into a human brain and no reason whatsoever that McConnell should be taking up space.

He used to say that when Republicans got control, democracy and venerable tradition would rule. No more of those sneaky tricks that his predecessor Harry Reid used to keep the other side’s ideas from coming up for a vote: “The answer is to let folks debate, to let the Senate work its will.” He had a vision of a deliberative body that argued so long and hard that eventually all the Democrats would collapse from exhaustion and he, Majority Leader Mitch, would walk over their prostrate bodies to principled victory.

That was the good old days. We remember them with nostalgia, like the golden era when members of both parties drank in the same bars. Now apparently the Senate can’t even be trusted to hold a committee hearing.

“We’re not moving forward on it, period,” said Senator Marco Rubio. He used to be regarded as the most rational person in the Republican presidential field. That was just because we hadn’t had time to get acquainted yet.

If you want to understand why the Republicans are broadcasting their commitment to obstructionism, it’s useful to take a look at Rubio’s campaign. Given the tenor of our times, it’s natural that all the candidates would depict Barack Obama as the worst thing that’s happened to America since … oh, I don’t know. Pearl Harbor? The Panic of 1837? But Rubio also insists that the president has been ruining the country on purpose: “All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate.”

This is a theory, much loved on talk radio, that involves an insidious presidential plot to make America just a run-of-the-mill country — smaller and weaker and burdened with universal health care. When things go wrong it isn’t because of ineptitude. It’s a careful Obama scenario aimed at bringing the country down. A man that sinister can’t be allowed to even put a nomination into play. God knows what would happen. Close your eyes and pretend he isn’t there.

Ben Carson made the same point in his traditional way — that is, in language that made no sense whatsoever: “It is imperative that the Senate not allow President Obama to diminish his legacy by trying to nominate an individual who would carry on his wishes to subvert the will of the people.”

Ted Cruz vowed to filibuster any attempt by the Senate to vote on a nominee. Because filibuster is, you know, what Ted Cruz does. Just put your hands over your ears and hum very loudly until you get your way.

And Jeb Bush … O.K., we don’t need to talk about Jeb Bush. This is the man who recently tweeted a picture of a handgun with his name engraved on it, over the title “America.” The only good thing you can say for his campaign is that he did not send out a video called “It’s Morning Again in America” that opens with footage of Vancouver. That was Marco Rubio.

Brooks and Cohen

February 16, 2016

Bobo continues to ooze flop sweat.  In “The Roosevelt Approach” he whines that you candidates running against Trump and Sanders, you need a new emotional tone, one appealing to comradeship, not anger.  Sometimes it takes someone from away to point out the obvious.  In the comments “Expat Annie” from Germany has this to say:  “No, Mr. Brooks, what has happened in America is not a “natural” disaster. Rather, it is a disaster purposefully brought about by 35 years of trickle-down economics and relentless tax-cutting that has benefited only those at the very top–while the rest of the country has been left with reduced services, underfunded schools, a crumbling infrastructure, unaffordable higher education, etc.  After supporting all of these Republican policies over the years, your attempt now to exhort the Republican candidates to “emphasize the warm bonds of neighbor helping neighbor” and to get to work on repairing the social fabric seems patently absurd. And given the way the Republicans have treated President Obama over the past 7 years, the complete disrespect they have shown him and, by extension,   the people who voted for him, where in the world do you get the idea that they would now be interested in restoring “the basic respect diverse Americans have for one another?””  Mr. Cohen has a question:  “Will Merkel Pay for Doing the Right Thing?”  He says the German chancellor needs to set limits on the number of refugees, but she also needs help from her Western allies.  Here’s Bobo:

Dear Hillary, Jeb, Marco and John,

You all find yourselves running against a whirlwind. Hillary, for you the whirlwind is Bernie Sanders. For the rest of you it’s Donald Trump.

Either way, you’re running against a candidate who generates passionate intensity. At some level those candidates’ followers must know that there’s something wildly impractical about the candidacy they are fervently supporting. Trump has no actual policies and Sanders has little chance of getting his passed.

