Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Blow and Collins

August 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collins, solo

August 12, 2017

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

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

I know, I know.

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

Or at minimum, stick it in the irony drawer.

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

This is the North Korean version of a presidential tweet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow and Collins

August 3, 2017

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

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

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

As The Washington Post reported Monday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

What happens to the Weeks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s continuous attacks on the media matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Martin Niemöller so famously put it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, I drove.”

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

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

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

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

Pick your favorite irony:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O.K., I know, I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I told you this was about irony.

Bobo and Collins

July 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Why can’t Emmanuel Macron be our president?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) Ivanka

B) Tiffany

C) Ryan Seacrest

D) Boris and Natasha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crucially, this is bigger than Donald Trump Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not gonna happen.  Here’s Ms. Collins:

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

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

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

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

Who do you think is Worst Trump Child?

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

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

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

So is the family going to stick together?

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

What about Mike Pence?

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

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

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

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

Is Emin a good singer?

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

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

So somewhere in between those two things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) Fine by me.

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

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

Kristof and Collins

July 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

We will now explain how this outcome was inevitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristof and Collins

July 6, 2017

Mr. Kristof has been “In a Remote Village, Witnessing Miracles.”   He says being born with clubfoot in a poor country is no longer an automatic life sentence.  Ms. Collins, in “Women Move, World Improves,” says there’s progress on greater gender equality in politics. So everything’s going to get better.  Here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Buchanan, Liberia:

Miracles are rare these days, but I’ve seen them.

In a village in rural Liberia, a long and muddy road from anywhere, I came across a grandma, a mom and a baby daughter all afflicted by clubfoot. This is a common birth defect in which one or both feet are grotesquely turned inward.

We don’t see it in the U.S. or Europe because doctors correct it soon after birth, and clubfoot alumni include athletic superstars like Mia Hamm and Kristi Yamaguchi. My mother (a tireless walker with perfectly normal feet) was born with a clubfoot.

Yet here, as in most of the world, kids with clubfoot weren’t treated and grew up as outcasts. About one child in 800 worldwide is born with clubfoot, and in poor countries they are left to hobble on the sides of their feet; unable to work, they may become beggars.

In this village, clubfoot used to be a life sentence: The grandma, Yahin-yee Korwee, never went to school, nor did her daughter, Hannah Cooper, 26. The grandfather abandoned the family when Hannah was born, ashamed that neighbors mocked her as a cripple.

Then Cooper had her own daughter 11 months ago, also with clubfoot (it’s partly hereditary), and her boyfriend left her as well. “You’ve got a crippled child,” she remembered him saying. “I don’t want it.”

Yet this baby had her feet fixed. This is possible with a simple nonsurgical treatment involving a series of plaster casts to guide the foot into the proper position.

This approach, called the Ponseti method, is routine in Western countries and is increasingly available in poor countries as well, through aid groups like MiracleFeet, based in North Carolina, and Cure, based in Pennsylvania.

I wish that skeptics of humanitarian aid could have seen the baby get care from MiracleFeet and emerge with feet as good as anyone else’s. Now she’ll be able to walk and run, go to school and hold a job, support herself and her country.

And the total cost? Less than $500 for transforming a life.

I’m on my annual win-a-trip journey with a university student, Aneri Pattani (who has been busily blogging at nytimes.com/ontheground — check out her posts!). I wanted us to report on clubfoot because it’s an antidote to skepticism about humanitarian aid.

The dirty little secret of foreign aid is that it’s hard. You can build a school, but it’s hard to ensure that teachers will show up. You can build a well, but what happens when the hand pump breaks? You can provide safe birthing kits, but what if a nurse sells them on the black market?

Look, helping people is complicated. But I’m a strong advocate of more aid because sometimes aid is transformative. When properly done, clubfoot treatment is straightforward, succeeds 95 percent of the time and inexpensively changes a life like that of this 11-month-old girl.

“Now she’ll go to school,” said Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld, executive director of MiracleFeet. “She’s going to stand on her own two feet for the rest of her life.”

Yet most children in poor countries still don’t get clubfoot repaired. The Global Clubfoot Initiative estimates that only 15 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries get good treatment, and it aims to raise that to 70 percent by 2030. Aid groups like MiracleFeet train local health care workers to treat clubfoot, so that over time each country’s own health system can take over diagnosis and treatment. But for now, thousands of children slip through the cracks.

Cooper told us that there was another child in the village with clubfoot, and soon he was brought to us. His name was Henroy, and at age 9 he had never attended school because he has trouble even hobbling. MiracleFeet is now arranging to fix his feet, too.

