Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Blow and Collins

September 28, 2017

In “‘The Flag Is Drenched With Our Blood'” Mr. Blow says that for black Americans, patriotism is a paradox.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump’s Worst: An Update,” says his cabinet’s behavior has us wondering again who should be the first to go.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Yes, Donald Trump has once again used racial hostility to rouse his base and is reveling in the achievement.

According to The New York Times, when Trump’s advisers appeared lukewarm about the uproar he created by chastising, in the coarsest of terms, N.F.L. players who chose to quietly kneel to protest racial inequality and police violence, “Mr. Trump responded by telling people that it was a huge hit with his base, making it clear that he did not mind alienating his critics if it meant solidifying his core support.”

Every way he is manipulating his majority-white base to oppose a majority-black group of private citizens is disgusting. Trump is disgusting.

But I am also infuriated by his framing: that this has nothing to do with race (whenever you hear that, know that the subject at hand must have everything to do with race) and that this is just about patriotism, honoring national ritual, celebrating soldiers, particularly the fallen, and venerating “our flag.”

What this misses is that patriotism is particularly fraught for black people in this country because the history of the country’s treatment of them is fraught. It’s not that black people aren’t patriotic; it’s just that patriotism can be a paradox.

Many black people see themselves simultaneously as part of America and separate from it, under attack by it, and it has always been thus.

W.E.B. Du Bois wrote over a century ago about this sensation:

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

It is through that haze of hurt that black people see the flag, because the blood memory of the black man is long in this country.

Let’s start this story from its ghastly beginning.

Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., citing the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, writes that an estimated 10.7 million people survived the voyage — called the Middle Passage — from their homelands to North America, the Caribbean and South America, between 1525 and 1866. Of those, about 390,000 made it to North American soil. This was about 3 percent of the total who survived.

PolitiFact wrote: “Historian Herbert Klein of Columbia and Stanford Universities, who worked on the database, said that the data suggest about 85,000 people destined for North America did not survive the trip across the Atlantic.”

The overall slave trade in North and South America caused about 1.8 million deaths. There was so much human flesh being tossed over the sides of those boats — or jumping— that sharks learned to trail the boats to feast on it.

As Haaretz wrote in 2014 in an interview with Marcus Rediker, the author of “The Slave Ship: A Human History”:

“There are descriptions of coerced cannibalism, the hanging of innocent individuals by their toes, the amputation of limbs, feeding by means of the ‘speculum oris, the long, thin mechanical contraption used to force open unwilling throats to receive gruel and hence sustenance,’ branding with white-hot metal rods, starvation to death, shackling with handcuffs or by chains to other captives, and rape.” And this was just onboard the ships.

And while the percentage of slaves brought to the United States was relatively small, American owners bred slaves like cattle.

As the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History put it, “Well over 90 percent of enslaved Africans were imported into the Caribbean and South America.” Only a small fraction of African captives were sent directly to British North America, and “yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.”

Furthermore, “While the death rate of U.S. slaves was about the same as that of Jamaican slaves, the fertility rate was more than 80 percent higher in the United States.”

Those children faced a harsh and uncertain future, including a strikingly high mortality rate. As Rebecca Tannenbaum’s book “Health and Wellness in Colonial America” points out:

“While good data is hard to come by, estimations of infant mortality (deaths among infants up to a year old) among African-Americans during the 18 century ranges from 28 to 50 percent. Child mortality (children from one year to 10 years old) was also high — 40 to 50 percent.”

This says nothing of the untold number of older children and adults who died during captivity in America due to cruelty, starvation, exposure, assault, and lynching and other forms of murder.

We often hear about the 620,000 people who died during America’s Civil War (in recent years, scholars have estimated the number was actually higher), trying either to eradicate slavery or save it, but what we hear less often is that black people were included in that number.

According to the National Archives:

“By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war — 30,000 of infection or disease.”

After the war and the Emancipation Proclamation, the terror continued. According to the N.A.A.C.P.:

“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched, 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7 percent of the people lynched.”

Then, there are America’s heinous and racially biased state-sponsored executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there have been 1,460 executions since 1976, when the Supreme Court effectively lifted a moratorium on the death penalty. Almost 35 percent of those executed were black, although the proportion of black people in the country hovers around 13 percent.

In fact, the the youngest person executed in America in the 20th century was a 14-year-old black boy named George Stinney. He was convicted in a rushed miscarriage of justice in which the jury was selected (all white), the trial was conducted (it lasted only a few hours, and his appointed lawyer didn’t ask a single question) and the verdict was rendered (after only 10 minutes of deliberation) all in the span of single day.

The 5-foot-1, 95-pound Stinney was so small in the electric chair that they had to use a book as a booster seat. Some say it was a phone book; others say it was the Bible.

This is to say nothing of the disastrous effects of mass incarceration and the chaos unleashed by sucking so many young people, particularly young men, out of communities.

As the Pew Research Center put it in 2013, “The incarceration rate of black men is more than six times higher than that of white men, slightly larger than the gap in 1960.”

Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” has put it more starkly: “More African-American adults are under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

And then come police shootings. According to a database maintained by The Washington Post, there have been 730 police shootings so far this year, putting 2017 on track to match or surpass the number of shootings in 2015 and 2016. But here again there is a racial imbalance: black people represent nearly a quarter of those shot but only about an eighth of the general population. When you look at unarmed victims, blacks make up nearly a third of that cohort.

Throughout most of this pain and bloodshed, some version of the flag has waved.

So how dare anyone suggest that people simply rise and conform to custom when they feel the urgent need to protest. How dare America say so cavalierly, “Forgive us our sins and grant us our laurels,” when forgiveness has never been sufficiently requested — nor the sins sufficiently acknowledged — and the laurels are tainted and stained by the stubbornness of historical fact. How dare we even pretend that the offenses have been isolated and anomalous and not orchestrated and executed by the nation?

So those football players should take a knee if they so choose. If America demands your respect it must grant you respect and the first order of that respect is equality and eradicating the ominous threat of state violence.

People upset with those who kneel seem to be more angry about black “disrespect” than black death. (Here, I need to applaud the non-black players who demonstrated their solidarity in the cause of free speech and equality.)

We have to accept that different Americans see pride and principle differently, but that makes none of them less American.

Indeed, we Americans see the flag itself differently. As the civil rights legend Fannie Lou Hamer once said, “The flag is drenched with our blood.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump has just voted in the Worst Cabinet Member contest.

“We’ll see,” he said when asked by reporters if he was going to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. I believe I speak for us all when I say this does not sound like a vote of confidence.

Price recently became famous as the guy who enjoys traveling by private charter plane at the taxpayers’ expense. You would think that Trump, who loves his private planes like a family member, would be a little sympathetic to someone’s distaste for commercial travel. But no.

“I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it, and I let him know it,” Trump told reporters Wednesday.

Now Price is also the guy who is waging a war against birth control that’s cratering teen pregnancy prevention programs. But in this administration you can ruin federal initiatives aimed at avoiding unwanted pregnancy and Donald Trump — no fan of unwanted pregnancy — will completely ignore it. If Price goes down, it will be over his travel bills, which is sort of like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion.

Price claimed that a majority of the private charters he’d taken “were for the opioid crisis or the hurricanes.” No indication of whether it was a weather disaster or drug emergency that took him to the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Still not quite as bad as attempting to cut $6 billion from next year’s National Institutes of Health research. But I say, go with what you can get. Tom Price is terrible and whatever sends him out of government is fine.

Do you think he’s the Worst Cabinet Member? There’s so much competition. Consider Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who attempted to get rebellious House members to support Trump’s budget deal with the Democrats by asking them to do it “for me.” Apparently Mnuchin had no idea that Republican lawmakers’ affection for him was about on par with their feelings for special work sessions over holiday weekends.

Policy-wise, Mnuchin is an awful Treasury secretary, unless you’d been hoping the post would go to someone whose strong point is a keen understanding of all the hopes and needs of the hedge fund industry.

Plus, there’s a plane thing! At one point Mnuchin tried to get a government jet to take him on his honeymoon. More recently, he used one to fly him and his wife to Fort Knox.

Mnuchin argued that Fort Knox was an important stop for a Treasury secretary because, you know, there’s all that gold. When cynics speculated that the couple just wanted to be somewhere where they could get a good view of the eclipse, Mnuchin told Politico, winningly, that was silly: “You know, people in Kentucky took this stuff very serious. Being a New Yorker … I was like, the eclipse? Really? I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”

It’s true. We New Yorkers do not care a bit about planetary phenomenon. We are only interested in jaywalking and hedge funds.

The Trump cabinet is worth trashing on so many important levels that it does seem unfair to judge the members simply on the basis of stupid moves of self-gratification. You would like to see the country denouncing Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, for having stripped his agency of scientists. (“Science is not something that should be just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington D.C.”)

However, that seems to be working well for Pruitt in Trump Washington. So as a fallback, let’s encourage discussion of the $25,000 he’s spending to put a soundproof phone booth in his office.

Is there anybody in this cabinet who you can like? A Morning Consult/Politico poll of registered voters found Defense Secretary James Mattis had the most support — although to be honest, none of Trump’s appointees exactly elicited enthusiasm. Mattis is frequently mentioned as a man standing between our president and Armageddon, so you could understand him being popular even if he got caught flying in the wrong plane.

The Trump administration has clearly gotten American people very interested in the presidential cabinet. For instance, 24 percent of the respondents in that poll said they liked Sonny Perdue, and the idea that many people even know Perdue is secretary of agriculture is sort of a wow. Although of course it’s possible that some of them thought he had something to do with chicken.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was at the bottom, presumably because a whole lot of people believe that she is trying to reorganize public education into a private venture.

DeVos — who also came in last in a readers poll I did a few months back — has been a particular foe of government attempts to crack down on for-profit colleges that cheat their students. Recently, she picked a former official in a for-profit college to lead a department anti-fraud unit.

And on this one, we know that it’s the policies people don’t like. DeVos is so godawful rich, she rides in private planes she pays for herself.

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Kristof and Collins

September 21, 2017

In “Meet the World’s Leaders, in Hypocrisy” Mr. Kristof says the United Nations rings with bombast and braggadocio.  Ms. Collins asks “Are We Down to President Pence?”  She thinks the least we deserve is a less exciting finger on the trigger.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

Leaders from around the world have descended on New York for United Nations meetings, fancy parties, ringing speeches about helping the poor — and a big dose of hypocrisy.

And — finally! — this is one area where President Trump has shown global leadership.

If there were an award for United Nations chutzpah, the competition would be tough, but the medal might go to Trump for warning that if necessary, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” There were gasps in the hall: A forum for peace was used to threaten to annihilate a nation of 25 million people.

