Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Brooks and Krugman from 4/29 and Collins from today

April 30, 2016

Sorry about missing yesterday, but I had some eye surgery on Thursday that left me a bit under the weather yesterday, and seeing is still a bit of a challenge.  Bobo on Friday gave us “If Not Trump, What?” and Prof. Krugman addressed the “Wrath of the Conned.”  Today Ms. Collins considers “The One Thing Worse Than Trump.”  Here’s Bobo’s offering:

Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect — what are we supposed to do?

Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.

The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that. This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.

This declinism intertwines with other horrible social statistics. The suicide rate has surged to a 30-year high — a sure sign of rampant social isolation. A record number of Americans believe the American dream is out of reach. And for millennials, social trust is at historic lows.

Trump’s success grew out of that pain, but he is not the right response to it. The job for the rest of us is to figure out the right response.

That means first it’s necessary to go out into the pain. I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.

We’ll probably need a new national story. Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged.

I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive. Maybe it will be a story about communities that heal those who suffer from addiction, broken homes, trauma, prison and loss, a story of those who triumph over the isolation, social instability and dislocation so common today.

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

We’ll also need to rebuild the sense that we’re all in this together. The author R. R. Reno has argued that what we’re really facing these days is a “crisis of solidarity.” Many people, as the writers David and Amber Lapp note, feel pervasively betrayed: by for-profit job-training outfits that left them awash in debt, by spouses and stepparents, by people who collect federal benefits but don’t work. They’ve stopped even expecting loyalty from their employers. The big flashing lights say: NO TRUST. That leads to an everyone-out-for-himself mentality and Trump’s politics of suspicion. We’ll need a communitarianism.

Maybe the task is to build a ladder of hope. People across America have been falling through the cracks. Their children are adrift. Trump, to his credit, made them visible. We can start at the personal level just by hearing them talk.

Then at the community level we can listen to those already helping. James Fallows had a story in The Atlantic recently noting that while we’re dysfunctional at the national level you see local renaissances dotted across the country. Fallows went around asking, “Who makes this town go?” and found local patriots creating radical schools, arts festivals, public-private partnerships that give, say, high school dropouts computer skills.

Then solidarity can be rekindled nationally. Over the course of American history, national projects like the railroad legislation, the W.P.A. and the NASA project have bound this diverse nation. Of course, such projects can happen again — maybe through a national service program, or something else.

Trump will have his gruesome moment. The time is best spent elsewhere, meeting the neighbors who have become strangers, and listening to what they have to say.

Next up we have Prof. Krugman from yesterday:

Maybe we need a new cliché: It ain’t over until Carly Fiorina sings. Anyway, it really is over — definitively on the Democratic side, with high probability on the Republican side. And the results couldn’t be more different.

Think about where we were a year ago. At the time, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush were widely seen as the front-runners for their parties’ nods. If there was any dissent from the commentariat, it came from those suggesting that Mr. Bush might be supplanted by a fresher, but still establishment, face, like Marco Rubio.

And now here we are. But why did Mrs. Clinton, despite the most negative media coverage of any candidate in this cycle — yes, worse than Donald Trump’s — go the distance, while the G.O.P. establishment went down to humiliating defeat?

Personalities surely played a role; say what you like (or dislike) about Mrs. Clinton, but she’s resilient under pressure, a character trait notably lacking on the other side. But basically it comes down to fundamental differences between the parties and how they serve their supporters.

Both parties make promises to their bases. But while the Democratic establishment more or less tries to make good on those promises, the Republican establishment has essentially been playing bait-and-switch for decades. And voters finally rebelled against the con.

First, about the Democrats: Their party defines itself as the protector of the poor and the middle class, and especially of nonwhite voters. Does it fall short of fulfilling this mission much of the time? Are its leaders sometimes too close to big-money donors? Of course. Still, if you look at the record of the Obama years, you see real action on behalf of the party’s goals.

Above all, you have the Affordable Care Act, which has given about 20 million Americans health insurance, with the gains biggest for the poor, minorities and low-wage workers. That’s what you call delivering for the base — and it’s surely one reason nonwhite voters have overwhelmingly favored Mrs. Clinton over a challenger who sometimes seemed to dismiss that achievement.

And this was paid for largely with higher taxes on the rich, with average tax rates on very high incomes rising by about six percentage points since 2008.

Maybe you think Democrats could and should have done more, but what the party establishment says and what it does are at least roughly aligned.

Things are very different among Republicans. Their party has historically won elections by appealing to racial enmity and cultural anxiety, but its actual policy agenda is dedicated to serving the interests of the 1 percent, above all through tax cuts for the rich — which even Republican voters don’t support, while they truly loathe elite ideas like privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

What Donald Trump has been doing is telling the base that it can order à la carte. He has, in effect, been telling aggrieved white men that they can feed their anger without being forced to swallow supply-side economics, too. Yes, his actual policy proposals still involve huge tax cuts for the rich, but his supporters don’t know that — and it’s possible that he doesn’t, either. Details aren’t his thing.

Establishment Republicans have tried to counter his appeal by shouting, with growing hysteria, that he isn’t a true conservative. And they’re right, at least as they define conservatism. But their own voters don’t care.

If there’s a puzzle here, it’s why this didn’t happen sooner. One possible explanation is the decadence of the G.O.P. establishment, which has become ingrown and lost touch. Apparatchiks who have spent their whole careers inside the bubble of right-wing think tanks and partisan media may suffer from the delusion that their ideology is actually popular with real people. And this has left them hapless in the face of a Trumpian challenge.

Probably more important, however, is the collision between demography and Obama derangement. The elite knows that the party must broaden its appeal as the electorate grows more diverse — in fact, that was the conclusion of the G.O.P.’s 2013 post-mortem. But the base, its hostility amped up to 11 after seven years of an African-American president (who the establishment has done its best to demonize) is having none of it.

The point, in any case, is that the divergent nomination outcomes of 2016 aren’t an accident. The Democratic establishment has won because it has, however imperfectly, tried to serve its supporters. The Republican establishment has been routed because it has been playing a con game on its supporters all along, and they’ve finally had enough.

And yes, Mr. Trump is playing a con game of his own, and they’ll eventually figure that out, too. But it won’t happen right away, and in any case it won’t help the party establishment. Sad!

And now here’s Ms. Collins from today:

Ted Cruz continues to astound. Every time it appears he can’t get more awful, he finds a new avenue, like a ground mole sniffing out a beetle. Right now, he’s in Indiana, trying to save his presidential career by ranting about transgender people and bathrooms.

“Even if Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he shouldn’t be using the girls’ restroom,” Cruz declaimed at a rally. It’s his new favorite line. He is constantly reminding Republican voters that Trump, when asked which bathroom transgender people should use, simply replied the one that they felt most appropriate.

That was possibly the most rational moment of the Trump campaign, and of course he has since started fudging on it. But not enough for Cruz, who has earned the distinction of being a presidential candidate who can make Donald Trump look good. “I get along with almost everybody, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” said the former House speaker, John Boehner. He also called Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.”

If this has become a battle between fear and loathing, it appears that Republicans who know both candidates are deciding they’d rather be afraid.

Tuesday’s Indiana primary is critical for Cruz, and he scored a coup when Gov. Mike Pence endorsed him. Perhaps Pence, an extreme social conservative, felt he had to go with the only candidate who opposed allowing rape victims to seek abortions. But you have heard more enthusiastic announcements from flight attendants demonstrating the proper use of seatbelts.

Pence praised Trump for taking “a strong stand for Hoosier jobs” while blandly commending Cruz for his “knowledge of the Constitution.” We all know that as a youth, Ted memorized that document, and you can imagine him reciting Article II for the edification of his classmates. Which is both commendable and a possible explanation for why his former college roommate told The Daily Beast that he’d rather vote for a name picked randomly from the phone book.

It was a week in which Cruz made headlines with his disastrous attempt to connect with Indiana sports fans, in which he referred to a basketball hoop as a “ring.” That was a terrible moment, although certainly not as bad as Trump’s boastful announcement that he’d gotten the backing of the ex-boxer Mike Tyson. (“I love it … Iron Mike. You know all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, O.K.?”) Tyson has strong ties to Indiana, having served three years in prison there for raping a beauty pageant contestant in 1992.

Cruz made a desperate play for attention by picking Carly Fiorina as his ticket’s vice-presidential candidate. While he’s still way behind in delegates, the senator from Texas now leads the pack in anointed running mates.

Fiorina was obviously chosen after long and careful consideration. But who do you think the other finalists were? He clearly needed a woman whose best career option was joining the Ted Cruz ticket. I am thinking the possible contenders were:

A) That State Board of Education candidate in Texas who claims Barack Obama used to pay for his drug habit by working as a prostitute.

B) Mrs. Cruz

C) The House member who made the impassioned speech denouncing government regulation of ceiling fans.

D) Wendy who delivered pizza to the campaign headquarters during the Ohio primary.

The woman from Texas is an actual person. The one from the House is Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. (“First they came for our health care. Then they took away our light bulbs … now they are coming after our ceiling fans.”) She’d be perfect, really. But unfortunately, she’s leaning toward Trump.

Cruz says that as the former head of a Fortune 500 company, Fiorina knows “where jobs come from.” (And where jobs go — she laid off 30,000 Hewlett-Packard employees.) She also ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in California — who can forget that campaign commercial where her opponent was depicted as a satanic sheep? The California connection might at least help him out in the state’s June primary, except that Fiorina decamped for Virginia after she lost the election, leaving behind memories and unpaid campaign debts.

The whole political world tuned in to watch Cruz announce Fiorina’s elevation, then wandered off to dust some bookshelves as he orated on for half an hour before turning over the stage. Fiorina then mesmerized the remaining viewers by singing a song, which she claimed she used to entertain Cruz’s daughters on bus rides, in a little-girl voice.

Cruz has been dragging the children, 5 and 8, into his campaign a lot. It appears they now spend their days on a bus with Carly Fiorina and being trotted onstage by Dad — before he gets to the part about Donald Trump cross-dressing in the girls’ restroom. They’ve also starred in a TV campaign ad reading from a mock Christmas book called “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”

Free the Cruz Kids.