And yet the supporters don’t care. Sanders and Trump make them feel known. Finally, somebody is saying what they feel. Finally, somebody is outraged by the things that outrage them. There’s a deep passion embedded in the Trump and Sanders phenomena, arousing energy, magical thinking and some suspension of disbelief.

And the rest of you are basically asking voters to snap out of it. All of you, but especially you, Hillary, are asking voters to calm down and be pragmatic: Consider electability! Vote for the one who can get laws passed!

And it’s not working. In debates Sanders is uninhibited by the constraints of reality, so his answers are always bolder. Trump speaks from the id, not from any policy paper, so his answers are always more vivid.

The brute fact is you can’t beat passion with pragmatism. The human heart is not built that way. You can’t beat angry passion with bloodless calculation. If you’re going to have any chance against these hotheads, you have to set a rival and stronger emotional tone. I’d ask you to think of the ancient ideal of comradeship.

Many Americans feel like they are the victims of a slow-moving natural disaster. Sanders and Trump try to put the blame for this disaster on discrete groups of people — Wall Street or immigrants. But in reality it’s a natural disaster caused by structural forces — globalization, technological change, the dissolution of the family, racism.

A great nation doesn’t divide in times of natural disaster. It doesn’t choose leaders who angrily tear it apart. Instead, it chooses leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, leaders who radiate sunny confidence, joy and neighborliness.

You may think of neighborliness as a sentimental, soft virtue. And I suppose in times of peace, prosperity and ease it is a sweet and tender thing.

But look at what happens to neighbors when one friend is threatened or when times are hard. Then neighborliness takes on a different hue. Friends become comrades in arms.

That is what F.D.R. and Ike were able to do with their leadership styles. With fireside chats and golf jokes, they were neighborly even in times of great difficulty and stress. But they were also able to set an emotional tone that brought people together and changed the nature of Americans’ relationships with one another.

During their presidencies, the bonds of solidarity grew stronger and the country more formidable. They were able to cultivate a deep sense of unity, responsibility and sacrifice. They didn’t call for sacrifice as something painful, but as what one did for one’s friends.

I’d love to see one of you counter the Trump and Sanders emotional tones with a bold shift in psychology. This would be a shift toward the cheerful resolve of an F.D.R. or an Eisenhower.

Let Trump and Sanders shout, harangue and lecture. You respond to difficulty with warmth, confidence and optimism.

Let them deliver long, repetitive and uninterrupted lectures. You converse, interact, chat and listen.

Let them stand angry and solitary. You run as part of a team, a band of brothers, with diverse advisers and buddies joining you onstage at event after event.

Let them assert that all our problems can be solved if other people sacrifice — the immigrants or the top 1 percent. You call for shared sacrifice. The rich can give more in taxes, but the rich, the middle class and the poor can all give more in civic engagement.

Let them emphasize the cold relations of business (Trump) or of the state (Sanders). You emphasize the warm bonds of neighbor helping neighbor. While they dwell in the land of impersonal bureaucracies, you point out that the primary task before us to repair the social fabric — the basic respect diverse Americans have for one another.

Let them preach pessimism. You emphasize a warm nationalism — a basic confidence that America is not going down in decline, that it is still the nation best positioned to dominate the 21st century, that confidence is a better guide than anger or fear.

Sanders and Trump have adopted emotional tones that are going to offend and exhaust people over time. Watching the G.O.P. South Carolina debate I got the impression that Trump’s exhaustion moment is at hand.

The candidate who has the audacity to change the emotional tone of this whole election will win the White House and have a shot at rebinding the civic fabric of this nation.

We won’t even address how he conflates Trump and Sanders…  Here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Berlin:

A former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, recently calledAngela Merkel’s decision to open the door to an unlimited number of refugees a “mistake” and offered this verdict: Merkel had a “heart, but no plan.”

