Archive for the ‘Friedman’ Category

Friedman and Kristof from yesterday

June 22, 2016

In “Another Age of Discovery” The Moustache of Wisdom says disruptions in Copernicus’s day offer lessons today.  Yesterday Mr. Kristof gave us “R.I.P., Jo Cox.  May Britain Remember Your Wisdom.”  Here’s TMOW from today:

Have we been here before? I know — it feels as if the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people constitute a change in the pace of change without precedent. But we’ve actually been through an extraordinarily rapid transition like this before in history — a transition we can learn a lot from.

Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and Chris Kutarna, also of Oxford Martin, have just published a book — “Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance” — about lessons we can draw from the period 1450 to 1550, known as the Age of Discovery. It was when the world made a series of great leaps forward, propelled by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Copernicus and Columbus, that produced the Renaissance and reshaped science, education, manufacturing, communications, politics and geopolitics.

“Gutenberg’s printing press provided the trigger,” Goldin told me by email, “by flipping knowledge production and exchange from tight scarcity to radical abundance. Before that, the Catholic Churches monopolized knowledge, with their handwritten Latin manuscripts locked up in monasteries. The Gutenberg press democratized information, and provided the incentive to be literate. Within 50 years, not only had scribes lost their jobs, but the Catholic Church’s millennia-old monopoly of power had been torn apart as the printing of Martin Luther’s sermons ignited a century of religious wars.”

Meanwhile, Goldin added, Copernicus upended the prevailing God-given notions of heaven and earth “by finding that far from the sun revolving around the earth, the earth rotated around the sun,” and “voyages of discovery by Columbus, da Gama and Magellan tore up millennia-old maps of the ‘known’ world.”

Those were the mother of all disruptions and led to the parallels with today.

“Now, like then, new media have democratized information exchange, amplifying the voices of those who feel they have been injured in the upheaval,” said Goldin. “Now, like then, public leaders and public institutions have failed to keep up with rapid change, and popular trust has been deeply eroded.” Now, like then, “this is the best moment in history to be alive” — human health, literacy, aggregate wealth and education are flourishing — and “there are more scientists alive today than in all previous generations.”

And, yet many people feel worse off.

Because, as in the Renaissance, key anchors in people’s lives — like the workplace and community — are being fundamentally dislocated. The pace of technological change is outstripping the average person’s ability to adapt. Now, like then, said Goldin, “sizable parts of the population found their skills were no longer needed, or they lived in places left behind, so inequality grew.” At the same time, “new planetary scale systems of commerce and information exchange led to immense improvements in choices and accelerating innovations which made some people fabulously rich.”

Was there a Donald Trump back then?

“Michelangelo and Machiavelli’s Florence suffered a shocking popular power-taking when Girolamo Savonarola, a midlevel friar from Ferrara, who lived from 1452 to 1498, exploded from obscurity in the 1490s to enthrall Florentines, who felt left behind economically or culturally, with sermons that laid blame upon the misguided policies and moral corruption of their leaders,” said Goldin. “He and his zealous supporters, though a small minority, swept away the Medici establishment and seized control of the city’s councils.

“From there, Savonarola launched an ugly campaign of public purification, introducing radical laws including against homosexuality, and attacked public intellectuals in an act of intimidation that history still remembers as the Bonfire of the Vanities. Savonarola was amongst the first to tap into the information revolution of the time, and while others produced long sermons and treatises, Savonarola disseminated short pamphlets, in what may be thought of as the equivalent of political tweets.”

The establishment politicians of the day, who were low energy, “underestimated the power of that new information revolution to move beyond scientific and cultural ideas” to amplify populist voices challenging authority.

Yikes! How do we blunt that?

“More risk-taking is required when things change more rapidly, both for workers who have to change jobs and for businesses who have to constantly innovate to stay ahead,” Goldin argued. Government’s job is to strengthen the safety nets and infrastructure so individuals and companies can be as daring — in terms of learning, adapting and investing in themselves — as they need to be. At the same time, when the world gets this tightly woven, America “needs to be more, not less, engaged, with the rest of the world,” because “the threats posed by climate change, pandemics, cyberattacks or terror will not be reduced by America withdrawing.”

Then, as now, walls stopped working. “Cannons and gunpowder came to Europe that could penetrate or go over walls and books could bring ideas around them,” he said. Then, like now, walls only made you poorer, dumber and more insecure.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof from yesterday, writing from Cambridge, England:

As I listen to the stormy debates here in the run-up to Thursday’s Brexit vote on whether Britain should exit the European Union, my thoughts keep drifting to my friend Jo Cox, a member of Parliament assassinated last week.

Jo was a leader who fought for genocide victims in Darfur, for survivors of human trafficking, for women’s health, for Syrian refugees, and, yes, for remaining in the European Union. She was also a proud mom of two small children: When she was pregnant, she used to sign her emails “Jo (and very large bump).”