Never fear, America.  After DefeaTED loses Indiana he’ll announce his transition team.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

April 28, 2016

In “Bernie Sanders’s Legacy” Mr. Blow says it’s over, but the cause lives. The issues his campaign has raised are likely to resonate with the progressive left for decades, if not forever.  Mr. Kristof, in “Candidates, Let’s Talk About Women’s Health,” says a crucial issue — a matter of life or death — is missing from the presidential race.  In “Trump Deals the Woman Card” Ms. Collins says that he  doesn’t get that Hillary Clinton has spent her life championing women and their issues.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

At this point, Bernie Sanders is the figurehead of a living idea and a zombie campaign.

The issues his campaign has raised are likely to resonate with the progressive left for decades, if not forever, but his path to becoming the Democratic nominee is now narrower than a cat’s hair.

It’s over. He knows it and we know it. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Sanders “is planning to lay off ‘hundreds’ of campaign staffers across the country and focus much of his remaining effort on winning California.” And yet he continues to carry the torch and keep the flame alive so that his supporters — or more appropriately, the supporters of the causes he has advanced — have an opportunity to cast protest votes in the few remaining contests.

He has gone from leading a revolution to leading a wake.

I think people have mischaracterized the choice being made between Sanders and Clinton. It is not necessarily a clean choice between idealism and pragmatism, between principle and politics, between dynamism and incrementalism — though all those things are at play to some degree.

But to me, it is more about where we peg the horizon and how we get from here to there. The ideals are not in dispute. What’s in dispute is whether our ideals can be reasonably accomplished by a single administration or a generation.

Sometimes you have to cut deals to reach ideals. That’s politics.

Now, you could argue that our politics are broken, as Sanders has, and you would be right. Moneyed interests — that of industries and individuals — have far too much influence. Our two-party system is heavily skewed to favor establishment candidates, although Sanders’s success and Donald Trump’s offer strong evidence that the party apparatuses are not inviolable.

(Yes, I’m using Trump’s name again. I didn’t for months as my own personal protest against the inexcusable and embarrassing degree to which media abetted and enabled his ascendance. But now, regardless of who helped make the monster, the monster is made — he seems on track to become the Republican nominee — and we have to deal with him as a direct threat, by name.)

What requires less debate is the often-repeated refrain that Sanders’s supporters are the future of the Democratic Party. In state after state, often whether he won it or not, he carried youth vote by wide margins.

Part of this is a generation coming into political awakening in the wake of the Great Recession, in the shadow of America’s longest war and saddled with ballooning student loan debt.

But another part of it is what Harry Enten pointed out on FiveThirtyEight on Friday:

The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.”

Enten explained:

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate become a minority in the next 10 years. It’s the youngest Democrats who are more likely to identify as “very liberal.” It could very well be that someone matching Sanders’s ideological outlook will be more successful down the road.

First we have to see what comes of the general election, in a contest that at this point seems to pit Clinton against Trump. Although current polling shows Clinton with an overwhelming edge, making political predictions seven months in advance is a fool’s errand. If that could be done, Ben Carson would still be tied with Trump for front-runner status.

And while current polling favors Clinton, history does not. The last time a Democratic president succeeded a multiterm Democratic president was when Harry Truman succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

However the election breaks in November, the Sanders coalition — largely young, liberal and white — will not likely be satisfied. Either Clinton will win, and it will simply feel like a lesser of two evils, a subsuming of a righteous cause into a waffling contrivance; or Clinton will lose, and the Sanders coalition will feel vindicated that the wrong Democratic candidate won the nomination.

Either way, the cause lives.

Universal health care becomes no less attractive. Neither does free public college, or campaign finance reform, or a more pacifist foreign policy.

The Democratic Party, for better or worse, is likely to move further toward progressive purity in Sanders’s wake. This may backfire, and encourage a nominating process that pushes otherwise moderate and widely attractive candidates to adopt increasingly extreme policies that make them nearly unelectable, as has happened with the Republican Party.

That, to me, seems to be at least part of the Democratic Party’s future. Whether that is a utopian or dystopian future, only time will tell, but the reckoning is coming. This, I believe, will be a fixture of the Sanders legacy: Drag a center-left party further left — whether one calls that True Left or Extreme Left.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

What if we talked about gun violence, and discussed only bullet size?

To me, that seems akin to the presidential campaign discussion of women’s health. Somehow in nine Democratic debates, not a single question was asked about women’s health, and when the issue came up elsewhere it was often in the narrowest form, about abortion: Democrats proclaim a woman’s right to choose, and Republicans thunder about the sanctity of human life.

Women’s health goes far beyond that. It should be a national scandal that a woman dies of cervical cancer almost once every two hours. That about 70 percent of pregnancies to young, unmarried women are unplanned. That a woman dies every eight hours from domestic violence.

In each case, we know how to address these problems. But we’re not doing it urgently enough.

It may seem, er, odd for a man to be raising the topic, but the lives of women shouldn’t be a priority for women alone. Mark Twain once mused about where men would be without women: “They would be scarce, sir — almighty scarce.” Twain is right that we men have a stake in the status of women, for we are sons, husbands and fathers to women we love.

The shortcomings in women’s health parallel those of men’s health and children’s health, and include a myopia about the importance of preventive and reproductive health. It’s a tragedy that nearly a dozen women die a day of cervical cancer in the United States, many of them young women in the prime of life. This is utterly unnecessary, for cervical cancer can be detected early with screenings and then defeated, but many women just don’t get screenings.

Likewise, the HPV vaccine prevents most cases of cervical cancer, but even now, 40 percent of adolescent girls don’t get the vaccination, along with 58 percent of boys (the vaccine protects boys from other, rarer cancers and can benefit their partners).

When nearly a dozen women die a day of something so preventable — far more than are killed by, say, terrorism — you’d think we’d be urgently trying to save lives. In some ways we have made progress: Kudos to President Obama for making HPV vaccinations and cervical cancer screenings typically free.

But we’re going backward when states close Planned Parenthood clinics that perform the screenings, without even ensuring that there are alternatives in place.

A second under-addressed area of women’s health is family planning. A slight majority of American women will have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives, and surveys show that American kids have sex about as often as European kids but have babies about three times as often as Spanish kids and eight times as often as Swiss kids. That’s partly because of meager U.S. sex education, and partly because of a lack of access to contraception, particularly LARCs — long-acting reversible contraceptives, like implants and IUDs.

The Title X national family planning program provides LARCs, cancer screenings and much more, and an analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that Title X-supported clinics prevent three women a day from dying of cervical cancer — and also prevent one million unplanned pregnancies a year and 345,000 abortions. That makes Title X one of the most successful anti-abortion programs, yet Republicans regularly try to defund it. After inflation, Title X now has less than one-third as much money as in 1980.

“Women’s health” goes beyond the pelvis, so the conversation should include domestic violence. A woman is assaulted in the United States every nine seconds, and 20,000 calls a day are placed to domestic violence hotlines. When millions of women are beaten, threatened or stalked by current or former boyfriends or husbands, what is that but a women’s health issue?

I’ll never forget hearing from women in shelters about the gut-wrenching fear for themselves and their children that they constantly face — often with little help from the authorities.

In each of these areas, we have solutions. Screenings and HPV vaccinations prevent deaths from cervical cancer. Ready access to LARCs hugely reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Cracking down on domestic violence offenders, mandating treatment and taking guns from those under protection orders — all these help. But we’re not doing enough.

So let’s broaden the conversation about women’s health this political season, for the benefit of women and the men who love them.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

And it came to pass, barely seconds after he became the near-inevitable Republican presidential nominee, that Donald Trump began a gender war.

“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card,” Trump said in the aftermath of his five-state primary sweep on Tuesday. “And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

Observers felt they discerned a distinct eye roll on the part of Chris Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, who was standing onstage behind the triumphant Trump. Her husband maintained his now-traditional demeanor of a partially brainwashed cult member.

People, why in the world do you think Trump went there?

A) He analyzed Clinton’s entire public career and decided her weakest point was the possibility of being the first woman president.

B) He felt his unimpeachable record on feminist issues gave him the gravitas to bring the matter up early.

C) The remarks were a self-censored version of an initial impulse to comment on her bra size.

Maybe all of the above. The man evolves.

Ted Cruz may have seen an opportunity, because he suddenly announced that Carly Fiorina would be his vice-presidential nominee. Fiorina, of course, was the candidate who Trump once made fun of for her looks. (“Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”) It would have been quite a coup if Cruz were not coming off a quintuple-trouncing in the Tuesday primaries, as well as a failed attempt to woo Indiana sports fans in which he referred to a basketball hoop as a “ring.” The idea of being named his running mate was a little like being named second in command of the Donner Party.

Trump has actually used the “women’s card” line before, and his handlers do not seem to have made any serious attempt to dissuade him, perhaps being preoccupied with prepping him for that big foreign policy speech in which he mispronounced “Tanzania.”

Clinton loved it. “Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the ‘woman card,’ then deal me in,” she said during her own victory speech.

Trump, in return, sniped at Clinton for “shouting.” Chatting with the hosts on “Morning Joe” post-primary, he said: “I know a lot of people would say you can’t say that about a woman, because of course a woman doesn’t shout. But the way she shouted that message was not — oh, I just — that’s the way she said it.” He also proudly announced that he was about to get an endorsement from “the great Bobby Knight,” former Indiana coach who once told an NBC interviewer that his theory on handling stress was, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

We would not be bringing up Bobby Knight’s checkered history today if it had not been for the gender comments. Trump is the former owner of a deeply unsuccessful football franchise. (Make the New Jersey Generals Great Again!) He is going to be endorsed by a trillion sports stars, and if we vetted all of them for sexism, we really would have no time for anything else.

But back to the woman card. “She is a woman. She’s playing the woman card left and right. … She will be called on it,” Trump told CNN. The interviewer, Chris Cuomo, reasonably asked how “you call someone on being a woman” and Trump retorted that “if she were a man and she was the way she is she would get virtually no votes.”

Do not ask yourself how many votes Donald Trump would get if he were a woman and he was the way he is. Truly, you don’t want to go there.

The bottom line on Hillary Clinton is that she’s spent her life championing women and their issues. She began her career with the Children’s Defense Fund, fought for better schools in Arkansas, for children’s health care as first lady and for reproductive rights as the senator from New York. As secretary of state she spent endless — endless — days and weeks flying to obscure corners of the planet, celebrating the accomplishments of women craftsmen, championing the causes of women labor leaders, talking with and encouraging women in government and politics.

