Archive for the ‘Cohen’ Category

Dowd, Cohen and Kristof

November 26, 2015

Oh, FFS, MoDo has called upon her Republican brother Kevin to irritate us on Thanksgiving.  In “King Kevin Versus Queen Cersei” she says we should let the cacophonous feasting, with right wings of the turkey and left, begin!  Oddly enough, no one is allowed to comment on Kevin’s delusional ravings, probably to spare his tender teaparty fee-fees.  Mr. Cohen ponders “World War III” and moans that sometimes, as Syria shows, little things get bigger, people lose patience, there’s a spark and you get a big mess.  And again, no comments are allowed, probably to spare his tender, hand-wringing fee-fees.  Mr. Kristof, in “Donald Trump, Meet a Syrian Refugee Named Heba,” says a young woman who dreams of being an artist is still afraid after escaping her ISIS-controlled homeland — because she fears she will be sent back.  Hmmm…  you can comment on Mr. Kristof’s offering.  And people have commented in fierce opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the country.  Apparently Mr. Kristof is made of sterner stuff than MoDo or Mr. Cohen.  Here, FSM help us, is MoDo/Kevin:

The intense interest in the thrill-a-minute, through-the-looking-glass 2016 race, fueled by anger at maladjusted Washington and anxiety after the Paris attacks, has spawned predictions that Thanksgiving political debates will be noisier and nastier than ever. Plenty of turkeys with a bone to pick and plenty of dressing down to go with the dressing. The Democratic National Committee actually issued talking points for the “lively” conversations with Republican uncles, aunts and brothers. Clearly, the people at the D.N.C. don’t have any Republican relatives. It’s never a parley. It’s a lecture. So I decided to let my Republican brother offer his red-state soliloquy now, hoping he’d let me eat my white meat in peace. He-e-e-ere’s Kevin:

While liberals and the mainstream media may regard the myriad Republican presidential candidates as a “house of crazies,” I see an embarrassment of riches. It is the ultimate irony that the Republican field blows the Democrats away on one of their favorite topics — diversity.

Here’s how I see the Republican contest and the Democratic coronation:

Donald Trump: With all his bombast and incivility, Trump has joyfully debunked political correctness for the complete fraud that it is. With his talent for making debate ratings soar, he has allowed all the other candidates to be seen and heard at celestial levels unreachable without him. He has touched a nerve because people are fed up with liberal groups being offended at every slight, real or imagined. (I can assure you none of these people were taught by Jesuits.) Three Ivy League schools are currently under siege, with students at Princeton demanding the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from a building. Washington and Jefferson are up next as former slave owners, leaving Al Sharpton as the default “father of our country.” We are tired of apologies for America’s exceptionalism.

Ben Carson: Not since Eisenhower has a complete novice politician been so legitimate a contender. Can he avoid the traps set for him by the media? He presents intriguing possibilities as part of the ticket, forcing African-Americans to choose between him and the wife of the man Toni Morrison called our “first black president.”

Marco Rubio: Young, whip smart and self-assured, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign affairs and is a stunning contrast to Hillary Clinton both in generation and vision. Wait until he starts delivering his speeches in Spanish.

Ted Cruz: The Hispanic heir apparent to Barry Goldwater had the best moment in the third debate, calling out an obscure cable TV host looking for his 10 minutes of fame.

Jeb Bush: I like the Bushes, all of them. Jeb would have been the perfect Republican candidate from 1988 to 2000. In this age of instant gratification, his wonkish grasp of policy does not move the needle. Too bad.

Chris Christie: Trump with better manners. A certain pick for attorney general if this gig does not work out.

Contrast our informed candidates with the Democratic lineup of Queen Cersei, the socialist Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” and the lead singer of O’Malley’s March. I keep waiting for Martin O’Malley during debates to whip out his guitar for a few Irish songs. It would be more entertaining.

Clinton: She’s seeking the highest office in the land even though 60 percent of the country does not trust her and her emails are currently under F.B.I. review for potential national security breaches.

Bernie Sanders: His proposals for free health care, free college and expanded Social Security have a price tag of $18 trillion with no way to pay for it. Not even a candidate for budget director.

O’Malley: Does anyone know his reason for running?

The next president will have to deal with a severely weakened hand, at home and abroad. The bill for “leading from behind” has come due. After the Radical Islam (dare I say thy name?) attack on France, the president who called ISIS “contained” was left to issue his familiar disclaimer that Islam is a religion of peace. In dealing with foes, Clinton, in a 2014 speech at Georgetown University, called for “trying to understand, and insofar as is psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective.” Note to Hillary: Any enemy with beheading as a menu item does not deserve empathy.

A peeved President Obama lashed out at Republicans for daring to pass a bill asking for a more robust screening process for the Syrian refugees. His adviser, Ben Rhodes — the political hack behind the deceitful Benghazi talking points — assured us that our screening was airtight even as 47 Democrats voted for the bill. The president has been forced to face the inconvenient truth that others will lead the world in this battle while he continues his lonely quest against the world’s “greatest threat”: climate change.

Our enemies do not fear us, and authority at home is being questioned by a disgraceful campaign since Ferguson to undermine the police. I am the son of a policeman, and a police officer is killed in the line of duty every 60 hours. The thin blue line is the only thing that separates our society from anarchy. There will be awful shootings by police officers like the one in Chicago, but these are exceptions. My dad told me that any job where you can legally carry a gun will occasionally draw the wrong type of person. Police officers certainly do not deserve to see the media turning criminals into celebrated victims. The next time you see a police officer, say thank you.

So, ask yourself three questions: Do you want a president who refuses to name the enemy? Who do you want to appoint the next three Supreme Court justices? And who will protect the homeland and honor the Constitution? Then pray that you got it right.

Happy Thanksgiving.


In case you want to see what a delusional old Republican looks like, MoDo supplied a picture of Kevin:

That’s some comb-over, or possibly a really, really bad rug.  Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

“Mommy, please tell me again, how did World War I begin?”

“Sweetheart, I already told you, that was long ago. A century is a very long time.”

“But, Mommy, please.”

“Well, it’s complicated. Do you really, really want to know?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“It’s a sad story. The world was organized in one way, and that way collapsed, and in the process millions of people were killed.”

“Wow. How was it organized before?”

“There were things called empires. They controlled vast territories full of different peoples, and some of these peoples wanted to rule themselves rather than be governed by a faraway emperor.”


“The Austro-Hungarian Empire was one of them. It had lots of grand palaces in its capital, Vienna, where people danced at fancy balls. It governed parts of a poor corner of Europe called the Balkans where its rule was disliked. One day in 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife were assassinated in a Balkan city called Sarajevo by a young man, a Bosnian Serb, who wanted the freedom of the south Slavs from imperial rule.”

“That’s sad, Mommy. Guess the music stopped. But so what?”

“The empire got really angry. It told Serbia to do a bunch of things or face war. The ruler in Vienna was confident because he had a close friend, a rising power called Germany. Serbia also had a good buddy, a country called Russia, which is big. Anyway, Serbia kind of dithered around, like you with homework, so Austria-Hungary went to war against it.”

“And then?”

“Then Germany declared war on Russia, whose friend was France, which didn’t like Germany for various reasons. Soon Germany attacked France through Belgium. That made Britain cross. It went to war against Germany. Another empire — a sickly one — called the Ottoman Empire, eventually joined the German and Austro-Hungarian side. Later the United States, a rising power, came in on the British and French team. After a few years, more than 16 million people were dead. The Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German and Russian empires had collapsed.”

“All because a couple was killed? Mom, that’s weird.”

“Sometimes little things get bigger, people lose patience and perspective, there’s a spark and you get a big mess.”

“Mom, it couldn’t happen again, right?’


“Are there any empires left today?”

“Some people call America an empire even if it doesn’t have an emperor. It is the most powerful country on earth, with soldiers all around the world and different peoples that rely on it for direction and protection. But America’s getting weaker.”

“So, Mommy, is it kind of like what you said about the world being organized one way, and then being organized in another way, and lots of people dying in the process?”

“Not exactly, sweetheart. Dying where?”

“In Syria. Mom, what’s Syria?”

“It’s a small country with different peoples and religions that came into being when the Ottoman Empire got so sickly it collapsed.”

“Why are people fighting there?”

“It’s complicated. Do you really, really want to know?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Well, there was this brutal, remote tyrant behaving like an emperor and some of the peoples in Syria rose up against him. The tyrant started shooting them. America and Britain and France, among other countries, didn’t like that, and they said they’d kind of support the rebels, but didn’t really.”


“Because, like I said, America is sickly. It’s getting weaker.”

“Okay. Then what?”

“The tyrant had a big friend called Russia. He had another quite big friend called Iran. They both really did support him.”

“So he won?”

“Not quite. Many of the people who wanted to get rid of the tyrant were Sunni Muslims. They had the backing of Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni Central and hates Iran and has supported Sunni fanatics. Turkey, which was the successor to the Ottoman Empire and hates the Syrian tyrant, also got on the rebel team. But Turkey hates another people in Syria called the Kurds even more than the tyrant — so much it’s been ready in a sneaky way to help one group of Sunni crazies who slit throats, kill Kurds and shoot people in Western cities.”

“Mom, I’m confused.”

“Syria has broken up, like the Ottoman Empire. Russia is bombing some enemies of the Syrian tyrant. America is bombing the throat-slitters. So is France. Turkey shot down a Russian plane. Russia is angry. The Kurds want the state they didn’t get 100 years ago. Saudi Arabia is fighting a region-wide war against Iran. That war is most intense in Syria, where hundreds of thousands are dead.”

“All because some folks wanted to get rid of a bully?”

“Sometimes little things get bigger, there’s a spark and it’s a big mess.”

“Mom, what would World War III be like?”

“Don’t worry, darling, everything is different now.”


“Totally. We have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happy Thanksgiving, my love.”

And now here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Lesbos, Greece:

Ben Carson has compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. Donald Trump says that he would send them back.

Who are these Syrian refugee monsters who terrify American politicians?

Meet Heba, a frightened, desperate 20-year-old woman who dreams of being an artist and has just made a perilous escape from territory controlled by the Islamic State in northern Syria.

She was detained two months ago with her sister by Islamic State enforcers because her sister’s baby girl had too short a skirt — even though the baby was just 3 months old.

“That was crazy,” Heba said, shaking her head. “This was an infant!”

Heba says she and her sister argued that infant girls should have a little leeway in showing skin, and eventually the family was let off with a warning.

But Heba, strong-willed and self-confident, perhaps had been too outspoken or too sarcastic, and the police then cast a critical eye on her clothing. She was covering even her hands and face, but the authorities complained that her abaya cloak wasn’t loose enough to turn her into a black puff that concealed her form. The police detained her for hours until her family bailed her out by paying a $10 fine.

Heba was lucky, for other women have been flogged for violating clothing rules. Her sister saw a woman stoned to death after being accused of adultery.

“If I were wearing this,” Heba told me, pointing down at the tight jeans she was wearing as we spoke, “my head would come off.” She offered a hollow laugh.

I spoke to her after she left her mother and siblings behind in Syria (her father died years ago of natural causes) and fled with a handful of relatives on a perilous journey to Turkey, then on a dangerously overcrowded boat to this Greek island. I took Heba and her relatives to a dinner of pizza — Western food is banned by the Islamic State — and as we walked to the pizzeria she made a game of pointing out all the passers-by who would be decapitated by ISIS for improper dress, consorting with the opposite sex or sundry other offenses.

“It’s a million percent difference,” she exulted of life in the West. “Once you leave that area, you feel so good. Your whole body relaxes.”

Americans are understandably afraid of terrorism after the Paris attacks, and that fear is channeled at Syrian refugees. So pandering politiciansportray the refugees as menaces whom the vetting process is unable to screen out, and Americans by nearly two to one oppose President Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrians over a year.

In fact, despite the impressions left by American politicians and by the Islamic State, Syrians are in general more educated and middle class than many other people in the region, and the women more empowered. Heba’s aspirations to be an artist aren’t unusual.

Security concerns are legitimate, but the refugee screening is a rigorous two-year process. It would be far simpler for the Islamic State to infiltrate the U.S. by dispatching European passport holders (like those who carried out the Paris attacks) on tourist visas, or just use supporters who are already American citizens.

The anti-refugee legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives would effectively end the intake even of Christians and Yazidis who have been particularly targeted by the extremists.

In person, Syrian refugees are less scary than scared. Heba wouldn’t allow me to use her last name or publish her photo for fear of getting her family in trouble, and she cannot contact her mother for the same reason. (I’m not mentioning the town she lived in because she’s terrified that the Islamic State might try to identify and punish her family for her escape and for her candor to a Western journalist.)

Really, Ben Carson, you want to compare this freedom-loving woman to a rabid dog?

Donald Trump, when you said of Syrian refugees, “If I win, they’re going back,” do you really intend to deport Heba back to the Islamic State to be flogged or decapitated?

Heba is fed up with violence and extremism — but now in the West she encounters a new kind of political extremism that targets refugees like her. These Syrian refugees find themselves accused of potentially being the terrorists they flee.

“We have no connection to terrorism,” she told me, mystified that anyone could fear her. “We’re running away from all that.”

Heba showed me her abaya, which she keeps in her backpack. She says she never wants to wear it again, so I asked why she doesn’t discard it.

“I’m scared,” she admitted. “If they send us back, I will need it.”

Ben Carson and Donald Trump, Heba is neither a rabid dog nor a crazed terrorist, but a desperate young woman whose life is on the line. Let’s drop the fearmongering and let Heba cast away that abaya forever.

Cohen, Kristof and Collins

November 19, 2015

Well.  Mr. Cohen has decided to rattle his little saber and swing his little dick.  In “Body Bags in Paris” he snarls that the West, post-Iraq, has lost the capacity for anger, and says that is dangerous.  In the comments “craig geary” from Redlands, FL had this to say:  “Same song, different day.  Never worn a uniform, never been IN a war, Roger Cohen wants Americans sent to slaughter or to be slaughtered.”  And “Stephen LeGrand” from right here in Savannah adds:  “This is the kind of thinking that will keep us in a perpetual war in the Mideast, sucking blood and treasure with no foreseeable end.”  Not to be outdone, “Arun Gupta” from NJ kept it short and sweet:  “I think Mr Cohen should take a sabbatical until good sense returns.”  Mr. Kristof, in “Following the Terrorists’ Script,” says our disgraceful response to Jews fleeing Germany during World War II risks being repeated with Syrian refugees.  No risk at all — it IS being repeated, with 31 governors huddled under their beds, peeing their pants in fear of toddlers.  Ms. Collins gives us “A Holiday Treat From Congress,” and says most of our senators don’t want to burden private pilots with a lot of questions about their health.  Here’s Mr. Cohen, pounding his little tin drum:

The flag at half-mast atop the Grand Palais, the darkened silhouette of the Eiffel Tower, the Big Wheel at Place Concorde immobilized for days, the jumpiness at the slightest sound, the stories of friends lost or almost, the streets that feel as if the air has been sucked out of them: This is Paris, resilient but jittery.

