Archive for the ‘Collins’ Category

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 23, 2017

In “The Death of Compassion” Mr. Blow says the Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.  Mr. Kristof tells us that “Even if Trump Is the Enemy, His Voters Aren’t,” and then he tells us not to adopt Trump’s trick of “otherizing” people, even Trump supporters.  It’s unusual that I feel compelled to put in a comment to Mr. Kristof this time “Sheri” from New Mexico has something to say.  Ms. Collins says “Trump Is Bad For Water and Puppies,” and that maybe the president keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Folks, we have been here before.

After Ronald Reagan, a celebrity-turned-politician, carried 49 states in his devastating defeat of Walter Mondale in 1984, Democrats were whining and moaning, shuffling their feet and scratching their heads.

Reagan had done particularly well with those who would come to be known as Reagan Democrats — white, working-class voters, particularly in the Rust Belt, whom a New York Times contributor would later describe as “blue-collar, ethnic voters,” who were drawn to Reagan’s messages of economic growth and nationalistic pride.

But just like Donald Trump’s path to victory, Reagan’s was strewn with racial hostilities and prejudicial lies.

While Trump’s tropes involved Mexicans and Muslims and that tired euphemism of disastrous inner cities, Reagan used the “welfare queen” scare, as far back as his unsuccessful bid for president in 1976.

As I have written before, Reagan explained at nearly every stop that there was a woman in Chicago who “used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent, deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”

But it was not as it seemed.

As my colleague Paul Krugman wrote in 2007: “Reagan repeatedly told the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud. He never mentioned the woman’s race, but he didn’t have to.”

As Gene Demby perfectly summed up on NPR in 2013: “In the popular imagination, the stereotype of the ‘welfare queen’ is thoroughly raced — she’s an indolent black woman, living off the largess of taxpayers. The term is seen by many as a dog whistle, a way to play on racial anxieties without summoning them directly.”

So, then as now, economic anxiety and throbbing xenophobia were convenient shields behind which brewing racial animus could hide.

Indeed, Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was first used by Reagan.

And yet, Democrats in 1984 were quick to look for the lessons they could learn on how to reach out to the Reagan coalition, instead of condemning it.

In the days following Reagan’s win that year, The New York Times reported:

“Democratic Party leaders began yesterday what they foresee as a long and agonizing appraisal of how they can renew their appeal to the white majority in presidential elections and still hold the allegiance of minorities, the poor and others who seek federal assistance.”

In a telephone interview with The Times for the article, then-Representative James R. Jones of Oklahoma, a fiscal conservative, said, “I think we should adopt the slogan of compassionate conservatism.” He continued, “We can be fiscally conservative without losing our commitment to the needy and we must redirect our policy in that direction.”

But in truth, there was no compassion to be had in that conservatism then — and definitely not now.

In 1981, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., who was then president of the National Urban League, stung the Reagan administration:

“I do not challenge the conservatism of this administration. I do challenge its failure to exhibit a compassionate conservatism that adapts itself to the realities of a society ridden by class and race distinction.”

But while Reagan at least operated under the veneer of positivity and hopefulness with the language of a “shining city on a hill,” Trump has pursued a blatant appeal to anger and hostility with his talk of a nation in decline.

Over the years, compassionate conservatism has had its moments, including being espoused by Jack Kemp and President George W. Bush. That all feels like quaint, retrospective ephemera now.

Compassionate conservatism is dead; Trump and his band of backward-thinking devotees killed it.

Trump is rushing headlong into Muslim bans and mass deportations, wall building and Obamacare dismantling. Indeed, it feels like the campaign promises Trump is keeping have to do with cruelty and those he’s flip-flopping on have to do with character.

For instance, it is now abundantly clear that Trump had no intention whatsoever of draining the swamp in Washington. He is simply restocking it to his liking.

This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”

Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.

No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute. This is a culture war in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel.

Fight, fight, fight. And when you are finished, fight some more. Victory is the only acceptable outcome when freedom, equality and inclusion are at stake.

And now here’s Mr. Kristof:

A few days ago, I blithely tweeted a warning that Democrats often sound patronizing when speaking of Trump voters. That provoked a vehement reaction.

[the text of his tweet, which will not embed for me, is “Yes! Democrats still too often sound patronizing when they speak of Trump voters, and it’s hard to recruit people you’re patronizing.”]

“Sorry,” Jason tweeted back, “but if someone is supporting a racist ignoramus who wants to round up brown ppl and steal my money, I’m gonna patronize.”

“This is normalization of a hateful ideology and it’s shameful,” protested another.

“My tone isn’t patronizing,” one person responded. “It’s hostile. Intentionally. I won’t coddle those who refuse to recognize my humanity.”

“What a great idea!” another offered. “Let’s recruit a whole bunch of bigoted unthinking lizard brains because we could possibly ‘WIN!’”

And so the comments went, registering legitimate anxieties about President Trump — but also the troubling condescension that worried me in the first place. I fear that the (richly deserved) animus toward Trump is spilling over onto all his supporters.

I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.

This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.

In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.

Trump tries to “otherize” Muslims, refugees, unauthorized immigrants and other large groups. It sometimes works when people don’t actually know a Muslim or a refugee, and liberals likewise seem more willing to otherize Trump voters when they don’t know any.

There are three reasons I think it’s shortsighted to direct liberal fury at the entire mass of Trump voters, a complicated (and, yes, diverse) group of 63 million people.

First, stereotyping a huge slice of America as misogynist bigots is unfair and impairs understanding. Hundreds of thousands of those Trump supporters had voted for Barack Obama. Many are themselves black, Latino or Muslim. Are they all bigots?

Second, demonizing Trump voters feeds the dysfunction of our political system. One can be passionate about one’s cause, and fight for it, without contributing to political paralysis that risks making our country ungovernable.

Tolerance is a liberal value; name-calling isn’t. This raises knotty questions about tolerating intolerance, but is it really necessary to start with a blanket judgment writing off 46 percent of voters?

When Trump demonizes journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” that is an outrageous overstep. But suggesting that Trump voters are enemies of the people is also inappropriate.

The third reason is tactical: It’s hard to win over voters whom you’re insulting.

Many liberals argue that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and that the focus should be on rallying the base and fighting voter suppression efforts. Yes, but Democrats flopped in Congress, governor races and state legislatures. Republicans now control 68 percent of partisan legislative chambers in the U.S.

If Democrats want to battle voter suppression, it’s crucial to win local races — including in white working-class districts in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Yes, a majority of Trump voters are probably unattainable for Democrats, but millions may be winnable. So don’t blithely give up on 63 million people; instead, make arguments directed at them. Fight for their votes not with race-baiting but with economic pitches for the working and middle classes.

Clinton’s calling half of Trump voters “deplorables” achieved nothing and probably cost her critical votes. Why would Democrats repeat that mistake?

Yes, the Trump camp includes some racists and other bigots. But it’s a big camp, and let’s not be so quick to affix labels on every member of a vast group.

This column may offend everyone, from Trump enthusiasts to liberals who decry them. But my message is simple:

Go ahead and denounce Trump’s lies and bigotry. Stand firm against his disastrous policies. But please don’t practice his trick of “otherizing” people into stick-figure caricatures, slurring vast groups as hopeless bigots. We’re all complicated, and stereotypes are not helpful — including when they’re of Trump supporters.

So apparently it’s just fine when Bobo Brooks stereotypes liberals, but we have to suck it up…  Gotcha, Nick.  Here’s what “Sheri” in New Mexico had to say to him:

“OK — 63 million aren’t deplorable…just 62 million are…Really, Mr. Kristof. I almost always enjoy reading your columns and think you are a man of conscience, but you are going too far with this one. In WHAT way did Hillary Clinton indicate that she didn’t care about the economic conditions around the country? She cared, but they refused to hear her. That makes them at least stupid if not deplorable.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

And now, things that are Really Happening in the world of Donald Trump.

We bring you this list as a public service. It’s easy to be distracted by all the strange/contradictory/awful things the president says. For instance, a lot of people were stunned when he responded to a question about anti-Semitic attacks in the United States by citing his winning numbers in the Electoral College. Then, when the question came up again and he yelled at the reporter who asked it.

Much, much later, Trump did read a statement denouncing racism and anti-Semitism. But even that seemed … worrisome. It’s not just that an elected official should know how to answer that question without a lot of prep work. Everybody should know how to answer that question. Your 3-year-old nephew. Your Uber driver. Uncle Fred who gets drunk at Thanksgiving. Nobody gets to ask for a script.

Maybe he keeps talking crazy to divert attention from the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to report. In Washington, outside of the ongoing disaster that is immigration policy, actual changes have been sparse. A lot of the departments don’t have new staffs yet — and some never will if Trump keeps insisting on only hiring people who never said anything negative about him during the campaign.

However, some little gremlins have been busy on the government websites, clearing out unpleasant information on issues like climate change. The Department of Agriculture has taken down its list of violators of the Animal Welfare Act, including “puppy mills” rife with dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

The justification for that one seemed to involve concern that the list violated the privacy of people who are terrible to little dogs. It’s hard to say for sure, since no one is picking up the phone at the headless Department of Agriculture. But if you’ve got a Republican member of Congress, be sure to go to the next town meeting and yell, “What about the puppies?”