It is true that politicians have a tendency to get carried away when it comes to hyping convenient details in their biographies. (Listening to Marco Rubio talk about being Cuban-American, you almost got the impression he had personally participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion.) But Trump is a white, male offspring of an extremely rich New Yorker of German descent. He’s had an unusual lack of charitable causes for a guy that wealthy. The problem suddenly becomes very clear.

The poor guy hasn’t got anything to talk about except real estate. He’s suffering from a severe lack of cards.

Collins, solo

April 9, 2016

In “Hillary and Bernie Meet New York” Ms. Collins says there’s a glamour candidate and, uh, a former secretary of state.   Here she is:

Democratic presidential campaign news: Hillary Clinton just visited the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum. Meanwhile, Bernie Sandersannounced he is going to the Vatican, where he hopes to meet with the pope.

Have you noticed how Senator Sanders, former mayor of Burlington, Vt., is the glamour candidate while Clinton, former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, seems to follow an itinerary fit for a county commissioner? Welcome to the New York primary.

Yes! It’s New York’s turn! Everyone here is very excited — it’s been a quarter century since anybody paid attention to us during a big election year. Even then it was only for about two minutes, when we had a minor role in ending the presidential prospects of Jerry Brown. But on April 19, New York voters will crown, um — the candidates who get to go on to Pennsylvania.

Actually, it’s a bigger deal than that. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have to win their home state. If John Kasich can do it, it’s the least you can expect.

When Clinton moved to New York in 1999 and announced she was running for the Senate, it sounded thrilling. While we like to pretend New York politics is exciting, it’s mainly just one indictment after another. But a first lady who was a central figure in the most famous sex scandal in American history, running for the Senate in a place where she had never lived? Wow.

Some people — O.K., many people — were suspicious of the most famous woman in the world parachuting in to claim the best political job in the state. But Clinton wore everyone down by having the humility to be stupendously boring. She invented her “listening tour” self, marching through upstate New York, having intense conversations with dairy farmers or small-business people about Internet access and rural redevelopment until the cows literally came home.

It seemed to cast a spell on her opponents. Mayor Rudy Giuliani revealed he had prostate cancer, then told reporters he was leaving his wife without giving her a heads-up, and acknowledged he had a “good friend” who would later become his third spouse. Meanwhile, Clinton announced she had visited all 62 New York counties.

Giuliani dropped out of the race and was replaced by a Long Island congressman, Rick Lazio, a good-natured moderate. By the fall, Lazio had turned into a political disaster, stomping across the stage at the senatorial debate, thrusting a campaign finance pledge under Clinton’s face and bellowing “Sign it! Right now!”

Perhaps there’s something about Clinton that makes her opponents go crazy. It obviously didn’t happen with Barack Obama, but then exceptions make the rule.

Lately, Bernie Sanders seems to have been acting a little … off. There was the terrible interview with The Daily News. (“I don’t know … It’s something I have not studied … I haven’t thought about it a whole lot.”) Then there was the strange series of claims that Clinton is not qualified to be president, the most improbable description he could pick short of “lazy.”

That Senate race defined Clinton as a candidate — someone who balanced her stupendous fame and celebrity with down-home, low-key campaigning. The “Listening Tour” was so stuffed with worthy, headline-free discussions that members of her press corps developed twitches, drinking problems or a sudden yearning to be transferred to the culture desk. But voters loved it.

Then in 2008, after a terrible start, presidential candidate Clinton started listening again, with many variations on the Zanesville Economic Summit. She won the Ohio primary and came very close to beating Obama.

This time around, she launched off in a van that was unfortunately named “Scooby,” meeting at an Iowa auto mechanics classroom, then holding a small-business round table at a family-owned fruit company. The biggest drama came in Maumee, Ohio, when she visited a Chipotle and failed to leave money in the tip jar.

What can we learn from all this? First, that Clinton will come out of this year’s campaign better informed about the concerns of everyday Americans than she was when she went in. Her events may be sloggy and staged, but nearly every day she gets some little insight into the woes of preschool teachers, peach farmers with irrigation problems or parents of children with autism.

Second, she isn’t exactly causing hearts to flutter in the process.

Sanders, who doesn’t have to prove he’s down to earth, should be showing us his policy range and depth. Instead, he just keeps giving the same speech. But it’s a wowser, and it’s about change.

Clinton’s not great on full-throated oratory, and she’s about improvement.The very things that have turned her from a political celebrity into a serious presidential candidate are the ones that give her problems in a high-pitched, melodramatic race for the nation’s attention.

We’ll find out soon who her former constituents prefer. Whichever way it goes, you can blame it on Buffalo.

Kristof and Collins

April 7, 2016

In “So Little to Ask For: A Home” Mr. Kristof says President Obama’s plan to end family homelessness is a bargain.  Ms. Collins, in “The Bible Meets the Salamander,” says Tennessee has an idea for a new entry on its list of State Things.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

One of the people I greatly admire is Khadijah Williams, a young woman who was homeless for much of her childhood.

Khadijah bounced from home to home, shelter to shelter, from the time she was 6. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been forced to move,” she recalls.

“Though school was my salvation, my test scores suffered as a result of missing so much school and having no place to study,” she adds. “I stopped trying to make friends because I was so tired of crying about losing friends.”

Ultimately, Khadijah found a home — because she won a scholarship to Harvard, enabling her to move into a dormitory. Now 25, she’s working for the city government in Washington, D.C., and one of her tasks is helping homeless kids.

But Khadijah’s trajectory is exceptional. The United States has 64,000 families who are homeless, including 123,000 children, and many will be permanently harmed by the experience. We have growing evidence that traumas like homelessness can flood a child’s brain with a stress hormone, cortisol, and impair brain development.

In a year in which there finally is serious talk about inequality, the ultimate poverty is lack of shelter. And the good news is that in the last decade or so, we’ve figured out what works to address it; the problem is not inevitable. The Housing First approach, which gets people quickly into permanent housing and then offers support services to keep them there, seems particularly cost-effective.

Family homelessness is down almost one-fifth since 2010, and veteran homelessness is down much more — two states say they have functionally ended homelessness of veterans.

Another reason for optimism: With almost no fanfare, President Obama’s budget proposal includes $11 billion over 10 years, which he says would end family and youth homelessness. This is a step to end a level of homelessness that just isn’t tolerated in other developed countries.

So if we can have a robust national debate about the way Donald Trump’s campaign manager grabbed a reporter’s arm, let’s also muster a debate about whether candidates will help end family homelessness in America. This goes to the heart of American poverty — and values.

You think addressing family homelessness sounds worthy but unaffordable? To put this Obama budget request in perspective, the average annual sum is only about 1 percent of what we were spending in Afghanistan at the peak.

I’ve been thinking about housing after reading a superb new book, “Evicted,” by Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at Harvard. Desmond lived as a researcher in impoverished sections of Milwaukee and tells of his neighbors there struggling to find places to live.

“Every year in this country, people are evicted from their homes not by the tens of thousands or even the hundreds of thousands but by the millions,” Desmond notes. About one-fourth of all moves by Milwaukee’s poorest renters were involuntary, and such moves disrupt children’s education, make it harder to hold onto jobs and damage the fabric of entire neighborhoods.

“Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart,” Desmond says.

The system is also dysfunctional. A renter who calls 911 too many times will be evicted, which puts battered women in an impossible situation: They can summon help when they are beaten or strangled, but that may land them out on the street.

Liberals who write about poverty sometimes ignore self-destructive behaviors, while conservatives sometimes see nothing else. To his credit, Desmond acknowledges that people on the edge periodically abuse drugs or squander money — he writes about one woman who devoted her entire monthly allocation of food stamps to a grand lobster dinner. But he also emphasizes that it’s not so much irresponsibility that causes poverty as the other way around.

And Desmond notes the generosity among the neediest: The woman who bought the lobster used her food stamps in a different month to buy food for a neighbor who was even more desperate.

The United States does allocate immense resources to housing. But they go mostly to benefits for homeowners, like the mortgage interest tax deduction. These benefits aren’t particularly effective: Homeownership rates are lower in the U.S. than in Canada, which doesn’t have the deduction.

In comparison to the mortgage deduction, Obama’s request to end family and youth homelessness would cost a pittance.

“Compared to the cost of so many things out there, and to the cost of inaction, this is a great deal,” Julián Castro, the secretary of housing and urban development, told me.

My friend Khadijah managed to overcome her lack of shelter as a child, but most of the 123,000 kids who are homeless won’t be so lucky.

“Housing was once the forefront of the progressive agenda,” Desmond told me, but then it fell off. Today the problem isn’t a lack of solutions, but a lack of political will and a failure to fund programs that work. So let’s ask the candidates: Will you back the president’s budget request and try to end family homelessness?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Amid all the truly awful things state legislatures do, one of the rare bright spots has been the naming of official symbols. Who was ever made unhappy by the designation of a state rock?

Tennessee, alas, is screwing up the record. The governor is currently trying to decide whether to sign a piece of legislation that would put the Bible on the list of State Things, alongside the salamander (amphibian), milk (beverage), honeybee (agricultural insect), raccoon (wild animal), several variations on the theme of state tree and flower, and nine — nine! — official state songs. The last of which, adopted in 2011, was “Tennessee.”

The next question you’re probably asking is why it took nine tries for Tennessee to get a song named “Tennessee,” and the answer is that it actually has two. You have to admit that’s pretty inclusive. On the other hand, picking the Christian holy book as a state symbol seems simultaneously divisive and unnecessary. Not to mention sort of disrespectful to the Bible, which doesn’t usually get included on the same list as the salamander and the smallmouth bass.

“It’s been a hard year for diversity and inclusion in Tennessee,” said Senator Lee Harris, a Memphis Democrat, in a phone interview. Harris is the Senate minority leader, which means he heads a hearty band of five out of 33 members, an all-time low for his party. Besides the Bible bill, the Legislature recently passed a new Confederate heritage measure, and on Wednesday the House approved a bill aimed at allowing counselors and therapists to deny services to gay or transgender patients. Meanwhile, one member left a DVD in her colleagues’ mailboxes titled “America’s Mosques Exposed! Video Evidence They Are War Factories.”

Feel free to blame this all on Donald Trump.

In the great scheme of things, making the Bible the state book may be the least of Tennessee’s problems. But it’s sad to see the state messing with a time-honored, cheerful tradition. For generations, middle-school civics classes have studied how a bill becomes a law by petitioning their legislature to honor the otter as state animal, or the blueberry muffin as the official … state muffin. (Here’s looking a you, Minnesota.)

