Archive for the ‘Friedman’ Category

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 TalkingPointsMemo.com, 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 Amazon.com 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.

Amen.

Friedman and Bruni

August 3, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has decided to tell us all about “How Clinton Could Knock Trump Out.”  He tells us that she could win over Republicans who now feel orphaned if she had the right pro-growth economic policies.  That last phrase is the kicker.  I don’t usually add a reply to his stuff, but this one is worthy of it.  We’ll let “Matthew Carnicelli” from Brooklyn take him on.  Mr. Bruni says people should “Stop Indulging Trump,” and that for the G.O.P., the moment of reckoning with the billionaire’s unfitness for office is here.  Here’s TMOW:

Maybe I just missed it. But in all the testimonials at the Democratic convention about what Hillary Clinton has done for other people, I don’t recall anyone saying, “I started a business because of Hillary Clinton.” Or, “I hired someone because of Hillary Clinton.”

We heard from first responders, veterans, grieving parents and victims of terrorism, rape and various forms of discrimination. There was just one group that was conspicuously absent: the people who drive our economy by inventing things or by borrowing money to start companies that actually employ people.

Watching the convention, you would never know that what also makes America great is that generation after generation, people full of ideas risk their savings to start companies that provide work and paychecks. And only by generating more of these risk-takers will more people get hired for the good jobs Clinton promised.

The only things that were remotely growth-related in her speech were glancing references to a government-led infrastructure investment program (Go for it!) and her vow “to give small businesses a boost. Make it easier to get credit.”

To do that, though, would run smack into the anti-bank sentiment of the Democratic Party, since small community banks provide about half the loans to small businesses, and it is precisely those banks that have been most choked by the post-2008 regulations. We need to prevent recklessness, not risk-taking.

I raise this for two reasons. The first: Donald Trump may not stay stupid forever (although he might!), and therefore Hillary will have to beat him on the central economic issue of growth. Trump spent the past few days trashing the parents of a heroic Muslim American soldier who lost his life in Iraq. The parents had — rightly — criticized Trump. But in his return fire, Trump shot himself in both feet, losing support in his own party.

Trump defended his Twitter tantrum against the soldier’s parents with a sixth-grader’s playground defense: “He called me a name.” He forgot that his own convention engaged in a mad chant of “lock her up” about Clinton, but she ignored it and stayed on her message. That’s what adults do.

Mind you, I hope Trump remains in his total whack-job mode, because it distracted attention from the latest economic news — that was perfectly set up for Trump to take political advantage of — that the economy grew an anemic 1.2 percent in the second quarter, and growth in the first quarter was revised downward. That economic news was teed up for Trump, the self-styled job-creator, and he shanked it deep into the woods, for it never to be heard from again.

Trump has gone amazingly far without having done an ounce of homework in preparation for the presidency, relying instead on feeding tweets to an anxious G.O.P. base. His candidacy should be over by now. But it isn’t.

It scares me that people are so fed up with elites, so hate and mistrust Clinton and are so worried about the future — jobs, globalization and terrorism — that a bare majority could still fall for this self-infatuated carnival barker if he exhibited half a political brain.

And that leads to my second reason for pushing Clinton to inject some capitalism into her economic plan: The coalition she could lead. If there is one thing that is not going to revive growth right now, it is an anti-trade, regulatory heavy, socialist-lite agenda the Democratic Party has drifted to under the sway of Bernie Sanders. Socialism is the greatest system ever invented for making people equally poor. Capitalism makes people unequally rich, but I would much rather grow our pie bigger and faster and better adjust the slices than redivide a shrinking one.

There are a lot of center-right, business Republicans today feeling orphaned by Trump. They can’t vote for him — but a lot of them still claim they can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary, either. Clinton should be reaching out to them with a real pro-growth, start-up, deregulation, entrepreneurship agenda and give them a positive reason to vote for her.

It makes sense politically: Take Trump on at his self-proclaimed strength. And it makes sense economically: If Clinton wins, she will need to get stuff done, not just give stuff away.

I get that she had to lean toward Sanders and his voters to win the nomination; their concerns with fairness and inequality are honorable. But those concerns can be addressed only with economic growth; the rising anti-immigration sentiments in the country can be defused only with economic growth; the general anxiety feeding Trumpism can be eased only with economic growth.

Sanders had no plan whatsoever for growth. Trump doesn’t, either, but he can fake it. It’s time that Hillary pivoted. The country today doesn’t need the first female president. It needs the first president in a long time who can govern with a center-left, center-right coalition, and actually end the gridlock on fiscal policy in a smart way.

If Trump continues to melt down into a puddle of bile, more and more Republicans will be up for grabs. With the right pro-growth economic policies, Clinton would have an opening to not only enlist them to help her win, but to build a governing coalition for the morning after.

