Archive for the ‘Cohen’ Category

Brooks and Cohen

May 24, 2016

Oh, FFS…  Today Bobo has the unmitigated gall to ask “Why Is Clinton Disliked?”  He gurgles that she fails to bond with voters because she doesn’t show us the parts of her life where most of us feel most human.  Bullshit, Bobo.  Here’s a brief comment from “rarand” in Paris that may help Bobo understand better:  “Being slandered and ridiculed for twenty-five years by people like David Brooks may also have something to do with the level of Mrs. Clinton’s popular trust, but it’s not apparently a possibility that Mr. Brooks cares to entertain.”  I guess Bobo has forgotten The Great Clenis Hunt of the 1990s.  Mr. Cohen considers “Australia’s Offshore Cruelty” and says they should scrap a policy that condemns refugees to a desperate and hopeless limbo.  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

I understand why Donald Trump is so unpopular. He earned it the old-fashioned way, by being obnoxious, insulting and offensive. But why is Hillary Clinton so unpopular?

She is, at the moment, just as unpopular as Trump. In the last three major national polls she had unfavorability ratings in the same ballpark as Trump’s. In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, they are both at 57 percent disapproval.

In the New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent of respondents said Clinton does not share their values. Sixty-four percent said she is not honest or trustworthy. Clinton has plummeted so completely down to Trump’s level that she is now statistically tied with him in some of the presidential horse race polls.

There are two paradoxes to her unpopularity. First, she was popular not long ago. As secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating. Even as recently as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 and her disapproval rating was at 39.

It’s only since she launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to impress the American people that she has made herself so strongly disliked.

The second paradox is that, agree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.

But what exactly do so many have against her?

I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organized” or “deceptive.”

Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.

For example, her campaign recently released a biographical video called “Fighter.” It’s filled with charming and quirky old photos of her fighting for various causes. But then when the video cuts to a current interview with Clinton herself, the lighting is perfect, the setting is perfect, her costume is perfect. She looks less like a human being and more like an avatar from some corporate brand.

Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, whole cemeteries could be filled with the sad tombstone: “Born a man, died a doctor.”

At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

There’s a larger lesson here, especially for people who have found a career and vocation that feels fulfilling. Even a socially good vocation can swallow you up and make you lose a sense of your own voice. Maybe it’s doubly important that people with fulfilling vocations develop, and be seen to develop, sanctuaries outside them: in play, solitude, family, faith, hobbies and leisure.

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the Sabbath is “a palace in time which we build.” It’s not a day of rest before work; you work in order to experience this day of elevation. Josef Pieper wrote that leisure is not an activity, it’s an attitude of mind. It’s stepping outside strenuous effort and creating enough stillness so that it becomes possible to contemplate and enjoy things as they are.

Even successful lives need these sanctuaries — in order to be a real person instead of just a productive one. It appears that we don’t really trust candidates who do not show us theirs.

Bobo, go eat a YOOOGE plate of salted rat dicks.  Here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Sydney:

The Australian treatment of refugees trying to reach this vast, thinly populated country by boat follows textbook rules for the administering of cruelty. It begins with the anodyne name for the procedures — “offshore processing” — as if these desperate human beings were just an accumulation of data.

It continues with the secrecy shrouding what goes on “offshore” in the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where a total of more than 1,350 people languish with no notion of how their limbo will end, where they will go or how to get answers to their predicament. Under the Australian Border Force Act of last year, disclosure by any current or former worker of “protected information” is punishable by up to two years in prison.

It goes further with the progressive dehumanization of people — dubbed “illegals” without cause — who are caught in this Australian web under a policy now dating back almost four years. They are rarely visible. They are often nameless, merely given identification numbers. Women and children are vulnerable in squalid conditions where idleness and violence go hand in hand.

The refugees are consistently demeaned, as when the conservative immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said this month that they could not read and would somehow contrive at once to steal Australian jobs and “languish in unemployment queues” — a statement that prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call Dutton “outstanding,” no less.

Turnbull, who came to office with a reputation for being from the more progressive wing of the conservative Liberal Party but has proved beholden to the hard-line right, faces an election in early July. Clearly both he and Dutton reckon casting the marooned of Nauru and Manus Island as threats to Australia will play well with voters.

