Archive for the ‘Friedman’ Category

Friedman and Bruni

October 26, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Alien to All That’s Great” The Moustache of Wisdom says we know who he is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?  Mr. Bruni, in “Hillary Clinton’s Resounding Mandate,” says there would be enormous meaning and clear messages in her election.  Here’s TMOW:

It’s taken me a while to put my finger on exactly what political label best describes Donald Trump as his presidential campaign snarls and spits to a finish. I think I’ve finally got it: Donald Trump is a “legal alien.”

That’s right, the man who has spent the last year railing against those dastardly “illegal aliens” supposedly wreaking havoc on our country turns out to be a legal alien — someone born in America but whose values are completely alien to all that has made this country great.

Who do you know who has denigrated immigrants, the handicapped, Muslims and Mexicans; trashed all our recent trade agreements; mounted a fraudulent campaign claiming our president was not born in this country; insulted the whole presidential selection process by running for the highest office without doing a shred of homework; boasted of grabbing women by their genitals; disparaged our NATO allies; praised the dictatorial president of Russia and encouraged him to hack Democratic Party emails; vowed to prosecute his campaign rival if he got elected; threatened to curb the freedom of the press; suggested that gun rights advocates might take the law into their own hands if Hillary Clinton won; insulted the parents of a slain Iraq war hero; been accused by 11 women of sexual assault or other unwelcome physical advances; sought to undermine America’s electoral system by claiming, without a shred of evidence, that it is so “rigged” he can’t promise to concede if he loses; and been cited for lying about more things more times in more ways on more days than any presidential aspirant in history?

This cocktail of toxic behaviors and attitudes is utterly alien to anyone who has ever run for president — and for good reason. But that is who Trump is. The big question now is, who are the rest of us?

1) The American people. Who are we? Hopefully, an overwhelming majority will crush Trump at the polls and send the message that he is the one who needs to be morally deported, with a pathway back to the American mainstream only if he changes his ways.

If Trump loses and decides to start a media company — a kind of “Trump Ink” — to keep injecting his conspiratorial venom into the veins of U.S. politics and terrorize moderate Republicans, he will pay dearly. Trump Ink will blacken Trump Inc.

Already there are myriad reports of people avoiding Trump hotels and golf courses, because of his poisonous behavior. The PGA Tour recently moved its longstanding tournament from Trump’s Doral course in Miami to a course in … Mexico!

2) The Republican Party. Whose party is this? Almost all of the G.O.P.’s leaders have chosen to stand with Trump because they love their jobs (and the party that sustains them) more than their country. If Trump loses, will the G.O.P. leadership try to chase that big chunk of its base that went with Trump and become an alt-right party, or will this G.O.P. fracture and the decent conservatives go off and form a new, healthy Republican Party?

The country desperately needs a healthy center-right party that embraces the full rainbow of American society, promotes market-based solutions for climate change, celebrates risk-taking over redistribution, pushes for smaller government, expands trade that benefits the many but takes care of those hurt by it, invests in infrastructure, offers tax and entitlement reforms — and liberates itself from right-wing thought police like Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist, who have prevented the G.O.P. from compromising and being a governing party.

3) The Democratic Party. Whose party is this? In truth, Bernie Sanders’s movement fractured the Democratic Party almost as much as Trump did the G.O.P., but that fissure has been temporarily plastered over by the overriding need to defeat Trump.

If Clinton wins, that fissure will quickly reopen and some basic questions will have to be answered: Do Democrats support any trade expansion? Do Democrats believe in the principled use of force? Do they believe that America’s risk-takers who create jobs are a profit engine to be unleashed or a menace only to be regulated and taxed? Do they believe we need to expand safety nets to catch those being left behind by this age of accelerating change but also control entitlements so they will be sustainable?

How does the Democratic Party process the fact that while Trump is a legal alien, his supporters are not. They are our neighbors. They need to be heard, and where possible they need to be helped. But they also need to be challenged to learn faster and make good choices, because the world is not slowing down for them.

Bottom line: We’re in the middle of a massive technological shift. It’s changing every job, workplace and community. Government can help, but there is no quick fix, and a lot more will depend on what Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, calls “the start-up of you.” You need a plan to succeed today.

To the extent that the center-left and the center-right can come together on programs to help every American get the most out of this world and cushion the worst, we’ll all be better off. But the more we get tribally divided, the more the American dream will become an alien concept to us all.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I hear two observations about the 2016 presidential race so incessantly that they’re like hit songs at peak ubiquity. The lyrics are seared into my brain.

One is that the Republican and Democratic nominees leave voters with no real choice. That’s nuts, because it implies that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are equally unpalatable and it misunderstands “choice” as profoundly as Trump misreads polls. He and Clinton may not be the political buffet of our dreams. But one entree is perilous, while the other has tired ingredients in a suboptimal sauce. Salmonella or salmon with cucumber and dill: That’s a choice. I know what I’m putting on my plate.

The other observation is that when Clinton is elected — sorry, if Clinton is elected — she’ll have shaky authority and murky marching orders, because she’ll be the beneficiary of an anti-Trump vote, not a pro-Clinton one. This, too, misses the mark. Even if we grant that voters aren’t so much rushing to her as fleeing him, they’re fleeing for specific reasons. They’re expressing particular values. Those reasons and values are her marching orders, and there’s nothing murky about them.

I’d go even further and say that they amount to a mandate, which is this: to safeguard the very America — compassionate, collaborative, decent — that he routinely degrades.

First, though, some math. As Damon Linker explains in The Week, Clinton is in a position to notch a resounding victory by historical standards.

As of late Tuesday, the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls put her 5.4 percentage points ahead of Trump in a four-way race and 5.1 ahead in a one-on-one matchup. In three of the last six presidential elections, the margin of victory was significantly smaller than that; in the other three it was larger, although only slightly in the 1992 contest (5.5 percent), which her husband won.

Given early-voting patterns, Trump’s erratic behavior and her campaign’s superior ground game, I think she’ll exceed current projections; an ABC News tracking poll last weekend had her up by 12. The largest national margin since Ronald Reagan’s 18.2-point advantage in 1984 was the 8.5-point spread with which her husband was re-elected, and that was 20 years ago.

It’s true that none of the victors in the contests over the last three decades had an opponent as unprepared, unsteady and unsavory as Trump. But it’s also true that Trump is the protest candidate — the “change agent,” in prognosticators’ preferred parlance — at a juncture unfavorable to an insider like Clinton, who’s no darling of voters to begin with.

So if voters hand him an overwhelming defeat, it’s a bold statement, with undeniable messages.

They’d be saying that sexism like his is intolerable. That’s evident in the yawning gender gap that he confronts, in the disproportionate number of women who are voting early and in the possible surge, after Election Day, of women in Congress. The Year of Trump is turning out to be the true Year of the Woman, and not only because of a glass ceiling’s shattering.

This gives Clinton a mandate to make sure our public discourse and laws never treat women as subordinate to men.

Voters who weren’t intrinsically anti-Trump but ended up in that column are punishing him for the way he attacked the Khan family, Alicia Machado and so many others before and since. That’s clear in the words and timing of Republican leaders who defected from Trump. Each reached a point where, for reasons moral or political, Trump’s pettiness and viciousness could no longer be shrugged off.

There’s a mandate for Clinton in this as well. It’s to rise above and push back at the corrosive politics of insult, and she did more to betray than to honor this with her “basket of deplorables.”

An unorthodox candidate, Trump has run an unholy campaign that pits honest-to-goodness Americans, whoever they are, against others, including Mexican rapists, a Mexican-American judge, a president with Kenya in his blood and anyone with the Quran on a night stand. This appeals to an unsettlingly sizable group of voters.

But its repudiation by a definitive majority would tell Clinton that she’s being trusted, as Trump never could be, to lift us above such labeling and — to borrow a bit from her own stump speech — build bridges instead of walls.

While her election might not be any validation of her prescriptions for health care, the Middle East or trade, it would say loudly and clearly that the country cannot survive the divisiveness that Trump promotes and will not abide the bigotry that he projects.

Acting in accordance with that wouldn’t give our first female president most (or even much) of the legislation that she wants. But it would give her all of the authority that she needs.

Friedman and Bruni

October 19, 2016

In “WikiHillary for President” The Moustache of Wisdom says hackers exposed Clinton as a smart politician with a vision and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.  Mr. Bruni, in “Trump in a Bikini,” says he relentlessly scrutinizes others. Let’s conduct various examinations of him.  Here’s TMOW:

Thank God for WikiLeaks.

I confess, I was starting to wonder about what the real Hillary Clinton — the one you never get to see behind closed doors — really stood for. But now that, thanks to WikiLeaks, I’ve had a chance to peruse her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, I am more convinced than ever she can be the president America needs today.

Seriously, those speeches are great! They show someone with a vision, a pragmatic approach to getting things done and a healthy instinct for balancing the need to strengthen our social safety nets with unleashing America’s business class to create the growth required to sustain social programs.

So thank you, Vladimir Putin, for revealing how Hillary really hopes to govern. I just wish more of that Hillary were campaigning right now and building a mandate for what she really believes.

WikiHillary? I’m with her.

Why? Let’s start with what WikiLeaks says she said at Brazil’s Banco Itaú event in May 2013: “I think we have to have a concerted plan to increase trade … and we have to resist protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade.”

She also said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

That’s music to my ears. A hemisphere where nations are trading with one another, and where more people can collaborate and interact for work, study, tourism and commerce, is a region that is likely to be growing more prosperous with fewer conflicts, especially if more of that growth is based on clean energy.