Now here’s what “Matthew Carnicelli” had to say about that:

“Tom, I believe that I need to explain the facts of political life to you. I shouldn’t have to do this, but some of us are evidently too comfortable living in glass houses.

Regulations are nothing but an extension of the bedrock constitutional principle of checks and balances, extended to the corporate and personal sphere. We have regulations because men are not angels, have been total screw ups in the recent past, and are not likely to become angels any time soon.

You are a perfect illustration of how purveyors of elite opinion can be a total screw up, and yet never be held accountable for their role in setting in motion train wrecks that will likely haunt us for decades.

Now, if you have a specific point about excessive regulation of community banks that you wish to make, then you should make that – instead of indulging in your unbecoming sneer.

Tom, the reality is that ours is consequence-free society. No one is held responsible for their bad ideas – as you weren’t in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle, or your role as an apologist for a top-down style of globalism.

The reality is that the moment you begin sneering at regulations is the moment that you give license to the climate change deniers and those individuals who refuse to learn from history precisely because doing so might negatively impact their bottom line, even if it would bring us a safer, more harmonious planet.

Tom, the only feasible alternative to a capitalism run amok is a regulated one.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

This column has been updated to reflect news developments.

John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of you: It’s time to stop suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t represent you, because he does represent you. He’s your party’s nominee, with your endorsements. Until you withdraw those, he has your blessing. Your permission.

And if you keep forgiving him and prioritizing your political survival over the country’s stability, he could wind up representing all of us.

Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Do it with a straight face.

Senator McCain, Representative Ryan, he’s just given you fresh cause to bolt, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t support either of you in your respective Republican primary contests.

From the standpoint of tradition, this is shocking. From the standpoint of Trump, not so much. You’ve upbraided him (mildly). You’ve bruised his tender ego. So now he gets to stick out his tongue at you.

It has to make you wonder why you twisted and turned and tried to justify your support of him in the face of his petulant, gratuitous attack on the Muslim parents of a soldier who died fighting for America. Or why so many G.O.P. leaders twisted and turned after his petulant, gratuitous attack on a Mexican-American judge. Or why you all should stick around to twist and turn the next time.

Trump isn’t slouching toward gravitas. He’s having a tantrum, and to threaten him with timeouts that never come only encourages it. Spare the rod, spoil the Donald.

This isn’t a normal presidential election, he isn’t a normal political candidate, and you know it. We all do. And it’s well past time to reckon fully with that.

Not just you but all of us keep according larger historical sense to his candidacy and trying to fit it into pre-existing frames, but I fear that when we do that, we minimize the outright outrage and singular farce of it.

We throw around terms like demagogue and fascist, but I’m not sure he’s coherent, consistent or weighty enough for either.

We label him anti-establishment, and that’s a howler. He grew up affluent. Went to an Ivy League college. Sent his kids to posh boarding schools. Mingled with Bill and Hillary Clinton at his (third) wedding. He is the power elite, albeit an ostentatiously gold-tufted version of it.

In presidential races past, we’ve seen protectionists, nativists, even racists. What we haven’t seen, not in my lifetime, is a major-party nominee who is such an unabashed and unrepentant fabulist, with so little control over his temper and a worldview shaped entirely by what and who flatter him.

Never has a nominee pouted with his grandeur. Never has one bragged with his abandon.

He’s best described not in political terms but in developmental ones. He’s a toddler. I’d say “infant” but infants are pre-verbal, and he has afew words, most of them monosyllabic.

Only a toddler could be so self-justifying and tone-deaf that he’d compare the sacrifice of Humayun Khan — the soldier I mentioned who was killed in Iraq — to his own professional work of erecting tall buildings and simultaneously enriching himself.

Only a toddler would respond to Michael Bloomberg’s digs at him bysaying that when they golfed together, “I hit the ball a lot longer.” Yes, Donald, everything about you is longer. We haven’t forgotten that G.O.P. presidential debate.

Over the last few days, the word “decency” has popped up a lot, and it’s on target.

“There’s just no sense of decency from this man,” Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who worked for Ted Cruz, told Politico.

“He has no decency,” Khizr Khan, the fallen soldier’s father, told ABC News.

Trump isn’t just uninformed, as his recent comments on Ukraine reaffirmed. He’s a repository of almost every character trait that we reprimand children for.

And the examples of his indecency get lost in the sheer volume of them. Any one might end another candidate’s quest. But they’re the white noise of his bid. He’s redeemed by his own repulsiveness.

I appreciate that for many conservatives, a Supreme Court shaped by Hillary Clinton would be an abomination. But can they really elevate that concern above national security and entrust the country to a tyrant-loving, Putin-flirting, NATO-dissing novice?

I understand that renouncing him means abetting her, which hurts, given her considerable flaws and their genuine qualms.

But there are bigger things at stake. That’s why so many loyal Republicans have already fled, to regroup over the next four years.

I get it: If McCain and other congressional Republicans turn off Trump’s supporters, they might get turned out themselves.