This view of the German leader, who is beloved but now begrudged, is gaining ground as refugees from a ravaged Syria and elsewhere pour in. Local authorities are strained to the limit. Billions of euros have been spent with no end in sight. Many people came in whose identities are unknown; they have to register if they want handouts, but some have not and there are security concerns. Cologne has become a byword for concern over how a large influx of Muslim men will affect the place and security of women in German society.

Three important state elections loom next month. It seems inevitable the far-right Alternative for Germany Party will surge. Merkel will be blamed. Her support has already tumbled. One poll this month showed 46 percent of Germans support her, compared with 75 percent in April last year — and that’s with a strong economy. She could be vulnerable if her Christian Democratic Party turns on her. Europe without Merkel will sink.

So why did this customarily prudent chancellor do it? Because she is a German, and to be German is to carry a special responsibility for those terrorized in their homeland and forced into flight. Because she once lived in a country, East Germany, that shot people who tried to cross its border. Because a united Europe ushered Germany from its darkest hour to prosperity, and she is not about to let the European Union pitch into mayhem on her watch — as it would with more than a million ragged refugees adrift. And, yes, because she has a heart.

Merkel did the right thing. The question now is how she handles the consequences. Management involves setting limits. After taking in more than one million refugees last year, Germany cannot take in that number again in 2016. As Germany’s president, Joachim Gauck, said recently: “A limitation strategy may even be both morally and politically necessary in order to preserve the state’s ability to function.” He added, “If democrats refuse to talk about limits, they leave the field open to populists and xenophobes.”

But setting limits is not a just a German issue. It’s a Syrian issue. It’s a Turkish issue. It’s a Russian issue. It’s an American issue. It’s a European issue. Merkel needs Europe to have a functioning external border if it is to remain borderless within the 20-plus-nation Schengen zone. Otherwise national borders will go up. The European Union will unmake itself. “No European border, no Schengen!” Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Gauck’s chief adviser, told me.

Merkel’s domestic dilemma demands international answers.

She needs the Syrian war, the main source of the refugee outflow, to end, but the latest American-Russian plan for a cessation of hostilities almost looks more likely to unravel in the weeks ahead than hold. She needs Turkey, in exchange for billions of euros, to tighten its borders and stop the refugee exodus. But Turkey is playing an extortion game, and is not above a little schadenfreude at seeing the Europe that rejected it fray.

In Russia, she needs President Vladimir Putin’s cooperation, but his strategy is the undermining of a united Europe; a “weaponized” refugee flow achieves just that. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, declared in Munich this weekend that, “We are rapidly rolling into a period of a new cold war.” He asked: “Is this 2016 or 1962?” Around Aleppo, a world war in miniature unfolds.

Merkel needs the United States to exercise its power in a way President Obama has refused to do through the inexorable spread of the Syrian crisis. Unless the United States is prepared to establish a safe area in northern Syria and put pressure on Turkey to turn a chaotic refugee flow into an orderly process, the current untenable situation will persist. If America is unprepared to reverse Russian-Iranian gains in Syria, it must at least show commitment to managing the consequences. She needs European countries like Poland and Hungary — recipients of huge injections of cash from the European Union — to snap out of their ungrateful moods of nationalist xenophobia, but that’s not going to happen soon.

The European idea has not been this weak since the march to unity began in the 1950s. Germany is awash in so-called Putinversteher — broadly Putin sympathizers like Schröder — who admire him for his strong assertion of Russian national interests. Michael Naumann, a former minister of culture, told me: “The United States has left us, we are the orphaned kids in the playground, and there’s one tough guy, Putin. It’s really that simple.”

Germany is Europe’s core, its dominant power. If Merkel’s refugee gambit implodes, the reverberations will be felt everywhere. The country feels restive, placid on the surface, tense beneath. A woman told me of how a 15-year-old Syrian refugee was admitted to her daughter’s class. The girl’s cellphone rang, the ring tone was a muezzin’s call to prayer, and the teacher burst out: “So next you’ll have a suicide belt!” There was embarrassment all around, apologies and parental letters. “The situation’s out of control,” the woman said.

