Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Cohen, Kristof, and Collins

August 11, 2016

In “Olympians in Hijab and Bikini” Mr. Cohen says the West’s image of Islam and the Muslim image of the West are often mutually incommunicable. No area is as sensitive as the treatment of women’s roles, dress and sexuality.  Mr. Kristof, in “Obama’s Worst Mistake,” says yes, there are steps we can take in Syria.  Ms. Collins says “You Choose or You Lose,” and that picking between major party candidates is the only way to effect the race’s outcome.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

Since I saw a photograph of an Egyptian and a German beach volleyball player confronting each other at the net in Rio, I have been unable to get the image out of my head. Doaa Elghobashy, aged 19, wears a hijab, long sleeves and black leggings to her ankles. Kira Walkenhorst, 25, is in a dark blue bikini. The outstretched hands of the Olympian women almost meet, the ball between them.

The photo, by Lucy Nicholson of Reuters, juxtaposes two women, two beliefs and two dress codes, brought together by sport. The world confronts less a clash of civilizations than a clash of identities, concertinaed in time and space by technology. The West’s image of Islam and the Muslim image of Western societies are often mutually incommunicable; the incomprehension incubates violence.

No area is as sensitive as that of the treatment of women, women’s roles, women’s sexuality, dress and ambitions. The story is often presented as one of Western emancipation versus Islamic subjugation. That, however, is an inadequate characterization.

What follows are accounts by two women, an Egyptian and an American, of their experiences with the hijab. Chadiedja Buijs is a graduate student in Cairo. Norma Moore is a former actress living in Boulder, Colo., who recently visited Iran, where the rules obliged her to adopt Islamic dress codes.

Chadiedja Buijs:

My parents — Egyptian mother, Dutch father — separated when I was four, and I grew up in the Netherlands. My mom doesn’t wear a head scarf and when I began to at the age of 19, five years ago, she said, “What the hell are you doing? I left my country so that you could be free and this is what freedom did?”

I had a lot of issues with myself, with my spiritual needs and my state of being. I was very hardworking, very controlling. I began to feel that as a religious person I needed to realize that some things are bigger than me. I started with prayer. I stopped drinking. I began fasting. I’d been so obsessed with material things. After a while I became convinced that it would be good if I could wear the head scarf out of devotion and humility, as a sign of giving up some of my control. It worked.

Our Prophet says faith is like the ocean. Sometimes the waves are high, sometimes low. Sometimes I am shaky in my faith, sometimes very strong.

The hijab is a matter of representation. I know the person I am and the ideas I have. But the person in front of me sees only the exterior. With the tension in Europe, things are worse. In a Dutch village, in a café full of rich white people, a man tore my veil off. It was shocking but not as frustrating as some of the looks and comments, the job rejections (“You do not fit the image of our store”).

After the attacks in France, my mother said, “Please take your veil off.” It is my choice to wear it. I will die with it on. That is my right. Nobody will take it away.

But balance is important. There is this life and the afterlife. Sometimes you need to think about your spirituality. Sometimes you need to adapt. In the West, now, I may wear tighter jeans, or have my neck showing, or use short sleeves. Here in Egypt I may wear maxi-skirts, long and wide. They do not look great. They make me fat. But, hey, that’s the point! My family here is quite conservative.

There is very little religious literacy in secular Western countries. And there is a crisis within Islam, over what it means to be a Muslim. As Muslims we have to acknowledge the problem. ISIS controls what Islam looks like in Iraq and Syria — religious symbolism, flags, statements and verses. This is real. We cannot deny it. But we create extremism by talking about Islam only through this prism. The head scarf becomes a fetish.

Elghobashy is wearing leggings in the photo. I think she represents people like me. International-minded, young, modern Muslims who want to go out and study and work and play. We need different images of Islam.

I got different responses from men when I chose to wear a head scarf rather than a short skirt. It created a kind of distance. But I still have my sexuality in my own hands. I can be very flirtatious, go out and meet a man — but I decide in what mode I want to be. I can be focused on my spirituality, prayers and study without distraction, or I can have a period when I choose to be sexy even in a head scarf through how I act or speak. I feel I have more power and independence vis-à-vis men now.

Norma Moore:

I am a deeply religious person. I don’t have a label to attach to my faith, but it is there nonetheless at the core of my being. I believe that God created me and created me with love as I am — just as God creates every other person. When I put on the hijab in Iran and the shapeless tunics I experience an attempt to deny how I have been made — an attempt to neutralize me.

It has made me afraid. I started this trip almost completely covered by my hijab. Before coming I practiced with the help of an internet video so that no trace of hair or neck or calf would show and make me vulnerable to stares or the humiliation of being chastised. I had come here voluntarily and accepted the terms of admission, so I began the trip in a willing state of submission.

But then the weather got hot — very hot. I got overheated and all I could think about was tearing this hijab off. I felt suffocated. I thought how I wouldn’t let an animal suffocate like this. If my animal were covered like this and suffering I would tear the fabric off out of simple decency.

My hair, the curves in my body, were given to me by God. To cover my head and wear shapeless clothes feels like I am pretending not to be a woman and that somehow I am responsible for keeping men’s sexuality within social bounds.

I just can’t wrap my head around God making me responsible for men’s sexuality.

The Olympics volleyball photograph is tantalizing. The few inches between the women’s hands may as well be a chasm. More than once I have heard Iranian imams, with preposterous certainty, equate flimsy women’s attire in the West with decadence and prostitution. To Western sensibilities, the covered Muslim woman must de facto be the disempowered woman awaiting liberation.

Reality is many-shaded. Elghobashy wears an anklet of colored beads. The only colors on Walkenhorst are those of the German flag. Who is to say which of the women is more conservative, more of a feminist or more liberated? We do not know. What we do know is that we need more events that provoke us to ask such questions and discard tired certainties that may be no more than dangerous caricatures.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

A crazed gunman’s attack on an Orlando club in June, killing 49 people, resulted in blanket news coverage and national trauma.

Now imagine that such a massacre unfolds more than five times a day, seven days a week, unceasingly for five years, totaling perhaps 470,000 deaths. That is Syria. Yet even as the Syrian and Russian governments commit war crimes, bombing hospitals and starving civilians, President Obama and the world seem to shrug.

I admire Obama for expanding health care and averting a nuclear crisis with Iran, but allowing Syria’s civil war and suffering to drag on unchallenged has been his worst mistake, casting a shadow over his legacy. It is also a stain on all of us, analogous to the indifference toward Jewish refugees in the 1930s, to the eyes averted from Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur in the 2000s.

This is a crisis that cries out for American leadership, and Obama hasn’t shown enough.

In fairness, Obama is right to be cautious about military involvement, and we don’t know whether the more assertive approaches favored by Hillary Clinton, Gen. David Petraeus and many others would have been more effective. But I think Obama and Americans in general are mistaken when they seem to suggest: It’s horrible what’s going on over there, but there’s just nothing we can do.

“There are many things we can be doing now,” James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told me. “We can do many things to create security in selected areas, protect and stabilize those safe zones and allow them to rebuild their own country even as the conflict continues in other parts of the country.”

Cartwright, who has been called Obama’s favorite general, acknowledges that his proposal for safe zones carries risks and that the American public should be prepared for a long project, a decade or more. But he warns that the risks of doing nothing in Syria are even greater.

Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, agrees that we can do more, like set up safe zones. She emphasizes that the U.S. should be very careful in using force so as not to make problems worse, but she adds that on balance, “We should be prepared to try and create these humanitarian areas.”

This critique is bipartisan. Kori Schake, director of defense strategy in the George W. Bush White House, says, “Yes, there is something that we can do.” Her recommendation is for safe zones modeled on Operation Provide Comfort, which established the highly successful no-fly-zone in northern Iraq in 1991 after the first Gulf war.

Many experts recommend trying to ground Syria’s Air Force so it can no longer drop barrel bombs on hospitals and civilians. One oft-heard idea is to fire missiles from outside Syria to crater military runways to make them unusable.

One aim of such strategies is to increase the odds of a negotiated end to the war. Obama’s reticence has robbed Secretary of State John Kerry, who is valiantly trying to negotiate a lasting Syrian cease-fire, of leverage. The U.S. was able to get an Iran deal because it held bargaining chips, while in Syria we have relinquished all clout. And Obama’s dithering has had a real cost, for any steps in Syria are far more complex now that Russia is in the war.

Two years ago, Obama faced another daunting challenge: an impending genocide of Yazidi on Mount Sinjar near the Iraq-Syria border. He intervened with airstrikes and may have saved tens of thousands of lives. It was a flash of greatness for which he did not get enough credit — and which he has not repeated.

While caution within Syria is understandable, Obama’s lack of public global leadership in pushing to help its refugees who are swamping Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey is harder to explain. The international appeal for Syrians this year is only 41 percent funded.

“If you care about extremism, you’ve got 200,000 Syrian kids growing up in Lebanon with no education,” notes David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary, now head of the International Rescue Committee.

Perhaps it’s unfair to reproach Obama when other politicians and other countries are also unmoved — and the U.S. has been generous with financial aid — but ultimately the buck stops on Obama’s desk. He will host a summit meeting on refugees next month and I hope will seize that chance to provide the global leadership needed to address the crisis.

I met recently with two brave American doctors who, at great personal risk, used their vacation time to sneak into Aleppo, Syria, to care for children injured by barrel bombs. They described working in a makeshift underground hospital and their quiet fury at the world’s nonchalance.

“Sitting idly by and allowing a government and its allies to systematically and deliberately bomb, torture and starve hundreds of thousands of people to death, that is not the solution,” Dr. Samer Attar, a surgeon from Chicago, told me. “Silence, apathy, indifference and inaction aren’t going to make it go away.”

And last but not least we have Ms. Collins:

If you’re a Republican politician, announcing you’re not going to vote for Donald Trump is a little like declaring that you’re not going to rob a bank to finance your next campaign. Really, you don’t get any credit unless you say what you’re going to do instead.

“I truly don’t know,” said Senator Susan Collins unhelpfully.

Collins made news this week when she penned an op-ed for The Washington Post, announcing that she couldn’t support her party’s nominee because “Mr. Trump’s lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so.”

It’s tough being a high-profile Republican these days. People are always demanding to know what you think about your candidate’s latest horrific remark. But unless you come up with an alternative, disavowing a candidate is more like a sulk than a solution.

There’s been a lot of this going around. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, an early evacuee from the Trump train, said he was going to wait until October to deal with the problem. Senator Lindsey Graham said he might “just pass — I may write somebody in.” Mark Kirk, who’s generally regarded as the Senator Most Likely to Be Defeated in November, gave Illinois voters an excellent example of his leadership capacity when he announced that he was going to write in David Petraeus or maybe Colin Powell.

Obviously, all these people are trying to avoid taking responsibility for Donald Trump without being accused of betraying their party. But it’s very strange to hear elected officials embracing various versions of a don’t-vote strategy. Nobody knows better than they do that politics is a world of imperfect choices.

Collins freely admits that she’s worked well with Hillary Clinton in the past. But she ruled out voting for the Democrat, telling CNN that Clinton wanted to spend too much money. (“Promises of free this and free that, that I believe would bankrupt our country.”) Faced with a choice between a guy who could compromise national security and a woman who wants universal early childhood education, the former chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee claimed to be at a loss for an answer.

Here’s the bottom line: There are only three things you can do when it comes time to elect a president. You can stay home and punt; you can choose between the two major party candidates; or you can cop out by doing something that looks like voting but has no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the race.

