Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Collins, solo

October 22, 2016

In “Don’t Take Donald Trump to Dinner” Ms. Collins says that like so much else, he found a way to ruin a 70-year-old tradition where candidates show up for inoffensive fun.  Here she is:

The evidence continues to mount: There is nothing in the world that Donald Trump can’t make worse.

Our latest example is the Al Smith Dinner, a feel-good annual event at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, in which the political and business elite gather to congratulate themselves for raising money to help poor children. It’s sponsored by the Catholic archdiocese, and in presidential election years it’s a tradition for the candidates to show up and make witty, self-deprecatory speeches in which each can also take gentle gibes at the other.

The nation is filled with must-show events for politicians. (There was quite a stir in Florida a few years ago when the gubernatorial candidates failed to attend the Wausau Possum Festival.) But few are as high-end and theoretically bipartisan as the Smith dinner. The most important guests are seated in tiers onstage, where hoi polloi can admire their table manners.

The first time I attended was back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter were the star attractions. It was one of my very first assignments as a New York reporter. More prominent people covered the speeches; my job was to watch the stage and make sure the famous developer-power broker Robert Moses, who was in his 90s, made it through the meal. Moses kept sort of nodding off, his head dipping toward his soup. But my scoop never came.

There was one moment of excitement when Jimmy Carter tried to tell a sassy joke. He warned people to avoid getting too close to Reagan’s “I Love New York” button because “the paint is still wet.” The crowd cried out, shocked that the president had gone over the good-manners line. You get the idea. This thing has been going on since 1945 without major incident, and it took Donald Trump to screw it up.

He began with a self-pitying comment about how the New York political world had turned on him since he became a Republican. It’s true that Trump is wildly unpopular in the city right now, although changing parties was not quite as important as the part about becoming the nastiest, most undisciplined, overall terrifying presidential nominee in American history.

Then Trump compared himself to Jesus (“a guy who started out as a carpenter working for his father”). But by recent standards, he was getting along pretty well. And he did note modestly that “nobody can compete with God.”

Then things went downhill. We have seen this now so many times, people. The man can keep himself together for 10 minutes, but then he loses control. Do you think he gets bored? We know he has a severely truncated attention span. “Hillary is so corrupt, she got kicked off the Watergate commission,” he jibed. Trump broke the code about not making personal attacks, and just for good measure, he did it with a totally fictional piece of internet lore.

“Oooh,” muttered the crowd. Trump rolled on, making email jokes, WikiLeaks jokes and all-purpose insults. (“Hillary believes that it’s vital to deceive the people .…”) The reaction moved into flat-out booing, even before he offered them up the hilarious observation that Clinton was there “pretending not to hate Catholics.”

“We’re having some fun here tonight and that’s good,” Trump said between the groans and howls.

In a perfect world, Hillary Clinton would then have gotten up and given the most good-natured speech in political history, scrapping all the barbed lines in her prepared script, like the one about how a Trump White House would be awkward for gatherings of the ex-presidents (“How is Barack going to get past the Muslim ban?”). But she didn’t change a word, because Clinton is not a spontaneous politician.

If this were a normal election, we could have a very interesting discussion about how programmed she can be, and whether that would be a problem if she’s elected. But as things stand, unless we discover she’s actually an android, there’s just no point.

Nobody wants to get sucked into the Trump vortex. For months now, he’s been on a downward spiral that keeps getting wider and weirder. Everything he touches turns to crazy.

His best pal Rudy Giuliani used to be a credible public figure. Now, looking like a superannuated bulldog with a toothache, Giuliani prowls from one cable TV show to another, announcing that Donald Trump was absolutely brilliant to avoid paying taxes, starting an argument about whether Clinton was at ground zero after 9/11 and declaring that “everybody” commits adultery.

Trump’s fans have graduated from paranoia about immigrants to an obsession with buses full of dead inner-city residents voting on Election Day.

There’s nothing Trump can’t ruin, people. We’ve already noted that if he became president, he’d refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey. He’d decorate the White House Christmas tree with gold-plated golf balls. And I’ll bet he’d bring one of those creepy clowns to the Easter Egg Roll.

Collins, solo

October 20, 2016

In “The Debate in One Scary Answer” Ms. Collins says Donald Trump wouldn’t say if he’d accept the results of the election. He also cried foul when he didn’t win an Emmy for “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Here she is:

O.K., Donald Trump won’t promise to accept the results of the election. That’s truly … good grief.

“I will tell you at the time. … I’ll keep you in suspense,” he told Wednesday’s debate moderator, Chris Wallace. The word “rigged” came up. Yow.

Hillary Clinton noted that Trump tends to presume that whenever he loses anything, the system was rigged: “There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”

“I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.

This is obviously what we should have known was coming when the host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” wound up as a presidential nominee. But jeepers, people, this is serious. Trump was refusing to acknowledge it was even possible for him to lose a fair fight. At one point, he announced the election was rigged because Hillary Clinton was in it. (“She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails.”)

The rigged-election moment overshadowed everything else in the debate, during which Trump made very strange faces while Clinton was talking, but did manage to avoid going completely off the rails. Does that make him a success? We are once again faced with the problem of the very, very low bar. Still, no.

He did manage, particularly in the early part of the debate, to ignore Clinton’s effort to get his goat. When she claimed he “choked” at his meeting with the president of Mexico, he kept pretty calm. Although Trump did observe, weirdly, that when it came to immigration, under President Obama “millions of people have been moved out of this country. … She doesn’t want to say that, but that’s what’s happened … big league.” Is moving people out not the whole Trump plan?

They also had a whopping argument about — guess who? Vladimir Putin! “Putin from everything I see has no respect for this person,” Trump said, referring to Clinton. The fight went on for a while, until she cannily managed to divert the discussion to the possibility of placing Trump’s “finger on the nuclear button.”

O.K., two critical takeaways. Trump won’t promise to concede if he loses, and if he wins, he gets control of the nukes. These are the only things you need to think about for the next two and a half weeks.

We have been down this debate road before, and we knew before the evening started that when Trump was asked about groping women, he’d deny everything, blame it on Hillary Clinton and then bring up the emails. And that when the emails came up, Clinton would mention the way Trump insulted John McCain’s war record, the Mexican-American judge and the parents of the dead war hero.

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said at one point. As the debate went on, he got more sullen, his expressions stranger. One of the things we have now learned for sure, three debates running, is that he has a serious stamina problem. Hillary Clinton has many faults. She tends to give long, rather boring answers. She has never learned how to deal with the email question. But the woman is an absolute rock in these long-running, high-stress critical encounters.

Also, she made it very clear that she would accept the results of the election, even if she lost. God help us all.

Clinton was not particularly good in defending the Clinton Foundation. However, it did seem fair for her to point out that Trump used some of his own foundation’s money to purchase a six-foot portrait of himself. (“Who does that?”)

But what difference did it all make? The man wouldn’t promise to concede if he loses. Later on CNN, his campaign manager said Trump would indeed accept the results “because he’s going to win the election.” This was not particularly reassuring.

If you were totally ignoring the entire event, you might want to know that nobody shook hands, that it took Clinton an hour to mention that Trump had never released his tax returns, and that whenever she pointed out that he had purchased the very same Chinese steel and aluminum he complained was ruining the economy, he said that it was her fault for not changing the laws.

She did bring up the Miss-Universe-is-fat moment, and Trump said “give me a break.”

He promised to run the country “the way I run my company,” and a great part of the listening public contemplated the fact that this is a guy who’s declared bankruptcy six times. But we’ve already forgotten all about it.

Only one thing matters. The man says he won’t promise to accept the results of the election. All those establishment Republicans who’ve been hoping to get through this ordeal by just being quiet and looking sad have got some work to do. Fast.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

October 13, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Unshackled and Unhinged” Mr. Blow says he still has a chance to turn things around, but he’s showing no inclination that he wants to.  Mr. Kristof, in “What Donald Trump Is Right About,” says actions count more than words, and his are heinous.  In “And Now, the Good News Is…” Ms. Collins says we should always look on the bright side of Donald Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:’

Donald Trump tweeted this week that his “shackles have been taken off.” The rest of us need to buckle up.

The effects of a 2005 tape on which Trump brags of a history of sexually predatory behavior is still rippling though the Trump campaign and wreaking havoc.

This is a particularly, spectacularly potent scandal, because of the moral clarity of how reprehensible it is.

This is not an issue that you can couch in policy or strategy. This is so very clearly about character. It is unambiguous and lecherous. It is repulsive and rapacious.

And it appears to fit a pattern.

BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday: “Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.”

One of the young contestants told BuzzFeed that when Trump entered the dressing room while she was getting dressed, he “said something like, ‘Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.’”

As Newsweek reported on Sunday:

“Jill Harth, a pageant owner trying to work with Trump in the mid-1990s, filed suit against him in federal court in Manhattan in 1997, describing a ‘relentless’ campaign of sexual harassment and assault including an incident in which he reached under a table, put his hands on her thighs and grabbed her ‘intimate private parts’ during a meeting at a New York restaurant.”

Temple Taggart, Miss Utah 1997, told The Times in May that when she was introduced to Trump, “He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’”

Gross is right.

No one can defend it, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and his supporters from twisting themselves into knots trying to. Trump has repeatedly called it “locker room” talk and suggested that he was lying when he said that he had assaulted women.