I open the daily Le Monde and read Antoine Leiris writing about his wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, one of the 129 people slaughtered by the terrorists of the Islamic State: “On Friday evening, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred.” Nor the hatred of his one-year-old son, who “will affront you by being happy and free.”

Defiance lies in remaining unbowed, in embracing the life the traffickers of death wish to extinguish. No child should be raised in hatred.

But freedom has to be fought for. It can demand anger. These killers make us hostages of our own democracies. They trample on the very border-crossing freedoms that European passports afford them. The West, post-Iraq, has lost its capacity for rage, even at this. That is dangerous.

We may not know who exactly the killers are but we know what they want to destroy. They spit at Montaigne, Voltaire and De Tocqueville. They loathe reason. They detest freedom. They cannot bear the West’s sexual mores. They would enslave the world, particularly its women, to the cruel god of their medievalist reading of Islam.

The French President, François Hollande, says France is “at war” against “a jihadi army.” France will be “pitiless.” There will be “no respite, no truce.” More than two years ago, after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, Hollande was ready to bomb Syria alongside President Obama. Then Obama wavered. Hesitation has been Obama’s modus operandi on Syria.

Now there are body bags in Paris.

Since 2013, ISIS has come to terrorize the world. Hollande will travel to Washington and Moscow next week in an attempt to forge a broad coalition to act “decisively” against it.

If the President Obama he finds is the same Obama who spoke in Turkey on Monday, the French president will be disappointed. The contrast between Hollande’s fire and Obama’s flatness as he insisted he would not put American troops on the ground to defeat ISIS was one of the stranger aspects of being in Paris this week.

It was clear again that Europe’s generational struggle for unity and freedom against totalitarian violence tends to leave this post-Atlanticist president cold. Words and body language are not everything. Still, they count.

Obama said: “We can retake territory. As long we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.”

True, jihadi terrorism (not “extremism”) will not disappear overnight if the United States and its allies take back the territory ISIS controls in Syria and Iraq. But the existence of this “state” is a compelling recruitment tool. It gives ISIS oil revenue (between $500 million and $1 billion a year), training camps, stature, space to enact its wanton brutality, and a base to direct international killing.

This border-straddling ISIS sanctuary must be eliminated, just as the Afghan safe haven of Al Qaeda was after 9/11 (before the disastrous distraction of Iraq). Raqqa is much closer to Europe than Tora Bora. ISIS has effective terrorists but indifferent soldiers. They are beatable. Kurdish militias — not the U.S. military by any means — have made rapid inroads. They and other local forces can help.

But Obama does not have the will. “Let’s assume we send 50,000 troops into Syria,” he said in Turkey. “What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen?”

That’s a straw-man game unworthy of the president. Its subtext: Because you can’t solve all the problems of the world, solve none. ISIS in Syria and Iraq is the core of the terrorist threat to Europe and America today. So destroy it.

President Vladimir Putin has forces on the ground in Syria. He has at last turned Russian bombing against ISIS after the terrorist group’s downing of a Russian passenger jet. Like Hitler, ISIS may have made the fatal mistake of targeting Moscow.

Stalin was an effective Western ally in World War II. Hitler was defeated. But the division of Europe ensued and the Soviet enslavement of half the Continent. Maybe Putin can help against ISIS, but if the West is a mere spectator the result will be equally disastrous. America and its allies must be as present on the ground as Russia if they are to shape the Syrian denouement. President Assad is not part of the solution. He’s part of the problem.

I fear for Antoine Leiris’s little motherless boy. The West has lost its spine, a spine called America.

Eat a huge plate of salted rat dicks, you turd.  Send your own son.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Desperate refugees flee persecution and war, but American politicians — worried about security risks — refuse to accept them.

That’s the situation today, but it’s also the shameful way we responded as Jews were fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In the shadow of one world war, on the eve of another, Americans feared that European Jews might be left-wing security threats.

“Jews are not Communists,” Rabbi Louis I. Newman of Manhattan noted, pleadingly, in December 1938, trying to assuage the xenophobia. “Judaism has nothing in common with Communism.”

Yet in January 1939, Americans polled said by a two-to-one majority that the United States should not accept 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children from Germany. That year, the United States turned away a ship, the St. Louis, with Jewish refugee children; the St. Louis returned to Europe, where some of its passengers were murdered by the Nazis.

That is a stain on our conscience that risks being repeated. Some 26 Republican governors are trying to block entry of Syrian refugees. All the Republican presidential candidates say that we should bar Syrian refugees or apply a religious test and accept only Christians.

A tweet of a young British man’s Facebook page went viral.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey says we shouldn’t accept Syrians even if they are toddlers and orphans. And the House of Representatives may vote this week on legislation to impede the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

One Syrian family — a man who once ran a clothing store, his wife and their 4-year-old child — were supposed to arrive in Indiana this week. Then Gov. Mike Pence announced that Syrians were unwelcome, and the family is settling in Connecticut instead.

Remember what a Syrian immigrant looks like — the father of Steve Jobs.

Thank goodness that when my father came to America as a refugee from Eastern Europe in 1952, politicians weren’t fearmongering. My dad sailed to New York, bought a copy of the Sunday New York Times to teach himself English, and took the train across the country to a welcoming Oregon.

When Indiana today shuns desperate refugees, it is shunning people like my family.

Yes, security is critical, but I’ve known people who have gone through the refugee vetting process, and it’s a painstaking ordeal that lasts two years or more. It’s incomparably more rigorous than other pathways to the United States.

If the Islamic State wanted to dispatch a terrorist to America, it wouldn’t ask a mole to apply for refugee status, but rather to apply for a student visa to study at, say, Indiana University. Hey, governors, are you going to keep out foreign university students?

Or the Islamic State could simply send fighters who are French or Belgian citizens (like some of those behind the Paris attacks) to the U.S. as tourists, no visa required. Governors, are you planning to ban foreign tourists, too?

Refugee vetting has an excellent record. Of 785,000 refugees admitted to the United States since 9/11, just three have been arrested for terrorism-related charges, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

If Republican governors are concerned about security risks, maybe they should vet who can buy guns. People on terrorism watch lists are legally allowed to buy guns in the United States, and more than 2,000 have done so since 2004. The National Rifle Association has opposed legislation to rectify this.

Although Donald Trump fulminates about President Obama supposedly wanting to bring in 250,000 or more Syrian refugees, that’s preposterous: Obama proposes admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees over a year. That’s tiny, just 1 percent of the number that Lebanon has accepted.

The Islamic State is trying to create a religious divide and an anti-refugee backlash, so that Muslims will feel alienated and turn to extremism. If so, American and European politicians are following the Islamic State’s script.

Let’s be careful not to follow that script further and stigmatize all Muslims for ISIS terrorism. As a young British Muslim man, Kash Ali, wrote in a post that went viral on Twitter: “I don’t understand why non Muslims think we British Muslims can stop ISIS. Mate, I can’t even get a text back from the girl I like, and you expect me to stop a terrorist organization?”

Look, accepting 10,000 refugees is not a solution. Indeed, there is a risk that Angela Merkel’s admirable compassion will lead far larger numbers to undertake the difficult journey and die on the way. The top priority must be making Syria habitable so that refugees need not flee. This is where I believe President Obama has failed — Syria is his worst foreign policy failure — but it’s good to see him push back at the hysteria about Syrian refugees.

Helping Syrian refugees today doesn’t solve the Middle East mess any more than helping Jewish refugees in 1939 would have toppled Hitler. But it’s the right thing to do. Syrians, no less than those Jewish refugees, no less than my father, are human beings needing help, not flotsam.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

In honor of the coming vacation travel season, the Senate is working on a bill that would loosen the requirement that pilots take medical examinations.

Yes! I know that’s been on your mind a lot, people. Next week, as you gather around the Thanksgiving table, be sure to express your gratitude to Congress. If you hear a small plane buzzing overhead, drink a toast to the future, when the folks in America’s cockpits may no longer be burdened with repressive, old-fashioned health monitoring.

Pop quiz: Which of the following aviation issues would you like to see your elected representatives resolve by the end of 2015?

— Ban those laser lights that stupid kids keep flashing in pilots’ eyes.

— Do something about all the damned drones flying around airports.

— End the passenger peril of being squashed by a reclining seat.

— Ease pilot health exams! Ease pilot health exams!

“The U.S. Senate has an excruciatingly difficult time doing anything, and here they’re dismantling something that’s been working pretty well,” complained Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He is opposed to the bill in question, and that puts him in pretty select company. More than two-thirds of his colleagues are co-sponsors.

We are talking here about general aviation pilots, the men and women who fly private planes. They’re currently required to get a medical exam by an F.A.A.-approved physician every five years, and then every two years once they pass 40. The pilots hatehatehate this rule. They claim the doctors are hard to find and charge too much money. But the great underlying fear is that some stranger with a stethoscope will strip them of the ability to fly.

It’s easy to understand why pilots want to stay aloft. I’ve enjoyed every non-campaign-related private flight I’ve ever taken, including in the two-seater owned by an environmentalist who once flew me over a lake full of pig feces that had been treated with chemicals that turned it the color of Pepto-Bismol.

However, I think I speak for most of America when I say that we ought to continue being a little picky about the people we let up there.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, is a very enthusiastic 81-year-old pilot who starred in an exciting airborne adventure about five years ago, when he landed his Cessna at an airport in Texas despite A) The large “X” on the runway, indicating it was closed, and B) The construction crew working on said runway, which ran for their lives when he dropped in.

As a result, the senator had to take part in a remedial training program. This irritated him so much that he successfully sponsored the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which makes it easier to appeal that kind of harsh, unforgiving judgment.

The Senate commerce committee is now considering Inhofe’s P.B.R. 2, which would eliminate the current medical exam requirement. Instead, pilots would just write a note in their log every four years saying they’d been to a physician who said everything’s fine. The bill has 69 sponsors.

Very little in the current world of Washington is that popular. You may be wondering why. Well, although Inhofe is best known as the climate change denier who once brought a snowball into the Senate to prove the globe isn’t warming, he’s also a very powerful guy, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, an architect of this year’s $350 billion highway construction bill.

Plus, there are hundreds of thousands of private pilots, many of them rather wealthy. “Most of them are single-issue people, so it would be very good to join in on this,” Inhofe said pointedly in a recent Senate speech. Some small-minded observers suspect he also has personal skin in the game, what with having had quadruple bypass heart surgery and all.

The bill hit a small snag on Wednesday when Democrats on the Senate commerce committee proposed that the doctors who do the new exams — who could be anyone from a dermatologist to a golfing buddy — be given a government-approved checklist of problems to look for.

They lost on a party-line vote. “My trust is in the physician compared to the F.A.A.,” said one of the Republicans. The real problem was apparently resistance from a certain snowball-making highway bill author.

“The answer has always come back from Senator Inhofe’s staff: No,” complained Bill Nelson of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the committee. Nelson, you understand, was not arguing that a dermatologist should be off-limits as a pilot medical examiner. He just wanted to increase the chances that the patient would be asked if he was subject to dizzy spells.

At that moment the committee suddenly discovered it was lacking a quorum. But everyone expects the bill to rise again in triumph. “It would have been laughable except it’s so serious,” said Blumenthal.

Blow, Cohen, Kristof and Collins

November 12, 2015

In “G.O.P. Debate Doldrums” Mr. Blow says as the time ticks down, Republicans continue to flirt with the idea of nominating someone who is wholly unelectable.  Mr. Cohen, in “Turkey Haunted by Its Ghosts,” says Erdogan re-enacts Ataturk as the Kurdish question strains Turkish-American relations.  Mr. Kristof considers “Mizzou, Yale and Free Speech” and says on university campuses, First Amendment rights are colliding with inclusivity.  In “Wow, More Terrifying Than Trump” Ms. Collins gives us some crib notes from the Republican debate to consider if our Thanksgiving dinner turns political.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The bloom is coming off the rose for the Republican presidential debates.

Now that could simply be me and my incredibly disenchanted view of this particular field of folly, but I don’t think so.

Much of the initial interest was in the mystifying appeal among Republican voters for the raucous real estate developer whose opening campaign salvo was an appeal to American xenophobia and a penchant for making unkeepable pledges completely divorced from reality and practicality.

The race had a charlatan as showman who attracted the attention like a train wreck: a disaster from which many were unable to look away.

Then came the rise of two other outsiders: the catatonic Ben Carson and the robotic Carly Fiorina.

Carson was the more compelling of the two, because he got more traction and his path to politics is even more unlikely.

He was a poor, and, he says, violent child — he writes of trying to stab a friend and going after his mother with a hammer — who turned his life around, became an acclaimed neurosurgeon and has peddled the story for profit ever since.

The story is fascinating, if true — though some of it is clouded by questions. The most recent examination, by The Daily Mail, calls the hammer anecdote into question.

The other spectacle to behold was to watch the Bush dynasty crash and burn because of Jeb(!)’s utter inability to give that exclamation point meaning and his inability to connect. So the establishment interest has slowly turned to his feisty, if hollow, young protégé Marco Rubio, who always strikes me as too slick by half and is apparently indesperate need of a personal accountant.

These debates are no longer about winning the nomination, but about avoiding doing something that would make you lose it.

Thus, we are treated to a rehash of the same tired talking points. Even the novelty has worn off. The candidates take few chances and offer few new nuggets.

Take all the other people with governor or senator on their résumés who thought that experience would mean something, but are gradually coming to realize that this is simply not their cycle.

John Kasich is growing ever more irascible the longer he stays in this senseless race. Rand Paul continues to sound like he’s phoning it in. Ted Cruz can’t translate his fire-starter reputation into barnburner enthusiasm.

In the undercard debate, Chris Christie continued his implicit anti-Black Lives Matter shtick by claiming that Democrats don’t support the police, Rick Santorum keeps trying to remind people that he did well last time, and Bobby Jindal… why is Bobby Jindal still in this race?

These debates have simply become an exercise in performance rather than policy review. We are watching to see who avoids the gaffe, who gets the applause, who attacks well and defends well against attacks.

This is all theater, an audition to see who would look less ridiculous standing opposite the eventual Democratic nominee.

Who will be able to offer a common-sense rebuttal on how to deal with millions of undocumented immigrants in this country? Who will articulate a strong national defense policy and antiterrorism strategy that isn’t too trigger-happy and war-obsessed? Who has a plan for tax and economic policies from which the most Americans would benefit? Who has the best plan to deal with culturally destructive social policies — like mass incarceration and the war on drugs — that are leaving more and more Americans disillusioned.