Trump, who likes to be thought of as a decider, showed his stuff this week, resolving a dispute between two of his top appointees. It was a surprising development — who knew there were enough cabinet members in place for a fight? The battle featured Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in an argument over transgender rights.

Sessions, in one of his very first moves on the job, had decided to reverse a federal guideline that public schools should let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice. DeVos — who knew she had it in her? — objected. Trump sided with Sessions, taking what appeared to be the opposite position from the one he espoused during the campaign.

The president, it turns out, is more conservative on social issues than the guy who was running in all those primaries against Ted Cruz. Now, with virtually nothing to lose, he’s gotten worse. Wow.

This gets depressing really fast. No wonder we’re looking for distractions. Everything weird going on in the world seems to have a Trump connection. For instance, there’s that assassination story involving the North Korean dictator — the guy who has, um, a really strange hairdo. His estranged half brother was mysteriously murdered in a bizarre assault. One of the women arrested claimed she believed the whole thing was a segment of a TV reality show. Just saying.

Congress, meanwhile, has just been sort of wandering around, trying to avoid thinking about health care or schedule any town meetings. Repealing Obama-era regulations is just about the only thing getting accomplished:

Guns: Last week our lawmakers took a very strong stance protecting the right of Americans to purchase guns despite severe mental impairment. Thanks, Congress!

The House and Senate voted to repeal a background check rule that screened out people who are receiving special Social Security benefits because mental problems made it impossible for them to work or even manage their own money. The National Rifle Association calls this “Obama’s unconstitutional gun grab.” Because, obviously, just because you can’t handle a Social Security check doesn’t mean you can’t handle an assault weapon.

Clean Water: Another repealed regulation prohibited coal companies from dumping their waste into streams. When he signed the bill, Trump claimed the change would save “many thousands of American jobs,” which is of course completely nuts, unless polluting the water is going to eliminate competition from natural gas. The federal estimate of lost jobs is around 260 per year.

Free the oil and gas companies: Trump also signed a bill repealing a rule that publicly traded oil, gas and mining companies had to disclose payments they make to foreign governments.

Talk about keeping your campaign promises. The president vowed to get rid of useless regulations, and already he’s opened the road for dirty Appalachian water and oil companies bribing other governments. With mentally deranged gunmen waiting on his desk.

Collins, solo

February 18, 2017

Ms. Collins, in “Mr. Trump, Our 15th President Thanks You,” says James Buchanan’s days as the worst American leader may be numbered.  Here she is:

There’s a bright side to everything. It’s true that Donald Trump could turn out to be the worst American president ever. But think how happy that’s going to make James Buchanan fans.

Buchanan’s been on the bottom for 150 years, but his days may be numbered. Sure he sent the country careening into civil war. But he never tweeted about it.

“We’ve heard that from some visitors,” said Patrick Clarke, director of Buchanan’s home in Lancaster, Pa.

You can’t help thinking about this stuff on Presidents’ Day weekend. When the guy we’ve got now has scheduled the first big political rally of his 2020 campaign.

He told you he’d make history! Trump is running for re-election before he can find the bathroom switch in the White House. It’s definitely something to tell the grandchildren. Don’t forget to print out the stories. You can use them as decorations on the wall of that old basement bomb shelter where you’ve secretly been starting to store canned goods and bottled water.

I know some of you are worried that the president is losing his mind. Perhaps you think that he’s depressed over the fact that his first four weeks in power have been marked by a disastrous attempt at immigration control, the axing of the national security adviser, the ignominious retreat of a nominee for labor secretary and a failed military raid in Yemen.

No. “I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done,” Trump said at his press conference. Remember, this is not a man who does self-deprecating irony.

The now-famous press conference did give us a whole new vision of what the Trump Era is going to entail. Beginning when he called in reporters to announce a new nominee for secretary of labor and then gave the topic only 100 words in the next hour and a quarter.

You may have been unnerved by the president’s description of Obamacare. (“I mean, they fill up our alleys with people that you wonder how they get there, but they’re not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.”)

And perhaps his riff about Russia weirded you out. (“… probably Putin assumes that he’s not going to be able to make a deal with me because it’s politically not popular for me to make a deal. So Hillary Clinton tries a reset. It failed. They all tried. But I’m different from those people.”)

Stop this. We’re trying to think positive. The good news is all this was not actually evidence the president is suffering a mental collapse. He’s always been like that.

We’ll take any cheering up we can get. Earlier in the week, Trump invited Chris Christie to a lunch at the White House. While everybody else at the table got to pick what they wanted to eat, the president made Christie order meatloaf. “It’s emasculating!” cried a talk-show host to whom the governor of New Jersey — for some reason — reported the tale.

“No it’s not,” Christie responded, rather weakly. “It is the president.… And the meatloaf was good.” It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to contemplate the fall, humiliation and political ruination the governor suffered at the hands of his alleged friend Donald. But every time it happens, there’s a little sunbeam.

Right now the administration is such a mess that after national security adviser Mike Flynn was pushed out of office, Trump’s next pick claimed he couldn’t take the job because he needed to spend more time with his family. That’s bad. On the other hand, the president did promise to create jobs. And the way we’re going, sooner or later everybody in the country is going to get an offer to serve in a top White House position.

En route to Florida for his re-election rally, the president stopped off at a Boeing plant in South Carolina, and supporters who had worried that the administration was going off the rails were heartened when he read his speech like a normal person. There were only a couple of off-the-cuff remarks about what a winner he is, and only one sort of strange moment, when he was talking about Air Force One. “What can look so beautiful at 30?” Trump demanded. “An airplane.”

Meanwhile, at the James Buchanan house, Patrick Clarke declined to offer any personal opinion on whether Trump could send Buchanan up a notch in the ratings. But he did provide an excellent example of thinking positive: “You know, if my guy wasn’t rated worst — if he fell smack dab in the middle — he’d be lost.”

Hold that thought. Whatever else happens you can take comfort in the realization that we’re not going to spend the next four years stuck with some boring mediocrity. We’re going nowhere near the middle.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 16, 2017

In “Drip, Drip, Drip” Mr. Blow says what we know about Russia only makes what we don’t know more ominous.  Mr. Kristof has a question:  “What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?”  He says dots involving Russia are begging to be connected.  Ms. Collins says “Well, Trump Watchers, Things Could Be Worse,” and that on the plus side, we’re not in Pyongyang.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Every day there is a fresh outrage emerging from the murky bog of the Donald Trump administration.

Every day there is a new round of questions and a new set of concerns that raise anxieties and lower trust.

Every day it becomes ever more clear that it is right and just to doubt the legitimacy of this regime and all that flows from it.

The latest round involves the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who this week was forced to resign following disclosures about his communications with the Russian ambassador on the same day that then-President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its interference in our election to help Trump and damage Hillary Clinton.

The official reason given for requesting Flynn’s resignation was, according to the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer: “The president was very concerned that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others.”

Spicer continued later, “The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General Flynn’s resignation.”

Spicer further stated, “The White House counsel reviewed and determined that there is not a legal issue, but rather a trust issue.”

If you are thinking, “Something about this just doesn’t smell right,” you’re right; it stinks. This doesn’t add up and it leads to a multiplying number of questions to which we don’t yet have answers.

The president was made aware of Flynn’s communications weeks ago, and apparently didn’t think it prudent to alert the vice president or to correct the record when the vice president said that Flynn had not discussed the sanctions with the Russian ambassador, when indicators pointed to the fact that he did.

Flynn lied. Trump knew Flynn lied. But Trump kept Flynn in his circle of confidence and apparently left the vice president out of the circle of knowledge. Why?

In tweets the president has posted since Flynn’s resignation (or firing — you choose how you want to cast it), Trump has seemed more upset by the fact that Flynn’s lies were leaked and reported than by the original transgression.

Furthermore, the president’s tweets and limited public pronouncements on the matter would lead reasonable readers and listeners to conclude that Flynn would still be on the job if his dealings had not become public.

This is an office culture issue. If the boss — in this case Trump — is a pathological liar who forces underlings to repeat and bolster his lies, what signal does that send to everyone else who works in that environment? That lying is not only accepted but also valued, that lying is simply a rhetorical device, a propaganda tool that is inexcusable only when not exercised with skill.

Trump knew exactly who he was getting when he hired Flynn, who had been fired by the Obama administration. Flynn is a habitual liar who lied so much when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency that, according to The New York Times, “subordinates came up with a name for the phenomenon: ‘Flynn facts.’ ”

Trump doesn’t mind a lie if it serves him; he does apparently mind if the liar is intentionally, maleficently trying to deceive him.

But even here, there are questions. It’s not clear whether Trump was aware of Flynn’s conversation with the Russians when it happened, or that he didn’t in some way direct it or receive a report of the call from Flynn himself after it happened.

Furthermore, Flynn’s communications with the Russians are not the only calls of concern. The New York Times reported Tuesday:

“Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.”