Beyond electoral calculations, people are dying. Last month, a young Iranian refugee, Omid Masoumali, self-immolated on Nauru and died in a Brisbane hospital. Soon after, a 21-year-old Somali refugee, identified only as Hodan, set herself on fire and was taken in critical condition to Brisbane. Their acts were reflections of the desperation and exhaustion inflicted by Australia under a policy that was supposed to be temporary, has not been thought through, and places people in conditions of hopelessness.

Perhaps “offshore processing” was supposed to afford the government plausible deniability. Australia would pay billions of dollars to poor Nauru and poor Papua New Guinea to take a big problem off its hands. But in reality there can be no plausible deniability. On the contrary, by any ethical standard, the policy engages Australian responsibility for cruelty.

Dutton even suggested that human rights advocates bore responsibility for the self-immolations by giving asylum seekers “false hope.” He said the government was “not going to stand for” people trying to twist its arm. Well, a dead person cannot do that, of course.

“We don’t see the boats, we rarely see a human face and there is a black hole of accountability,” said Madeline Gleeson, a human rights lawyer and the author of the recently published book “Offshore.” She told me, “The international community does not understand how outrageous this policy is, how far from basic human standards and how shot through with violence and sexual abuse.”

The government argues it is keeping the country safe from terrorism, preventing a proliferation of Australia-bound boats that could result in deaths on a scale seen in the Mediterranean, and ensuring its immigration policy remains orderly. In the current fiscal year, the country has offered to take in 13,750 people under its Humanitarian Program, and committed, exceptionally, to a further 12,000 from the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts (a handful of them have been processed). But it has vowed that nobody in Nauru or on Manus Island will gain admission to Australia.

Australia’s “offshore processing” is falling apart and must end. The Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea ruled in April that the Australian-funded detention center on Manus Island was illegal. In Australia, only retroactive legislation enacted after a lawsuit was filed provided legal support for a policy that was in effect pursued illegally since 2012.

This country’s history includes the long and unhappy chapter of its White Australia policy under which a vast land mass was portrayed as under threat of invasion by uncivilized “natives” from across Asia. Politicians like Dutton are playing scurrilously on similar fears.

A nation of immigrants, short of agricultural labor, Australia has benefited when it has overcome its fears, as with the admission of Vietnamese “boat people” in the 1970s. As Steven Glass, an international lawyer, observed in introducing Eva Orner’s new movie, “Chasing Asylum,” “What, exactly, are we scared of?” Even women raped and impregnated on Nauru have been treated as if they are security threats.

Bring those stranded in Nauru and on Manus Island, many of whose refugee claims have already been deemed legitimate, to Australia. Treat them with humanity as their demands for permanent settlement are assessed. Scrap a policy that shames a nation with its pointless cruelty.

Cohen and Krugman

May 13, 2016

In “The Arab Withering” Mr. Cohen tells us how the civic spirit of the Arab Spring gave way to the brutal theocracy of the Islamic State.  Prof. Krugman, in “Trump and Taxes,” says his personal returns, his shifting policy proposals and how he picked his experts ar

This seems to be the week for Trump tax mysteries. One mystery is why Donald Trump, unlike every other major party nominee in modern times, is refusing to release his tax returns. The other is why, having decided that he needs experts to clean up his ludicrous tax-cut proposals, he chose to call on the services of the gang that couldn’t think straight.

On the first mystery: Mr. Trump’s excuse, that he can’t release his returns while they’re being audited, is an obvious lie. On the contrary, the fact that he’s being audited (or at least that he says he’s being audited) should make it easier for him to go public — after all, he needn’t fear triggering an audit! Clearly, he must be hiding something. What?

It could be how little he pays in taxes, a revelation that hurt Mitt Romney in 2012. But I doubt it; given how Mr. Trump rolls, he’d probably boast that his ability to game the tax system shows how smart he is compared to all the losers out there.

So my guess, shared by a number of observers, is that the dirty secret hidden in those returns is that he isn’t as rich as he claims to be. In Trumpworld, the revelation that he’s only worth a couple of billion — maybe even less than a billion — would be utterly humiliating. So he’ll try to tough it out. Of course, if he does, we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, however, we can look at the candidate’s policy proposals. And what has been going on there is just as revealing, in its own way, as his attempt to dodge scrutiny of his personal finances.