As it stands, the more articulate and electable voices among the Republican lot have failed to break into the upper ranks. Instead, the leaders continue to be men who have no experience in elected office and who no reasonable centrist voter — the ones who actually decide presidential elections — could ever conceive of in the Oval Office with access to nuclear codes.

It’s by no means clear to me that these two men even want to be president. But this increased exposure virtually guarantees increased book advances and speaking fees, and in the case of the real estate developer and maker of shiny ties, more sales.

These two guys stand to make out like bandits, while leaving the Republican Party’s presidential prospects in shambles.

Indeed, the whole Republican debate process is a parade of improbability. Every debate only bolsters Democratic optimism. As the time ticks down, Republicans continue to flirt with the idea of nominating someone who is wholly unelectable, thereby gifting to Democrats an election that many thought would be exceedingly hard to win.

Please to consider the fact that the NYT repeatedly informs us that Bernie Sanders is unelectable but takes the occupants of the Clown Car seriously…  Next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Diyarbakir, Turkey:

“We don’t want Turkey to become Syria or Diyarbakir to become Aleppo.”

Those were the words of Tahir Elci, the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association when I spoke to him after the recent Turkish election here in this troubled city of strong Kurdish national sentiment. On the night of the vote tires smoldered and the tear-gas-heavy air stung. In the center of the old city, rubble and walls pockmarked with bullet holes attest to the violence as police confront restive Kurds.

Elci was detained last month for a day and a half after saying in a television interview that the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., was not a “terrorist organization” but “an armed political organization which has large local support.” An indictment has been brought against him that seeks a prison sentence of more than seven years. The P.K.K. is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

“For a few words about the P.K.K., in which I said some of its operations were terrorist but it was not itself a terrorist organization, there is a lynching campaign against me,” Elci told me. “Yet there is no strategy among the Turkish security forces against the Islamic State, no real mobilization. If ISIS were treated like the P.K.K., it would be very different.”

As G-20 leaders prepare to gather in Turkey next week, the fissures in the fabric of a polarized society are more marked than at any time in the dozen years that PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdogan has held power. His initial push, as prime minister, to oversee an era of neo-Ottoman opening both to Turkey’s neighbors and to minorities within the country, has collapsed in violence.

In the place of dialogue with historic enemies of the unitary Turkish state forged in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk has come the increasingly authoritarian assertion of a new brand of Sunni religious nationalism, the replacement for Ataturk’s secular nationalism. Erdogan, the representative of Turkey’s religious conservatives, had sought to portray Ataturk’s fiercely secular state as a “parenthesis”; instead he has come to re-enact many of the characteristics of that state, not least its veneration of one man.

Turkey is not about to become Syria — indeed it has shown remarkable generosity and resilience in absorbing more than two million Syrian refugees — but some of the same actors are present, including the Kurds and ISIS. So, too, is violence.

The Kurdish question has boiled up again in acute form. Kurdish militias loyal to the imprisoned P.K.K. leader, Abdullah Ocalan, have taken control of a wide area of northern Syria that they call Rojava, defeating Islamic State. Kurdish pesh merga forces are fighting side by side with the United States against ISIS in Iraq. Young Kurds here in the Diyarbakir area have tried to set up autonomous areas within cities, only to be crushed. All Kurds at some level want the state denied them when the Ottoman Empire broke up. They may settle for autonomy but a dream persists.

“I want autonomy, non-assimilation, the ability to use our language in our daily lives, and recognition of Kurdish as an official second language in Kurdish-majority areas,” Elci said.

The emergence of Kurds as America’s Iraqi and Syrian allies against ISIS has complicated the critical Turkish-American relationship. President Obama probably needs Erdogan more than Erdogan needs him, a fact that limits American leverage. Still, renewed Turkish-Kurdish negotiation and real Turkish commitment against ISIS are paramount American interests. The impression with Erdogan has been: better a Sunni Islamist fanatic than a Kurd.

Turkey is at a crossroads. The modern state was born through military prowess and a ferocious act of will. Ataturk forged a Westernized nation state from the many-shaded ruins of the Ottoman Empire. His creation involved an attempt to excise other peoples and identities — be they Kurdish, Armenian, Greek or Alevi — in the name of the new nation.

But Ottoman diversity, the fruit of many centuries, could not be subsumed into Turkish nationhood overnight. Turkey remains haunted by its ghosts.

The reverberations from Turkey’s troubled birth and the years preceding it persist. The 1915 Armenian genocide remains unacknowledged by Turkey even though Germany’s president, in this centennial year, spoke of German complicity. Joachim Gauck said: “We Germans collectively still have to come to terms with the past, namely when it comes to shared responsibility and perhaps even complicity in the genocide of the Armenians.”

It is for Turkey to answer how Germany could be complicit in a crime that did not exist.

Just how sensitive these issues remain was evident in the electoral campaign. Among the slogans of the A.K.P., as Erdogan’s Justice and Development party is known, was: “One Nation. One Flag. One State.” The insistence on oneness reflected a reality of fracture. Settling the Armenian dispute and reaching a negotiated settlement with the Kurds must be central Turkish goals before the centennial in 2023 of Ataturk’s state.

And now here’s Mr. Kristof:

On university campuses across the country, from Mizzou to Yale, we have two noble forces colliding with explosive force.

One is a concern for minority or marginalized students and faculty members, who are often left feeling as outsiders in ways that damage everyone’s education. At the University of Missouri, a black professor,Cynthia Frisby, wrote, “I have been called the N-word too many times to count.”

The problem is not just racists who use epithets but also administrators who seem to acquiesce. That’s why Mizzou students — especially football players — used their clout to oust the university system’s president. They showed leadership in trying to rectify a failure of leadership.

But moral voices can also become sanctimonious bullies.

“Go, go, go,” some Mizzou protesters yelled as they jostled a student photographer, Tim Tai, who was trying to document the protests unfolding in a public space. And Melissa Click, an assistant professor who joined the protests, is heard on a video calling for “muscle” to oust another student journalist (she later apologized).

Tai represented the other noble force in these upheavals — free expression. He tried to make the point, telling the crowd: “The First Amendment protects your right to be here — and mine.”

We like to caricature great moral debates as right confronting wrong. But often, to some degree, it’s right colliding with right.

Yes, universities should work harder to be inclusive. And, yes, campuses must assure free expression, which means protecting dissonant and unwelcome voices that sometimes leave other people feeling aggrieved or wounded.

On both counts we fall far short.

We’ve also seen Wesleyan students debate cutting funding for the student newspaper after it ran an op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. At Mount Holyoke, students canceled a production of “The Vagina Monologues” because they felt it excluded transgender women. Protests led to the withdrawal of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker at Rutgers and Christine Lagarde at Smith.

This is sensitivity but also intolerance, and it is disproportionately an instinct on the left.

I’m a pro-choice liberal who has been invited to infect evangelical Christian universities with progressive thoughts, and to address Catholic universities where I’ve praised condoms and birth control programs. I’m sure I discomfited many students on these conservative campuses, but it’s a tribute to them that they were willing to be challenged. In the same spirit, liberal universities should seek out pro-life social conservatives to speak.

More broadly, academia — especially the social sciences — undermines itself by a tilt to the left. We should cherish all kinds of diversity, including the presence of conservatives to infuriate us liberals and make us uncomfortable. Education is about stretching muscles, and that’s painful in the gym and in the lecture hall.

One of the wrenching upheavals lately has unfolded at Yale. Longtime frustrations among minority students boiled over after administrators seemed to them insufficiently concerned about offensive costumes for Halloween. A widely circulated video showed a furious student shouting down one administrator, Prof. Nicholas Christakis. “Be quiet!” she screams at him. “It is not about creating an intellectual space!”

A student wrote an op-ed about “the very real hurt” that minority students feel, adding: “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” That prompted savage commentary online. “Is Yale letting in 8-year-olds?” one person asked on Twitter.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced “Yale’s Little Robespierres.” It followed up Wednesday with another editorial, warning that the P.C. mind-set “threatens to undermine or destroy universities as a place of learning.”

I suggest we all take a deep breath.

The protesters at Mizzou and Yale and elsewhere make a legitimate point: Universities should work harder to make all students feel they are safe and belong. Members of minorities — whether black or transgender or (on many campuses) evangelical conservatives — should be able to feel a part of campus, not feel mocked in their own community.

The problems at Mizzou were underscored on Tuesday when there were death threats against black students. What’s unfolding at universities is not just about free expression but also about a safe and nurturing environment.

Consider an office where bosses shrug as some men hang nude centerfolds and leeringly speculate about the sexual proclivities of female colleagues. Free speech issue? No! That’s a hostile work environment. And imagine if you’re an 18-year-old for whom this is your 24/7 home — named, say, for a 19th-century pro-slavery white supremacist.

My favorite philosopher, the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, argued that there was a deep human yearning to find the One Great Truth. In fact, he said, that’s a dead end: Our fate is to struggle with a “plurality of values,” with competing truths, with trying to reconcile what may well be irreconcilable.

That’s unsatisfying. It’s complicated. It’s also life.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

Perhaps you didn’t watch the Republican presidential debate this week. That in no way excuses you from having an opinion about it. It’s the last one until December, and all you’ll have to work with if you want political conversation at Thanksgiving dinner.

Except, perhaps, Donald Trump’s proposal that we boycott Starbucks for changing its holiday coffee cup design. He also promised a crowd recently that when he is president “we’re all going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.” Even if you never said it before? Hard to tell.

But about the debate. Jeb Bush sent out a mass email before the event began, asking all his “friends” to send him a dollar so he’d “know you’re at home cheering me on.” Doesn’t that sound a little pathetic?

As promised, it was certainly more issue-oriented than the ones that went before. However, the subject was supposed to be the economy, and we have long since learned that when these people talk tax plans, we’re not going to hear anything except the word low. And occasionally flat.

“As you noted, I have rolled out a bold and simple flat tax: 10 percent for every American that would produce booming growth and 4.9 million new jobs within a decade,” said Ted Cruz. In a perfect world, someone would have jumped up and yelled, “Say what?” since Cruz was talking about a potential $3 trillion budget hole.

Later, Cruz volunteered that he’d impose sharp budget cuts, including the total elimination of five major agencies — only four of which he could remember. People, do you think this should be the end of Ted Cruz? True, he got around it by listing the Department of Commerce twice, which was a little slicker than “Oops.” But still.

Carly Fiorina kept touting her three-page tax code. Not a three-page tax form — three pages of laws to cover all the taxes paid by every individual and business in the country. She mentioned the three-page code four times during the debate, and not once did anyone say, “Carly, what the heck are you talking about?”

The only person who might have passed for the teller of hard truths was — are you ready? — Ben Carson. While making the ever-popular promise to get rid of loopholes, Carson actually volunteered that he’d ax deductions for charitable contributions and home mortgages. Everybody liked them, Carson acknowledged, in his soft, calming voice. “But the fact of the matter is, people had homes before 1913, when we introduced the federal income tax, and later after that started deductions.”

Profile in courage or failure to think things through? Excellent topic for holiday discussion.

The only two issues that sparked genuine debate were immigration and military affairs. On the immigration front, both Bush and John Kasich attempted to tear into Trump’s plan to deport all the undocumented immigrants in the country. “Think about the families, think about the children,” Kasich begged, in an appeal unlikely to tug at the heartstrings of the Trump base.

Trump, for his part, claimed that President Dwight Eisenhower deported 1.5 million illegal immigrants to Mexico and stayed popular. (“Dwight Eisenhower. You don’t get nicer. You don’t get friendlier.”) This was a program titled “Operation Wetback” during which some deportees drowned.

Cruz took the opportunity to say that his father “came legally from Cuba.” It’s actually a very complicated story, but the important thing was that Cruz got to mention his immigrant parent. It is a rule in these debates that everybody who is not Jeb Bush or Donald Trump tries to sneak in some detail about humble origins. Kasich’s grandfather had black lung disease! And really, there should be a drinking game in which everybody takes a swig each time Rubio says: “My father was a bartender. My mother was a maid.”

Trump and Bush tangled over American involvement in the Middle East. Trump quoted an unnamed general, who said: “You know, Mr. Trump? We’re giving hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment to these people, we have no idea who they are.” Notice that in the Donald world, even generals call him “Mr. Trump.”

Meanwhile, Carson said America needed to make global jihadists “look like losers” by taking back a big oil field they control in Iraq. “We could do that, I believe, fairly easily. I’ve learned from talking to several generals, and then you move on from there.”

Who won? It’s hard to imagine voters who’ve stuck with Trump or Carson this long would be deterred by anything at this point. Many experts seem to think Cruz and Rubio did well, which I guess they did if you like illogical economic programs and totally terrifying views on foreign affairs. I guess Jeb felt encouraged. After the debate he emailed a request for another donation, to “keep the momentum going.”

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

November 2, 2015

In “Gotcha, G.O.P.” Mr. Blow says the Republican candidates, especially Ben Carson, appear to want to say little and avoid tough questions.  Mr. Cohen, in “Erdogan’s Violent Victory,” says the Turkish president played with fire and turned “stability” into the key word of the campaign.  Prof. Krugman, in “Partisan Growth Gaps,” says Republicans make big boasts, but things go better under Democrats.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Here we go again with attacks on the “mainstream media” and the invocation of the dreaded “gotcha question” to excuse poor performance and intellectual flat-footedness.

After being asked at last week’s debate about his ties to the shady nutritional supplement company Mannatech and saying “I didn’t have an involvement with them” and dismissing claims of a connection as “total propaganda,” Ben Carson called Thursday for an overhaul of Republican debate formats.

“Debates are supposed to be established to help the people get to know the candidate,” Carson said, according to The Washington Post. “What it’s turned into is — gotcha! That’s silly. That’s not helpful to anybody.”

I think the question was a fair one, and I’m not alone. Carson’s business manager, Armstrong Williams, said Thursday on CNN that the question wasn’t a gotcha one but an “absolutely” fair one.

And on the credibility of Carson’s denial, PolitiFact ruled:

“As far as we can tell, Carson was not a paid employee or official endorser of the product. However, his claim suggests he has no ties to Mannatech whatsoever. In reality, he got paid to deliver speeches to Mannatech and appeared in promotional videos, and he consistently delivered glowing reviews of the nutritional supplements. As a world-renowned surgeon, Carson’s opinion on health issues carries weight, and Mannatech has used Carson’s endorsement to its advantage.

“We rate Carson’s claim False.”

The idea of the gotcha question and gotcha journalism have decades-long roots, at least. In 1999, Calvin Trillin in Time Magazinecalled gotcha journalism, “campaign coverage dominated by attempts to reveal youthful misbehavior.” But the questions the Republican candidates received were not of that genre.