There also was Trump’s praise for American humanitarian aid to Yemen. Patting oneself on the back is often oafish, but in this case it was also offensive. Yemen needs aid because the U.S. is helping Saudi Arabia starve and bomb Yemeni civilians, creating what the U.N. says is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In other words, we are helping to create the very disaster that we’re boasting about alleviating.

It was also sad to see Trump repeatedly plug “sovereignty,” which tends to be the favored word of governments like Russia (even as it invades Ukraine and interferes in the U.S. election) and China (as it supports corrupt autocrats from Zimbabwe to Myanmar).

Speaking of Myanmar, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi skipped the U.N. meeting, after being feted last year, because it’s awkward to be a Nobel Peace Prize winner who defends a brutal campaign of murder, rape and pillage. Many Muslim leaders in attendance, like Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did highlight the plight of the Rohingya suffering an ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. If only they were as interested in their own political prisoners!

Meanwhile, world leaders usually ignore places that don’t fit their narratives. Everybody pretty much shrugged at South Sudan and Burundi, both teetering on the edge of genocide; at Congo, where we’re headed for civil strife as the president attempts to cling to power; and at the “four famines”: in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan. To Trump’s credit, he expressed concern Wednesday about South Sudan and Congo and said he would dispatch U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to the region to see what can be done; let’s hope his administration provides desperately needed leadership.

In fairness, there are broader reasons for hope, including astonishing progress against global poverty — more than 100 million children’s lives saved since 1990. Every day, another 300,000 people worldwide get their first access to electricity, and 285,000 to clean water. Global poverty is a huge opportunity, for we now have a much better understanding of how to defeat it: resolve conflicts, invest in girls’ education, empower women, fight malnutrition, support family planning, and so on.

For the first time in human history, less than 10 percent of the world’s population is living in extreme poverty, and we probably could virtually eliminate it over the next 15 years if it were a top global priority. Trump rightly hailed Pepfar, the AIDS program President George W. Bush devised, but he also has proposed sharp cuts in its funding).

The progress on stopping human trafficking is also inspiring. I moderated a U.N. session on the topic, and it was heartening to see an overflow crowd engaging in a historically obscure subject, even as a new report calculated that there are 40 million people who may be called modern slaves. Prime Minister Theresa May convened perhaps the largest meeting of foreign ministers ever on human trafficking.

We now have the tools to achieve enormous progress against these common enemies of humanity — poverty, disease, slavery — but it’s not clear we have the will. What’s striking about this moment is that we have perhaps the worst refugee crisis in 70 years, overlapping with the worst food crisis in 70 years, overlapping with risks of genocide in several countries — and anemic global leadership.

“There is a vacuum of leadership — moral and political — when it comes to the world’s trouble spots, from Syria to Yemen to Myanmar and beyond,” notes David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee. Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s foreign minister, agrees: “I think there’s a leadership vacuum.”

There are exceptions: Wallstrom, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and more.

But many countries are divided at home, distracted by political combat and looking increasingly inward, and in any case, the U.S. remains the indispensable superpower, and it is AWOL. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has achieved a degree of irrelevance that no one thought possible, and Trump is slashing the number of refugees accepted, cutting funds for the U.N. Population Fund and proposing huge cuts for diplomacy, peacekeeping and foreign aid (fortunately, Congress is resisting).

The number that I always find most daunting is this: About one child in four on this planet is physically stunted from malnutrition. And while it is the physical stunting that we can measure, a side effect is a stunting of brain development, holding these children back, holding nations back, holding humanity back.

So it’s maddening to see world leaders posturing in the spotlight and patting themselves on the back while doing so little to tackle humanitarian crises that they themselves have helped create.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump’s visit to the United Nations has resurrected the question of whether we’d be better off with Mike Pence.

We haven’t mulled that one for a while. Lately, Trump’s stupendous instability has actually been looking like a plus. There he was, telling Democrats that he didn’t want to cut taxes on the rich. Trying to find a way to save the Dreamers, having apparently forgotten that he was the one who put them all in jeopardy of deportation.

If Pence were president we wouldn’t be able to live in hopes of the next flip-flop. The Republican Congress would be marching through its agenda behind a committed conservative who, you may remember, forced so many Planned Parenthood clinics to close when he was governor of Indiana that it triggered an H.I.V. epidemic. Better insane than sorry.

Then came the U.N. speech, and the reminder that the one big plus on Pence’s scorecard is that he seems less likely to get the planet blown up.

You’ve heard about the big moment, when the president threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” adding, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Trump, who has a history of giving opponents insulting nicknames, loves calling Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator, “Rocket Man.” Nikki Haley, our U.N. ambassador, argued that the president’s speech was a diplomatic win because “every other international community” has now started calling Kim “Rocket Man,” too.

Does this sound like a triumph to you, people? It’s perfectly possible Kim takes it for a compliment since he does like rockets. And I’ll bet he likes Elton John songs, too.

But about the “totally destroy North Korea” part: I believe I am not alone in feeling that the best plan for dealing with a deranged dictator holding nuclear weapons is not threatening to blow him up.

We tell ourselves that the president is surrounded by men who are too stable to let him plunge us into a war that will annihilate the planet. But Trump’s U.N. speech was a read-from-the-teleprompter performance, not a case of his just blurting out something awful. People in the White House read it and talked about it in advance.

It would have been so easy to avoid the crisis with a rewrite. “As the president said yesterday, the United States has great strength and patience, but all options are on the table,” Pence told the Security Council later. No, that’s not what the president said. But it is how you expect the head of the most powerful country in the world to deliver a message without scaring the pants off the public.

Maybe that’s what this country needs — a president who can make diplomacy boring again. We’re back to the dream of impeachment, or the sudden news that Trump is retiring to spend more quality time with his defense attorneys.

The most positive interpretation of the U.N. performance is that it was just a show for the base back home and had nothing whatsoever to do with anything in the real world. That seems possible, since the bulk of it was just sort of … undiplomatic. Urging his audience to do something about North Korea, Trump said: “That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.” Truly, when you’re addressing an international organization of which your country is a founding member, it’s a little weird to refer to it as “they.”

The president also kept saying he was always going to “put America first,” which is of course true. But at a U.N. venue, it was a little like going to the first meeting of the PTA and repeatedly pointing out that you only care about your own kid.

While Trump spent a lot of time denigrating the U.N. during his campaign, the White House clearly put a big premium on his debut. The whole Trump team was making the rounds. Poor Melania gave a speech about protecting children from cyberbullying while the audience silently contemplated the fact that her husband recently retweeted a meme of him slamming Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ball.

The president was much more affable in smaller venues, but he still sounded … wrong. He tried to be super-nice at a luncheon with African leaders, assuring them, “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.” At a gathering for the secretary general, he offered a toast to “the potential, the great, great potential, of the United Nations.” He kept talking about “potential,” like a relative attempting to say something positive about a teenager who had just gotten kicked out of junior high.

The big takeaway, however, was that the president of the United States had threatened to destroy a country with 25 million people.

Maybe we would be better off with Pence in the White House. Even though he won’t drink in mixed company unless his wife is present, or dine alone with a woman he’s not married to.

Really, there are some choices we just shouldn’t be required to make.

Kristof and Collins

August 24, 2017

Mr. Kristof says “We’re Journalists, Mr. Trump, Not the Enemy,” and that the president inexplicably finds it easier to condemn reporters than neo-Nazis and white supremacists.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump Talks and Talks and Talks and …,” asks guess who his favorite subject was in Phoenix?  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

Sigh. If only President Trump denounced neo-Nazis as passionately and sincerely as he castigates journalists.

What could be an easier task than distancing oneself from Nazis or violent white supremacists? Yet Trump manages to make it infinitely complicated — and then get distracted by self-pity and excoriate reporters for committing journalism. The key strain of his sulfurous speech in Phoenix on Tuesday was an extended attack on “dishonest” reporters (including at “the failing New York Times”).

Look, we in journalism deserve to have our feet held to the fire. We make mistakes all the time, and too often we are superficial, sensationalist, unfair, defensive or diverted by shiny objects. Critics are right that we in the national media are often out of touch with working-class America, and distressingly often, we are lap dogs instead of watchdogs.

Yet for all our failings, journalism remains an indispensable constraint on power. Trump has systematically tried to delegitimize the institutions that hold him accountable — courts, prosecutors, investigators, the media — and that’s the context for his vilification of all them, for we collectively provide monitoring that outrages him.

The New York Times and The Washington Post have separately tallied Trump’s lies, with The Post calculating that he has now made more than 1,000 misleading statements since assuming the presidency. That’s a grueling pace of almost five a day, and it is accelerating (at the six-month mark, it was 4.6 a day). This prevarication proliferation is an indication that John F. Kelly is unable to rein in Trump, and that the problem was not Steve Bannon but the president himself.

Trump’s caricature of journalists as dishonest is hypocritical, and it insults the courage and professionalism of my colleagues who sometimes risk their lives trying to get a story.

I’ve lost reporter and photographer friends in war zones all over the world, and have had other friends kidnapped and tortured. When Trump galvanizes crowds against reporters in the room, I worry that we may lose journalists in the line of duty not only in places like Syria but also right here at home. Trump will get people hurt.

I also worry that Trump is buoying the repressive instincts of dictators around the world. Since Trump’s election, I’ve been denied entry by Venezuela, Congo, South Sudan and Yemen, an unusual number of countries — and I wonder if foreign leaders believe that it is now easier to deny access to troublesome American journalists now that they are reviled by their own president.

Aside from Trump’s desire to reduce scrutiny and accountability, there are other theories for why Trump finds it so difficult to denounce Nazis and other racists without getting diverted into rants about journalists.

One is that he has always had a soft spot for racists, ever since as a young real estate developer he was sued by a Republican Department of Justice for systematically discriminating against blacks. Over the years he has also been quoted as saying that “laziness is a trait in blacks,” declined to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan and periodically retweeted posts by neo-Nazis (including one from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM with a photo of the founder of the American Nazi Party).

Another theory (these are not mutually exclusive) is that Trump is simply a thin-skinned narcissist who shares the white supremacists’ sense of victimization. It was striking that in Tuesday’s speech in Phoenix, he seemed to believe that the biggest victim in Charlottesville was not Heather Heyer, who was murdered, but himself.

Yet another possibility, which previously was mostly whispered but is increasingly openly discussed even by members of Congress, is that our president is mentally unstable.

The causes of Trump’s bizarre behavior may be difficult to disentangle. But I hope that you, as members of the public, will understand what is at stake in his assault on the media. This is not about reporters and the mistakes we make, but about institutional checks on the presidency.

We appreciate, not always gracefully enough, the public’s efforts to keep us honest. We also are grateful for the outpouring of subscriptions to news organizations, and the support for organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists. The irony has been that the more Trump vilifies the media, the more the public has rallied around us — and, finally, this is helping us gain a better business model. Since Trump was elected, the stock price of the Times Company has risen by almost two-thirds. Thank you for your assistance, Mr. President!