The story so far: Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to nonpartisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Now, the inconsistency between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his specific proposals didn’t seem to hurt him in the Republican primaries. Neither did the wild irresponsibility of those specifics, perhaps because all the major contenders for the G.O.P. nomination were proposing huge, budget-busting tax cuts for the rich. True, none of them were quite as off the charts as the Trump plan, but such distinctions were probably lost on primary voters — $4 trillion, $10 trillion, who cares?

Having secured the nomination, however, Mr. Trump apparently feels the need to seem more respectable. The goal, I suspect, is to bring the headline numbers down enough to let the media’s propensity for false equivalence kick in. Hillary Clinton has a plan that actually adds up, while Donald Trump has a plan that will cost $4 trillion, but which he claims is deficit-neutral? Hey, it’s the same thing!

Oh, and meanwhile he suggested once again that he might raise taxes on the rich, then walked it back, with credulous media eating it all up.

But what’s really interesting is whom, according to Politico, Mr. Trump has brought in to revise his plans: Larry Kudlow of CNBC and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. That news had economic analysts spitting out their morning coffee all across America.

For those who don’t follow such things, Mr. Kudlow has a record of being wrong about, well, everything. In 2005 he ridiculed “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes in Las Vegas or Naples, Florida, to bring down the consumer, the rest of the economy, and the entire stock market” — which was exactly what happened. In 2007 he predicted three years of “Goldilocks” prosperity. And on and on.

Mr. Moore has a comparable forecasting record, but he also has a remarkable inability to get facts straight. Perhaps most famously, he once attempted to rebut, well, me with an article detailing the supposed benefits of state tax cuts; incredibly, not one of the many numbers in that article was right.

So why would Mr. Trump turn to these of all people to, ahem, fix his numbers?

e all mysterious.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

A little over five years ago I was with my colleague Robert F. Worth in Pierre Sioufi’s rambling apartment overlooking Tahrir Square in Cairo. We watched as the Egyptian people rose to overthrow the 30-year-old dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and stake its claim to citizenship, representation, dignity and the rule of law.

Bearded members of the Muslim Brotherhood, their skin scarred by the torture of Mubarak’s security state, embraced secular Egyptian liberals and declared common cause. Young men and women, their eyes burning with conviction, proclaimed that the 18 days in Tahrir had given their lives meaning for the first time by demonstrating the power to effect change. They had discovered agency; they would build a better Egypt. Alaa Al Aswany, an Egyptian novelist, told the crowd: “The revolution is a new birth, not just for Egypt but on an individual level. It’s like falling in love: you become a better person.”

Those were heady days. It was impossible not to suspend one’s disbelief. The army was impassive, the Brotherhood restrained and Twitter-empowered Arab youth ascendant. Liberation unfurled in a wave unseen since 1989.

After the fall less than a month earlier of the Tunisian dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, it seemed the frozen, decades-long Arab confrontation of cynical dictators and repressed Islamists — fecund in the incubation of jihadi terrorists — had given way to the possibility of more inclusive societies. If Egypt, home to about a quarter of the world’s Arab population, could see the birth of meaningful citizenship, festering Arab humiliation would be replaced by empowering dignity. The West might escape its conspiracy-fueled place in the Arab mind as the hypocritical enabler of every iniquity. That would be a more powerful boost to its security than any far-flung war in Muslim lands.

It was not to be. Five years on, Tahrir has the quality of a dream. Read Worth’s remarkable new book, “A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS,” and weep. The chasm between the civic spirit of the square and the brutal theocracy of the Islamic State reveals the extent of the failure.

The book is a beautifully written chronicle, told through the struggles of ordinary people, of shattered hopes, lives, families and societies. Worth excavates the personal wounds revelatory of larger betrayals. Everywhere outside Tunisia, sect, tribe and the Mukhabarat (secret police) prove stronger than the aspiration for institutions capable of mediating differences and bringing the elusive “karama,” or dignity, that, as Worth notes, was the “rallying cry of all the uprisings.”

Who should be blamed for this epic failure? The Muslim Brotherhood for reneging on its promise not to contest Egypt’s first post-uprising presidential election? The Egyptian army and corrupt “deep state” for never giving the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi (“the country’s first democratically elected president in six thousand years of history”) the means to govern? Morsi himself for his foolish power grabs, inept rigidity and inability to realize that he had to demonstrate he was everyone’s president, not merely the Brotherhood’s? Egyptian liberals for so quickly abandoning the idea of democracy to side with the military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his bloody coup that the United States never called by its name?