That includes strategies about writing in the name of a retired general, leaving the top line blank, or voting for a third-party candidate who has as much chance of winning as the YouTube Keyboard Cat.

The only third party that might have a line on all state ballots is the Libertarian, whose platform includes eliminating Social Security, ending gun control and wiping out drug laws. This year’s Libertarian candidate is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Johnson does not seem to agree with the platform on many points, but to be honest, he’s not the world’s greatest explainer. Libertarians like the idea of a charisma-free candidate, since he’d be incapable of getting much done.

But truly, this is a silly choice. Voting for Johnson is exactly the same as staying home, except that it involves going outdoors. Ditto for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a doctor who appears to have a rather ambiguous attitude toward childhood vaccinations.

Susan Collins said she could support the Libertarian ticket if only it had been reversed, with vice-presidential candidate William Weld on top. You can’t totally dislike Weld, who once told me that being governor of Massachusetts was pretty much a walk in the park. (“I used to go on vacation for a week at a time and I wouldn’t even call in.”) However, he’s been out of office for nearly 20 years. He is not the presidential candidate. And the Libertarians are never, repeat, never going to be elected.

Right now we live in a world that’s been messed up by the bad decisions George W. Bush made about invading Iraq. He was elected president in 2000 thanks to a few hundred votes in Florida. A state where Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes.

Most of the Green voters undoubtedly thought they were showing their disdain for both Bush and the deeply imperfect candidacy of Al Gore. And Nader is a man of fine principles. But look where those 97,488 votes got us.

Nader himself doesn’t feel guilty. I talked to him on the phone the other day, and he argued, basically, that if Gore couldn’t win his home state of Tennessee, it’s not Nader’s fault that he couldn’t win Florida.

And he’s not voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in November. “They’re not alike,” he said, “but they’re both terrible.”

Ralph goddam Nader should be stuffed in a barrel with 10 pounds of sharp scrap iron and rolled down a steep hill.

Collins, solo

August 6, 2016

In “Desperately Avoiding Donald” Ms. Collins says Trumpian drama dominates some of the more competitive Senate races.  Here she is:

Look, there’s a limit to how long we can talk about Donald Trump. Let’s talk about the big Senate races.

Which are all about Donald Trump! There’s Ohio, where Republican Senator Rob (Endorsed Donald Trump) Portman is in a fight for his political life. And New Hampshire, where Republican Senator Kelly (Didn’t Say “Endorse”) Ayotte is in trouble.

In Pennsylvania, embattled Republican Senator Pat Toomey published an opinion piece last spring taking his own Trumpian temperature: “There could come a point at which the differences are so great as to be irreconcilable.” Still not quite at the tipping point. Nearly there last week, with that thing about the grieving parents of the Muslim war hero, but still teetering.

The Democrats just need to win a few seats to get control of the Senate. Most of the contests will depend on what happens at the top of the ticket. But there are a few they could probably win even if Trump astonishes America with his policy riffs during the debates and Hillary Clinton is discovered cooking meth in the back of her campaign bus. For instance, there’s Wisconsin, where former Senator Russ Feingold is trying to reclaim his seat from businessman Ron Johnson, who grabbed it during the tidal wave of Republican victories in 2010.

Of all the people who slid in that year, Johnson is perhaps the most pathetic. This is the guy whose campaign sent out a tweet mourning the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, featuring a picture of an actor who had played Scalia onstage. He once called Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, who is of Indian heritage, an “immigrant.” Decried “The Lego Movie” as an “insidious” piece of anticapitalist propaganda. Referred to public school students as “idiot inner-city kids.” And once, in an attempt to prove the globe wasn’t really warming, said Greenland got its name because “it was actually green at one point.”

Those of you who complain every four years that the entire presidential election seems to be all about a handful of states will be thrilled to know those swing states tend to be exactly the same places that have the biggest Senate races.

In Florida, Marco Rubio — the man who helped give us Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee — is back. During the primary campaign, you will remember, Rubio described the Senate as the most useless place in the world. True, during his first term he’d been absent for about a trillion votes — but who cared? Nothing that happened there mattered anyhow. When asked about the possibility of running again, the state’s extremely junior senator irritably tweeted that he had already “said like 10,000 times” he was not going back, never, ever.

He then announced he was seeking re-election. Due to a discovery of important improvements in the menu at the Senate dining room.

No, not really. This is serious stuff, people. Rubio had a good explanation. Which was: “I changed my mind.”

To take Rubio on, the Florida Democrats will have to choose between Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal who’s sometimes described as, um, outspoken, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, a boring moderate.  Grayson has had a few problems lately — like a House Ethics Committee inquiry into a $16 million hedge fund he was running. And the allegations that he had physically abused his former wife. And that his new wife will be running for his House seat. It is impossible to express how much everybody in the Democratic establishment wants Murphy to win this primary.

Floridians, do you get tired of all this political drama? Do you know what it’s like to be a voter in New York, where the Senate race is Chuck Schumer versus The Woman Who Got 25 Percent Last Time Around? Plus you have endless beaches and sunny weather. The rest of us can only find comfort in recalling that there are also sharks, house-eating sinkholes and traffic jams when all those presidential candidates come crawling around, begging for affection.

And New Hampshire — we have to spend half the winter talking about New Hampshire because it gets to have the first presidential primary until the end of time. Now it’s also got a big Senate race, which features incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. Ayotte is dancing around the Donald Trump issue, claiming she plans to vote for him but does not endorse him. Which is sort of like saying you’re going to marry the guy but do not intend to take him to the prom.

Trump responded by calling her “weak.” Is that fair? Well, he did that during the same week that he told a crowd he’d seen a “top secret” video of American money “pouring off a plane” in Iran. When in reality he had just watched some film on TV of another thing entirely.

This election is so ungodly, the senators are lucky we even notice they’re around.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

August 4, 2016

In “Trump Reflects White Male Fragility” Mr. Blow says that if you support Trump, you support his bigotry and racism.  Just like all but a handful of Republicans…  In “Donald Trump and a C.I.A. Officer Walk Into a Room” Mr. Kristof asks us to imagine being a fly on the wall at his first intelligence briefing.  In “Intervening Donald” Ms. Collins says Trump has had plenty to say while Republicans try to get him to stick to a message that could get him elected.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Reports of Donald Trump’s demise are an exaggeration, to paraphrase and repurpose Mark Twain.

Yes, he can’t stop shooting off his mouth and shooting himself in the foot, and there are reports that his messy campaign is nearing the point of mutiny.

Yes, he knows nearly nothing about world affairs and that becomes ever more apparent every time he stumbles through an interview. Sir, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, the same year you filmed your last installment of your reality game show “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Yes, his continued feud with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier may be the most ill advised and foolhardy folly in recent political memory (Trump keeps racking these up.) This is the same man who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, one for “bone spurs in his heels” according to The New York Times. While throngs of his contemporaries were fighting — and dying – in battle, Trump was being featured on the front page of The Times after he and his father were sued by the Department of Justice for anti-black bias in their rental properties.

Three years later, The Times profiled him with a backhanded compliment of the nouveau riche: “He rides around town in a chauffeured silver Cadillac with his initials, DJT, on the plates. He dates slinky fashion models, belongs to the most elegant clubs and, at only 30 years of age, estimates that he is worth ‘more than $200 million.’”

Yes, he doesn’t seem to know the difference between Tim Kaine, the Democratic Virginia senator whom Hillary Clinton tapped as her running mate, and Tom Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey who last held that office 26 years ago, the same year Trump boasted in his book “Surviving at the Top,” “I’ve never had any trouble in bed,” and counseled in Vanity Fair, “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass — a good one! — there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.”

Yes, yes, yes.

But Donald Trump is bigger than all of this, or shall I say, smaller.

He appeals to something deeper, something baser: Fear. His whole campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is in fact an inverted admission of loss — lost primacy, lost privilege, lost prestige.

And who feels that they have lost the most? White men.

As the New York Times’ Upshot pointed out in July, “According to our estimates, Mrs. Clinton is doing better among basically every group of voters except for white men without a degree.” Put another way: “Hillary Clinton is largely performing as well or better than Barack Obama did in 2012, except among white men without a degree.”

Indeed, a Monday report in The Times put it this way: “A New York Times/CBS News poll two weeks ago found that white men preferred her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, to Mrs. Clinton almost two to one, 55 percent to 29 percent.”

These are the voters keeping Trump’s candidacy alive.

He appeals to a regressive, patriarchal American whiteness in which white men prospered, in part because racial and ethnic minorities, to say nothing of women as a whole, were undervalued and underpaid, if not excluded altogether.

White men reigned supreme in the idealized history, and all was good with the world. (It is curious that Trump never specifies a period when America was great in his view. Did it overlap with the women’s rights, civil rights or gay rights movements? For whom was it great?)

Trump’s wall is not practical, but it is metaphor. Trump’s Muslim ban is not feasible, but it is metaphor. Trump’s huge deportation plan isn’t workable, but it is metaphor.

There is a portion of the population that feels threatened by unrelenting change — immigration, globalization, terrorism, multiculturalism — and those people want someone to, metaphorically at least, build a wall around their cultural heritage, which they conflate in equal measure with American heritage.

In their minds, whether explicitly or implicitly, America is white, Christian, straight and male-dominated. If you support Trump, you are on some level supporting his bigotry and racism. You don’t get to have a puppy and not pick up the poop.

And acceptance of racism is an act of racism. You are convicted by your complicity.

I am not accustomed to dancing around an issue; I prefer to call it what it is. I prefer to shine a bright light on it until it withers. Supporting Trump is indefensible and it makes you as much of a pariah as he is.

As Toni Morrison once told Charlie Rose:

“Don’t you understand that the people who do this thing, who practice racism, are bereft? There is something distorted about the psyche. It’s a huge waste, and it’s a corruption, and a distortion. Its like it’s a profound neurosis that nobody examines for what it is.”

That stops here, today. For as long as racism and tribalism and xenophobia exist in this country, Trump’s foibles will not signal his ultimate failure. But let’s not let off the people who prop him up, claiming that they’re simply being party loyalists, or Hillary haters or having Supreme Court concerns.

Trump is a mirror. He is a reflection of — indeed a revealing of — the ugliness that you harbor, only it is possible that you may have gone your life expressing it in ways that were more coded and politic. Trump is an unfiltered primal scream of the fragility and fear consuming white male America.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The government is arranging classified intelligence briefings for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to prepare them for the White House. This longstanding practice of briefing nominees is controversial this year: Senator Harry Reid has urged the C.I.A. to give Trump a “fake” briefing, while House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Clinton can’t handle classified material. But what would a Trump briefing look like, anyway?

“Mr. Trump, I’m Gene Smith from the C.I.A.”

“Smith, huh? Is that your code name? You know, I know a huge amount about the C.I.A., more than most C.I.A. directors. A terrific, beautiful, very good organization.”

“Actually, Smith is my real name. Anyway, let’s get started with China and our assessment that Xi is much more aggressive than Hu.”

“She is more aggressive than who?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, I’d like to meet her. I like aggressive women. She sounds like a 10.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. That aggressive woman.”

“I’m not sure I understand. Anyway, in China we assess with high confidence that Xi will continue this aggressive nationalistic ——”

“She sounds hot. No, I’m just joking. But, seriously, women love me.”

“Mr. Trump, Xi is a man, president of China.”