Supporters have done everything from deny that what Trump described was indeed assault to saying the tape was made before Trump began his faith journey to attacking Beyoncé lyrics and Hillary Clinton’s admiration of the pop star.

None of that has worked particularly well. Trump’s post-tape polls look absolutely horrendous.

Furthermore, prominent Republicans are fleeing in droves.

According to The Times, more that 160 Republican leaders, most of them members of Congress or governors, have declared that they won’t support Donald Trump. Nearly a third of those fled from Trump in the wake of the lewd tape.

In a statement, John McCain wrote: “Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

The Times reported on Monday, referring to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan: “Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress.” Ryan’s spokeswoman followed up with a statement confirming that “the speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities.”

Trump is bleeding badly. But many of us know this from nature: A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. Trump is lashing out like a man with nothing left to lose. If he is going down, he’s threatening to take the entire ecosystem with him.

He’s lashing out at the Republican establishment — especially Ryan and McCain — in a striking and seemingly unprecedented intraparty feud just weeks ahead of the election.

But Trump is also striking out at Clinton and Obama.

Trump threatened this week, “If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.” He also continues to threaten to investigate Clinton and lock her up, and seemed to return to the absurd assertion that Obama founded the Islamic State.

None of this seems like an effective strategy to broaden his base and actually win in November. This feels like Trump having a temper tantrum. This feels like a campaign in its death throes.

Trump had some good weeks when he was following a disciplined strategy of reading speeches from a teleprompter and effectively deceiving some into believing that he was not in fact the man who he has, over the course of his life, revealed himself to be.

Apparently, that deception was a set of shackles. In other words, it was a lie.

This is true Trump: mean, erratic, abrasive and pathological.

Trump still has a chance to turn things around, but as of now he’s showing no inclination that he wants to. As disturbing as the idea of a foreign government trying to interfere with our elections is, the content of leaked emails from the Clinton campaign could be far more damaging to her in the hands of a more competent opposition.

But Trump isn’t a competent opponent. He’s a maladroit savage spiraling out of control.

And next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Astonishingly, Donald Trump is right about something!

After recently being caught on a 2005 tape gloating about sexual assaults, Trump issued an unapologetic apology in which he focused on the “big difference” between words and actions. And he has a point.

But there’s abundant evidence that Trump has indulged in not just scurrilous rhetoric, but also in heinous actions. Several more women have stepped forward to offer on-the-record accounts of having been aggressively groped or kissed by Trump against their will, right after he met them.

I also find entirely credible the allegations of Jill Harth, a former business partner of Trump’s, that he assaulted her in 1992 and 1993. Equally credible is the assertion by a former Miss Utah that Trump inappropriately kissed beauty contestants on the lips.

Some Republicans have demanded laws to ban transgender women from entering women’s restrooms or locker rooms, but instead they might focus on the risk of Trump doing this. He has boasted that he marched unannounced into changing rooms to ogle beauty pageant contestants naked, and a former contestant, Miss Arizona, Tasha Dixon, said he did just that as they were changing into bikinis. “Some girls were topless,” she said. “Other girls were naked.”

The pageant theme that year? Empowering women.

There’s more. In Trump’s 2005 tape, he referred in vulgar ways to a married woman, Nancy O’Dell, he had unsuccessfully pursued, but what’s less known is that in 2007 he reportedly tried to have her fired from hosting the Miss USA Pageant. Why? Because she was pregnant.

Of course, as Trump acknowledged, words matter as well. On my blog, I posted an essay by a survivor of a home invasion and rape, Michelle Bowdler, who recounted that her attacker had said he wanted “some pussy” — and the moment he used that word, she felt that her life was in danger, that she “existed only as a thing.”

What is dehumanizing is not necessarily dirty words as such, but rather the casual braggadocio by men that normalizes assault. One study of 16,000 comments on a website for fraternity men found that the most common body part mentioned was “ass,” followed by “tits.” Men posting on the site were 25 times as likely to refer to a woman’s “ass” as to her “smile.”

There’s some evidence that hearing sexist language may be linked to greater tolerance of rape. And we already have a national problem with sexual harassment: One large survey found that almost one-quarter of American women said they had been groped in public spaces.

So I’m delighted that at least one person, Billy Bush, is paying in a concrete way for the words in the Trump tape. Maybe this can be a wake-up call for us men to appreciate that sexist epithets are no more acceptable than racist epithets.

All that said, Trump is right to emphasize the importance of actions more than words: If we’re outraged by vulgar words, shouldn’t we be even more appalled by predatory actions? And policies? Here the truth is that a Trump administration’s policies might be less titillating than his words, but they would be far more dangerous.

Every year, 550,000 women in America require medical attention after an assault by a boyfriend or husband. That’s an issue that is belatedly being addressed through screenings under Obamacare, which Trump wants to repeal, and by the Violence Against Women Act, which a large bloc of Republicans opposed in Congress. Trump’s concern about such assaults seems dubious, and in fact both he and his campaign C.E.O., Steve Bannon, have been accused of domestic violence themselves.

Since he never held public office, Trump lacks a voting record. But his running mate has tended to look at what might help women and do the opposite, including voting against equal-pay legislation.

Mike Pence also signed a bizarre anti-abortion bill as Indiana’s governor requiring burial or cremation even of tissue from an early miscarriage. That led women to form a Facebook group, Periods for Pence, and announce their periods, just in case they might be miscarriages.

At a time when 11 women a day die of cervical cancer, Trump and Pence have also been stalwart opponents of women’s health programs that provide cancer screenings. They are motivated partly by hostility toward Planned Parenthood over abortions, but Pence, while a congressman, also sponsored legislation to defund Title X, the main federal family planning program. It does not pay for abortions but does help screen more than 750,000 women for cervical cancer a year.

New York magazine once quoted Trump as telling a friend about women, “you have to treat ‘em like——” well, manure. But to me, his language pales beside his behavior and likely policies. So let’s try to pivot from outrage at gross words to condemnation of unconscionable behavior and policies. On that sole point, that actions matter more than words, Trump is exactly, frighteningly right.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

We’ve already learned so much this election year. Besides the importance of not bragging about girl-grabbing when there’s a microphone pinned to your lapel.

For instance, boring people have never looked better. This is a seldom-defended subset of the American population, but after a year or so of the exciting Donald Trump, we have a new appreciation. Right now, many voters may be looking at their local congressman — a person they would change lines at the grocery store in order to avoid having to engage in conversation — and thinking, “Wow, Fred may be a snooze, but when you think about it, there are so many worse possibilities.”

Can you imagine how deliriously happy the Republican Party would be if Trump woke up one morning feeling boring? But no, he’s still bounding from one rally to the next, attacking members of his own party and demanding that Hillary Clinton go to jail. The new WikiLeaks from her campaign, he thundered on Wednesday, “make more clear than ever … how unattractive and dishonest our country has become.”

Unattractive? Is there no entity this man doesn’t judge in terms of physical appearance? Do you think Trump secretly believes America has gained weight? Had an unsuccessful breast enhancement?

The WikiLeaks, so far, have just underlined how blessedly boring Clinton’s campaign has been — it turns out that her talking points sometimes include instructions on when to smile, and that some of her major tweets have been the work of up to four aides. Deep in their hearts, most Americans know that’s way better than having a president who wakes up at 3 a.m. and just starts free associating.

Another important lesson of 2016: There are a lot of things worse than political correctness. Trump brags constantly about his own freedom from that particular defect, and some of his followers feel liberated to attend the rallies wearing signs or shirts that call Hillary Clinton every conceivable vulgarity.

During the last debate, a sad-looking Muslim woman asked how she could deal with “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country. …” Trump replied, “You’re right about Islamophobia and that’s a shame,” without any particular tone of sympathy. “But,” he continued, “one thing we have to do is, we have to make sure that, because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

Not often you can avoid political correctness in a way that mangles so many sentences. Trump then veered off into a complaint about how neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters noticed a whole ton of armaments at the family home but failed to say anything about it, presumably because they didn’t want to look anti-Muslim. We could point out that this is a make-believe story, totally unsupported by fact. Except that it would sound so darned you-know-what.

On the plus side, the campaign’s recent unpleasantness has provided a wonderful opportunity to randomly torture irritating Republican officeholders. Ted Cruz — who insulted Trump by failing to endorse him at the convention, then panicked and gave him a nod just before the trash-talk tape went public — must be having the worst week of his political life. Which certainly is a mood raiser.

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, whose longstanding flirtation with the birther movement led him once to aver that there were enough votes in the House to impeach President Obama, fell into a rabbit hole this week while he was defending his Trump endorsement on MSNBC. Anchor Chris Hayes prodded, asking whether he’d feel the same if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying, “I really like to rape women. …”

“That would be bad and I would have to consider it,” said Farenthold, who then followed up with a desperate series of Twitter retractions. (“During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question.”) Which then gave Austin political writer Jonathan Tilove a chance to revisit a conversation he had with the congressman about Trump’s appalling attacks on a Mexican-American judge. “He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” explained Farenthold.