Or was it Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for burying the Syrian uprising in rivers of blood? Or Saudi money cynically deployed against every agent of liberalizing transformation? Or a wavering Obama administration that, as in Iran in 2009, and Syria since 2011, has wrapped itself in righteous caution as the winds of change coursed through the Middle East? Or the feckless West that intervened in Libya only to abandon it? Or, simply, the impossibility of delivering more liberal, representative societies to a region where political Islam invokes not the power of the people but the all-pervasive authority of God?

Worth does not judge. He reveals. He notes the remarkable compromises in Tunisia between the Islamist party, Ennahda, and the old secular guard that has enabled this small country, alone, to realize something of the hopes of 2011.

Leadership counts; Tunisia found a leader in Rached Ghannouchi, an Islamist whose long exile in Britain taught him the life-saving wisdom of democratic give and take. Elsewhere in the Arab world, there has been nothing resembling leadership.

But, with equal force, Worth demonstrates how the failure of 2011 led many who had sought but not found dignity to seek it anew in a border-straddling land controlled by the Islamic State. When the dream of the uprisings evaporated, he writes, “many gave way to apathy or despair, or even nostalgia for the old regimes they had assailed. But some ran headlong into the seventh century in search of the same prize” — a place “they could call their own, a state that shielded its subjects from humiliation and despair.”

This shocking last sentence of “A Rage for Order” is the measure of the world’s dilemma in the bloodstained ruins of the Arab Spring. How, after all, can anyone see the barbaric practices of ISIS in those terms?

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

This seems to be the week for Trump tax mysteries. One mystery is why Donald Trump, unlike every other major party nominee in modern times, is refusing to release his tax returns. The other is why, having decided that he needs experts to clean up his ludicrous tax-cut proposals, he chose to call on the services of the gang that couldn’t think straight.

On the first mystery: Mr. Trump’s excuse, that he can’t release his returns while they’re being audited, is an obvious lie. On the contrary, the fact that he’s being audited (or at least that he says he’s being audited) should make it easier for him to go public — after all, he needn’t fear triggering an audit! Clearly, he must be hiding something. What?

It could be how little he pays in taxes, a revelation that hurt Mitt Romney in 2012. But I doubt it; given how Mr. Trump rolls, he’d probably boast that his ability to game the tax system shows how smart he is compared to all the losers out there.

So my guess, shared by a number of observers, is that the dirty secret hidden in those returns is that he isn’t as rich as he claims to be. In Trumpworld, the revelation that he’s only worth a couple of billion — maybe even less than a billion — would be utterly humiliating. So he’ll try to tough it out. Of course, if he does, we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, however, we can look at the candidate’s policy proposals. And what has been going on there is just as revealing, in its own way, as his attempt to dodge scrutiny of his personal finances.

The story so far: Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to nonpartisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Now, the inconsistency between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his specific proposals didn’t seem to hurt him in the Republican primaries. Neither did the wild irresponsibility of those specifics, perhaps because all the major contenders for the G.O.P. nomination were proposing huge, budget-busting tax cuts for the rich. True, none of them were quite as off the charts as the Trump plan, but such distinctions were probably lost on primary voters — $4 trillion, $10 trillion, who cares?

Having secured the nomination, however, Mr. Trump apparently feels the need to seem more respectable. The goal, I suspect, is to bring the headline numbers down enough to let the media’s propensity for false equivalence kick in. Hillary Clinton has a plan that actually adds up, while Donald Trump has a plan that will cost $4 trillion, but which he claims is deficit-neutral? Hey, it’s the same thing!

Oh, and meanwhile he suggested once again that he might raise taxes on the rich, then walked it back, with credulous media eating it all up.

But what’s really interesting is whom, according to Politico, Mr. Trump has brought in to revise his plans: Larry Kudlow of CNBC and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. That news had economic analysts spitting out their morning coffee all across America.

For those who don’t follow such things, Mr. Kudlow has a record of being wrong about, well, everything. In 2005 he ridiculed “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes in Las Vegas or Naples, Florida, to bring down the consumer, the rest of the economy, and the entire stock market” — which was exactly what happened. In 2007 he predicted three years of “Goldilocks” prosperity. And on and on.