In a 1992 New York Times Magazine articleabout Barbara Walters, one of her producers told Bill Carter that Walters always went for the “gotcha question, the one that reveals the person.”

But the idea of the “gotcha question” gained new primacy in the 2008 election, whenWilliam Safire wrote in The Times of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’s prediction that “The gotcha politics will begin,” and noted that “Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, used the word in defense of having the audience question candidates at a CNN/YouTube debate instead of allowing reporters to have at his party’s candidates. He preferred to ‘let the American people back in’ than endure questions ‘from a press corps that wants to play gotcha!’ ”

But perhaps it has its most resonance because of its use by the disastrously ill-equipped Republican vice presidential candidate, who repeatedly used the phase as an excuse for her train wreck interviews.

Gotcha questions have come to mean any question one doesn’t want to answer, any question whose answer would or could reveal something unflattering. In a way, a question is simply a question and only becomes a gotcha if you, the answerer, feel convicted and unsettled by it. Gotcha is in the mind — and spine — of the interviewee.

Carson simply wasn’t prepared for the Mannatech question and wasn’t completely honest in the answer. If that is gotcha journalism, I’m here for it “every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” to borrow a phrase from Mike Huckabee.

This is not to say that the debate wasn’t a bit of a mess. It was. Nor is it to say that some of the questions weren’t questionable. They were. But questions that seek clarification of a candidate’s past are fair.

Yet Republicans have decided that attacking the media makes good optics. Not only is the party considering overhauling the debate process, it has suspended an upcoming NBC debate because, according to the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, “CNBC’s moderators engaged in a series of ‘gotcha’ questions, petty and meanspirited in tone, and designed to embarrass our candidates.”

But gotcha questions aren’t the Republicans’ problem. A frustration among Republican voters with political professionalism and a hodgepodge of fatally flawed candidates is. The more traditional portion of the Republican field is littered with candidates with strong résumés — I use the word strong here loosely, to mean the existence of governmental experience, not the quality of it — but relatively weak rhetorical skills.

Of the nontraditional lot, there is a former neurosurgeon whose strategy seems to be to appear barely awake while delivering word salads of outlandishness in a murmur, a real-estate mogul full of bluster and bawdiness, and a fired C.E.O. engaged in a breathtaking example of pink-slip revisionism.

Marco Rubio is thought to have won the last debate, not so much because he brilliantly articulated reasonable, or intellectually invigorating policy — “I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother” is a kindergarten truism, not a nuanced policy position — but because he remained relatively even and unperturbed.

And yet, it’s Carson who is now the front-runner, one of the candidates who spoke the least during the last debate and who seemed to want to say nothing at all. And that candidate is the one worrying about the precious few questions he will have to answer. That is the elephant party’s problem: They’re betting on someone who’s using ostrich logic.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Istanbul:

For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, violence made all the difference. It turned “stability” into the key word of an election that ushered his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., to the decisive victory denied it in the June 7 vote. One-party rule is back in Turkey and one man pulls the strings.

Improbably, Erdogan was able to embody stability when the politics of instability have been his modus operandi over the past five months. Or perhaps not so improbably — Erdogan, in power now for a dozen years, understands the psychology of fear and the force of Sunni Turkish nationalism, especially when the old specter of the Kurdish conflict appears.

The president has played with fire. His stance toward the terror-wielding jihadis of the Islamic State has married symbolic opposition to benign negligence, enough anyway to produce two terrorist attacks, one near the Syrian border on July 20 and one last month in Ankara, that left about 130 people dead. Most of the victims were Kurds. Goaded and attacked on several fronts in recent months, inside and beyond Turkish borders, the militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., returned to violence, killing two Turkish policemen on July 22. The old war stirred. It allowed Erdogan to suggest that only he stood between Turkey and the mayhem in neighboring states.

That, in a nutshell, is what changed between June and now. Erdogan did not respect the will of the people, of which he likes to speak. The June result was not to his liking; he set out, by all means, to overturn it and secure a parliamentary majority. Fragility was his political ally.

The A.K.P., embodying the conservative Sunni nationalism of the Anatolian heartland against the republican secularism of the coast, leapt to 49.3 percent of the vote from 40.9 percent in June. It took 316 seats, enough to govern alone, against 258 five months ago. A far-right party and the Kurdish-dominated People’s Republic Party, or H.D.P., lost votes as extreme nationalists and conservative Kurds opted for Erdogan. The scale of the shift, in short order, was extraordinary.

Still, the H.D.P., the new kid on the Turkish political block, managed to pass — just — the 10 percent legal threshold to enter Parliament. That was critical. Without the H.D.P., the A.K.P. dominance would have been so crushing as to enable Erdogan to change the Constitution and create an executive presidency on a whim. He will still push for that, but there will be pushback. Turkey, long the best hope for a Middle Eastern Muslim democracy, has not yet disappeared entirely over the authoritarian brink, but it is close.

Selahattin Demirtas, the charismatic leader of the H.D.P., said, “Maybe we lost one million votes but we are a party that managed to stand up against all massacre policies.” That, he suggested, was a “great victory.” Certainly, it was a significant one.

The H.D.P. is wounded but not moribund, despite widespread arrests of its members. Its future may hinge on how far Demirtas, criticized for not condemning P.K.K. violence with sufficient stringency, is able to chart a new, inclusive and nonviolent Kurdish course. Its appeal to non-Kurdish voters, the surprising development of June, hinges on that.

But Demirtas is vulnerable to Erdogan’s machinations. It is unclear how far the turbulent downward spiral of the past five months can be contained. The president’s genie of violence is out of the bottle. He has attacked a free press, undermined the rule of law, polarized the country and instilled an atmosphere where any opponent is “anti-nation” and treasonous.

“Let’s work together toward a Turkey where conflict, tension and polarization are nonexistent,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, declared in victory. That, from Erdogan’s man, sounded like hypocrisy at best.

Turkey for now seems set on the intolerant path of the 21st century authoritarian democracies that owe much to President Vladimir Putin of Russia — societies where dominance of the media, manipulation of conflict, unbound nationalism and the trashing of the rule of law allow the creation of a democratic masquerade. This represents a betrayal of the fuller democracy, freed of the threat of military coups, Erdogan promised Turkey a dozen years ago and seemed for a moment to represent.

It is time to end that betrayal. The alternative is more violence. This was victory in a democracy undermined.

I spoke to Ahmet Hakan, a prominent journalist beaten up during the campaign by unknown assailants. Hakan comes from a background of A.K.P. sympathy but has become critical. “My biggest criticism is that they do not tolerate criticism,” he told me. “I am not categorically against the government but they are so intolerant they cannot tolerate this. I saw the A.K.P. as trying to democratize Turkey, but step by step it became a one-man party.”

I asked who attacked him. Government cronies? He declined to say. “But the political atmosphere under this government makes this possible.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Last week The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed article by Carly Fiorina titled “Hillary Clinton Flunks Economics,” ridiculing Mrs. Clinton’s assertions that the U.S. economy does better under Democrats. “America,” declared Ms. Fiorina, “needs someone in the White House who actually knows how the economy works.”

Well, we can agree on that much.

Partisan positioning on the economy is actually quite strange. Republicans talk about economic growth all the time. They attack Democrats for “job-killing” government regulations, they promise great things if elected, they predicate their tax plans on the assumption that growth will soar and raise revenues. Democrats are far more cautious. Yet Mrs. Clinton is completely right about the record: historically, the economy has indeed done better under Democrats.

This contrast raises two big questions. First, why has the economy performed better under Democrats? Second, given that record, why are Republicans so much more inclined than Democrats to boast about their ability to deliver growth?

Before I get to those questions, let’s talk about the facts.

The arithmetic on partisan differences is actually stunning. Last year the economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson circulated a paper comparing economic performance under Democratic and Republican presidents since 1947. Under Democrats, the economy grew, on average, 4.35 percent per year; under Republicans, only 2.54 percent. Over the whole period, the economy was in recession for 49 quarters; Democrats held the White House during only eight of those quarters.

But isn’t the story different for the Obama years? Not as much as you think. Yes, the recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-2009 has been sluggish. Even so, the Obama record compares favorably on a number of indicators with that of George W. Bush. In particular, despite all the talk about job-killing policies, private-sector employment is eight millionhigher than it was when Barack Obama took office, twice the job gains achieved under his predecessor before the recession struck.

Why is the Democratic record so much better? The short answer is that we don’t know.

Mr. Blinder and Mr. Watson look at a variety of possible explanations, and find all of them wanting. There’s no indication that the Democratic advantage can be explained by better monetary and fiscal policies. Democrats seem, on average, to have had better luck than Republicans on oil prices and technological progress. Overall, however, the pattern remains mysterious. Certainly no Democratic candidate would be justified in promising dramatically higher growth if elected. And in fact, Democrats never do.

Republicans, however, always make such claims: Every candidate with a real chance of getting the G.O.P. nomination is claiming that his tax plan would produce a huge growth surge — a claim that has no basis in historical experience. Why?

Part of the answer is epistemic closure: modern conservatives generally live in a bubble into which inconvenient facts can’t penetrate. One constantly hears assertions that Ronald Reagan achieved economic and job growth never matched before or since, when the reality is that Bill Clinton surpassed him on both measures. Right-wing news media trumpet the economic disappointments of the Obama years, while hardly ever mentioning the good news. So the myth of conservative economic superiority goes unchallenged.

Beyond that, however, Republicans need to promise economic miracles as a way to sell policies that overwhelmingly favor the donor class.

It would be nice, for variety’s sake, if even one major G.O.P. candidate would come out against big tax cuts for the 1 percent. But none have, and all of the major players have called for cuts that would subtract trillions from revenue. To make up for this lost revenue, it would be necessary to make sharp cuts in big programs — that is, in Social Security and/or Medicare.

But Americans overwhelmingly believe that the wealthy pay less than their fair share of taxes, and even Republicans are closely divided on the issue. And the public wants to see Social Security expanded, not cut. So how can a politician sell the tax-cut agenda? The answer is, by promising those miracles, by insisting that tax cuts on high incomes would both pay for themselves and produce wonderful economic gains.

Hence the asymmetry between the parties. Democrats can afford to be cautious in their economic promises precisely because their policies can be sold on their merits. Republicans must sell an essentially unpopular agenda by confidently declaring that they have the ultimate recipe for prosperity — and hope that nobody points out their historically poor track record.

And if someone does point to that record, you know what they’ll do: Start yelling about media bias.

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 30, 2015

Bobo haz a BIG happy!  In “The Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio Moment” he squeals that the Republicans just picked one capable leader for the House and have another ready for their presidential nomination.  It is to larf.  In the comments “Sudhakar” from St. Louis had this to say:  “Seriously, why does David Brooks still get an editorial column? Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio as leaders is a “pretty excellent outcome”? Marco Rubio actually offering serious tax policy? All of this is dead wrong and shows how clueless David really is.”  Mr. Cohen, in “Ripples of the Iran Deal,” says Iranian- American dialogue is a rebuke to the sterile evasions of Abbas and Netanyahu.  In “Springtime for Grifters” Prof. Krugman says the scammers — some looking for votes, some just to line their pockets — figure their victims won’t believe the truths presented by mainstream media.  Here’s Bobo, and his big happy:

So after all the meshugas on the right over the past few years, the Republicans could wind up with two new leaders going into this election, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. That’s a pretty excellent outcome for a party that has shown an amazing tendency to inflict self-harm.

Ryan is the new House speaker and right now Rubio is the most likely presidential nominee. The shape of the presidential campaign is coming into focus. It’s still wise to expect (pray) that the celebrity candidates will fade as the shopping phase ends and the buying phase begins.

Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda, but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda. Donald Trump and Ben Carson go invisible when the subject of actual governance comes up.

Jeb Bush’s problems are temperamental and thus most likely permanent. He would probably be a very effective president. And he would have been a very effective candidate — but in 1956. These are harsher times.

Ted Cruz looks likely to emerge as the candidate of the disaffected white working class — the noncollege-educated voters who are now registering their alienation and distrust with Trump. But there aren’t enough of those voters in the primary electorate to beat Rubio, and Cruz just isn’t likable enough to build a national campaign around. Rubio, meanwhile, has no natural enemies anywhere in the party, he has truly impressive natural skills and his greatest weakness is his greatest strength: his youth.

While other candidates are repeating the formulas of the 1980s and 1990s, Rubio is a child of this century. He understands that it’s no longer enough to cut taxes and say bad things about government to produce widespread prosperity. In a series of major policy speeches over the past two years (he’s one of the few candidates who actually gives them), Rubio has emphasized that newstructural problems threaten the American dream: technology displacing workers, globalization suppressing wages and the decline of marriage widening inequality.

His proposals reflect this awareness. At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards.

For example, Rubio’s tax policy starts where all Republican plans start. He would simplify the tax code, reduce rates and move us toward a consumption-based system by reducing taxes on investment.

But he understands that overall growth no longer translates directly to better wages. He adds a big $2,500 child tax credit that is controversial among conservative economists, but that would make life easier for working families.

His antipoverty programs are the biggest departure from traditional Republicanism. America already spends a fair bit of money aiding the poor — enough to lift most families out of poverty if we simply wrote them checks. But the money flows through a hodgepodge of programs and creates perverse incentives. People are often better off over all if they rely on government rather than getting an entry-level job. As Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute has pointed out, there are two million fewer Americans working today than before the recession and two million more receiving disabilities benefits.

Influenced by Cass’s work, Rubio has tried to offer people who aren’t working some basic security, while also championing wage subsidies that would encourage people to get entry-level jobs. The idea is to reward people who get on the ladder of opportunity, and to compensate for the decline in low-skill wages.

Rubio would reform the earned-income tax credit and extend it to cover childless workers. He would also convert most federal welfare spending into a “flex fund” that would go straight to the states. Rules for these programs would no longer be written in Washington. The state agencies that implement welfare policies would have more freedom to design them. He’d maintain overall welfare spending, adjusting it for inflation and poverty levels, but he’d allow more room for experimentation.

Republican debates rarely touch on education for some reason, but Rubio also has a slew of ideas to reform it. He says the higher education system is controlled by a cartel of well-established institutions that block low-cost competitors from entering the market. He wants student loan costs to be based on an affordable percentage of a person’s income.

Of all the candidates, Rubio has done the most to harvest the work of Reform Conservatism, which has been sweeping through the think tank world. In a year in which many candidates are all marketing, Rubio is a balance of marketing and product.

If Ryan and Rubio do emerge as the party’s two leaders, it will be the wonkiest leadership team in our lifetime. That’s a good thing.