This is an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history, for we are enduring an epic struggle over the principles on which our country was founded. These include the idea that a flawed free press is an essential institutional check on flawed leaders.

So may I humbly suggest that when a megalomaniacal leader howls and shrieks at critics, that is when institutional checks on that leader become a bulwark of democracy.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

A great day of triumph for Donald Trump! The president went to an American Legion convention Wednesday and read a speech off a teleprompter. Nothing weird happened. Total victory.

We now divide the president’s public addresses into two categories. There are the unremarkable and predictable ones written by someone else and the ones in which he ignores the script and just says what’s on his mind, terrifying and confusing all Americans who are not in his base.

(About the base. Polls make it very clear that 30 to 40 percent of voters are going to approve of what Trump does, no matter what. Many of them don’t mind if he comes on stage and starts talking like Uncle Fred Who Gets Drunk at Family Dinners. They enjoy Uncle Fred. Some of them are Uncle Fred.)

Any other president who went to a convention of veterans and called for Americans to “work together” would have gotten no notice whatsoever. But Trump was coming off his spontaneous appearance in Phoenix when he frightened the whole country with his rants about the media and his wild riffs of self-congratulations.

“Now you know, I was a good student,” Trump ad-libbed at his Arizona rally. “I always hear about the elite. You know, the elite. They’re elite? I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment and I live in the White House, too, which is really great.”

Three points about this comment, only one of which is: “Wow, the president of the United States is so insecure he finds it necessary to brag about his grades in school.” The second is that we know about as much about his actual grades in school as we do about his tax returns.

Third, at the end Trump did seem to realize that if he was going to boast about his deeply overdecorated penthouse, he should mention that the White House is nice, too. Particularly since that unfortunate story about him calling it “a real dump.”

It would be calming to the national psyche if the president refrained from ever again speaking to the American people about his true thoughts and feelings. It wouldn’t do anything to improve his performance in office, but at least we might feel less nervous, moment to moment.

Right now, every day Americans have to wonder whether the president will be sane or spontaneous. He staged an impromptu press conference on Charlottesville and defended the neo-Nazis. His ramblings in Phoenix unnerved former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who pointed out that this is the guy with the nuclear football, and called Trump’s performance “downright scary and disturbing.”

The unfair part, of course, is that when Trump just reads words he’s been given, people are so relieved he gets way too much credit. Look at the speech on Afghanistan. The plan Trump unveiled is clearly never going to improve anything. And he delivered it in a strange way, staring at teleprompters to the left and right but almost never looking directly at the TV audience. But still, it had complete sentences! He did not once mention his own personal wealth or make up facts about his election victory. The White House basked in glory.

Then came the rally in Phoenix, an excellent example of how the president wanders off the written plan and just sort of runs amok.

He blathered for 77 minutes, dissing the two local Republican senators, one of whom is suffering from brain cancer. He threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get money for his wall. He revealed that “Washington is full of people who are only looking out for themselves” and then raced into another paean to you-know-who.

“But I don’t come to Washington for me. You know, I’ve had a great life. I’ve had great success,” he confided to the viewing world. “I’ve enjoyed my life. Most people think I’m crazy to have done this. And I think they’re right. But I enjoy it because we’ve made so much — I don’t believe that any president — I don’t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months. I really don’t believe it.”

We are not going to go into the list of presidents who accomplished more, since it requires naming everyone who’s held the office since Warren Harding.

This is a man who can’t refrain from congratulating himself even when he’s talking about the weather. “I was over at the Yuma sector,” he told the folks in Phoenix, describing his trip to meet members of the Border Patrol. “It was hot. It was like 115 degrees. I’m out signing autographs for an hour. I was there. That was a hot day. You learn if you’re in shape if you can do that, believe me.”

Now the auditorium was full of people from Arizona. They spend their lives in ridiculous heat. It did not seem like a group who you wanted to entertain with a story about how much you suffered signing autographs when it was “like 115 degrees.”

It was actually 107. But that’s the least of our problems.

Blow and Collins

August 17, 2017

I do apologize for doing this later and later and later…  I’m battling a bout of PTSD — President Trump Stress Disorder.  Mr. Blow considers “The Other Inconvenient Truth” and says the Republican Party should acknowledge how it has fueled white supremacy.  They will, Charles, just as soon as pigs fly.  Ms. Collins tells us “How To Handle Donald Trump” and that what we don’t need to hear is what’s really on his mind.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump chose Trump Tower, the place where he began his presidential campaign, as the place to plunge a dagger into his presidency.

Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of white supremacists, white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., exposed once more what many of us have been howling into the wind since he emerged as a viable candidate: That he is a bigot, a buffoon and a bully.

He has done nothing since his election to disabuse us of this notion and everything to confirm it. Anyone expressing surprise is luxuriating in a self-crafted shell of ignorance.

And yet, it seems too simplistic, too convenient, to castigate only Trump for elevating these vile racists. To do so would be historical fallacy. Yes, Trump’s comments give them a boost, grant them permission, provide them validation, but it is also the Republican Party through which Trump burst that has been courting, coddling and accommodating these people for decades. Trump is an articulation of the racists in Charlottesville and they are an articulation of him, and both are a logical extension of a party that has too often refused to rebuke them.

It’s not that Democrats have completely gotten this right, either. Too often, in response to the conservative impulse to punish, the liberal impulse is to pity. Pity does not alleviate oppression; it simply assuages guilt. The pity is not for the receiver but for the giver.

But in the modern age one party has operated with the ethos of racial inclusion and with an eye on celebrating varied forms of diversity, and the other has at times appealed directly to the racially intolerant by providing quiet sufferance.

It is possible to trace this devil’s dance back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the emergence of Richard Nixon. After the passage of the act, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln to which black people felt considerable fealty, turned on those people and stabbed them in the back.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

The era Ehrlichman referred to was the beginning of the War on Drugs. Nixon started his offensive in 1971, declaring in a speech from the White House Briefing Room: “America’s public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.”

The object of disrupting communities worked all too well — more than 40 million arrests have been conducted for drug-related offenses since 1971, with African-Americans being incarcerated in state prisons for these offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that for whites, according to Human Rights Watch.

In 1970, Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips told The New York Times, “The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans.”

The Republican Party wanted the racists. It was strategy, the “Southern Strategy,” and it too has proved wildly successful. From there this cancer took hold.

The party itself has dispensed with public confessions of this inclination — at least until Trump — but the white supremacy still survives and even thrives in policy. The stated goals of the Republican Party are not completely dissimilar from many of the white nationalist positions.

If you advance policies like a return to more aggressive drug policies and voter suppression — things that you know without question will have a disproportionate and negative impact on people of color, what does that say about you?

It says that you want the policies without the poison, but they can’t be made separate: The policies are the poison.

And yes, this is all an outgrowth of white supremacy, a concept that many try to apply only to vocal, violent racists but that is in fact more broadly applicable and pervasive.

People think that they avoid the appellation because they do not openly hate. But hate is not a requirement of white supremacy. Just because one abhors violence and cruelty doesn’t mean that one truly believes that all people are equal — culturally, intellectually, creatively, morally. Entertaining the notion of imbalance — that white people are inherently better than others in any way — is also white supremacy.

The position of opposing racial cruelty can operate in much the same way as opposition to animal cruelty — people do it not because they deem the objects of that cruelty their equals, but rather because they cannot countenance the idea of inflicting pain and suffering on helpless and innocent creatures. But even here, the comparison cleaves, because suffering black people are judged to have courted their own suffering through a cascade of poor choices.

This is passive white supremacy, soft white supremacy, the kind divorced from hatred. It is permissible because it’s inconspicuous. But this soft white supremacy is more deadly, exponentially, than Nazis with tiki torches.

This soft white supremacy is the very thing on which the open racists build.

The white nationalists and the Nazis simply take the next step (not an altogether illogical one when wandering down the crooked path of racial hostility) and they overlay open animus.

This is apparently what draws the ire, what leaves people aghast: open articulation of racial hatred. That to me is a criminal act of denial that refuses to deal with the reality that racism is also signified far more subtly than through the wielding of slurs and sticks.

White supremacy, all across the spectrum, is what lights the way to the final step as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated in his “The Other America” speech in 1967:

“In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. And he ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about six million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide. If one says that I am not good enough to live next door to him, if one says that I am not good enough to eat at a lunch counter, or to have a good, decent job, or to go to school with him merely because of my race, he is saying consciously or unconsciously that I do not deserve to exist.”

Republicans, these people and this “president” are your progeny. That is the other inconvenient truth.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump is still president. Hard to know what to do with this, people.

In less than a week he’s managed to put on one of the most divisive, un-helpful, un-healing presidential performances in American history. It’s been a great stretch for fans of Richard Nixon and James Buchanan.

On Wednesday Trump had to dissolve his business advisory councils because the C.E.O.s were fleeing like panic-stricken geese from a jumbo jet. We now have a president who can’t get the head of Campbell Soup to the White House.

Trump also announced plans to hold a rally next week in Arizona, where he’s said he’s “seriously considering” a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the loathsome racial profiler who never met a constitutional amendment he didn’t ignore. Arpaio’s treatment of Latinos won him a criminal contempt conviction, but of course that’s nothing to our leader.

We had no idea how bad this guy was going to be. Admit it — during the campaign you did not consider the possibility that if a terrible tragedy struck the country involving all of our worst political ghosts of the past plus neo-Nazism, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would know the appropriate thing to say but Donald Trump would have no idea.

George W. Bush would have been at the funeral for the slain civil rights demonstrator in a second. About the best Trump could do was to praise Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, for writing “the nicest things” about him. Bro did indeed express appreciation for the president’s denunciation of “those who promote violence and hatred.” That was his written-by-someone-else statement, which preceded the despicable impromptu version.

We’re only safe when he’s using prepared remarks. The extemporaneous Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville wasn’t just tone-deaf and heartless; you had to wonder about the overall mental balance of a man who managed to both defend the alt-right demonstrators in Virginia and brag about his real estate in the neighborhood.

“Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?” Trump asked the stunned reporters. “I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville.”

It was truly the kind of performance you expect from a deranged person, brought out to explain why he blew up a large government building and inquiring cheerfully: “Has anybody seen my car? It’s really nice. A Ford Pinto.”

Also, Trump does not own one of the largest wineries in the United States. Trump Winery is one of the largest wineries in Virginia, which is like bragging you own one of the largest ski resorts in Ohio.

(There’s something about catching these wild misstatements and lies of self-aggrandizement that can actually be soothing in the worst of times. It’s a diversion that gives you a little break from wondering what’s going to happen to the country.)

Meanwhile, business executives were concluding it was morally compromising to be on the White House manufacturing council. It’s hard to imagine what else could happen before autumn kicks in.

We are just beginning to fully understand how critical it is for a president to have at least a minimal understanding of American history. This one seems to have only recently discovered he belongs to the same party as Abraham Lincoln. “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump told a political gathering. “Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little more.”