Mr. Moore has a comparable forecasting record, but he also has a remarkable inability to get facts straight. Perhaps most famously, he once attempted to rebut, well, me with an article detailing the supposed benefits of state tax cuts; incredibly, not one of the many numbers in that article was right.

So why would Mr. Trump turn to these of all people to, ahem, fix his numbers?

It could be a peace offering, an attempt to reassure insiders by bringing in Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Moore, who are influential members of the Republican establishment — which incidentally tells you a lot about their party.

But my guess is that the explanation is simpler: The candidate has no idea who is and isn’t competent. I mean, it’s not as if he has any independent knowledge of economics, or even knows what he doesn’t know. For example, he keeps asserting that America has the world’s highest taxes, when we’re actually at the bottom among advanced nations.

So he probably just went with a couple of guys he’s seen on TV, assuming that they must be there because they know their stuff.

Now, you might wonder how someone that careless and incurious was such a huge success in business. But one answer is, how successful was he, really? What’s in those tax returns?

Brooks and Cohen

May 10, 2016

In “Putting Grit in Its Place” Bobo gurgles that an education system that was truly aligned with kids’ potential would focus less on G.P.A.s and more on innate aspiration.  “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “I don’t think Mr. Brooks need worry about all those students who strive for a 4.0 grade average. Our exceptional country is sinking on every scale by which great nations are measured, including education. Besides, his appeal for students to de-emphasize the G.P.A. herd mentality for individual interests is a little ironic, since he’s often railing about the evils of individualism.”  Mr. Cohen considers “Sadiq Khan vs. Donald Trump” and says the new mayor of London is a Muslim. Trump would bar him from the United States.  Here’s Bobo:

We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average is one of the more destructive elements in American education.

Success is about being passionately good at one or two things, but students who want to get close to that 4.0 have to be prudentially balanced about every subject. In life we want independent thinking and risk-taking, but the G.P.A. system encourages students to be deferential and risk averse, giving their teachers what they want.

Creative people are good at asking new questions, but the G.P.A. rewards those who can answer other people’s questions. The modern economy rewards those who can think in ways computers can’t, but the G.P.A. rewards people who can grind away at mental tasks they find boring. People are happiest when motivated intrinsically, but the G.P.A. is the mother of all extrinsic motivations.

The G.P.A. ethos takes spirited children and pushes them to be hard working but complaisant. The G.P.A. mentality means tremendous emphasis has now been placed on grit, the ability to trudge through long stretches of difficulty. Influenced by this culture, schools across America are busy teaching their students to be gritty and to have “character” — by which they mean skills like self-discipline and resilience that contribute to career success.

Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania is the researcher most associated with the study and popularization of grit. And yet what I like about her new book, “Grit,” is the way she is pulling us away from the narrow, joyless intonations of that word, and pointing us beyond the way many schools are now teaching it.

Sure, she starts the book by describing grit as persevering through unpleasantness. She describes Beast Barracks, the physical ordeal that first-year West Point cadets have to endure.

She writes about high school students who grind away at homework for hours and athletes capable of practicing in the most arduous way possible.

And yet Duckworth notes that moral purpose also contributes to grit. People who are motivated more by altruism than personal pleasure score higher on grit scales. She also notes that having a hopeful temperament contributes to perseverance.

Most important, she notes that the quality of our longing matters. Gritty people are resilient and hard working, sure. But they also, she writes, know in a very, very deep way what it is they want.

This is a crucial leap. It leads to a very different set of questions and approaches. How do we help students decide what they want? How do we improve the quality and ardor of their longing?

The G.P.A. mentality is based on the supposition that we are thinking creatures. Young minds have to be taught self-discipline so they can acquire knowledge. That’s partly true, but as James K. A. Smith notes in his own book “You Are What You Love,” human beings are primarily defined by what we desire, not what we know. Our wants are at the core of our identity, the wellspring whence our actions flow.

At the highest level, our lives are directed toward some telos, or vision of the good life. Whether we are aware of it or not, we’re all oriented around some set of goals. As David Foster Wallace put it in his Kenyon commencement address, “In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships.” Some worship money, or power or popularity or nursing or art, but everybody’s life is organized around some longing. The heart is both a driving engine and a compass.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really bad at being self-disciplined about things I don’t care about. For me, and I suspect for many, hard work and resilience can only happen when there is a strong desire. Grit is thus downstream from longing. People need a powerful why if they are going to be able to endure any how.