At the Berlin state office for health and social affairs, a sprawling maze of buildings, white tents have gone up. Long lines of refugees make their way through the various bureaucratic hurdles to identity cards. They huddle in the rain, their sneakers muddy, their jackets too flimsy for the cold.

Mustafa Dilaneh left Latakia, Syria’s main port, in August, and paid $6,000 for his passage to Germany. He has been granted German residency until Feb. 22; he hopes for a passport after that. He is learning German. He wants to return home, but first, he says, President Bashar al-Assad “must go or die.” Failing that, he has a dream of America. “I love New York so much,” he told me. “The city no sleep.”

A Facebook friend taught Dilaneh that phrase. This is the world’s first massive smartphone coordinated migration. Syrians don’t see the West as alien; they know it through countless images, brands and tunes. But for some Germans, these Middle Eastern refugees are an alien threat.

I went out to Nauen, a small dismal town near Berlin where unemployment is high. Signs brandished at rightist demonstrations last year said, “Nauen will stay white.” In August, a gymnasium that was to have housed refugees was burned down in an unsolved act of arson. The charred skeleton of the building with its blackened pillars and piles of rubble still stands. It cost about four million euros to build and will need at least that amount to replace.

A new emergency center for several hundred refugees is planned nearby, with a view of this stark symbol of hatred. To say Nauen is combustible would be an understatement. “There will more protests,” Volker Müller, who works to promote intercultural understanding, told me. “In some ways this feels like a bigger problem than German reunification.”

The scale of Germany’s challenge is evident at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, built to last by the Nazis, and used in 1948 and 1949 for the Berlin Airlift that, at its height, saw American C-47s landing every 90 seconds to bring the supplies essential for the preservation of freedom in part of the divided German capital. Now the vast 52-foot high hangars are being converted into shelters for thousands of refugees who sleep, 12 to each screened white rectangular bedroom unit, where aircraft were once housed. Already there are 2,600 or so refugees; there may eventually be 7,000. “It’s our duty to find a place for them,” Sascha Langenbach, a spokesman on Berlin social issues, told me. He predicted another 60,000 may come to the capital this year.

I spoke to a couple of young refugees from Aleppo, Mahmoud Sultan and Mulham (he preferred not to give his family name out of concern for his family’s safety). They complained about the food, about the noise, about the difficulty of studying German, about how weeks stretched into months at this “emergency” center.

They had not wanted to leave Aleppo. But, as Mulham put it: “You have this hope the war will end. For one year, two years, three years, you keep this hope. You think, I owe my country something and I will stay. Until in the fifth year you realize there are five wars! The rebels against Assad, ISIS against the Free Syrian Army, the Saudis against Iran, the Kurds against ISIS, and Russia against America! And you lose hope.”

The refugees did not leave because they had a choice. They left because they concluded they had none. Merkel, given her personal history and her nation’s, had little choice but to take them in.

Now she needs those five wars to abate, and Western allies to come together with something of the resolve that Tempelhof symbolizes, if she is to calm a strained Germany, hold Europe together, and survive. That will require leadership and determination of a kind she demonstrated but that is in short supply in the social-media echo chamber of our times.

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

February 8, 2016

In “Hillary Has ‘Half a Dream'” Mr. Blow says practicality and realistic goals are proving to be a handicap for Mrs. Clinton when it comes to young voters.  Mr. Cohen has produced a thing called “America’s Syrian Shame” in which he howls that Putin’s policy is hard to distinguish from Obama’s, and that America’s capitulation is complete, with appalling results.  In the comments “TDurk” from Rochester, NY had this to say:  “Really? President Obama’s Syrian policy has contributed to the slaughter in Paris and San Bernardino? That our president is not really interested in Europe?  When did Roger Cohen announce his candidacy for the republican presidential nomination? His non-logic and emotional assertions would fit in perfectly with that political circus.”  Prof. Krugman considers “The Time-Loop Party” and says Republican candidates keep repeating their canned policy statements, despite evidence that these prescriptions have failed in the real world.  Here’s Mr. Blow, writing from Durham, NH:

One of the most striking statistics to come of the Iowa caucus entry polling was the enormous skew of young voters away from Hillary Clinton and to Bernie Sanders. Only 14 percent of caucusgoers 17 to 29 supported Clinton, while 84 percent supported Sanders.