But as the Post interview made clear, Trump is already giving those supporters license to do as they wish. Besides which, isn’t there a point at which principle must kick in? Aren’t there bounds to partisanship and personal interest? I ask that not in favor of Clinton or the Democrats but out of concern — no, alarm — for America, which needs a grown-up who honors our values, not a brat who shreds them.

Friedman, solo

July 27, 2016

In “Web People vs. Wall People” The Moustache of Wisdom says voters have a choice of candidates who embrace change and those who try to stop it.  Here he is:

Yes, we’re having a national election right now. Yes, there are two parties running. But no, they are not the two parties that you think. It’s not “Democrats” versus “Republicans.” This election is really between “Wall People” and “Web People.”

The primary focus of Wall People is finding a president who will turn off the fan — the violent winds of change that are now buffeting every family — in their workplace, where machines are threatening white-collar and blue-collar jobs; in their neighborhoods, where so many more immigrants of different religions, races and cultures are moving in; and globally, where super-empowered angry people are now killing innocents with disturbing regularity. They want a wall to stop it all.

Wall People’s desire to stop change may be unrealistic, but, in fairness, it’s not just about race and class. It is also about a yearning for community — about “home” in the deepest sense — a feeling that the things that anchor us in the world and provide meaning are being swept away, and so they are looking for someone to stop that erosion.

Wall People have two candidates catering to them: Donald Trump, who boasts that he is “The Man” who can stop the winds with a wall, and Bernie Sanders, who promises to stop the winds by ending our big global trade deals and by taking down “The Man” — the millionaires, billionaires and big banks. I don’t see how the country could afford either man’s plans, but they have a simple gut appeal, and there is overlap between them.

Web People instinctively understand that Democrats and Republicans both built their platforms largely in response to the Industrial Revolution, the New Deal and the Cold War, but that today, a 21st-century party needs to build its platform in response to the accelerations in technology, globalization and climate change, which are the forces transforming the workplace, geopolitics and the very planet.

As such, the instinct of Web People is to embrace the change in the pace of change and focus on empowering more people to be able to compete and collaborate in a world without walls. In particular, Web People understand that in times of rapid change, open systems are always more flexible, resilient and propulsive; they offer the chance to feel and respond first to change. So Web People favor more trade expansion, along the lines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and more managed immigration that attracts the most energetic and smartest minds, and more vehicles for lifelong learning.

Web People also understand that while we want to prevent another bout of recklessness on Wall Street, we don’t want to choke off risk-taking, which is the engine of growth and entrepreneurship.

Because the G.O.P. was out of the White House for the last eight years, the party’s base and leadership are the least understanding of the world in which we’re living. That is why the G.O.P. fractured first and why some Republican Web People, particularly from the business world, are either sitting this election out or voting for Hillary Clinton.

Having been secretary of state, Clinton has been touching the world. She knows America has to build its future on a Web People’s platform, which was first articulated by Bill Clinton, and, to this day, is best articulated by him. But Hillary has not always shown the courage of her own, or her husband’s, convictions.

So, rather than take on Wall People in her party — and saying to Sanders, “Socialism was the wrong answer for the industrial age, so it sure isn’t the right answer for the information age” — she is tacking toward Wall People. She is opposing things she helped to negotiate, like the Pacific trade deal, and offering more benefits from government but refraining from telling people the hardest truth: that to be in the middle class, just working hard and playing by the rules doesn’t cut it anymore. To have a lifelong job, you need to be a lifelong learner, constantly raising your game.

To her credit, though, she chose a great running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, a Web Person with a soul.

My hope is that, for the good of the country, Republican Web People will, over time, join the Democratic Party and tilt it into a compassionate, center-left Web party for the 21st century. That would be a party that is sensitive to the needs of working people, appreciative of the anchoring power of healthy communities, but committed to capitalism, free markets and open trade as the vital engines of growth for a modern society and to providing every American with the learning tools to realize their potential.

I don’t see any chance of the G.O.P. becoming a center-right party again soon. The Tea Party, Trump and Fox News have made its base too angry and disconnected from reality.

So everything rides on the coalition that Clinton assembles. If America is to thrive in the 21st century, we desperately need a coalition that can govern smartly in this era of rapid change. Clinton has a chance to break not only the glass ceiling for women, but also the rigid walls that have divided our two parties. If she can pull that off, it will make being the first woman president the second most important thing she does.

Friedman and Bruni

July 20, 2016

In “Trump and the Sultan” The Moustache of Wisdom says American voters should learn from Turkey’s experience with an out-of-control leader.  Mr. Bruni points out the blindingly obvious in “Ted Loves Trump.”  He says well, not exactly. But Cruz’s appearance at the G.O.P. convention shows how self-interest routinely muscles principle aside.  Cruz’s ONLY principle is self-interest, Frank.  Here’s TMOW:

Turkey is a long way from Cleveland, where the Republicans are holding their presidential convention. But I’d urge you to study the recent failed military coup against Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. America is not Turkey — but in terms of personality and political strategy, Erdogan and Donald Trump were separated at birth.