Compare our hemisphere, or the European Union, or the Asian trading nations with, say, the Middle East — where the flow of trade, tourism, knowledge and labor among nations has long been restricted — and the case for Hillary’s vision becomes obvious.

The way Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have made trade and globalization dirty words is ridiculous. Globalization and trade have helped to bring more people out of poverty in the last 50 years than at any other time in history.

Do we need to make adjustments so the minority of the U.S. population that is hurt by freer trade and movements of labor is compensated and better protected? You bet we do. That’s called fixing a problem — not throwing out a whole system that we know from a long historical record contributes on balance to economic growth, competitiveness and more open societies.

In a speech to a Morgan Stanley group on April 18, 2013, WikiHillary praised the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan, which included reforming the tax code to increase investment and entrepreneurship and raising certain taxes and trimming some spending and entitlements to make them more sustainable.

The ultimate shape of that grand bargain could take many forms, she said, but Hillary stressed behind closed doors: “Simpson-Bowles … put forth the right framework. Namely, we have to restrain spending, we have to have adequate revenues and we have to incentivize growth. It’s a three-part formula.”

She is right. We’ll never get out of this economic rut, and protect future generations, unless the business and social sectors, Democrats and Republicans, all give and get something — and that’s exactly where WikiHillary was coming from.

In an October 2013 speech for Goldman Sachs, Clinton seemed to suggest the need to review the regulations imposed on banks by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010. Her idea was not to get rid of all of the rules but rather to make sure they were not imposing needless burdens that limited lending to small businesses and start-ups.

As Clinton put it, “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here.” Again, exactly right.

You can also find WikiHillary, or her aides, musing about a “carbon tax” and whether or not to come out in favor of it, as Sanders did. She chose not to now, probably to avoid being saddled by Republicans with calling for a new tax in the general election campaign, but I am confident she’d make pricing carbon part of her climate policy.

When I read WikiHillary, I hear a smart, pragmatic, center-left politician who will be inclined to work with both the business community and Republicans to keep America tilted toward trade expansion, entrepreneurship and global integration, while redoubling efforts to cushion workers from the downsides of these policies.

I’m just sorry that campaign Hillary felt she could not speak like WikiHillary to build a proper mandate for President Hillary. She would have gained respect for daring to speak the truth to her own constituency — and demonstrating leadership — not lost votes.

Nonetheless, thanks to WikiLeaks, I am reassured that she has the right balance of instincts on the issues I care about most. So, again, thank you, Putin, for exposing that Hillary. She could make a pretty good president for these times.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Is it too late for Hillary Clinton to surrender to Donald Trump’s demand that she take a drug test before this last presidential debate?

I think she should — if he agrees to a few tests of his own. He can choose any three of the following:

CITIZENSHIP TEST This is what the immigrants he feels so warm and fuzzy about must master to become full-fledged Americans and, for example, vote in presidential elections against the likes of Trump.

But would he himself pass one?

He’d surely be able to say who the current speaker of the House of Representatives is, given that he spends much of his time sticking pins in his personal Paul Ryan voodoo doll.

But the exact count of voting representatives in the House? That’s also on the test.

We could give him hints: your number of wives plus 432. The amount of federal income taxes you paid in 1995 plus 435.

The test has questions about the dynamics of the federal government and the contents of the Constitution. Neither is Trump’s strong suit.

He demonstrated staggering ignorance of what the judiciary branch does with an emphatic reference to a “bill” that several federal judges had “signed.” He seems to believe that the president can jail a political foe, hire and fire generals at will, and command the military to break the law.

He’s clueless about free speech. He threatened to sue Ted Cruz for showing a video of his actual, undisputed pro-abortion comments from the past. After the conservative journalist Rich Lowry assessed his candidacy unkindly, Trump suggested that the Federal Communications Commission fine him.

The history portion of the exam could be trickiest of all. To the question of who Susan B. Anthony is, the answer is not: “A total liar. Never happened. Look at her. She would not be my first choice.”

HEARING TEST The conventional wisdom is that Trump refuses to listen to his advisers. Maybe he just can’t make out what they’re saying. Perhaps it’s an excess of hair spray in the ear canals.

CREDIT CHECK His businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times. He has a thoroughly documented habit of stiffing vendors. He and his companies have been defendants in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Does he qualify for so much as a Discover card with a $50 limit?

RORSCHACH Imagine the fun. Trump is shown an inkblot that looks to most people like a melting pumpkin.

“You’re using my picture without my consent. My lawyers will be in touch about a licensing fee.”

Trump is shown an inkblot that resembles a misshapen crab.

“It’s an illegal immigrant disguised as a crustacean.”

DRIVING TEST What are the chances that he cedes the right of way to anyone, ever?

MINNESOTA MULTIPHASIC PERSONALITY INVENTORY This psychological profile makes assessments about such traits as paranoia (check!), hypomania (check!) and more.

Interpreted by the right psychiatrist, it might help tell us what ails Trump in addition to arrested development (he and Billy Bush were essentially “teenage boys,” Melania just told Anderson Cooper, in her husband’s defense) and a plague of malfunctioning microphones.

Is his case a classic one of narcissistic personality disorder? Does he fit the criteria for borderline personality disorder, which can include outbursts, obsessions and a primitive ego structure?

Or is it something more esoteric? I’m no Freud and I’m no longer Jung, but I detect a mix of auditory hallucinations (he experiences wild applause even when there isn’t any), erotomania (the delusional certainty that other people lust for you) and rosiephobia (a pathological fear of mouthy female talk-show hosts).

VISION TEST Are cataracts the explanation for looking in the mirror and seeing a desirable hairstyle?

SAT Highfalutin vocabulary doesn’t factor quite as prominently into this test as it once did, but a command of language remains bigly essential. Mar-a-Lago, we have a problem.

PRESIDENTIAL FITNESS TEST If only this were as comprehensive as its name suggests. It’s what grade-school students were once required to do: situps, pull-ups and such in front of censorious, fat-shaming peers.

Donning swimwear instead of his mercifully roomy suits, Trump can perform this for an audience of all the beauty-pageant contestants he has ever barged in on. They’ll get to see, in the man who actually regaled his supporters with a derisive appraisal of Clinton’s backside, what all those cheeseburgers have wrought.

EKG There has been no evidence to date that he has a heart. Confirmation would be nice.

LIE-DETECTOR TEST Preferably during the debate. I imagine smoke billowing from the overtaxed wires before the whole contraption bursts into flames.

Friedman and Bruni

October 12, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has a question:  “Can the U.S. Win This Election?”  He says it will be a tragedy if little changes after all we’ve gone through.  Mr. Bruni considers “Daughters and Trumps” and has a memo to Republicans: You don’t need to be a dad to be sickened by Donald. Just a human being.  Here’s TMOW:

Seriously, why didn’t we sell tickets? If only our national election had been pay-per-view for the rest of the world, we could have wiped out the national debt. But while viewers around the world seem to be lapping up our national reality TV show, are we, the citizens of America, going to get anything out of it?

Specifically, are we going to get the thing we need most and have enjoyed least this century: effective government? We have too much deferred maintenance to fix, too much deferred leadership to generate and too much deferred reimagining to undertake to wait another four years to solve our biggest problems, especially in this age of accelerating technology and climate change.

If we will have indulged in almost two years of electoral entertainment and pathos just to end up back where we were, only worse, with even more venomous gridlock in Washington, it won’t just be emotionally depressing, we’ll really start to decline as a nation. When we forfeit governing our country strategically at the national level for this long, inevitably the roof will start to leak and the floors will start to buckle.

But how can anything good come from a campaign where the entertainment is increasingly X-rated and where the winner will be so morally injured — because of the hatchet wounds that were inflicted by the loser or that were self-inflicted?

What needs to happen for this election-drama script to end differently, or at least not so tragically?

For starters, this version of the Republican Party has to die. I don’t say that as a partisan. I say that as a citizen who believes that America needs a healthy center-right party that offers more market-based solutions to problems; keeps the pressure on for deregulation, freer trade and smaller government; and is willing to compromise. But today’s version of the G.O.P. is not such a problem-solving party.

We have known that ever since the G.O.P. speaker of the House John Boehner quit, not because he couldn’t work with President Obama but because roughly a quarter of House Republicans, the so-called Freedom Caucus, were simply not interested in governing and had made his job impossible.

For the sake of the country, this version of the Republican Party has to be fractured, with the extreme far right going off with the likes of Donald Trump, the Tea Party, Ted Cruz — along with all the right-wing TV and radio gasbags who thrive on chaos — leaving behind a moderate center-right bloc, which, one hopes, one day would become the new G.O.P. But it will need to nurture a new base, one inspired by a Jack Kemp spirit of conservative innovation, not by Trump dog whistles of anger, xenophobia and racial enmity.

Toward that end it is particularly important that Trump be crushed at the polls to send the message inside the G.O.P. and out that someone of his poisonous ilk can never win in America, and to strip him and his loyalists of any argument that the election was rigged.

At the same time, we have to hope not only that Hillary Clinton wins the national election but also that Democrats retake at least the Senate, so she has some real leverage to forge trade-offs with a more sane G.O.P. to start fixing things: putting in place common-sense gun laws, like restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, requiring universal background checks and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun; borrowing money at near-zero interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure; replacing some income and corporate taxes with a revenue-neutral carbon tax to stimulate more clean-energy production; fixing Obamacare; and implementing sensible immigration reform and responsible tax and entitlement reforms.