“She is a man? China’s president is trans? Boy, they’re more modern than I realized — I mean, I knew that. I know so much about China. You should see me use chopsticks! Did I ever tell you about this hot Chinese girl I once dated? She was so modern, and built like ——”

“Mr. Trump! We expect China will maintain its nationalistic claims in the South China Sea ——”

“Oh, don’t worry. I have lots of Chinese friends. I love Chinese food. Best pad Thai in the world at Trump Tower. So what’s your take, what do the Chinese think of me?”

“We assess with high confidence that the Chinese leadership wants you to win the election.”

“I’m not surprised. There are very, very bad reporters at completely and totally failing newspapers that nobody reads who say I might start a trade war. But China wants me to win the election! Amazing! So why does she want me to win, that transsexual president of theirs?”

“Xi is not trans! Xi would like you to win because alliance management is not your priority, and your presidency could lead to an unprecedented decline in U.S. influence.”

“Unprecedented! Amazing! So the Chinese think that I’d be unprecedented? Who else likes me?”

“Well, North Korea has already officially endorsed you, Mr. Trump. It called you ‘prescient’ and ‘wise.’”

“‘Present and wise!’ They love me! And Russia loves me, too. Putin and I go way back. We’re like this” — Trump knits his fingers together — “and after I’m elected I hope to finally meet him.”

“Yes, we believe that President Putin is backing you.”

“Putin the Pro. Not like Little Ukraine. Sad!”

“Well, Putin believes that NATO might collapse in your presidency and that he would have a freer hand in Ukraine and the Baltics.”

“The Baltics, I know them better than anybody! Melania is from Slovenia. Some people say I leaked those amazing pictures of her to The New York Post. Why would I do that? Did you see them? Here ——”

“Mr. Trump! And you mean the Balkans, even though Slovenia isn’t ——”

“Balkans, Baltics — I don’t get bogged down in details. I’m a strategy guy. Now what about ISIS? I know more about ISIS than the generals do. But I’d like to hear your take. Are they supporters?”

“We assess that they are supporting you in the belief that you help recruitment. Indeed, we fear that they may conduct a terror strike in hopes of helping you get elected.”

“Everybody’s supporting me! What about the Middle East? I’ll probably do a peace deal — I’m a terrific deal maker, you know that? I’ll probably get a Nobel Peace Prize to go with my new Purple Heart.”

“Well, sir, the Middle East is complicated ——”

“The Middle East is a complete and total disaster. They don’t respect us. What about nuclear weapons? If we have nukes, why not use em?”

“Sir, we only offer intel, not policy advice. But ——”

“Shouldn’t we just drop a few nukes on those Kurds?”

“The Kurds? In Syria, they’re our only effective ally.”

“They’re doing bad things. Very bad things. I saw it on a Sunday show.”

“Oh, you mean … the Quds Force?”

“Kurds, Quds, what’s the difference? If I give the order to bomb ’em, you guys can sweat the details. Call Mike Pence.”

“But you’re running to be ——”

“Anyway, tell me about internet security. I’m a little bored. How about we hack into the phone of Miss Sweden and check out her selfies? When I’m elected I’m going to have a whole team on that. …”

What’s the over/under on how long it will take him to tweet something classified?  And now we get to Ms. Collins:

Do you think it’s true that the Republicans are trying to get Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich to do an intervention with an out-of-control Donald Trump?

This is the best rumor of the summer, so let’s hope so. If they televised it, no one in the world would be watching the Olympics.

And it does tell you something that Giuliani and Gingrich are supposed to be the voices of moderation and self-control in the campaign. The former mayor who told a press conference that he was going to end his marriage before he told his wife. And the former House speaker who once presided over a government shutdown, which he seemed to attribute to the bad seat he got on Air Force One.

“The campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well united,” Trump himself fibbed at a rally in Florida on Wednesday.

He was introduced by a retired general who announced that the rally was “an intervention of the people of this country.” This was the same retired general who recently got in trouble for retweeting an anti-Semitic message.

As usual, Trump spent a good chunk of his speech explaining how unjust his critics are. He was outraged, for instance, that he could have been charged with being unsympathetic to people with disabilities when he’s “spent millions of dollars on ramps” for his buildings.

He also took the opportunity of the Florida visit to brag about having been endorsed by “the great Brian France,” the head of Nascar. Who got the top job upon the retirement of the previous C.E.O., who happened to be Brian France’s father.

Wouldn’t you think Trump would be a little bit embarrassed to preen over the backing of another … heir? But he’s never met a sports celebrity he doesn’t like. This was a guy who boasted that he’d been endorsed by Mike Tyson, convicted rapist. Who really, really wanted to put Don King, the boxing promoter, on the convention speakers’ list. It apparently took quite a bit of persuasion to convince the candidate that it was not a good idea to publicize his friendship with a man who was once convicted of manslaughter for stomping someone to death.

You can’t deny that Trump has kept his promise to run a whole new kind of campaign. Just a week into the general election race and he’s already gotten into an ongoing fight with the parents of a slain war hero, arguing that he had “made a lot of sacrifices” himself. Plus refused to endorse the speaker of the House in a meaningless primary. Plus humiliated a woman with a crying baby.

Things are getting exhausting, aren’t they? I’m prepared to take a couple of questions.

During the fight with the parents of the slain war hero, remind me exactly what Trump claimed his sacrifices for the country were?

Oh, you know, building … buildings. And raising massive amounts of money for veterans. Only the first of which is entirely true.

And what about the crying baby?

Yeah, there was a baby crying at one of the rallies. Trump took the trouble to point it out to the hundreds of people in his audience. “Don’t worry about that baby,” he told the mother. “I love babies.” Wouldn’t you presume he was serious? The worst politician in the country would not be sarcastic about a baby. Rudy Giuliani would not be sarcastic about a baby. Bada-bing: “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here.” And then he made fun of the mother for believing him.

Now that he’s been criticized, he’ll probably start pointing out that Mar-a-Lago doesn’t discriminate against pregnant women.

I live in California and all I can think about is this election. But the only voters who count seem to be in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania! How can that be fair?

Look, normally I’d be sympathetic, what with living in New York and all. But we’ve got a presidential nominee here who apparently didn’t know the Russians had invaded Ukraine until George Stephanopoulos broke the news to him on national television. There are problems larger than the value of your itty-bitty ballot.

Trump keeps saying the election is going to be rigged. Do you think he’s looking for an excuse to drop out

No, I’m just worried that he’s preparing his excuse for when he loses. You do not want this to end with Donald Trump telling his supporters — many of whom appear to have a minimum of 20 guns in the basement — that he was robbed. In the Florida speech he did warn the audience to beware of “people voting 10 times.”

O.K., that’s scaring me.

Let’s have some faith in the electorate. I believe most Americans, when given the choice between explaining the outcome with election fraud or “kept making fun of mothers,” will know which way to go.

Blow, Kristof and Collins

July 28, 2016

Mr. Blow is “Incandescent With Rage” and says that with the dropped charges in Baltimore, America is edging closer to telling people like him that the eye of justice isn’t blind but jaundiced.  Mr. Kristof wonders “Did Putin Try to Steal an American Election?”  He says the evidence from the hacking of the Democratic committee’s computers points to Russia, and it had reason to favor Trump.  In “Hillary on the March” Ms. Collins is giving a hand to the women who went before the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

No one need ask me anymore about how to heal the racial divide in America. No one need inquire about the path forward beyond racial strife. You will not be put at ease by my response.

James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Well, I am now incandescent with rage and at my wits’ end about how to responsibly aim it and morally marshal it.

I am at the screaming place.

Following three acquittals of officers in the death of Freddie Gray — which was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner! — Baltimore prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all remaining charges against the other officers awaiting trial.

Yet another black man’s body broken without anyone’s being called to account, another soul lingering on the other side of the grave without justice on this side of the living. No officer has been convicted in the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and dozens more. Indeed, according to Mapping Police Violence, “only 10 of the 102 cases in 2015 where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime, and only 2 of these deaths (Matthew Ajibade and Eric Harris) resulted in convictions of officers involved.”

What are we to make of this? What are we to take from it?

In other killings — whether they be domestic or inter-community or directed at law enforcement officers — no matter how tragic the circumstances, or perhaps because of the tragedy, the full force of the law is brought to bear, and we can point to a track record of justice, at least to some degree.

But not in these cases.

Into what frame am I supposed to position this to make it palatable? How can I wrap my head around it in a way to make it rational and right?

It is impossible, and indeed unreasonable, to expect me to do so. I deserve to be angry. I deserve to survey the system that thrusts so many officers and black and brown people into contact in the first place, and be disgusted. I deserve to examine the biases that are exposed in officer/citizen encounters, and be disgusted. I deserve to take account of an utterly racially biased criminal justice system, and be disgusted.

America’s streets are filled with cries of “black lives matter,” and America continues to insist through its actions in these cases that they don’t, that that is a lamentation of hopeful ideals rather than a recitation of a national reality.

My fingers ache as I type this. I want to pound this keyboard. I want to delete until all the characters disappear, to make the pain of it simply vanish behind a retreating cursor, but it’s just not that easy. These words are all I have left. This agony pouring out of me onto the screen is all I have.

And I take no solace in the lip service generated by politicians and their parties to rectify this situation.

I have been to two national party conventions in as many weeks and with everything I hear, my cynicism grows.

Last week in Cleveland, the Republican Party delivered an unabashed affront to the movement for black lives as it took every opportunity to diminish black loss, as if there was an inherent conflict between valuing police lives and valuing the lives of the black and brown people who are policed. Donald Trump himself delivered a heavily coded speech in which he repeatedly asserted that he would be the “law and order” candidate, but never spoke of the equally important issue of imposing some order on the law.

The Democratic convention has been different and better in many ways — particularly about elevating the issue and using proper language — but even here I remain leery of empty platitudes over actual policies.

The Mothers of the Movement — black women who have lost children to gun violence — took the stage on Tuesday night and delivered a powerful and moving address to those in the hall and across America. But even this makes me a bit uneasy.

While I applaud and commend the mothers for taking every opportunity to campaign for justice for their children and to champion policies that would prevent other mothers from ever being thrust into their position, I’m also incredibly aware of the using nature of politicians and how they try to politicize other people’s pain for their own self-aggrandizement.

Justice doesn’t live on the left or right side of the ideological spectrum. Justice lives on the side of righteousness.

And then, Bill Clinton, who I found more beguiling than many, apparently, took the stage and shifted the burden of dismantling oppression from the shoulders of the oppressors to the shoulders of the oppressed, saying:

“If you’re a young African-American disillusioned and afraid, we saw in Dallas how great our police officers can be. Help us build a future where nobody is afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future.”

I am exhausted. I am repulsed. I am over all the circular dialogue. But I don’t know precisely where that leaves me other than in a hurt and festering place. America is edging ever closer to telling people like me that the eye of justice isn’t blind but jaundiced, and I say back to America, that is incredibly dangerous.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Some foreign leaders settle for stealing billions of dollars. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, may have wanted to steal something even more valuable: an American presidential election.

As our election takes a turn that could be drawn from a Cold War spy novel (except it would be too implausible), Putin has an obvious favorite in the race: Donald Trump. “It’s crystal clear to me” that Putin favors Trump, says Michael McFaul, a Stanford professor who was ambassador to Russia until 2014. “If I were Putin, I would rather deal with Trump, too, given the things he has said about foreign policy.”

Look, Democratic Party leaders exchanged inappropriate emails showing bias for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, and a hacker’s disclosure has properly triggered a ruckus. But that scandal pales beside an effort apparently by a foreign dictatorship to disrupt an American presidential election.