And the drama playing out in Turkey today is the story of just how off track a once successful country can get when a leader who demonizes all his rivals and dabbles in crazy conspiracy theories comes to believe that he alone is The Man — the only one who can make his country great again — and ensconces himself in power.

Let’s start with Erdogan, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2014, but then maneuvered himself into the previously symbolic role of president and got all key powers shifted to that position. I confess that when I first heard the news of the July 15 coup attempt, my first instinct was to consult that great foreign policy expert Miss Manners, The Washington Post’s etiquette columnist, because I was asking myself, “What is the right response when bad things happen to bad people?”

“Dear Miss Manners: I instinctively oppose military coups against democratically elected governments, like the one in Turkey. But am I a bad person if part of me felt that Turkey’s president had it coming?”

Anyone who has been following Turkey closely knows that Erdogan has been mounting a silent, drip-by-drip coup of his own against Turkish democracy for years — jailing reporters, hounding rivals with giant tax bills, reviving an internal war against Turkish Kurds to stoke nationalist passions to propel his efforts to grab more powers — and by generally making himself into a modern-day sultan for life.

I’m glad the coup failed, especially the way it did — with many secular Turks who actually opposed Erdogan’s autocratic rule, and had been abused by it, nevertheless coming out against the plotters on the principle that Turkish democracy must be upheld. That was a truly impressive act of collective wisdom and a display of democratic sensibilities.

The maturity of the Turkish people resulted in Erdogan’s getting what golfers call a mulligan, or a do-over, to demonstrate that he is committed to the universal precepts of democracy. Will he? Or will Erdogan go right back to his preferred means of staying in power: dividing Turks into his supporters and enemies of the state, weaving conspiracy theories and using the failed coup as a license for a witch hunt, not only for plotters but for anyone who has dared to cross his path?

The early signs are bad. A day after the failed coup, Erdogan dismissed 2,745 judges and prosecutors. How did he know exactly who to fire in one day? Did he already have an enemies list? To date, he has now reportedly purged 1,500 university deans, revoked the licenses of 21,000 teachers and either purged or detained nearly 35,000 members of the military, security forces and judiciary as part of his “cleansing” of coup supporters.

Here’s the real tragedy: Erdogan was an outstanding leader his first five years and truly lifted the country’s economy and middle class. But since then it’s all gone to his head, and he has gotten away with increasingly bad behavior by creating an us-versus-them divide between his loyal, more religious followers, and the more secular communities in Turkey.

Because his followers see their dignity wrapped up in his remaining in power, he can say and do anything and never pay a political price. His base will always rally to his us-versus-them dog whistles. But Turkey in the long run suffers.

Sound familiar?

Trump relies on the same tactics: He fabricates facts and figures on an industrial scale. He regularly puts out conspiracy theories — his latest is that President Obama’s “body language” suggests that “there’s something going on” with the president — hinting that Obama is not comfortable condemning the killing of cops by African-American gunmen and has sympathy for radical Islamists.

Trump also relies on the us-versus-them bond with his followers to avoid punishment for any of his misbehavior. He, too, is obsessed with his own prowess, and he uses Twitter to get around traditional media gatekeepers — and fact-checkers — to inject anything he wants into the nation’s media bloodstream. (Erodgan just uses his own friendly media.) And most of the people Trump has surrounded himself with are either family or second-raters looking for a star turn, including his vice-presidential choice and the person who wrote his wife’s convention speech and clearly plagiarized part of it from Michelle Obama. The whole thing reeks of flimflam.

If Trump is elected, I don’t think there will be a military coup, but I guarantee you that Jeb Bush’s prediction will be proved true, that he’ll be “a chaos president” just as he’s been a “chaos candidate.” Americans will regularly be in the streets, because they are not going to follow — on any big issue — a man who lies as he breathes, who has not done an ounce of homework to prepare for the job and who generates support by conspiracy theories and making people afraid of the future and one another.

If you like what’s going on in Turkey today, you’ll love Trump’s America.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

One of the last times you saw Ted Cruz, flames were shooting from his head and spittle was flying from his mouth — metaphorically, at least — as he branded Donald Trump “a pathological liar,” “a serial philanderer,” “utterly amoral” and a “narcissist” on a level this country had seldom seen. It was the day of Indiana’s Republican primary, Trump had just insinuated a connection between Cruz’s father and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and Cruz announced that he must at long last tell the world “what I really think” of Trump.

But when you see the Texas senator on the convention stage here on Wednesday night, that contempt and candor will be absent. He may not exactly praise Trump, but he’ll almost certainly swallow whatever misgivings he still feels, and his presence alone will be taken by some viewers as a gesture of implicit, tentative support.