The bigger Clinton’s margin of victory, the less dependent she’d be, I hope, on the left wing of her party, and the more likely she’d work with Republicans, as she vowed during the last debate, by “finding common ground, because you have to be able to get along with people to get things done in Washington.”

I say “hope” because I don’t know who the real Hillary is — the more Bernie Sanderish one speaking publicly or the more Bill Clintonish one who spoke privately to Goldman Sachs.

The nightmare scenario — ruling out, God forbid, a Trump victory — is that Clinton wins with a slim majority and the G.O.P. holds the House and the Senate. The Democratic left would have a stranglehold on Clinton while Trump, who would start his own TV network and movement, would keep the Republican base in a state of permanent anger, intimidating every Republican lawmaker who contemplated compromise. If that happens, America will be adrift.

One more wish. Within hours of the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape showing Trump saying vile things about women, WikiLeaks, which seems to have become an arm of Russian intelligence, leaked Democratic Party emails meant to embarrass Clinton. The Clinton camp suggested that Russia was trying to tilt the election to Trump. If so, crushing Trump at the polls is the best way for Americans to say to Vladimir Putin, “You can manipulate your elections, but you can’t manipulate ours.”

But please, Lord, let that not be the only good thing to come out of this election.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

As the father of no daughters, I’m appalled by Donald Trump’s comments about groping women.

As the husband of no wife, I’m offended.

What, you ask, do my parental and marital status have to do with recognizing the outrage of what he said? I wonder, too. But they must be germane, because Republicans seem unable to censure Trump without invoking female spouses and especially offspring. In this version of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the work is displaying concern for women, and the daughters are less protégées than props.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used a written statement of displeasure with Trump to identify himself as “the father of three daughters.” This was apparently a wellspring of his pique, which didn’t rise to the level of actually rescinding his endorsement of Trump. Would a fourth daughter have done the trick? A fifth?

“As a husband and father” was how Mike Pence, who has a son and two daughters, commenced his own short-lived reprimand of Trump. Jeb Bush tweeted that he was “the grandfather of two precious girls.” In a debate in Arizona on Monday night, John McCain referred to his daughters.

Sometimes sons were mentioned, and sometimes female politicians did the mentioning. But the pattern of husbands standing up for wives and fathers looking out for daughters was most noticeable — and most discordant.

As Yochi Dreazen noted in a post for Vox, it cast men in the role of protectors and carried a stronger whiff of chivalry than of equality. It also defined women in terms of men and caring about them in terms of their places in men’s families.

“Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Ted Cruz, who seemed to catch himself midsentence and realize what he was doing. So why not go back to the start of the tweet and undo it?

In much of this there was a familiar insinuation that parenthood is a singularly sensitizing, enlightening circumstance, giving someone a special stake in a more just world. But doesn’t Trump himself contradict that?

He’s a parent five times over. He’s a father of two daughters himself, and that’s a credential he carried with him into his nauseating exchange with Billy Bush in 2005 and into his vulgar conversations with Howard Stern across the years.

It didn’t prevent him from giving Stern permission to call Ivanka “a piece of ass.” It didn’t give him pause as he objectified Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Alicia Machado and so many other women. Trump could begin every sentence with the words “as the father of two daughters,” and while they’d be true, unlike three-quarters of what he says, they’d be a testament to nothing more than a history of unprotected intercourse.

Trump’s an egregious example but hardly an isolated one. McConnell’s three daughters obviously haven’t clued him in to the special challenges many women still face in the work force, because he has spoken and voted on legislation in a manner that minimizes those.

And while Scott Garrett, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, called himself “a husband and father of two daughters” when he assailed Trump’s remarks, he has taken positions against insurance coverage for mammograms and medical privacy for rape victims. What did the women in his life have to say about that?

There’s something off-key when lawmakers — Republicans or Democrats, in connection with Trump or in other instances — describe the importance of an issue in accordance with its relevance to the people closest to them and its proximity to their doorstep. Or when they present their descendants as the best proof of their investment in the future.

The message of that is antithetical to public service and political leadership, which are ideally about representing kin and strangers alike, casting the widest possible net of compassion and letting common values, not personal interests, be the compass.

My loins are fruitless but my principles are clear: No human being — woman or man — should be regarded as a conquest or an amusement with a will subservient to someone else’s. That’s how Trump seems to treat most of the people in his life, and I object to that not as the brother of three admirable siblings (including a sister), not as the son of two extraordinary parents (including a mother), not as the uncle of many talented nieces and nephews, not as the partner of a wonderful man, and not as a friend to brilliant men and women whose welfare matters greatly to me.

I object to it as the citizen of a civilized society. I object to it because it threatens the people I don’t know as well as the people I do. I object to it because it’s wrong.

Friedman and Bruni

October 5, 2016

In “Let’s Get Putin’s Attention” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that the Russian leader’s rogue behavior threatens America and the E.U.  Mr. Bruni, in “Mike Pence’s Galling Amnesia,” says Donald Trump’s running mate made no apologies during a tense vice-presidential debate.  Here’s TMOW:

You may have missed this story, so I am repeating it as a public service:

MOSCOW, Special to The New York Times, Oct. 1 — A previously unheard-of group called Hackers for a Free Russia released a treasure trove of financial records online today indicating that President Vladimir Putin owns some $30 billion in property, hotels and factories across Russia and Europe, all disguised by front organizations and accounting charades.

The documents, which appear to be authentic, include detailed financial records and emails between Mr. Putin’s Kremlin office and a number of his Russian cronies and Swiss banks. They constitute the largest hack ever of Mr. Putin. Russian censors are scrambling to shut down Twitter inside the country and keep the emails out of Russian-language media.

At a news conference in Washington, C.I.A. Director John Brennan was asked if U.S. intelligence services had any hand in the cyberleak of what is being called “The Putin Files.” With a slight grin, Mr. Brennan said: “The U.S. government would never intervene in Russian politics, just as President Putin would never intervene in an American election. That would be wrong.” As Mr. Brennan left the podium, though, he burst out laughing.

No, you didn’t miss this story. I made it up. But isn’t it time there was such a story? Isn’t it time we gave Putin a dose of his own medicine — not for juvenile playground reasons and not to instigate a conflict but precisely to prevent one — to back Putin off from what is increasingly rogue behavior violating basic civilized norms and increasingly vital U.S. interests.

Putin “is at war with us, but we are not at war with him — both the U.S. and Germany are desperately trying to cling to a decent relationship,” remarked Josef Joffe, editor of Die Zeit, a weekly German newspaper and a leading strategic thinker in Europe. No one should want to start a shooting war between great powers “in the shadow of nuclear weapons,” Joffe told me.

But we also cannot just keep turning the other cheek. Putin’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine has entered the realm of war crimes, and his cyberattacks on the American political system threaten to undermine the legitimacy of our next election.

Just read the papers. Last week a Dutch-led investigation adduced irrefutable video evidence that Putin’s government not only trucked in the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 civilians onboard, but also returned it to Russia the same night and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.

On Sept. 19, what U.S. intelligence officials say was almost certainly a Russian Su-24 warplane bombed a U.N. convoy in Syria carrying relief supplies for civilians. The Red Cross said at least 20 people were killed. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the bombing “savage and apparently deliberate.”

For a long time, Putin’s excesses were just a tragedy for the Russian people and for many people in Ukraine and Syria, so President Obama could plausibly argue that the right response was economic sanctions and troop buildups in Eastern Europe. But in the last nine months, something has changed.

Putin’s relentless efforts to crush both the democratic and Islamist opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria; his rejection of any real power-sharing solution there; and his joining with Assad in mercilessly bombing civilians in Aleppo are not only horrific in and of themselves, but they also keep pushing more refugees into the European Union. This is fostering an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe that is spawning right-wing nationalist parties and fracturing the E.U.

Meanwhile, Russia’s hacking of America’s Democratic Party — and signs that Russian or other cyberwarriors have tried to break into American state voter registration systems — suggests that Putin or other cyberdisrupters are trying to undermine the legitimacy of our next national election.

Together, these actions pose a threat to the two pillars of global democracy and open markets — America and the E.U. — more than anything coming from ISIS or Al Qaeda.

“The Soviet Union was a revolutionary state that sought a wholesale change in the international order,” observed Robert Litwak, director of security studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “Deterring Nuclear Terrorism.” Putin is ostensibly not seeking a revolution of the international order, Litwak added, but Putin’s departure from standard great-power competition — encouraging a flood of refugees and attacking thHe e legitimacy of our political system — “is leading to shifts in global politics that could have revolutionary consequences, even if Putin is not motivated by revolutionary ideology.”

Obama believed that a combination of pressure and engagement would moderate Putin’s behavior. That is the right approach, in theory, but it’s now clear that we have underestimated the pressure needed to produce effective engagement, and we’re going to have to step it up. This is not just about the politics of Syria and Ukraine anymore. It’s now also about America, Europe, basic civilized norms and the integrity of our democratic institutions.

He does love to rattle his sabers and swing his dick, doesn’t he?  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Back when Mike Pence hosted a talk radio show in the 1990s, he described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

For much of Tuesday night, he was like Forrest Gump on chamomile, squarely and steadily plodding forward, seldom tugged from his talking points and never particularly rattled. His expression was a sort of upbeat blur. His voice was a lulling drone.

It wasn’t exactly a vivid performance, but it was an eerily consistent one, and it answered the question of how a man who supposedly prides himself on his virtue defends a running mate who is often bereft of it. He sets his jaw. He slows his pulse. He practices a bemused chuckle, perfects deafness to anything he prefers not to hear and purges from his memory anything he doesn’t want to own.