It also seems scandalous to me that Trump on Wednesday effectively invited Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers for deleted emails from when she was secretary of state, saying at a press conference, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Yes, Trump is entertaining. But increasingly, the antonym of “gravitas” is “Trump.” Clinton could have responded by inviting Russia to hack into Trump’s computers and release his tax returns; she didn’t because the hack would be illegal and her plea would be unpresidential.

In his press conference, Trump also cast doubt on the idea that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers. “It’s probably not Russia,” he said, suggesting it might be China, or “some guy with a 200 I.Q.”

So let’s go through the evidence.

America’s intelligence agencies have assessed with “high confidence” that Russia’s government was behind the hack, and private security companies have identified two Russian teams of hackers that were inside D.N.C. computers. One team is called Cozy Bear and is linked to the F.S.B., the successor to the K.G.B., and another is called Fancy Bear and is linked to the G.R.U., or Russian military intelligence. Cyber experts are very familiar with both Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

The next question is whether Russia was also behind the release of the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. Someone using the name Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be behind the hack, denied Russian involvement and claimed to be Romanian — but wrote Romanian badly. ThreatConnect, a private security firm, issued a meticulous report showing that Guccifer used a Russia-based VPN (virtual private network) service and displayed other “heavy traces of Russian activity.”

“Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian propaganda effort,” ThreatConnect concluded.

After talking to experts, I have the sense that there’s considerable confidence that Russia is the culprit, but more doubt about whether Putin gave the order and about whether the aim was to benefit Trump or simply to create havoc.

“I think the most likely explanation is that someone in Russian intelligence, probably very high up, decided to help Donald Trump,” said Benjamin Wittes, a security expert at the Brookings Institution, but he added that there’s no solid evidence for this.

One reason for caution is that history shows that “intelligence community” is sometimes an oxymoron. In the 1980s, the United States accused Russia of conducting chemical warfare in Southeast Asia, citing “yellow rain” in jungles there. Years later, it turned out that this “yellow rain” may have actually been bee excrement.

Democrats should be particularly wary of hinting that Trump is some sort of conscious pawn of the Russians, or is controlled by Moscow through financial investments. It’s true that his son Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008 that “we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” But do you really think that if Trump were an agent he would have exaggerated his ties, as he did last year, saying of Putin, “I got to know him very well”? In fact, Trump acknowledged Wednesday, he has never even met Putin.

The reason Moscow favors Trump isn’t some conspiracy. It’s simply that Putin dislikes Clinton, while Trump’s combination of international ignorance and catastrophic policies would benefit Putin. In particular, Trump’s public doubts about NATO renounce more than half a century of bipartisan orthodoxy on how to deal with Russia, and undermine the Western alliance that checks Putin.

One nightmare of security specialists is Russia provoking unrest among ethnic Russians in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania and then using rioting as an excuse to intervene. NATO members would be obliged to respond, but frankly it’s not clear that they would — and Trump’s loose rhetoric increases the risk of paralysis and a collapse of the alliance.

In that sense, Trump poses a national security risk to the West, and that’s reason enough Putin would be thrilled to see him elected president.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Now, everybody wears the pants in the family.

While the Democrats have been celebrating the nomination of Hillary Clinton, I’ve been thinking about all the American women, from the 1600s through World War II, who got arrested for wearing trousers in public. You’d like to imagine them out there somewhere watching those Clinton pantsuits, exchanging high-fives. Ditto all the women who supported the deeply uncomfortable bloomer movement, in the name of a feminist future.

The idea of the first-woman-major-party-nominee is a political event, but it’s also a historical marker. Once everyone leaves here and goes home, we probably won’t have much chance to talk about that angle. Really, there’s going to be a lot of other stuff on the agenda. The Democrats hadn’t even gotten to Clinton’s acceptance speech before everyone was distracted by Donald Trump encouraging the Russians to spy on his opponent.

It’s also becoming clear that the campaign is so fixated on those ever-elusive white males that many Democrats would prefer to forget Susan B. Anthony and talk about Babe Ruth. That’s political life. But just give us a little more time to dwell.

I’d like to think that somewhere, all the women who worked for this moment through American history are watching and nodding happily. Like the sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who really don’t get enough mention. They were the daughters of a wealthy pre-Civil War South Carolina slave owner who figured out on their own, when they were hardly more than babies, that the system was wrong. (When Sarah was about 4 she went to the docks and asked a sea captain to take her to a place where whipping was prohibited.)

They went north, became lecturers, and there was something about their earnest, sweet, humorless determination that allowed them to get away with the political equivalent of murder. They trotted around the country, speaking for abolition and women’s rights to audiences that — shockingly — included men.

You had your occasional torch-bearing protesters, but for the most part, they triumphed by simply ignoring the possibility of bad outcomes. Angelina wound up marrying a dashing fellow abolitionist, Theodore Weld, to the amazement of Americans who had never conceived that an advocate of equal rights for women could ever find a husband.

Give the Grimkes a hand. And pick your own nominees to go with them.

Even if Hillary wins the White House, there will still be political worlds for women to conquer. While Bill Clinton gave the most supportive spousal speech conceivable at the convention, the fact that our first female presidential nominee is married to a former president is a bit of a downer for some people.

There’s a sense of cutting corners. But it was probably inevitable. The annals of first-ever female elected officials is pretty much a list of wives of congressmen, senators and governors who stepped in when their husbands died — or, occasionally, got indicted.

Some, to be honest, were embarrassing placeholders. But others were tireless public servants.

The greatest, pre-Hillary, may have been Margaret Chase Smith, whose husband, Clyde, was a Republican representative from Maine. (According to Ellen Fitzpatrick’s book “The Highest Glass Ceiling,” he was also a chronic womanizer who died of advanced syphilis.) Margaret had been running the congressman’s office and meeting with his constituents for a long time, and made it clear she didn’t intend to just sit in his seat.

She moved up to the Senate, took on Joe McCarthy Communist hysteria, fought for women’s rights and bipartisanship. Smith ran for president herself in 1964 — the first woman regarded as a genuine contestant by either of the major parties. At the time, commentators had little compunction about suggesting she was, as one Los Angeles Times writer contended, “beyond the optimum years for the presidency.” Smith was 66 at the time.

So Clinton, who is 68, has won one for Margaret Chase Smith. Also for the generations of American women who were described, as one 18th-century visitor from France put it, as “charming and adorable at fifteen, faded at twenty-three, old at thirty-five, decrepit at forty.”

The story keeps moving on. While Clinton was the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from New York, she was succeeded by Kirsten Gillibrand, a young and wildly energetic Democrat who came from a home where women were the family politicians. She had already attracted national notice when she went into labor after sitting through a 13-hour meeting of the Armed Services Committee.

But things still aren’t equal. We’ve made it to a point where a woman who’s been first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state can win a presidential nomination. Now let’s see how long it takes for someone who’s a little less overqualified to get the nod.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has made history. So here she comes, wearing her pants, ready to run.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

July 21, 2016

In “Making America Safe for Whom?” Mr. Blow says Republicans are holding their convention just 10 minutes away from where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot in the stomach.  Mr. Kristof ponders “What Republicans Really Think About Trump” and says bigot, madman, bully, fraud and serial philanderer are just a sampling of the terms used by influential conservatives.  Ms. Collins, in “Pence Versus Trump Kids,” says Trump’s running mate got the spotlight for a while but got upstaged.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So far, the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been a slapdash spectacle of the absurd, with processions of B-list politicians and Z-list celebrities jockeying for the title of biggest embarrassment.

Tuesday was supposed to follow the theme of “Make America Work Again” — something President Obama has already done to a large degree, for the record — but instead of presenting work programs, policies or proposals, the convention got the vice-presidential also-ran Chris Christie to conduct a Salem witch trial against Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Ben Carson, the retired brain surgeon with permanent brain freeze, tried to link Clinton to Lucifer.

Oh, to what depths has the Grand Old Party descended?

But the first day, the one themed “Make America Safe Again,” was perhaps the most egregious.

Again there was a prosecution of Clinton — and also Obama — more than a promotion of the already too self-promoting standard-bearer. It was an unending stream of fear, outrage and escalating agitation, as if the speakers were tossing chum to sharks. Rather than an expansive vision, they delivered restrictive insecurity. It was philosophically small.

One piece of this message involved the lifting up and honoring of America’s police, shouts of “Blue Lives Matter!” and an unhinged Rudy Giuliani screaming about an alternate universe of race-blind policing.

Recognizing that the police have hard jobs, and, when properly performed, those jobs are both honorable and necessary, is fine. But there is another part of the equation that was barely voiced in the hall, which is the lack of safety that black and brown Americans feel, and indeed experience, when facing the police.

Giuliani’s only hint at this (and the only one I heard from any of the speakers) was this:

“We also reach out. We reach out our arms with understanding and compassion to those who have lost loved ones because of police shootings — some justified, some unjustified.”

It was in no way lost on me that the Republicans are holding their convention in an arena just 10 minutes away from Cudell Recreation Center, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice, playing with a pellet gun in an adjacent park, was shot in the stomach (within two seconds of officers’ arriving on the scene). He later died of his injuries.

Tamir’s ashes now rest in a blue and white marble urn, surrounded by his toys, in a curio cabinet in the dining room of his mother, Samaria. She cannot rest. She cannot be set right. The grand jury for the case declined to indict the officer who killed Tamir.

Independent investigations into the case determined that the officer who shot Tamir had behaved “reasonably.”

But, as Olevia Boykin, Christopher Desir and Jed Rubenfeld pointed out in The New York Times in January:

“Racial bias can affect what seems reasonable. Individuals of all races in America perceive black people as more aggressive and dangerous than white people. Studies show that black people are seen as being physically stronger and less prone to feeling pain than people of other races, and black children are often perceived to be older than they are. When faced with an armed black target, shooters are both more likely to shoot and quicker to shoot than they are when faced with an armed white target. These biases can affect the way we think, judge and act. As a result, force that may seem unreasonable if used against a white person may seem perfectly “reasonable” when used against a black person.”

In April the city of Cleveland settled a wrongful-death suit brought by Tamir’s family for $6 million. And while that money may eventually be able to buy physical comforts, it can’t provide spiritual consolation.

I called Samaria Rice to ask if anyone from the R.N.C. had reached out their arms to her with “understanding and compassion.” Not a one. Especially not Giuliani, who one day after Tamir was shot, told Prof. Michael Eric Dyson (who is black) on “Meet the Press” that white officers wouldn’t be in black neighborhoods “if you weren’t killing each other.” The inclusivity of the “you” racializes that statement. Whom had Dyson killed, or Tamir? No one. The common denominator for murderous proclivities in the former mayor’s mind was coded in melanin.

This erasure of black pain to create space for blue platitudes does not stand. It’s not either/or, but both/and. Too many groups in America now — the police and citizens alike — feel threatened. Tamir and all the other people who have lost their lives in highly questionable police shootings will not simply be shunted aside. There can be no complete healing until there has been some sense of restorative justice.

On Wednesday, I met Samaria for lunch to remember Tamir and discuss how she and her family were doing since the last time I interviewed her for a column on the anniversary of Tamir’s shooting.

She seemed well, but weathered. Tamir’s siblings are in counseling. His sister, who Samaria told me stopped eating after her brother died and lost significant weight, is eating well again.

Samaria herself sounds like a woman on a mission, advocating for her son in particular, but also for “human rights” in general, as she put it, because she fears the normalization of the killings of black people by the police.

Voices like Samaria’s cannot — must not! — be absent from any discussion about keeping America safe. Tamir’s blood cries out for inclusion. His mother’s heart aches for it.