It’s obvious that Bobo has never bothered to read Krugman on either of those clowns.  But that would harsh his mellow…  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

There was never any chance the Iran nuclear deal would be hermetic. One of its merits is to condemn the United States and Iran to a relationship, however hostile, over the next decade and a half at least. Now, within months, it has led to Iran’s presence at peace negotiations on Syria. That’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing because no end to the Syrian civil war is possible without the involvement of all the actors. Iran is one, directly and through its surrogate Hezbollah. It’s a good thing because it demonstrates, once again, that defiant Iranian rhetoric is often a distraction from Iranian actions, which may be more pragmatic.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, had ruled out cooperation beyond the nuclear deal. The fact is neither Khamenei, a hard-liner, nor the reformists led by President Hassan Rouhani can ignore the other. Their respective power is in delicate equilibrium, an unusual situation in the 36-year history of the Islamic Republic and one the West must continue to probe.

The Obama administration has ignored the weary Friday-prayer refrain of “Death to America” in order to do business with Tehran. That was smart. If Israel displayed similar pragmatism, and a similar capacity to ignore vile Iranian outbursts, it would come to the conclusion that a deal that has reversed the direction of Iran’s nuclear program for the first time in many years and bound Iran to a verifiable bomb-preventing international contract is in its interest.

But Iran has long been a useful distraction from Israel’s core problem, Palestine. Iran is far away from Jerusalem and Iranians seldom think about Israel. Ramallah is very close to Jerusalem and Palestinians think about Israel all the time. Sometimes they rise in fury against their overlord and wield knives.

Oppressed people will do such things. The oppression does not make random Palestinian stabbings of Israelis defensible. They are vicious crimes against innocent people. But it makes them understandable. Violence is the other face of the so-called status quo that Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu believes to be in Israel’s interest. Violence is inextricable from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank that is almost a half-century old. Stateless non-citizens, living behind a high-tech wall among colonial settler garrisons, will not all acquiesce to their fate.

Palestinian violence and provocations can no more be an excuse for Israel’s status-quo policy than Iranian outbursts. Serious negotiation, serious diplomacy, can change dangerous situations — slowly and painfully.

No sentient human being can contemplate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today and not feel disgust at its cynicism. It defies words. Every word has been exhausted on its blood-soaked sterility. President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu have played games while their people die — and while President Obama and Rouhani negotiated a transformative deal that is an admonishment to them both.

The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Netanyahu recently saying that “we will forever live by the sword” and that he does not want a binational state but “we need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future.” All the territory is binational. Therefore to control it in the way Netanyahu envisages, democracy must be sacrificed. The Jewish and democratic state of Israel withers.

The Palestinian leadership thinks it is playing a long game. It should look at the history of the last 68 years to see what such long games yield. Palestine withers. That is a historic fact.

History and narratives are dangerous things in the Holy Land. That has long been so. But Netanyahu’s outrageous suggestion that the grand mufti of Jerusalem gave Hitler the idea of annihilating European Jewry (when about a million European Jews were already dead in the Baltic states and elsewhere) represents a new low. Netanyahu has a hard time with history. He compared Yitzhak Rabin to Chamberlain and he called the Iran deal “a historic mistake.

This is what happens when history is a tool in the cynical kick-the-can-down-the-road pursuit of status-quo Israeli dominance.

The course of history can be changed. Iran’s presence at the table will not alter the fact that any end to the Syrian war is unlikely. The forces driving the war — a region-wide Sunni-Shiite confrontation, jihadi fundamentalism, the reactionary desperation of the old mukhabarat-controlled Arab state, the Kurdish question, sectarian enmity, and the thirst of many Syrian people for reform — are greater than the capacity of a fractured country to control them.

The war has gone too far. Backed by Iran and Russia, President Bashar al-Assad started killing his people on day one. His purpose has been to radicalize, portray himself as the murderer-savior. In a way, he has succeeded.

Still, Iran’s involvement, side-by-side with Russia and the United States, as well as other European and regional powers, is positive. The right people are at the table. For Israel-Palestine there is no table. There is nothing but more of the same. There is nothing but dangerous fantasies.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

At one point during Wednesday’s Republican debate, Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that makes outlandish claims about its products and has been forced to pay $7 million to settle a deceptive-practices lawsuit. The audience booed, and Mr. Carson denied being involved with the company. Both reactions tell you a lot about the driving forces behind modern American politics.

As it happens, Mr. Carson lied. He has indeed been deeply involved with Mannatech, and has done a lot to help promote its merchandise. PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false, without qualification. But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset.

And this doesn’t just go for outsider candidates like Mr. Carson and Donald Trump. Insider politicians like Marco Rubio are simply engaged in a different, classier kind of scam — and they are empowered in part by the way the grifters have defined respectability down.

About the grifters: Start with the lowest level, in which marketers use political affinity to sell get-rich-quick schemes, miracle cures, and suchlike. That’s the Carson phenomenon, and it’s just the latest example of a long tradition. As the historian Rick Perlstein documents, a “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

At a somewhat higher level are marketing campaigns more or less tied to what purports to be policy analysis. Right-wing warnings of imminent hyperinflation, coupled with demands that we return to the gold standard, were fanned by media figures like Glenn Beck, who used his show to promote Goldline, a firm selling gold coins and bars at, um, inflated prices. Sure enough, Mr. Beck has been a vocal backer of Ted Cruz, who has made a return to gold one of his signature policy positions.

Oh, and former Congressman Ron Paul, who has spent decades warning of runaway inflation and is undaunted by its failure to materialize, is very much in the business of selling books and videos showing how you, too, can protect yourself from the coming financial disaster.

At a higher level still are operations that are in principle engaging in political activity, but mainly seem to be generating income for their organizers. Last week The Times published an investigative report on some political action committees raising money in the name of anti-establishment conservative causes. The report found that the bulk of the money these PACs raise ends up going to cover administrative costs and consultants’ fees, very little to their ostensible purpose. For example, only 14 percent of what the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends is “candidate focused.”

You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.

And a lot of people live inside that closed loop. Current estimates say that Mr. Carson, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz together have the support of around 60 percent of Republican voters.

Furthermore, the success of the grifters has a profound effect on the whole party. As I said, it defines respectability down.

Consider Mr. Rubio, who has emerged as the leading conventional candidate thanks to Jeb Bush’s utter haplessness. There was a time when Mr. Rubio’s insistence that $6 trillion in tax cuts would somehow pay for themselves would have marked him as deeply unserious, especially given the way his party has been harping on the evils of budget deficits. Even George W. Bush, during the 2000 campaign, at least pretended to be engaged in conventional budgeting, handing back part of a projected budget surplus.

But the Republican base doesn’t care what the mainstream media says. Indeed, after Wednesday’s debate the Internet was full of claims that John Harwood, one of the moderators, lied about Mr. Rubio’s tax plan. (He didn’t.) And in any case, Mr. Rubio sounds sensible compared to the likes of Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump. So there’s no penalty for his fiscal fantasies.

The point is that we shouldn’t ask whether the G.O.P. will eventually nominate someone in the habit of saying things that are demonstrably untrue, and counting on political loyalists not to notice. The only question is what kind of scam it will be.

Maybe Bobo will take the time to read this piece by Prof. Krugman, but since he’s inside the bubble…

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

October 26, 2015

In “Hillary Clinton Wins Again” Mr. Blow says the Benghazi committee embarrassed itself, and instead of weakening Mrs. Clinton, it bolstered her standing with potential voters.  Mr. Cohen, in “Britain’s ‘Brexit’ Folly,” says say it, Mr. Cameron: An “out” vote is a vote for decline, illusion, the past and marginalization.  In “Free Mitt Romney!” Prof. Krugman says the  former Massachusetts governor should be proud of helping to pave the way for Obamacare, but in today’s Republican Party that is viewed as a crime.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On the heels of a strong Democratic debate performance, last week Vice President Joe Biden — whose candidacy would surely have drawn support away from her — dismounted the fence and decided not to run for president himself. And then came the spectacular debacle of the Benghazi committee hearing.

At one point during the hearing, Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, said: “This is not a prosecution.” But it was an attempted persecution. It simply failed.

It was a televised witch trial. But the tribunal had before it a woman who would not confess transgression and who defied the flame.

Instead, she was poised, knowledgeable and unflappable. She turned the tables. The committee was on trial, and found wanting in motives, authorities and class.

I keep being surprised by the astonishing degree to which Clinton’s opponents continue to underestimate her.

She is far from flawless, but she is no slouch or dummy. She is sharp and tough and resilient. She is a rock, and she is not to be trifled with.

The Clintons as a couple, and individually, are battle-hardened. They are not new to this. They are survivors. Even when they lose, they survive. No upstart congressman or woman can do more damage than has already been done and dealt with.

Why can’t these people see that? Oh well…

Even before the hearings began, they had been hobbled.

Several Republicans had suggested what many already assumed: that the committee was established — or strayed from its course — in an effort to hurt Clinton’s political prospects.

Make no mistake: this field has been well plowed. This investigation is looking increasingly like a boondoggle: a spectacular waste of time and money.

As a Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff, put it: “The reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people. We have discovered nothing that alters the core conclusions of the eight investigations that went on before.”

A CNN/ORC poll released last week found that:

“Seventy-two percent of all Americans say they see the Benghazi committee as mostly using its investigative mission for political gain, just 23 percent think it is conducting an objective investigation. Even Republicans are skeptical on this measure, with 49 percent saying the committee is trying to score political points vs. 47 percent who say it is conducting an objective investigation.”

Last week, four top Senate Democrats even demanded in a letter to the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, that it pay for the nearly $5 million price tag of the committee, writing “that the Select Committee has conducted a political inquisition aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.” This of course was political theory, and will never happen, but needed to be said.

But the spectacle of the hearing itself was an injury different and apart from the motive. Clinton was more composed and commanding, while her Republican questioners vacillated from condescending to pugnacious.

They embarrassed themselves.

And in Clinton’s corner were the Democratic members of the committee, including ranking member Elijah Cummings, who all day delivered blistering repudiations to the committee itself.

Toward the end of the 11-hour hearing, Cummings said to Clinton:

“You have laid it out. I think — you’ve said — this has not been done perfectly. You wish you could do it another way, and then the statement you made a few minutes ago when you said, you know, I have given more thought to this than all of you combined. So I don’t know what we want from you. Do we want to badger you over and over again until you get tired, until we do get the gotcha moment he’s talking about?”

He continued:

“We’re better than that. We are so much better. We are a better country. And we are better than using taxpayer dollars to try to destroy a campaign. That’s not what America is all about.

As he put it: “I just had to get that off my chest.”

Indeed, when Gowdy was asked in a press conference following the marathon hearing what new information he had gathered, he responded:

“I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning — well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already. We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified.”

That’s right, much of nothing. What a waste.

But not for Clinton. For her, it was a boon. She won another one. It bolstered her image as a warrior and it helped to shore up her support from waffling voters.

This doesn’t guarantee her the presidency of course, or even the nomination, but Republicans did her a tremendous favor with these hearings. The Benghazi committee became a Clinton campaign benefactor.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

The little Englanders and their enablers determined to takeBritain out of the European Union believe the perfect storm is upon them.

Look across the Channel, they argue, and see the hordes of desperate refugees intent on disrupting the British way of life (whatever they imagine that to be) and living off British welfare. Look beyond them and see the 19-member eurozone mired in the agony of its flawed creation. Look at the whole European Continent, with its sluggish economies and myriad regulations, and imagine a glorious island nation freed from the burdens of an unhappy association with the complex-ridden losers of World War II!

It’s all baloney, and dangerous baloney at that, fanned by the Murdoch press, the anti-immigrant hatemongers of the U.K. Independence Party, and the sovereignty-obsessed conservative backbenchers of Prime Minister David Cameron who believe Britain can boss it again in the world if unbound from the shackles of Brussels and bureaucrats intent on stipulating the shape of cucumbers.

The fact is the European Union has been good for Britain — its economy, its openness, its culture, its financial services and its global clout. Postwar imperial decline has been offset by European construction. The British overcoat has become ampler. But such is the jingoistic clamor that Cameron has blinked and, either next year or the year after that, Britain will vote (for the first time since 1975) on whether to remain part of the European Union. The vote will be definitive.

“It’s losable,” Pat McFadden, a Labour Party member of Parliament and staunch supporter of continued membership, told me. “It’s winnable, too. Neither side should make assumptions. You could have a nationalist anti-immigration thing that comes together at the very moment when the euro and the refugee crisis are being discussed.”

A vote to leave, for McFadden, would be a disaster — not just for the economy, trade, investment and jobs — but also for Britain’s place in the world. Britain does nearly half its trade with other European Union countries and, as an E.U. member, is part of a $18.5 trillion economy, larger than that of the United States. Exports to the European Union support over 4 million jobs, directly or indirectly. On its own, Britain is a significant pygmy, with less than 1 percent of the world’s population and less than 3 percent of global output; it is not in the 21st-century major league.

Moreover, as McFadden told me, “If Britain leaves the E.U., Scotland will leave Britain.” A pro-European Scotland, now a virtual Scottish nationalist one-party state, will be able to argue circumstances have changed since the referendum last year produced a majority for remaining part of the United Kingdom. Scotland will demand another vote. And so a British exit from Europe could well mean the end of the very Great Britain proudly invoked by the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot “Brexit” brigade.

Cohen, Kristof and Collins

October 22, 2015

In “Camelot Comes to Canada” Mr. Cohen says the Trudeau story suggests limits to the bullying politics of anger and fear. America, take note.  Mr. Kristof considers “The Miracle Breast Milk Elixir” and says breast-feeding is a dazzlingly low-tech solution that saves children’s lives.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary and Benghazi,” says the House Benghazi committee’s inappropriate approach is outdone only by the Stop Hillary PAC and its ghoulish commercial.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

Michael Ignatieff, the former leader of Justin Trudeau’s victorious Liberal Party in Canada, told me he’d “never known an instance when any American took any lesson from Canada.”

That’s probably true. Americans, with the conspicuous exception of the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, tend to think nothing of note, or at least serious note, takes place north of the border. But perhaps that lesson-taking moment has arrived.

Trudeau’s remarkable triumph, which saw the Liberal Party jump to 184 seats from 36 in the 338-member Canadian House of Commons, was a victory over mean-spiritedness and the politics of fear. It was a thorough repudiation, after almost a decade, of the belligerent politics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As Ignatieff noted, the “nasty party,” an epithet that once belonged to Britain’s Tories, had become a fair description of Harper’s Conservatives.

Harper had notably gone after Canada’s one million Muslims. His government’s attempt to prevent Muslim women from wearing a face-covering headdress, or niqab, during citizenship ceremonies was overturned this year by a court ruling. The prime minister, saying he found the veil “offensive,” decided to appeal the court decision, but lost last month.