Then, jovial hearings take place. Serious-minded colleagues complain that the House and Senate are wasting valuable time. This is true only if you labor under the assumption that the lawmakers would otherwise be busy reforming the contract procurement process.

Years ago, when I was covering the Connecticut state legislature, a fight between the deer and the whale forces went on for so long that the Senate went into a brief rebellion and voted to name the human being as the official state mammal. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted to spend my life covering politics.

The point of the symbol-naming has always been amity and good citizenship. But recently, the cultural wars have intruded. In 2011 Utah became the first state to pick an official state gun, an automatic pistol called the Browning M1911. (“This firearm is Utah,” said the sponsor.) Hot on its heels came Arizona and the Colt revolver, a gun that won the West or — as a few legislators noted — drove out the Native Americans.

The momentum kept gathering. Erin McCoy, the executive director of State Symbols USA, a website dedicated to — well, you know — says she misses the days when the only weapon-related designations involved retired battleships and war memorials. Now firearms may be the fastest-growing category. “I don’t enjoy doing pages for them,” she admitted.

There are now seven states with official guns, although to be fair, some are so extremely old and inefficient they really might count as historic artifacts. The exceptions include — yes! — Tennessee, which recently honored a .50-caliber rifle, the Barrett M82/M107. Critics pointed out that the designee has the power to knock down a commercial aircraft, although the debate in the State Senate seemed to suggest that might be a good thing. One supporter noted proudly that witnesses had “seen this thing go a mile and a half through a cinder block to take out its target.”

The lone senator to speak against the bill, Jeff Yarbro of Nashville, complimented the weapon maker, a local boy, on his ingenuity. But, he added, when “our elementary school kids are going through looking at the mockingbird, the raccoon, the purple iris, I’m not sure that the Barrett sniper rifle is a necessary addition.“

This is not what symbols were made for. Skip the guns and save the state dance. Books seem to be dicey territory, although we can all rally around Massachusetts’ choice of “Make Way for Ducklings.”

The next time your state legislators try to stick religious preference into the designations, tell them everybody would be much happier with another rock, legume or fossil. Or they could follow Utah in one of its happier days, and pick an official state cooking pot. Nobody was ever made unhappy by a nod to the Dutch oven.

Collins, solo

April 2, 2016

I’m sparing us all MoDo.  In “Trump, Truth and Abortion” Ms. Collins tells us that you can learn things from a candidate who has no idea what he’s talking about.  Here she is:

Maybe Donald Trump did everyone a favor with his famous jail-the-women comment. When he blurted out that “there has to be some form of punishment” for anyone who has an abortion, he blew the cover off the carefully constructed public face of the anti-choice movement.

Let’s take a look.

There’s no reason to imagine Trump ever gave a millisecond of thought to the details of abortion policy until he got trapped in that merciless interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. There are certain right-wing tropes that he just grabbed onto when he started his presidential run. One is that whenever the topic comes up, he’s supposed to announce he’s “pro-life.”

“I know,” Matthews followed up, adding, “But what should be the law?”

Trump babbled about totally unrelated topics, but Matthews, cruel man, pressed onward: “If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under law. Should abortion be punished?”

“Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes, they should be punished,” the candidate replied.

Wow. Trump both passed the buck and smashed the anti-abortion movement’s most basic sales pitch: that their war is about protecting fully developed fetuses from being murdered in the womb. The fact that more than 90 percent of abortions happen in the first trimester, that shutting down Planned Parenthood clinics robs low-income women of health care and family planning services, is beside the point. You’re not supposed to admit that stopping abortions limits women’s choice, and heaven knows you don’t say you’re punishing them.

“You never blame the woman, you paint her as a victim.” said Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor and Trump supporter who was one of the very, very few anti-abortion public figures who didn’t cringe and demand that Trump walk back his comments. “That conservative orthodoxy has been born out of political expediency rather than logic.”

The rest of the religious right howled in denial. A woman who chooses to have an abortion is, apparently, not taking responsibility for herself. She’s … misled, poor thing.

“On the important issue of the sanctity of life, what’s far too often neglected is that being pro-life is not simply about the unborn child; it’s also about the mother — and creating a culture that respects her and embraces life,” said Ted Cruz. “Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.”

Remember, people, that Ted Cruz does not believe that a 12-year-old rape victim should be allowed to have an abortion. But that’s all part of affirming women’s dignity.

In reality, the anti-abortion movement is grounded on the idea that sex outside of marriage is a sin, and the only choice a woman should have is between abstinence and the possibility of imminent parenthood. It may be politically unwise to say that the sinner ought to pay, but she should at minimum have to carry an unwanted child to term.

Look at it this way and it’s easy to understand why abortion opponents have shown virtually no interest in working to make contraceptives and family planning universally available. It’s the sex, at bottom, that they oppose, and the politicians they support feel no pressure — or even any freedom — to try to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through anything but high school abstinence lectures. Contraception may not be illegal, but it’s certainly not something you want to treat with respect.

(In honor of that last thought we will revisit the response Ted Cruz made to a question about family planning during the campaign: “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom; you put 50 cents in and voilà. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”)

Since Donald Trump has no real positions on almost anything except deals, you’d think he could have put his remarkable intellectual neutrality to some advantage on this issue. It would have been great if he’d told Matthews that he wanted to fight abortion by giving women easy, low-cost access to contraceptives.

Instead, of course, he babbled and evaded, at one point demanding to know if Matthews was a Catholic. It was a little like the moment at the Washington Post editorial board interview when he was being pressed on whether he’d use tactical nuclear weapons against ISIS and responded: “I’ll tell you one thing. This is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?”

There was, however, one moment of shining clarity. It came when he was asked whether the man who created an unwanted pregnancy should be punished, too.

“I would say no,” Trump quickly decreed.

I’ve said it many times before, and I’ll say it again — if men had the babies abortion would be a sacrament.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

March 31, 2016

Mr. Blow says that “‘Bernie or Bust’ Is Bonkers,” and that elections are not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one. Sometimes they’re between common sense and catastrophe.  Mr. Kristof considers “Trump and Abortion” and comes to the conclusion that he’s poorly informed even on his own position.  In “The Republican Gun-Free Zone” Ms. Collins says if you want to be safe from being shot by a well-armed Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, go to the G.O.P.’s convention.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Bernie Sanders’s surrogate Susan Sarandon went on MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” earlier this week and said something that made folks’ jaws drop.

When Hayes asked Sarandon whether Sanders’s supporters would vote for Hillary Clinton if Clinton won the Democratic nomination, this exchange followed:

SARANDON: I think Bernie probably would encourage people because he doesn’t have any ego. I think a lot of people are, sorry, I can’t bring myself to do that.

HAYES: How about you personally?

SARANDON: I don’t know. I’m going to see what happens.

HAYES: Really?

SARANDON: Really.

HAYES: I cannot believe as you’re watching the, if Donald Trump…

SARANDON: Some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in then things will really, you know, explode.

HAYES: You’re saying the Leninist model of…

SARANDON: Some people feel that.

(I don’t generally use the Republican front-runner’s name in my columns, but I must present the quote as transcribed. Sorry.)

What was Sarandon talking about with her coy language? “Bring the revolution”? Exactly what kind of revolution? “Explode”? Was the purpose to present this as a difficult but ultimately positive development?

The comments smacked of petulance and privilege.

No member of an American minority group — whether ethnic, racial, queer-identified, immigrant, refugee or poor — would (or should) assume the luxury of uttering such a imbecilic phrase, filled with lust for doom.

But I don’t doubt that she has met “some people” with a Bernie-or-bust, scorched-earth electoral portentousness. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, “A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll indicates one third of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters cannot see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in November.”

Be absolutely clear: While there are meaningful differences between Clinton and Sanders, either would be a far better choice for president than any of the remaining Republican contenders, especially the demagogic real estate developer. Assisting or allowing his ascendance by electoral abstinence in order to force a “revolution” is heretical.

This position is dangerous, shortsighted and self-immolating.

If Sanders wins the nomination, liberals should rally round him. Conversely, if Clinton does, they should rally round her.

This is not a game. The presidency, particularly the next one, matters, and elections can be decided by relatively small margins. No president has won the popular vote by more than 10 percentage points since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.

In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that.

The real estate developer is now talking carelessly about promoting nuclear proliferation and torture (then there’s Ted Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing and glowing sand).

And, there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Not only that, but as of Tuesday, there were also 84 federal judiciary vacancies with 49 pending nominees.

The question of who makes those appointments matters immensely.

As Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in The New Yorker in 2014:

“When Obama took office, Republican appointees controlled ten of the thirteen circuit courts of appeals; Democratic appointees now constitute a majority in nine circuits. Because federal judges have life tenure, nearly all of Obama’s judges will continue serving well after he leaves office.

Furthermore, Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation, writing:

“Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, ‘The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.’ Forty-two percent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two percent of George W. Bush’s judges and 29 percent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six percent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with 18 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton.”

And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion.

Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.

Of more substance, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute:

“To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.”

There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration. In fact, the Huffington Post Queer Voices editor at large Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article in February titled, “No, LGBT People Aren’t Exempt from Donald Trump’s Blatant Bigotry,” responding to a trending idea that the Republican front-runner wasn’t as bad for queer people as other Republican candidates:

“It’s absolutely false — he’s as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights — and it’s time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.”

Then there are all the other promises — threats? — the real estate developer has made. He has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, end birthright citizenship, dismantle Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” (whatever that means), defund Planned Parenthood and temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from coming to this country, among other things.

There is no true equivalency between either of the Democratic candidates and this man, and anyone who make such a claim is engaging in a repugnant, dishonorable scare tactic not worth our respect.

It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire. As Sanders himself has said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”

The New York Times Upshot even pointed out last May that Sanders and Clinton “voted the same way 93 percent of the time in the two years they shared in the Senate” and in many of the cases in which Clinton voted differently from Sanders, “she voted with an overwhelming majority of her colleagues, including Republicans.”

That doesn’t mean that those differing votes weren’t significant. They were. As the Upshot put it, the 31 times they disagreed “happened to be” on some of “the biggest issues of the day, including measures on continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an immigration reform bill and bank bailouts during the depths of the Great Recession.”

And yet those differences hardly bring either candidate anywhere close to being as frightening as the specter of the real estate developer assuming the office of president of the United States.