She can never get back what was taken. She can’t rewind the world.

She looked up at me solemnly over lunch and said, “I would like to be normal, and I’m not normal … anymore.” She paused, then continued, “You may be normal, but I’m not.”

Pain and loss are her new normal.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the G.O.P. and in the Trump campaign.

Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.

Pundits like me are gnashing our teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.

So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)

“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.” — Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina

“I don’t think this guy has any more core principles than a Kardashian marriage.” — Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska

“We saw and looked at true hate in the eyes last year in Charleston. I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. That is not a part of our party.” — Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina

“A moral degenerate.” — Peter Wehner, evangelical Christian commentator who served in last three Republican administrations

“Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped,” — Bobby Jindal, former Republican governor of Louisiana

“I won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he isn’t. He isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a truth teller. … I also won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” — Norm Coleman, former Republican senator from Minnesota

“To support Trump is to support a bigot. It’s really that simple.” —Stuart Stevens, chief strategist to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign

“Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey.” — Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise C.E.O. and former national finance co-chairwoman for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign

“I thought he was an embarrassment to my party; I think he’s an embarrassment to my country. … I can’t vote for him.” — Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush

“I would not vote for Trump, clearly. If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” — Mel Martinez, former Republican senator from Florida and former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“The G.O.P., in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism. This troubles me deeply as a Republican, but it troubles me even more as an American. … Never Trump.” — Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under George W. Bush

“Hillary is preferable to Trump, just like malaria is preferable to Ebola. … If it’s Trump-Hillary with no serious third-party option in the fall, as hard as it is for me to believe I am actually writing these words, there is just no question: I’d take a Tums and cast my ballot for Hillary.” — Jamie Weinstein, senior writer, the Daily Caller, a conservative website

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” — Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee for president

“When you’ve got a guy favorably quoting Mussolini, I don’t care what party you’re in, I’m not voting for that guy.” — Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund

“Donald Trump is a scam. Evangelical voters should back away.” — The Christian Post, a popular U.S. evangelical website

“Listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. … The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery. How proud he is. Describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.” — Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas

“A man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences … whose personal record of chicanery and wild rhetoric of bigotry, misogyny and misplaced belligerence are without parallel in the modern history of either major party.” — Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush

“Leaders don’t need to do research to reject Klan support. #NeverTrump” — Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee

“God bless this man” — Daily Stormer, white supremacist website

And you can safely bet your last dime that every single one of those hypocrites will vote for Trump.  Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio … make America great … Mike Pence … unbelievable vice president.

“Welcome to Cleveland,” said Pence. It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich being on strike from the convention. It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great … amazing job. Kids congratulations. Fantastic job.”)

Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and to the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.

The kids have been a relatively heartwarming feature, considering that virtually everybody else, including the conventioneers, has spent a large chunk of time demanding that Hillary Clinton be sent directly to the pokey. (“Lock her up!”)

This is a whole new world when it comes to nominating a president. The candidate pops up all over the place, like Pokémon. When he’s not around, the delegates listen to his relatives, or speakers calling for the imprisonment of his opponent.

Look back nostalgically on the days when you’d hear a description like that and think, maybe, Gambia.

For all the hate-Hillary hysteria, the convention had been a bit of a snooze — until we got to Ted Cruz. He began with a shout-out to LeBron James, then congratulated Trump “on winning the nomination last night.” The emotional high point of the evening came when the enraged delegates realized he was never going to mention the nominee again. You have to hand it to Ted Cruz. His ability to drive people crazy is unparalleled.

By the end of the evening, hating Cruz was almost as popular as hating Hillary. But the latter, of course, has more staying power.

A New Hampshire delegate — who is also a well-known Trump adviser on veterans’ affairs — upped the ante, telling a radio interviewer that Clinton should be “shot for treason.” State Representative Al Baldasaro is what is known as a colorful politician. There is one in every legislature, where “colorful” is a synonym for “stark raving nuts but still repeatedly elected.”

The leader of New Hampshire’s Republican Party called on Baldasaro to take it back, but being a Trumpite means never having to say you’re sorry.

Refusal to apologize is definitely one of the overarching themes of the Cleveland experience. We’d still be debating the Melania’s Cribbed Quotes crisis if a hitherto unknown Trump employee hadn’t finally taken responsibility. (On the plus side, a day and a half of stonewalling gave us the opportunity to hear the Republican spokesman dismiss the whole affair with a quote from Twilight Sparkle in “My Little Pony.”)

But about Mike Pence. His speech is destined to be totally forgotten in the Cruzmania. But he did a grand job of returning the auditorium to the early-evening theme of sleepiness. Every single one of the Trump children turns out to be a more exciting speaker than the prospective vice-president. Tiffany’s story about how Donald wrote notes on her report cards suddenly took on new and compelling dimensions.

Even Pence, however, drew a “Lock her up!” chant from the floor. It’s what they’ve got.

In case you missed it, Pence promised that his new partner would solve all of our problems, from ISIS to the national debt. There was no explanation of how Trump — whose current tax-cutting plan would send the debt soaring like a grand new skyscraper — was going to manage that. This is definitely not a convention that sweats the details.

So far the most interesting look at the Pence-Trump relationship came on “60 Minutes,” when Lesley Stahl asked Pence if he thought that as vice president he’d ever be able to go to his boss and say that he’d “crossed the line” and needed to apologize. Pence stammered desperately until Trump broke in and said: “Absolutely. I might not apologize. … I might not do that. But I would absolutely want him to come in.”

Some people believe the Republican vice-presidential selection is more important than usual because Trump is capable of getting bored with the actual duties of presidency and tossing everything short of declaring nuclear war over to his veep. It’s possible. But of course if that happened, he could just as easily put Donald Jr. in charge.

The one thing we know for sure is that if Trump did something terrible, Pence would have no chance whatsoever to get him to say he’s sorry. But the vice-presidential nominee has total rights to go into his office and be ignored.

Collins, solo

July 16, 2016

In “Trump’s Celebrity Shortage” Ms. Collins has a question:  Could Donald make a deal with a spaceship?  Here she is:

One thing Donald Trump ought to be good at is throwing a celebrity-packed convention, right?

Right?

It’s just about the only thing we should be able to count on. He’s never been in government. His business career includes a string of bankrupt casinos, unpaid bills from small businesses, a smarmy “university” and a rather troubled Scottish golf course. But Donald Trump has always been a guy who knew how to slather on some glitz.

“It’s very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep,” the man himself told The Washington Post.

The list is in, and the celebrities include pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, currently 484th in women’s world rankings, and Dana White, head of a big mixed martial arts organization. Plus Antonio Sabato Jr., former underwear model turned reality TV show regular. And a ton of members of the Trump family.

Trump said he was planning a “winners’ evening” with supporters like New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, who promptly said he wasn’t coming. (Although Brady, who has been banned from playing the first part of the next season would seem to have a lot of time on his hands.) Trump made a similar announcement about the Steelers’ quarterback, with similar results.

Even Tim Tebow, former college star turned failed professional football player turned inspirational speaker, is going to be a no-show. The Trump campaign said he was on the program. Then Tebow, who now runs a charitable foundation, posted an Instagram video bemoaning “rumors.”

Of course, none of us actually cares there aren’t going to be any quarterbacks at the Republican convention. But if Trump can’t negotiate some cheesy diversions, what makes anybody think he can negotiate a new trade deal with China?

And by the way, were you curious about why Sarah Palin wasn’t coming to the convention? Easy answer. The Republican Party’s presumed presidential nominee says it’s because Alaska is too far from Cleveland.

Honest to gosh. “She was asked. It’s a little bit difficult because of where she is. We love Sarah. Little bit difficult because of, you know, it’s a long ways away,” Trump told The Washington Examiner this week.

Saying made-up things is a Trump stock in trade. Many of his fans defend his crazy statements about Muslims or Mexican walls or trade wars with a wave of the hand and a “you know he doesn’t mean it.” But we are getting into Twilight Zone territory here. There’s really no real.

The convention comes after a week in which we watched the drama of Trump’s vice-presidential selection. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the lucky winner. Pence is a social conservative who hews to the Paul Ryan vision of government — low taxes on the rich, free trade and a trimming of the Social Security safety net.

Big relief to the powers that be. But what about all those underemployed, alienated white workers who are expecting an anti-establishment, populist savior?

I dunno. Go ask Tom Brady.

The process by which Trump got to Pence was sort of stunning — several days of familial gatherings, muddied decision-making and an overweening sense that the Big Guy himself just couldn’t nail the decision down.

Tons of Trumps flew to Indiana. An announcement was scheduled. Then canceled. Pence was getting embarrassed. The runners-up, Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, looked pathetic. Time passed. Eventually, Trump gave the rose to Pence via tweet. (“News conference tomorrow at 11:00 A.M.”)

It should have been simple, and it was a monumental screw-up. Obviously, Trump’s not the only candidate who makes mistakes. We’ll be hearing a lot about Hillary and her emails. The difference is that Clinton, like most people at the highest level in the American political system, can balance her disasters with a history of achievements. Trump has, um, Mar-a-Lago.

Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, try to envision President Trump handling a crisis of major proportions. Pretend Wyoming is lifted into a giant spaceship by aliens who demand to speak with our leader.

1. Trump, who is off inspecting a new golf course in Sri Lanka, tweets that he’s sending his top celebrity endorser, Wayne Newton.

2. Newton says no via Facebook.

3. Cabinet meets and votes to send Mike Pence.

4. The president’s inner circle — Trump’s oldest daughter, two oldest sons, a son-in-law and 10-year-old Barron, who knows the most about the construction of spacecraft — hold an emergency meeting. The White House chief of staff is summoned from the basement and dispatched to fire the cabinet

5. Space aliens take Montana, too.

6. After several days of conflicting reports, a new cabinet is formed with a mandate to build a dome over the remaining Plains states. President goes on TV and promises “a really, really big dome.”

7. Flags are reconfigured with the new national motto: “Forty-eight is great.”

Blow, Kristof and Collins

July 14, 2016

In “Blood on Your Hands, Too” Mr. Blow says interpersonal and systemic racism are only part of the equation. There is also class conflict between those who are better off and those who are not.  Mr. Kristof considers “A History of White Delusion” and says we’re  in denial of racial inequity.  Ms. Collins, in “Trump Reaps a Veep,” says Indiana is the center of the universe.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There is no question that we should examine incidents of police violence for traces of bias, if for no other reason than to rule it out if it isn’t present. Indeed, we should all search ourselves for manifestations of racial bias.

But the current conversation is — and must be — larger than that.

Interpersonal racism, when it exists, is only one part of the equation. Another part is systemic, structurally racist policies, and yet another is class conflict between the police and the poorest, most dangerous communities they patrol, and between those who are better off and those who are not. That strand is nearly absent from this conversation altogether.

At the Tuesday memorial service in Dallas for five murdered police officers, President Obama said:

“As a society, we choose to underinvest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs. We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book. And then we tell the police, ‘You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor.’ We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

The comment underscores that this is not simply a conflict between police departments and minority communities that everyone else can watch from a comfortable distance, convinced that the battle doesn’t belong to them.

No, this issue is about everyone. We have areas of concentrated poverty in our cities in part because of a long legacy of discriminatory urban policies. We don’t sufficiently address the effects of that legacy, in part because it is rooted in a myth of racial pathology and endemic poor choice. We choose to be blind to the policy choices our politicians have made — and that many have benefited from, while others suffered — while simultaneously holding firmly to the belief that all of our own successes and comforts are simply the result of our and our families’ drive, ambition and resourcefulness. Other people lack physical comforts because they lack our character strength.