What was the nature of these calls? Why were they made? Was anyone in the Trump orbit aware of Russian plans to hack the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign? Were they made aware in any way of when emails would be leaked?

Two things bear repeating ad infinitum:

In July, at a televised campaign event, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Then in October, an hour after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes of Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, WikiLeaks began to dump the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s hacked emails on the internet.

Coincidence? Maybe. But that would be one hell of a coincidence, considering all the other reinforcing “coincidences”: Trump’s inexplicable, inexhaustible praise of Russia and Vladimir Putin; Putin’s failure to respond to Obama’s sanctions; an explosive report last week from CNN that read: “For the first time, U.S. investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent.”

What we know only makes what we don’t know feel all the more ominous. But I believe that facts are forthcoming. Reporters are digging like a crew of coal miners hopped up on a case of Red Bull, and sources in Washington are leaking to anyone with a press credential.

Drip, drip, drip it goes until the dam breaks and the truth spills.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

During the Watergate scandal, until now the most outrageous political scandal in American history, the crucial question was drawled by Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Today the question is the same.

This is not about Mike Flynn. It is about the president who appointed him, who earlier considered Flynn for vice president. The latest revelation of frequent contacts between the Trump team and Russian intelligence should be a wake-up call to Republicans as well as Democrats.

When Vice President Mike Pence was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News on Jan. 15 if there had been any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, he answered: “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts?”

Great question, Mr. Vice President.

Look, there’s a great deal we don’t know, but Russian interference in our election is potentially a bigger scandal than Watergate ever was. Watergate didn’t change an election’s result — President Richard Nixon would have won anyway in 1972 — while the 2016 election was close enough that Russian interference might have tipped the balance.

We don’t know whether the Russians had domestic help in their effort to steal the U.S. election, but here are a few dots that are begging to be connected:

First, the American intelligence community agrees that the Kremlin interfered during the campaign in an attempt to help Donald Trump. This isn’t a single agency’s conclusion, but reportedly a “strong consensus” among the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence.

Second, the dossier prepared by a former MI6 Russia expert outlines collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. CNN reports that American intelligence has communications intercepts corroborating elements of the dossier, and the latest revelation of repeated and constant contacts between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign give additional weight to the dossier’s allegations — although it’s also important to note that officials told The Times that they had seen no evidence of such cooperation in election manipulation.

Third, President Trump has been mystifyingly friendly toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin. As Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel to the C.I.A., puts it: “The bigger issue here is why Trump and people around him take such a radically different view of Russia than has been the case for decades. We don’t know the answer to that.”

Fourth, Flynn, before taking office, discussed Obama administration sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador. Flynn has now resigned, but he was steeped in the principle of a chain of command; I doubt he made these calls completely on his own. Daniel Benjamin, a former counterterrorism coordinator at the State Department who has known Flynn for years, says it would have been out of character for Flynn to do so. So who told Flynn to make these calls? Steve Bannon? Trump himself?

We’re back to our question: What did the president know, and when did he know it?

The White House hasn’t responded to my inquiries, and Trump lashes out wildly at “the fake news media” without answering questions. He reminds me of Nixon, who in 1974 said Watergate “would have been a blip” if it weren’t for journalists “who hate my guts.” Soon afterward, Nixon resigned.

Collins, solo

February 11, 2017

In “Footing the Bill for the Trumps” Ms. Collins points out that on the public’s dime, the first family is costing a pretty penny. It’s curious behavior considering the president’s 2011 complaints about the Obamas.  Here she is:

All these Trumps are getting damned expensive.

Last month, taxpayers forked over nearly $100,000 to protect Eric Trump while he was on a business trip to Uruguay. And the Defense Department is looking to rent space in Trump Tower — which goes for as much as $1.5 million a year per floor — so they can bring the nuclear launch codes along when the president comes to visit his wife in New York.

The mere idea of Donald Trump and the nuclear codes is way more disturbing than the money. But still, critics claim that Melania Trump’s decision not to move into the White House is costing the country more in security than the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Melania is staying in New York so her son, Barron, can continue at his school. Presumably, the bill will drop somewhat over the summer. Meanwhile, the city police and the Secret Service have wrapped an incredibly expensive security blanket around a chunk of Fifth Avenue.

Of course she’s totally within her rights. One of the rules for criticizing a first family is that you leave the kids alone. (I am not thinking here of Eric.) If Melania decides never to become part of official Washington at all, that’s fine. There’s plenty of precedent. Zachary Taylor’s wife, Margaret, hated the whole idea so much that when Taylor died in office, the engraving of the deathbed scene showed Mrs. Taylor with her hands over her face in grief, because nobody knew what she actually looked like.

On the other hand, she never filed a lawsuit claiming an erroneous news story had hurt her ability to market a “broad-based commercial brand” while she had an unmatchable opportunity to be in the public eye as first lady.

Melania says her legal actions are completely misunderstood.

Conservatives used to have a field day complaining about the high cost of moving the Obamas around. The future President Trump himself once tweeted: “The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million +++ while there is 20% unemployment.”

The unemployment rate was not, at the time, anywhere near 20 percent. And last weekend Trump happily ran up a federal bill of around $3 million for a trip to Mar-a-Lago where he watched the Super Bowl and dropped in on a Red Cross ball, which presumably brought his resort a hefty fee.

Yeah, it’s the profit-making end of the story that’s so irritating. When Eric Trump went to Uruguay, his mission was to promote Trump Tower Punta del Este. “We’re going to have an amazing company,” Eric told the local media, adding that his father was going to do “amazing things for the United States.” And that Dad would be “an incredible commander in chief.” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, adjective-wise.

The president has theoretically separated himself from all his businesses, but they still belong to him. He may not have operational command, but Eric does, and it’s hard for folks in Uruguay not to believe that the president is watching when the son comes to call and mix with his fellow realtors, flanked by a security detail that’s on our dime.

Those continuing financial interests around the world are a huge problem — you probably noticed that the immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries didn’t include the ones in which the president had hotels or condos or golf courses? And he’s never going to do anything to fix it. When Trump was calling for better ethics in Washington, he only wanted us to drain the other guys’ swamp.

But don’t you wish he’d try to show he appreciates the security price tag? We don’t want to make little Barron change schools, but Trump could buy Melania a condo in a relatively low-traffic location to save security from having to create a no-go zone in Midtown. It would send up a signal that he realized the problems he was causing. Also it would be cheaper for the Defense Department. And maybe closer to the school. The only thing inconvenienced would be Donald’s bottom line.

And Eric could have put his security detail up for free. Given that he was traveling on a moneymaking venture and all.

Trump did announce that when the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, came to visit him in Mar-a-Lago this weekend, he was not going to charge Abe for his room. “That is a gift that the president is extending to the prime minister,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, otherwise known as The Most Miserable Man on Earth.

That was the grand gesture. Meanwhile, you could argue that Trump is using a visit by an important foreign leader to promote one of his brands.

At least Abe has not been requested to pose holding up a gift bottle of Trump wine. As far as we know.

Well, you know, Gail — grifters gotta grift.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 9, 2017

In “Trump’s Leading Rivals Wear Robes” Mr. Blow says the president doesn’t have respect for separation of powers.  More likely, Charles, is that he doesn’t have any idea of what that means.  In “To Reject Trump the Perverse, Poets Wage a Battle in Verse” Mr. Kristof invites us to read the winners from among about 2,000 entries in my Donald Trump Poetry Contest.  Ms. Collins says “Elizabeth Warren Persists,” and that wow, there’s nothing worse than a woman who won’t stop talking.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

President Obama was no fan of the dreadful 2010 Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of corporate personhood. In that case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court asserted that political spending, including by corporations, was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, opening the door for corporations to spend unlimited money on ads and other tools to get candidates elected.

The president was not alone. As The Washington Post reported the month after the ruling:

“Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

The Post continued:

“Eight in 10 poll respondents say they oppose the high court’s Jan. 21 decision to allow unfettered corporate political spending, with 65 percent ‘strongly’ opposed. Nearly as many backed congressional action to curb the ruling, with 72 percent in favor of reinstating limits. The poll reveals relatively little difference of opinion on the issue among Democrats (85 percent opposed to the ruling), Republicans (76 percent) and independents (81 percent).”

An overwhelming majority of America was aghast. So Obama reflected that frustration in his public statements.

The president addressed the debacle in his 2010 State of the Union address, in the presence of the Supreme Court justices who decided the case. He began his comments with a phrase that had not appeared in the prepared text, “With all due deference to separation of powers.” Then he let loose:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

Obama had previously criticized the ruling in one of his weekly radio addresses, stating:

“I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.”

He continued later:

“We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans, and we don’t intend to.”

That was his personal opinion — and the opinion of millions of Americans, many of whom were his supporters — and he had every right to voice it. Furthermore, he did so by confining his displeasure to the ruling itself and not impugning in any way the character or qualifications of the justices who rendered it.

And yet, condemnation of Obama was swift and brutal from some quarters.