His response to the biggest challenge of his presidency began by blaming “many sides” for the crisis. Then there was the reading of an appropriate, if way overdue, statement. Then came the disastrous press conference on Tuesday, when he was just supposed to read a brief description of the administration plan for infrastructure — something about giving road-builders a reprieve from having to consider the possibility of future flooding.

But he started to take questions and actually say things from his own mind. His staff looked worried, then nervous, then despairing.

Even when Trump is not historically wrong, or making things up to extol his own self-image, or failing to do even the least modicum of national healing at a time of crisis, he’s so incoherent that it’s possible to misunderstand what should be a simple thought.

“I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts,” he blathered at one pointthen lapsed into that terrible tendency to refer to himself in the third person. “And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well stated. In fact, everybody said his statement was beautiful. …”

This can’t go on. We don’t have time to wait for impeachment. Patriotic Republicans and administration officials have to get together and find a way to make sure that Donald Trump will never again say anything in public that is not written on a piece of paper. It’s their duty to the country.

Collins, solo

August 12, 2017

In “Trump Tweets Tough” Ms. Collins says let’s just pray that Trump’s current bellicosity is all hot air and no balloon.  Here she is:

“Look, I have — nobody has better respect for intelligence than Donald Trump,” said the president of the United States this week.

I know, I know.

Trump was actually talking about C.I.A.-type intelligence, but it’s still a quote worth remembering. In fact, you might want to consider printing it out and posting it somewhere in your workplace, so you can look up at it every once in a while.

Or at minimum, stick it in the irony drawer.

It’s been an unnerving week, what with all the “locked and loaded” threats to North Korea from the White House. Meanwhile in Pyongyang, tens of thousands of people responded by waving their fists in the air and holding up slogans like, “Let’s become bullets and bombs devotedly defending respected Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong-un!”

This is the North Korean version of a presidential tweet.

I believe I speak for a great many Americans when I say I am scared as hell of a confrontation between the head of the strongest nation in the world, who once wanted to play the president in “Sharknado 3,” and a nuclear power dictator whose favorite house guest is Dennis Rodman.

When a reporter asked the president about his threatening “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said “maybe it wasn’t tough enough.” Followed by “maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough” and “if anything, that statement may not be tough enough.” This was all within 30 seconds. There seems to be a theme.

This was during a media event at Trump’s golf course in New Jersey on Thursday, and the president followed through with complaints about how the previous inhabitants of the Oval Office had left him with a big mess because they didn’t know how to handle a rogue nuclear power like the Donald does.

“Look at Clinton. He folded on the negotiations. He was weak and ineffective,” Trump whined. “You look what happened with Bush. You look what happened with Obama. Obama — he didn’t even want to talk about it.”

“But I talk,” our president said, unnecessarily.

The theme of my-terrible-predecessors ran on into another meeting with reporters on Friday, in which Trump announced that South Koreans felt “more reassured with me than … with other presidents from the past.” Upping the ante, he also bragged that “very few presidents have done what we’ve done in a six-month period.”

“I’m not sure that anybody’s done what we’ve done in a six-month period,” he amended. This was new — in the past Trump allowed as how Franklin Roosevelt might possibly have accomplished a little more. And take that, Abraham Lincoln.

Trump hadn’t been so available in a long time, and he certainly had a lot to share. He differentiated between bad leaks “coming out of intelligence and various departments” and good leaks from the White House staff, which just involve people who “want to love me and they’re all fighting for love.”

When a reporter asked about Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to expel 755 workers from the American Embassy, Trump demonstrated once again that there is absolutely nothing Putin can do that will make our president criticize him. (“No, I want to thank him, because we’re trying to cut down on payroll. … We’ll save a lot of money.”) What do you think he’d have said if Putin had jailed our diplomats? Expressed gratitude for the free room and board?

On Friday he claimed he was just being sarcastic. Still, he couldn’t resist adding, “But we have reduced payroll very substantially.”

There’s certainly something about Putin that makes Trump go gaga. Maybe the North Korean craziness is his attempt to impress Putin with his own manly manhood. There’s nothing in this administration that doesn’t seem to come back to Russia sooner or later. Students of the future will look back upon the 2013 Miss Universe contest in Moscow as the central moment in 21st century history. Third graders will know that Miss Venezuela won.

Speaking of Venezuela, Trump spoke vaguely about “a possible military option” there, too.

Let’s just pray his current bellicosity is all hot air and no balloon. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to soothe the country, saying, “Americans should sleep well at night.” He did not mention whether there would be nightmares.

Maybe there’s some reassurance to be had in the fact that Trump tends to talk big and act, um, minimally. Try counting the moments of real change, drama or even strong reaction over the last six months that go beyond verbal, and before you’ve gotten through the fingers on one hand, you’ll probably already be down to the firing of the Mooch.

That’s our best hope: That the guy with the nuclear football is not necessarily the same person as the one sending out loopy messages on his smartphone. People who’ve dealt with the private Trump often say they found him less crazy than the public version.

Of course, he’s definitely a lazy thinker who doesn’t like to confront a memo longer than a page. But nobody’s perfect.

Blow and Collins

August 3, 2017

In “Feasting on False and Fake” Mr. Blow says the lies are the root of all this evil.  Ms. Collins has a question in “A Week Without Trumps…:”  Why — WHY — is the White House not giving us any more theme weeks?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump continues his savage assault on truth, honesty and candor.

In two weeks time, one of Trump’s lawyers has been proven a liar for repeatedly claiming that Trump had not been involved at all in the drafting of the misleading statement that his son Donald Jr. issued about his now-infamous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

As The Washington Post reported Monday:

“Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children’ when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to The New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was ‘not a campaign issue at the time.’ ”

Then, on Tuesday, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that the elder Trump had played a role, saying, “The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had.”

In short, this whole line of defense that White House had maintained for weeks was a complete fairy tale, another blatant lie from the perpetual fountain of lies.

During a July 25 interview with the Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker, Trump said of his debased speech at the Boy Scouts’ Jamboree: “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The only problem is that, as Politico reported this week: “The Boy Scouts of America, however, apologized to its members after the speech and then said Wednesday that the organization was not aware of any calls between its leaders and Trump.”’

Monday, Trump said: “As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they’re close to 80 percent stoppage. Even the president of Mexico called me — they said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they’re not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment.”

The problem: As ABC News reports, “The Mexican government says President Enrique Peña Nieto did not call U.S. President Donald Trump to compliment his immigration policies, as Trump had claimed” and “An American official confirmed that no telephone conversation recently occurred between Trump and Peña Nieto.”

But perhaps most disturbing and despicable is an allegation in a lawsuit filed by Rod Wheeler, a private detective who was hired by the family of Seth Rich, an aide for the Democratic National Committee who was fatally shot last summer in Washington, to investigate his death.

The claim is that the White House and a wealthy friend of Trump used Fox News to manufacture and promote a fake news story — using this dead man’s body, and ignoring his family’s agony — to “shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential election.” Wheeler is also a Fox News contributor.

Fox published the article but was forced to retract it. According to The New York Times, “The retracted article, citing law enforcement sources, said Mr. Rich had shared thousands of D.N.C. emails with WikiLeaks — a theory that would undercut the assertions that Russia had interfered in the election on behalf of Mr. Trump.”

If this is true, it is the lowest of the low. It would implicate the White House in a most callous lie and it would further make laughable the “News” in “Fox News.”

All politicians try to manage news coverage and messages. They all try to put the most positive spin on things. They all are prone to hyperbole.

But this is another thing altogether. It is separate, distinct and unique. We have never seen an occupant of the Oval Office who is actually allergic to the truth. We have never had an enemy of honesty.

I keep coming back to the lying because I believe everything else flows from it.

If Trump had been upfront and candid about his and his cohorts’ dealings with Russia, had not lied about President Barack Obama supposedly wiretapping phones in Trump Tower, had released his tax returns and not tried to make James Comey commit to some sort of oath of allegiance, maybe we wouldn’t need a special counsel to investigate his campaign’s Russia connections.

If Trump hadn’t lied about three million people voting illegally, we wouldn’t be diverting resources to a ridiculous voter integrity commission. Maybe we could focus on the real problems: voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering. As Nate Cohn pointed outWednesday on the Upshot: “Heading into the 2018 midterms, data and conventional wisdom agree: Gerrymandering is a big reason the G.O.P. has a real chance to retain control of the House, even if the Democrats score a clear win” in the overall popular vote.

If Trump had been honest in his fake outreach to black voters during the campaign — “What the hell do you have to lose?” — the attack on civil rights by this Justice Department would make sense. The reversal on private prisons, the review of consent decrees, the return to the failed drug policies of the ’90s would make sense. If Trump had been honest, the absolutely outrageous news reported by The Times this week would make sense:

“The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.”

The lies are the root of all this evil. It not only impedes normal functioning and normal processes, it has destroyed a common basis on which to operate. The presidency is being used as tool of degradation rather than uplift.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

So much outcry about chaos at the White House. Who’s in? Who’s out? Yet we’ve failed to consider one important question.

What happens to the Weeks?

They’ve been such an administration highlight. Who can forget White House Infrastructure Week? Or Energy Week? Or the current American Dream Week, which the president celebrated by calling for a 50 percent cut in legal immigration?

Reince Priebus was said to have been a big Week maven, and he’s been, um, disappeared. Which is why I’m sort of worried about the end of a great new national tradition.

We still haven’t heard what the next Week is supposed to be. Do you think John Kelly got rid of them? That man cannot stop cleaning house.

All modern presidents have promoted themes they want us to think about, but the current administration has been a pioneer in packaging things into Weeks and then staging lots of events to remind us about their topic. President Trump also generally proposes a bill on the same subject, which Congress promptly rejects.

This happened even during Infrastructure Week — who among us doesn’t like infrastructure? But Trump hasn’t been able to get his act together on a package of projects, so he started the week off with a call for privatizing the air traffic control system, which the Senate commerce committee cheerfully vetoed.

Also, to be fair, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a letter from a 10-year-old boy from Virginia who wants to mow the White House lawn. And that’s going to happen. “It’s our responsibility to keep the American dream alive for kids like Frank,” she told the media.

Because this administration has been so danged exciting, it’s easy to merge the Weeks with unrelated presidential events of the moment. So we’ll also remember Infrastructure Week as the one when the fired F.B.I. director testified before Congress. And that during American Dream Week, a golfing story revealed that Trump had called the White House “a real dump.”

But even when the White House is in control of the timing, the Weeks tend to go awry.

Obviously, the idea of having the president give a speech to the Boy Scouts during Heroes Week was planned. But it’s a good bet the planners didn’t expect him to brag to the kids about winning the election, snipe at his political opponents and tell a really long story about a friend who sold his business and bought a big yacht.