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is obsessed with the Republicans who’ve gotten … cold. The candidate himself complains at his rallies that the speaker of the House failed to congratulate him after the last debate. (“So wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going?’”) Attacking members of Congress who’ve dropped off the team, Trump said he “wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole” with people like John McCain. And campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews that some of the congressmen who’ve complained about Trump’s sex remarks were known for “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”

It’s always possible to learn more than you really want to know this season.

Kristof and Collins

October 6, 2016

In “The Blot on Obama’s Legacy” Mr. Kristof wants us to listen to a 7-year-old girl in Syria.  Ms. Collins, in “Who’s Sorry Now? The Country” Ms. Collins says Clinton even leads Trump when it comes to apologies.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

Our excuse for failing to respond to mass atrocities used to be that we didn’t fully appreciate the horrors until it was too late. “If only we had known,” became one refrain, along with, “Never again!”

In Syria, we are deprived of that excuse: We have a daily window into war crimes. If you’re on Twitter, follow a 7-year-old girl in Aleppo, Bana al-Abed, @alabedbana, who with her mom’s help is tweeting the carnage around her.

One tweet shows a video clip of Bana looking out the window and plugging her ears as bombs drop. “I am very afraid I will die tonight,” she worried in imperfect English. “This bombs will kill me now.”

“This is my friend house bombed,” Bana tweeted with a photo. “She’s killed. I miss her so much.”

Her mother, Fatemah, an English teacher who has been teaching Bana English for several years, chimes in as well.

“Sleeping as you can hear the bombs fall,” Fatemah tweeted. “I will tweet tomorrow if we are alive.”

I interviewed Fatemah and Bana by email, which they access on a cellphone that they recharge with a solar panel. Bana’s school was destroyed by a bomb last year, and Fatemah said that they were surviving on pasta and rice that were now running out.

“Bana is very weak,” her mom told me.

Russia and Syria appear to be deliberately targeting civilians like Bana.The aim seems to be to bomb and starve civilians into exhaustion and submission, so that they flee or no longer support the opposition, or else support extremists regarded as better fighters. That would bolster the Syrian government narrative that the opposition consists of terrorists who must be fought.

For those of us who generally admire President Obama as a man of principle, it is wrenching to watch his paralysis. As I see it, Syria has been his worst mistake, a huge blot on his legacy.

We can’t be sure that more robust strategies advocated by Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, John Kerry and others would have succeeded, but Obama’s approach has manifestly failed — and after five years, it should be time to reconsider strategy.

Some of you are thinking: This is horrific, but what can the West possibly do? In a previous column, I quoted a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Cartwright, about the “many things we can be doing now” in Syria. Charles Lister, author of a recent book on Syria, has written a detailed nine-page plan of action for the U.S. I’ve suggested cratering Syrian military runways with missiles fired from Turkey so that Syrian military aircraft can’t take off (Turkish officials have told me that they would go along with this).

Of course, we shouldn’t dispatch ground troops. But if we had cratered Syrian runways several years ago, as many suggested, the horrors of barrel bombing would have been reduced.

One sign that curbing Syrian bombing is feasible is that we’re already doing it. In August, the U.S. quietly imposed a de facto no-fly zone over parts of northern Syria where American advisers are located. I’m wary of military adventurism and opposed the Iraq war and the surge in Afghanistan, but I also note that in places from Kosovo to Kurdistan the military toolbox has saved lives. Obama himself conducted a military intervention on Mount Sinjar on the Iraq-Syria border that saved the lives of thousands of Yazidi.

The Syrian government has shown that it doesn’t respond to moral appeals but to credible threats of military force. In 2013, when Obama looked as if he might order airstrikes, Syria hurriedly agreed to give up chemical weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry has pleaded with the White House for more aggressive military measures precisely to make a cease-fire more achievable; instead, Obama undercut his secretary of state and denied him leverage.

As a senator, Obama used to complain to me and others that President George W. Bush was too passive about atrocities in Darfur. “I am strongly supportive of us doing what it takes to stop the slaughter that is taking place, and I think that no-fly zones have to be part of that formula,” Obama told me in 2006. He should listen to himself.

Look, cratering runways may not work. It’s easy for those of us on the sidelines to agitate; everything is always more complex than it seems. Except when it’s simpler: Bill Clinton says that his biggest foreign policy mistake was not stopping the Rwanda genocide.

Let’s have this discussion, and also acknowledge the risks of remaining passive. So far, Obama’s paralysis has been linked to the loss of perhapshalf a million lives in Syria, the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, genocide against the Yazidi and Christians, the worst refugee crisis in more than 60 years and the rise of ultranationalist groups in Europe. Aleppo may fall, and lives like Bana’s hang in the balance.

If we don’t act after half a million deaths, will we after one million? After two million? When?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally exhausted by the public’s obsession with the vice-presidential debate. Everywhere I go, people are babbling about Mike Pence and Tim Kaine! Who knew it would be so electric? The world can’t stop talking about Veep Vitriol.

O.K., I made that up. I’m sorry. Nobody is talking about the vice-presidential debate at all. This was really just a sneaky way to introduce the subject of apologies.

It came up in the debate, during an argument over who had the most “insult-driven campaign.” Pence saw an opening to mention that Hillary Clinton had once described half of Donald Trump’s followers as a racist, sexist, homophobic “basket of deplorables.” Kaine retorted that at least Clinton had apologized.

Which is true. Clinton said she regretted being “grossly generalistic, and that’s never a good idea.” It would have worked if she had not prefaced her original “deplorables” remark — made at a private fund-raising event — with, “To just be grossly generalistic …”

You can’t say you’re sorry for something you admitted was wrong when you were saying it. Clinton needs new material. A truly sincere apology would probably have been something along the lines of: “I deeply regret having said something at an off-the-record fund-raiser that I wouldn’t want taped and broadcast to the world. You’d think everybody would have learned that lesson by now.”

Still, certainly not the worst apology of the era. That might have been the time a radical rebel group in Syria put up a statement expressing regret for having beheaded the wrong person.

Also, possibly former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose’s ongoing attempt to apologize for his seamy past by selling balls on which he’d written “I’m sorry I bet on baseball” for $300 and up.

(Cincinnati still has a downtown street called Pete Rose Way, which illustrates the importance of not naming major pieces of infrastructure after people who are still alive. I always found it amusing until I ran across New York’s Donald J. Trump State Park.)

But about apologies: Other rules include not blaming the problem on the hearer (“I’m sorry if you guys were offended”). And not using your apology to repeat the original infraction. Perhaps you remember the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who apologized for making racist statements about Magic Johnson in an interview during which he told Anderson Cooper “some of the African-Americans, they don’t want to help anybody.”

We need a president who will know just the right thing to say if our drones accidentally hit somebody’s presidential palace, or the new ambassador to France gets drunk and demands to know why Parisians aren’t friendly. Clinton’s own apology record is mixed, although lately her comments on the emails have been sounding less like expressions of regret for having been caught.

On this point, like so very many in the current campaign, Clinton’s failings tend to vanish when compared with the behavior of her opponent. If you’re having an argument about who does an apology better, it’s not much of a contest when one of the two parties doesn’t seem to ever admit he was wrong about anything.

A Trumpian apology would be the thing he did recently in Washington, when he retracted years of birtherism by blurting out “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” Then trying to claim he had done the president a favor by pushing the matter so hard. Then blaming the whole thing on Hillary at the end of a promo for his new hotel.

People, we are being deprived of our God-given right to complain about both presidential candidates. Every time someone comes up with a Hillary flaw, someone else will do a comparison. Yeah, while Clinton was secretary of state the Clinton Foundation took money from foreign bigwigs to help fund its work with impoverished people overseas. But the other guy spent his charity’s money on a six-foot portrait of himself. Any more questions?

For Trump surrogates like Pence, the best response is to deny the original offense ever occurred. During the debate, Kaine pointed out that Trump had said women who seek an abortion should be punished. Hard to deny, given the fact that he made the comment on MSNBC. But Pence said Trump “would never support legislation” along that line.

And it’s true that hours after the MSNBC taping, the Trump campaign issued a statement saying he only wanted to punish doctors, and adding a comment from The Man himself: “My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

We have here the perfect encapsulation of the current Republican presidential campaign:

1) Trump says something very strange.

2) The campaign says he didn’t really say it.

3) Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan.

Pence, cornered by Kaine, finally blurted out, “Look, he’s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton.”

Well, that would be one way of putting it.

Collins, solo

October 1, 2016

Ms. Collins has a question:  “How Could Anyone Vote For Trump?”  She says it’s time for Republican leaders to exercise a little leadership.  As if…  Here she is:

That first debate seems to have helped Hillary Clinton move ahead of Donald Trump in the polls. However, I know that many of you are asking yourselves: Why is this even a question?

Why isn’t she leading 3 to 1? This is not a normal race between a Democrat and a Republican. One of the candidates has made it clear that he has no attention span or self-control. World security experts in both parties are terrified by the idea of a Trump presidency. He’s screwed small contractors in his business dealings and bought dumb presents for himself with money from his charitable foundation — a charitable foundation, by the way, that appears to have been managed by a team of gerbils. Also, he keeps changing his positions on critical issues and has paid settlements to people alleging he discriminated against them on the basis of race or not being attractive enough.

And you know that’s just the beginning.