You could argue that the venue of the State of the Union was not the appropriate one for Obama to repeat his criticism. But it is impossible to argue that his judicial rebuke, which looks quaint in retrospect, comes anywhere close to the venom Donald Trump is spewing at the judicial branch.

You could argue that Obama’s criticism carried more weight because it was aimed at the highest court. But Trump’s treatment of federal judges is worse. He’s punching down. He’s using the awesome power of the presidency to lob highly injurious and personal accusations at public servants below his station. The Supreme Court is on parity with the presidency; federal judges aren’t. This is the behavior of a bully.

As a candidate, Trump claimed that the federal judge Gonzalo P. Curiel shouldn’t be able to preside over his Trump University fraud case because, as Trump put it:

“I’m building the wall, I’m building the wall. I have a Mexican judge. He’s of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things.”

This of course was a lie. Curiel is an American citizen born in East Chicago, Ind.

Last week, when a federal judge ruled against his Muslim ban, Trump lashed out on Twitter (where else?):

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The next day, Trump again took to Twitter:

“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On Wednesday, while speaking to a gathering of police chiefs, Trump again lashed out at the court and the appeals process, reading a section of law and sniping, “A bad high school student would understand this.”

Trump should know. As a child, he got into so much trouble and became such an embarrassment to his parents that they sent him up the river, quite literally, to a military academy in the Hudson Valley for high school.

This constant, lowbrow attack on the courts is not an insignificant thing and not without consequence. And it is a major break from the way modern presidents have related to and dissented from the opinions of the judicial branch.

The New York Times’s Adam Liptak spoke with Peter G. Verniero, a former justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, after Obama’s 2010 State of the Union, and Liptak reported the exchange this way:

“The court’s legitimacy is derived from the persuasiveness of its opinions and the expectation that those opinions are rendered free of partisan, political influences,” Mr. Verniero said. “The more that individual justices are drawn into public debates, the more the court as an institution will be seen in political terms, which was not the intent of the founders.”

Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court, condemned the president’s attacks on the judges as demoralizing and disheartening.”

In the same way and for the same reason Trump is attacking the press, he is attacking the courts: They are the only real checks on his power and raging ego, while most congressional Republicans sit on their hands and swallow their pride.

The only courts or press that Trump sees as legitimate are those that bow to his will. All others are fake, very, very dishonest, unfair or some such. Trump’s intent here is to besmirch the means and motives of his opponents, to drag them down from their perches of principle, to make them more vulnerable to grievous political injury.

He always wants to grind the opposition underfoot. This is how democracy slips away, not always by a singular eruption, but sometimes by slow, constant erosion, the way the river carves itself into the rock.

This is not the behavior of a man who respects the independence of the judiciary or who grants any “deference to separation of powers,” as Obama improvised in 2010. This is a tyrant who sees power as a zero-sum game: The exercise of it by another branch means diminution of his own.

He doesn’t want to be president, but emperor.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Some people stand up to President Trump in the courts, others in street protests. And the poets among us, they battle President Trump with an arsenal of verse.

The Republican man of the hour
Is a wellspring of bluster and glower.
Trump is rich and he’s white,
How’s he leading the fight
Against entrenched Establishment power?

That’s by Bill McGloughlin, a librarian in Charlotte, N.C., who was one of the winners of my Donald Trump Poetry Contest. We had about 2,000 entries, and today I’m publishing the winners.

Some relied on humor — while complaining that almost nothing rhymes with “orange”! — and that’s the tack taken by Stephen Benko, a retired businessman in Fairfield, Conn. Benko has published an entire book of poems about Trump, but this one is new:

If God made man in his image
Please explain our new President’s visage
That pucker and scowl
Look like murder most foul
What in heaven, Lord, earned us this priv’lege?

Dan Letwin, a history professor at Penn State, wrote a timely “ode to alternative facts”:

Well now, Kellyanne Conway has lately conceived
Of a new understanding of what to believe
When the truth gives you heartburn, don’t worry, relax
You can always resort to alternative facts!

Oh it works for the Donald and all of his hacks
As they go ’bout promoting their retrograde acts
Don’t fret if your documentation is lax
You can always get by with alternative facts!

Don’t fear all those women with signs on their backs
The straight and the queer, the whites and blacks
You can trivialize them with snide little cracks
And wash them away with alternative facts!

Just as loggers might swing an alternative ax
And fell a great tree with alternative whacks
When the truth won’t cooperate, try some new tacks
We live in an age of alternative facts!

I sought out pro-Trump poems, but poets seem to be disproportionately aghast at his presidency. One of the most personal poems came from Amit Majmudar, the poet laureate of Ohio, who submitted a moving poem about his mother becoming a U.S. citizen. It’s a long poem, but it ends:

In the year of our liar 2016
My mom became the citizen
Of a strange America.
Improbability, too, is a force of nature.
We couldn’t not watch.
Unnatural untruths become natural lies.

In 2016, my mom became a naturalized

Citizen just in time to watch
America denature.

Najma Menai of West Lafayette, Ind., a student at Purdue, says that writing poetry is “one of the chief ways I’m keeping myself sane these days.” She submitted this poem warning against Trump’s antics distracting us from critical issues:

He will say something awful
And cause quite the fuss
Until that one thing
Is all we discuss.…

So when Trump says
The wall will now be a fence
Worry more about
Bannon and Priebus and Pence….

And when he acts like a child
On the global stage
Worry more about
How you, yes you, must engage

Richard Kenney, a poet who teaches at the University of Washington, offered a lovely poem about our “commander in tweet.” Two excerpts:

We mustn’t slander our Twitter Commander,
he’ll burble our bird and snatch our bander
and fire off a tweet with his hot little hand, or
maybe report us, so stay discreet—
Commander in Tweet! Commander in Tweet!
Muster the army, commission the fleet!
He’s a patsy for Putin, buffoon complete—
(And that old Constitution? Hit Delete—)

I held this contest partly because we’ve all heard so much commentary about Trump, and I figured that verse might offer a new lens through which to see our president. It also struck me that there are fears that Trump will slash budgets for the humanities and the arts, including the National Endowment for the Arts. So it seemed appropriate to applaud the artists fighting the perverse with verse — and in that spirit, I’ll give the last word to Susan McLean, a poet and English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University:

Trump seethes at what the writers say.
He’ll pull the plug on the N.E.A.
The joke’s on him. Art doesn’t pay.
We write our satires anyway.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

It’s a dark and dismal time for American liberals. Except for the part where the opposition keeps shooting itself in the foot.

We will now pause to contemplate the fact that this week the Senate Republicans attempted to forward their agenda by silencing Elizabeth Warren while she was reading a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow.

In explanation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically called Warren a pushy girl.

Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Never has a political party reached such a pinnacle of success, and then instantly begun using it to inspire the opposition.

We’re less than three weeks into the Trump administration, and almost every day the people in power stop delivering the message of the day and veer off into a Strange Tale.

Which do you think the Democrats found most empowering — Trump’s first full day in the White House, when he marched off to the C.I.A. to deliver a rambling tirade about the inauguration crowd size? The Holocaust Remembrance Day proclamation that eliminated any reference to the Jews? Or the new Supreme Court nominee saying the president who named him was being “demoralizing” and “disheartening”?

Or this Senate-silencing moment? The subject at hand was the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The debate was going to be endless. It was evening and nobody was listening. Warren was taking her turn and reading a letter Coretta Scott King wrote about Sessions in 1986.

That was when Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship on the basis of an impressive record of racial insensitivity as a U.S. attorney in Alabama. The charges included referring to a black assistant U.S. attorney as “boy,” joking about the Ku Klux Klan and referring to the N.A.A.C.P. as “un-American.”

His supporters say he’s changed. Indeed, Sessions has evolved into a senator who is well liked by his peers and obsessed with illegal immigrants. Totally different person.

Mrs. King’s letter was not flattering. (“…has used the awesome power of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”) Neither were the quotes Warren read from the late Senator Edward Kennedy (“a disgrace”). But none of it was exactly a surprise, and all of Washington knew the nomination was eventually going to pass. Yet McConnell decided to shut down Warren, claiming she had “impugned the motives and conduct” of a fellow senator.

McConnell cited Rule 19, which is more than a century old. It comes up about once a generation, when somebody calls a colleague an idiot or a liar. But this was totally different. The other senators were startled — or would have been if most of them had not been napping or back in their offices, dialing up donors.

“She was warned,” McConnell said later. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Wow, nothing worse than a woman who won’t stop talking.

“They were waiting to Rule 19 someone and they specifically targeted Elizabeth,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “I think because she’s effective.”

The social media exploded. You have to admit we live in wondrous times, people. There was a day when people only took to Facebook to post pictures of their vacation. On Wednesday they were pouring in to watch Elizabeth Warren read her forbidden letter.

Dark and extremely conspiratorial minds suggested the whole thing was a Republican plot to promote Warren as a presidential candidate, since they believe Trump could defeat her in 2020. This presumes that McConnell is suffering from a pathological case of advance planning.

More likely he’s simply exhausted from dealing with a White House occupant who’s managed, just this week, to accuse the media of not covering terrorism, to suggest that George W. Bush was more of a killer than Vladimir Putin, and to use the official presidential account to tweet an attack on Nordstrom’s for discontinuing his daughter’s fashion line.