Elections are about choices, not always between a dream candidate and a dreaded one, but sometimes between common sense and catastrophe. Progressives had better remember this come November, no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

Amen.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t say anything more shocking, he suggested that women who get abortions should be punished.

On MSNBC, he said abortion must be banned and then “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who manage to get abortions.

He declined to say what the punishment should be, dodging a question about whether it should be “10 years” in prison or something milder. But his comment raised the possibility of following the lead of countries like El Salvador, where women can be dragged off from a hospital to prison for getting an abortion. Indeed, rights groups say that women were wrongly imprisoned in El Salvador simply for having miscarriages.

Trump doesn’t seem to have thought deeply about the issue — what a surprise! — and he departed from the mainstream anti-abortion position of targeting not women but abortion providers. As one person said on Twitter: “He’s a walking cartoon parody of every leftist accusation against Republicans.”

After the TV interview was over and the backlash had begun, Trump tried to back off his comment, saying in a statement, “The doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

Who knows where that leaves us!

One lesson is that Trump is an uninformed opportunist, but the episode does highlight two basic problems for the anti-abortion movement.

First, as long as the focus is on the fetus or on the claim of “protecting women,” many in the public are sympathetic to the anti-abortion view. The moment the focus shifts to criminalizing women, sympathy shifts.

Anti-abortion activists have generally taken a savvy approach over the years by concentrating on extreme situations — such as late-term so-called partial-birth abortions — and on legislating obstacles that in practice reduce access: Of the 1,074 state restrictions on abortion put in place after Roe v. Wade in 1973, more than one-quarter were enacted since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Many Americans are ambivalent on abortion. But Trump has now turned the attention back from the fetus to the woman. And remember that three in 10 American women get an abortion at some point in their lives.

Second, the data suggests that one of the most effective ways to reduce the number of abortions would be to increase the availability of publicly funded family planning. In 2013, publicly funded family planning prevented two million unintended pregnancies, including almost 700,000 abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Yet Republicans try to defund Title X, the traditional family planning program in the United States. After inflation, its funding level is less than one-third what it was in 1980.

In truth, Trump’s stance — whatever it is — would matter only if a more conservative Supreme Court revisited Roe v. Wade and some states were allowed to ban abortion altogether.

Moreover, medical abortion, achieved by taking two kinds of pills, is gaining ground on surgical abortion and is much more difficult to stop. In particular, one of the pills, misoprostol, is very cheap, has other uses and is at least 80 percent effective on its own in inducing an abortion early in pregnancy. The upshot is that early abortions will be increasingly difficult to prevent.

Trump’s comments about punishing women are worth pondering because they reflect the logical conclusion of equating a fetus with any other human being.

This penalizing approach has been tried before and failed. A dozen years ago, I went to Portugal to cover such an effort. The police staked out women’s health clinics, looking to arrest women who appeared likely to have just had abortions based on being pale or seeming upset. Some 48 women and a 16-year-old girl were prosecuted, along with accomplices such as husbands, boyfriends, parents and even a taxi driver who drove a woman to a clinic.

The women were humiliated on trial, their most intimate gynecological history revealed to the public. And the public was revolted. The women were all acquitted, and the public turned decisively in favor of abortion rights, by a majority of 79 percent to 14 percent.

“Forbidding abortion doesn’t save anyone or anything,” Sonia Fertuzinhos, a member of the Portuguese Parliament, told me at the time. “It just gets women arrested and humiliated in the public arena.”

The episode left many Portuguese both anti-abortion and pro-choice. They were distressed by abortion, especially late in pregnancies, but they were aghast at the idea of prosecuting young women for making wrenching personal choices. I think many Americans feel the same way.

So maybe Trump, in his flip-flopping wavering about women’s issues, can at least remind us of a larger truth. Whatever one thinks of abortion, criminalizing it would be worse.

Let’s all consider that if men had babies abortion would be a sacrament.  And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Latest in the long, long line of Controversies We Weren’t Really Expecting: the right to bear arms at the Republican National Convention.

A petition calling on the Republicans to allow people to carry their pistols when they assemble this July collected more than 50,000 signatures rather speedily this week. The Secret Service instantly turned thumbs down. The presidential candidates, who are normally so rapturous about all things gun-related, refused to get involved.

The author of the petition later told CBS that he was just trying to point out that Republicans’ enthusiasm for weaponry does not necessarily extend to large, potentially rancorous gatherings at which they are personally present. This gives us an excellent opportunity to talk about guns and politics.

There was a time when Americans seemed O.K. with a middle-of-the-road approach to guns. The public tended to regard them as things you used for hunting or household defense, and favored laws that regulated them accordingly. But no more. The National Rifle Association is beginning to run out of places to demand that people be allowed to bring their pistols, having already thrown down the gauntlet on bars, kindergartens, airports and college campuses.

The theory is that once everybody is armed 24/7, no matter what bad thing occurs, there will always be good guys on hand to shoot the evildoer. In the real world very few people — including police officers — are skilled enough to aim accurately during a scary emergency. But if you want to win the Republican presidential nomination, it’s important to pretend otherwise. After the terrorist mass murders in France, Donald Trump argued that if only Parisian concertgoers had been packing heat, the outcome would have been much different.

“You know what? If I’m in that room and let’s say we have two or five or 40 people with guns, we’re going to do a lot better because there’s going to be a shootout,” he said.

Two important points here: Even in the confines of Second Amendment aficionados, you don’t normally hear the term “we’re going to do a lot better because there’s going to be a shootout.” Plus, note the suggestion that people would be safer with an armed Donald Trump in the building.

Trump does not appear to know anything much about firearms. Do you remember back in January, when he boasted that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”? No one took him literally, possibly because no one believed that Trump could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and actually hit anything. While he says he owns a gun, when asked if he ever uses it, he replied, “none of your business.” Mainly, he brags that his sons are crack hunters, and you can see the proof of that if you Google Donald Trump Jr. and “dead elephant tail.”

Do you think Hillary Clinton could beat Trump at a firing range? Clinton actually meets the basic political standard for marksmanship, which involves being in possession of one anecdote about having gone hunting and shot a bird. Hers goes back to her days in Arkansas when she was with a group of friends who didn’t believe she knew how to handle a gun, then watched as she downed a duck on the first try. The dead-fowl tradition is sort of silly, but it does hark back to the good old days when people thought about shooting in terms of sport and scaring off burglars.

Clinton has been talking a lot about gun regulation lately, because it’s one of the very few issues on which she can attack Bernie Sanders from the left. Sanders, who appears to have no personal interest in guns whatsoever, has been historically weak when it comes to voting on things like background checks. Their debate would be much more useful if it carried on into the general election. But it won’t. The sad truth is that Democrats don’t believe gun control is a winning issue. And the Republicans are so completely in bed with the N.R.A., the mattress is buckling.

The one candidate in this year’s race who actually has some skill as a marksman is Ted Cruz. He shot two pheasants while campaigning in Iowa, which is perfectly reasonable. He also carried out the tradition that calls for ambitious right-wing politicians to put on camouflage and face paint and go hunting with someone from “Duck Dynasty,” which is really embarrassing.

But if you want to know where Cruz stands on a reasoned approach to handling weapons, I suggest you take a look at the video in which he demonstrates how to cook bacon by wrapping it around the barrel of an assault rifle. (“Mmmm, machine gun bacon.”) The mantra is pretty straightforward. Nobody wants to think about armed convention delegates. But otherwise guns belong everywhere. Tomorrow morning, brew the coffee and shoot the breakfast.

Bruni and Collins

March 26, 2016

In “Lose With Cruz: A Love Story” Mr. Bruni says the G.O.P.’s faux swoon for a far-right loon is something to behold.  Ms. Collins considers “Trump, Cruz, Kasich and the Ladies” and says one thing these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the women of America.  Here’s Mr. Bruni:

It was clear to me weeks ago, even before Marco Rubio threw in the towel, that the G.O.P. was getting ready to cuddle with Ted Cruz.

But I never expected a love quite like this to bloom.

It’s a singularly tortured love, one that grits its teeth, girds its loins and pines for a contested convention.

It’s hate worn down into resignation, disgust repurposed as calculation. Stopping a ludicrous billionaire means submitting to a loathsome senator. And so they submit, one chastened and aghast Republican leader after another, murmuring sweet nothings about Cruz that are really sour somethings about Donald Trump.

Will they still respect themselves in the morning?

I’m not sure we’ve ever witnessed a capitulation this grudging, a cynicism this grotesque, a reversal of regard this fraudulent and flat-out hilarious. While politics is an impure arena in which yesterday’s enemies routinely become tomorrow’s allies, the transmogrification of Cruz goes beyond that, proving that in the right circumstances, with the right motivation, you can see just about anyone in a newly flattering light.

Attila the Hun? True, he was truculent, but what a can-do spirit! Torquemada? A tad rigid, yes, but that’s what righteousness sometimes looks like.

Cruz has gone from the insufferable nemesis of Republican traditionalists to their last, best hope, and the likes of Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush have now given him endorsements — or approximations thereof — that will go down in political history as some of the most constipated hosannas ever rendered.

They hardly mention Cruz’s name. They barely manage to assign him a single virtue.

“Consistent,” Jeb Bush called him — in a Facebook post. He apparently couldn’t rouse or debase himself to a proper news conference.

He was following the lead of his younger brother Neil, who had signed up with Cruz a few weeks earlier and explained, “I commit this from my head, not my heart.” There’s a sentence you won’t find on a Valentine’s Day card.

Graham professed his devotion during an interview on “The Daily Show.”

“I’m on the Ted train, absolutely,” he told Trevor Noah, but when Noah pressed him about the charms of that particular mode of transportation, he confessed that he would have preferred another — possibly an Edsel, maybe even a tricycle with a wobbly front wheel. “He was my 15th choice. What can I say?”

Not much that’s laudatory, apparently. Cruz is the love that chokes on its own words.

It’s a surprise-every-second love. On Friday, Cruz made public reference to — and furiously denied — a National Enquirer story that accused him of affairs.

It’s also a love that makes no promises of its endurance. In fact, many of the Republicans in a faux swoon for the far-right loon don’t really want to see him fly all the way to the White House — or, for that matter, to the nomination.

There’s a tangle of mind-sets at work and strategies in play. They all involve thwarting Trump, but with different outcomes in the end. Bear with me. This requires a bit of explanation.