That included the whole grotesque cornucopia of Donald Trump’s slurs and bad behavior, which Tim Kaine had studied up on exhaustively, knew by heart and kept throwing at Pence, pressing for the barest glimmer of shame or the slightest hint of apology. It was pointless — a point that Kaine himself made about an hour into this exercise in futility.

“Six times tonight, I have said to Governor Pence: I can’t imagine how you can defend your running mate’s position on one issue after the next,” Kaine said, his voice somewhat squeaky with frustration. “And in all six cases, he’s refused to defend his running mate, and yet he is asking everybody to vote for somebody that he cannot defend.”

That’s a fair enough summary of the vice-presidential debate, and it flagged what made the event so fascinating, which was Pence — specifically, the astonishing peace he has made with Trump and his wholehearted readiness to promote a man who should be so offensive to him.

In the face of Kaine’s incessant grilling, Pence blithely denied that Trump had made statements that he inarguably had, changed the subject to Hillary Clinton’s failings, mocked Kaine for being scripted and dismissed Kaine and Clinton as career politicians — ignoring the fact that he fits that description, too.

Substantively, it was galling. Strategically, it may well have worked. With his minimalist speaking style, Pence drew attention to Kaine’s maximalist salvos. Pence’s unflappability threw Kaine’s irritation and interruptions into relief.

One of Pence’s assignments was to counter Trump’s childish excitability with adult calm, which he did almost flawlessly. Another of his assignments was to make Trump palatable to wavering Americans by communicating that Trump was positively yummy to him. He aced that, too, meaning that he’s either a phenomenally talented actor or a master of self-deception.

I wrongly expected that the debate would be a letdown, especially after last week’s blistering matchup of Trump and Clinton. Following that face-off with this one was like chasing a Quentin Tarantino movie with a rerun of “Touched by an Angel” — or so I assumed.

But I was forgetting the devil in Pence and what an engrossing, depressing character study the Indiana governor has turned out to be. It’s hard to think of a vice-presidential candidate in modern history who has gone so far against his supposed nature and his proclaimed values in the service of his running mate.

He has always worn his religiousness conspicuously, even flamboyantly, introducing himself time and again as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

In 1991, after losing a race for the United States Congress in which he harshly attacked his opponent, he published an essay, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he invoked Jesus and mentioned sin as he swore off such ugliness in the future.

“Negative campaigning is wrong,” he wrote, adding, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.”

The Trump campaign has demonstrated anything but, and yet Pence has repeatedly vouched for Trump, even as Trump savaged the Muslim parents of a soldier who died defending America, seemed to encourage Second Amendment enthusiasts to take aim at Clinton, pinned the birther conspiracy on her, and spent the days after his own debate — a disastrous one — lashing out at a former Miss Universe and tweeting about pornography.

On Tuesday night Pence rewarded Trump’s inane, insane antics with a debate performance that reflected fierce determination and precisely the kind of thorough preparation that Trump had skipped. Pence didn’t forget to bring up the Clinton Foundation. Or the “basket of deplorables,” a knife he twisted dexterously.

Never has he taken Trump to task or taken a stand for “basic human decency.” He seems to have reversed the order of those three adjectives in his identity. “Republican” now comes first and “Christian” last.

Maybe he’ll atone and make amends in another post-campaign “Confessions.” God knows he has plenty of material.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

September 28, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom asks “Trump? How Could We?” and says it would be insanity to put him in the White House.  Mr. Cohen. in “Clinton’s Victory Without Breakthrough,” says Trump revealed all of his shortcomings in the debate. But does it matter?  Not to the knuckle-walkers, Roger.  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Sympathy for the Donald:”  What’s a man to do when all is rigged against him?  Gee — maybe seek some competent psychiatric help?  Here’s TMOW:

My reaction to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate can be summarized with one word: “How?”

How in the world do we put a man in the Oval Office who thinks NATO is a shopping mall where the tenants aren’t paying enough rent to the U.S. landlord?

NATO is not a shopping mall; it is a strategic alliance that won the Cold War, keeps Europe a stable trading partner for U.S. companies and prevents every European country — particularly Germany — from getting their own nukes to counterbalance Russia, by sheltering them all under America’s nuclear umbrella.

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who does not know enough “beef” about key policies to finish a two-minute answer on any issue without the hamburger helper of bluster, insults and repetition?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who suggests that the recent spate of cyberattacks — which any senior U.S. intelligence official will tell you came without question from Russia — might not have come from Russia but could have been done by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who boasts that he tries to pay zero federal taxes but then complains that our airports and roads are falling apart and there is not enough money for our veterans?

How do we put in the Oval Office a man who claims he was against the Iraq war, because he said he privately told that to his pal Sean Hannity of Fox News — even though he publicly supported the war when it began. Trump is so obsessed with proving his infallibility that he missed scoring an easy debate point for himself by saying, “Yes, I supported the Iraq war as a citizen, but Hillary voted for it as a senator when she had access to the intelligence and her job was to make the right judgment.”

How do we put in the Oval Office someone who says we should not have gone into Iraq, but since we did, “we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form … because the oil was their primary source of income.”

ISIS formed before it managed to pump any oil, and it sustained itself with millions of dollars that it stole from Iraq’s central bank in Mosul. Meanwhile, Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves — 140 billion barrels. Can you imagine how many years we’d have to stay there to pump it all and how much doing so would tarnish our moral standing around the world and energize every jihadist?

How do we put in the Oval Office someone whose campaign manager has to go on every morning show after the debate and lie to try to make up for the nonsense her boss spouted? Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Tuesday morning that when it comes to climate change, “We don’t know what Hillary Clinton believes, because nobody ever asks her.”

Say what? As secretary of state, Clinton backed every global climate negotiation and clean energy initiative. That’s like saying no one knows Hillary’s position on women’s rights.

Conway then went on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and argued that Clinton, who was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, had never created a job and was partly responsible for the lack of adequate “roads and bridges” in our country. When challenged on that by MGM Resorts’s C.E.O., James Murren — who argued that his business was up, that the economy was improving and that Clinton’s job as secretary of state was to create stability — Conway responded that Clinton had nothing to do with any improvements in the economy because “she’s never been president so she’s created no financial stability.”

I see: Everything wrong is Clinton’s fault and anything good is to the president’s credit alone. Silly.

The “Squawk Box” segment was devoted to the fact that while Trump claims that he will get the economy growing, very few C.E.O.s of major U.S. companies are supporting him. Also, interesting how positively the stock market reacted to Trump’s debate defeat. Maybe because C.E.O.s and investors know that Trump and Conway are con artists and that recent statistics show income gaps are actually narrowing, wages are rising and poverty is easing.

The Trump-Conway shtick is to trash the country so they can make us great again. Fact: We have problems and not everyone is enjoying the fruits of our economy, but if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington, D.C., but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance. I see it everywhere I go.

I am not enamored of Clinton’s stale, liberal, centralized view of politics, but she is sane and responsible; she’ll do her homework, can grow in the job, and might even work well with Republicans, as she did as a senator.

Trump promises change, but change that comes from someone who thinks people who pay taxes are suckers and who thinks he can show up before an audience of 100 million without preparation or real plans and talk about serious issues with no more sophistication than your crazy uncle — and expect to get away with it — is change the country can’t afford.

Electing such a man would be insanity.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

About midway through their first debate, Hillary Clinton said of Donald Trump: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

It was one of her best moments, an understated swipe at Trump’s evident lack of preparation for the responsibilities of the Oval Office, and it got to the heart of their often disjointed exchanges: Clinton was measured and assured, if a little too much of a policy wonk at times, while Trump was as erratic and peevish as he has been since the beginning of his campaign.

This has worked for him up to now; it may work still in what has become a close race. A lot of Americans want change; Trump is the political upstart and Clinton the political establishment. Nothing that transpired in the debate will have altered the fact that millions of Americans want rupture not continuity, and they see in Trump the potential for a radical break from politics as usual.

But if Trump’s aim was to come across as presidential, in the sense of possessing judgment and some actual knowledge of issues, he failed. He ranted more than he reasoned. He repeated untruths, and he repeated himself over and over. His core supporters won’t care, of course, but the undecided voters who will decide the election might.

Clinton, for her part, came across as a steady hand, at once patient and resolute. She picked Trump apart on his failure to disclose his tax return, turning on him when he lamented the state of American airports, roads, bridges and tunnels: “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years.” She pilloried his treatment of women to great effect, and led the prickly Trump into a rabbit-hole of tired allegations as she held his long embrace of lies about President Obama’s place of birth up for deserved ridicule. Trump, when he gets defensive, is a bore. This was amply illustrated under Clinton’s fire.

Still, for Clinton, a candidate struggling to overcome distrust and enthuse dubious young Americans, this was a polished rather than breakthrough performance. She delivered all that could be expected of her. But hesitant voters are looking for a glimpse of the unexpected and unscripted in her, a human connection rather than a political one. They will still be waiting.

She was at her worst when she talked about how “independent experts” favor her economic plans over Trump’s and when, more than once, she urged viewers to go to her website for real-time fact checking of her opponent’s words. People were not watching Clinton to be directed to the efforts of Clinton’s staff. They know the Clinton campaign is competent.

Besides, not all Clinton’s facts were straight. Under fire from Trump for her flip-flopping on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal — Clinton was a strong supporter before opposing it — she said she had merely “hoped it would be a good deal.” In fact, just as Trump insisted, she had called it “the gold standard” in trade agreements.

“Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts,” Clinton said during this sharp discussion of trade, which constituted Trump’s most effective moment. Clinton’s reversal on the free trade that has, on balance, been good for the American economy for decades has left her vulnerable, defending positions of which she herself is unconvinced. Bernie Sanders pushed her left of her comfort zone on trade, and now she is cornered.

But this was an isolated moment of ascendancy for Trump. Where Clinton dealt effectively with her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state by saying, simply, that it was a mistake, Trump could not utter that word. Mistake and the Republican candidate do not inhabit the same universe.

He repeated the lie that he had initially opposed the Iraq war, denied dismissive statements he made about climate change, blathered about his taxes, displayed complete ignorance of the effectiveness of the Iran nuclear deal, and even strayed into a no-go area by attacking the Federal Reserve. Such was his scattershot incoherence on foreign policy that Clinton’s tired defense of a plodding approach to the ISIS threat — a defense that was utterly unpersuasive — seemed at least grounded in a modicum of bitter experience. Clinton assured American allies that mutual defense treaties would be honored. Trump is plainly convinced he can reinvent the world without studying it, a dangerous delusion.

His case to be president came down to saying it was time that the United States is run by somebody who understands money. But, even if Trump does know his way around money, an uncertain proposition, that is insufficient preparation for leading the free world.

Toward the end, Trump questioned Clinton’s stamina. The response was instant: “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.”

It was a brilliant dismissal of Trump’s nasty innuendo. In a normal campaign, it might drive home why Clinton is far better prepared to be president. But this is not a normal campaign. Clinton won Monday night, by any conventional reckoning. But whether that makes victory for her on Nov. 8 any more likely is unclear.

And last but not least we have Mr. Bruni:

Go ahead and laugh at Donald Trump’s claims that he was foiled by a finicky microphone on Monday night, but I can relate. When I write a bad column, it’s all my keyboard’s fault.

The other columnists have reliable keyboards. I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy, but they do. Reach your own conclusions. When one of them taps out a beautiful sentence, a beautiful sentence appears on the computer screen, just the way it’s supposed to.

When I try to tap out an even more beautiful sentence — and my sentences are amazing sentences; you can’t believe these sentences — I have to press and bang and hunch closer to the desk and bang even harder and still you never know.

The sentence winds up mangled. It lacks a verb. Or it sprouts an adverb (“bigly,” anyone?) that sounds ridiculous, though I’m not. Readers experience a rant where, really, there was eloquent reflection — or would have been, if not for my keyboard. A “sniffle” sneaks into the equation when there wasn’t any “sniffle” at all. It’s just a nasty trick of that keyboard. A defective keyboard, which the other columnists don’t have.

And the extra effort that this keyboard demands means that I’m dehydrated and have to drink more water than they do. It’s not that I have flop sweat. I’m no Marco Rubio, for crying out loud. It’s not that I lack stamina. I’m no Hillary Clinton.

You’ve read this far and you’re thinking: Dear God, he didn’t prepare for this column. Not a whit. We were warned that he might not, but we dismissed that as expectations-lowering spin, because surely he appreciated the magnitude of the moment, the consequence of his task, an analysis of the first-ever general-election debate between a woman and a circus act. But instead of boning up on the issues, reviewing past debates and crafting a few can’t-miss zingers, he just pumped air into his hair and more air into his head and sauntered into action as if the sheer, inimitable wonder of his presence would be enough.

To which I say: President Obama plays too much golf. And Rosie O’Donnell has been vicious to me. Very vicious.

Patti Solis Doyle. Wolf Blitzer. Sidney Blumenthal.

I like to use proper nouns in poorly explained contexts, even if most readers will have no idea what I’m babbling about.

I like to test my audience’s math skills. Only one of the following four sentences is arithmetically plausible; you tell me which. Clinton has been fighting ISIS her entire adult life. If she hadn’t been involved in the Vietnam War, it would have ended sooner and better. By leading from behind, she enabled Adolf Hitler’s rise. My federal tax rate over the last five years is a negative integer.

I also like to show restraint. There are all sorts of things I could bring up in this column that I’m not going to. I could talk about the candidates’ marital histories. I could summon sexual scandal. But, see, I’m not doing that, because that’s beneath me, though I reserve the right to do it in my next debate column, because it might not be beneath me then.

If there is a next debate column. We’ll see. Rudy Giuliani says I should skip it, because I’m not being treated fairly, and if this journalism thing is rigged against me, I can’t just sniffle and bear it, can I?

I have a club in Palm Beach, investments in Charlotte, property in Chicago. That’s not relevant to the previous sentiment, but I don’t stack my points in some coherent, logical order. That’s what overly programmed, endlessly rehearsed columnists do. Besides which, I like to brag.

I’ve been endorsed by organizations that have never endorsed a columnist before. A few may not even exist. But they see in me something that they haven’t seen in my peers. Just ask Giuliani, though you’ll have to wait your turn. He has live appearances on three different networks over the next two hours, including a medical panel, moderated by Sean Hannity, on the question: “Clinton: Fully Recovered or Drugged Out the Wazoo?”

I don’t need drugs, because I have a great temperament. Great humility, too, but I’d put my temperament above even that. I don’t complain when people gang up on me, and they’re constantly ganging up on me: It’s disgusting how they behave.

Whatever. I wrote a great column anyway. I’m thrilled with this column. All of the polls show that it’s a huge success. Wait, what … they don’t? You must be looking at the wrong polls. Or the pollsters aren’t honest. So many dishonest people out there. Not that I’m complaining.

Friedman, solo

September 21, 2016

In “Two Ex-Spies and Donald Trump” The Moustache of Wisdom says an old K.G.B. hand, Vladimir Putin, would be happy to see his admirer elected, but a former C.I.A. director, Robert Gates, sees Trump as unfit.  Here he is:

When it comes to assessing the presidential race, I prefer to listen to the spies. They tend to be brutally unsentimental, see through the nonsense and cut to the cold, hard bottom line. And right now, two of the world’s foremost former spymasters are sending uncoded messages about what it will mean for America and the Western alliance if Donald Trump is elected president.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce former C.I.A. Director Robert Gates and his longtime nemesis and former K.G.B. agent, President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Putin is voting Trump. Gates is not.

In an essay in The Wall Street Journal, Gates, who also was defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, criticized both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for failing to take the threat posed by Putin’s Russia seriously. But Trump, Gates added, has gone places with Putin no would-be American president should: “Mr. Trump’s expressions of admiration for the man and his authoritarian regime are naïve and irresponsible.”

Yes, Clinton has her own credibility issues on national security, Gates explained, but “Donald Trump is in a league of his own. He has expressed support for building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico; for torturing suspected terrorists and killing their families; for Mr. Putin’s dictatorial leadership and for Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent successes against terrorism. He also has said he is for using defense spending by NATO allies as the litmus test on whether the U.S. will keep its treaty commitments to them; for withdrawing U.S. troops from Europe, South Korea and Japan and for the latter two developing nuclear weapons — a highly destabilizing prospect.”

Clinton still has time to address her judgment and credibility issues and earn votes of people like himself, Gates said. As for Trump, he said, “on national security, I believe [he] is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.”

I admire Gates for speaking out. Not enough attention has been paid to the national security implications of a Trump presidency.

I’m certain you’d see U.S. military officers and government officials quitting if Trump ordered them to torture captured terrorists, go house to house to evict illegal immigrants, start trade wars with China and Mexico or ban Muslims. Trump the chaos primary candidate became the chaos presidential nominee, and you can bet he’d be a chaos president.

Being unpredictable as a leader is fine, if you know where you’re going and it is a tool to get you there by keeping foes off balance. But being unpredictable because you have no discipline; because you think issues like ISIS are just a manhood test; because you have not studied the issues so anything can come out of your mouth; and because you don’t realize that when we tell countries like Japan or South Korea or our NATO allies that we might not protect them from Russia or China, they will go get their own nukes and make the world even less stable — well, that kind of unpredictability is how alliances get broken, messes get made and wars get started.

That’s why Putin is licking his chops. It is no accident that Putin praised Trump as “a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.” It is also no accident that Putin’s cyberagents have hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — to create embarrassing leaks — while ignoring both Trump and the G.O.P. It’s because Putin knows the same thing that Gates does: A President Trump would keep Washington and the Western alliance in turmoil.

Moreover, Trump has told so many baldfaced lies in the last year, I can’t imagine what would happen if he had to take America into a war. Who would trust that he was telling the truth about anything?

Also, because of how Trump has disparaged our NATO allies, it is impossible to envision him leading the alliance — particularly if we have to blunt further Russian expansion. And how exactly is Trump going to enlist Arab Gulf nations against ISIS or to counterbalance Iran, having stated that their Muslim citizens should be banned from entering the U.S.?

Who will want to work with him? Trump is constantly saying extreme things and then taking them back or claiming to be misunderstood. Consider the havoc that will wreak with our diplomacy.

That’s why the cynical Putin admires Trump. Trump, narcissist that he is, thinks it’s because Putin really admires his leadership qualities. No, Donald. It’s because Putin knows a mess-maker when he sees one, and the thought of America being led by a man who would be wildly unpopular simultaneously in Europe, Beijing, Mexico, South America and the Muslim world is for Putin a dream come true. The old K.G.B. could never make that happen.

So, young people, listen up: Hillary doesn’t light your fire? O.K., I agree, she is a flawed candidate. But she can responsibly manage the affairs of state. Trump is beyond repair and won’t just light your fire — he’ll burn the house down. Ask the old spies.