It will also be an example of what he always says he can’t stand about other politicians and what voters loathe as well: the elasticity of their convictions, the urgency of their self-interest and the alacrity with which they take an eraser to their past words.

There’s a lot of erasing going on these days, and Trump is a big reason. For many Republicans, rallying round him means conveniently forgetting how much they disagreed with or even detested him before, a breach much wider than the one that typically exists between opponents within a political party.

Mike Pence had to do a memory purge so complete it may well constitute a lobotomy. Once upon a time he deemed Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States “offensive and unconstitutional,” but Trump’s slight tweak to that — a focus on immigrants from Muslim-heavy countries that seem to be fertile for terrorists — is something Pence now praises. People say the vice presidency is a miserable job, but what misery politicians go through in pursuit of it.

Pence is also among the large crowd of lawmakers whom Trump savages for having supported the invasion of Iraq. He’s an advocate of the trade deals that Trump mocks. And in that Indiana primary? Pence endorsed Cruz. But now he’s all aboard and all about the good ship Trump, because it has the plusher staterooms and is sailing toward the snazzier port.

I shouldn’t beat up on Pence. Whatever reservations he expressed about Trump were mild next to those mentioned by Rick Perry, who called Trump “a barking carnival act” and “a cancer” before endorsing him and showing up in support of him here.

And it’s not just Trump who brings out the squish in politicians. Their spines jellify in all sorts of situations.

Remember Marco Rubio’s insistence that he’d be leaving the Senate after 2016? In May he gave his latest guarantee, tweeting: “I have only said like 10,000 times I will be a private citizen in January.” Rubio wasn’t just resolute; he was flabbergasted that anyone could doubt his resoluteness. As it turns out, though, a vow doesn’t become an ironclad guarantee until it’s made 20,000 times. In June, he announced his candidacy for re-election.

Pranksters write in disappearing ink; politicians speak in it. And that certainly includes Democrats — Evan Bayh, for one. When he left the Senate six years ago, he did so in an indignant, operatically aggrieved fashion, describing it as hopelessly partisan and corrupted by money and outside influences. He then joined the outside influencers, going to work for a lobbying and law firm. But he apparently missed all that partisanship and corruption, because now he wants back in. The negative ads write themselves.

Cruz isn’t up for re-election to the Senate until 2018, but what’s on his mind is 2020. He clearly began plotting his comeback the moment he exited the Republican primaries. His convention speech will be a part of it and warrants careful study as a road map to where he thinks the post-Trump G.O.P. is headed.

He has even repaired his pride (to the extent that it ever needs repair) and reasserted his dominance by coming up with a conspiracy theory for how the Republican nomination was actually stolen from him — by the news media! As he explained to Politico’s Glenn Thrush: “I think many of the mainstream media players are liberal Democrats. They intend to vote for Hillary. They believed Donald was the easiest candidate for Hillary to beat. And I think many of them wanted him to win the nomination. I don’t think it was innocent decision making behind this.”

I take back what I wrote earlier about his fickleness. He is 100 percent constant — in his adoration and exaltation of Ted Cruz.

Friedman and Bruni

July 13, 2016

In “The (G.O.P.) Party’s Over” The Moustache of Wisdom says Republican Party hasn’t been a productive part in a two-party democracy for a long time, but a crushing loss this fall could force it to change.  And how many Friedman Units will that take, Tommy?  After a crushing defeat all they’ll decide is that Trump wasn’t a pure enough conservative, and they’ll double down on racism, bigotry, misogyny, and everything else they stand for.  Mr. Bruni, in “Has Barack Obama Hurt Race Relations?”, says as the president spoke at a Dallas memorial, critics carped that he has set us back. Don’t believe it.  I think that editors create the headlines of their columns, and whoever produced this one should be shit canned.  Here’s TMOW:

This column has argued for a while now that there is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy. At least a one-party autocracy can order things to get done.

A one-party democracy — that is, a two-party system where only one party is interested in governing and the other is in constant blocking mode, which has characterized America in recent years — is much worse. It can’t do anything big, hard or important.

We can survive a few years of such deadlock in Washington, but we sure can’t take another four or eight years without real decay setting in, and that explains what I’m rooting for in this fall’s elections: I hope Hillary Clinton wins all 50 states and the Democrats take the presidency, the House, the Senate and, effectively, the Supreme Court.

That is the best thing that could happen to America, at least for the next two years — that Donald Trump is not just defeated, but is crushed at the polls. That would have multiple advantages for our country.

First, if Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance (depending on the size of a Democratic majority in the Senate) to pass common-sense gun laws. That would mean restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, which was enacted as part of the 1994 federal crime bill but expired after 10 years, and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun.