Few of the Cruz converts actually think he can amass a majority of delegates and win the nomination before the convention. For that to happen, their endorsements of Cruz would have to scare off John Kasich and turn the contest into a two-man race, and Kasich doesn’t seem to be scaring.

The real goal is to buck up Cruz to a point where he prevents Trump from getting that majority and either passes him in the delegate count or draws close. Abracadabra: a contested convention.

Some of the new Cruz devotees indeed hope that he would be the beneficiary of that and the ultimate victor. They expect Cruz to lose the presidency. But then they also expect Trump to lose it — and to lose it in an uglier, more divisive fashion that drags down Republicans running for the House and Senate too. This lose-with-Cruz faction figures that a reset of the party after a Cruz defeat would be possible, whereas Trump might not leave them with much of party to reset.

Others who have crawled into bed with Cruz are also after a contested convention, but would use it to crawl out of that bed and into the arms of some Republican Romeo waiting in the wings. Maybe Paul Ryan, though he’s playing Hamlet: to be drafted or not to be drafted? Maybe Mitt Romney, who seems readier to commit.

Both Ryan and Romney have stepped forward with high-minded soliloquies about the G.O.P.’s values and future, and while that may well be a reflection of conscience, mightn’t it also be a fig leaf over ambition?

And at least a few of those canoodling with Cruz see him as a bridge to Kasich. In this convoluted scenario, endorsing Kasich now serves no purpose: He has too few delegates to compete with, and foil, Trump. But if the convention turns into a free-for-all, then Republicans will be free to realize what polling has repeatedly told them, and what is almost indisputably true: Kasich would be their best bet against Hillary Clinton, if only they could see his sex appeal.

Poor Kasich. He governs the crucial battleground of Ohio, has high approval ratings there, has made a stand for decency in an indecent age, and is out there on the campaign trail wrapping his arms around every last American who will stand still long enough to let him. Even so he’s spurned.

“Does Kasich have a following?” wrote the conservative columnist John Podhoretz just days ago. “Yes, he does, of people who still cry when they listen to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and its invocation of ‘all the lonely people’ and who want a hug because their Aunt Minnie has the shingles.”

So the answer, at least for now, is Cruz? In this bitter season, yes. Sixty percent of Republicans are embarrassed by their party’s presidential race, according to a recent survey by The Times and CBS News, and a Gallup poll released on Friday revealed that only 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leading independents think that the election process is working properly. Cruz is the pinup for pessimistic times.

Even John McCain, who once dismissed him and Rand Paul as “wacko birds,” said last week that Cruz has what it takes to manage the mess of the Middle East. He hastened to add that he would feel obliged to work with, and support, any Republican who is elected president, and “to put aside my anger.”

That’s the way Republican leaders fall for Cruz — with apologies, asterisks, angst. The terms of endearment are teary ones, because this isn’t the relationship they wanted. It’s the only relationship that’s left. He gets their love because someone must. Isn’t it romantic?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Let’s talk about the Republican presidential candidates … and women.

Not the fight about who has the prettiest wife, which truly tops this week’s list of Things We Never Thought We’d See in a Presidential Election. That was the dust-up in which Donald Trump tweeted an image of his wife, Melania, a former model, next to a rather unflattering picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Cruz called Trump “a sniveling coward” and delivered a stirring tribute to his spouse that would have been even more moving if it had not been lifted from the 1995 film “The American President.”

He also said, “Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.” There was no indication what the hell that meant, but it definitely did not come from an old Michael Douglas movie.

This was also the week in which Cruz accused Trump of having his “henchmen” plant a National Enquirer story alleging that Cruz might have had five secret mistresses. Stories suggesting that conservative politicians have had affairs do not come under the heading of Things We Thought We’d Never See, so we will let that one go and move on.

To the issues: One thing that all these guys have in common is a desire to put themselves in charge of the reproductive rights of the entire female half of the country. Trump used to be pro-choice, but he “evolved” at some undisclosed point in the 21st century. Ted Cruz opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest. John Kasich is willing to allow a troubled teenager to get an abortion if she’s seduced by her father, but not if the seducer is the next-door neighbor. This is why Kasich’s the moderate.

Everybody knows you can’t believe in abortion rights and win the Republican nomination. But then the candidates ought to be eager to make family planning services accessible, right? The best way to reduce abortion is to limit unwanted pregnancies.

Ted Cruz made his position on contraception clear while campaigning in Iowa. It’s so charming that I am going to quote it in full: “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom; you put 50 cents in and voilà. So, yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utterly made-up nonsense issue.”

Women whose family planning needs go beyond a vending machine will have to fend for themselves. Cruz is opposed to requiring employers to include contraception in their health care plans. He hates Planned Parenthood so much that he wanted to shut down the federal government to end its funding. Said government funding pays for contraceptives as well as myriad other health services, none involving abortion except for the part where the contraceptives help avoid unwanted pregnancies.

John Kasich isn’t much different. His state has been in a war against Planned Parenthood that has closed down health clinics, cutting off everything from family planning to programs for at-risk expectant mothers. Kasich has said that there are “many different entities” that can take care of the women who were cut adrift. Last year, legislators who supported the defunding put together a list of those entities. They turned out, on second glance, to include senior centers, dentist offices and a food bank.

This is a crisis situation. States around the country have been stripping Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funds, leaving low-income women to fend for themselves. In Texas, women who used to have access to efficient methods of birth control like injectable contraceptives are showing huge jumps in pregnancy rates. On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill effectively defunding the clinics in Florida.

The only Republican presidential candidate who has acknowledged the invaluable role Planned Parenthood plays is Donald Trump. (“Millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood.”) Of course, he’s also said that it should be defunded. (“I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”) And when asked if he would be willing to shut down the government in pursuit of the cause, Trump declined to answer “because I want to show unpredictability.”

This is exactly where we wind up on so many issues, people. Two Republican candidates take clear, consistent, terrible positions. Neither Cruz nor Kasich has made any effort to come to grips with the health care services poor women would need if Planned Parenthood closed up shop. And they’re doing everything they can to make sure that the unwanted pregnancies that follow can’t be terminated.

Trump seems more open, sort of. Except it’s the openness of a large, vacant pit with an issues-pendulum careening wildly, smashing from one side to the other. On the subject of women, all we know for sure is that he thinks his wife is a real looker.

And the campaign is a man’s world.

He also thinks his daughter is a real looker, and has said that if he weren’t her father…  Whata buncha pervs.

Blow and Collins

March 24, 2016

In “Dangerous World, Serious Leaders” Mr. Blow says bombast is hollow, braggadocio is meaningless, and this country needs its most stable and steady hands to guide it.  Ms. Collins considers “The Republicans’ Sin of Endorsement” and has a question:  Really, what have they got left to lose?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

There is starting to be a sad, somber repetitiveness to the horror of terror attacks and the world’s reaction to them.

The attacks in Brussels this week brought the familiar ritual: initial shock, local emergency response, global condemnation and solidarity, signs of heroism, and resilience from those most closely affected.

This is the new normal. This is the new world of terrorism.

And there are no quick and easy fixes for the madness of madmen, contrary to what some might have us believe. We can seek to gather multinational coalitions with regional participants to fight the threat (something the Obama administration has been trying to do) and have an aggressive air campaign (which the Obama administration is doing), but the threat will not be easily dislodged. People can be killed, towns can be reduced to rubble, but ideas die slow deaths.

So long as free people live in free societies and increasingly cluster in urban areas, they will be soft and easy targets for those who have apocalyptic dreams of watching the world burn.

Although the terror attacks that have reached Western societies are a particular thing — what the columnist Maajid Nawaz calls a “global jihadist insurgency” — terrorism itself is simply an extension of the tremendous terror rocking some Middle Eastern and African countries.

According to the most recent Global Terrorism Index report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace:

“In 2014 the total number of deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent when compared to the prior year. This is the largest yearly increase in the last 15 years. Since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been over a nine-fold increase in the number of deaths from terrorism, rising from 3,329 in 2000 to 32,685 in 2014.”

The report continued:

“Terrorism remains highly concentrated with most of the activity occurring in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. These countries accounted for 78 percent of the lives lost in 2014. Although highly concentrated, terrorism is spreading to more countries, with the number of countries experiencing more than 500 deaths increasing from five to 11, a 120 percent increase from the previous year. The six new countries with over 500 deaths are Somalia, Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroon.”

And yet, we have presidential candidates in this country responding to the expansive globalism of this threat with myopic nativism and the threat of torture, things that would likely make America less safe, not more.

This is a serious time in need of serious leaders. This country needs now, more than ever, its most stable and steady hands to lead it through a world that has become incredibly dangerous. Bombast is hollow. Braggadocio is meaningless.

And global terror isn’t the only threat this country and its allies face. There are others, some of which overlap and intersect with terror.

Syria is a failed state, and the overwhelming stream of refugees fleeing that country has put a tremendous strain on Europe.

Afghanistan is experiencing a resurgence of the Taliban.

North Korea, a nuclear state, keeps acting erratically and firing missiles into the ocean, and Iran recently conducted ballistic missile launches that drew an administration rebuke as “provocative and destabilizing.” As The New York Times reported, the statement “all but accused the Iranians of having violated a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls on them to refrain from such acts.”

China is building islands in the contested South China Sea and is deploying missiles to another island in the area. Russia seems nostalgic for its Soviet Union glory days. Libya is a disaster.

And then there is the über threat of global warming, the instability it can cause and the ways it might contribute to conflict. According to a 2014 report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

“Although there is little agreement about direct causality, low per capitaincomes, economic contraction, and inconsistent state institutions are associated with the incidence of violence. These factors can be sensitive to climate change and variability.”

This idea of global scarcity of resources, opportunity and employment is not to be taken lightly.

In a 2011 book by Jim Clifton, the chairman and C.E.O. of Gallup, titled “The Coming Jobs War,” he pointed out:

“The primary will of the world is no longer about peace or freedom or even democracy; it is not about having a family, and it is neither about God nor about owning a home or land. The will of the world is first and foremost to have a good job. Everything else comes after that.”

He explained that of the world’s five billion people over 15 years old, three billion said they worked or wanted to work, but there were only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs, and concluded:

“The war for global jobs is like World War II: a war for all the marbles. The global war for jobs determines the leader of the free world.”

All of these weighty issues and more are pressing down as we consider who will be our next president.