In another town, Ganta, we saw the toll on families of clubfoot. A small boy, Aria, was being looked after by his grandmother, Nora Glay, because his mother fled rather than raise a child she expected to be permanently disabled. “She was embarrassed,” Glay said of the mother, “and that’s why she abandoned the child.”

But Glay heard on the radio that clubfoot could be repaired. So she borrowed money from friends and took Aria on a weeklong odyssey to get to the Ganta hospital, where Aria’s feet will be corrected over the coming months so that he will be able to walk and run.

A few feet away in the hospital waiting area, Saye Willie acknowledged that he was initially devastated when his son, Bigboy, was born with clubfoot. “I thought it was witchcraft,” the father said. “I accused my wife of taking a bath at night, and I thought somebody put drugs in the water.”

Bigboy, 7, seems a bit overcome at the prospect that his feet will soon be normal, allowing him to walk, run, play soccer. “I want to go to school,” he told me. “I want my feet to be good so I can run, too.”

My friend Michael Elliott, who ran the One Campaign’s fight against global poverty until shortly before his death last year, used to say that we live in an “age of miracles.” I thought of that while in the village with the family suffering from three generations of clubfoot, where the baby now has normal feet.

Oh, and the baby’s name?

Her mom named her Miracle.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Good news has been in such very short supply lately. Beyoncé did have twins. Joey Chestnut set a new record at the Coney Island hot-dog eating contest. Kentucky sold a billion dollars in lottery tickets for the first time …

O.K., here’s a real one: Women’s involvement in politics seems to be skyrocketing — they’re doing everything from petitioning Congress to planning their own campaigns. Groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.

Everything is going to get better! There’ll be more bipartisanship in Congress, more rationality in foreign affairs and better government on the state and local levels. Corruption will drop, voter satisfaction will soar and never again will the governor of a major state spend a holiday sunbathing on a public beach that’s closed to the rest of the public due to a budget crisis.

All right, we’re only totally positive about the last one.

Still, more gender equality in politics is a great goal. While there have been some really terrible, truly awful women elected to public office over the years, as a group women seem to be better at working with others. For instance, female senators have regular bipartisan dinners in Washington. There was a time when this would not have been a big deal, but in the current climate it’s akin to Nixon in China.

Women also tend to bring a mood of reform, since they’re often coming from the outside. “It’s the women who in many ways feel — if you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu,” said Debbie Walsh at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The center runs training programs for women candidates in perpetually scandal-prone New Jersey, and their success is proof of the theory that voters will turn to women when they feel the political status quo is horrible. “When we started, New Jersey was in the bottom 10 for women in the legislature,” said Walsh. “Now, it’s 14th from the top. Indictments have been very, very good to us.”

Progress on this front is not necessarily guaranteed to last. The center’s ranking of state legislatures puts Wyoming last in the percentage of women, which is extremely sad for a place that calls itself “the Equality State” because it was the first to give women the right to vote. Wyoming does have Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz in the House of Representatives, and you will have to decide for yourself whether you think that is a good plan.

Cathy Connolly, who’s a state representative and professor of women’s studies at the University of Wyoming, says the legislative schedule was set up to accommodate ranchers: “We work around the clock for 40 days one year and 20 the other in the dead of the winter. … It’s disproportionately retired men.”

But even Wyoming is looking for a leap forward. Connolly is co-chair of a women’s caucus that is — of course — bipartisan. (“Its only goal is to recruit more women and be supportive of each other when we serve.”) She feels that same surge of new interest, “and it is wonderful.”

Women have been setting record-breaking web traffic at Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women’s campaigns. Stephanie Schriock, the president, thinks the motives run from “fear of slipping backward” after Hillary Clinton’s loss to a sense of solidarity engendered by the marches after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Now the visitors are stoked, and looking for information on how to run for anything “from school board to the U.S. Senate.”

Brooks, Krugman, and Collins

June 30, 2017

In “Tuners and Spinners” Bobo babbles that members of one social category are adventurous, while members of another are more intimate.  Prof. Krugman, in “Understanding Republican Cruelty,” says there are reasons the health insurance legislation is morally obscene.  Ms. Collins says “I’ve Overestimated Donald Trump,” and she has a question: Shouldn’t he have been in meetings instead of tweeting about Mika Brzezinski?

Here’s Bobo:

Cass Sunstein, the eminent Harvard law professor and writer, notes that some people are spinners and some people are tuners.