His stand has had a tangible effect on Muslims. One, Rania El-Alloul, was told earlier this year by a judge in a Quebec court that she would not hear her case (a property matter) unless she removed her headscarf. A Conservative minister called the hijab a perversion of Canadian values.

No, the attempt to undermine Canadian values was Harper’s — and Canadians saw through him. They rejected his crass divisiveness. Trudeau was forthright in standing up for the right of Canada’s Muslim women to wear what they like. “Diversity is the at the very heart of Canada. It is who we are and what we do,” he declared in March. A “Francophone Quebecer,” as he has called himself, Trudeau knows how central diversity and multiculturalism are to the delicate weave of Canadian unity.

“We are a mosaic and Trudeau felt strongly about it,” Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal Member of Parliament, told me. “There was a very narrow and very partisan attempt by the government to play on baser instincts and create animosity that was not there.”

In short, a positive campaign won. Killer politics lost. Trudeau likes to talk about finding “common ground,” where Harper was all about winner take all. At a time when American politics are dismally polarized, this other North American political story is interesting, perhaps even instructive.

Republicans still seem to believe the unlikely proposition that elections are won on the angry margins. The two leading Republican candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, try to outgun each other in attacking, respectively, Mexican immigration and the idea of a Muslim president in the White House (don’t hold your breath). The Trudeau story suggests limits to the bullying politics of anger and fear. Not even Lynton Crosby, the legendary Australian master of the take-no-hostage dark political arts, could revive Harper’s fortunes.

Camelot has come to Canada. For a moment at least, the duller part of North America looks sexier than its overweening cousin to the south. Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire, have razzmatazz. The incoming prime minister is very much his father’s son, a natural charmer. There’s no point denying it. The American political field looks wizened by comparison.

You don’t have to be seduced by Trudeau’s happy talk of “sunny ways,” or be persuaded by Trudeau’s Obamaesque allusions to the “better angels of our nature,” or be convinced by the equally Obamaesque references from Trudeau to the arc of the moral universe bending “toward justice” — all this will be tested by the harsh realities of power in a big country of competing interests. The glitter, it is safe to say, will fade. Shadows will dim the Trudeau sun. But the political tide has turned in Canada.

It has turned away from austerity toward deficit spending on infrastructure and growth — and this in a country where balanced budgets are, in Freeland’s words, “almost a fetish.” It has turned away from widening inequality (yes, even in Canada) toward addressing the challenges to social cohesion from globalization. It has turned away from Harper’s weird Canadian unilateralism toward a rediscovery of Canada’s traditional multilateral, United Nations-focused approach to foreign policy and leadership on refugee issues. It has turned away from bruising confrontation toward civility in politics.

Trudeau represents a break in style but also in economic approach at a time when sharpening inequality is probably the foremost issue in developed Western societies. In this sense, too, his election may be telling on the eve of a United States election year.

“One of the most difficult and urgent global problems is how to develop societies where people of different cultures can live together and build common ground,” Trudeau said during the campaign. If he does not lead on this issue — in Canada and beyond Canada — he will have failed the promise he represents.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof, writing from Lucknow, India:

What if there were a remedy that could save more children’s lives in the developing world than are claimed by malaria and AIDS combined?

A miracle substance that reduces ear infections while seeming to raise scores on I.Q. tests by several points? Available even in the most remote villages, requiring no electricity or refrigeration? Oh, and as long as we’re dreaming, let’s make it free.

This miracle substance already exists. It’s breast milk.

Current estimates backed by the World Health Organization and Unicef are that optimal breast-feeding would save 800,000 children’s lives a year in developing countries. That would amount to a 12 percent drop in child mortality, a huge gain.

I’m on my annual win-a-trip journey, in which I take a student with me to the developing world to look at neglected issues. The student, Austin Meyer of Stanford University, and I have been reporting in India, where 1.2 million children under the age of 5 die annually — and where nutritionists say that improved breast-feeding practices could save many.

Exclusive breast-feeding for six months, as strongly recommended by the World Health Organization, is practiced by just 46 percent of women in India, 17 percent in Nigeria, and 10 percent in Yemen, according to the latest Global Nutrition Report. (In the U.S., the figure is about 22 percent,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Let me get this out of the way: It’s awkward for men to hail breast-feeding, and it risks sounding patronizing because we’re not the ones doing the work.

And this: Sometimes promotion of breast-feeding carries an unfortunate edge of reproach for women who can’t breast-feed or choose not to, and that’s counterproductive. In America, there’s tension about these issues; an essay in The Times on Sunday warned that promotion efforts can degenerate into shaming women. That’s a fair caution.

In any case, where this is a life-or-death issue is not the West but in developing countries, where water is often contaminated and child mortality is high.

Infants who are not breast-fed are 14 times more likely to die than those who are exclusively breast-fed, according to a major metastudy just published by Acta Paediatrica, a pediatrics journal.

Here in northern India, Austin and I met a mother, Maher Bano, whose daughter had been born at home just hours earlier. The baby was underweight and in danger of dying. The best medicine in this context is breast milk: Studies from India, Nepal and Ghana show that prompt breast-feeding reduces neonatal mortality by 44 percent.

But Maher Bano said that for the first 24 hours, the baby would be given only tea with honey.

“I’ll breast-feed the baby tomorrow, or the next day,” she said, explaining that she was following the guidance of the traditional birth attendant who had helped her deliver the baby and cut the cord. This is common: Worldwide, only 43 percent of babies are put to the breast within an hour of birth, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

One reason for delays is suspicion of colostrum, the first, yellowish milk, which doesn’t look quite like milk but is packed with nutrients and antibodies; it’s sometimes called the “first immunization.”

Another big challenge: In hot countries, villagers also often give infants water on hot days, or start them on food before six months. Water both displaces milk and also is often contaminated. (Breast milk, in contrast, is safe even when the mom drinks contaminated water.)

Western companies are also to blame. Manufacturers of infant formula face stagnant growth in Western countries, so they aggressively pursue poorer countries. Researchers found that 85 percent of recently discharged mothers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, had seen advertising for formula.

Some also believe that Western entertainment has sexualized the breast in ways that reduce breast-feeding.

While the clearest benefits of breast-feeding have to do with saving lives, there is also some evidence of other health and cognitive gains. In Belarus, children of women randomly assigned to exclusive breast-feeding promotion scored six points higher on I.Q. tests than controls.

A few studies haven’t found a tie to cognitive capacity, but most have. Over all, a new review of 17 studies found a mean gain of three I.Q. points for children who were breast-fed.

Global health experts focus on breast-feeding partly because efforts to support moms in this area pay off surprisingly well. A recent survey by Acta Paediatrica of 130 estimates found that breast-feeding promotion on average increased exclusive breast-feeding by an astonishing 44 percent.

This annual win-a-trip journey is a chance to highlight elegant solutions to global problems. Sometimes the solutions are dazzlingly high-tech, but almost nothing could save as many children’s lives each year as nature’s own miracle: breast milk.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

When Americans are killed in a terror attack, there’s a natural, righteous need to find out what went wrong. And the trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t debase the human loss with a nasty political scrum.

For the right way, you can look at the 9/11 commission.

For the wrong way, there’s the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which has spent the last few months as a walking disaster. Well, actually, a sitting disaster. Or a hardly-ever-bothering-to-show-up disaster. In all its postures, it’s been a textbook for bad intentions.

And then there’s the ad a group called Stop Hillary PAC aired in a number of American cities during the Democratic debate last week. It featured photos of the four men who died in the attack on the American diplomatic mission, seemingly speaking from the grave to Clinton. “I’d like to ask you why you ignored calls for help in Benghazi and then four Americans were murdered,” says a voice, while the picture of C.I.A. contractor Glen Doherty is on the screen. In the end, a picture of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens appears, while a voice says: “But Mrs. Clinton, I can’t. What difference does it make?” And then there’s his headstone.

The relatives were, of course, horrified. “It’s an insult to someone who is dead,” Stevens’s mother told The Washington Post, adding that she’d sue the makers if she could.

But she can’t. The only thing that controls people like Stop Hillary PAC is a national consensus that there are places you just don’t go when it comes to political exploitation of American deaths. We’ve been through a lot of that lately, including the Jeb Bush-Donald Trump argument about George W. and 9/11. “Next week Mr. Trump is probably going to say that F.D.R. was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,” Jeb blurted out in a TV interview.

Say what? People, do you remember the days of yore, when you thought Jeb Bush was the adult in the Republican room? Now he’s nothing more than political toast and Donald Trump could actually get the Republican nomination. Or Ted Cruz. Jeb, you have a lot to answer for — just please, don’t try to say anything.

The first step on the road to national sanity is to acknowledge that our leaders all want to keep the people safe. There is absolutely no reason to worry on that point. But good intentions don’t always lead to safe results, and the second step is to figure out what went wrong in a calm and even-handed manner.

The Benghazi committee went into its investigation with a promise to be fair. “There are certain things in our culture that have to transcend politics, and I don’t mean to sound naïve, but the murder of four fellow Americans and an attack on a facility that is emblematic of our country should transcend politics,” said the committee chair, Trey Gowdy.

The very fact that Gowdy thought he might be sounding naïve should have been a warning.

That was before the House majority leader bragged how well the committee had done in bringing down Clinton’s poll numbers. Before Gowdy criticized Clinton for forwarding an email containing the name of a C.I.A. source to her aide, and in the process accidentally made the name public himself.

Also before the world learned that the same Stop Hillary PAC which made that appalling ad has been a campaign contributor and all-round political helper to Representative Trey Gowdy.

How do you know if politicians are transcending their parties when they’re investigating these painful and sensitive matters? Well, do they seem interested in important but unsexy issues like the State Department security chain of command? Or are they flinging themselves in front of the cameras, claiming that the terrible error which was Benghazi is like the criminal conspiracy which was Watergate.

Looking at you, Representative Mike (“worse than Watergate”) Pompeo. A Kansas Republican who serves on the Benghazi investigating committee, Pompeo has been making the rounds on TV, arguing that Clinton erased way more emails than Richard Nixon did White House tapes. I believe I speak for many when I say that if email had been around during the Nixon administration, we would have seen erasures the size of Mount Whitney.

While we’re reclaiming the even course when it comes to preventing terror attacks, another good step might be for Jeb Bush to say that Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve to be pilloried any more than his brother. This came up during a Jake Tapper interview on CNN, and Bush’s response was: “Well, I — it’s — the question on then Benghazi, which is — hopefully we’ll now finally get, get the truth to, is, was that — was the place secure? They had a responsibility, the Department of State, to have proper security.”


Cohen and Krugman

October 19, 2015

In “This Column Is Gluten-Free” Mr. Cohen moans that it’s good that people are more demanding, but the epidemic of food intolerance has gone way over the top.  Prof. Krugman considers “Something Not Rotten in Denmark” and gives us an example of a welfare state that taxes heavily but enjoys high employment and general prosperity.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

I was in Venice a few weeks ago and friends reported seeing a restaurant menu with the following important message emblazoned it: “We do NOT serve gluten-free food.”

It was easy to imagine an exasperated Italian proprietor, driven to frenzy by repeated requests from Americans for gluten-free pasta, finally deciding to cut short such exchanges with this blunt pre-emptive blow.

Rough translation: My way or the highway. If you don’t like my pasta the way la Mamma has always made it, try someplace else.

Gluten is the main protein component of wheat, rye and barley. Wheat was first cultivated about 12,000 years ago and it’s safe to say gluten has never had as hard a time as in recent years. The hunter-gatherer turned cultivator would be appalled at what he has wrought. Free associate from the word “gluten” these days and you’ll probably come up with poison.

This column, by the way, is gluten-free. Please feel at liberty to read on.

There has been a huge and mysterious rise in celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the small intestine when gluten is ingested. According to the Mayo Clinic web site, four times as many people suffer from celiac disease as 60 years ago, and roughly one in 100 people are now affected. Why is unclear. Perhaps it’s the way gluten products are prepared today, or even, some have suggested, the result of a bored immune system looking for new targets.

But of course the gluten-free trend is not just about multiplying celiac sufferers. People decide gluten must be bad for them because they see shelves full of gluten-free food at supermarkets. Forms of food intolerance, whether to wheat or dairy products or something else, have reached near epidemic levels among the global middle class.

Special dietary needs are all the rage. Allergies, real or imagined, multiply. One in five Britons now claim some form of intolerance, yet a 2010 Portsmouth University study found the claims were often unfounded. The narcissism of minor differences finds expression in the food-intolerance explosion: Having a special dietary requirement is one way to feel special in the prevailing “me” culture.

But I don’t want to show the intolerance of the omnivore for faddish food particularism, however overblown it may be. There’s a lot that’s good in food fetishes.

People are more aware of what they eat and how they want to feel as a result of what they eat. They are more demanding, with instant access to the information they need to make shrewd dietary choices; and they are surely not wrong to blame processed food and manipulated food and greater pollution and stress for certain allergies.

The political, it often seems, has become personal. Where people wanted to change the world, now they want to change their bodies. Wellness is a political pursuit because it involves choices about food that will impact the planet. Eating local or eating organic or both are lifestyle statements that have become engaged political acts. The pursuit of wellness, increasingly tied to the pursuit of beauty and agelessness, stands at the heart of the current zeitgeist. I eat well therefore I am.

People, if they have a choice (and it’s worth recalling that much of humanity still does not), are eating better. That’s good. But there is also a downside that has to do with self-indulgence, commercial manipulation, the rampant anxiety associated with “affluenza” and narcissistic fussiness.

Some years ago I was told about the experience of a London caterer who had provided the food for a birthday party for Lord Carrington, who is now 96. The caterer asked if any of the aged crowd had special dietary requirements. There were none among the many octogenarian and nonagenarian guests. They were happy to eat anything.

More recently, another friend told me of her sister’s experience with a large house party in Scotland last summer. When the sister inquired about any special dietary needs, many requests came in, particularly from the younger crowd. Hardly anyone aged between 18 and 25 was up for eating anything. One young woman wrote: “I can’t eat shellfish but I do eat lobster.”


If people over 80 will eat anything, yet people under 25 are riddled with allergies, something unhealthy is going on — and it’s going on most conspicuously in the most aggressive, competitive, unequal, individualistic, anxiety-ridden and narcissistic societies, where enlightenment about food has been offset by the sort of compulsive anxiety about it that can give rise to imagined intolerances and allergies.

Overall, I’m with the Venetian restaurant owner making his stand for tradition, la Mamma and eating the food that’s put on your plate. Gluten has done O.K. by humanity for upward of 10 millennia. It’s bad for some people, but the epidemic of food intolerance has gone way over the top.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

No doubt surprising many of the people watching the Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders cited Denmark as a role model for how to help working people. Hillary Clinton demurred slightly, declaring that “we are not Denmark,” but agreed that Denmark is an inspiring example.