We can’t put our fate and the world’s into the hands of leaders with small minds and big mouths. This election and everything the next president will face is “for all the marbles.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

How can things get worse for Republicans? Jeb Bush turned out to be a terrible candidate. Marco Rubio turned out to be an annoying twit. Donald Trump is a nightmare. Something had to be done, and so the solid, steady moderate elite decided the best strategy was to rally around … Ted Cruz.

Welcome to worse.

They were terrified of Trump, whose short list of foreign policy advisers includes a 2009 college graduate with a résumé that boasts he once took part in a Model United Nations. Far better plan to nominate Cruz, whose list includes a guy who wrote an opinion piece suggesting President Obama is a Muslim, and a woman who thinks Senator Joseph McCarthy’s judgment about communists in the federal government was “spot on.”

They thought Trump would be such an unpopular nominee that the party would face a historic disaster in November. Obviously, the way to improve chances was to support the most actively disliked Republican politician in America.

Our question for today is, Why aren’t these people rallying around John Kasich? The Ohio governor is the other Trump alternative, far and away the sanest member of the trio. True, he’s kind of boring, but that doesn’t seem all that terrible a quality when you’re comparing him with Cruz, who is, at his best, excruciatingly irritating.

Senator Lindsey Graham started the trend of people who loathe Ted Cruz endorsing him to be president of the United States. He admitted that Kasich would be a better candidate in November, but claimed that the governor would never get the nomination because he’s “seen as an insider.” Mitt Romney, who announced he’d be voting for Cruz in Utah, made it clear that he likes Kasich. But he said Cruz had a better chance of denying Trump the nomination.

Yes, Romney wanted to make sure he could strike a blow against Trump’s “bigotry” and “xenophobia.” So he threw his weight behind Cruz, who called for police patrols in American Muslim neighborhoods “before they become radicalized.”

“I don’t try to figure them out,” said Kasich in a phone interview. “Everybody decides these things on the basis of — I don’t know what.”

The official Republican world now contains people who took a dive and endorsed Trump, the ones who’ve endorsed Cruz and pretended it was a profile in courage, and the ones still sitting on the fence. They all look miserable.

Wouldn’t you think a few would just say, “Look, I know Kasich is behind in delegates, but he behaves in the way I want our party to be.” It would be nice moment, wouldn’t it? But so far, the list of people who’ve gone there is pretty much confined to one ex-governor.

This week Trump and Cruz had a fight about … their wives. An anti-Trump “super PAC” circulated an old picture of Melania Trump from GQ, posing more or less nude, with the message: “Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”

Now, candidates don’t control political action committees, but the Cruz campaign does have a history of dirty tricks, so you could imagine even a less lunatic person than Trump getting angry. Then Trump, in his inimitable way, threatened to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz. Leave the families alone! What this country needs is a bean-free election.

Or at least candidates who can talk about terrorism without being terrifying. After the Brussels bombing, Cruz called for those police patrols, and bragged that he could say something so daring only because he wasn’t afraid of being politically incorrect. Trump hyperventilated about waterboarding. Meanwhile, Kasich issued a statement about international cooperation in the war against terror. You’d think that would have moved somebody.

But no. “Friend — I wanted you to be the first to know that today I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President,” Jeb Bush wrote in an email Wednesday morning. Some political observers believe that he’s trying to protect the political future of his son, George P. Bush, who is currently serving as Texas land commissioner. If that’s the case, non-committed Republicans, you really should consider voting for John Kasich just to make it clear that you are not interested in having any more members of the Bush family in line for the presidency.

“I did get a text from Jeb at 5:30 in the morning, but no phone calls,” Kasich reported.

None of these new converts to the Cruz camp seem to have any actual arguments about Cruz being a good potential president. Bush, in his announcement, complained that “Washington is broken” but made no attempt whatsoever to explain how things would be improved by the nomination of a senator whose sole achievement in office was an effort to shut down the government. Maybe they think if Cruz is the spoiler at the convention, it’ll be easier to shove him away to make room for a brand new superhero? (Looking at you, Mitt.)

Collins, solo

March 19, 2016

In “50 Ways to Leave The Donald” Ms. Collins says rather than pursuing the Ted Cruz option, a lot of Republicans are maneuvering for a contested convention.  Here she is:

Rational Republicans are desperately trying to figure out a way to get rid of Donald Trump. Their desperation is so great, you’d expect someone to release a herd of crocodiles on Mar-a-Lago.

Taking an even more dire route, the former presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham endorsed Ted Cruz. That was a little embarrassing for Graham, who had joked, just a few weeks ago: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.”

And if you endorsed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, people would — stare at you blankly? Move their desks to the other side of the room? Cruz, the only senator left in the race, now has the solid support of two colleagues. If it keeps going like this, by summer he’ll have enough friends to fill a closet. Even Mitt Romney, who announced he’d be voting for Cruz in the Utah caucuses, made it clear that wasn’t an endorsement or anything.

Rather than pursue the Cruz option, a lot of Republicans are plotting about a contested convention when they gather in Cleveland at the Quicken Loans Arena. Before we go any further, let’s spend one second contemplating that name. Do you think anybody at the Republican National Committee pointed out that there could be a lot of stories about how party leaders “have all turned their thoughts to Quicken Loans …”?

It could be worse. There’s a stadium in Akron, Ohio, named InfoCision. And there’s the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. Cities have sold their souls when it comes to naming rights. I’m happy to report, however, that back in the 1970s when New York was planning its big new convention facility, officials resisted the efforts of a certain real estate developer to get it named the Trump Center.

But about the contested convention. There are 2,472 delegates, most of them pledged to vote for one candidate on the first ballot. But if nobody gets a majority — contested! Anything could happen. And you probably have questions, so fire away.

Why are there 2,472 delegates?

That’s a really terrible first question. How many would you prefer? There were only 261 electors in 1824, and they couldn’t come up with a majority — even though one of the leading candidates had suffered a paralytic stroke. And then they sent the whole thing to the House of Representatives, where John Quincy Adams won by one vote, cast by an addled representative from New York who allegedly saw a piece of paper on the floor with Adams’s name on it and thought it was a sign from God.

I don’t think that story actually has anything to do with party conventions.

No, but it’s pretty interesting, right? And Andrew Jackson, the nonparalyzed loser, never got over it. Still, he didn’t go around threatening riots in the streets.

Like Donald Trump?

Be fair. Trump has made it clear he never threatened riots if he got snookered out of the nomination. He just predicted riots.

What about his supporters?

This week a Trump policy adviser, Sam Clovis, demanded that Republicans “get on the train or they’re going to end up under the train,” which sounds pretty firm. This is a guy you want to pay attention to. Trump, you may remember, recently said his primary foreign policy adviser was himself. On the domestic front, it appears to be pretty much down to Clovis, an evangelical conservative activist and former failed candidate for Iowa state treasurer.

If Trump doesn’t get the nomination and everybody hates Cruz, who would they give it to?

Well, there’s John Kasich, who won the Ohio primary. True, he had a special advantage, what with being governor of Ohio and all. But that’s still something, right? And he’s been endorsed by Arnold Schwarzenegger and the former governor of Utah. I’m not saying Kasich’s candidacy is snowballing, but you could definitely call it a partial flake. Yet so far, the only people talking up a Kasich convention strategy appear to be immediate family members.

There’s nobody else?

That seems to be a problem. Right now, there’s a Republican rule that says the delegates can’t consider anybody who didn’t win a majority of delegates in eight states. They passed that in 2012 to make life easier for Mitt Romney. Hehehehe.

Wow, is there any way around that?

Sure. There are a lot of primaries to go. A bunch of outraged moderates could rise up and stage a write-in campaign. You know how wild-eyed and crazy Republican moderates can get. Or they could just change the rule.

Sounds like changing the rule would be more likely.

Yeah, right now we’re excited about a contested convention in Cleveland. By next month we’ll be obsessing over the meeting of the Republican National Convention Rules Committee.

I still don’t see who they’re imagining as the candidate.

There’s not exactly a long waiting line. Some people are talking about Romney parachuting in, which gives you an idea of their level of desperation. The crocodiles would seem to be more promising.

With frickin’ lasers!

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

March 17, 2016

In “A Bernie Blackout?” Mr. Blow says you could argue that Sanders has been starved of much of the positive coverage — or that he has been saved from much of the negative.  Mr. Kristof is in Unity State, South Sudan.  In “‘Big Government’ Looks Great When There Is None” he says what Republican candidates consider an American weakness seems like a strength when viewed from South Sudan.  Ms. Collins wants us to “Take the Trump Quiz.”  She says as Donald Trump is very likely going to be the Republican nominee for president, here’s a quiz to ease the transition.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Tuesday night, after Hillary Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders in state after state, Sanders took to a podium before throngs of thousands in Arizona and delivered a stirring speech for nearly an hour.

You didn’t see it? Understandable. It wasn’t covered live by any of the major cable news channels. At all. Not even a couple of minutes.

Why? As the Huffington Post reported:

“Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all declined to carry Sanders’ speech, instead offering punditry about the evening, with the chyrons promising, ‘AWAITING TRUMP’ and ‘STANDING BY FOR TRUMP.’ ”

This episode again drew cries about what has become known as the “Bernie Blackout,” a failure of news organizations, particularly television networks, to seriously cover the Sanders candidacy.

I must say that the numbers back this up, but I want to put more of the focus here on the disparity between the Democratic candidates.

Clinton’s coverage on television has dwarfed Sanders’s. As a New York Times Upshot report this week pointed out, Clinton has received more than twice the “news and commentary” about her campaign “on television, in newspapers and magazines, and on social media” as Sanders has.

(The demagogic real estate developer who leads the Republican field has received more than twice that of Clinton, but Sanders has received more than any of the other Republican candidates.)

In December, the Sanders campaign complained in a news release titled “Why the Bernie Blackout on Corporate Network News?” As the news release put it:

“The insurgent campaign that has drawn the biggest crowds on the presidential campaign trail has been all but ignored on the flagship television network newscasts, according to Tyndall Report, which tracks nightly news coverage by NBC, CBS and ABC.”

The Tyndall Report’s annual totals for 2015 found that Clinton received 121 minutes of campaign coverage on the networks while the “noticeably under-covered” Sanders received only 20 minutes.

The bulk of the Sanders campaign’s complaint seemed to be aimed at the coverage of the Republican front-runner, whom the campaign accused the networks of “wildly overplaying,” “while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders.”