Duckworth herself has a very clear telos. As she defines it, “Use psychological science to help kids thrive.” Throughout her book, you can feel her passion for her field and see how gritty she has been in pursuing her end.

Suppose you were designing a school to help students find their own clear end — as clear as that one. Say you were designing a school to elevate and intensify longings. Wouldn’t you want to provide examples of people who have intense longings? Wouldn’t you want to encourage students to be obsessive about worthy things? Wouldn’t you discuss which loves are higher than others and practices that habituate them toward those desires? Wouldn’t you be all about providing students with new subjects to love?

In such a school you might even de-emphasize the G.P.A. mentality, which puts a tether on passionate interests and substitutes other people’s longings for the student’s own.

And now here’s Mr. Cohen:

The most important political event of recent weeks was not the emergence of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party but the election of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a London bus driver, as mayor of London.

Trump has not won any kind of political office yet, but Khan, the Labour Party candidate, crushed Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, to take charge of one of the world’s great cities, a vibrant metropolis where every tongue is heard. In his victory, a triumph over the slurs that tried to tie him to Islamist extremism, Khan stood up for openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation, opportunity for all against racism and misogyny. He was the anti-Trump.

Before the election, Khan told my colleague Stephen Castle, “I’m a Londoner, I’m a European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.”

The world of the 21st century is going to be shaped by such elided, many-faceted identities and by the booming cities that celebrate diversity, not by some bullying, brash, bigoted, “America first” white dude who wants to build walls.

It is worth noting that under the ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country that Trump proposes, Khan would not be allowed to visit the United States. To use one of Trump’s favorite phrases, this would be a “complete and total disaster.” It would make America a foul mockery in the eyes of a world already aghast at the Republican candidate’s rise.

Khan’s election is important because it gives the lie to the facile trope that Europe is being taken over by jihadi Islamists. It underscores the fact that terrorist acts hide a million quiet success stories among European Muslim communities. One of seven children of a Pakistani immigrant family, Khan grew up in public housing and went on to become a human rights lawyer and government minister. He won more than 1.3 million votes in the London election, a personal mandate unsurpassed by any politician in British history.

His election is important because the most effective voices against Islamist terrorism come from Muslims, and Khan has been prepared to speak out. After the Paris attacks last year, he said in a speech that Muslims had a “special role” to play in countering the terrorism, “not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else.”

Khan has also reached out to Britain’s Jewish community, vigorously disavowing the creeping anti-Semitism in Labour ranks that last month saw Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor, suspended from the party.

As George Eaton observed in The New Statesman: “Khan will be a figure of global significance. His election is a rebuke to extremists of all stripes, from Donald Trump to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who assert that religions cannot peacefully coexist.”

Trump as a politician is a product of American fear and anger above all. In the past several weeks, a U.C. Berkeley student has been escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was heard speaking Arabic, and an olive-skinned, curly haired Italian Ivy League economist was taken off an American Airlines flight because he was spotted scribbling mathematical calculations that his seatmate found suspicious.

Trump — described to me by Norm Ornstein, the political scientist, as “the most insecure and ego-driven person in the country” — is the mouthpiece of this frightened America that sees threats everywhere (even in an Italian mathematician).

When Trump declares, “America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration,” the rest of the world hears an angry nation flexing its muscles.

Khan’s rise, by contrast, is a story of victory over the fears engendered by 9/11. His victory is a rebuke to Osama bin Laden, the Islamic State, jihadi ideology of every stripe — and to the hatemongering politicians like Trump who choose to play the Muslim-equals-danger game. Khan has argued that greater integration is essential and “too many British Muslims grow up without really knowing anyone from a different background.”

Sigmund Freud wrote, “It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built upon a renunciation of instinct.” Donald Trump has written: “I have learned to listen and trust my gut. It’s one of my most valued counselors.” He recently said, “We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Right.

Put together an egotist, a bully, immense power and a taste for gut-driven unpredictability and you have a dangerous brew that could put civilization at risk. Those small fingers would have access to the nuclear codes if Trump was elected.

In this context, Sadiq Khan’s victory is reassuring because he represents currents in the world — toward global identity and integration — that will prove stronger over time than the tribalism and nativism of Trump.

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.


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