The spinner is the life of the party. The spinner is funny, socially adventurous and good at storytelling, even if he sometimes uses his wit to maintain distance from people. Spinners are great at hosting big parties.

They’re hungry for social experiences and filled with daring and creativity. Instagram and Twitter are built for these people. If you’re friends with a spinner you’ll have a bunch of fun things to do even if you don’t remember them a week later.

The tuner makes you feel known. The tuner is good at empathy and hungers for deep connection. The tuner may be bad at small talk, but in the middle of a deep conversation the tuner will ask those extra four or five questions, the way good listeners do.

If you’re at a down time in your life, the spinners may suddenly make themselves scarce, but the tuners will show up. The tuners may retreat at big parties, but they’re great one-on-one over coffee. If you’re with a person and he’s deepened your friendship by revealing a vulnerable part of himself, you’re with a tuner.

Now, of course, all social categories of this type are vast generalizations and really just a form of conversational game playing. But if you look around at your friends, or at the world’s celebrities, I do think you’ll find some people who seem to be good spinners (Amy Schumer, Jack Nicholson, Quentin Tarantino), some who seem to be tuners (Oprah, Jake Gyllenhaal, Adele) and a few lucky souls who are strong at both ends (I’m looking at you Stephen Colbert and Bill Clinton).

Spinning and tuning are different kinds of courage — the courage to be adventurous and the courage to be intimate. It seems to me that spinners and tuners each have their own kinds of happiness and sadness. Spinners love the whirl of a happy group activity and suffer from restlessness and a penchant for self-destruction. Tuners love connection, and with their emotional depth may be prone toward depression.

I even think writers and thinkers fall into these categories. Shakespeare, Einstein and Isaiah Berlin were spinners, playing, in almost a thrill-seeking manner, with a whirl of ideas. Dante, Proust and Toni Morrison fall into the tuner category.

A lot of the novels I read are narrated by tuners about spinners. That is to say, they are narrated by quiet empathetic characters about adventurous, vivacious characters. Novels like “The Great Gatsby,” “All the King’s Men,” “Brideshead Revisited” and “A Separate Peace” fall into this category.

Now if you are looking for friends, the spinners are great. But my questions for the class are: If you’re looking for a life partner, should you go for your same type or your opposite? Should you marry someone who meets your strengths or fills your needs?

My guess is that if you can’t find someone with both traits, marry a tuner, even if that gives your relationship a little extra drama.

The second question is: Can people change types over time? I’d say Oscar Wilde went from being a spinner to a tuner (though maybe he just got sadder as he was more oppressed). Others, of course, do not believe people change their basic emotional makeup, even over decades.

It should be said that both spinning and tuning are patterns of social interaction. They are patterns of being outer directed (now there’s a social category type with legs!).

Some people are inner directed. Their way of being in the world is based less on a pattern of interaction and more on a way of projecting what’s inside to the surrounding environment. Let’s call these people projectors.

I’d say a lot of heroes are projectors. Their primary attachment is to an ideal. They can go through life faithful to that ideal and carry on despite a blizzard of abuse or indifference. I’m thinking of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Aung San Suu Kyi.

On the other hand, there are some projectors whose primary attachment is to some psychosis, some emotional or narcissistic wound. They project outward from that. I add this distinction because every social typology has to have a slot for Donald Trump.

There’s one final social category I just learned about, from a talk I heard Sherry Turkle of M.I.T. give at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

She observed that some 4-year-olds wander on to the beach with their own shovel and bucket. They’re fine to play alone, but they’re welcoming if anybody wants to join them. They have a mixture of self-sufficiency and sociability. Turkle noticed that other kids are drawn to these kids, just as they recoil from the kid who doesn’t have a bucket and is needy for theirs.

So my lesson of the week is: Go into every social occasion with your own bucket. Be a spinner when life’s going good, a tuner when things go down, and have a great Fourth of July weekend.

Oh, gawd…  There he goes again.  “Gemli” from Boston had some thoughts about it:

“Yep, some people are spinners and some are tuners. And some people are a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll. But if you spin the dial on your tuner, you can change your station in life. All people fall into two categories: those who put people into two categories, and those who don’t. I tend to fit into the category of people who can’t be put into a category.

Sorry. Ever since David Brooks stopped writing his indefensible screeds lauding Republicans and started getting into this social psychology thing, I don’t know how to respond. It was so much easier when he attacked the people who occupied Wall Street, or when he said that raising the minimum wage would hurt the poor. A person knew how to respond to that.