It’s possible Trump is just riding a swell of white-male alienation, but there’s a less depressing answer for his staying power. Americans have always been pretty pragmatic about the presidents they pick. Mostly, they go for change or not-change.

Given all the complications out there, it’s a pretty pragmatic approach. If the same president has been in office for eight years, they pick his successor from the other party. Give or take a few vice presidents, it’s a rule that goes back to Rutherford B. Hayes.

So there’s a lot of pressure in the Republican direction, and you certainly can’t argue that Donald Trump doesn’t represent change. We’re just hoping people realize it’s the kind of change you get if you decide to remove the trash by driving a bulldozer through the kitchen.

Right now, we need Republicans who can show the country that sometimes you have a candidate who’s so irresponsible, unprepared and flat-out crazy there’s got to be a change exception.

The elected officials are pretty much universally in a cowering position. But you’d think George W. Bush, who kept calling himself “The Decider,” would stop avoiding the entire question. And Jeb Bush! When reporters cornered him this week, he said, “Well, if everybody didn’t vote, that would be a pretty powerful political statement, wouldn’t it?”

Not every year you hear a former presidential candidate come out for civic sloth.

Going to the polls on Election Day is one of our core responsibilities in a democratic nation. If we gave ourselves a pass for any year when we didn’t like either option, there would be dozens of elections in which nobody came.

Hillary Clinton is an imperfect candidate who is, nevertheless, extremely well qualified to lead the country. Every day, dozens of prominent Republicans say they’re going to suck it up and vote for her because they think she can, if nothing else, at least keep the country safe. Newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat for president in modern history have taken the brave step of coming out for Clinton. George H. W. Bush has told people he’s voting for her. (Jeb said it was unfair for people to pass along the comments of a 92-year-old man.)

When last heard from, Mitt Romney appeared to be sticking with his vague threats to vote for the Libertarian, Gary Johnson. Earlier in the year, Johnson looked like a conceivable Republican cop-out. Sure he’s a little …— libertarian, but he wants to whack the heck out of taxes, and he dismisses global warming as something we can deal with by eventually moving to another planet.

But recently, people have begun to give Johnson the attention he’s been demanding incessantly for the last year, and it turns out — he’s an idiot. We’ve all heard that he responded to a question about the Syrian crisis with “And what is Aleppo?” He had the same look of wonderment when he was asked about his international role models. “Who’s my favorite foreign leader?” he responded blankly, as if Chris Matthews had demanded that he name his favorite Fiery Furnaces song.

So even if voting for a third-party candidate with no chance of winning was not a ridiculous cop-out, we’ve eliminated Gary Johnson. That leaves only three options for people who hate both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

A) Announce you’re not going to vote, saying, “I know, Afghan voters braved death threats from the Taliban to go to the polls, but I am just too depressed.”

B) Follow the Ted Cruz lead and say you’ve decided to vote for Donald Trump. Perhaps you could wear a badge saying “I’m like Ted.” Your friends might feel this means you’re so obsessed with self-promotion you’d throw in your lot with a person who insulted your wife and suggested your father might be connected to the Kennedy assassination. But I’m sure they’ll understand you’re really only interested in the repeal of Obamacare.

C) Go vote for Hillary Clinton. Nobody sulks during critical moments.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

September 29, 2016

In “Trump’s Debate Flameout” Mr. Blow says Clinton ran rings around him as he didn’t even seem prepared to answer the most obvious questions and attacks.  Mr. Kristof, in “That Seventh Grade Bully Is Running for President,” says if his agenda doesn’t stop Donald Trump, maybe his behavior toward women will.  Ms. Collins has a question:  “Who’s Really Older, Trump or Clinton?”  She says it’s a new age for age on the campaign trail.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

No one with an open mind and sound reason who witnessed the sniffing, sipping, scowling, raging, interrupting display of petulance and agitation that was Donald Trump’s debate performance on Monday could possibly argue that he won that debate or that he is the kind of person to whom we should entrust the presidency.

It appears that Trump thought it wise to wing it.

Katie Pavlich wrote Monday on the conservative site Townhall, “Trump didn’t take the conventional road of preparing for the debate and skipped mock debate practice altogether.”

Pavlich quoted the senior Trump campaign adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders as saying:

“Donald Trump does what works best for him, and I think that is discussing the issues, studying the issues and frankly being himself. He’s not a poll-tested, scripted robot like Hillary Clinton. That’s a great contrast to have and one I think we are certainly excited to see tonight.”

Well, the robot won. And she did so because she had the discipline and forethought to properly prepare.

At one point during the debate, Trump said of Clinton:

“And I will tell you, you look at the inner cities — and I just left Detroit, and I just left Philadelphia, and I just — you know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home, and that’s O.K.”

But Clinton shot back:

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

The crowd applauded.

It takes a tremendous ego and a healthy dose of hubris to believe that you can simply bluster your way through a presidential debate, but if anyone thinks that way, it’s no surprise it’s the uniquely underqualified and overblown king of bragging and whining: Donald J. Trump.

In the end, Clinton ran rings around him as he didn’t even seem prepared to answer the most obvious questions and attacks.

Clinton brought up a well-known issue in Trump’s life:

“Donald started his career back in 1973 being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination because he would not rent apartments in one of his developments to African-Americans, and he made sure that the people who worked for him understood that was the policy.”

Trump’s response was not that they hadn’t discriminated, but rather that “many, many other companies throughout the country” were also sued, that the suit was settled “with no admission of guilt” and that “it’s just one of those things.”

No, Donald, racial discrimination isn’t “just one of those things.”

When the moderator, Lester Holt, asked the candidates how they would heal the racial divide in America, Trump’s response was so tone deaf as to defy belief.

Whereas Clinton spoke of the restoration of trust between the police and communities, better police training, mutual respect, criminal justice reform and systemic racism, Trump took a different route. He invoked his euphemistic lament that the country needs more “law and order,” which is simply code for flooding poor and minority communities with more officers and giving them a nod of approval to crack down on these communities more harshly.

He gushed over the morally abhorrent and thoroughly unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practice used in New York City and he praised Rudy Giuliani’s use of it when Giuliani was mayor of New York. That doesn’t heal racial wounds; it rubs salt in them.

What the public should know is just how racially divisive Giuliani’s own law and order policies were. In 2000, toward the end of his mayoral tenure and when he was still in the race for United States senator for New York against Clinton, three undercover New York City police officers approached Patrick M. Dorismond, an unarmed, 26-year-old black father of two and asked to buy drugs. This made Dorismond angry, just as it would have made me angry. The incident escalated into a scuffle and one of the officers shot and killed Dorismond.

The New York Times reported at the time, “Deputy Chief Thomas Fahey, a police spokesman, acknowledged that the police ‘have no indication’ that Mr. Dorismond knew” that they were police officers.

The maleficent Giuliani took the extraordinary step of releasing Dorismond’s sealed juvenile records to show that the dead man who became upset over being propositioned for drugs was “no altar boy.” In truth it was just another attempt to blame and defame the victim.

But, as The Nation pointed out, the great irony was that “Dorismond had actually been an altar boy. He had even attended the same elite Catholic high school as the Mayor — Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn.”

As The New York Daily News reported in 2000 about a poll released that year:

“The Quinnipiac College survey showed the mayor’s popularity has fallen since the March 16 shooting of unarmed Patrick Dorismond in an NYPD drug operation gone awry. In a stinging rebuke, only 16 percent of New Yorkers approve of Giuliani’s handling of the shooting.”

The paper reported further:

“Race relations, highlighted by the Dorismond shooting, remain a dominant factor in city politics. The poll found 45 percent of voters, including 37 percent of white voters, believe race relations in the city are deteriorating. But the Quinnipiac survey suggested a deeper unrest with the mayor, going beyond the Dorismond controversy.”

The paper continued:

“More than 70 percent think he has flubbed race relations. And most blacks and Hispanics frown on his anti-crime policies.”

And this is a man Trump is praising for racial healing and law and order?

Then Clinton slammed Trump’s treatment of a beauty pageant contestant; his claims sounded not only like misogynist fat shaming, but also blatant bigotry. Clinton said:

“And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.”

Clinton continued, “Her name is Alicia Machado.”

Trump’s response was not to deny the charge or to decry the language, but to resurrect his old hostility with Rosie O’Donnell. Rosie O’Donnell? That’s when you know the man is grasping at straws.

Trump completely bombed in that debate and it’s his own fault. His staggering arrogance and breathtaking incompetence were laid bare, as he had no prepared remarks from which to read and no gaggle of other candidates behind whom he could hide.

He stood there, combative but hardly cogent, revealing to the whole country and the world that the man who promises to lift America from the ashes is himself going down in flames.

From your lips to God’s ear, Mr. Blow.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Donald Trump displayed an excellent version of the stern squint in the presidential debate. Many of us men are familiar with this expression, because we practice it at age 13 in the hope that it will impress girls. It doesn’t, and we grow out of it — most of us, anyway.

Hillary Clinton wears a patient smile, the expression of every woman who has calmly suppressed irritation while being harangued by a boor on topics he knows nothing about. Sadly, women never have the opportunity to retire this expression because it is constantly needed, or so my wife tells me.

What is thrilling is that Trump’s boorishness may be catching up to him.