Friedman and Bruni

September 14, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom, in “Donald Trump’s Putin Crush,” says Trump doesn’t let reality, including the harm the Russian leader has brought to his own people, get in the way of his post-truth politics.  Mr. Bruni considers “Hillary Clinton’s Sick Days” and has a question:  How are her coughing fits more alarming than Donald Trump’s hissy fits?  Here’s TMOW:

When it comes to rebutting Donald Trump’s idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader — “far more than our president has been a leader” — it is hard to top the assessment of Russian-born Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, which The Times’s Andrew Higgins quoted in his story from Moscow: “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal K.G.B. dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”

Indeed, Kasparov’s point cuts to the core of what is so scary about a Trump presidency: Trump is what The Economist has called “the leading exponent of ‘post-truth’ politics — a reliance on assertions that ‘feel true’ but have no basis in fact,” and, sadly, “his brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” When politics becomes “like pro-wrestling,” society pays a huge cost, The Economist added, because any complex explanation of any problem is dismissed as experts just trying “to bamboozle everyone else.”

So Trump just skips from blaming Mexican immigrants for high murder rates, to President Obama for inventing ISIS, to China for creating the concept of global warming, to thousands of Muslims in New Jersey for celebrating 9/11, to Obama for really having been born in Kenya, to an I.R.S. audit for preventing him from showing us his tax returns — which would probably show that he paid no taxes.

Every word of it is a lie that most in his own party won’t call out. Can you imagine the damage Trump could do to the fabric of our democracy if he had the White House pulpit from which to preach his post-truth politics — how it would filter down into public discourse at large and infect every policy debate?

“Donald Trump has not only brought haters into the mainstream, he has normalized hate for a much broader swathe of the population who were perhaps already disaffected but had their grievances and latent prejudices held in check by social norms,” observed Josh Marshall, publisher of, in his blog on Saturday. “This isn’t some minor point or critique. It’s a fundamental part of what is at stake in this election, what makes it different from Obama v. Romney. … This election has become a battle to combat the moral and civic cancer Trump has [been] injecting into the body politic.”

Think about the ridiculous trope Trump has been peddling, that if only Obama were as “strong” as Putin. Well, if he were, here are some of the benefits America would enjoy:

A 2015 report in The Moscow Times noted that “life expectancy in Russia has been growing several times slower than in the rest of the world for the past 20 years, according to a research by the U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.” That coincides almost exactly with Putin’s leadership of the country. The article explained, “During the period of 1990-2013 [life expectancy] only grew by 1.8 years in Russia, while the global average number increased by 6.2 years, pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position — between Iraq and North Korea.”

Why don’t we have a leader strong enough to slow gains in the life expectancy of an entire nation?

An investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency released last summer found that Putin’s Russia was operating a state-sponsored doping scheme for four years across the “vast majority” of Summer and Winter Olympic sports. According to a July 18, 2016, BBC report on the investigation, “Russia’s sports ministry ‘directed, controlled and oversaw’ manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.” Scores of Russian athletes were barred from the Rio Olympics as a result.

I get it: A weak president doesn’t dare tamper with his Olympic athletes. A strong president dopes up his Summer and Winter Olympic teams for multiple Games.

Since Putin invaded Ukraine to shore up his faltering domestic popularity, and then got hit with Western economic sanctions, the dollar-ruble exchange rate has gone from around 36 rubles to the dollar to 65 rubles to the dollar. Russia’s economic growth fell 3.7 percent in 2015, and the I.M.F. predicts it will fall 1 percent in 2016. Inflation in Russia doubled to 15.4 percent in 2015, compared with 7.8 percent in 2014. A World Bank report quoted by the BBC in April said “the number of Russians living below the poverty line will grow at its fastest pace in more than 17 years in 2016.”

It takes a strong leader to shrink his currency by 50 percent, double inflation and vastly accelerate poverty in just two years. A weak leader could never do that.

Putin is a leader who is always looking for dignity in all the wrong places — by investing in bullying wars, not in his own people; by jailing and likely poisoning his opponents; and by being so insecure that he just shut Russia’s last independent polling firm after it indicated that many Russians may not vote in the coming parliamentary elections because, among other things, they think they’re “rigged.”

This is the man Donald Trump admires more than our own president.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Before we delve any further into the coughs heard round the world and the swoon that changed history, some perspective:

Running for president isn’t hard. It’s brutal. The oddity isn’t that one of the candidates would succumb to illness and be forced off the trail for a few days. The oddity is that all of the candidates don’t drop like flies.

What we ask of them is less preparation than mortification, physical as well as psychological. Between formal speeches and informal rallies and briefings and fund-raisers and long flights and short bus rides and coffee-shop huddles and state-fairground scrums, they endure 20-hour days in which they cram in twice that many hours of work. They’re miracles of perseverance, so much so that a certain 68-year-old Democratic nominee can get a pneumonia diagnosis and deliver a big (if cloddishly rendered) speech at a fund-raiser that same night.

Their stamina isn’t at issue, just their sanity.

We haven’t learned anything new about Hillary Clinton’s penchant for secrecy. We’ve had it confirmed — for the millionth time. Her self-protection is a perverse form of self-destruction. It’s borderline pathological. But it’s something that most voters accepted or rejected somewhere along the quarter-century timeline from Travelgate to her emails. A roadside crumpling and a round of antibiotics aren’t going to change that.

Her lack of transparency might well be disqualifying if her opponent were the political equivalent of freshly Windexed glass. Her opponent is the political equivalent of a thickly armored car.

Donald Trump won’t show us his taxes. He won’t illuminate his philanthropic activity or the workings of his charity, which, according to David Fahrenthold’s terrific reporting in The Washington Post, operates in a bizarrely self-aggrandizing fashion.

He’s promising more detailed health information and a sit-down with Dr. Oz, who is Trump with a stethoscope, approaching matters of great seriousness with great silliness. (Next up: Judge Judy hears the Trump University lawsuit.)

But what Trump presented previously — a few gushing sentences from a physician who later admitted to ginning them up on the fly — was a Valentine’s Day card masquerading as medicine. I’m surprised there weren’t hearts and Cupids in the margins.

Apart from it, there’s no evidence of Trump as Hercules. More like Nero, with a coterie of sycophants fanning him and peeling his grapes.

He’s the master of phoning in to news shows rather than appearing on set, which would require more exertion. He has often done just one event a day, near an airport, so he can fly home in his plush private jet and sleep in his own comfy bed. He’s the rare exception to the slog I described above. During the primaries, it was huge news when he finally overnighted in a chain hotel in Iowa and, that same weekend, sat through all 60 minutes of a church service. Praise the Lord and pass the Gatorade.

Although his hair refuses to accept it, he’s 70 years old, and if there’s footage out there of him doing the P90X workout, I missed it. I haveseen him playing golf, which isn’t much more aerobically demanding than backgammon.

All of this makes him a singularly ineffective critic of Clinton’s health. And his surrogates and supporters are bungling the case by overstating it. To hear them talk, she’s some sporadically animated cadaver, a mash-up of “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “The Candidate.” They’re going to look ridiculous when she stands sturdily on the debate stage for 90 minutes and speaks in sentences fuller, more coherent and more grammatical than his.

Of course events could unfold differently. She could have a debate so terrible that naysaying about her health is the least of her worries. She could continue to struggle with illness, compromising the intensity with which she stumps. She could shortchange us on the additional medical records that she has rightly pledged to share, yanking her campaign off message yet again. She could have a lurking malady — as could Trump.

But we don’t have any more proof of her physical unfitness for the presidency than we did a week ago. There’s no clear link between the blood clot of 2013 and Sunday’s swoon.

What we have is a stress-aggravated instance of frailty from one of two senior citizens engaged in a marathon. Will it really eclipse the race’s other dynamics?

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 36 percent of respondents said that Trump was qualified to be president. I can’t imagine any one of the other 64 percent reasoning: “He’s ignorant, but so robustlyignorant. A liar, but such a strapping one. Forget those hateful tirades; look at those cholesterol levels.”

I can’t see her coughing fits excusing his hissy fits, which are scarier and harder to cure.

Friedman and Bruni

September 7, 2016

In “We Are All Noah Now” The Moustache of Wisdom says we and our kids are rapidly becoming charged with saving each species’ last pairs.  Mr. Bruni, in “Elites Neglect Veterans,” says the dearth of ex-military students at some colleges is shameful.  Here’s TMOW, writing from Honolulu:

Robert Macfarlane, in his book “Landmarks,” about the connection between words and landscapes, tells a revealing but stunning story about how recent editions of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (aimed at 7-year-olds) dropped certain “nature words” that its editors deemed less relevant to the lives of modern children. These included “acorn,” “dandelion,” “fern,” “nectar,” “otter,” “pasture” and “willow.” The terms introduced in their place, he noted, included “broadband,” “blog,” “cut-and-paste,” “MP3 player” and “voice-mail.”

While this news was first disclosed in 2015, reading it in Macfarlane’s book still shocks me for what it signifies. But who can blame the Oxford editors for dumping Amazon words for ones? Our natural world is rapidly disappearing. Just how fast was the major topic here last week at the global conference held every four years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which I participated in along with some 8,000 scientists, nature reserve specialists and environmentalists.

The dominant theme running through the I.U.C.N.’s seminars was the fact that we are bumping up against and piercing planetary boundaries — on forests, oceans, ice melt, species extinctions and temperature — from which Mother Nature will not be able to recover. When the coral and elephants are all gone, no 3-D printer will be able to recreate them.

In short, we and our kids are rapidly becoming the Noah generation, charged with saving the last pairs. (This is no time to be electing a climate-change denier like Donald Trump for president.)