I don’t want to touch any citizen’s Second Amendment rights, but the notion that we can’t restrict military weapons that are increasingly being used in mass murders defies common sense — yet it can’t be fixed as long as today’s G.O.P. controls any branch of government.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can borrow $100 billion at close to zero interest for a national infrastructure rebuild to deal with some of the nation’s shameful deferred maintenance of roads, bridges, airports and rails and its inadequate bandwidth, and create more blue-collar jobs that would stimulate growth.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance to put in place a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would stimulate more clean energy production and allow us to reduce both corporate taxes and personal income taxes, which would also help spur growth.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can fix whatever needs fixing with Obamacare, without having to junk the whole thing. Right now we have the worst of all worlds: The G.O.P. will not participate in any improvements to Obamacare nor has it offered a credible alternative.

At the same time, if Clinton crushes Trump in November, the message will be sent by the American people that the game he played to become the Republican nominee — through mainstreaming bigotry; name-calling; insulting women, the handicapped, Latinos and Muslims; retweeting posts by hate groups; ignorance of the Constitution; and a willingness to lie and make stuff up with an ease and regularity never seen before at the presidential campaign level — should never be tried by anyone again. The voters’ message, “Go away,” would be deafening.

Finally, if Trump presides over a devastating Republican defeat across all branches of government, the G.O.P. will be forced to do what it has needed to do for a long time: take a time out in the corner. In that corner Republicans could pull out a blank sheet of paper and on one side define the biggest forces shaping the world today — and the challenges and opportunities they pose to America — and on the other side define conservative, market-based policies to address them.

Our country needs a healthy center-right party that can compete with a healthy center-left party. Right now, the G.O.P. is not a healthy center-right party. It is a mishmash of religious conservatives; angry white males who fear they are becoming a minority in their own country and hate trade; gun-control opponents; pro-lifers; anti-regulation and free-market small-business owners; and pro- and anti-free trade entrepreneurs.

The party was once held together by the Cold War. But as that faded away it has been held together only by renting itself out to whomever could energize its base and keep it in power — Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, the National Rifle Association. But at its core there was no real common dominator, no take on the world, no real conservative framework.

The party grew into a messy, untended garden, and Donald Trump was like an invasive species that finally just took over the whole thing.

Party leaders can all still call themselves Republicans. They can even hold a convention with a lot of G.O.P. elephant balloons. But the truth is, the party’s over. Thoughtful Republicans have started to admit that. John Boehner gave up being speaker of the House because he knew that his caucus had become a madhouse, incapable of governing.

A Clinton sweep in November would force more Republicans to start rebuilding a center-right party ready to govern and compromise. And a Clinton sweep would also mean Hillary could govern from the place where her true political soul resides — the center-left, not the far left.

I make no predictions about who will win in November. But I sure knowwhat I’m praying for — and why.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I have many qualms about Barack Obama’s presidency. I worry that he exhausted too much political capital too soon on Obamacare. That he overcorrected for his predecessor’s foreign debacle. That he wore his disdain for Congress too conspicuously.

But I cry foul at the complaint that he has significantly aggravated racial animosity and widened the racial divide in this country. It’s a simplistic read of what’s happening, and it lays too much blame on the doorstep of a man who has sought — imperfectly on some occasions, expertly on others — to speak for all Americans.

That complaint trailed him to Dallas, where he appeared on Tuesday at a memorial for the five police officers killed by a sniper last week. He was there not just to eulogize them — which he did, magnificently — but to try to steady a nation reeling from their deaths and the ones just beforehand of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

He painted a profoundly admiring portrait of cops, asking their detractors to consider how it feels to be “unfairly maligned” by hyperbolic cries of pervasive police misconduct. Then he painted a profoundly sympathetic portrait of protesters, explaining why so many African-Americans feel “unfairly targeted.”

“Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?” he said. He may not have phrased the question that way before, but to my ears, it’s what he’s been asking all along.

His sternest critics have decided to hear something different, homing in on his references to racial disparities in criminal justice to charge that he has brought the country to a boil.

In the last few days alone, he has been accused of abetting a “fundamental misreading of American society as irremediably racist,” of consistently choosing “to see things through the eyes of an aggrieved black activist”’ and of being possibly “the worst president in U.S. history” specifically because he “set back American race relations by 50 years.”

It’s true that Obama has sometimes spoken of discrimination before all the facts of a given killing were known. But those remarks touched on wider realities and were usually important acknowledgments of the fury that many Americans were feeling.

Imagine that he instead stood mute or told those Americans to treat the killings as isolated incidents and quietly move on. That might well have raised the temperature, not lowered it.

Besides which, he hasn’t discussedonly discrimination. In Warsaw last week, when he expressed concern about the deaths of Sterling and Castile, he repeatedly mentioned the fine work of most police officers and the need to keep them safe.

“When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter,” he said, and this was before the Dallas carnage. His critics edit that out.