Scout leaders were somewhat unnerved by the performance, but Trump, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said “the head of the Boy Scouts” had called him to say “it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The head of the Boy Scouts immediately denied that. Sanders told a press briefing that the president was talking about someone else.

So that was American Heroes Week. Plus the speech to law enforcement officials in which Trump appeared to advocate police brutality. Which Sanders told a press briefing was just a joke.

“The president went out of his way this week to give a special honor to some very special people,” said Lara Trump, the host of a brand-new news program on the president’s Facebook site, as she recounted some of the White House events. She is the wife of Eric Trump, otherwise known as the adult son not currently under investigation for talking with Russians.

Until now we have known Lara as an animal rights activist. Perhaps she could get us a White House Be Kind to Animals Week, in which her father-in-law would have to appear in public with a dog or a cat. This is the first president since James K. Polk who does not have a pet. All this could change in a wink of a Week.

There are all kinds of ways we could turn the Weeks around to the national interest. For instance, the State Department appears to be struggling to get the normal day-to-day business done for lack of staff. Perhaps we could have a Who Wants to Be Ambassador to Norway Week. The press secretary could read letters from 10-year-old volunteers, and on Friday the president could draw a name from a hat.

One of my favorite Weeks was Energy Week, when Trump and Rick Perry went around vowing to make the nation “energy dominant,” a concept so much more manly than energy independent. But still educational. “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry said during a coal mining promotion. “You put the supply out there and the demand will follow.”

And then, of course, there was Made in America Week, which Trump observed by requesting visas to hire foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago.

And Workforce Development Week, when Trump and daughter Ivanka met with C.E.O.s to discuss worker training. And Tech Week, when Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner met with top executives of technology companies.

“I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there,” Lara Trump told her audience.

What about a Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Week?

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 27, 2017

In ” ‘First They Came For…’ ” Mr. Blow says all the targets of Trump’s ire must push back with a united front before it is too late.  In “No Insurance, But For 3 Days, Health Care Is Within Reach” Mr. Kristof says aid group set up to help in poor nations now focuses on U.S. needs.  Ms. Collins says “Wow, Trump Can’t Terminate,” and that coming soon we’ll have American Irony Week.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It is no longer sufficient to brand Donald Trump as abnormal, a designation that is surely applicable but that falls significantly short in registering the magnitude of the menace.

The standard nomenclature of normal politics must be abandoned. What we are witnessing is nothing less than an assault on the fundamentals of the country itself: on our legacy institutions and our sense of protocol, decency and honesty.

In any other circumstance, we might likely write this off as the trite protestations of a man trapped in a toddler’s temperament, full of meltdowns, magical thinking and make believe. But this man’s vindictiveness and mendacity are undergirded by the unequaled power of the American president, and as such he has graduated on the scale of power from toddler to budding tyrant.

This threat Trump poses — to our morals, ethics, norms and collective sense of propriety — may be without equal from a domestic source.

Everything he is doing is an assault and matters on some level.

His desecration of the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree matters. Not only did he turn his appearance before the boys into a political rally in which they booed both former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he seemed to be appealing to their basest instincts.

What exactly did Trump mean when he regaled the boys with the story of the real-estate developer William Levitt, who, as Trump put it:

“Sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.”

As the boys start to make noise, Trump responds, “Should I tell you? Should I tell you?” and then proceeds to say:

“You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.”

Is this a version of Trump’s “locker room talk,” that phrase he used to excuse his genital-grabbing comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape? This may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme, but it matters. The fact that its shelf life felt like only a few hours before the next outrage underscores the degree to which our national consciousness is being barraged by the man’s violations.

But yes, it matters too, just as Trump’s obsession with Obama and Clinton matters.

Also, his public trolling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions matters. The fact that he’s enraged at Sessions for taking the appropriate ethical step and recusing himself from the Russia investigation matters. The fact that Trump essentially told The New York Times on the record that he would not have chosen Sessions if he’d known Sessions wouldn’t have stood firm in protection of him, matters.

Trump’s continuous attacks on the media matter.

His pushing of the Republicans’ callous Obamacare repeal-and-replace plan — a plan that would strip health insurance coverage from tens of millions of Americans, and a plan that Trump has demonstrated no particular policy knowledge of — matters.

Trump’s tweet yesterday — on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman desegregating the armed forces, no less — that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” matters. There are thousands of trans people already serving in the military. The idea that a man with five draft deferments would dictate that people who volunteer to serve should not be allowed to is beyond outrageous — and it matters.

Trump’s pushing us closer to international military conflict matters.

And yes, the plodding Russia investigation, which to Trump is an agitation and threat, like an irremovable thorn in his flesh, matters.

This has come as a great shock and demoralizer to many Americans, not necessarily because they didn’t think Trump was capable of such depravity, but because they simply were unprepared for the daily reality of living a nightmare.

There is an enduring expectation, particularly among American liberals, that progress in this society should move inexorably toward more openness, honesty and equality. But even the historical record doesn’t support that expectation.

In reality, America regularly experiences bouts of regression, but fortunately, it is in those regressive periods that some of our greatest movements and greatest voices had found their footing.

President Andrew Jackson’s atrocious American Indian removal program gave us the powerful Cherokee memorial letters. The standoff at Standing Rock gave us what the BBC called “the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years.”

Crackdowns on gay bars gave us the Stonewall uprising. America’s inept response to the AIDS epidemic gave us Act Up and Larry Kramer. California’s Proposition 8 breathed new life into the fight for marriage equality and led to a victory in the Supreme Court.

The racial terror that followed the Emancipation Proclamation gave us the anti-lynching movement, the N.A.A.C.P., W.E.B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells and James Weldon Johnson.

Jim Crow gave us the civil rights movement, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Congressman John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and James Baldwin.

The latest rash of extrajudicial killing of black people gave us Black Lives Matter.

The financial crisis and the government’s completely inadequate response to it gave us Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent.

A renewed assault on women’s rights, particularly a woman’s right to choose, gave us, at least in part, the Women’s March, likely the largest march in American history.

This is not an exhaustive list, but just some notable examples.

It is a way of illustrating that the fiery crucible is where the weapons of resistance are forged; it is where the mettle of those crusading for justice, equality and progress are tested.

Unlike the examples listed above, Trump’s assault is intersectional and nearly universal. Multiple populations are being assaulted at once, across race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual identity.

So, in this moment of regression, all the targets of Trump’s ire must push back with a united front, before it is too late.

As Martin Niemöller so famously put it:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Wise, VA:

For a man who needed 18 teeth pulled, Daniel Smith was looking chipper.

Anxious, too, for he was facing a pair of forceps. But Smith, 30, a contractor with no health or dental insurance, who hadn’t seen a dentist in more than 20 years, was looking forward to an imminent end to the pain and rot in his mouth.

“I’ve always worked, since I was 14, but I’ve never had dental insurance,” Smith told me. After his teeth are out, he has a lead on low-cost dentures.

“I’d like to have a straight smile,” he said. “I’ve never had one in my life.”

All around Smith were uninsured patients receiving free dental or medical care, including dozens of men and women in side-by-side dental chairs in the open air. Organizers mercifully arranged the long line of people waiting to have teeth pulled so that they were facing away from those currently enduring extractions.

The patients swamped the county fairground here for a three-day health extravaganza of free care organized by Remote Area Medical, an aid group that holds these events across the country. This one involved about 1,400 volunteers serving 2,300 men and women who needed care of every kind.

Some patients camped out for three days at the fairground gate before the clinic opened to make sure they would be treated.

The health fair reminded me of scenes I’ve witnessed in refugee camps in South Sudan. But here in America?

The sight is a wrenching reminder of how many Americans slip through the cracks. No other advanced country permits this level of suffering — and if the G.O.P. health care plan goes through, millions more will lose their health coverage.

“Walking around, listening to people, it breaks your heart,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, whom I encountered on the fairground. “We need a healthy work force, and this is a disgrace.”

“Shame on us as a nation,” McAuliffe added. “This is an embarrassment to our country.”

That’s what I feel, too: humiliation that Americans need to be rescued by a group originally intended to help people in the world’s poorest countries (mixed with pride at the altruistic spirit that attracted so many volunteers, paying their own expenses to come here). To me, the fundamental lesson is that even under Obamacare, too many people don’t have coverage, and we urgently need a single-payer universal health care system along the lines of Medicare for all.

Remote Area Medical is the brainchild of Stan Brock, 81, a onetime British cowboy who in the 1950s managed one of the world’s biggest ranches, overseeing 50,000 cattle in Guyana in South America.

When he was badly injured by a wild horse, Brock was told it would be a 26-day hike to the nearest doctor. So he recovered on his own — but began to think about supplying health care to deprived areas.

Brock ended up founding Remote Area Medical to work in places like the Amazon, Haiti and Uganda. But then one day he had a call from Sneedville, Tenn., where the hospital had just closed and the dentist moved out. “Can you come here?” the caller asked.

Brock loaded a dental chair on the back of a pickup truck and brought in a dentist as well — and 150 people lined up, desperate for oral care. The result is that while it continues some international work, Remote Area Medical also treats people in the world’s superpower.

Brock is a character: He discovered a species of bat that is named for him, and today he has no home but unrolls a pad each evening and sleeps on the floor of Remote Area Medical’s permanent offices in Tennessee. At 5 a.m. on the first day here, Brock opened the gate and began admitting people eager for care.

As they surged past, many stopped to thank him; one man had tears in his eyes as he did so.

“I wish Mr. Trump would come,” Brock told me. “The health of these people is appalling.”

Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid have helped, but this health fair underscores glaring gaps in American coverage, especially for dental and vision care, in ways that affect us all.

In the vision tent, a patient couldn’t see even the biggest letter at the top of the eye chart. As he waited for glasses, a volunteer asked, “And how did you get here?”

“Oh, I drove.”

Jennifer Jolliffee, a volunteer, told of a 6-year-old boy who had behavioral problems, couldn’t read and struggled at school. Then he had his first vision screening, and his parents learned that he could barely see. Soon he was looking around in wonderment through glasses.

In another area of the fairground, doctors saw patients in private “rooms” created by sheets dangled from strings with clothespins. In one such room, Dr. Ross Isaacs saw William Powers, a former bulldozer operator with severe kidney problems, and outlined how Powers could maximize his chances of a kidney transplant. “I’ve got hope again,” Powers told me as he left.

As for Dr. Isaacs, he put it this way: “The success of this event is an indictment of our health care system.”

And I wonder how many of the people treated there voted for Trump, because of “economic anxiety.”  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Pick your favorite irony:

1) Donald Trump turns out to be terrible at firing people.

2) The White House celebrates its “American Heroes Week” by banning transgender volunteers from serving in the military.

3) Thanks to the president’s harangues, we are actually starting to feel sympathy for Jeff Sessions.