It is from this bed of lies that our policing policies spring. When the president says, “We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs,” who is the “we”?

It’s not the blue-collar civil servants in law enforcement or the working-class and poor communities, which are aggressively patrolled. No. The “we” is the middle and moneyed classes.

While the blue, black and brown groups on the lower end of the spectrum are forced into more interaction — on one hand to contain disruption within communities, and on the other to finance police departments and civic governance — everyone else goes about their business unaware and unbothered until something causes “political blowback or inconvenience” and disturbs the more prosperous half’s “peace of mind.”

As the Dallas police chief, David Brown, said Sunday:

“These officers risk their lives for $40,000 a year. Forty thousand dollars a year. And this is not sustainable, not to support these people. We’re not perfect. There’s cops that don’t need to be cops. I have been the first to say, we need to separate employment with those types of cops — 1 percent or 2 percent. The 98 percent or 99 percent of cops come to work, do this job, come to work for 40 grand. It’s not sustainable.”

Russel Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general, on Monday told the CNN anchor Don Lemon: “We ask a lot from our police in terms of sacrifice. You know, in Baton Rouge, the starting salary for a police officer, less than $31,000.” Alton Sterling was killed last week by the police in that city.

Honoré continued:

“Matter of fact, their pay would go up if the federal minimum wage was passed, $15 an hour. They make less than $15 an hour. We ask a lot from these young police officers which means, Don, they’ve got to get another job. They have to have a second job to support their families, most of them. We’ve got to take that stress off of them, too. So we got to make sure they’re properly trained and they don’t have to work all this overtime so they can maintain their family. A stressful police officer who’s working another 30 hours overtime a week is coming to work tired. And he’s stressed out. We’ve got to fix that.”

We take this underpaid and highly stressed group of officers, with guns and any biases they may harbor, explicit or implicit, and flood disadvantaged communities with them, where uncivil behavior can often take root, and then “we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”

These are communities where people are often already scratching to survive, where some are engaged in makeshift work in the shadow economy: Eric Garner, who was killed by the police on Staten Island, had sold loose cigarettes for years, and Sterling had sold CDs in the parking lot of a convenience store for years.

Police departments can then use these already poor people as a kind of municipal cash machine, plugging budgetary shortfalls by performing an inordinate number of stops, writing an outrageous number of tickets and having the courts impose even more fines.

Now where would this revenue come from if it were not being bled from poor people? That’s right, the rest of the population. The tax dollar that your local government refused to exact from you is being exacted from dark flesh. That same city service that your town can’t truly afford but refused to forgo is being paid for by gouging poor people who have almost nothing.

You may think that you are not a part of this, but you are wrong. That’s just a lie that your willful ignorance and purposeful blindness perpetuates, to protect your conscience. This is absolutely about you, many, many of you. There are more bloody hands than meet the eye.

Mr. Blow, if you’re a Republican that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

This complacency among us white Americans has been a historical constant. Even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police, and four out of five whites have said that black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education. In short, the history of white Americans’ attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.

Just as in 1963, when many well-meaning whites glanced about and couldn’t see a problem, many well-meaning whites look around today, see a black president, and declare problem solved.

That’s the backdrop for racial tensions roiling America today.

Of course, there have been advances. In 1939, 83 percent of Americans believed that blacks should be kept out of neighborhoods where white people lived. But if one lesson from that old figure is that we have made progress, another is how easy it is for a majority to “otherize” minorities in ways that in hindsight strike us all as repugnant.

In fairness, the evidence shows black delusions, too. But what is striking in looking back at historical data is that blacks didn’t exaggerate discrimination but downplayed it.

In 1962, for example, a majority of blacks said that black children had the same educational opportunities as white children, and nearly one-quarter of blacks said that they had the same job opportunities as whites. That was preposterous: History hasn’t discredited the complaints of blacks but rather has shown that they were muted.

My hunch is that we will likewise look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.

Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”

That’s a narrative that many white Americans are oblivious to. Half of white Americans today say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. Really? That contradicts overwhelming research showing that blacks are more likely to be suspended from preschool, to be prosecuted for drug use, to receive longer sentences, to be discriminated against in housing, to be denied job interviews, to be rejected by doctors’ offices, to suffer bias in almost every measurable sector of daily life.

In my mind, an even bigger civil rights outrage in America than abuses by some police officers may be an education system that routinely sends the neediest black students to underfunded, third-rate schools, while directing bountiful resources to affluent white schools.

“If America is to be America, we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system,” notes Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “If you were to examine most of the institutions that underpin our democracy — higher education, K-12 education, the housing system, the transportation system, the criminal justice system — you will find systemic racism embedded in those systems.”

Yet Walker is an optimist, partly because of his own trajectory. In 1965, as an African-American child in rural Texas, he was able to enroll in Head Start soon after it was founded — and everything changed. “It transformed my life and created possibilities for me and a glide path,” he says. “It provided me with a life I would never have imagined.”

As Walker’s journey suggests, we have tools that can help, although, of course, racial inequity is complex, involving not just discrimination but also jobs, education, family structure and more. A starting point is for us whites to wake from our ongoing mass delusions, to recognize that in practice black lives have not mattered as much as white lives, and that this is an affront to values that we all profess to believe in.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

I am embarrassed to admit how much I’ve enjoyed the Donald Trump vice-presidential search. There’s nothing like a bunch of egomaniacs humiliating themselves in public to cheer up a dark day.

We got to sit through a series of very public tryouts — who can introduce Trump at a rally in the loudest, most craven manner possible? My blue ribbon went to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who hollered that Trump has “never forgotten or forsaken the people who work with their hands,” apparently skipping over all the construction workers he’s stiffed in his real estate business. Pence has also started twittering like a howling dog. (“We will not rest until we elect @realDonaldTrump as the next President of the United States of America!”)

On Wednesday, for mysterious reasons that may have been connected to trouble with the Trump plane, Indiana became the center of the veep universe. Pence was visited by a delegation that included Trump, Trump’s daughter, Trump’s sons, Trump’s son-in-law and — oh yeah, the campaign manager.

Then Newt Gingrich flew in for a sit-down with the kids, apparently followed by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. The only major vice-presidential prospect who wasn’t in Indiana was Chris Christie.

But Trump and Christie were famously close already, despite the fact that Christie once sent Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law to prison. Yes, indeed. When he was U.S. attorney, Christie prosecuted Charles Kushner, who wound up spending 14 months in the clink for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign donations. One of the case highlights involved a family business feud, during which Kushner hired a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law.

Kushner’s son Jared — Ivanka’s husband — is very influential in the Trump campaign and seems to have gotten over the send-Dad-to-the-clink issue completely. You can see why everyone has been comparing the vice-presidential search to a reality TV show. All we needed was an announcement that the final four would be competing in a challenge that involves eating raw groundhog livers.

For those of us who love obscure political factoids, it seemed appropriate that this was all going on in Indiana. The state has often been at the center of vice-presidential politics. (Dan Quayle!) Nearly a dozen Hoosiers have been nominated for the job since the Civil War. (Dan Quayle!) Several have won. (Dan Quayle!)

Former Indiana Gov. Thomas Hendricks’s pull in his home state got Grover Cleveland critical electoral votes he needed to become president after the 1884 election. It was one of the very few times that the vice-presidential selection made a big difference.

Hendricks had a long-running rivalry with another governor, Oliver Morton, which produced my favorite headline of all time, from The Chicago Times:Hendricks a Man of the Purest Social Relations, but Morton a Foe to Society, a Seducer and a Libertine … The Former’s Name Untrammeled by Lust; the Latter’s Reeking With Filth and Slime. A Few of the Hellish Liaisons of, and Attempted Seductions by, Indiana’s Favorite Stud-Horse.”

So stop complaining about the terrible tone of the modern media.

O.K., enough about Indiana. I just wanted to share. I’ve also been rooting for Senator Sessions to show up in the vetting so I could point out that the only person ever elected to a national office from Alabama was William King, the only bachelor vice president, who was once a very close friend and sometimes roommate with James Buchanan, the only bachelor president.

See, how can you not like this stuff?

But about the Trump contenders. Each of them has a special something. Gingrich, like Trump, has been married three times. (Six-wife ticket!) Bringing Newt back would also allow the nation to revisit his interesting plan to replace unionized school janitors with poor children.

Christie has exhibited a marvelous ability to suck up abuse. Trump has made fun of him for everything from being AWOL from the governor’s office to eating Oreos. There are pictures of Trump holding a huge umbrella over his own famous head and letting Christie get wet. When you’ve currently got a 26 percent approval rating in your home state, I guess you take whatever they throw at you. However, Christie’s office denied reports that Trump once sent him out to get hamburgers.

I have a theory that women will never vote for a male presidential candidate who yells, because it reminds them of their worst boyfriends. A Trump-Christie ticket would be like the worst boyfriend sitting in the living room with his thuglike pal, watching football with their shoes off and demanding that you cook them pizza from scratch.

A Trump-Gingrich ticket would be a total of 143 years old.

None of the options are really all that terrific. But then you’ve got to be in a pretty bad place to begin with if you’re yearning for the spot beneath Donald Trump. I just hope that if the decision came down to that liver-eating contest, somebody took pictures. It’d be a great feature for the Cleveland convention.

Gail, Gail, Gail…  It’s not raw groundhog livers, it’s salted rat dicks.

Blow and Collins

July 7, 2016

In “Hillary Clinton: Ma’am Survivor” Mr. Blow says you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery, the constant flirtation with self-destruction.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary, Beyond Email,” says it’s a good time for Clinton to make changes so she doesn’t win simply by default.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The Clintons — both Hillary and Bill — are very smart, but also quite reckless. They play too close to the edge and sometimes go over. They parse words to parry attacks. They possess a sort of preternatural political ability, but also a political paranoia.

Anyone who has followed the Clintons over the years already knows this. So hearing the stinging rebuke by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, of Hillary Clinton over her email usage in some ways made no waves, at least not for me. As obviously qualified as Clinton is — at a Charlotte, N.C., campaign rally, President Obama said, “There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton, ever, and that’s the truth” — and as clearly superior to the puffed-up presumptive Republican nominee as she is, there is something about Clinton, and indeed the Clintons, that makes me uneasy.

But Comey refused to bring charges against Clinton, which seems to be the right call, and also seems in line with the Clinton history.

I know that Republicans have attacked the Clintons for decades. Many of those attacks were baseless, opponents driven mad by the Clintons seeming imperviousness, an endless search for a presumed fire beneath a fog they perceive as smoke. But some of those attacks come because of the Clintons’ own carelessness, as it did in this case. Sometimes there actually is a fire, however large or small, that the Clintons themselves have set.

With the Clintons, you have to accept the swirl of madness with the political mastery. They have a constant flirtation with self-destruction.

But it seems to me that most voters have actually adjusted their expectations for this reality, whether they support or oppose her.

If nothing else, the Clintons are the ultimate survivors.

When an Iowa caucusgoer asked Hillary in January why young people are not enthusiastic about her campaign, she replied, in part:

You know, look, I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me. And you know, I can’t keep up with it. I just keep going forward. They fall by the wayside. They come up with these outlandish things. They make these charges. I just keep going forward because there’s nothing to it. They throw all this stuff at me, and I’m still standing.

That is true. But the attacks and her impressive ability to dodge them seem to lead to a sort of Wonder Woman syndrome, in which the evasion of calamity creates an expanding sense of invincibility.