Trump has advocated policies that are confused or senseless — deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants en masse, banning Muslims from entering the country, undermining NATO, slashing taxes on billionaires while raising them on single parents, capitulating to Russia on Crimea — yet these don’t get him into deep political trouble. Instead, his vulnerability seems to be something more elemental: He’s a jerk.

In particular, he’s a jerk toward women — a tendency he displayed prominently during Monday’s debate. Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times, by Vox’s count (she interrupted him 17 times).

Trump seems oblivious to his own loutishness. When Clinton called him out for labeling women pigs, slobs and dogs, he defended himself by saying that Rosie O’Donnell “deserves it.” When Clinton reproached Trump for having degraded a Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, over her weight, Trump obligingly went on Fox News to demonize Machado again for gaining “a massive amount of weight.”

This crassness is nothing new from Trump, of course. Few comments could be more demeaning than one Trump offered in 2005 when Howard Stern asked him if he would stand by his wife, Melania, if she were in a horrible car accident and left with 100 stitches on her face, an oozing sore on her left eye, and a mangled foot. Trump’s first, automatic response? “How do the breasts look?” (Afterward, he did say that he would stick with her.)

Something about Trump is paradigmatic of the most atrocious kind of seventh-grade boy: The boasts about not doing homework, the habit of blaming others when things go wrong, the penchant for exaggerating everything into the best ever, the braggadocio to mask insecurity about size of hands or genitals, the biting put-downs of others, the laziness, the self-absorption, the narcissism, the lack of empathy — and the immaturity that reduces a woman to her breasts.

O.K., now I’ve just insulted 13-year-old boys by comparing them to the man who may become our next president. Sorry, kids, most of you are far better than that!

Trump is puerile not only where gender is concerned. He also seems to boast about what he can get away with, such as not paying taxes.

When Clinton noted in the debate that for at least a couple of years he paid no federal income tax at all, Trump responded, “That makes me smart!” He seems to think that people who pay taxes are chumps — which is irritating for all of us who do pay taxes and would love to glimpse his returns.

One of the most effective commercials against Trump highlights his callousness, as he makes fun of a disabled journalist. The mother of a disabled child says, “The children at Grace’s school all know never to mock her, and so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking.”

Another powerful commercial depicts girls studying themselves in a mirror as Trump is heard mocking women for their looks. Text on the screen asks: “Is this the president we want for our daughters?”

Of course, even if Trump acts like a middle-school boy, his policies would be those of a dangerous adult — and I wish the debate were more focused on those substantive proposals. Trump’s comments may be brutal, but his policies would be infinitely more so.

If only his troglodyte views on gender could be a springboard to discuss women’s issues that rarely get explored, such as domestic violence that strikes one woman in four, or human trafficking, channeling some 10,000 underage Americans into the sex trade each year. One advantage of more women in public life should be more scrutiny of pay gaps, and greater attention to the need for high-quality day care.

Yet if Trump’s Achilles’ heel proves to be not his oafish policies but rather his churlish manner, so be it. There are important policy reasons to reel at the thought of Trump in the White House, but voters perhaps flinch even more at his personal conduct: We already run into enough jerks in daily life, so why would we want one as our head of state?

Middle school is the wrenching, jungle stage of life that we all must struggle through. Why would we subject ourselves to a “leader” who is permanently in the seventh grade?

And lastly here’s Ms. Collins:

Strange we haven’t been talking more about age.

Hillary Clinton is 68, and that’s old for a first-term presidential candidate in this country. The one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that we’d hear about it every day were it not for the fact that Donald Trump is 70.

Still, Trump seems to be finding ways to get at it. Asked during the debate about his comment that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look,” Trump rejoined: “She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”

I believe he’s suggesting a question about stamina. Andrew Scharlach, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in aging issues, heard “a code for ‘She’s old! She’s a woman! You know how old women are.’”

Newcomers to the current presidential campaign might have wondered why Trump would consider going in that direction at all, considering he was born first. The answer is that the Republican presidential nominee believes he is always an exception. This is the guy who, at the same debate, both complained about America’s deteriorating infrastructure and bragged that he was too smart to pay taxes.

Experts on the subject seem to believe that age is not something we need to fret about, and given the fact that we’re currently juggling everything from Trump being really mean to a Latina beauty queen to the possibility of his starting a nuclear war, I think we should follow their advice.

“Unless we’re going to worry if they could catch something dropping off the table, I don’t think it’d be a problem,” said Steven Austad, the scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research. “In fact, it might be an advantage.”

Still, this provides an excellent opportunity to look back in history and discuss the campaign of William Henry Harrison. Please. Just for a second. We haven’t given William Henry nearly enough attention this election cycle.

When he ran in 1840, Harrison’s opponents made a big deal about the fact that he was 67. (“A living mass of ruined matter.”) Given that the life expectancy at the time was around 40, you can see how there’d be suggestions that he’d already overstayed his welcome.

Harrison, in response, issued a doctor’s report. It did not include extensive test results, given that there were not yet any tests. But the author still sounded far more reliable than the physician who concluded that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Harrison’s doctor just said, “Bodily vigor is as good as that of most men his age.”

But then Harrison delivered an inaugural address that went on for one hour and 45 minutes in a cold rain, got sick and died. If Donald Trump wins in November, the one thing we won’t have to worry about is his duplicating Harrison’s performance. No, Trump might talk endlessly, but he would do it from a comfy, heated plexiglass bubble while the peons stand shivering in front of him.

Feel free to argue that when it comes to age issues, women have it tougher. In 1964, when Margaret Chase Smith ran at 66 for the Republican nomination, a Los Angeles Times columnist decreed that 45-to-55 was the optimum range for a presidential candidate. Unfortunately, he added, that was the time when “the female of the species undergoes physical changes and emotional distress.” Ah, memories.

As life expectancy is getting a lot longer and people are healthier, researchers are rethinking the whole definition of old. “Seventy is the new 50. That’s not just a cliché. It really is a reasonable statement these days,” said Austad.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a research organization with the worst name in the world, published a study that pushed the line back, too. “When your life expectancy is 15 years and less, then you get counted as old,” said Warren Sanderson, a professor at Stony Brook University who worked on the project. Using the most recent data available, Sanderson said that Trump, at 70, would have 14.6 years of life expectancy and Clinton, at 68, would have 18.3.

So by that new, expansive definition, there’s only one elderly candidate in this race, and his name is Donald.

It’s not clear that Trump knows how old he is — he told an interviewer that when he looks in the mirror he sees “a person who is 35 years old.”

Clinton doesn’t seem to have that problem. Back in 2008, when she was wrapping up her presidential campaign, we had a conversation in which she told me, suddenly, that her happiest days on the trail were the ones when I was covering her. This sounded stupendously flattering until she added, “It was the only time there was somebody my age on the plane.”

Collins, solo

September 17, 2016

In “Trump Makes His Birther Lie Worse” Ms. Collins says the most awful retraction in American history includes still another lie.  Here she is:

Wow. Donald Trump says President Obama was born here. What a concession. No wonder he’s trending up in the polls.

How did we get to this place, people? The big story of the day is that a candidate for president of the United States — a candidate who, according to The Times’s Upshot model, now has a one in four chanceof being elected — admits he spent years telling the American people a stupendous lie. And even now, he won’t say he’s sorry.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,”Trump said abruptly and briefly on Friday. This was at his new Washington hotel, which he has been promoting with an avidity he has never devoted to, say, getting his immigration policy straight.

Then Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had been first to spread the rumor that Obama was not a native-born citizen. This is a lie. A lie that all the fact checkers in the world debunked when he started saying it long ago.

People, I know some of you get very frustrated that news coverage of this election does not begin every day with: “In yet another total falsehood, Donald Trump …” This is your moment.

The Day of the Double Falsehood is a very clear, very dramatic example of Trump’s tendency to, um, speak fictionally. He was just a real estate guy with a cheesy TV show until 2011, when he sort of ran for president, in a bid that focused almost entirely on his claims that Barack Obama had come from Kenya.

“Three weeks ago I thought he was born in this country. Right now I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” he told an NBC interviewer.

We never did learn what they found. But Trump has continued to get some of his most startling information from “people.” During the primary season in New Hampshire, a man at a Trump town hall gathering got up to claim Obama was a Muslim and “not even an American.” Strong candidates tell guys like this they’re wrong. Weak candidates ignore them. Trump responded, “You know, a lot of people are saying that. …”

None of the outrageous things he says are his fault. You got a complaint, take it to the people.

Trump’s campaign wanted the birther issue to be made to go away. First, running mate Mike Pence said hebelieved Obama was a natural-born American citizen.

“I confirm that and Donald Trump now confirms that,” First Pal Rudy Giuliani told another interviewer. Trump had changed his mind, Giuliani claimed, two or three years ago. That would have been around the time he was tweeting: “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

Moving the candidate himself was obviously a harder job. When The Washington Post asked him this week if he’d changed his mind, Trump said, “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

I’ve always said that women won’t vote for a candidate who yells because he’ll remind them of a bad boyfriend. This is the behavior of the nightmare date from hell. Who tells you exciting stories over drinks, all of which are clearly untrue, and then gets sullen and refuses to talk when you ask a couple of questions.