And the Republicans in Congress can’t figure out how to work around him. The other day the House majority refused to approve a Democratic resolution affirming “that the Nazi regime targeted the Jewish people in its perpetuation of the Holocaust.” It obviously was an attempt to remind people of that Holocaust Memorial Week debacle. But still.

“They’re definitely squirming,” said Representative Joe Crowley, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, in a phone interview. Crowley was on his way to Baltimore for a party strategy conference. I believe I speak for a great many Americans when I say a strategy would be a very good thing.

The Democrats are immersed in an ongoing battle between centrists and progressives and a long way from coming up with a united message. “There’s still anger and a bit of depression, but … they’re giving us incredible fodder to use against them,” Crowley said.

It’s true. Always look for a silver lining. Or at least a little fodder. Keep talking, Elizabeth.

Collins, solo

February 4, 2017

In “Trump With a Tail” Ms. Collins says Mike Pence pulls leash; the president barks.  Here she is:

How bad do you need to be to get rejected for Donald Trump’s cabinet?

We’ve got nominees who don’t really know anything about the subject they’d be overseeing. Some hatehatehate the federal programs they’d be charged with guiding. Some have messy financial issues that haven’t been resolved.

But Trump’s pick for secretary of education swept the board. Trifecta! Betsy DeVos, it’s become clear, knows very little about public schools, doesn’t like them and has minimal experience in management. Plus, she’s a billionaire whose money is in a bewildering stack of holding companies.

“I have never seen a nominee with such tangled and opaque finances,” complained Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington.

This was after a procedural vote on the nomination on Friday. The Republican leadership dragged the senators in at dawn, before everybody left town for the weekend. It was a productive morning. Not only did they kick the DeVos can down the line, but by 7 a.m., the majority had also managed to castrate a formerly bipartisan rule aimed at keeping oil and mining companies from bribing foreign governments.

The big DeVos vote is next week. After listening to her flounder around in a hearing, two Republican senators said they just couldn’t bring themselves to support her, so it looks like it’ll come down to 50-50. All eyes will turn to Mike Pence. Who will become the first vice president since the founding of the republic to break a tie on a cabinet nomination.

And you thought Donald Trump was just babbling when he promised to make history.

Pence is looking more and more like the Big Man in the administration. Conservatives who see their president as a large, scary spending machine follow Pence’s every move with adoration. The religious right is counting on him to keep a chief executive with a history of crotch-grabbing on the straight and narrow when it comes to their agenda. And Republicans in Congress realize he’s the only member of the top team who could get through a phone conversation with the prime minister of Australia without causing an international crisis.

It’s a lot of fun to think of Donald Trump as a mere lap dog. Granted, a lap dog who runs around snarling and snapping and signing executive orders, which he seems to regard as some long form of Twitter. But at the end of the leash — Mike Pence.

It’s very likely that having the vice president in command would only give us a more conservative, better-organized version of the Trump brand. But the important thing is that nothing could drive our new president crazier than suggesting he’s just Pence’s pet.

Our readers seem very interested in this concept, particularly when it comes to torturing Trump. This week I suggested some possible nicknames for the president, and the votes are in. I am happy to report that we will now be calling Donald Trump … wait for it … Pence’s Poodle.

I was kind of hoping for Pence’s Pomeranian — because, you know, of the hair. There were some write-ins for Pence’s Pug, and a number of protests from people who did not want their dog connected in any way with the 45th president of the United States. But what can I tell you? A vote is a vote.

The Poodle had a big week — unnerving other heads of state over the phone, confusing people at meetings and signing those executive orders. On Friday, he was directing the government to liberate our financial industry from the heavy boot of regulation that left the nation’s bankers and hedge fund managers living on rice and beans during the Obama era.

One of the goals is to get rid of a pending rule requiring brokers to act in their clients’ “best interests” when they’re giving advice about retirement investments. Obviously, this would be really, really hard on our nation’s forgotten financial consultants. And you know how much the beleaguered working class hates the gloom of transparency in their I.R.A.s. But liberation is on the way.

Trump was the star of the National Prayer Breakfast while Pence sat in the audience, smiling and nodding and occasionally offering his boss an extra bowl of kibble. Our chief executive thanked Pence for being “incredible” right after he told the audience that the ratings for “The New Celebrity Apprentice” are much lower now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is the host. (“It’s been a total disaster.”) The show’s creator was in the room and the president said he was sure “Mark [Burnett] will never, ever bet against Trump again.”

Have you noticed that Pence’s Poodle tends to refer to the hero of all his stories as “Trump”? Perhaps he thinks of “Trump” as a separate person. Maybe an action hero who leaps around the country saving people from public schools or financial oversight, while occasionally stopping to wag his powder-puff tail in the direction of the vice president.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 2, 2017

In “Fruit of a Poison Tree” Mr. Blow says Democrats must oppose Neil Gorsuch on principle.  Mr. Kristof offers “An Apology to Muslims for President Trump” and says we Americans should condemn our extremist.  A majority of us do, Nick, and voted against him.  Ms. Collins has a question in “Pence’s Presidential Pet:” Whose hand is busy behind the curtain?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

So the “president,” who was “elected” under the fog of Russian interference (now under investigation by both houses of Congress) and with a boost from the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (now under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general), has just made a nomination to the Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in Denver.

Pundits have been applauding like a pod of trained seals in the hours since the announcement, gushing about how brilliant Donald Trump’s rollout of Gorsuch was, how immensely qualified he is and how difficult it would be for Democrats to block his nomination if they chose to do so.

Let’s tackle each of these individually, but let’s do so under the umbrella of this ultimatum that I believe the liberal base is sending to the Democratic Party: Fight this, tooth and nail. Never give up and never give in.

This seat on the Supreme Court was stolen from Barack Obama when Republicans refused to even hold hearings for his nominee, and the election was stolen from the American public by maleficent figures, foul of motive and moving in shadows.

This nominee is the fruit of a poison tree and no amount of educational pedigree or persuasive elocution can cleanse him of that contamination.

If Trump can impose a Muslim ban until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with national security threats, we can withhold approval of his Supreme Court nominee until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with threats to our national elections.

As for the “brilliant” rollout, let’s be clear: It was a solid rollout, but the bar for Trump has been set so low that merely behaving like an adult, deferring to counsel, not stepping on your own message with idiocy and building support makes a blathering half-wit look like he’s had a stroke of genius.

As for Gorsuch himself, he’s a rather standard right-of-center, religiously deferential judge. He seems to be a smart man with a long and solid résumé, but all of the justices are smart, whether you agree with the way they interpret the law or not. That’s not the question.

Democrats must oppose Gorsuch on principle. Democrats have grown too soft. They are still trying to fight a gentleman’s war in the middle of a guerrilla war. Their efforts to reach across the aisle keep being met by hands wielding machetes; their overwhelming impulse to take the high road ignores the fact that Republicans have already blown up the bridge on the high road.

Democrats want to point to the civility and decorum with which government is supposed to work, but this ignores the fact that government is broken and completely overtaken by the people who broke it.

Some people worry that if the Democrats filibuster this nomination in the Senate, it will only force the Republicans’ hand to employ the “nuclear option” — change the rules so that the nominee would need only a simple majority to be confirmed. The logic goes that this would mean Trump would have an easy route to confirmation should another vacancy arise on the court during his tenure, a vacancy that could shift the balance of the court, unlike this one.

I say let them. In fact, make them. They are likely to confirm this nominee anyway. What liberals don’t want is to have Democratic fingerprints on this political crime scene. Make the asterisk president’s nominee become an asterisk jurist, the only one confirmed under an altered set of rules.

Even if Republicans change the rules now, there is no guarantee — with the incredible amount of public oppositional energy and engagement we now see against this president — that the Republicans will even be able to maintain control of the Senate beyond the midterms.

Furthermore, and this is just a wild theory of mine, it is not clear to me that Trump will hang around for a full term, not so much because he might do something to spark an impeachment proceeding, but because it’s not clear to me that he wants to serve out the term.

Trump is simply not behaving like a president with an eye trained on longevity. He is a singularly unpopular new president who is doing absolutely nothing to increase his popularity and everything to constrict it.

His furious, prodigious pace of edicts also bespeaks a man who feels like he’s on a clock and his time is running out. He seems like a man about to burn out or be kicked out — but of course that could just be my wishful thinking.

At any rate, Democrats should look at Gorsuch as an instrument of the enemy. Some say that Democrats should not have acquiesced to voting for Trump’s cabinet appointees. While I agree, at least they’ll leave when this administration comes to an end. But we would be stuck with Gorsuch, who is just 49, for generations, probably long after Trump is dead.

Senate Democrats, grow a spine. Buck up! Fight like your lives depend on it, because in the end, the lives of your children, and ours, just might.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Whenever an extremist in the Muslim world does something crazy, people demand that moderate Muslims step forward to condemn the extremism. So let’s take our own advice: We Americans should now condemn our own extremist.