Rather than possessing strategic discipline, the Clintons’ Republican opponents have displayed an uncanny, uncontrollable impulse to overplay their hand, like a poker player with three deuces betting the house.

Donald Trump suggested that Clinton had bribed Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the case, although the decision to recommend no charges was made by Comey, and as USA Today reported last week, “Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday that she will accept the decision of career prosecutors, investigators and F.B.I. Director James Comey on whether to bring criminal charges” in the case.

Republicans, smarting over once again not bagging a Clinton when they were sure they had one trapped, have called Comey to the Hill to testify — or to be grilled, as will likely be the case — Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Republicans will turn a damaging episode for Clinton, one that would otherwise reinforce the specter of mistrust that they have labored so diligently to foster in the public around her, into another spectacle of the absurd.

They have a near algebraic ability to turn a positive into a negative, and vice versa.

They were hanging their hats on a stronger action against Clinton because they are wringing their hands with consternation over Trump.

In any other election cycle with pretty much any other candidate, the damage they have done to Clinton would be enough to fell her. But this year, she is running against the most inept, unqualified, ill-equipped, abrasive candidate imaginable.

In this context, in which a damaged candidate is up against a deranged one, Clinton will likely emerge with little more than yet another battle scar from this episode. And while Clinton won’t face charges, it is a fact that Trump is embroiled in two class action lawsuits over Trump University, as well as a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Clinton’s case is now in the realm of what might have been, but Trump’s cases are in the realm of what actually is. Indeed, in every way when you compare Clinton to Trump, her shortcomings shrink.

Clinton’s survival instinct will likely allow her to weather whatever Trump and the Republicans throw at her.

Specifically, in the case of the “damn emails,” as Bernie Sanders called them, the Clinton magic — wiggling out of danger and constriction to great amazement — remains intact. Unfortunately, belief in magic also requires a certain amount of naïveté.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Chances are, Hillary Clinton did not grow up dreaming that someday she’d be a woman of whom it could be said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict her.

But think positive: Between the F.B.I.’s 11-month email investigation and the eight congressional Benghazi inquiries, Clinton has now probably been examined more thoroughly than any candidate not up for canonization in the Catholic Church. How many times have you, as a concerned citizen, witnessed a famous politician felled by a terrible revelation and thought, “My God, who knew?” Not likely to be a problem with this one.

In his big press appearance Tuesday, F.B.I. Director James Comey took the now-familiar prosecutorial path of smearing the target he couldn’t nail. But the bottom line was that Clinton had used less-than-secure private email servers rather than the State Department system, which was the proper procedure, albeit possibly even less less-than-secure. Worse, she did not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth when she was cornered.

It’s a problem for campaign strategists, but not much of a surprise for voters. We already knew that she was paranoid about privacy. Perhaps that was why some people decided, in 2008, that they preferred Barack Obama, who was promising presidential transparency. Whose administration then set new Olympics-level records when it came to rejecting Freedom of Information Act requests and persecuting suspected leakers of information to the media.

We obviously haven’t heard the last of the email scandal — Comey is testifying before a House committee on Thursday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is going to be dragged before another committee next week to answer questions about that private meeting she had with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac at the worst moment humanly possible.

The Republicans will broadcast Comey’s “extremely careless” quote from now through November. “People have been convicted for far less,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said as he happily made the cable TV rounds after the F.B.I. announcement. This came between the moment in which Ryan had to distance himself from Donald Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet and the moment in which he had to distance himself from the speech in which Trump praised Saddam Hussein.

Oh yes, Donald Trump. The Republican presidential candidate who had a “university” that wrung thousands of dollars out of credulous students with get-rich-quick promises, which was linked to an extremely shady seminar program that plagiarized course materials from an old real estate manual. And which is now subject to lawsuits, some of which are being heard by a distinguished federal judge from Indiana. Who Trump slammed as a biased “Mexican,” triggering a Paul Ryan distancing of epic proportions.

Every problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign comes attached to a reminder that the alternative is the businessman with a terrible business record and attraction to murderous tyrants. It’s hard to imagine anything that she could do that would make her look like the worse option in this particular contest. It’s a lucky candidate who gets the chance to divert attention from her problems by giving a speech in the city where her opponent bankrupted several casinos and dodged the bills of a long line of small businesses.

But nobody wants to be remembering 2016 as the year America elected its first woman president by default. Since at least she didn’t get indicted.

Clinton can spend the next four months listing all the ways Trump would be worse. Or she can use her intelligence, experience and fortitude to turn her story around. So that when the confetti falls in Philadelphia, we’ve got something more to celebrate than a new entry in the Guinness World Records book.

A few suggestions:

■ Send Bill home. This is an easy call. At best, he’s a reminder that she didn’t get where she’s at entirely on her own. At worst — well, plane. Attorney general.

■ Hold a news conference every week. Clinton has not met with the press corps for an open-ended question-and-answer session this calendar year. Her strategists aren’t stupid; they know that the chances of making unwelcome news at these encounters are high. They’ll keep dodging them if they simply want to make sure she can stagger across the finish line this fall. The only argument on the other side is that she’s prepared to demonstrate she’s not just better than Trump; she’s better than her own current background noise.

■ Take a hard position, just because. Clinton has been rolling out some smart, progressive and well thought out proposals on issues like student loans. But it doesn’t exactly require a profile in courage to be against college debt. A brave and specific series of recommendations on, say, trade would be something else. Or a plan to fix Obamacare that would involve tough news for the pharmaceutical industry. Or pretty much any reform that would make big-money Democratic campaign contributors unhappy.

She can win without doing anything. It’s just the difference between making great history and being the lesser of two evils.

Blow and Collins

June 30, 2016

In “The State of Race in America” Mr. Blow says what is worrisome in a new report is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about relations improving.  Ms. Collins has a “Patriotic Presidential Quiz.”  She says if you’re still following the race, here’s a reward for your dedication.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Monday, the Pew Research Center released a fascinating and expansive report on the state of race relations in America. It serves as a stark reminder that although events like this insane and historic presidential election, continuing terrorist attacks and global shocks like Brexit overtake news cycles, the issue of racial inequality is just as urgent as ever.

2015 was the year of Black Lives Matter. Discussion of police interactions with minority communities; institutions and interpersonal racism; and “safe spaces” dominated popular literature, film, television, talks shows and newspaper column inches. It seemed everyone, everywhere, was talking about race in some capacity.

Now, at least in the media, the heat around the subject has cooled. The media has moved on. There are new stories to chase. There are new awards to win.

But the issue of racial inequality — as a lived experience — remains unaltered, and many in fact believe that it’s actually getting worse.

Racial inequality is not a trendy issue; it is an entrenched issue.

A year, or even two, of intense focus does not provide sufficient alteration of a condition in a country that has developed over centuries.

And so it is in this simmering wake of unfinished business that the Pew report lands.

It is the kind of report that demands more space that I can give it in a column, but please allow me to quote it here liberally, both the optimistic and pessimistic components of it, and to weigh in on it to the degree that I feel I must.

It is no surprise that whites and black would see racial issues and barriers to racial equality differently, or that differences would be manifest in the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans.

What is more worrisome is how far apart whites and blacks are in their optimism about race relations improving. As the report puts it:

An overwhelming majority of blacks (88 percent) say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, but 43 percent are skeptical that such changes will ever occur. An additional 42 percent of blacks believe that the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights with whites, and just 8 percent say the country has already made the necessary changes.

It continues:

A much lower share of whites (53 percent) say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, and only 11 percent express doubt that these changes will come. Four in 10 whites believe the country will eventually make the changes needed for blacks to have equal rights, and about the same share (38 percent) say enough changes have already been made.

This gulf in optimism is incredibly troubling. What happens to a people when they stop believing, stop hoping, stop trusting that a concerted effort toward improvement will bear fruit?

Part of the problem here is that white and black people have such vastly divergent views about the lived black experience in America. According to the report:

By large margins, blacks are more likely than whites to say black people are treated less fairly in the workplace (a difference of 42 percentage points), when applying for a loan or mortgage (41 points), in dealing with the police (34 points), in the courts (32 points), in stores or restaurants (28 points), and when voting in elections (23 points). By a margin of at least 20 percentage points, blacks are also more likely than whites to say racial discrimination (70 percent versus 36 percent), lower quality schools (75 percent versus 53 percent) and lack of jobs (66 percent versus 45 percent) are major reasons that blacks may have a harder time getting ahead than whites.

These gaps are enormous. The question is whether or not these divergent beliefs are also intractable. If we can’t come to an agreement on the basic facts of life, how on earth can we come to an agreement on the fundamentals of a united path forward?

About six in 10 (59 percent) white Republicans say too much attention is paid to race and racial issues these days, while only 21 percent of Democrats agree.

Finally, we continue to be deceived about the enormous and epidemic nature of often-invisible institutional racism, preferring instead to direct our ire at the more easily identified and vilified interpersonal racism. The report puts it this way:

On balance, the public thinks that when it comes to discrimination against black people in the U.S. today, discrimination that is based on the prejudice of individual people is a bigger problem than discrimination that is built into the nation’s laws and institutions. This is the case among both blacks and whites, but while whites offer this opinion by a large margin (70 percent to 19 percent), blacks are more evenly divided (48 percent to 40 percent).

Although it may feel interminable, this election won’t last forever. In November, America will make a choice.

But the choices that America has already made mean that the persistent question of race will still be with us, unresolved, waiting for yet another moment to explode. No amount of fatigue will change this. Only a true and earnest effort to address race relations fundamentally and honestly will provide the overdue and necessary fix.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Independence Day weekend’s coming — time to show a little patriotism. Budweiser beer just renamed itself “America,” for heaven’s sake. If a Belgian brewing company can do that, the least you can do is show you’re a well-educated citizen. Let’s see whether you’ve been keeping up with the presidential race:

1  Since endorsing Donald Trump for president, Chris Christie …

  • Tracked down the man he once chased down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone and apologized.

  • Got the support of a full 18 percent of New Jersey voters on whether Trump should pick Christie as his running mate.

  • Told reporters he does not want to be the vice-presidential nominee because “really, my life is ruined already.”

2  When Marco Rubio ran for president, he made it clear he was done with being a senator forever. (“I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.”) This month he …

  • Told reporters he was pursuing a lifelong dream of playing defensive back for the Miami Dolphins.

  • Said he was running for re-election because “I’ve discovered I’m not worth nearly as much money as I thought in the private sector.”

  • Said he was running for re-election because “Control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida.”

3  After the demise of his presidential campaign, Ben Carson joined the Trump team. When his candidate claimed a federal judge was biased due to his Mexican heritage, Carson said that Trump …

  • “… was probably talking out loud rather than thinking.”

  • Believes all jurists should be examined for “the fruit salad of their life.”

  • Has many good Mexican friends among the caddies at his golf courses.

4  Paul Ryan began the month by endorsing Donald Trump for president. Since then, he’s denounced several of the candidate’s more outrageous statements. When asked how many times he could do this without washing his hands of the whole campaign, Ryan said …

  • “Four.”

  • “I don’t know the answer to that, either.”

  • “Did I tell you I saw John Boehner in Florida? God, that man looks happy.”

5  Duncan Hunter of California, one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, announced he’s going to stop trying to answer for things the candidate says. But he’s still on the Trump bandwagon because …

  • “Everybody makes mistakes”

  • “… him talking about things and saying things about things is different than him saying what he’s going to do.”

  • “Hell, I don’t know. Go ask Paul Ryan.”