Trump’s people were forced to come up with an unwinding scenario that did not require the candidate to admit he’d ever done anything wrong. So they sent out a press release announcing that Trump was the hero of the story — the man who stamped out the birther rumor, which was started by Hillary Clinton’s “vicious and conniving behavior.”Trump’s demands for the truth had forced Obama to release the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate while “Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer.”

“Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” the campaign’s statement concluded.

Even the most creative minds in the press office could not come up with any explanation for why it took Trump five years to acknowledge what the birth certificate proved. Asked about that, Pence said, disjointedly and desperately, that his running mate’s record on behalf of the African-American community “really speaks for itself.”

What we have here is a candidate for president of the United States who makes stuff up all the time, but is either incapable of realizing that he’s telling a lie, or constitutionally unable to take blame for being untruthful.

Yet, according to the polls, Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that the public thinks she’s dishonest. Amazing.

And terrifying.  This whole fustercluck may go all pear-shaped and we may wind up with the short fingered vulgarian in the White House.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

September 15, 2016

In “Trump’s ‘Deplorable’ Deflections” Mr. Blow says his entire campaign is engaged in an elaborate ruse — accusing his opponent of the very things of which he is guilty.  Mr. Blow, that’s typical Republican behavior — it’s all projection all the time.  Mr. Kristof ponders “When a Crackpot Runs for President” and says journalistic efforts at fairness may risk normalizing Donald Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is.  But, but, but…  It’s a horse race, and both sides do it…  Ms. Collins has a question:  “Trump Talks, but Can He Tango?”  She says maybe he’ll end up on “Dancing With the Stars,” which seems to be a place to find redemption.  Well, I wonder if even DWTS would stoop that low.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

In August 2015, The New York Daily News published an exclusive report on a 1991 letter that Donald Trump wrote to the chairman of the State Assembly’s Committee on Cities, complaining about disabled veterans vending their wares on Fifth Avenue, home of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

A New York State law dating from 1894 “allowed disabled veterans to work as sidewalk peddlers in New York City regardless of municipal rules,” as The New York Times wrote in 1991.

But Trump was not empathetic to these wounded warriors’ plight, at least not on Fifth Avenue. He saw them and their vending as an eyesore.

The Daily Beast published its own report on Trump’s efforts to get the veterans booted from this tony part of Manhattan, quoting Trump’s letter as reading:

“While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its taxpaying citizens and businesses?”

He continued, according to The Daily Beast, “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”

The Daily Beast said that Trump renewed his calls in a 2004 letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, writing, “Whether they are veterans or not, they [the vendors] should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.”

And in that letter, what did Trump call the situation with the injured veterans simply trying to make a living vending on his Fifth Avenue?

That’s right: “very deplorable.”

This should come as no surprise from a man who belittled the heroism of Senator John McCain, himself a wounded warrior, or who attacked a Gold Star family whose son was killed in Iraq.

But it does point to the staggering, unabashed hypocrisy of the man and the degree to which his entire campaign is engaged in an elaborate ruse of deflection — accusing his opponent of the very things of which he is guilty.

So please spare me your faux outrage about Hillary Clinton’s accurate comments that many of the people supporting Trump are deplorable. Your emperor has no clothes.

That’s why it’s so outlandish to have Trump — a man who seems to have never apologized for anything! — demanding an apology from Hillary Clinton for calling his supporters “deplorable” when he has called the situation of a class of the most honorable Americans, those who put their bodies on the line for our freedoms, “deplorable.”

This is by no means confined to the “deplorable” issue.

Trump has called Clinton “a world-class liar,” but there is no bigger liar than Trump himself — just look at PolitiFact. The man is pathological.

Trump attacks Clinton for a lack of transparency, but this is the same man who has yet to release his tax returns, something every major party nominee in modern American politics has done. And he is telling a flat-out lie about why he can’t do it.

Trump calls Clinton “crooked,” but this is the same man who — along with his businesses — has been sued more than 1,300 times.

This is the same man who is at this moment the subject of three class-action lawsuits over the sham that was Trump University — two cases in California and one in New York.

Trump calls the Clinton Foundation the “most corrupt enterprise in political history,” but this is a man who donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

This is a man whose own foundation, the Trump Foundation, has recently been accused in news reports of breaking the law by being used essentially as a political slush fund.

In fact, the New York attorney general has opened an inquiry into the Trump Foundation and its operations following those news reports.

Trump clearly understands that in politics, it is far better to be on offense than defense, but his offense is ultimately offensive because he is pointing out a perceived — or even concocted — flaw in another person to distract from the very same flaw in himself.

You might call the strategy masterly if it were not also maleficent, if the future of the country were not on the line, and if this country’s standing in the world were not on the line.

It cannot be said often or loudly enough: Donald Trump is the worst kind of person who brings out the worst in other people. His sinister sleight of hand is that he attempts to make those who call out his nefariousness the purveyors of enmity.

I see straight through that smoke and those mirrors and right to the darkness at the center. It cannot run. It cannot disguise itself. This light will shine on it until it withers.

From your lips to God’s ear, Mr. Blow.  Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

One of the mental traps that we all fall into, journalists included, is to perceive politics through narratives.

President Gerald Ford had been a star football player, yet somehow we in the media developed a narrative of him as a klutz — so that every time he stumbled, a clip was on the evening news. Likewise, we in the media wrongly portrayed President Jimmy Carter as a bumbling lightweight, even as he tackled the toughest challenges, from recognizing China to returning the Panama Canal.

Then in 2000, we painted Al Gore as inauthentic and having a penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggerations, and the most memorable element of the presidential debates that year became not George W. Bush’s misstatements but Gore’s dramatic sighs.

I bring up this checkered track record because I wonder if once again our collective reporting isn’t fueling misperceptions.

A CNN/ORC poll this month found that by a margin of 15 percentage points, voters thought Donald Trump was “more honest and trustworthy” than Hillary Clinton. Let’s be frank: This public perception is completely at odds with all evidence.

On the PolitiFact website, 13 percent of Clinton’s statements that were checked were rated “false” or “pants on fire,” compared with 53 percent of Trump’s. Conversely, half of Clinton’s are rated “true” or “mostly true” compared to 15 percent of Trump statements.

Clearly, Clinton shades the truth — yet there’s no comparison with Trump.

I’m not sure that journalism bears responsibility, but this does raise the thorny issue of false equivalence, which has been hotly debated among journalists this campaign. Here’s the question: Is it journalistic malpractice to quote each side and leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions, even if one side seems to fabricate facts or make ludicrous comments?

President Obama weighed in this week, saying that “we can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.”

I’m wary of grand conclusions about false equivalence from 30,000 feet. But at the grass roots of a campaign, I think we can do better at signaling that one side is a clown.

There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.

We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.

There frankly has been a degree of unreality to some of the campaign discussion: Partly because Hillary Clinton’s narrative is one of a slippery, dishonest candidate, the discussion disproportionately revolves around that theme. Yes, Clinton has been disingenuous and legalistic in her explanations of emails. Meanwhile, Trump is a mythomaniac who appears to have systematically cheated customers of Trump University.

Clinton’s finances are a minefield, which we know because she has released 39 years of tax returns; Trump would be the first major party nominee since Gerald Ford not to release his tax return (even Ford released a tax summary). And every serious analyst knows that Trump is telling a whopper when he gleefully promises to build a $25 billion wall that Mexico will pay for.

Then there’s the question of foundations. Yes, Clinton created conflicts of interest with the family foundation and didn’t fully disclose donors as promised. But the Trump Foundation flat out broke the law by making a political contribution.

It’s also worth avoiding moral equivalence about the work of the two foundations: The Clinton Foundation saves lives around the world from AIDS and malnutrition, while the Trump Foundation used its resources to buy — yes! — a large painting of Trump, as a gift for Trump (that may violate I.R.S. rules as well).

The latest dust-up has been health care. Neither candidate has been very open about health, but Clinton has produced much more detailed medical records than Trump, and an actuarial firm told The Washington Post Fact Checker that Clinton has a 5.9 percent chance of dying by the end of a second term in office, while Trump would have a 8.4 percent chance.

So I wonder if journalistic efforts at fairness don’t risk normalizing Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is. Historically we in the news media have sometimes fallen into the traps of glib narratives or false equivalencies, and we should try hard to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

We should be guard dogs, not lap dogs, and when the public sees Trump as more honest than Clinton, something has gone wrong.

For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey.

Well, Nick, it’s now most likely a situation of “way too little, and WAAAY to late.”  But perhaps you could have a wee chat with TPTB at the Times about their coverage…  And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Thoughts while watching Rick Perry do the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars”:

“My name is Rick Perry and I’m the governor of the great state of Texas. I am — I’m not the governor of the great state of Texas. That’s not right. I’m the former governor,” he said in a taped introduction.

Yes! It was definitely Rick Perry. The man who gave the nation the “oops” presidential debate was back, dancing on a map of Texas, to a song about Texas, which was sung by the group Little Texas. There was a theme there somewhere.

Do you think Barack Obama was watching? The president hasn’t mentioned “Dancing With the Stars” recently. But he’s been beseeching the country not to confuse low-rent entertainment with high-end politics. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality TV show,” he said this week while campaigning for the ailing Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump responds to requests for the release of his medical records by taping an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Trump is, of course, the ultimate example of reality TV as a political version of the circle of life. Does anyone believe that he’d be the Republican presidential nominee if he hadn’t put in all those years on “Celebrity Apprentice”? In days of yore politicians made their TV mark on “Meet the Press.” Soon, they’re going to be announcing their candidacy for the U.S. Senate on “Big Brother.”