Conservative opinionators are supposed to make you mad, not confused. They’re not supposed offer marriage advice, although if you’re a tuner they really like the wedding of AM with FM. Two AMs or two FMs should never get together in their book. It makes them queasy to think about it, which is why they always carry a bucket.

I’m for tuner equality, personally.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The basics of Republican health legislation, which haven’t changed much in different iterations of Trumpcare, are easy to describe: Take health insurance away from tens of millions, make it much worse and far more expensive for millions more, and use the money thus saved to cut taxes on the wealthy.

Donald Trump may not get this — reporting by The Times and others, combined with his own tweets, suggests that he has no idea what’s in his party’s legislation. But everyone in Congress understands what it’s all about.

The puzzle — and it is a puzzle, even for those who have long since concluded that something is terribly wrong with the modern G.O.P. — is why the party is pushing this harsh, morally indefensible agenda.

Think about it. Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you’re older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. And since Americans with those characteristics are precisely the people this legislation effectively targets, tens of millions would soon find themselves living this nightmare.

Meanwhile, taxes that fall mainly on a tiny, wealthy minority would be reduced or eliminated. These cuts would be big in dollar terms, but because the rich are already so rich, the savings would make very little difference to their lives.

More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.

So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.

In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.

Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?

I won’t pretend to have a full answer, but I think there are two big drivers — actually, two big lies — behind Republican cruelty on health care and beyond.

First, the evils of the G.O.P. plan are the flip side of the virtues of Obamacare. Because Republicans spent almost the entire Obama administration railing against the imaginary horrors of the Affordable Care Act — death panels! — repealing Obamacare was bound to be their first priority.

Once the prospect of repeal became real, however, Republicans had to face the fact that Obamacare, far from being the failure they portrayed, has done what it was supposed to do: It used higher taxes on the rich to pay for a vast expansion of health coverage. Correspondingly, trying to reverse the A.C.A. means taking away health care from people who desperately need it in order to cut taxes on the rich.

So one way to understand this ugly health plan is that Republicans, through their political opportunism and dishonesty, boxed themselves into a position that makes them seem cruel and immoral — because they are.

Yet that’s surely not the whole story, because Obamacare isn’t the only social insurance program that does great good yet faces incessant right-wing attack. Food stamps, unemployment insurance, disability benefits all get the same treatment. Why?

As with Obamacare, this story began with a politically convenient lie — the pretense, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan, that social safety net programs just reward lazy people who don’t want to work. And we all know which people in particular were supposed to be on the take.

Now, this was never true, and in an era of rising inequality and declining traditional industries, some of the biggest beneficiaries of these safety net programs are members of the Trump-supporting white working class. But the modern G.O.P. basically consists of career apparatchiks who live in an intellectual bubble, and those Reagan-era stereotypes still dominate their picture of struggling Americans.

Or to put it another way, Republicans start from a sort of baseline of cruelty toward the less fortunate, of hostility toward anything that protects families against catastrophe.

In this sense there’s nothing new about their health plan. What it does — punish the poor and working class, cut taxes on the rich — is what every major G.O.P. policy proposal does. The only difference is that this time it’s all out in the open.

So what will happen to this monstrous bill? I have no idea. Whether it passes or not, however, remember this moment. For this is what modern Republicans do; this is who they are.

And here’s Ms. Collins:

I have to confess I’ve overestimated Donald Trump.

Back in the day, he sent me a copy of a column he objected to, with some notes suggesting I was a “dog and a liar” with “the face of a pig.”

I’ve had many opportunities to make use of that story since Trump became a presidential candidate, so it’s all fine for me. However, I have to admit that it did not occur to me he’d keep doing that kind of stuff as president of the United States.

The latest story involves Trump taking umbrage at the MSNBC “Morning Joe” hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. So he took to Twitter, insulting them both and claiming that Brzezinski had come to Mar-a-Lago “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” Both she and Scarborough are plenty capable of taking care of themselves. But the country is, you know, sort of a different matter.

Every time one of these tweeting disasters occurs, it reminds us that the United States president has no more discernible self-control than a 10-year-old bully who works out his failure to pass third grade by tormenting the little kids on the playground.

The tweeting took place around 9 a.m. on a weekday and I believe that I speak for almost all Americans when I wonder whether he should have been in meetings instead.

The official White House position appears to be that Brzezinski deserved it since she had said mean things about the president on TV. Among Trump’s small band of pathetic defenders we found Dan Scavino Jr., who is in charge of White House social media, who claimed “#DumbAsARockMika and lover #JealousJoe are lost, confused & saddened since @POTUS @realDonaldTrump stopped returning their calls! Unhinged.”