On Thursday, I traveled to the University of New Hampshire, site of a debate between Clinton and Sanders that night. Before the debate, I mingled on campus with people rallying for both candidates, with the Sanders rally many times larger than the Clinton one. The energy for Sanders at the school was electric.

For the actually debate, I went to a debate-watching party for Clinton supporters at the Three Chimneys Inn, just off campus. There were more heads of white hair in that room than a jar of cotton balls.

The two scenes so close to each other drove home the point for me: Hillary Clinton has a threatening young voter problem.

Young folks are facing a warming planet, exploding student debt, stunted mobility, stagnant wages and the increasing corporatization of the country due in part to the increasing consolidation of wealth and the impact of that wealth on American institutions.

Young folks are staring down a barrel and they want to put a flower in it, or conversely, smash it to bits. And they’re angry at those who came before them for doing too little, too late. They want a dramatic correction, and they want it now.

Sanders’s rhetoric plays well to young folks’ anxiety and offers a ray of hope. He wants to fix the system they see as broken, and he’s not new to those positions. He has held many of the same positions most of his life, but they have never had as much resonance as they do now. Never mind that Sanders has been in Congress for decades and doesn’t have the stronger record of accomplishments, as my colleague Nick Kristof put it last week.

Sanders is good at setting the goals, but not so good at getting there.

When people question Sanders on the feasibility of pushing his ambitious policies through an obstructionist, Republican-controlled Congress, he often responds with the broad and loose talk of a political revolution, like he put it in his closing remarks Thursday:

“I do believe we need a political revolution where millions of people stand up and say loudly and clearly that our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors.”

What he is saying is that a political revolution, meaning massive numbers of new voters and unprecedented voter turnout by people who support his policies, would result in flipping control of Congress and an easier path to his policies’ passage and implementation.

But if Iowa is any measure, that revolution has yet to materialize, and indeed, may never.

Iowa did see a record number of caucusgoers … for the Republican candidate. The number of Democratic caucusgoers fell significantly, and half of those went to Clinton.

As RealClearPolitics reported:

“The trend line is positive for Republicans (turnout up 54 percent from 2012) and negative for Democrats (turnout was down 22 percent from 2008).”

This doesn’t sound anything like the kind of numbers Sanders would need to push his agenda forward, and he knows that. If anything, it sounds like the budding of another Republican revolution. But these facts are ones that would never pass Sanders’s lips. They would puncture the balloon and end his ascendance.

Clinton, on the other hand, represents much of what they distrust or even despise. There is an aura of ethical ambiguity — from the emails to the Wall Street paid speeches to the super PACs. (There is growing pressure for her to release the transcripts of those speeches and have the content of them compared to her public pronouncement.) There is the legacy of her military hawkishness, including her Iraq war vote. There is the articulation of her positions that are at odds with young folks’ aspirations and sensibilities, like saying Thursday, “I don’t believe in free college,” and saying that she continues to support capital punishment.

But possibly the most damaging of Clinton’s attributes is, ironically, her practicality. As one person commented to me on social media: Clinton is running an I-Have-Half-A-Dream campaign. That simply doesn’t inspire young people brimming with the biggest of dreams. Clinton’s message says: Aim lower, think smaller, move slower. It says, I have more modest ambitions, but they are more realistic.

As Clinton put it Thursday in a swipe at Sanders, “I’m not making promises that I cannot keep.”

But the pragmatic progressive line is not going to help her chip away at Sanders’s support among the young. That support is hardening into hipness. Supporting Sanders is quickly becoming the thing to do if you are young and want to appeal to those who are. Clinton’s time to reverse that is quickly running out, and a strategy of simply holding out long enough so that the heavy black and brown support for her counters it may not be sufficient.