6  After he dropped out of the Republican race, Senator Lindsey Graham endorsed Ted Cruz, whom he loathes. Then when Cruz dropped out, he …

  • Endorsed William Howard Taft, noting, “He’s dead, but nobody’s perfect.”

  • Said he’d “probably write somebody in or just skip the presidential.”

  • Compared the current campaign to “Game of Thrones” and announced that it was “time for a woman president, but only if it’s Daenerys the Dragon Queen.”

7  Bernie Sanders’s biggest post-primary news was that …

  • He’s going to endorse Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’ll vote for her).

  • He’s going to vote for Hillary Clinton (but that doesn’t mean he’s endorsing her).

  • He needs to take one more look at Martin O’Malley.

8  When Britain voted to exit the European Union, Donald Trump was visiting his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. Asked for his analysis of the big event, Trump said …

  • “You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.”

  • “Analysts have drastically overstated the impact on the British economy; we will of course have to keep a close eye on the manufacturing sector.”

  • “Vote? What vote?”

9  A former White House Secret Service officer has written a tell-all book about the Clintons in which he claims to have seen evidence that Hillary once …

  • Broke a law.

  • Broke a promise.

  • Broke a vase.

10  Campaigning in New York, Hillary Clinton demonstrated she had lost some of her old city sophistication when she …

  • Had trouble getting into the subway.

  • Made eye contact with a fellow passenger in the subway.

  • Posed for a selfie in front of Trump Tower.

11  When Clinton made her big speech on foreign policy this month, people couldn’t help noticing that she appeared on stage in front of…

  • Huge pictures of Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey and the pope.

  • Her grandchildren.

  • 19 American flags.

12  Which of the following is NOT one of Trump’s arguments for why his business credentials are a great preparation for the presidency …

  • He’s run the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

  • Running a country is much like running a golf course. (“You’ll be amazed how similar it is.”)

  • The nation needs a leader who has extensive experience in filing for bankruptcy.

 

The answer key:   1B, 2C, 3A, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9C 10A, 11C, 12C

 

Cohen and Collins

June 25, 2016

In “Britain’s Brexit Leap in the Dark” Mr. Cohen says a decisive vote to leave the E.U. reveals rage against the elites. An era of extreme volatility has dawned.  (For various values of “decisive” I guess.)  Ms. Collins, in “Tax Dodging on the High Seas,” says while  many of the biggest cruise lines appear to be headquartered in Florida, they are, for tax purposes, actually proud residents of … elsewhere.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

The British have given the world’s political, financial and business establishment a massive kick in the teeth by voting to leave the European Union, a historic decision that will plunge Britain into uncertainty for years to come and reverses the integration on which the Continent’s stability has been based.

Warnings about the dire consequences of a British exit from President Barack Obama, Britain’s political leaders, major corporations based in Britain and the International Monetary Fund proved useless. If anything, they goaded a mood of defiant anger against those very elites.

This resentment has its roots in many things but may be summed up as a revolt against global capitalism. To heck with the experts and political correctness was the predominant mood in the end. A majority of Britons had no time for the politicians that brought the world a disastrous war in Iraq, the 2008 financial meltdown, European austerity, stagnant working-class wages, high immigration and tax havens for the super-rich.

That some of these issues have no direct link to the European Union or its much-maligned Brussels bureaucrats did not matter. It was a convenient target in this restive moment that has also made Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee — and may now take him further still on a similar wave of nativism and anti-establishment rage.

David Cameron, the British prime minister prodded into holding the referendum by the right of his Conservative Party, said he would resign, staying on in a caretaker capacity for a few months. This was the right call, and an inevitable one. He has led the country into a debacle.

The pound duly plunged some 10 percent to its lowest level since 1985. Global markets were rattled. Mainstream European politicians lamented a sad day for Europe and Britain; rightists like Marine Le Pen in France exulted. The world has entered a period of grave volatility.

Ever-greater unity was a foundation stone since the 1950s not only of peace in Europe, putting an end to the repetitive wars that had ravaged generations of Europeans, but also of the global political order. Now all bets are off. A process of European unraveling may have begun. A core assumption of American foreign policy — that a united Europe had overcomes its divisions — has been undermined.

Geert Wilders, the right-wing anti-immigrant Dutch politician, promptly tweeted: “Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum!” The European Union is more vulnerable than at any point since its inception. The sacred images of old — like French President François Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl hand-in-hand at Verdun — have lost their resonance. The travails of the euro, the tide of immigration (both within the European Union from poorer to richer members and from outside), and high unemployment have led to an eerie collective loss of patience, prudence and memory. Anything but this has become a widespread sentiment; irrationality is in the air.

The colossal leap in the dark that a traditionally cautious people — the British — were prepared to take has to be taken seriously. It suggests that other such leaps could occur elsewhere, perhaps in Trump’s America. A Trump victory in November is more plausible now because it has an immediate precedent in a developed democracy ready to trash the status quo for the high-risk unknown.

Fifty-two percent of the British population was ready to face higher unemployment, a weaker currency, possible recession, political turbulence, the loss of access to a market of a half-billion people, a messy divorce that may take as long as two years to complete, a very long subsequent negotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe, and the tortuous redrafting of laws and trade treaties and environmental regulations — all for what the right-wing leader Nigel Farage daftly called “Independence Day.” Britain was a sovereign nation before this vote in every significant sense. It remains so. Estrangement Day would be more apt.

The English were also prepared to risk something else: the break-up of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted to remain in the European Union by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. Northern Ireland voted to remain by 56 percent to 44 percent. The Scots will now likely seek a second referendum on independence.

Divisions were not only national. London voted overwhelmingly to remain. But the countryside, small towns and hard-hit industrial provincial industrial centers voted overwhelmingly to leave and carried the day. A Britain fissured between a liberal, metropolitan class centered in London and the rest was revealed.

Europe’s failings — and they have been conspicuous over the past decade — are simply not sufficient to explain what Britain has done to itself. This was a vote against the global economic and social order that the first 16 years of the 21st century have produced. Where it leads is unclear. The worst is not inevitable but it is plausible. Britain will remain an important power. But it will punch beneath its weight. It faces serious, long-term political and economic risk.

Anger was most focused on the hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming into Britain each year, most from other European Union nations like Poland. Farage’s U.K. Independence Party, abetted by much of the press, was able to whip up a storm that conflated E.U. immigration with the trickle from the Middle East. Wild myths, like imminent Turkish membership of the European Union, were cultivated. Violence entered the campaign on a wave of xenophobia and take-our-country back rhetoric.

In this light, it is not surprising that Trump supporters were delighted. Sarah Palin welcomed the “good news.” One tweet from a supporter read: “I’m thrilled with U.K. 1st step — time 4 all the dominoes 2 fall, every country to leave & end the E.U.”

Trump arrived in Britain on Friday, a timely visit. He said the vote to quit the E.U. was “a great thing” and the British “took back their country.” He did not say from whom, but the specter of our times is a dark, controlling global force stealing national identity.

It is quite likely that Cameron’s successor will be Boris Johnson, the bombastic, mercurial and sometimes fact-lite former London mayor with his trademark mop of blond hair. Johnson was a leader of the campaign for “Brexit”; he may now reap his political reward. The Era of the Hair looms.

Timothy Garton Ash, the historian, paraphrasing Churchill on democracy, wrote before the referendum that: “The Europe we have today is the worst possible Europe, apart from all the other Europes that have been tried from time to time.”

It was a wise call to prudence in the imperfect real world. Now, driven by myths about sovereignty and invading hordes, Britain has ushered in another time of treacherous trial for the European Continent and for itself.

My nephew wrote on Facebook that he had never been less proud of his country. I feel the same way about the country I grew up in and left.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Let’s criticize cruise ships.

I know, I know. Things are bad enough without going negative about your summer vacation. But we’ve got some problems here. Plus, I promise there will be a penguin.

The cruise industry seems to be exploding — the newest generation of ships can carry more than 5,000 passengers. They make a great deal of profit from the sale of alcohol, so imagine the equivalent of a small city whose inhabitants are perpetually drunk.

Really, these things are so huge, it’s amazing they can stay afloat without toppling over. And when one is parked outside, say, Venice, the effect is like one of those alien-invasion movies, when people wake up and find that a spaceship the size of Toledo has landed downtown. (Venetians also claim the ships are causing waves in their canals.) Environmentalists wring their hands over the air pollution and sewage a 3,000-passenger ship, which today would rank as medium-size, produces 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, sometimes treated and sometimes not so much. But always pumped into the sea.

And, as long as we’re complaining, let’s point out that noise from the ships is messing with the whales. Michael Jasny of the Natural Resources Defense Council says cruises en route to Alaska “routinely drown out the calls of the endangered orcas” trying to communicate. The NRDC has a new film, “Sonic Sea,” that features audio of a whale conversation being obliterated by an approaching cruise ship. The effect is sort of like what you’d experience if you were having a meaningful chat with friends on the patio and a trailer-tractor full of disco dancers suddenly drove into the back yard.

Thanks to global warming, cruise lines will soon be able to sail the Northwest Passage, so the Arctic will have both more melting ice and more 13-deck ships. Antarctica hosted 30,000 visitors last year. Doesn’t that seem like a lot for such a fragile place? Also, an opera singer who was entertaining passengers on one cruise went ashore to sing “O Sole Mio” and caused a penguin stampede. This is not really a problem you need to worry about, but it was a pretty interesting moment.

While many of the biggest cruise lines appear to be headquartered in Florida, they are, for tax purposes, actually proud residents of … elsewhere. “Carnival is a Panamanian corporation; Royal Caribbean is Liberian,” said Ross Klein, who tracks the industry through his Cruise Junkie website.

Although, of course, if one of the ships needs help, it will often be the American taxpayer-funded Coast Guard that comes to the rescue. The Coast Guard doesn’t charge for its services, a spokesman said, because “we don’t want people to hesitate” to summon help when passengers are in danger. This attitude is commendable. But the no-taxes part is not.

“Cruise lines do pay taxes,” protested a spokesman for the industry, counting off a number of levies for things like customs, and examination of animals and plants being brought into the country. Not the same thing.

We’re constantly hearing complaints in Congress about American companies that relocate their headquarters overseas for tax avoidance. But when do you hear anybody mentioning the cruise industry’s Panamanian connection? The cruise companies may not really live here, but they certainly can lobby here.

“Powerful is an understatement,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He’s the sponsor of a bill that would increase consumer protection for cruise passengers. The bill, which can’t even get a committee hearing, would also require the ships to have up-to-date technology that detects when passengers fall overboard. Now this would seem like something you’d expect them to have around.

An average of about 20 people fall off cruise ships every year, which the industry points out is only about one in a million travelers. But still, I suspect that passengers work under the assumption that if they do somehow wind up in the water, someone will notice. This spring, a 33-year-old American woman disappeared during a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. No one realized she was gone for 10 hours, and by the time searchers could start looking for her, the area they needed to cover was more than 4,000 square miles. While it’s the least thing anyone worries about when a person is missing at sea, let us point out once again that it was the taxpayer-funded Coast Guard doing the searching.

The cruise industry says the overboard technology hasn’t been perfected. Blumenthal says it’s been well tested. Seems like the sort of disagreement that would be easy to resolve with … a committee hearing.

Most cruise vacationers seem to enjoy their experience — the industry says nearly 90 percent declare themselves satisfied. It’s not our business to get in between anybody and an ocean breeze. Our requests are modest, really: Make the cruise ship companies that are, for all practical purposes, American pay American taxes. Leave the whales alone. Give that bill a committee hearing. And stop scaring the penguins.

A hearing?  Surely you jest…


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