(It should be noted that liberal outlets/entities like AlterNet have alsoaccused this newspaper of being part of the Bernie Blackout. The Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, weighed in in September:

“The Times has not ignored Mr. Sanders’s campaign, but it hasn’t always taken it very seriously. The tone of some stories is regrettably dismissive, even mocking at times. Some of that is focused on the candidate’s age, appearance and style, rather than what he has to say.”)

A strong argument could be made by all candidates — Democrat and Republican — that there has been some level of media malpractice as it relates to the amount of coverage received by their campaigns and that of the Republican front-runner, and they would be right. If any candidate had received the huge media coverage of the current G.O.P. front-runner, they would likely be in a stronger position now.

But the more consequential distinction for Democrats at this point is coverage between Clinton and Sanders.

There appear to be two parallel universes of Democratic voters this season — one disproportionately older, the other disproportionately younger — whose habits make them almost invisible to each other.

Clinton’s voters may be less likely to show up to rallies, or post on social media or be serial commenters who commandeer comments sections, but they do show up to vote. But these are the same voters who are less likely to hear much news about Sanders.

In a February Pew Research Center survey, a plurality of people 18 to 29 years old said that the social media was their most helpful source for learning about the 2016 presidential election. A plurality of those 30 and over cited cable news as the primary source. Network news was the second most popular source for those 65 and older.

The Sanders campaign and its supporters have a right to be unhappy about the disparity. But the Clinton campaign has its own view of Sanders’s supporters media grousing, and, as to be expected, it isn’t kind. As The Times reported last month:

“The Clinton campaign, however, argues that Mr. Sanders has benefited from the superficial horse-race journalism he scorns, and that coverage has largely focused on his avuncular style and cross-generational appeal rather than thorough inspections of his proposals or record. In the Vermont senator’s continual discrediting of the news media, the Clinton campaign sees an effort to inoculate himself from critical coverage.”

There is probably a kernel of truth to those suspicions — people forget that Sanders is a shrewd politician, and not just a curmudgeonly crusader — although I believe the Sanders campaign is legitimately flummoxed by the lack of coverage.

Indeed, the Tyndall Report pointed out that nearly as much coverage of Clinton was about controversies as about her candidacy. In addition to the 121 minutes of campaign coverage Clinton received on the nightly network newscasts in 2015, she also received “88 minutes devoted to the controversy over her emails as secretary of state and 29 minutes to the investigations into the Benghazi Consulate attack.”

Media coverage of Sanders has by no means been robust, but neither has it been withering. Coverage can be a double-edged sword, and it has most likely cut for and against Clinton. You could argue that Sanders has been starved of much of the positive or that he has been saved from much of the negative. But some of his supporters fear he has gotten the worst of both scenarios.

For what it’s worth the NYT’s public editor was raked over the coals in the comments to her piece on Sanders coverage, with comments citing chapter and verse of the NYT’s sins.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

After hearing Republican presidential candidates denounce big government and burdensome regulation, I’d like to invite them to spend the night here in the midst of the civil war in South Sudan.

You hear gunfire, competing with yowls of hyenas, and you don’t curse taxes. Rather, you yearn for a government that might install telephones, hire a 911 operator and dispatch the police.

From afar, one sees the United States differently. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem to think that America’s Achilles heels are immigration and an activist government. But from the perspective of a war zone, these look more like national strengths.

Indeed, take what Trump is clamoring for: weaker government, less regulation, a more homogeneous society. In some sense, you find the ultimate extension of all that right here.

No regulation! No long lines at the D.M.V., because there is no D.M.V. in the conflict areas. In practice, no taxes or gun restrictions. No Obamacare. No minimum wage. No welfare state to breed dependency. No sticky rules about eminent domain. And certainly no immigration problem.

Yet it’s a funny thing. In a place that might seem an anti-government fantasy taken to an extreme, people desperately yearn for all the burdens of government and tolerance of social diversity that Americans gripe about.

In a country where to belong to the wrong tribe can be lethal, South Sudanese watch American aid workers arrive — a mixed salad of blacks and whites, Asian-Americans and Latinos, men and women — with some astonishment. These Americans come in all flavors of faith: Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and more. And while they may snap at one another, they don’t behead one another.

One lesson of South Sudan is that government and regulations are like oxygen: You don’t appreciate them until they’re not there.

Two political scientists, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, argue that America’s achievements rest on a foundation of government services but that we Americans suffer from “American Amnesia” (that’s also the title of their book coming out this month) and don’t appreciate this.

“We are told that the United States got rich in spite of government, when the truth is closer to the opposite,” they write. Every country that journeyed from mass illiteracy and poverty to modernity and wealth did so, they note, because of government instruments that are now often scorned.

These instruments also create a sense of national identity that eclipses tribal identities, even if this process is still incomplete in America.

I came across a group of homeless women and girls in the South Sudan swamps, hiding from soldiers who would have killed or raped them. One teenager was wearing a castoff T-shirt that read “Obama Girl,” so I asked her if she knew who Barack Obama was.

She was confused; there are no functioning schools in the area, so she can’t read and didn’t know what her shirt said. But I explained. That didn’t help, for she had never heard of Obama. I asked her friends if they knew, and finally I found one woman who did. She said shyly that Obama is president of the United States.

These women and girls are all members of the Nuer tribe, which the army of South Sudan has often targeted and which remains to some degree marginalized in the central government. And the Nuer are related to the Luo tribe, which is the tribe of President Obama’s father. So a Nuer now cannot in practice become president of South Sudan, but someone of similar ancestry can be president of the United States.

That’s an inclusiveness that enriches America and that should be a source of pride. Yet Trump sunders that unity and divides us by heritage: He turns us from Americans into people of many tribes.

What we Americans excel at are our institutions. We have schools, laws, courts, police, regulators, bureaucracies, safety nets — arms of a government that is often frustrating but always indispensable. These institutions are the pillars of our standard of living.

From the perspective of a South Sudanese war zone, our greatest challenge isn’t big government or immigration, but the threat to those pillars from those who miscalculate our national strengths and weaknesses.

It’s odd that some conservative candidates should be so anti-government when an intellectual forerunner was Thomas Hobbes, the 17th-century philosopher who rightly warned that life in the natural state is “nasty, brutish and short.” Trump and Cruz would do well to remember his point:

Government, laws and taxes are a burden, indeed, but they are also the basis for civilization.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Donald Trump is very likely going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. Take three deep breaths. I know we’ve been on this path for a long time, but it’s still hard getting your head around the idea, isn’t it? Just to ease the transition, our first-ever exclusively Donald Trump quiz:

1   After his big string of victories this week, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” where he was asked who his foreign policy advisers were. He said:

  • “I’m speaking with a lot of generals. Very impressive people. All winners.”

  • “I’m speaking with myself.”

  • “I have a long list. It’s a good list. Vladimir Putin said it was the best list he’d ever seen.”

2   After making his surprise endorsement, Ben Carson said that there were “two different Donald Trumps” and that the private one was “very cerebral.” Asked about that comment, Trump replied:

  • “I think there are two Donald Trumps.”

  • “I don’t think there are two Donald Trumps.”

  • “I think there are two Donald Trumps … I don’t think there are two Donald Trumps.”

3   Trump claimed on “Good Morning America” that there was “nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have.” As an example he pointed to:

  • His endorsements by Mike Tyson and Dennis Rodman.

  • The black guy who won “The Apprentice” in 2005.

  • His $100,000-membership club, Mar-a-Lago — “totally open to everybody.”

4   After a protester rushed the stage at one of his rallies, Trump claimed the man was associated with ISIS, and retweeted a video of him holding a gun in front of the ISIS flag. When NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out that it was a hoax, Trump said:

  • “Whoops.”

  • “All I know is what’s on the Internet.”

  • “As Kierkegaard said, ‘The truth is a trap.’”

5   One of the groups that’s been opening Trump rallies is USA Freedom Kids, little girls who sang about “President Trump” who “knows how to make America great …

  • “… And give us schools that really rate.”

  • “… Teach us to love and not to hate.”

  • “… Deal from strength or get crushed every time.”

6   Trump defended the supporter who sucker-punched a protester being led away by security forces. He said the attack was justified because the protester:

  • Had violently attacked an elderly woman.

  • Had tried to grab one of the officer’s guns.

  • Was “sticking a certain finger up in the air.”

7    House Speaker Paul Ryan scored a great triumph at the end of 2015 when the House passed a compromise spending bill that keeps the government running through the fall. Trump has been loudly critical, and at a recent rally in North Carolina, he said the bill was bad because:

  • “The appropriation for infrastructure repair is inadequate.”

  • “It fails to address the really critical Puerto Rican oil export issue.”

  • “It funds ISIS.”

8   Sarah Palin had to leave the Trump campaign to be with her husband, who had a serious snowmobile accident. Before her departure she said Todd’s multiple injuries made her appreciate:

  • “The skill of Alaskan emergency treatment centers.”

  • “The time that we have to spend in doing something so worthy, and that’s to get Donald J. Trump elected president.”

  • “The stress my family has undergone due to my unflagging pursuit of celebrity.”

9   After Trump defended the use of torture against suspected terrorists, his son Eric, who was campaigning for him, pointed out that waterboarding:

  • “Is no different than what happens on college campuses in frat houses every day.”

  • “Has real efficacy when employed as a last resort in isolated incidences.”

  • “Is no worse than what China’s doing to our manufacturing base.”

10   Since he threw his support behind Trump, Gov. Chris Christie has been humiliated on a daily basis for everything — from his slavish stare at the candidate’s press conferences to widespread criticism of his absence from New Jersey while he toils on the campaign trail. To pay him back, at a pre-primary event this week, Trump:

  • Made fun of Christie for the absentee thing.

  • Announced he was indeed planning to make Christie secretary of transportation.

  • Invited Christie to tell the audience about all the things he went through on 9/11.

11   Trump has endlessly complained about the way immigrants steal jobs from American workers, but he’s used loopholes in federal law to hire foreign workers himself. At a recent debate he argued that voters wouldn’t care about that seeming contradiction because:

  • “Everybody would like a Romanian helper.”

  • “Nobody knows the system better than me.”

  • “What happens in Mar-a-Lago stays in Mar-a-Lago.”

And here’s the answer key:

1B, 2C, 3C, 4B, 5C, 6C, 7C, 8B, 9A, 10A, 11B

I got 10/11.  I missed the one about the little girls.


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