They point to data like a Gallup poll from three months ago in which 35 percent of Americans said that they worried “a great deal” about race relations. That number had doubled over the prior two years, a period coinciding with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was also the highest number since Gallup first began asking this question 15 years ago.

But it may well reflect alarm about how we navigate an overdue conversation rather than a belief that the conversation lacks merit. It’s surely the outgrowth of technological advances. Ask yourself: Are these protests the consequence of Obama’s words or of smartphone images and their documentation of events never glimpsed so intimately and immediately before? There’s no contest.

It’s also possible that the election of the first black president gave some wishful Americans hope of suddenly perfect racial harmony and that the current bitterness grew in the gap between expectations and reality. That’s not Obama’s fault.

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have been able to shrug off Joe Biden’s 2007 comment that he was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean” and then make Biden his vice president and friend.

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have used his graduation speech at Howard University in May to caution its black students not to ignore enormous racial progress and to assure them that if they could choose a time to be “young, gifted and black in America, you’d choose right now.”

If he were an “aggrieved black activist,” he wouldn’t have pulled off what he did in Dallas on Tuesday, a nuanced balancing act in an era without much nuance or balance.

Just before his speech, Michelle Obama bent toward and reached out to the person seated to her right. That tender image — of her hand on George W. Bush’s — is one I’ll hold on to, and it’s a fitting retort to the nonsense that Obama is sowing hate.

Friedman and Bruni

June 29, 2016

In “You Break It, You Own It” The Moustache of Wisdom says that the British vote by a narrow majority to leave the European Union is not the end of the world — but it does show us how we can get there.  Hmmm…  If only Tommy had thought about “you break it, you own it” before he was banging his wee tin drum celebrating the fustercluck in Iraq…  Mr. Bruni takes a look at “A Bachelor Named Britain, Looking for Love” and says the U.K. is due for some serious matchmaking. Albania, anyone?  Here’s TMOW:

The British vote by a narrow majority to leave the European Union is not the end of the world — but it does show us how we can get there.

A major European power, a longtime defender of liberal democracy, pluralism and free markets, falls under the sway of a few cynical politicians who see a chance to exploit public fears of immigration to advance their careers. They create a stark binary choice on an incredibly complex issue, of which few people understand the full scope — stay in or quit the E.U.

These politicians assume that the dog will never catch the car and they will have the best of all worlds — opposing something unpopular but not having to deal with the implications of the public actually voting to get rid of it. But they so dumb down the debate with lies, fear-mongering and misdirection, and with only a simple majority required to win, that the leave-the-E.U. crowd carries the day by a small margin. Presto: the dog catches the car. And, of course, it has no idea now what to do with this car. There is no plan. There is just barking.

Like I said, not the end of the world yet, but if a few more E.U. countries try this trick we’ll have quite a little mess on our hands. Attention Donald Trump voters: this is what happens to a country that falls for hucksters who think that life can just imitate Twitter — that there are simple answers to hard questions — and that small men can rearrange big complex systems by just erecting a wall and everything will be peachy.

But I digress.

Because although withdrawing from the E.U. is not the right answer for Britain, the fact that this argument won, albeit with lies, tells you that people are feeling deeply anxious about something. It’s the story of our time: the pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for some citizens to keep up.

We have globalized trade and manufacturing, and we have introduced robots and artificial intelligent systems, far faster than we have designed the social safety nets, trade surge protectors and educational advancement options that would allow people caught in this transition to have the time, space and tools to thrive. It’s left a lot of people dizzy and dislocated.

At the same time, we have opened borders deliberately — or experienced the influx of illegal migration from failing states at an unprecedented scale — and this too has left some people feeling culturally unanchored, that they are losing their “home” in the deepest sense of that word. The physical reality of immigration, particularly in Europe, has run ahead of not only the host countries’ ability to integrate people but also of the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves — and both are necessary for social stability.

And these rapid changes are taking place when our politics has never been more gridlocked and unable to respond with just common sense — like governments borrowing money at near zero interest to invest in much-needed infrastructure that creates jobs and enables us to better exploit these technologies.

“Political power in the West has been failing its own test of legitimacy and accountability since 2008 — and in its desperation has chosen to erode it further by unforgivably abdicating responsibility through the use of a referendum on the E.U.,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the London-based global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

But we need to understand that “the issue before us is ‘integration’ not ‘immigration,’” Mousavizadeh added. The lived experience in most cities in Europe today, is the fact that “a pluralistic, multiethnic society has grown up here, actually rather peacefully, and it has brought enormous benefits and prosperity. We need to change the focus of the problem — and the solution — from the physical reality of immigration to the political and economic challenge of integration.” Schools, hospitals and public institutions generally will not rise to the challenge of the 21st century “if social integration is failing.”

Indeed, in my view, the countries that nurture pluralism the best will be the ones that thrive the most in the 21st century. They will have the most political stability, attract the most talent and be able to collaborate with the most people. But it’s hard work.