In that spirit, I hereby apologize to Muslims. The mindlessness and heartlessness of the travel ban should humiliate us, not you. Understand this: President Trump is not America!

I apologize to Nadia Murad, the brave young Yazidi woman from Iraq who was made a sex slave — but since escaping, has campaigned around the world against ISIS and sexual slavery. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, yet is now barred from the United States.

I apologize to Edna Adan, a heroic Somali woman who has battled for decades for women’s health and led the fight against female genital mutilation. Edna speaks at American universities, champions girls’ education and defies extremists — and she’s one of those inspiring me to do the same.

I don’t want to take Trump-as-an-extremist too far: He’s not beheading anyone, and the security challenge is real. Nobody has a problem with improving safety, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both oversaw improvements in vetting. Yet Trump tackled the issue in a way that bolsters the ISIS narrative and thus makes us less safe.

In effect, Trump took a real problem, inflated it with hysteria, handled it with incompetence and created an unjust policy that targets seven mostly impoverished Muslim countries that haven’t produced a single person involved in a lethal terrorist attack in America since before 9/11. Islamophobia swirls through the order, and Rudy Giuliani has helpfully explained that Trump asked him to devise a way to create a Muslim ban and “do it legally.”

There’s a certain symmetry here.

I’ve sat down in mosques in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen and heard jihadists justify intolerance. Those men (always men!) “otherize” infidels as fundamentally different, as threats who must be confronted; Trump “otherizes” Muslims in a similar way.

Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn, has referred to Islam as a “cancer” and has shared a video asserting that Islam “wants 80 percent of humanity enslaved or exterminated.” That’s the mirror image of the bigotry I hear from jihadists who tell me that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks.

The real chasm is not between Muslims and others, but between the moderates and the extremists of whatever religion.

A Reuters poll found that many Americans approve of Trump’s travel ban, but that’s not surprising. The same was true of barring Jewish refugees in the 1930s, and of interning Japanese-Americans in 1942. When we’re fearful, we’re vulnerable to politicians who play on our fears and scapegoat immigrants; in the fullness of time, we come to regret our xenophobic behavior and to appreciate the immigrants.

So I apologize to Muslims. I have seen the worst of Islam, but also the best.

The newly chosen Rhodes scholars include a Somali refugee, Ahmed Ahmed, who was born in a Kenya refugee camp and was admitted to the U.S. as a 1-year-old. Raised by a struggling single mom, sometimes showing up at high school at 5:30 a.m. to study, he attended Cornell and won the university’s outstanding student award. Such people don’t threaten us, but enrich us.

If we need an inspiring example of how moderates can successfully challenge extremists, consider an extraordinary Somali gynecologist, Dr. Hawa Abdi, who ran a displaced persons camp in Somalia, including a 400-bed hospital (and a jail for men who beat their wives). Islamic militants, enraged that a woman was running such an important enterprise, ordered her to hand it over. When she refused, 750 armed militants from the Party of Islam attacked the camp and ordered Dr. Abdi to run it under their direction. She refused.

Yet Dr. Abdi’s camp, serving 90,000 people, was just about the only thing working properly in Somalia, and Somalis at home and around the world united to denounce the militants and speak up for her. The pressure on the gunmen grew. Finally, they slunk off.

If Somalis can stand up to extremists, we can, too.

Indeed, that is happening. When Japanese-Americans were rounded up, other Americans were silent. Today, it is heartwarming to see Americans of all creeds standing up against similar bigotry. In Victoria, Tex., after a mysterious fire destroyed the only mosque just hours after Trump announced his travel ban, local Jewish leaders gave Muslims a key to their synagogue. Four churches also offered their space for as long as needed, and in just a few days, people of all faiths contributed $1 million to build a new mosque.

At an airport protest, one much-shared photo showed a Jewish man and a Muslim man protesting side by side, each with a child on his shoulders.

My dream is of the day when Jews protest Islamophobia, Muslims denounce the persecution of Christians and Christians stand against anti-Semitism. That’s why I apologize to Muslims, and it’s why ALL of us, not just Muslims, should stand up to condemn extremism in our midst.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

The world was a-swoon over Donald Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court. And the way Trump announced it.

“How normal!” enthused a CNN commentator.

Yes! Trump managed to introduce Judge Neil Gorsuch to an audience of supporters without bragging about the size of the crowd. However, he did suggest he’s “studied” Gorsuch’s work. Since the judge does not have a history of either tweeting or writing about Donald Trump, serious presidential perusal seems highly unlikely.

Gorsuch is what they call an originalist, a judicial breed that cynics define as people who believe that if the founding fathers were around today, they would be best friends and agree on everything. He’s extremely conservative.

Colleagues say he’s pleasant and thoughtful, which will do you no good whatsoever if you’re worried about reproductive rights or federal regulation to reduce climate change. But it had the Republicans in Congress doing happy dances all over the Capitol. Really, they were afraid Trump was going to nominate Don King.

Democrats, meanwhile, were bitterly remembering that last year Barack Obama had nominated an intelligent, well-spoken moderate moderate in the form of Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even hold a hearing. Now Trump was expecting them to roll out the welcome mat for his guy.

What to do? The Democrats could filibuster, but then McConnell might try to change the rules so it would only take a simple majority to push a Supreme Court nominee through. This is known as the “nuclear option,” a colorful but rather unnerving nickname now that we’ve got President Trump speaking so enthusiastically about going nuclear.

The Gorsuch nomination is important, but there could be an even more critical one later if either Justice Anthony Kennedy or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves the court. Kennedy is 80 and Ginsburg turns 84 next month. She once told me that she does the Canadian Air Force stretching and warming exercises almost every day at home, along with a more strenuous workout with a trainer twice a week. Close your eye and say a prayer for the Canadian Air Force.

Meanwhile, about Gorsuch. Do you think the Democrats should:

A) Fight! Fight! Fight!

B) Save their ammunition. Things are just going to get worse.

C) I don’t want to talk about it. I’m going to crawl back under the bed.

I’m sorry, you cannot pick C. We’ve had the discussion about not crawling under the bed many times already. A lot of people are probably going to go for A, given the Trump administration’s genius for generating fear and loathing. The other day I attempted to blot out the world by playing an online game called Two Dots, which is exactly as profound as it sounds. But instead of the dots, I got an announcement asking me to support the American Civil Liberties Union.

“In 48 hours we sent 500,000 people to the A.C.L.U.’s donation page,” said Paul Murphy, the C.E.O. of Dots. “It’s pretty awesome.”

On Wednesday Judge Gorsuch was starting his visiting-the-senators rounds in the company of Vice President Mike Pence. Do you think this is all Pence’s work, people? The judge seems way more Pence-like than Trumpian. And there are other signs — like all this anti-abortion fervor — that Trump might be in his veep’s thrall.

Query: If Trump is really the vice president’s lap dog, do you think we should call him:

A) Pence’s Poodle.

B) Pence’s Pomeranian.

C) Pence’s Pekingese.

Feel free to go any way you want on this. Just be sure to consider the matter of elaborately combed blond hair.

The best thing about referring to the president as Pence’s, um, pet is that it would drive Trump nuts. But feel free to make other suggestions.

Some wise minds have wondered if the guy pulling the strings is Steve Bannon, the president’s alt-right, sharp-elbowed chief strategist. There have been a lot of Bannon-ish moves coming out of the White House — the anti-immigrant anti-Muslim shutdown, the decision not to mention Jews in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The fact that the president of the United States calls people “dudes.”

Others think it’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, or son-in-law Jared Kushner. But nobody sees the hand of Donald Trump behind the screen. For sure not on judicial nominations. Trump, you’ll remember, once said he thought a great Supreme Court justice would be one who would put on the robe, sit down and begin investigating Hillary Clinton’s email practices.

There are, admittedly, some things the president does that are definitely his own. On Wednesday he was promoting Black History Month by praising the great 19th-century abolition leader, writer and activist Frederick Douglass. Trump called him “an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

Take that, dudes.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

January 26, 2017

In “A Lie By Any Other Name” Mr. Blow restates the obvious, that our president is a pathological liar.  Mr. Kristof says “President Trump’s War on Women Begins” and that a “pro-life” order will mean more abortions and women dying.  Ms. Collins tells us “Mike Pence Pulls President Trump’s Strings” and that the president can’t stand up to his vice.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

This is not a presentation of “alternative facts,” whatever that may mean, as Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s mistress of misdirection, posited over the weekend.

These are lies; good old-fashioned lies, baldfaced and flat-out lies.

Some have suggested that we in the media should focus a bit less on these lies — some of them issued in tweets and some in interviews or news conferences — and focus more on policies, particularly the ineptitude of the gathering cabinet and the raft of executive orders that Trump himself is signing.

But I take the position that this is all worthy of coverage, that there are simply different kinds of news being unearthed about this administration that exist on different strata.

To take it even further, it may be these seemingly smaller infractions that produce the greater injury because the implications are more profound. Trump does not simply have “a running war with the media,” as he so indecorously and disrespectfully spouted off while standing on the hallowed ground before the C.I.A. Memorial Wall. He is in fact having a running war with the truth itself.