Such an exchange would have been inconceivable among Republicans, who don’t seem able to talk about European welfare states without adding the word “collapsing.” Basically, on Planet G.O.P. all of Europe is just a bigger version of Greece. But how great are the Danes, really?

The answer is that the Danes get a lot of things right, and in so doing refute just about everything U.S. conservatives say about economics. And we can also learn a lot from the things Denmark has gotten wrong.

Denmark maintains a welfare state — a set of government programs designed to provide economic security — that is beyond the wildest dreams of American liberals. Denmark provides universal health care; college education is free, and students receive a stipend; day care is heavily subsidized. Overall, working-age families receive more than three times as much aid, as a share of G.D.P., as their U.S. counterparts.

To pay for these programs, Denmark collects a lot of taxes. The top income tax rate is 60.3 percent; there’s also a 25 percent national sales tax. Overall, Denmark’s tax take is almost half of national income, compared with 25 percent in the United States.

Describe these policies to any American conservative, and he would predict ruin. Surely those generous benefits must destroy the incentive to work, while those high taxes drive job creators into hiding or exile.

Strange to say, however, Denmark doesn’t look like a set from “Mad Max.” On the contrary, it’s a prosperous nation that does quite well on job creation. In fact, adults in their prime working years are substantially more likely to be employed in Denmark than they are in America. Labor productivity in Denmark is roughly the same as it is here, although G.D.P. per capita is lower, mainly because the Danes take a lot more vacation.

Nor are the Danes melancholy: Denmark ranks at or near the top on international comparisons of “life satisfaction.”

It’s hard to imagine a better refutation of anti-tax, anti-government economic doctrine, which insists that a system like Denmark’s would be completely unworkable.

But would Denmark’s model be impossible to reproduce in other countries? Consider France, another country that is much bigger and more diverse than Denmark, but also maintains a highly generous welfare state paid for with high taxes. You might not know this from the extremely bad press France gets, but the French, too, roughly match U.S. productivity, and are more likely than Americans to be employed during their prime working years. Taxes and benefits just aren’t the job killers right-wing legend asserts.

Going back to Denmark, is everything copacetic in Copenhagen? Actually, no. Denmark is very rich, but its economy has taken a hit in recent years, because its recovery from the global financial crisis has been slow and incomplete. In fact, Denmark’s 5.5 percent decline in real G.D.P. per capita since 2007 is comparable to the declines in debt-crisis countries like Portugal or Spain, even though Denmark has never lost the confidence of investors.

What explains this poor recent performance? The answer, mainly, is bad monetary and fiscal policy. Denmark hasn’t adopted the euro, but it manages its currency as if it had, which means that it has shared the consequences of monetary mistakes like the European Central Bank’s 2011 interest rate hike. And while the country has faced no market pressure to slash spending — Denmark can borrow long-term at an interest rate of only 0.84 percent — it has adopted fiscal austerity anyway.

The result is a sharp contrast with neighboring Sweden, which doesn’t shadow the euro (although it has made some mistakes on its own), hasn’t done much austerity, and has seen real G.D.P. per capita rise while Denmark’s falls.

But Denmark’s monetary and fiscal errors don’t say anything about the sustainability of a strong welfare state. In fact, people who denounce things like universal health coverage and subsidized child care tend also to be people who demand higher interest rates and spending cuts in a depressed economy. (Remember all the talk about “debasing” the dollar?) That is, U.S. conservatives actually approve of some Danish policies — but only the ones that have proved to be badly misguided.

So yes, we can learn a lot from Denmark, both its successes and its failures. And let me say that it was both a pleasure and a relief to hear people who might become president talk seriously about how we can learn from the experience of other countries, as opposed to just chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Blow, Cohen and Collins

October 15, 2015

In “Queen Hillary Came to Play” Mr. Blow says Sanders’s strong performance was subsumed by Clinton’s even stronger one. She held steady and defiant.  Mr. Cohen, in “Obama’s What Next?”, says the president has been the king of the slippery-slope school of foreign policy.  Ms. Collins considers “Hillary Clinton’s Happy Brew” and says she’s having a magical month, so be careful about messing with her mojo.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Hillary Clinton crushed it! There is no other way for me to put it.

Her performance Tuesday night at the first Democratic debate was so spectacular as to erase all doubt: Weakened as she may be, there is still fire in that belly, and she will not quietly shift to the side to make room for someone else — not Bernie Sanders, and not Joe Biden should he ever stop this annoying dillydallying and decide to run.

And I don’t consider her performance spectacular simply because of what she did — although she demonstrated a remarkable assuredness and dexterity — but also because of what the others didn’t do.

It seemed as if Clinton was the only candidate on that stage that came to play … and to win.

Days before the debate on CNN (where I am a commentator), I was asked who I thought had the most to gain from the debate. I answered: Bernie Sanders.

My reasoning was that there are still large sections of the Democratic base — namely blacks and Hispanics — who don’t know who he is, and the debate was a perfect opportunity for him to introduce himself to those voters.

I actually believe that Sanders did that. He forcefully presented his message, and really hammered his selling point, his crusade against income inequality. And he had some strong and memorable lines, like “Congress does not regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates Congress.”

But in the end, Sanders’s strong performance was subsumed by Clinton’s even stronger one. Indeed, Sanders may have increased the margin separating them when he said that Americans were tired of talking about Clinton’s emails, thereby giving her a pass.

None of this means Republicans have not done real damage to her brand — her credibility and her electability. They have. None of it means that she would be the best general election candidate. Who knows.

And none of this means that Clinton’s performance was perfect. She inexplicably couldn’t bring herself to say the words “Black Lives Matter,” even after meeting with the group last week. She fumbled about a bit when answering a question about her relationship to Wall Street. She could have been more tactful when answering the question about the enemies she was proud of making.

But all in all, she played it nearly perfectly. That was in part because there was a prevailing sense of civility and seriousness that hung over the debate. That’s good. But there were also times when that civility seemed to border on acquiescence. Absolute civility isn’t always a luxury available to those who are losing. They need to punch up, often and hard.

The only person who came with that kind of bite was the curmudgeonlyJim Webb, who seemed like a candidate who got lost on his way to the Republican debate and simply decided to show up at the Democratic one.

Martin O’Malley seemed to be asleep during the first hour of the debate, and when he spoke he whispered more than Janet Jackson on the “Rhythm Nation” album.

I was absolutely sure that Clinton would be dinged a bit during the debate, but she escaped virtually unscathed and therefore looking untouchable.

Even when they attacked Hillary, she deftly negotiated the obstacles and turned them to her advantage.

Poor Lincoln Chafee, who seemed dazed and confused for the whole debate, could hardly get his answers out.

When Chafee was asked if he stood by his previous attacks on Clinton’s character and her use of a private email server, Chafee replied:

“Absolutely. We have to repair American credibility after we told the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which he didn’t, so there’s an issue of American credibility out there. So anytime someone’s running to be our leader, and a world leader, which the American president is, credibility is an issue out there with the world. And we have repair work to be done. I think we need someone that has the best in ethical standards as our next president.”

When Clinton was asked if she would like to respond, she delivered the perfect little one-word dis: “No!” That’s the kind of shade that would make Dorian Corey — who introduced the nuanced concept of “shade” to much of America in the 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning” — applaud.

But that wasn’t the only thing I’ve seen on a screen that occurred to me Tuesday.

One of the most memorable lines from the HBO series “The Wire” comes when the notorious and eerily unflappable Omar yells to men shooting at him: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

That line kept replaying in my mind Tuesday night as attacks like Chafee’s missed their mark and Hillary held steady and defiant.

You come at the queen, you best not miss.

It’s interesting that almost everyone at the Times is firmly in the bag for Hillary.  Their readers?  Not so much.  Here’s “Karen Garcia” from New Paltz, NY in response to Mr. Blow:  “It was a performance, period. And now Charles Blow dutifully joins the elite chorus to make the coronation official. Actually, the Huffington Post was the first outlet to use the phrase “crushed it” to describe the Chris Matthews-like thrill traveling up the giant media leg. That the press esteems style over substance has never been made more abundantly, nauseatingly clear. Paul Krugman wrote a pretty good smack-down of all the columnists and talking heads now tripping all over themselves in their abrupt pivot from Hillary Hate to Hillary Love She didn’t change. Her TV persona – her “brand” – has improved.  The irony is that it was fear of her stumbling that caused her pal Debbie Wasserman Schultz to limit the Democratic debates to an undemocratic, ridiculous six. The blessing is that the pundits are finally beginning to stifle their annoying “Draft Biden” chatter.  But guess what? Early polls, albeit unscientific, show that as far as regular citizens are concerned, it was Bernie who “crushed it.” In choosing not to attack Hillary on such things as the Saudis contributing $1 million to the Clinton Foundation after her State Department sold them $20 billion worth of lethal weapons, he showed himself to be a focused, decent man more interested in defending the downtrodden than in scoring points to win at any cost.  People don’t care about performances. We care, and Bernie cares, about how political corruption enables an oligarchy that is ruining millions of our lives.”  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Throughout the Obama years, when international crises and possible American intervention were discussed in the Situation Room, one question from the president was likely to recur: “O.K., but what happens after that?”

It could be the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, or setting up a safe area for Syrians fleeing, or putting troops back in Iraq after Islamic State militants overran Mosul — always there was concern over a slippery slope. President Obama, under his Doctrine of Restraint described in my last column, has been the king of the slippery-slope school of foreign policy. His decision to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan, rather than withdraw them as previously planned, appears to reflect an acknowledgement that American retrenchment can be perilous.

The thing about the president’s what-next refrain was that it inevitably led to a range of dire scenarios. Suppose an American forward air controller in Iraq gets captured by Islamic State and burned alive? Suppose you’ve cratered the airfields in Syria and President Bashar al-Assad, rather than suing for peace, steps up his brutal ground campaign and resists? Well, take out his air defense sites and fast-forward arming the opposition. But then you get Russians and Iranians and Hezbollah pouring in to help Assad, and before you know it you’ve got 150,000 American troops on the ground invested in another intractable war.

O.K., but what happens after that?

Obama came to office at a time when sins of commission (read Iraq and Afghanistan) outweighed sins of omission. Inclined to lawyerly prudence, yet not without Wilsonian idealism, he was determined to reverse that.

He has sought, with some conspicuous exceptions, including the important Iran nuclear deal, what Robert Blackwill, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, described to me as “a risk-free foreign policy.” For example, drone attacks on nations without air defenses are near risk-free.

But because there are always reasons not to act, the pursuit of the risk-free tends to pass the initiative to adversaries who believe they can escalate with no fear of American reprisal — see Russia and China. That is the freelance world we now live in. Syria is the American sin of omission par excellence, a diabolical complement to the American sin of commission in Iraq — two nations now on the brink of becoming ex-nations.

A pivotal moment came in 2013 when Obama was on the verge of a military response to Assad for crossing the American “red line” on chemical weapons. The British Parliament had voted against participation. Obama spoke to David Cameron, the British prime minister, who explained the situation. He spoke to François Hollande, the French president, who said France stood shoulder-to-shoulder with America. Targets had been identified. A long meeting of Obama’s top advisers was held on Friday, Aug. 30. The consensus was that the British vote did not change the calculus for action. The president asked if he had the constitutional authority to go ahead. He was told he did. When the meeting broke up, military action was imminent.

Then the president went for a now famous walk and in effect changed his mind. As a result, America’s word is worth less in the world. Syria could not be worse off than it is. “When your strongest asset, your military, is not ready to engage, people will factor you out,” Vali Nasr, the dean of the John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of International Studies, told me.

But could it have been otherwise? American power in 2015 is not American power in 1990. Hyper-connectivity and the rise of the rest will constrain any president even if the United States, as Hillary Clinton put it, is not Denmark.

Suppose — that word — Obama had been frank and said: “My job is to reduce the footprint of America in a changed world and empower other countries to do more.” That’s a total sinker in American politics.

It’s unthinkable because most Americans are still hard-wired to American exceptionalism, the notion that America is not America if it gives up on spreading liberty. So it becomes hard to find a foreign-policy language that’s aligned to reality but does not smack of “declinism” — fatal for any politician. Republican bloviating about “weakling” Obama notwithstanding, any future president will face this foreign-policy dilemma: The distance between America’s idea of itself and what it can plausibly achieve is widening.

That said, I believe Obama has sold America short. The foreign-policy pendulum that swings between expansiveness and retrenchment has swung too far. His shift from indispensable power to indispensable partner has backfired when partner after partner — the Afghan Army, the Iraqi Army — has proved ineffective. The United States is not even at the Minsk table on the Ukraine crisis. Germany is.

“Just do it” might have served Obama better at times than “What next?” Between paralysis and 350,000 troops on the ground there are options. Not every intervention is a slippery slope. The question, post-Syria, is whether the next president can make American power credible enough to stop this crisis or another in the Middle East, the Baltics, or the South China Sea, from spiraling out of control.

And the rattling of sabers and swinging of dicks continues.  Just about the only thing you need to know about Mr. Cohen is that he was a supporter of the Iraq war.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

So, Hillary Clinton. Skipping down the street. Sun is shining. A small and brightly colored bird is perching on her shoulder. Look — is that a rainbow?

Wow, what a good month she’s having. Certainly she’s due, by the sheer laws of probability. Nobody has as many bad months as Hillary Clinton. But this is really one heck of a run. Do you think there’s been an intervention? I just looked up a magic spell for “achieving a dream job” and it involves candles, cinnamon incense and bergamot oil. Just saying.

She had a great debate Tuesday night. Her main opponent, Bernie Sanders, said America was sick and tired of the damned email thing! This is actually classic Sanders, who combines persistent truth-telling with extreme crankiness. But convenient as all get-out for Clinton, who did an excellent job herself on most of the questions. In a perfect world she wouldn’t have said “I represented Wall Street,” but all in all, a home run.

And think of all the other stuff that’s been falling her way. She aced her spot on “Saturday Night Live.” This sort of thing is actually not all that tough for politicians — you just have to look sort of human. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine Ted Cruz playing a sympathetic bartender.

And there’s Benghazi. The Republican-controlled House investigative committee that’s scheduled to grill her next week is beset by every disaster short of a plague of locusts. First House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went on TV and utterly ruined the committee’s credibility by suggesting its purpose was to destroy Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The bad juju kept spreading. McCarthy dropped out of the race for speaker of the House, leaving the Republican majority in disarray and chaos. Maybe Clinton has been using that Macbeth recipe, the one involving eye of newt.