I can definitely understand if you want to pick No. 2, especially since Trump just finished observing “Made in America Week” with an application to hire 70 foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago.

But let’s talk for a minute about the way our president gets rid of unwanted members of his administration. It’s a monument to passive-aggressive ineptitude. With Sessions, Trump has been broadcasting his displeasure to the world for more than a week without making the obvious follow-through.

And this was the guy who made “You’re fired!” his calling card. Clearly, he brought a lot of fiction to reality TV. Clay Aiken, a onetime contestant on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” recently told an interviewer that Trump actually “didn’t decide who got fired on ‘Apprentice,’” and had to be fed his lines by producers.

Not exactly a shock, but watching the president in action over recent weeks, you have to wonder how he’d have functioned if he ran that show without prompting.

On Sunday, “Celebrity Apprentice” promises “fireworks” when Donald Trump tells other people he has no confidence in Rhoda, the beleaguered fashion model and ferret breeder. It will be the seventh week in which the real estate superstar has said unpleasant things about Rhoda to her friends, family and American viewers. Tension rises as contestants wait to see if their mentor will continue his strategy or send a bodyguard to deliver the bad news to Rhoda in person.

Trump’s attempts to drive Sessions out of office without actually confronting him began last week with his famous New York Times interview and then escalated through press conferences and the social media (“VERY weak”). In one tweet Trump referred to Sessions as “our beleaguered A.G.” Now “beleaguered” means under attack, and this was sort of like taking a jackhammer to the street in front of your house and then complaining to the city about potholes.

On another occasion Trump said he was “disappointed” in Sessions. This was during a press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in which the president took a few questions after praising Hariri for being “on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hezbollah.” Carping minds noted that Hariri actually has a power-sharing arrangement with Hezbollah, which controls most of the people in his cabinet. But if you wanted a president who was going to split hairs, you should have voted for somebody else.

O.K., I know, I know.

Trump appears completely unaware that he’s beginning to look like the worst terminator in history. Introducing Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, at an event this week, the president jovially said that Price had better get the health care bill passed through Congress, “otherwise, I’ll say: ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody.”

This was at that Boy Scouts jamboree when Trump did such a great job of impersonating your Uncle Fred Who Gets Drunk at Family Dinners. How many of you think the Boy Scouts have been yearning for the day when the president would come to their big event, tell the teens that their federal government is a “sewer,” recount a long and incoherent story about a real estate developer who went off to make whoopee on his yacht, and brag incessantly about having won the election? On the plus side, Trump did not misrepresent the Scout position on Hezbollah.

Trump has been complaining a lot about Sessions’s lack of loyalty, which might have confused people who remembered that Sessions was the first senator to endorse his presidential campaign, back in February of 2016. You’d think that standing up to fellow Republicans who regarded Trump as a dangerous lunatic should have merited a little bit of long-run gratitude.

Trump cleared all that up, however, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal where he explained that Sessions’s endorsement was “not like a great loyal thing,” but merely an insignificant politician trying to feed off his star power and crowd-drawing charisma. (“He was a senator from Alabama. … He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me.”)

Now Trump wants Sessions gone so he can replace him with an attorney general who will fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions can’t do it because he recused himself from all things Russia-related.

Mueller’s probe into the Trump camp’s relationship with Russia terrifies the president, especially if it involves an investigation of Trump family finances. So obviously, we are rooting for Sessions to stay right where he is … and, um, keep persecuting immigrants, ratchet up imprisonments for nonviolent crimes and maybe go back to his old dream of imposing the death penalty on marijuana dealers.

Well, I told you this was about irony.

Bobo and Collins

July 15, 2017

Bobo has decided to ponder the “Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump” and tells us that it took generations to evolve to Donald Jr.’s lack of ethics.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have something to say.  Ms. Collins plaintively asks “Couldn’t We Just Trade Presidents?”  She says American citizens watching Trump’s visit to Paris must have wondered how we got the wrong guy.  “Economic Anxiety” and ohmygod her emails…  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich emigrated to the United States when he was 16, in 1885. He ventured west to seek his riches and finally settled in Seattle, where he opened a restaurant that, according to family historian Gwenda Blair, likely included a section for a bordello.

Gold fever hit the Pacific Northwest, and Grandfather Trump moved up to Bennett, British Columbia. It was a fast, raucous, money-grabbing atmosphere and Trump opened the Arctic Hotel, which had a bar, a restaurant and, according to an advertisement in the Dec. 9, 1899, edition of The Bennett Sun newspaper, “private boxes for ladies and parties.” Each box apparently came equipped with a bed and a scale to weigh the gold dust that was used to pay for the services offered in it.

Friedrich returned to Germany, married and was sent back to the U.S. by German authorities (he hadn’t fulfilled his military service requirement) and amassed a modest fortune.

Frederick, Donald’s father, began building middle-class housing. Profiles describe an intense, success-obsessed man who worked seven days a week and encouraged those around him to be killers in their field. “He didn’t like wimps,” his nephew told Philip Weiss of The Times. “He thought competition made you sharper.”

He cared deeply about appearances. “Freddy was always very neat, a Beau Brummell,” Sam LeFrak told Weiss. “He had a mustache, and that mustache was always right, perfect.” He was also remorseless. In an interview with Michael D’Antonio, Donald Trump described his father as “very tough” and “very difficult” and someone who “would never let anything go.”

Biographies describe a man intent on making his fortune and not afraid of skating near the edge to do so. At one point, according to Politico, federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, on top of paying himself a large “architect’s fee.” He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions, apparently was arrested at a K.K.K. rally in Queens (though it’s not clear he was a member), got involved in a slush fund scandal with Robert Wagner and faced discrimination allegations.

I repeat this history because I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.

It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr.

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life. When the Russian government offer came across his email, there doesn’t seem to have been a flicker of concern. Instead, he replied with that tone of simple bro glee that we remember from other scandals.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

Successful business people, like successful politicians, are very ambitious, but they generally have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive. The House of Trump has sprayed an insecticide on any possible complementary code, and so they are continually trampling basic decency. Their scandals may not build to anything impeachable, but the scandals will never end.

But I’ll bet you voted for him, Bobo…  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“The modern Republican party’s great-grandfathers produced Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, two Presidents who fought for human decency, adored the common good and spoke truth to ugly moneyed power.

That same party then got hooked on 0.1% cash and millionaire public policy camouflaged by the smokescreens of religious fundamentalism, white supremacy, patriotism and Guns R Us anarchy.

This political party produced Ronald Reagan in 1980, a B-movie actor great at reading his script who introduced tax-cut dementia to America, demonized government, eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, and tripled the national debt by implementing the intellectual, moral and economic bankruptcy of right-wing tax cuts while eviscerating the safety net, good government and balanced budgets.

America has yet to recover from this immoral charlatan and right-wing stage actor.

Ever since the Reign of Reckless Reagan, the ethically dead Republican Party has pressed down hard on the ‘no new tax’ and ‘government is the problem’ accelerators and destroyed the common good while gilding the rich in tax cuts, free-market nihilism, and a refusal to engage in honest debate.

I repeat this history because I don’t think Republican moral bankruptcy was built in a day; it took 35 years of mindless Reaganism to produce the morally bankrupt Donald Trump and bankrupt Republican Congress.

It took a generation of Republican hacks to produce the Russian-Republican Party, but they finally succeeded.

Congratulations.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Why can’t Emmanuel Macron be our president?

American citizens watching Donald Trump’s visit to Paris must have wondered how we got the wrong guy. Macron seemed so smart, so charming. The fact that he didn’t father any children would not normally be a big selling point, but right now we are yearning for a president with no offspring.

Speaking of which, the Paris journey was dogged by questions about that meeting Donald Trump Jr. took during the presidential campaign. The one at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who was advertised as the bearer of “information that would incriminate Hillary.”

Every day the meeting guest list grows larger. First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner was there. Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager, was there. Rob Goldstone, the British P.R. guy who likes to post pictures of himself in funny hats was there — representing a Russian pop singer whose dad is besties with Vladimir Putin.

Latest addition: Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer who’s currently a lobbyist in Washington. Akhmetshin is rather well known in our nation’s capital, where he was recently mentioned by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter complaining about people who register as lobbyists when they really ought to be registering as foreign agents.

And Akhmetshin might have brought somebody else along. Possibly an interpreter. Or something. This information came from Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, who is not to be confused with Jared Kushner’s lawyer or President Trump’s lawyer.

Pop Quiz: Who else do you think might have been present for that Trump Tower meeting?

A) Ivanka

B) Tiffany

C) Ryan Seacrest

D) Boris and Natasha

Donald Trump was not at the meeting. Didn’t even know about it. Until later. Even then only barely. Lately, when he’s defending his son, Trump has taken to using terms that suggest Junior was accused of cheating on a Boy Scout swim test. Talking with reporters on his flight to Paris, Trump called his eldest “a good boy. He’s a good kid.” This was, as many people observed, while he was on his way to a meeting with the president of France, who is, at 39, exactly the same age as Donald Trump Jr.

On that plane ride, the president also took a question about whether he was really serious about building a Mexican wall with solar panels on top. The answer is, totally. Also, the wall is going to be transparent.

You heard me. This administration is very committed to transparency in everything from releasing Junior’s emails 10 minutes before The New York Times was going to publish them to the border barrier.

“You have to be able to see through it,” the president of the United States explained, because otherwise “when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff. It’s over.”

Once he was back on the ground, Trump had a great time in Paris. Macron pulled out all the stops. Dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Big parade with lots of guns and airplanes. Although the French were celebrating Bastille Day, they added in the 100th anniversary of American troops’ entry into World War I. So you got the impression everything was really all about Trump, which is the best way to our president’s heart.

Trump was so touched he grabbed Macron in a handshake that evolved through so many expressions of affection it could have been featured on a dating site. He also attempted to compliment Macron’s glamorous 64-year-old wife by saying, “You’re in such good shape.”

We should note here that Melania Trump did fine. The Parisian press praised her wardrobe. Unlike her husband, she didn’t say anything weird. Nobody accused her of having sinister meetings with Russians. Give the woman some credit.

Macron was such a successful host that Trump seemed to develop second thoughts on the global warming thing. “And yeah, I mean, something could happen with respect to the Paris Accord. … And if it happens, that’ll be wonderful. …” Trump also took back his previous blasts at Paris, a city he’d claimed wasn’t safe because of the terrorists they’d let come in.

“You know what, it’s going to be just fine, because you have a great president,” he said. The sun rises and sets, and then a new reality is born.

The matter of Junior and the Russian meeting did come up during a brief press conference Trump and Macron held. (Trump, who was supposed to call on two American journalists, called on one American and one Chinese TV reporter.) “I will not interfere in U.S. domestic policy,” said Macron. Trump, who liked that answer a lot, said his son was “a great young man” who did something “a lot of people would do.”