Sylvia Earle, the renowned oceanographer, put it well to a sustainability conference hosted here by the East-West Center alongside the I.U.C.N. meetings. In her lifetime, said Earle, she has felt as if she’s been “witness to the greatest era of discovery and the greatest era of loss” in our planet’s history.

So now, she said, “we are at a crossroads. What we do right now or fail to do will determine the future — not just for us, but for all life on earth.”

Those really are the stakes — there is a reason nature words are being removed from children’s dictionaries. Last week, for instance, The Times reported on a study that revealed how “the African elephant population is in drastic decline, having shrunk about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014. … The deterioration is accelerating: Largely because of poaching, the population is dropping 8 percent a year, according to the Great Elephant Census. … Patricia Awori, an official with the African Elephant Coalition, said, ‘These numbers are shocking.’”

O.K., so you don’t care that your kids may never see an elephant in the wild, only in a zoo. That’s not all. The species extinction rate is now about “1,000 times faster than before the global spread of humanity,” explained the great biodiversity expert E. O. Wilson, another speaker here. “Half of the species described today will be gone by the end of the century, unless we take drastic action.”

These species, he noted, evolved over 3.5 billion years “to create an exquisite and careful balance of interconnected resilience.” These plants and animals and their ecosystems sustain the foundations of life on which we depend. When we lose the trees that maintain watersheds, the coastal mangroves that protect against storm surges, the glaciers that store fresh water and the coral reefs that feed fish, we humans become less resilient. Indeed, strip them all away, said Wilson, “and the world as we know it will unravel.”

The magazine Discover just noted that we’ve been tracking average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces since 1880 — or for 1,639 months. Due to global warming, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July 2016 was the hottest “of all 1,639 months on record.”

That is why the actress Alison Sudol, an I.U.C.N. good-will ambassador, opened the plenary by observing that our planet is now “under attack” — by us.

“Our vast oceans, full of mysteries and wonders, are thick with plastic and mercury,” she noted. “Rain forests — abundant sources of oxygen and medicine; land of ancient lore and tradition; home to thousands of species of wildlife, many as yet unknown to us — are being plowed down before we have a chance to properly discover what it is we are losing.

“These are lungs of the earth, the oceans and the forests, and we are destroying them. Deeply, desperately, we are hoping someone will do something before it is too late. That someone we are hoping for is you.”

So do we have a plan? Wilson has one — a big, audacious plan. It’s the title of his latest book, “Half-Earth,” a call to action to commit half of the planet’s surface — land and oceans — to protected zones.

Right now, the I.U.C.N. says, close to 15 percent of the earth’s land and 10 percent of its territorial waters are covered by national parks and protected areas. If we protect half the global surface, Wilson argues, the fraction of species protected will be about 85 percent, which would keep life on earth, including the human species, in a safe zone.

Naïve, you say? Not so. Naïve is thinking we humans will survive without the healthy natural systems that got us here. Naïveté is the new realism — or else we, the human species, will become just another bad biological experiment.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

At a special presidential forum on Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will appear back-to-back, take questions from military veterans and talk about how our country treats them.

Wick Sloane’s complaint probably won’t come up, but I wish it would.

Sloane teaches at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, and eight years ago, after discovering veterans among his students, he reached out to officials at his own alma maters, Williams College and Yale University, for any guidance they might have about working with this particular group.

“They were bewildered,” he told me, because they’d had so little contact with veterans.

He began collecting data, and for several years now, on Veterans Day, he has published an accounting of how many veterans, among a population of more than two million eligible for federal higher-education benefits, wind up at America’s most elite colleges. It appears on the website Inside Higher Ed, and this is from the first paragraph of his November 2015 tally: “Yale, four; Harvard, unknown; Princeton, one; Williams, one.” Harvard didn’t grant his request for information, he said.

The tally noted just two veterans among undergraduates at Duke, one at M.I.T., one at Pomona and zero at Carleton.

“These schools all wring their hands and say, ‘We’d love to have more, but they just don’t apply,’ ” Sloane said. “That’s what offends me. These schools have incredibly sophisticated recruitment teams. They recruit quarterbacks. They fill the physics lab. They visit high schools. How many visits did they make for veterans?”

The schools in question educate only a small percentage of this country’s college students, and their behavior isn’t the most pressing concern for college-minded veterans, who have graduation rates slightly below other students’ and who don’t get adequate guidance about how best to use their government benefits, too much of which go to for-profit institutions with poor records.

But it’s symbolic. It sends a message: about how much we prize veterans; about the potential we see in them.

And not-for-profit private colleges like the ones I mentioned should feel a powerful obligation. They’re exempt from all sorts of taxes. Donations to them are tax-deductible. So they’re getting enormous help from the country.

Do they, in turn, go out of their way to embrace the young men and women — veterans — who have helped the country the most?

Some, yes. Vassar, Wesleyan and Dartmouth are all part of the Posse Veterans Program, which commits them, each year, to admitting 10 veterans who have been identified by the Posse Foundation as people of exemplary character and sufficient academic promise. Vassar was the first on board, four years ago, while Dartmouth just joined.

Deborah Bial, the founder and president of Posse, told me that the program is already developed enough to provide 10 qualified veterans annually to another three colleges, and that elite institutions know about it.

So why haven’t more signed up?

“That’s a great question,” she said.

Some schools have turned to other organizations that, like Posse, try to point veterans to elite colleges. Yale recently entered into such a partnership with the group Service to School; a Yale official told me that the count of veterans among undergraduates has risen to 11 as of this new academic year. He said that it was six last year, out of nearly 5,500 undergraduates, and that Yale had given Sloane the wrong number.

There is also positive change — if not nearly enough — elsewhere. Williams and Pomona each added two veterans this year, bringing their totals to three. M.I.T. is up to four.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” said Beth Morgan, the executive director of Service to School.

And there are elite schools that have been laudably ahead of the curve, including Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Brown, Stanford and U.S.C.

But there are huge discrepancies: The three veterans at Williams — out of about 2,000 students — compares with 33 at Vassar, out of about 2,400.

And there’s evasiveness. A Harvard official said that she’d prefer to give me a combined count of veterans at Harvard College and the Harvard Extension School, a much different entity. I asked for separate numbers, which she then said she couldn’t provide by my deadline.

These institutions pride themselves on trying to reflect America’s diversity, broadening students’ horizons, filling in their blind spots and preparing tomorrow’s leaders, whose decisions could well include matters of war.

For those reasons and more, the schools should be integrating veterans to an extent that some have only just begun to and many still don’t.

Sloane, whose community college has more than 400 veterans out of some 14,000 students, suggested that elite schools commit to at least “as many veterans as freshman football players.” Great idea. I invite Clinton and Trump to echo his call.

Friedman and Bruni

August 31, 2016

In “Win, Lose, But No Compromise” The Moustache of Wisdom says our politics increasingly resembles the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.  Mr. Bruni thinks he knows about “Donald Trump’s Irredeemable Twin” and says Anthony Weiner is the Republican nominee’s partner in compulsion.  It’s another stellar example of comparing apples and oranges, with an overlay of “both sides do it-ism.”  Here’s TMOW:

Anyone who says it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins this election needs their head examined. The damage that Trump could do to our nation with his blend of intellectual laziness, towering policy ignorance and reckless impulsiveness is in a league of its own. Hillary has some real personal ethics issues she needs to confront, but she’s got the chops to be president.

What interests me most right now, though, is a different question. It’s not, “Who are they — our politicians?” It’s, “Who are we — the voters?”

To be specific: Are we all just Shiites and Sunnis now?

More and more of our politics resembles the core sectarian conflict in the Middle East between these two branches of Islam, and that is not good. Because whether you’re talking about Shiites and Sunnis — or Iranians and Saudis, Israelis and Palestinians, Turks and Kurds — a simple binary rule dominates their politics: “I am strong, why should I compromise? I am weak, how can I compromise?”

With rare exceptions, the politics of the Middle East is just a seesaw game between those two modes of zero-sum, rule-or-die thinking. Rarely, these days, does either party stop to seek or forge common ground. It’s just: I am strong, so I don’t have to meet you in the middle, or I am weak, so I can’t meet you in the middle. You can see how well it’s worked for them.

Politico last week reported that while some G.O.P. officials may vote for Hillary, they are already sketching plans “to stymie a President Hillary Clinton agenda.” Liberals are already warning Clinton not to bring Republicans into her cabinet or explore meeting them halfway. Have a nice day.

That kind of sectarian/tribal thinking, now reinforced by left-right social media enforcers, gerrymandering and giant campaign funders, gives you the sorry spectacle of House Speaker Paul Ryan saying, without embarrassment, that Trump’s pronouncements are a “textbook” example of racism, but he’s supporting Trump anyway.

And it gives you the sorry spectacle of Clinton surrogates turning themselves into pretzels to defend her, even though it’s obvious that she embraced a pattern of major donors to the Clinton Foundation being given preferential access to her as secretary of state.

Shiites stick with Shiites. Sunnis stick with Sunnis. It’s rule or die, baby. Nothing else matters.

That is not always true in other walks of life. We just got that lesson at the Olympics. American runner Abbey D’Agostino clipped New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin from behind in the women’s 5000-meter qualifying heat, sending both tumbling to the ground well short of the finish.

The Associated Press reported: “D’Agostino got up, but Hamblin was just lying there. She appeared to be crying. Instead of running in pursuit of the others, D’Agostino crouched down and put her hand on the New Zealander’s shoulder, then under her arms to help her up, and softly urged her not to quit.” They embraced at the finish.