Donald Trump is a proven liar. He lies often and effortlessly. He lies about the profound and the trivial. He lies to avoid guilt and invite glory. He lies when his pride is injured and when his pomposity is challenged.

Indeed, one of the greatest threats Trump poses is that he corrupts and corrodes the absoluteness of truth, facts and science.

It is no coincidence that the rise of Trump is concurrent with the rise of “fake news.” It is no coincidence that his rise comes during an age of severely damaged faith in institutions.

And now that he has been elected, Trump wants absolute control over the flow of information, to dictate his own version of facts rather than live with the reality of accepted facts. Trump is in a battle to bend the truth to his benefit.

He hates members of the press because, when properly performing, they are truth seekers rather than ego-strokers. The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right. A truly independent press is not stocked with political acolytes but political adversaries.

This doesn’t sit well with an administration that wants to be perpetually patted on the back and never rapped on the knuckles.

After Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, got called out by the press for lying about Trump’s inauguration crowd size and viewership, Spicer limped back to the mic and whined of Trump’s press coverage: “The default narrative is always negative, and it’s demoralizing.”

No, sir, the default is to call a lie a lie; lies are negative because they are the opposite of the truth; and Trump continuously lies. Also, he who is devoid of morality is immune to demoralization. You can’t wring water from a rock.

The bone you have to pick is not with the press but with the “president.”

Trump’s team seems to need to control narratives and to staunch what they view as negative, even if it’s true. This compulsion may in fact be spilling over into the Trump administration’s approach to government agencies, particularly those with a more scientific leaning.

As The Hill reported Tuesday, “The Trump administration is clamping down on public communications by agencies as it seeks to assert control over the federal bureaucracy.”

The site continued:

New restrictions on social media use and interaction with press and lawmakers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and the Interior have sparked concerns of a President Trump-backed effort to silence dissenting views.

Although The Hill granted, “it’s not unusual for incoming administrations to seek control over agency communications,” it cited “experts on the federal work force” who said “they have never seen a White House take the type of steps Trump’s administration has to curb public communications.”

And Trump for his part continues to rage about three to five million illegal votes causing him to lose the popular vote in November. This, too, is a lie. A lie. Not the euphemisms you hear on television, like “unsubstantiated,” or “unproven,” or “baseless.” It is a lie, pure and simple.

But Trump won’t let it go. His pride is hurt, his vanity tarnished. The man who prides himself on winning lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes, the biggest popular vote loss by a winning candidate in American history. That stings.

So, even after his lie is reported and rejected, he continues to perpetuate it. This is what makes Trump qualitatively different from our leaders who came before him: He believes that truth is what he says it is, and the only reason it has yet to be accepted is that it has yet to be sufficiently repeated.

Unbowed, Trump published two tweets on Wednesday morning that read together:

“I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

This is just like Trump, whose inclination is never to admit a mistake, and instead to redouble his self-righteousness even in the midst of his wrong. This statement weakens our democracy and strengthens voter suppression efforts.

We all have to adjust to this unprecedented assault on the truth and stand ready to vigilantly defend against it, because without truth, what’s left? Our president is a pathological liar. Say it. Write it. Never become inured to it. And dispense with the terms of art to describe it. A lie by any other name portends the same.

I think I’m going to take up Charlie Pierce’s usage — referring to Mein Fubar as President* Trump, or the president*.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Should we journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trump’s most manifest falsehoods?

That debate has roiled the news world. The Times this week used the word “lie” in a front-page headline, and I agreed with that decision, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods.

So in 2017 we reach a mortifying moment for a great democracy: We must decide whether our 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Yet the costliest presidential falsehoods and delusions are not the ones that people are talking about, such as those concerning the inauguration crowd or electoral fraud. The most horrific chicanery involves Trump’s new actions on women’s health that will cause deaths around the globe.

It followed the weekend’s stunning women’s marches: At least 3.2 million people apparently participated in all 50 states, amounting to 1 percent of the U.S. population. In a slap at all who marched, Trump this week signed an order that will cut off access to contraception to vast numbers of women, particularly in Africa.

It will also curb access to cancer screenings and maybe even undermine vaccination campaigns and efforts against H.I.V. and the Zika virus. The upshot: Thousands of impoverished, vulnerable women will die.

Americans have focused on the executive actions about building a wall, or expediting oil pipelines, but nothing is more devastating than the edict on women’s health (signed in front of a group composed almost entirely of smiling men in suits).

In fairness, Trump probably thought he was doing a good thing; that’s a measure of his delusion. He reinstated what’s called the Mexico City policy, which stipulates that family planning funds cannot go to foreign aid groups that ever discuss abortion. (Federal funds already don’t go for abortions.)

Presumably Trump thought this policy would reduce abortions, and was thus “pro-life.” In fact, this is a “pro-death” approach that actually increases abortions, as well as deaths among women.

How can that be? Many groups, like Marie Stopes International and Planned Parenthood International, lose funding in poor countries from this policy. In 2001, when President George W. Bush imposed a more limited version, 16 developing countries lost shipments of contraceptives from the U.S.

Stanford University researchers found that the Bush version of the policy reduced contraceptive use in Africa — and increased abortion rates.

This all sounds wonkish and antiseptic, but in poor countries, the most dangerous thing a woman can do is become pregnant. I’ve seen too many women dying or suffering in filth on stained cots in remote villages because of childbirth.

I wish Trump could see them: a mother of three in Cameroon dying after her birth attendant sat on her stomach to hasten delivery; a woman in Niger collapsing from a common complication called eclampsia; a 15-year-old girl in Chad whose family dealt with her labor complications by taking her to a healer who diagnosed sorcery and burned her arm as she lay in a coma.

With this new order, Trump will inadvertently cause more of these horrific scenes. Maybe “war on women” sounds hyperbolic, but not if gasping, dying women are seared in your memory.

Worse, Trump expanded this “global gag rule” — as critics call it, because it bars groups from mentioning abortion — so that it apparently will cover all kinds of health services, including efforts to tackle polio or Zika or H.I.V., even programs to help women who have been trafficked into brothels. (The White House didn’t respond to my inquiries.)

I hope all of the marchers call the White House, 202-456-1111, or their members of Congress, 202-224-3121, to protest.

Marie Stopes alone estimated that if it cannot find replacement funding, the new policy will result in 6.5 million unintentional pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth.

The victims invariably are among the most voiceless, powerless people in the world. When Bush imposed his version of the policy, it meant that no contraceptives reached a village in northern Ghana. As a result, a young woman named Kolgu Inusah became pregnant.

She tried to abort the pregnancy herself using herbs, but something went wrong and she suffered terrible abdominal pains. She was rushed to a clinic, but doctors couldn’t save her. Her two children now have no mom.

President Trump, you may think you are “pro-life” and preventing abortions, but that’s a lie or a delusion. In fact, you are increasing the number of abortions and of dying women.

And to those women and men who marched last weekend, remember that this isn’t about symbols, speeches or pussy hats. It’s about the lives of women and girls.

Please, please, keep on marching, keep on calling.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Do you think Donald Trump is just Mike Pence’s puppet?

Interesting idea, right? Particularly since the very idea would make our new president totally nuts. Hehehehe.

And it’s possible. Trump is not a man who concentrates on policy issues. So far, the parts of the job that have obsessed him most are crowd size and vote size. And yeah, the wall. But there has to be somebody behind the scenes deciding the non-ego questions. Pass the word that it’s Pence.

The best early evidence is reproductive rights. Not an issue Trump seemed all that interested in during the campaign — you generally had to sort of poke him to bring it up. Yet one of the first things he did as president was to sign an order that will eliminate American aid to international health programs that provide information on abortion.

Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has issued the order, which is often referred to as the global gag rule. But Trump’s seems much worse. The Reagan-Bush-Bush version covered family planning programs. Trump’s targets global health in general.

So when it comes to combating the Zika virus in South America, we’ll only be helping organizations that are willing to order their staffs never to bring up the fact that abortion exists. We’re talking about a potential loss of billions of dollars in American aid.

I know some of you are having trouble giving the president credit for anything right now. But this doesn’t sound like him.

If a woman Trump knew was pregnant and learned she had a virus that could cause terrible brain damage to the fetus, his immediate reaction would not be barring everybody from mentioning the word abortion. The only politician who would behave like that would be someone who had spent his entire career trying to impose his deeply held conservative religious values on people who had different beliefs.

That would be Mike Pence. This is the guy who, as a member of Congress, co-sponsored a bill that would allow hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women who would die without the procedure. Whose war against Planned Parenthood when he was governor of Indiana led to the closing of five clinics. (None of them did abortions. They did, however, provide testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the counties where a clinic was closed suffered a big H.I.V. outbreak.)

Pence, by the way, also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter act for equal pay for women. He once argued that having two working parents would lead to “stunted emotional growth” in children. In 2006, he said same-sex couples were a sign of “societal collapse.” I am just mentioning this for you to remember the next time you hear people say they hope President Trump is impeached.