Yet in an age when technology is integrating us more tightly together and delivering tremendous flows of innovation, knowledge, connectivity and commerce, the future belongs to those who build webs not walls, who can integrate not separate, to get the most out of these flows. Britain leaving the E.U. is a lose-lose proposition. I hope the “Regrexit” campaign can reverse Brexit and that Americans will dump Trump.

Never forget, after the destruction of World War II, the E.U. project “emerged as a force for peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom in the world,” noted Eric Beinhocker, the executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford. “This is one of humankind’s great achievements. Rather than let it be destroyed we must use the shock of the Brexit vote to reimagine, reform, and rebuild a new Europe.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

It has been forever since Britain was single, and there will be many lonesome and disorienting nights ahead.

Maybe we should fix it up with Switzerland.

Not immediately, of course. The divorce from the European Union was just announced. The paperwork hasn’t been filed. There could be a loss of nerve, a relaxing of conjugal rules, tulips from Holland, chocolates from Belgium. Greece and Portugal could promise to stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink, Germany to quit hogging the remote.

But as things stand now, Britain will soon stand apart, and we all know how that goes: exhilaration, followed by panic, leading to an age-inappropriate Tinder account. Oh, look, here’s Iceland, flashing its most voluptuous volcanoes. Nah, too stony and lugubrious, and you can listen to only so much Björk. Swipe left.

Britain on its own is unfathomable. Think of its relationship history: epic trans-Atlantic romances, audacious trans-Pacific affairs, flings in this jungle, hookups on that dune. It was usually dominant, occasionally submissive but always coupled — if not tripled, quadrupled or quintupled. It had a lust for entanglement if no talent for fidelity.

But it’s not the overlord it once was. Those imperial pheromones are gone. Where a crown once rested, a bald spot spreads. Britain’s going to need primping, prodding, perhaps a prescription.

And introductions. So: Switzerland?

If marrying rich is the goal, marrying Switzerland is the jackpot. And Switzerland won’t do what Britain loathed in its current spouse and encourage poorer, darker people to drop in for fondue.

But it’s so worryingly petite. So wearyingly standoffish, resisting the E.U. even while enveloped and protected by it. And it’s sure to insist on a prenup longer than all of the Harry Potter novels combined. Britain needs freer and easier love than that, especially as its jowls sag and its pound droops.

Maybe that means Albania, Montenegro or Macedonia. They’re the mail-order brides of the continent, dreaming of an “I do” from the E.U. Surely they’d settle for Britain.

But would Britain settle for them? The bloated pride that brought it to this juncture won’t allow for a significant other that’s too other and insignificant, and most outsiders can’t locate Albania on a map. (Go south to the heel of Italy, turn left, cross the Adriatic, hope for the best.) There are better charted, more ego-salving corners of Europe that haven’t bedded down with Brussels and are still on the market.

Like Norway. It and Britain have plenty in common — they’re both wintry, watery, fishy, boozy — but also bring different, complementary assets to the table. In Norway’s case, oil. In Britain’s, Adele. If that’s not a recipe for global domination, what is?

Britain isn’t a bachelor like most. It has been married so many times that it has pretty much run through the available options.

Its predicament reminds me of the movie “What’s Your Number?,” which I saw so that you wouldn’t have to. Anna Faris plays a Bostonian who believes that she has reached her maximum allotment of sexual partners and that her only hope for a husband is to circle back and reconnect with someone she disconnected from previously.

For Britain that could be India. Australia. Much of Africa. Some of the Middle East. Its exes are everywhere, though approaching any of them would require a new humility, as the Britain of yesteryear wasn’t a particularly modest or accommodating suitor. It typically got the better end of the deal, until the E.U. came along and the arrangement wasn’t so lopsided.

America is Britain’s most prominent ex of all: the Elizabeth Taylor to its Richard Burton. Should our onetime colonial master become our 51st state? If we acted quickly enough, Boris Johnson could be tapped as Donald Trump’s running mate, creating a tandem of tresses so perversely dazzling that it alone makes the case. This may have been Johnson’s plan all along.

Britain is no more geographically nonsensical for us than Hawaii or Alaska, though it’s probably too long a cultural stretch. It simply lacks the requisite prevalence of gun ownership.

Which makes it a better fit for Canada. Canada is saner, except about ice hockey. It’s Britain’s obvious match: comparably affluent, sufficiently English-speaking. Together Britain and Canada can laugh at the crudeness of us Americans, a favorite shared pastime and an understandable one.

Britain is suddenly leaderless, while Canada suddenly has a leader, Justin Trudeau, who’s an international heartthrob. He can expand his portfolio to two continents, and has tidy hair. Sorry, Boris.

And the monarchy survives! Canada never ceased its ceremonial fealty to it, and bows before Queen Elizabeth II much as Britain does. It’s a source of puzzlement, but it’s a bridge to Britain, which is going to need the love.