And maybe, if we’re very, very lucky, we’ll hear in another few years that Donald Trump, former presidential candidate, will be doing a clog dance on next season’s “America’s Got Talent.” Or cooking tacos on “Top Chef.” Or demonstrating how he can circle the globe in “The Amazing Race” while still flying home every night to sleep in his own bed.

Perry says he’s dancing on TV as a way to draw attention to veterans’ issues. Right now it’s sort of stylish to pin everything on the poor vets. Remember when Trump dodged a primary debate by announcing he needed the time to raise money for needy ex-servicemen and women?

The one gold star Hillary Clinton deserves this week is for not claiming that her near-faint at the 9/11 ceremony was the result of thinking about our armed forces overseas.

“Dancing With the Stars” has great potential as a kind of high-ratings hostel for failed officeholders. Perry isn’t the first to try to use it as a way to elbow back into the public eye. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — of Texas! — was on the show in 2009, and few people who tuned in will ever forget his choreographic interpretation of “Wild Thing.” Sadly, he was forced to drop out of the competition with a stress fracture to the foot, and returned to the more traditional political retirement occupations of lobbying and beating a money-laundering indictment.

DeLay did seem to feel he got a kind of redemption from the show. “When I walk through airports today, more people recognize me from ‘Dancing With the Stars’ than being the former majority leader,” he said.

This is undoubtedly true. Ex-politicians who do commercials for home equity loans probably also get more attention in airports than they did when they were in office. Nobody could possibly be surprised that DeLay got more celebrity from waltzing in an outfit lined with leopard skin than he did from running the House of Representatives.

The great attraction of reality TV is its message of redemption. Everybody gets a second/third/fourth chance. You might be voted off the island today, but there’s going to be a twist during the sweeps ratings period, and whoever can eat the most boiled otter in three minutes will be back in the game.

A great many contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” seem to be washed-up child actors in search of a comeback. Also, there’s Ryan Lochte, the semi-disgraced Olympic swimmer, whose dancing debut was marred when two men rushed him onstage, apparently still irritated about that incident with the Brazilian police. Lochte said his feelings were hurt, but he will definitely return to fox trot again.

Perry began his performance with a trip to an onstage corn-dog stand — probably a tribute to the Iowa State Fair, where he was mobbed in 2011 as the Republican primary front-runner and totally ignored when he tried to do it again last year. Still, he looked extremely cheerful. A cynic might say he was the most charming ex-governor ever to have vetoed a bill that would have ended the death penalty for the mentally retarded.

However, he scored last during the initial round. First he loses to Donald Trump. Then he comes in behind Vanilla Ice. Well, there’s always next week.

And the week after — where do you think he’ll show up next? The prospects for the 2020 primary season are pretty dim. Rodeo? Professional poker? I hear there’s a Toe Wrestling Championship.

Does he bake?  There’s always “Cupcake Wars” for him to consider…

Collins, solo

September 10, 2016

In “Sexism: Let’s Deconstruct Donald” Ms. Collins says there are insults, and then there are insults.  Here she is:

Are Donald Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton sexist? To be fair, Trump is a guy who makes insulting personal remarks about everyone he disagrees with, regardless of gender. Let’s not jump to conclusions. This deserves a serious breakdown.


Trump frequently complains that Clinton yells too much. “That’s why I turned her off last night … I just couldn’t stand it. I got such a headache,” he told a rally earlier this year. “But I won’t say it, because I’m not allowed to say it, right?” He added that he had “great respect for women, believe me.”

Rule No. 1: When grading a candidate’s level of sexism, add one point for every time he says that what he just said is not politically correct. Add two if he interjects that he has great respect for women.

Voice is a sensitive issue. We heard for decades and decades that a woman could never be a TV news anchor because viewers would not — in the words of one NBC executive — “accept the news from a woman’s voice.” And Trump yells all the time. If this were coming from someone like, say, Mitt Romney, we could have a discussion about whether the comment was sexist, or just irritating. But Trump is basically saying that only guys get to holler.


“She looks sick,” said Rudy Giuliani on Fox News. Giuliani, Trump’s top surrogate, spent the summer arguing that there was something very, very wrong with Clinton’s health. He urged people to just go online “and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ ” No better proof that something is true than the fact that you can find it on the internet. It’s like making the case for a space invasion by telling people to Google “aliens among us.”

Clinton does have allergies that sometimes send her off into fits of coughing. There’s also a video of her tripping and being helped up by a flight attendant — an incident that seems to be what Giuliani is referring to when he says she had to be “lifted onto airplanes.”

Trump has been on this one as well. “Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack, yet it is #1 trending. What’s up?” demanded the man whose own released medical information consisted of a four-paragraph letter that started off with “To Whom My Concern.”

This is nuts, but not necessarily sexist. Trying to start rumors about an opponent’s health was a staple of presidential politics long before we had a woman in the race. Ronald Reagan called Michael Dukakis an “invalid.” A top Democrat discussing Reagan in 1984 said, “Well, he didn’t quite drool.” Obama supporters tried to raise concerns about a reoccurrence of melanoma in John McCain, but McCain answered the question by releasing a huge medical report from his doctors.

Actually, both of our current candidates ought to follow McCain’s example.


Trump likes to describe Clinton as “weak.” He’s gone on and on about how she doesn’t have “the strength or the stamina to be a good president.” This is the guy who’s flying around the country in a massive, super-comfy personal plane, doing an event and then flying home so he can sleep in his own bed every night.

“I think he projects his own weaknesses onto other people,” said Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri.

Nobody — at least until now — has ever accused Clinton of being short on stamina. But on this subject Trump is arguably an equal opportunity insulter. Just ask Jeb “low energy” Bush.


“We talk about presidential. Do I look presidential?” Trump demanded at a rally, clearly expecting a positive answer. “Do you think Hillary looks presidential? I don’t think so. And I’m not going to say it, because I’m not allowed to say it because I want to be politically correct.”

Remember Rule No. 1.

Trump has gone there before. During a visit to an American Legion post in Cleveland, he chatted with a dozen men — there was also one woman — about how tough he’d be in the White House. As Ashley Parker reported in The Times, he then turned to the subject of Clinton, asking, “And she looks presidential, fellows?”

Sexist? Well, duh.


“@HillaryClinton was angry + defensive the entire time — no smile and uncomfortable,” tweeted the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, after this week’s presidential forum.

The smile critique was most definitely sexist. Trump didn’t do a whole lot of beaming at the forum himself. And it’s hard to think of a male presidential candidate taking the heat for not looking cheerful enough. This is a country that once elected Calvin Coolidge.

Priebus’s comment was so awful, the Clinton people loved it. “People. Reince actually said HRC needed to smile more. This is real,” tweeted Palmieri.

“Actually, that’s just what taking the office of President seriously looks like,” Clinton tweeted, presumably with a big grin.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

September 8, 2016

Mr. Blow says “Donald Trump Is Lying in Plain Sight” and that the media applies an entertainment standard to the Republican candidate.  Mr. Kristof, in “The Black Eyes in Donald Trump’s Life,” says over his seven decades he’s left a trail of victims.  In “Trump and Clinton Take Up Arms” Ms. Collins says Donald successfully spoke in full sentences but may be confused about his plan for veterans’ health, and Hillary went into wonk mode.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It has generally been my experience that when people pepper their speech with the phrase “believe me,” they are not to be believed.

The default position among people of honor — the silent agreement between speaker and listener — is one of truth and trust.

But Donald Trump is not a person of honor.

Presidents lie. Politicians lie. People lie. But Trump lies with a ferocious abandon.

For instance, the fact-checking website PolitiFact found that of the statements by Hillary Clinton that it checked, 22 percent were completely “true” and another 28 percent were “mostly true.”

But Trump is another animal. There is no true equivalency between Trump and Clinton, or between Trump and any other politician, for that matter. Only 4 percent of Trump’s statements that PolitiFact checkedwere rated as completely “true” and only another 11 percent were even rated as “mostly true.” Seventy percent of Trump’s statements that the site checked were rated as “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire,” the site’s worse rating.

The truth shifts beneath Trump like sand. He has no regard for the firmness of fact. For him, fact is as pliant as that Play-Doh he handed out to flood victims in Louisiana.

Indeed, PoltiFact named Trump’s collective “campaign misstatements” the 2015 Lie of the Year, writing:

“It’s the trope on Trump: He’s authentic, a straight-talker, less scripted than traditional politicians. That’s because Donald Trump doesn’t let facts slow him down. Bending the truth or being unhampered by accuracy is a strategy he has followed for years.”

The site quotes from Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal,” in which he says, “People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

In fact, Tony Schwartz was the ghostwriter for that book and in July he blasted Trump in an interview in The New Yorker:

“Schwartz says of Trump, ‘He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.’ Since most people are ‘constrained by the truth,’ Trump’s indifference to it ‘gave him a strange advantage.’”