Trump was once very vocally pro-choice. When he became politically ambitious, his attitude went through a dramatic change — in terms of evolution, it was as if a little amoeba floating in the ocean suddenly turned into a killer whale. In 2016 he went all the way over the deep end and told Chris Matthews on MSNBC that he thought once abortion was illegal, women who got them should be punished.

He backtracked on that one. “I’ve been told by some people that was an older line answer and that was an answer that was given on a, you know, basis of an older line from years ago on a very conservative basis,” he explained.

Obviously that doesn’t make any sense, but you do get the general idea that Trump was getting his talking points from someplace other than his deepest heart.

The early Trump administration, however, looks as if it’s being run by somebody who can’t wait to jump into the abortion fray. Republicans in Congress are working away on defunding Planned Parenthood — an organization Trump once said he admired. And the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees women’s right to get birth control coverage in their health insurance, is of course target one.

“Women who are economically stressed and counting on those benefits are so frightened,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. Richards said Planned Parenthood clinics are fielding desperate calls from women who want to get birth control while they can — many of them opting for IUDs under the theory that they’ll need something that could last four years.

They also ask what they can do to fight back. She’s telling them to call their senators, or member of Congress, and show up if their legislator holds a town hall — possibly wearing one of those pink hats.

All that makes perfect sense. But given the kind of guy Donald Trump is, I propose you also spread the word that the president has only gone on this anti-reproductive rights bender because he’s under Mike Pence’s thumb.

How do you think he’d feel about being referred to as Lap Dog Trump? Let’s go for it.

Collins, solo

January 21, 2017

In “Trump’s Inauguration Was No Woodstock” Ms. Collins says the planning committee’s prediction was right.  Here she is:

Except for the cold weather, Barack Obama’s first inauguration reminded me a lot of Woodstock. Throngs of revelers wandering around with no idea whatsoever of where they were going. The crowd was so big, you worried that there’d be a stampede. But no. People bumped into one another, smiled and bumped on. One big beaming community. Peace, love and thermal underwear.

Kind of knew Donald Trump’s day would be different. One hint came when the inaugural committee’s communications director said, “We are not putting on Woodstock.”

You cannot blame our new president for the demonstrators … a very small number of whom were violent. You can totally blame him for the crowd that shouted “Lock her up!” when Hillary Clinton appeared at the swearing-in. In between you had a ton of peaceful protesters and cheerful celebrators, doing their best to move forward with their respective missions.

“Those are tears of joy coming from heaven,” one man in the inaugural audience announced when it started to rain the moment Trump began to speak. Other quarters envisioned the judgment of a depressed deity.

And it’s hard to have a love fest when the central character can’t stop bragging about what a big winner he is. “I think I outworked anybody who ever ran for office,” he said on Thursday. Take that, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. We will stop here briefly to ask ourselves how many rallies Donald Trump would have made if he’d had to campaign on horseback.

O.K., let’s move on. Not a time for small-minded carping. Big carps only.

A number of Democratic members of Congress boycotted the inauguration. This is perfectly fine, but not exactly a big achievement. Boycotting is only impressive if you actually would have liked being at the event. Announcing that you’re refusing to sit out in the dank cold to listen to the runner-up in a TV talent show sing the national anthem is not so much an act of heroism as a reprieve.

Hillary Clinton didn’t boycott, although you could certainly understand if she had just decided to announce she was staying home until somebody came up with a good explanation for the Russian thing. But this is a woman who has never failed to show up for unpleasant duties.

And Bernie Sanders was there, getting booed when his face appeared on the Jumbotron. Poor Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, couldn’t even read a letter from a Civil War soldier without getting catcalls.

So definitely not Woodstockian. “In the event we are needed, we certainly will form a wall of meat,” promised Chris Cox, the founder of Bikers for Trump, offering what may have been the most memorable image of the inauguration. Even in desperate times, we give credit for originality.

The man of the hour was particularly thrilled by the Bikers for Trump. “Boy, they had a scene today,” said the president-elect, describing what he thought was their arrival. “They had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country. And they had thousands of those guys coming into town.”

Actually, the picture he was describing appeared to be from a 2013 blog post on safe biking in large groups. However, in the spirit of new beginnings, we are going to attempt to get through this week without devoting any more time than absolutely necessary to things the 45th president of the United States made up.

Trump also tweeted a picture of himself, allegedly hard at work composing his Inaugural Address. Do you think he really wrote it, people? Cynical minds noted that he seemed to be staring at a blank piece of paper while wielding a Sharpie. All we know for sure is that his impromptu remarks during the inaugural run-ups had … a different tone. “I made a speech tonight at the Lincoln Memorial. … I thought it was a very good speech. … They never give you credit,” he complained at a dinner for his donors. The Lincoln Memorial event was the one where he overestimated the crowd and suggested inaugural concerts at the memorial were his idea. He also complained that nobody ever gives him credit.

There was also the moment when Trump announced that he had nominated “by far the highest I.Q. of any cabinet ever assembled.” In honor of the inauguration we will not dwell on the fact that the guy he wants to be secretary of energy had no idea until very recently what the Department of Energy does.

But about the Inaugural Address. It was definitely what our new president thinks of as inclusive. Instead of yelling about Democrats, he yelled about other countries. (“America first!”) He still seems to think that all poor neighborhoods are terror zones and public schools are something out of “Oliver Twist” (“An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”)

And then it was over. Donald Trump is president. Wow.

Not. My. President.  Not today, not ever.  And I’ll show him every bit of respect that his drooling, knuckle-walking ilk showed President Obama.

Collins, solo

January 7, 2017

In “Arms and the Trump” Ms. Collins says it’s another day, with another terrible shooting.  Here she is:

When a man at a Florida airport retrieves his luggage, takes out a gun and kills five people, the only part people are surprised about is that it happened at an airport.

In the grand sweep of American gunfire in the 21st century, all we can say about Friday’s Fort Lauderdale tragedy was that it’s the worst mass shooting so far in 2017. But there have already been six incidents with more than three dead or wounded victims. On Wednesday, three family members in Fontana, Calif., were killed in their home and another critically wounded. A 73-year-old relative was charged. Never even entered the national conversation.

But the Fort Lauderdale case was personal — almost everybody travels through airports. “You just can’t imagine how this could ever happen in a state like ours,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott at a press conference. A few minutes later he did remember to refer to the fact that last year 49 people were shot to death in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Officials were still unsorting the history of the suspect, identified as Esteban Santiago, and trying to determine whether he was inspired, even in a totally deranged way, by ISIS. Whenever these tragedies happen, the nation holds its breath until there’s an assurance that it did not involve terrorism. If we get the word, there’s a sigh of relief and we go back to living in a country where a random guy will suddenly open fire in a mall or theater or school just because he’s nuts and has a gun.

In theory, when a horrific tragedy occurs, the nation is supposed to join hands and come together. It’s hard to do that in mass shooting cases because America is a land divided between gun places and non-gun places. The immediate reaction of many folks from gun places to the Fort Lauderdale shooting was that — aha! — Florida is one of the few states where it’s illegal to carry a gun anywhere in an airline terminal.

Meanwhile, many people in non-gun places wondered why airline passengers were allowed to have firearms in their luggage.

It’s hard to have a rational gun conversation in a country with such a cultural chasm. It’s the job of our national officials to bridge the gap. And it ought to be possible, since there are some important issues on which almost everybody agrees. One is that gun purchases should be run through background checks to make sure the buyer doesn’t have a record of lawbreaking or serious mental problems.

We will be arguing for a while about whether background checks could have stopped the Florida airport shooting. But either way, sensible regulation of gun sales will still be sensible regulation of gun sales.

This is the moment where I tell you that our president-elect does not believe in sensible regulation of gun sales.

Donald Trump’s position on gun laws has gone through a rather familiar evolution. Back in the day he was a sort of indifferent moderate. Then came the campaign and a love affair with the National Rifle Association, which dumped about $30 million into the effort to get Trump elected president.

Soon, he was fantasizing about packing heat during the Paris terrorist shootings. (“I can tell you that if I had been in the Bataclan or in the cafes, I would have opened fire. I may have been killed, but I would have drawn.”)

He appeared, during one rally, to suggest that if Hillary Clinton was elected president, gun lovers might want to take her out. (“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”)

And he has consistently endorsed the theory that if more people were carrying around guns, the nation would be a much safer place. Donald Trump Jr., a chairman of his dad’s new Second Amendment Coalition, declared, “My father defends the Second Amendment so that you and I and your spouse and your children can take care of themselves when someone much stronger, much meaner, and much more vicious than them tries to break into their home.”

In the real world, the chances that having a weapon in the house will translate into protecting the family from a vicious housebreaker are infinitesimal, and far, far smaller than the chances that someone in the family will wind up shot by the very same weapon.

But about the background checks: The N.R.A. lobbyists hate them. And Trump has promised that as soon as he’s sworn in, he’ll “unsign” Barack Obama’s executive order closing a big loophole involving online sales and gun shows.

Trump could make a really good start this month by just — not doing anything divisive. Give the country a hint that the guy who terrified so many Americans during the campaign will be more measured in office. Leave the background checks alone. We’ve been through a lot.