The important messages here are A) the White House expert on social media thinks dragging this out is a good plan and B) the White House expert on social media used to be Trump’s golf caddy.

A lot of top Republican leaders have expressed their dismay about what was obviously a sexist insult, but that’s hardly sufficient. This is the same party, after all, that recently produced its Senate health care bill drafted by a committee of 13 men. A bill whose defenders have argued, in effect, that making maternity health coverage more expensive is not a problem because guys don’t get pregnant.

The Republicans’ many variations on “oh God” isn’t enough. The least they could do is hold a prayer vigil on the White House lawn.

Solo Collins

June 24, 2017

In “Taking On the Frat Boys” Ms. Collins says that the fact that Republican leaders didn’t bother to toss a token woman in their secret bill-writing group tells you something about the insane level of indifference to women’s issues.  Here she is:

Everybody seems to hate the Senate health care bill, which was created by 13 Republican men meeting behind closed doors.

Of course, a lot of you wouldn’t have been all that crazy about a bill brought to you by 12 Republican men and a woman. Perhaps you wouldn’t even have been satisfied if it were written by 13 Republican women senators, although we’ll never know since there are only five of them.

The closed-door part of the story is outrageous, but American voters don’t really care a lot about the way legislation is created — if they like the result, you could say it was a miracle of immaculate conception and they’d be fine. Still, the fact that the Republican leadership didn’t even bother to toss a token female in their secret bill-writing group does tell you something about the insane level of indifference to women’s issues among the men who are currently running the show in Washington.

While Ivanka has been making mewling noises about working moms, the Trump White House has appointed people to major health care policy jobs who don’t appear to believe in contraception. And in the Senate, we now have a health care bill that would not only virtually ban insurance coverage of abortions; it would also allow states to drop mandatory coverage of maternity care.

Insurance is all about sharing risks. If people who didn’t require maternity coverage, i.e. men, were able to save money by forgoing it, the price for the women who did need it would skyrocket. This is a concept that seems to elude a lot of members of Congress. In a town-hall meeting this spring, Representative Rod Blum, a Republican from Iowa, said his goal was to “get rid of some of these crazy regulations that Obamacare puts on, such as a 62-year-old male having to have pregnancy insurance.”

If this new thinking goes into law, it would be “a perfect storm of harm to women,” said Dana Singiser, of Planned Parenthood, who noted that the average pregnancy costs $30,000 in health care expenses while the average family makes $50,000 a year. Naturally, the Senate bill also bars federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.

The bill has a lot of problems that aren’t particularly related to gender. A low-income man who loses his health coverage isn’t going to be any better off than a low-income woman. And while there are a lot more elderly women in nursing homes than men, Medicaid cuts are going to affect them all.

“But women are generally the caregivers,” said Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is appropriately known as HELP. If an elderly mother can’t get into a nursing home or a child with a disability can’t get Medicaid-funded school programs, she reasoned, it will be women who will most often have to stay home from work to take care of them. (Take that, Ivanka.)

People, do you think all this would have happened if there were women drafting the health care bill? Two of the Republican women in the Senate, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, are longtime defenders of Planned Parenthood. Collins has been in office for 20 years and Murkowski 15. Both of them are on the committee that handles health bills. But neither of them was regarded as worthy to attend those secret meetings. Ted Cruz was invited. Ted Cruz who is still in his first term, who all the other Republicans loathe. Ted Cruz who, when the bill was finally made public, instantly announced it wasn’t conservative enough.

Everyone expects Cruz to eventually come around after he garners a sufficient pile of attention. When the Republican senators met for lunch this week, he passed around a list of changes that would put him on a “path to ‘yes.’” We can only imagine how thrilled his colleagues must have been to get the directives.

So that’s Ted Cruz. But Mitch McConnell is sensitive to his feelings about wanting to be in the room where it happens. While totally freezing out the women.

“I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing,” said Murkowski tartly. Perhaps somewhat overestimating the Republican leadership’s concern for reporters.

So what are we supposed to do about all this? Well, there’s always social media. And Murray has been urging people to write to their senators. This makes a lot of sense if you happen to live in, say, Arizona. It’s a little harder to see the point if you’re from Washington, where your senator is Patty Murray.

Murray, in a phone interview, argued that wherever they’re directed, protest calls help create a sense of national outcry, like the post-inauguration women’s marches. Senators might ignore it, she added, but they “certainly can’t say, ‘I never heard about it.’”

Although, of course, some of them could just go into a room with the other guys and close the door.