Contrast that with the Egyptian Olympic judoka who, under pressure from his society, refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent. And how’s Egypt doing these days? Drifting aimlessly.

Yes, I know, politics ain’t bean bag. It’s about winning. But it’s also about winning with a mandate to govern. And right now, everything suggests that the next four years will be just like the last eight: a gridlocked, toxic, Sunni-Shiite, Democrat-Republican civil war, with little search for common ground. That’s how you ruin, not run, a great country.

How will we improve Obamacare? How will we invest in infrastructure? How will we recreate the compromise on immigration that a few brave Republican and Democratic legislators tried in 2013? How will we get corporate tax reform, a carbon tax and some fiscal policy that we so desperately need to propel the economy and control the deficit?

There is no doubt that Republicans during the Obama presidency pioneered and perfected this scorched-earth politics and have now paid a price for it. They let themselves be led around by a group of no-compromise talk-radio gasbags, think-tank ideologues in the pay of one industry or another, Fox News know-nothings and an alt-right fringe, who, together, so poisoned the G.O.P. garden that an invasive species, Donald Trump, just took it over.

That is all the more reason for Clinton to reach out, at the right time, and see if any of them have learned their lesson. There is no way she’ll get anything big done otherwise. We have to break this fever.

It will be a tragedy if center-right Republicans conclude that their only problem is Donald Trump, and that once he’s gone the G.O.P. will be theirs again. Their party is over. They either have to become conservative Democrats or redefine a responsible center-right G.O.P. — with a different base. But it will be equally sad if Clinton wastes the opportunity of a potentially substantial victory, achieved with some Republican votes, to rebuild the political center in this country.

As Americans, we were once summoned by our politics to be participants in a race to the moon. Lately we’ve been summoned by our politics to be spectators in a race to the bottom. We can do better, and we must.

Tommy, you are SUCH a schmuck.  You think the Republican’s scorched earth policy was something with Obama?  Just WAIT until Hillary is President.  Not only is she a Democrat, but she lacks a penis.  And you think she should “reach out.”  Right.  And have her hand cut off.  Here’s Bruni:

It’s rich, as the English would say, that Donald Trump is trying to profit from Anthony Weiner’s latest mortification, because Trump is to his persevering supporters what Weiner was to his long-suffering wife: a scoundrel undeserving of so many second chances; a head case incapable of the redemption that’s supposedly just a few extra measures of discipline away; someone selling himself as a servant of the public although he’s really a slave to his own raging ego and unquenchable needs.

When Trump looks in the mirror, there’s a whole lot of Weiner staring back at him.

The details are tawdrier in Weiner’s case, and the stakes far smaller. But both men are creatures of potent want and pure compulsion who lucked into forgiving audiences. Weiner’s finally stopped forgiving: Huma Abedin announced that she was formally separating from him after six years of marriage.

Trump still has legions by his side. But for how long?

On the home page of The Times’s website on Monday, coincident withthe news story about Weiner’s latest sexting and Abedin’s break with him, was a chart documenting when and why 110 G.O.P. leaders gave up on Trump.

The left side of the chart presented a timeline of his apostasies and indecencies, and it alone was transfixing: a reminder that any other candidate at any other time would have been undone by just one or two of these outrages; an illustration of the way they keep coming, no matter how ardently his inner circle pleads with him for calm, no matter how furiously the outside world reacts. He can’t help himself.

The right side of the chart presented another timeline, this one showing the points at which each of the 110 Republicans bolted. The surprise was how delayed their departures were. Hope is a stubborn thing.

And at some point, it’s too rosy a word for what’s really going on, which is denial, delusion.

There’s also brutal calculation: Does Trump’s function as a barrier against a Democratic president — against Hillary Clinton, in particular — outweigh his cruelty, his incivility, his bigotry, his utter fraudulence? Too many Republicans have convinced themselves of that, in part by minimizing those vices, seeing them as ephemeral, or simply averting their gazes.

Some of these Republicans are living in the same fairy tale that some spouses are. They’re telling themselves the same lie: that fidelity matters more than dignity and common sense. But if a crucial part of wisdom is knowing when to invest, an equally crucial part is knowing when to let go.

The Weiner-Abedin marriage had apparently devolved, even before the latest revelation of fresh sexting, into a blunt child care arrangement, with Mr. Weiner’s attentions to their 4-year-old son making her heavy travel schedule with Clinton possible.

That’s an implication from recent comments that she made to Voguemagazine. It’s the clear takeaway from a Monday-night story in The New York Post, which quotes him telling his sexting partner that he doubted he’d be relocating with his wife to Washington from New York if Clinton were elected president and Abedin made the move.

And it undercuts Trump’s complaint that national security might have been endangered by the “close proximity to highly classified information” that a “very sick guy” like Weiner had through conversations with Abedin. There probably wasn’t much pillow talk there.

If Trump wants to make Abedin an issue, he’s on fairer, sturdier ground with the extra pay from outside sources that Clinton arranged for her when they worked together at the State Department.

He’s on dangerous turf when he goes after Weiner as a “sicko” and a “pervert.” He’s no paragon of rectitude, no pillar of restraint.

This is someone who once joked to Howard Stern — on the air — that his own Vietnam was the danger he courted as a libidinous man in an era of sexually transmitted diseases. This is someone who publicly drooled over his daughter Ivanka, saying that he might date her if he hadn’t sired her.

Weiner sent strangers pictures of his bulge. Trump assured the viewers of a nationally televised debate that he was amply endowed.

These impulses — these boasts — aren’t unrelated.

A scene in the documentary “Weiner,” about his ill-fated run for New York City mayor, depicts him at a computer, raptly watching and reliving one of his appearances on MSNBC. Trump is famous for marinating in all of the television time devoted to him. He tallies it. He crows about it. He’s Weiner with extra traction, Weiner with added gilt.

It forces an important question: Have we constructed a politics with such bright, invasive lights that those who find it more attractive than repulsive include an unhealthy number of insecure exhibitionists out for affirmation above all else?

Friedman, better late than never

August 10, 2016

For some reason this was not showing up when I posted Mr. Bruni’s ruminations on the Olympics.  And it’s probably better that it stands alone anyway.  In “Trump’s Ambiguous Wink Wink to ‘Second Amendment People'” he says the menacing language Donald Trump uses about Hillary Clinton is reminiscent of extremists’ talk that fed Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin in Israel in 1995.  Here he is:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

And that’s what the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir did to Rabin. Why not? He thought he had permission from a whole segment of Israel’s political class.

In September, I wrote a column warning that Donald Trump’s language toward immigrants could end up inciting just this kind of violence. I never in my wildest dreams, though, thought he’d actually — in his usual coy, twisted way — suggest that Hillary Clinton was so intent on taking away the Second Amendment right to bear arms that maybe Second Amendment enthusiasts could do something to stop her. Exactly what? Oh, Trump left that hanging.

“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment,”Trump said at a rally in Wilmington, N.C., on Tuesday. “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Of course Trump’s handlers, recognizing just how incendiary were his words, immediately denied that he was suggesting that gun owners do anything harmful toward Clinton. Oh my God, never. Trump, they insisted, was just referring to the “power of unification.” You know those Second Amendment people, they just love to get on buses and vote together.

But that is not what he said. What he said was ambiguous — slightly menacing, but with just enough plausible deniability that, of course, he was not suggesting an assassination. Again, it’s just like the Rabin story. When I wrote about this issue back in the fall it was to urge readers to see the new movie “Rabin: The Last Day,” by the Israeli director Amos Gitai, timed for the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination.

As The Times’s Isabel Kershner reported from Israel when the film was released, it “is unambiguous about the forces it holds responsible” — the extremist rabbis and militant settlers who branded Rabin a traitor, the right-wing politicians who rode the “wave of toxic incitement against Mr. Rabin as they campaigned against the Oslo accords,” and the security services that failed to heed the warnings that the incitement could get out of hand.

“Mr. Rabin is almost invisible in the first two hours of the film,” she reported. “Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader at the time, is shown in now-infamous historical footage addressing a feverish right-wing rally from a balcony in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, as protesters below shouted for the death of Rabin — the ‘traitor’ — and held up photomontage posters of him dressed in an SS uniform.”

Mr. Netanyahu, now prime minister, insisted he never saw the posters or heard the curses.

I am sure that is what Trump’s supporters will say, too. But Trump knows what he is doing, and it is so dangerous in today’s world. In the last year we have seen a spate of lone-wolf acts of terrorism in America and Europe by men and women living on the fringes of society, some with petty criminal records, often with psychological problems, often described as “loners,” and almost always deeply immersed in fringe jihadist social networks that heat them up. They hear the signal in the noise. They hear the inspiration and the permission to do God’s work. They are not cooled by unfinished sentences.

After all, an informal Trump adviser on veteran affairs, Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative from New Hampshire, already declared that Clinton should be “shot for treason” for her handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack.

During the Republican convention, with its repeated chants about Clinton of “lock her up,” a U.S.-based columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Chemi Shalev, wrote: “Like the extreme right in Israel, many Republicans conveniently ignore the fact that words can kill. There are enough people with a tendency for violence that cannot distinguish between political stagecraft and practical exhortations to rescue the country by any available means. If anyone has doubts, they could use a short session with Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, who was inspired by the rabid rhetoric hurled at the Israeli prime minister in the wake of the Oslo accords.”

People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; he is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him. I only pray that he is not simply defeated, but that he loses all 50 states so that the message goes out across the land — unambiguously, loud and clear: The likes of you should never come this way again.