When introducing a series about “the scale and depth of Donald Trump’s lies,” the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, put it this way:

“Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, does not so much struggle with the truth as strangle it altogether. He lies to avoid. He lies to inflame. He lies to promote and to preen. Sometimes he seems to lie just for the hell of it. He traffics in conspiracy theories that he cannot possibly believe and in grotesque promises that he cannot possibly fulfill. When found out, he changes the subject — or lies larger.”

And yet in polls like the CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday, Trump leads Clinton on the issue of being honest and trustworthy by 15 percentage points. (I should point out that some have raised questions about the methodology of that poll.)

I believe that this is in large part because we, an irresponsible media, have built a false equivalency in which the choice between Clinton and Trump seems to have equally bad implications, because we have framed it as a choice between a liar and a lunatic.

But this obscures the fact that the lunatic is also a pathological liar of a kind and quality that we have not seen in recent presidential politics and perhaps ever.

Trump is in a category all his own.

Part of the reason for Clinton’s problems is that she is being held to a traditional level of honesty and integrity, as she should be.

But Trump is being held to a wholly different, more flexible standard. When he takes a different position over years or months or days or even hours, that is not simply an innocent evolution, but a flat-out lie.

He alters his positions on a whim, depending on the audience, but the truth is steadfast. It will not accept convenient alteration.

Perhaps even more troubling is that he is prone to making up his own set of false facts. He wildly exaggerated the number of immigrants in this country illegally and “inner city”crime rates. He said President Obama founded ISIS and that “the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.” He said, “I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center collapsed.

Lies one and all, but that’s just a sampling.

This is not an honest man. This is not a trustworthy man. The fact that people believe he’s honest is a result of a failed media that aims its sincerest critique at Clinton’s deficiencies with the truth, but applies an entertainment standard to Trump that corrects falsehoods but doesn’t castigate him for them.

There is no reasonable explanation or salable excuse for the media’s behavior this presidential cycle. History will look back at this period and it will not be kind to the Fourth Estate. We will all have to one day ask ourselves, “Where was I on Trump and the truth?” Far too many of us will be found wanting.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Once upon a time, in New York City in the 1950s, a little boy didn’t like his second-grade music teacher, Charles Walker. So, the boy later boasted, he slugged Mr. Walker, giving him a black eye.

“When that kid was 10,” Walker recalled on his death bed, “even then, he was a ——” Oops, gentle reader, time to move on hurriedly with the life story of Donald J. Trump.

Young Donald took on a newspaper route to learn the value of money, but this was not “Leave It to Beaver”: On rainy days, Donald avoided getting wet by delivering papers while being squired around in the family Cadillac.

There are now more than 20 books out about Trump, and while I can’t claim to have read them all — I am not a masochist! — I have waded through his life story so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome! As a reader service, here are highlights.

Donald attended the New York Military Academy, where he thrived despite a regrettable attempt to throw a smaller student out a second-floor window (this comes from one of the best of the biographies, the brand-new “Trump Revealed,” by a team from The Washington Post).

Enough of Trump’s youth; now let’s hurtle through his business career. After graduating from Wharton, Trump joined his dad’s real estate business and, er, worked his way up: At about the age of 25, he was named president of Trump Management.

Unfortunately, the Trumps seemed to have a policy in some properties of not renting to blacks. “I’m not allowed to rent” to black families, a Trump building superintendent reportedly explained at the time, adding that he was just doing “what my boss told me to do.”

If a black person did make it as far as filling out an application, it was coded — in some cases, “C” for “colored” — to make sure it was not accidentally approved. The Nixon administration sued the Trumps in 1973 for breaking anti-discrimination laws.

Something similar happened with Donald Trump’s pageants. He began with the American Dream Calendar Girl Model Search, but that led to a lawsuit from a woman who said that Trump had groped her and restrained her in his daughter’s bedroom. The lawsuit also alleged that Trump had directed that “any black female contestants be excluded” from his parties. Trump denied the claims.

Back in the world of real estate, Trump had moved into Manhattan. In 1980, preparing to build Trump Tower, he demolished a department store using hundreds of undocumented Polish workers who were paid less than $5 an hour, sometimes in vodka. Some weren’t paid at all and were threatened with deportation if they complained.

In subsequent litigation, Trump blamed the subcontractor. The judge said that Trump’s aide was on site and that Trump himself should have known.

Ultimately, Trump Tower was a financial success, but the same was not true of Trump’s venture into casinos. Anyone who had invested in his only public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, when it listed in 1995 would have lost about 90 cents on the dollar by 2005.

Trump as a candidate has, of course, refused to release his taxes returns. But many years ago he was obliged to release them for casino regulatory filings — and at that time he paid no federal income tax at all. Because of tax loopholes, he managed to report zero income (actually losses!) for both 1978 and 1979.

Do I risk losing you with finances? Time to throw in some sex, with a look now at Trump’s family life.

Melania Trump says that her husband “is intensely loyal … he will never let you down.” Then again, she’s his third wife.

His first was Ivana Trump, and he then began a dalliance with Marla Maples, culminating in a dramatic made-for-the-tabloids confrontation between the two women while they were all skiing in Aspen. The resulting divorce negotiations were bitter, with Ivana alleging in a deposition that Trump had raped her; she later backed off that.

Trump then married Maples. She in turn gave way to Melania, who may well have arrived in the States illegally (Melania Trump denies this but hasn’t furnished a convincing explanation for her immigration).

So what does all this add up to?

Whether in his youth, in his business career or in his personal life, Trump’s story is that of a shallow egoist who uses those around him.

Even as a child, he personified privilege and entitlement. In business, he proved a genius at marketing himself but grew his fortune more slowly than if he had put his wealth in a stock index fund. He made a mess of his personal life and has been repeatedly accused of racism, of cheating people, of lying, of stiffing charities.

His life is a vacuum of principle, and he never seems to have stood up for anything larger than himself.

Over seven decades, there’s one continuous theme to his life story: This is a narcissist who has no core. The lights are on, but no one’s home.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

On Wednesday, Donald Trump explained how good he was going to be at dealing with world leaders by pointing to the great job he did at his recent meeting south of the border: “Look at the aftermath today where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico have been forced out of government. That’s how well we did.”

Trump and international affairs is an end-of-the-summer horror thriller. At the big presidential candidates’ forum in New York, he bragged about the two high points in his diplomatic history — the firing of the official whose idea it was to invite him to Mexico and his bromance with Vladimir Putin. (“Well, he does have an 82 percent approval rating according to the different pollsters. …”)

The forum, on the Intrepid aircraft carrier before an audience of veterans, was a kind of remote warfare — back-to-back question-and-answer sessions. They really did seem to be held in two different worlds. Hillary Clinton defended her work on the Iran nuclear deal and the intervention in Libya, while Trump explained why he was keeping his plan for defeating ISIS secret. (“I have a substantial chance of winning. If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”)

There weren’t many questions on actual veterans’ issues, which was a shame, since talking about veterans brings out a lot of interesting behavior in politicians.

It’s partly guilt. Most candidates for high office are grateful to veterans for their service, and a little uneasy if they didn’t serve themselves. That second part is not true of Trump, who stressed — during his fight with the parents of the slain military hero — that he had made “a lot of sacrifices” for his country. Pressed on the nature of said sacrifices, he mentioned something about real estate development. He also once revealed that he felt as if he’d had experience in the service due to his years at a military high school.

Clinton has on occasion told a story about having gone to a Marine recruiting office when she was 26 or 27, and being rejected as too old to sign up. It’s a strange anecdote. However, there is no sign that Clinton went away feeling she had just made a lot of sacrifices for her country.

But about the forum. The biggest current veterans’ issue — health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs — came up only briefly. Trump urged people to check out the plan on his website, which is actually different from the plan he described on stage. Clinton happily dived into her wonk mode. (“I’ve met so many vets who get mustered out, who leave the service, they can’t find their records from D.O.D., and those records never make it to the V.A.”)

Listen to her in these situations and you realize that this is a woman who has been to town hall meetings with virtually every single group of Americans who have a problem.

To summarize their V.A. health plans really quickly, Clinton wants to fix the current system while Trump — or at least website Trump — wants to give the nine million V.A. health clients cards that will allow them to go to any doctor or hospital that treats Medicare patients.

The Trump plan is a solution much beloved on the right, although it could very well cost a ton of additional money. At which point, President Trump could hold a big fund-raiser to make up the difference, just the way he did for veterans during the primary campaign. The proceeds from which he will actually distribute once the media nags him about it for three or four months.

Just kidding.

Each candidate had less than half an hour onstage Wednesday night, but Clinton managed to point out twice that she had been in the room for the plan to kill Osama bin Laden. It was not a perfect evening for her, given that it began with a long series of questions from host Matt Lauer about her emails.

Trump, on the other hand, was first asked what experiences he had that prepared him to be commander in chief.

“The main thing is I have great judgment,” he explained, going on to tell Lauer that he was against the war in Iraq from the beginning, which he wasn’t. Asked about his temperament, he pointed out how great things went on that visit to Mexico.

At times, Trump seemed to be exceeding expectations, just by speaking in complete sentences. (We have got to start raising the bar on this guy.) Then a veteran in the audience asked him about sexual assault in the military, and Lauer reminded Trump that he had once twittered, “What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?”

“Well,” Trump answered, “it is. … It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that’s absolutely correct.” He babbled on, trying to save himself, but it was really way too late.