Then a former employee of the investigative committee popped up out of nowhere claiming he had been fired because he didn’t want to spend all of his time looking for ways to destroy Hillary Clinton. Double the newts and don’t hold back on the toe of frog.

A Times story by Eric Lipton, Noam Scheiber and Michael Schmidt explored the committee’s $4.5 million, 17-month history and was full of fascinating details beginning with the planned interviews that never occurred and hearings that never happened. Meanwhile, according to the aggrieved ex-employee, some staffers used their spare time to form a gun-buying club, while members held “wine Wednesdays” at which they sipped from glasses labeled “Glacial Pace.”

The committee leaders could, of course, still come down hard on Clinton. But if they do, you have to hope at some point she’ll bring up the guns and wine.

Right now, the Clinton campaign is still in the post-debate glow. More viewers watched it than the season premiere of “The Walking Dead”! People, when you are depressed about the state of the nation, think about the fact that more people wanted to see Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on CNN than tuned in for the most popular zombie TV series in history.

Clinton is almost always good in debates — she hit a question about Carly Fiorina’s opposition to paid family leave out of the park — and it didn’t hurt to be a woman surrounded by four crabby-looking men, only one of whom seemed to have any actual excuse for being there. Some people felt the high point was Sanders’s denouncing the email questions, but I personally treasure the moment when Lincoln Chafee called himself “a block of granite.”

Sanders did fine. In fact, he seemed to win the focus groups, and small donors poured in a new font of money. The country deserves a two-person debate between him and Clinton, maybe just about the financial industry. The next morning we would be discussing the Glass-Steagall Act from coast to coast, which would definitely make “The Walking Dead” ratings story pale by comparison.

But the first-debate danger for Clinton was mainly that one of the lesser-known candidates would come out of left field and throw her off balance, with jabs about ethics and emails. It is hard to express the degree to which that did not happen. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, who was the original favorite to be Guy Who Gives Hillary a Run, looked at times as if he wanted to cry. The next morning O’Malley sent out a mass mailing announcing that the debate “wasn’t about me” but instead about … the death penalty.

It was possibly the weirdest campaign email I have ever seen in my life. Maybe O’Malley got caught up by the Hillary Clinton success spell. We’ll know it’s real next week if they open the Benghazi hearing and the Capitol starts to levitate.

And another one’s in the bag…  In the comments “Meredith” from NYC had this to say:  “Sanders ‘extreme crankiness’ has to be compulsively mentioned, even when ‘he did fine’? Thanks. Yes, HC did well, but not THAT well.  I don’t get why there’s an obvious NY Times bandwagon going on. First it was all dissing Sanders and now all rah rah Hillary. All alike. Can’t there be some variation? Some issue discussion instead of just horse race?  All the news that’s fit to print? Or all the news that’s fit for —what? Cable TV? The Web?  Readers might like to know, what do the op ed columnists think of fair wealth tax rates, a financial transaction tax, reversing Citizens United, restoring regulations, and how to finance college tuition—just to name a few. Is it verboten to discuss unions and min wage? Is it too much of a stretch to switch to these from the horse race, once in a while?   This is the nation’s most prestigious and authoritative newspaper? Seems as the quality of our campaigns declines, so does our media coverage.  Of course the Dems had a better debate than Gop—anything would be better. If the inmates of an insane asylum staged a debate for who would be president of the inmate association—it would sound like the Republican debates!  Did the decline in media start with television changing over to news infotainment, and cable TV 24 hour blather to fill air time, then the web and instant trendiness and click bait? Then the newspapers, trying for revenue, follow along? Will this get worse? What could reverse it? It’s big money in politics of course.”

Brooks, Cohen and Nocer

October 13, 2015

Oh, it is too, too, too rich for words.  Bobo is wringing his hands…  In “The Republicans’ Incompetence Caucus” he wails that the party’s capacity to govern has degraded over recent decades as the G.O.P. has become prisoner to its own bombastic rhetoric.  Poor, poor Bobo…  In the comments “Masud M.” from Tucson had this to say:  “If you’re searching for a culprit, please look into the mirror, Mr. Brooks. You’ve been one of the so-called “intellectual” enablers of the crazies. Go back and read some of your past articles: insulting President Obama on flimsy grounds, giving credit (where no credit was due) to the Republicans in the House and the Senate, supporting the Iraq invasion, claiming that the Iran deal was bad for the nation, promoting trickle-down economics… The crazies don’t have brains of their own, so one cannot really criticize them. The crazies listen to their “intellectual” leaders. You’ve been one of those leaders, and it’s shameful that you do not recognize this — and fail to apologize for your past sins. This would be a first step, Mr. Brooks, if you want the Republican Party (your Party) to return to some semblance of normalcy.”  Mr. Cohen considers “Obama’s Doctrine of Restraint” and says for Putin it’s clear where the weakness lies: in the White House.  Mr. Nocera takes a look at “Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Steve Jobs’ Con” and says the screenwriter says his new movie is not a biopic. So true. The film simply doesn’t understand its subject.  Here, FSM help us, is Bobo:

The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about?

This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.

By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible. Conservatives of this disposition can be dull, but they know how to nurture and run institutions. They also see the nation as one organic whole. Citizens may fall into different classes and political factions, but they are still joined by chains of affection that command ultimate loyalty and love.

All of this has been overturned in dangerous parts of the Republican Party. Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.

This produced a radical mind-set. Conservatives started talking about the Reagan “revolution,” the Gingrich “revolution.” Among people too ill educated to understand the different spheres, political practitioners adopted the mental habits of the entrepreneur. Everything had to be transformational and disruptive. Hierarchy and authority were equated with injustice. Self-expression became more valued than self-restraint and coalition building. A contempt for politics infested the Republican mind.

Politics is the process of making decisions amid diverse opinions. It involves conversation, calm deliberation, self-discipline, the capacity to listen to other points of view and balance valid but competing ideas and interests.

But this new Republican faction regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.

A weird contradictory mentality replaced traditional conservatism. Republican radicals have contempt for politics, but they still believe that transformational political change can rescue the nation. Republicans developed a contempt for Washington and government, but they elected leaders who made the most lavish promises imaginable. Government would be reduced by a quarter! Shutdowns would happen! The nation would be saved by transformational change! As Steven Bilakovics writes in his book “Democracy Without Politics,” “even as we expect ever less ofdemocracy we apparently expect ever more from democracy.”

This anti-political political ethos produced elected leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence. Running a government is a craft, like carpentry. But the new Republican officials did not believe in government and so did not respect its traditions, its disciplines and its craftsmanship. They do not accept the hierarchical structures of authority inherent in political activity.

In his masterwork, “Politics as a Vocation,” Max Weber argues that the pre-eminent qualities for a politician are passion, a feeling of responsibility and a sense of proportion. A politician needs warm passion to impel action but a cool sense of responsibility and proportion to make careful decisions in a complex landscape.

If a politician lacks the quality of detachment — the ability to let the difficult facts of reality work their way into the mind — then, Weber argues, the politician ends up striving for the “boastful but entirely empty gesture.” His work “leads nowhere and is senseless.”

Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!

People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction.

These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.

You can feel the panic…  My schadens are all very, very freuded.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

One way to define Barack Obama’s foreign policy is as a Doctrine of Restraint. It is clear, not least to the Kremlin, that this president is skeptical of the efficacy of military force, wary of foreign interventions that may become long-term commitments, convinced the era of American-imposed solutions is over, and inclined to see the United States as less an indispensable power than an indispensable partner. He has, in effect, been talking down American power.

President Vladimir Putin has seized on this profound foreign policy shift in the White House. He has probed where he could, most conspicuously in Ukraine, and now in Syria. Obama may call this a form of Russian weakness. He may mock Putin’s forays as distractions from a plummeting Russian economy. But the fact remains that Putin has reasserted Russian power in the vacuum created by American retrenchment and appears determined to shape the outcome in Syria using means that Obama has chosen never to deploy. For Putin, it’s clear where the weakness lies: in the White House.

Russia’s Syrian foray may be overreach. It may fall into the category of the “stupid stuff” (read reckless intervention) Obama shuns. Quagmires can be Russian, too. But for now the initiative appears to lie in the Kremlin, with the White House as reactive power. Not since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago has Russia been as assertive or Washington as acquiescent.

Obama’s Doctrine of Restraint reflects circumstance and temperament. He was elected to lead a nation exhausted by the two longest and most expensive wars in its history. Iraq and Afghanistan consumed trillions without yielding victory. His priority was domestic: first recovery from the 2008 meltdown and then a more equitable and inclusive society. The real pivot was not to Asia but to home.

Besides, American power in the 21st century could not be what it was in the 20th, not with the Chinese economy quintupling in size since 1990. The president was intellectually persuaded of the need to redefine America’s foreign-policy heft in an interconnected world of more equal powers, and temperamentally inclined to prudence and diplomacy over force. Republican obstructionism and the politicization of foreign policy in a polarized Washington did not help him. American power, in his view, might still be dominant but could no longer be determinant.

As Obama put it to The New Republic in 2013, “I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations.” After Iraq and Afghanistan, giant repositories of American frustration, who could blame him?

But when the most powerful nation on earth and chief underwriter of global security focuses on its limitations, others take note, perceiving new opportunity and new risk. Instability can become contagious. Unraveling can set in, as it has in the Middle East. The center cannot hold because there is none.

“I think Obama exaggerates the limits and underestimates the upside of American power, even if the trend is toward a more difficult environment for translating power and influence,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told me. “By doing so, he runs the risk of actually reinforcing the very trends that give him pause. Too often during his presidency the gap between ends and means has been our undoing.”

In Afghanistan, in Libya and most devastatingly in Syria, Obama has seemed beset by ambivalence: a surge undermined by a date certain for Afghan withdrawal; a lead-from-behind military campaign to oust Libya’s dictator with zero follow-up plan; a statement more than four years ago that “the time has come” for President Bashar al-Assad to “step aside” without any strategy to make that happen, and a “red line” on chemical weapons that was not upheld. All this has said to Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping that this is a time of wound-licking American incoherence.

Yet Obama does not lack courage. Nor is he unprepared to take risks. It required courage to conclude the Iran nuclear deal — a signal achievement arrived at in the face of a vitriolic cacophony from Israel and the Republican-controlled Congress. It took courage to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba. The successful operation to kill Osama bin Laden was fraught with risk. His foreign policy has delivered in significant areas. America has wound down its wars. The home pivot has yielded a revived economy (at least for some) and given all Americans access to health insurance.

Yet the cost of the Doctrine of Restraint has been very high. How high we do not yet know, but the world is more dangerous than in recent memory. Obama’s skepticism about American power, his readiness to disengage from Europe and his catastrophic tiptoeing on Syria have left the Middle East in generational conflict and fracture, Europe unstable and Putin strutting the stage. Where this rudderless reality is likely to lead I will examine in my next column.

Oh, I can hardly wait.  No doubt we’ll have some saber rattling and dick swinging.  Here’s Mr. Nocera:

When “The Social Network” came out in 2010, I wrote a column praising it for the way it captured the obsessional quality that marks great entrepreneurs.

The movie, you’ll recall, was about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for it. I knew that Sorkin had taken generous liberties with the facts, but hey, isn’t that what always happens when the movies adapt a true story?

Although I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about Facebook’s origins, I nonetheless argued that the insights of “The Social Network” into the culture of Silicon Valley trumped any niggling facts Sorkin might have ignored or distorted.

But now that I’ve seen Sorkin’s latest treatment of a Silicon Valley icon — Steve Jobs — I’m revising that opinion. Unlike Zuckerberg, Jobs is somebody I followed closely for much of my career, even spending a week in the mid-1980s embedded at NeXT, the company Jobs founded after being tossed out of Apple in 1985. And although “Steve Jobs,” the movie, which opened in a handful of theaters on Friday, is highly entertaining, what struck me most was how little it had to do with the flesh and blood Steve Jobs.

Sorkin has arranged the movie like a three-act play, building it around three product launches, for the Macintosh computer in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988 and the iMac in 1998, after Jobs returned to Apple.

Although this structure necessitates inventing virtually every moment in the film out of whole cloth, that’s not the real problem. The structure would be fine if, within its contours, it had conveyed the complicated reality of Steve Jobs.

But it doesn’t. In ways both large and small, Sorkin — as well as Michael Fassbender, the actor who plays Jobs — has failed to capture him in any meaningful sense. Fassbender exhibits none of Jobs’s many youthful mannerisms, and uses none of his oft-repeated phrases, like “really, really neat” when he liked something, or “bozo” for people he didn’t think measured up. Jobs as a young man was surprisingly emotional — that’s missing.

There are moments in the film, like the big “reconciliation” scene with his out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa, that are almost offensively in opposition to the truth. (Although Jobs’s relationship with Lisa could be volatile at times, she had in fact lived with him and his family all through high school.)

More important, the film simply doesn’t understand who he was and why he was successful.

For instance, one character mentions Jobs’s ability to create a “reality distortion field.” But we never see the charismatic man who could convince people that the sky was green instead of blue. Especially in the NeXT section, Sorkin’s Jobs is a cynic who knows his product will fail, rather than the dreamer he was, certain his overpriced NeXT machine will “change the world.” Most important, Sorkin fails to convey Jobs’s unmatched ability to draw talented people to him, and get them to produce their best work.

As it turns out, Sorkin is quite proud of his disregard for facts. “What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake?” he told New York magazine around the time “The Social Network” came out. The way he sees it, he is no mere screenwriter; rather, he’s an artist who can’t be bound by the events of a person’s life — even when he’s writing a movie about that person.

“Art isn’t about what happened,” he said in that interview. “And the properties of people and the properties of ‘characters’ are two completely different things.”

The problem is that Steve Jobs isn’t just a “character”; he was a real person who lived a real life. Tom Mallon, who writes wonderful historical fiction about politics, including books about Watergate, and most recently, Ronald Reagan, told me that he thought it was important, even in his fiction, not to rewrite the public record, and to try to capture the essence of the real person he is writing about, even though he is inventing thoughts and scenes and dialogue.

“If you deviate too much from the actual historical record,” he said, “the illusion is going to collapse.” Mallon added, “If the real Steve Jobs is interesting enough to make a movie about, why go and create another character that the filmmakers presumably find more interesting?”

Tim Cook, Apple’s current chief executive, has decried the recent spate of Jobs movies as “opportunistic.” In the case of “Steve Jobs,” at least, that strikes me as exactly right. Sorkin and his fellow moviemakers are taking advantage of the feelings people have for the real Steve Jobs to sell tickets, yet the Steve Jobs he created is a complete figment of his imagination. It’s a con.

In a recent interview with Wired magazine, Sorkin insisted that “Steve Jobs” was “not a biopic.” He added, “I’m not quite sure what to call it.”

That’s easy. Fiction.


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