It’s beginning to sound like a lot of people did do it. Of course, they were all either Russians and their associates or top members of the Trump inner circle. If only they’d met in a transparent room.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 13, 2017

In “Scions and Scoundrels” Mr. Blow says Donald Trump’s corruption is a family affair.  Mr. Kristof says “All Roads Now Lead to Kushner” and that the president’s son-in-law has lots of explaining to do.  Ms. Collins has created “A Donald, Jr. Cheat Sheet” for us, and has questions: Who is Worst Trump Child? Will the family stick together? Is Emin a good singer?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

What befalls a country riven by a dynasty of deception and disrepute? What comes of a country being forced by its puerile “president” to retreat from its world leadership, set to a soundtrack of world mockery? What to make of an enterprise of corruption that Trump calls a family when they abandon any semblance of propriety and all things we once found appropriate?

The America that I know and love is hanging by a thread, and Trump’s scandalous camarilla is playing with the shears.

The latest shoe to drop is that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort (campaign chairman at the time) met last summer in Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer because, according to emails released by Trump Jr., he was told that he would receive dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for his father.

Trump Jr.’s response: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

This is clear evidence of collusion and pushing disturbingly close to the possibility of other crimes including treason, although not quite there yet, from what is publicly known at this point.

This may well be the clearest link so far between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but it is far from the first act of misconduct. The entire Trump political era has been an extended exercise in misconduct.

Trump is president by a combination of the most despicable factors: a Russian cyberattack, voter suppression, racial anxiety and rampant sexism. People will struggle to explain it in other terms, and some will do so with dazzling language that apes the tone and tenor of intellectualism, but at its base an explanation that ignores those factors is a lie. It is a lie that covers a cyst. It is a lie that shields a sickness. It is a lie that excuses the inexcusable.

Donald Trump is president because a multiethnic, forward-thinking coalition twice elected a black man president and in so doing sent pulsing waves of fear down the spine of the traditional power structure in America. Barack Obama represented a fast-approaching future in which whiteness is not synonymous with power, in which power is more widely shared.

Therein lies an inherent insecurity, if you held a legacy claim to security simply by accident of birth and a systematic oppression of people who would compete with you for that security.

Donald Trump is president because American sexism, misogyny and patriarchy know no bounds. All politicians have flaws; Clinton had flaws. I could fill this column enumerating them. But as Bernie Sanders was fond of saying during the campaign, “On her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”

On Trump’s best day, he was worse than the other Republican candidates. And yet, he won the nomination, and that man — the worst of the worst — beat a woman who had more qualifications on the first page of her résumé than he could ever have achieved in his whole pathetic life.

And now that man and his spawn — born into nefariousness and groomed by nepotism — are waging an all-out war on the country he is supposed to lead.

Trump has attacked every traditional institution in this country, from the judiciary to the press. But possibly the most dangerous and destructive has been his assault on the truth itself.

After Trump Jr. hid the meeting with the Russian lawyer, then acknowledged it, then had a rolling list of lies about the purpose of it, then was forced to release emails about the meeting that proved not only him but the entire Trump camp to be liars, he gave an interview to the Trumps’ favorite state propaganda machine, Fox News. His father chimed in on Twitter:

“My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”

Everything in that tweet is not only a lie, but it is in diametrical opposition to the truth. But that is Trump’s tactic: Don’t shade the truth with a little lie; destroy the truth with an enormous lie. Consider the truth and then say the exact opposite is true. It is so disconcerting that it must be entertained and investigated because it is so foreign to honest people.

Trump Jr. wasn’t “open, transparent and innocent.” He is devious, knavish and guilty as sin.

I say that we must learn to discard as dishonest everything emanating from this White House. If it’s not a lie (and it often is), it’s a diversion.

Yes, listen to his speeches and read his tweets. Being an informed, engaged citizen demands that you remain aware of what the country’s so-called leader is thinking and doing.

But then shunt it aside. It’s all garbage and a waste of mental bandwidth. You only have to remember this: These people are not to be trusted. Their greatest interest is in their own enrichment. They believe that they exist in a space above the law and outside the rules.

Run everything that you hear from the White House through this filter: The “presidency” is a blasphemy and Trump is not only a disgrace but also an assault on the culture and the country.

And take comfort in this eternal truth: For all things, there comes an end.

Not soon enough, not soon enough…  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

For a year, the refrain from the Trump camp has been a defiant mix of “Lock her up,” “but the emails” and “fake news.”

Now it turns out that what was fake wasn’t the news but the Trump denials, that the truly scandalous emails were in the Trumps’ own servers and that the person who may have committed a felony is actually Donald J. Trump Jr.

The writer Stephen King put it this way: “The news is real. The president is fake.”

The question is where this goes next. I suggest two directions.

First, look beyond Donald Trump Jr. to Jared Kushner and to President Trump himself.

Second, explore how Trump Jr.’s attempt at collusion with Russians may relate to the bizarre effort by Kushner to set up a secret communication channel with the Kremlin.

To back up, just in case you’ve been stuck on a desert island, here’s what you missed this week. Donald J. Trump Jr. received an email in June 2016, eight days after his father clinched the Republican nomination for president, that said the Kremlin had “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary. … This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

In 1960, the Kremlin made a similar offer to support the candidacy of John F. Kennedy against Richard Nixon, but the Kennedy campaign rebuffed it. Likewise, when the Al Gore campaign in 2000 received confidential materials relating to the George W. Bush campaign, it called the F.B.I.

Trump Jr. didn’t call the F.B.I.; instead, he responded, “I love it.” He apparently arranged a phone call to discuss the material (we don’t know that the call happened or, if it did, its content), and then set up a meeting for him, Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort to meet with a person described in the emails as a “Russian government attorney.”

In other words, informed of a secret Kremlin effort to use highly sensitive information about a former secretary of state (presumably obtained by espionage, for how else?) to manipulate an American election, Trump Jr. signaled, “We’re in!”

“This was an attempt at collusion,” noted Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. It may or may not have amounted to a felony, for soliciting a foreigner to contribute something “of value” in connection with an American election. The Predict-It betting website now lists gambling odds about whether Trump Jr. will be indicted.

The Trumps’ defense is that the meeting was a “nothingburger” with no follow-up. That would be more compelling if the Trumps hadn’t previously denied at least 20 timesthat such a meeting had ever taken place. Their credibility is in tatters.

Crucially, this is bigger than Donald Trump Jr.

The Trumps insist that the president himself was unaware of the Russian offer. Yet the day after Trump Jr. received the first email and presumably had his phone conversation about the supposedly incriminating material, his father promised to give “a major speech” in which “we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

That speech targeting Hillary Clinton didn’t take place. But on June 15, the first leak of stolen Democratic materials did.

Then there’s Kushner. Trump Jr. forwarded the emails to Kushner, whose response was to attend the meeting, although he apparently left within 10 minutes. Kushner later neglected to report the meeting and others with Russians on his SF-86 forms to receive national security clearance (intentional omission is a felony).

The meeting gave the Kremlin potential blackmail material against the Trumps, and thus possibly leverage over them.

In addition, McClatchy reports that investigators in Congress and the Justice Department are exploring whether the Trump campaign digital operation — supervised by Kushner — helped guide Russia’s remarkably sophisticated efforts to use internet bots to target voters with fake news attacking Hillary Clinton.

Then there was the extraordinary initiative by Kushner in the transition period to set up the secret communications channel. There’s no indication that the channel was actually established, and the assumption has been that the communications would have required visits to Russian consulates — which would be bizarre.

But Barton Gellman, a careful national security writer, has another theory. He notes that James Comey, the ousted F.B.I. director, in testimony to Congress referred to the risk that this channel could “capture all of your conversations.” Gellman suggests that this may mean that Kushner sought mobile Russian scrambling equipment to take to Trump Tower.

Look, this is a murky, complicated issue. But this much we know: Kushner attended a secret meeting whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin effort to interfere in the U.S. election, he then failed to report it, and finally he sought a secret channel to communicate with the Kremlin.

One next step is clear: Take away Jared Kushner’s security clearance immediately.

Not gonna happen.  Here’s Ms. Collins:

Nobody can talk about anything but Donald Trump Jr. and his Kremlin connections. You probably have some questions. Fire away.

If Donald Jr. got convicted of a crime, do you think his father would pardon him?

When the latest story about adventures with the Russians first appeared, the president did seem uncharacteristically reserved. He announced, through a spokeswoman, that his son “is a high-quality person,” which sounded as though Junior was a washer-dryer on sale at the mall.

It made you wonder if Dad was trying to distance himself a bit. However, Trump finally took to Twitter and announced: “This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” That sounded much more sympathetic, unless you want to note that the finale of most witch hunts is not executive clemency.

Who do you think is Worst Trump Child?

Junior has certainly rocketed into the lead. Although frankly, if the president is playing Godfather in this particular drama, all the grown sons are Fredo.

That includes son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was in on the meeting with that Russian attorney who was supposed to be bearing dirt on Hillary Clinton. Which Kushner neglected to mention on disclosure forms he filled out when he went to work at the White House. As senior adviser on Middle East peace, reorganizing government, combating drug abuse, China and Mexico.

Eric gets credit for keeping a low profile. Really, he hasn’t said anything very strange since he compared waterboarding to a fraternity hazing. Except for the time he said nepotism was “a beautiful thing.”

So is the family going to stick together?

The Trumps are acquiring different lawyers now, and cynics might presume that eventually somebody’s going to turn on somebody. If so, my money’s on Jared.

What about Mike Pence?

The vice president, a spokesman said crisply, “is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.” If Trump originally sounded a bit cool, Pence was Antarctica, pre-global warming.

Who really set up the meeting between Junior and that Kremlin-connected lawyer — the pop singer from Russia or the British P.R. guy who keeps posting pictures of himself in funny hats?

We do like that P.R. guy, Rob Goldstone, who also announced on Facebook when he checked into Trump Tower for the secret meeting. But Emin Agalarov, the singer, seems to be the central figure. His father, Aras, is a billionaire oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin. He met the Trumps when the Agalarovs paid almost $20 million to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.

Emin is also the executive vice president of his dad’s business, allegedly in charge of the malls and restaurants. You can see how he and Junior would bond.

Is Emin a good singer?

His website says that his “rock star good looks” have made him “a household name in Russia.” It also brags that he was “the first person ever to persuade Donald Trump to appear in a music video.” That was during the Miss Universe pageant, which seems slated to become the most politically important entertainment event since Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

“EMIN was WOW!” Trump tweeted after the singer performed at the pageant. The woman who was Miss Australia told The Financial Times recently that he was terrible. (“Us girls all knew he had zero talent.”)

So somewhere in between those two things.

Junior certainly appears to have agreed to accept political help from a close connection of the Russian government. Is there any possible explanation that doesn’t involve collusion?