And if those young voters don’t turn out and vote for Hillary if she’s the nominee they will deserve the hell that they’ll unleash on us all.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen, foaming at the mouth:

The Putin policy in Syria is clear enough as the encirclement of rebel-held Aleppo proceeds and tens of thousands more Syrians flee toward the Turkish border. It is to entrench the brutal government of Bashar al-Assad by controlling the useful part of Syrian territory, bomb the moderate opposition into submission, block any possibility of Western-instigated regime change, use diplomatic blah-blah in Geneva as cover for changing the facts on the ground, and, maybe fifth or sixth down the list, strengthen the Syrian Army to the point it may one day confront the murderous jihadist stronghold of the Islamic State.

The troubling thing is that the Putin policy on Syria has become hard to distinguish from the Obama policy.

Sure, the Obama administration still pays lip service to the notion that Assad is part of the problem and not the solution, and that if the Syrian leader may survive through some political transition period he cannot remain beyond that. But these are words. It is President Vladimir Putin and Russia who are “making the weather” in Syria absent any corresponding commitment or articulable policy from President Obama.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, is now virtually encircled by the Syrian Army. A war that has already produced a quarter of a million dead, more than 4.5 million refugees, some 6.5 million internally displaced, and the destabilization of Europe through a massive influx of terrorized people, is about to see further abominations as Aleppo agonizes.

Aleppo may prove to be the Sarajevo of Syria. It is already the Munich.

By which I mean that the city’s plight today, its exposure to Putin’s whims and a revived Assad’s pitiless designs, is a result of the fecklessness and purposelessness over almost five years of the Obama administration. The president and his aides have hidden at various times behind the notions that Syria is marginal to core American national interests; that they have thought through the downsides of intervention better than others; that the diverse actors on the ground are incomprehensible or untrustworthy; that there is no domestic or congressional support for taking action to stop the war or shape its outcome; that there is no legal basis for establishing “safe areas” or taking out Assad’s air power; that Afghanistan and Iraq are lessons in the futility of projecting American power in the 21st century; that Syria will prove Russia’s Afghanistan as it faces the ire of the Sunni world; and that the only imperative, whatever the scale of the suffering or the complete evisceration of American credibility, must be avoidance of another war in the Middle East.

Where such feeble evasions masquerading as strategy lead is to United States policy becoming Putin’s policy in Syria, to awkward acquiescence to Moscow’s end game, and to embarrassed shrugs encapsulating the wish that — perhaps, somehow, with a little luck — Putin may crush ISIS.

Obama’s Syrian agonizing, his constant what-ifs and recurrent “what then?” have also lead to the slaughter in Paris and San Bernardino. They have contributed to a potential unraveling of the core of the European Union as internal borders eliminated on a free continent are re-established as a response to an unrelenting refugee tide — to which the United States has responded by taking in around 2,500 Syrians since 2012, or about 0.06 percent of the total.

“The Syrian crisis is now a European crisis,” a senior European diplomat told me. “But the president is not interested in Europe.” That is a fair assessment of the first postwar American leader for whom the core trans-Atlantic alliance was something to be dutifully upheld rather than emotionally embraced.

Syria is now the Obama administration’s shame, a debacle of such dimensions that it may overshadow the president’s domestic achievements.

Obama’s decision in 2013, at a time when ISIS scarcely existed, not to uphold the American “red line” on Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a pivotal moment in which he undermined America’s word, incurred the lasting fury of Sunni Gulf allies, shored up Assad by not subjecting him to serious one-off punitive strikes, and opened the way for Putin to determine Syria’s fate.

Putin policy is American policy because the United States has offered no serious alternative. As T.S. Eliot wrote after Munich in 1938, “We could not match conviction with conviction, we had no ideas with which we could either meet or oppose the ideas opposed to us.” Syria has been the bloody graveyard of American conviction.

It is too late, as well as pure illusion, to expect significant change in Obama’s Syria policy. Aleppo’s agony will be drawn-out. But the president should at least do everything in his power, as suggested in a report prepared by Michael Ignatieff at the Harvard Kennedy School, to “surge” the number of Syrian refugees taken in this year to 65,000 from his proposed 10,000. As the report notes, “If we allow fear to dictate policy, terrorists win.”