Well, the Trump family apparently had a deal with the Agalarov family to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow. It was put on hold when Donald ran for president. But it’s possible that Junior was trying to keep Emin happy because he was hoping to eventually get the plan back on track.

So you could certainly argue that the president’s son was only pretending he was working with a foreign power trying to manipulate the results of the American election. When his real motives were just making a profit off the presidency. Be fair.

What ever happened to the other Russian all the Trump people were talking to during the campaign — the jolly ambassador?

Ah, Sergey Kislyak. Great guy for a party. So much fun that national security adviser Michael Flynn couldn’t stop chatting him up. So easy to be with that Jeff Sessions didn’t even remember they’d met.

He’s going home. The Russians are reportedly replacing him with a guy who helped plan an invasion of Ukraine.

How are we supposed to feel about the way the Don Jr. crisis has brought the administration to a standstill?

If the question comes up at a party, feel free to choose one of the following responses:

A) Fine by me.

B) Is this going to require a discussion of that health care bill?

C) Damn, we’re never going to get an ambassador to Norway.

Kristof and Collins

July 8, 2017

Mr. Kristof has a question:  “Did Putin Have Trump for Lunch?”  He says President Trump praises Russia and assaults the press.  Ms. Collins says “Putin Meets Tons of Trumps” and that when the president goes abroad, and his personas multiply.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

In Hamburg, Germany, President Trump is thundering against the free press that covers him, while getting lovey-dovey with the leader of a country that attacked American and French elections, that invaded Ukraine, that helped slaughter civilians in Syria, that was involved in shooting down a civilian airliner over Ukraine, that murders critics, and that brutalizes gay people in Chechnya.

I can’t help thinking: If only Trump confronted Vladimir Putin with half the energy with which he denounces CNN and other news organizations!

A few takeaways from Trump’s European visit so far:

  1. I don’t begrudge Trump his warm handshake and pair of shoulder pats for President Putin. Nothing wrong with civility—but it has to be accompanied by a stern representation of American interests, and there’s no evidence that this is happening. “It’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said warmly, and there was a sharp contrast between the enthusiasm for Putin and the excoriation of American journalists (and it’s notable that at least 58 journalists have been murdered in Russia because of their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dutifully says that Trump pressed Putin on Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, but I flinched when I heard Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov say that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia had not in fact interfered with the election. Really? Trump accepts Putin’s assurances over those of the American intelligence community? I’m afraid that Putin had Trump for lunch.

It’s great that Trump and Putin reached an agreement that may help Syria, but let’s see whether it translates to advances on the ground. Russia has almost no credibility left when it speaks about Syria. And when Trump acquiesces in Russia’s interference in U.S. elections, as seems to have happened, Putin wins, and why would we wish to reward him for his intransigence? We should make him pay a price, not try to raise his poll numbers. Yet Trump’s behavior fits into a long and puzzling tendency of fawning over Putin or defending his actions—and it’s doubly peculiar when Trump insults allies like Australia’s prime minister and demeans Germany’s chancellor. That’s why I say that Trump has turned the world upside down.

  1. It’s particularly problematic that Trump is continuing his crusade against the news media while abroad. All presidents think that they are covered unfairly, but Trump is venturing into new territory with his campaign against journalists. There are reports that the White House may try to punish Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, for CNN’s coverage; I doubt this will happen, but even the fact that this seems to have been discussed is extraordinary and reminiscent of Nixon’s “enemies list.” Likewise, Trump’s tweets and statements may have the effect of encouraging violence against journalists; even the parents and wife of Andrew Kazcynski, the CNN reporter who has been most unfairly targeted, have received about 50 harassing phone calls each. Trump supporters are circulating more videos showing violence against people with CNN signs on them, and I fear someone is going to end up hurt. We journalists understand that warlords and gangsters may orchestrate violence against us, but we don’t expect it from the president of the United States. And, just to be clear, to reject videos of violence against journalists is not to be a snowflake; it is to be civilized.

Trump’s campaign against CNN and the media is particularly odious because the media represent a triumph of American soft power. Other countries, from China to Russia to Qatar, try to sponsor global television networks to gain global influence — but the U.S. has the advantage of being the world’s media capital. Our president is doing his best to undermine that. In doing so, he is weakening America’s soft power.

  1. President Trump does fine with a Teleprompter. His speech in Warsaw wasn’t bad, and of course the same has been true the other times he reads what his speech-writers have drafted. The problems come whenever he goes off script — and, sadly, international relations can’t be conducted from a script.
  1. While the Putin-Trump meeting is getting most of the attention in Hamburg, the really important issue is North Korea, and that may depend more on the Trump meeting with Xi Jinping. To his credit, Trump seems to get that North Korea is one of the most important issues on the international agenda, but he still doesn’t seem to have a strategy to deal with it. (Rex Tillerson sometimes offers hints that he favors the kind of deal-making that I’ve advocated, pursuing a North Korean freeze with the fig leaf that it’s only the first step toward denuclearization.)
  1. In a larger sense, the U.S. since 1945 has pursued global leadership and seen its interests advanced by nurturing global institutions to advance peace and trade. That’s why we cultivated Bretton-Woods, the United Nations, NATO, and so on. These didn’t always work as well as hoped, but they kept the peace and promoted prosperity and certainly benefited American interests. Yet at the broadest level, President Trump is undermining these institutions and abdicating American leadership on trade and security (and on climate, a new dimension of security and the economy). We saw in the period between the two world wars that a vacuum of global leadership is perilous and results in anarchy, trade wars and shooting wars. We may be headed for a similar vacuum. Other countries from Russia to China to the European Union are trying to fill some of the space, but as a global leader the United States is simply indispensable.
  1. These conflicts and tensions are, I think, likely to get worse. The world is at a lucky moment right now — a long growth period, no major shocks, markets rising — and the one thing we can expect is the unexpected. At some point in the next few years, markets will tank, the economy will stall, international crises will erupt. If Trump flubs relations with allies like Germany and Australia in good times, what will happen in a crisis?

Moreover, as the investigation into Trump and Russian collusion and obstruction of justice continues, I suspect it will erode his political capital and make him even more unstable. Even if the investigation doesn’t reach Trump himself, it may cause the departure from the White House of key aides or family members, and cause his poll ratings to sink further. That invites foreign countries like North Korea or Venezuela to overplay their hands, and it may lead a president to respond with a forcefulness that escalates a crisis.

  1. Traditionally, when such crises arrive, the best card the U.S. has to play is its credibility and its soft power. These have been eroded with the Iraq War and Guantanamo and so on, but they still are hugely important in a crisis. Yet President Trump has almost no credibility before the world, and not much at home. The upshot is that we will approach the next crisis with less soft power, less credibility, less consensus—and greater risk that it spins out of control.
  1. And that is why it would be so useful, not just for this presidential trip but for the long-term interests of the United States, if Trump listened to his national security aides, if he subscribed to the 70-year bipartisan foreign policy consensus, if he backed global institutions instead of trying to blow them up. And, of course, if he stopped denouncing CNN for committing journalism, if he confronted Putin for interfering in our election as robustly as he excoriates those reporters trying to cover him, if he stopped portraying the United States as another Belarus.

In short, if he attempted to turn our foreign policy right side up again.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Say what? Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin. American officials claim he pressed Putin on Russia’s messing in our presidential election. Putin’s people insist Trump accepted Russia’s assurances that nothing happened.

We will now explain how this outcome was inevitable.

Our president, as you know, has ever-changing personas, ranging from statesmanlike Reader-of-Speeches to Nearly Unhinged Trump, a version frequently seen on Twitter.

And Diplomacy Don, who seemed to fall head over heels for Putin.

“President Putin and I have been discussing various things and I think it’s going very well. We’ve had some very, very good talks,” Trump said. This was before the meeting even began. What do you think he was referring to? A late night pajama party? The two had never met in person before, even though, as a candidate, Trump seemed to nurse memories of an imaginary encounter.

Then off they went, for a meeting that went on for more than two hours. Halfway through, Melania came in to remind Trump they had other things to do. Naturally, he ignored her.

The two presidents agreed to a prearranged limited Syrian cease-fire. And they did talk about Russian meddling in the American election. But which Trump do you think brought the subject up? The day before, a version who took a few questions from reporters in Poland seemed to regard the whole matter as the sort of moral equivalent of jaywalking. (“A lot of people interfere. I think it’s been happening for a long time.”)

That was Ad Lib Trump, who is always … interesting. Then Nearly Unhinged emerged overnight and took to Twitter, blaming the election hacking scandal on the Democrats: “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!”

Several questions arose, the chief one being why the leaders of the most important nations in the world would be talking about Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, whose current occupation was taking a cross-country drive with his wife.

Nearly Unhinged disappeared before the big sit-down and was replaced by a Trump version we’ll call Good At Meetings. GAM sits there nodding a lot, leading the other side to think he’s in agreement when in fact he’s just wondering what he’s going to have for dinner. Across from him was Putin, the guy who assumes that he’s won every debate unless the other side makes resistance so clear that they have to be arrested.

Perfect match! No wonder Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there was “a very clear positive chemistry between the two.”

Previously, Europe had gotten a look at a number of other variations of our president. Speechreading Trump, who usually makes a good impression, went on a Crusader kick in Poland, calling for a defense of Western civilization from “radical Islamic terrorism” and “the steady creep of government bureaucracy.”

At around the same time, Japan and the European Union announced a big trade deal, which will be great news for Japanese automakers and European farmers. People, would you rather have a big speech or a big trade deal? Or a tweet about John Podesta? The various Trumps have already given you two out of three. What are you complaining about?

In Poland, people also got quality time with Ad Lib Trump, who popped up at a gathering of Eastern European countries. After complimenting his hosts (“Beautiful nations, by the way”) the president then went on to brag about the American economy (“Our stock market just hit an all-time high …”), and to complain that he isn’t personally making any money off it. (“Everyone else is getting rich. That’s O.K. I’m very happy.”)

This is presumably because he has to spend all his time being president. But his business empire is being run by his sons. Did they manage to lose money in this stock market? If so, it’s time to have a very serious talk with Eric.

Then Trump bragged in general about the United States. (“We make the best technology and we make the best, best technology for fighter jets and ships and equipment, military weapons. There’s nobody even close.”) At this point, he had begun to resemble a dinner guest who does nothing but talk about his superior tennis skills, better car and more interesting vacations.

Later in the day, Trump took part in a very, very short press conference during which he bragged that Polish-Americans “came out in droves. They voted in the last election and I was very happy with that result.”

By Trumpian standards, this barely even counted as boasting. However, it’s getting embarrassing when the rest of the world watches him go on like that. Maybe on future foreign trips they could arrange for him to be introduced as “the president of the United States who won the election and got better ratings than Arnold Schwarzenegger on ‘The Apprentice.’ ” That would at least get it over with at the beginning.

So Europe, we sent you an entire fleet of Trumps. I hope you’re grateful. And feel free to keep a few.