Putin already has.

And now we finally get to Prof. Krugman:

By now everyone who follows politics knows about Marco Rubio’s software-glitch performance in Saturday’s Republican debate. (I’d say broken-record performance, but that would be showing my age.) Not only did he respond to a challenge from Chris Christie about his lack of achievements by repeating, verbatim, the same line from his stump speech he had used a moment earlier; when Mr. Christie mocked his canned delivery, he repeated the same line yet again.

In other news, last week — on Groundhog Day, to be precise — Republicans in the House of Representatives cast what everyone knew was a purely symbolic, substance-free vote to repeal Obamacare. It was the 63rd time they’ve done so.

These are related stories.

Mr. Rubio’s inability to do anything besides repeat canned talking points was startling. Worse, it was funny, which means that it has gone viral. And it reinforced the narrative that he is nothing but an empty suit. But really, isn’t everyone in his party doing pretty much the same thing, if not so conspicuously?

The truth is that the whole G.O.P. seems stuck in a time loop, saying and doing the same things over and over. And unlike Bill Murray’s character in the movie “Groundhog Day,” Republicans show no sign of learning anything from experience.

Think about the doctrines every Republican politician now needs to endorse, on pain of excommunication.

First, there’s the ritual denunciation of Obamacare as a terrible, very bad, no good, job-killing law. Did I mention that it kills jobs? Strange to say, this line hasn’t changed at all despite the fact that we’ve gained 5.7 million private-sector jobs since January 2014, which is when the Affordable Care Act went into full effect.

Then there’s the assertion that taxing the rich has terrible effects on economic growth, and conversely that tax cuts at the top can be counted on to produce an economic miracle.

This doctrine was tested more than two decades ago, when Bill Clinton raised tax rates on high incomes; Republicans predicted disaster, but what we got was the economy’s best run since the 1960s. It was tested again when George W. Bush cut taxes on the wealthy; Republicans predicted a “Bush boom,” but actually got a lackluster expansion followed by the worst slump since the Great Depression. And it got tested a third time after President Obama won re-election, and tax rates at the top went up substantially; since then we’ve gained eight million private-sector jobs.

Oh, and there’s also the spectacular failure of the Kansas experiment, where huge tax cuts have created a budget crisis without delivering any hint of the promised economic miracle.

But Republican faith in tax cuts as a universal economic elixir has, if anything, grown stronger, with Mr. Rubio, in particular, going even further than the other candidates by promising to eliminate all taxes on capital gains.

Meanwhile, on foreign policy the required G.O.P. position has become one of utter confidence in the effectiveness of military force. How did that work in Iraq? Never mind: The only reason anybody in the world fails to do exactly what America wants must be because our leadership is lily-livered if not treasonous. And diplomacy, no matter how successful, is denounced as appeasement.

Not incidentally, the shared Republican stance on foreign policy is basically the same view Richard Hofstadter famously described in his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”: Whenever America fails to impose its will on the rest of the world, it must be because it has been betrayed. The John Birch Society has won the war for the party’s soul.

But don’t all politicians spout canned answers that bear little relationship to reality? No.

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton is a genuine policy wonk, who can think on her feet and clearly knows what she is talking about on many issues. Bernie Sanders is much more of a one-note candidate, but at least his signature issue — rising inequality and the effects of money on politics — reflects real concerns. When you revisit Democratic debates after what went down Saturday, it doesn’t feel as if you’re watching a different party, it feels as if you’ve entered a different intellectual and moral universe.

So how did this happen to the G.O.P.? In a direct sense, I suspect that it has a lot to do with Foxification, the way Republican primary voters live in a media bubble into which awkward facts can’t penetrate. But there must be deeper causes behind the creation of that bubble.

Whatever the ultimate reason, however, the point is that while Mr. Rubio did indeed make a fool of himself on Saturday, he wasn’t the only person on that stage spouting canned talking points that are divorced from reality. They all were, even if the other candidates managed to avoid repeating themselves word for word.


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