Jo’s dedication to the voiceless may have cost her life. At least one witness said that the man who stabbed and shot Jo shouted “Britain First!” and when he was asked to say his name at a court hearing he responded, “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”

Yet from awful events bittersweet progress can emerge. In three days, a fund in Jo Cox’s memory has raised about £1 million (about $1.5 million) for causes she supported. Likewise, perhaps revulsion at the murder will leave voters wary of the xenophobic tone of some of the Leave campaigners.

I hope so, for helping to save a united Europe would be a fitting legacy for a woman no longer able to influence the world in other ways — and also because the world needs Britain in Europe.

The British joke about their view of Europe, with a famous (and apparently apocryphal) headline once declaring: “Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off.” But it’s also true, as John Donne wrote, “if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.” And if Britain were washed away, Europe and Britain would both be less.

An International Monetary Fund report this month concluded that a British pullout from the European Union would “permanently lower incomes.” But more important are the political costs to an unraveling.

Among those who first called for a “United States of Europe,” was Sir Winston Churchill, in a 1946 speech, and the impetus for him and for Jean Monnet, “the father of Europe,” was primarily peace and security.

In many ways, that has been disappointing. The European Union has repeatedly failed political tests: It was paralyzed as genocide began in the former Yugoslavia, it adopted a common currency too soon, it mishandled the recent economic crisis, and it has bungled the refugee crisis. And that’s on top of the quotidian expense and wastefulness of a European bureaucracy translating in 24 official languages, including Maltese, Bulgarian, Slovak and Slovenian.

Immigration has also fed an anxiety about loss of control and about erosion of national identity, prompting a backlash not entirely dissimilar from the Donald Trump phenomenon in the United States. Jo Cox herself, in an article she wrote shortly before her death, acknowledged, “It’s fine to be concerned by immigration — many people are.” But her point was that practical concerns about immigration should be addressed with practical solutions, while Brexit would simply create new crises without solving old ones.

One risk is that if Britain leaves, others will follow, leading to a dismemberment of Europe and economic crisis. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, has warned that “Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the E.U. but also of Western political civilization in its entirety.”

That seems a little much. But we’ve seen the chaos in the Arab world since 2011, and the last thing the globe needs is another arc of instability.

One of the few triumphs of international cooperation of recent years was the joint effort by Britain, France and the United States to defeat Ebola in West Africa. That would have been more difficult if Britain and France were feuding and Europe were facing a deeper economic slump.

Likewise, a nightmare scenario is Russia overwhelming Estonia or its Baltic neighbors, testing NATO’s resolve (a test I’m not 100 percent sure NATO would pass or even survive). Such Russian adventurism is probably more likely if Europe is disintegrating.

Even the debate about Brexit has been poisonous in Britain. After Jo’s murder, a far-right group called National Action wrote of her killer: “#VoteLeave, don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans!”

This is a scary period, compounded by the risk of Europe’s unraveling. It’s time for Britons to remember that immigration and integration have enriched their country as well as challenged it.

Jo Cox never had a chance to respond when her killer reportedly shouted “Britain First.” But in a sense, she already had. In her maiden speech in Parliament, she boasted of her constituency’s traditional English fish and chips — but also of its outstanding curries, made by immigrants. She declared, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Rest in Peace, Jo. I hope Britain remembers your wisdom.

Friedman and Bruni

June 15, 2016

In “Lessons of Hiroshima and Orlando” The Moustache of Wisdom says we need to think about the moral implications of where technology is taking us.  In “A Time to Stand With Gay Americans” Mr. Bruni says don’t scrub the letters L.G.B.T. from what happened in Orlando.  Here’s TMOW:

I want to talk today about the horrific human tragedy of Orlando. But first I want to talk about Hiroshima — or, more precisely, the profound speech that President Obama gave there on May 27 that got lost in all the campaign noise here.

Hiroshima, Obama suggested, represents a world in which for the first time ever a country possessed the power to kill all of us — and if it had to be any country, I am glad it was America. But today, he said, we’re entering a world where small groups — maybe even soon a single super-empowered person — will be able to kill all of us; therefore we’d better start thinking about the moral implications of where technology is taking us.

“Science allows us to communicate across the seas and fly above the clouds, to cure disease and understand the cosmos, but those same discoveries can be turned into ever more efficient killing machines,” the president noted. “The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

What the president was describing is the central strategic issue of our time: the growing mismatch between the combined rapid evolution of our technological prowess and the powers this gives to a single individual or group to destroy at scale (you can make your own gun now with a 3-D-printer), and the pace of our moral and social evolution to govern and use these powers responsibly.

And that brings me to the Orlando massacre — to what happens when, on a smaller scale, we refuse to reimagine the social and legal changes we need to manage a world where one loser can now kill so many innocent people. The notion that such a person — any person — should be able to buy a military-style assault rifle is insane. That the Republican Party cannot see the wisdom of common-sense guns laws is just begging for bigger massacres.

At the same time, year after year, we keep seeing young Muslim men drawing inspiration and permission from Islam to kill large numbers of civilians in the West and, even more so, killing other Muslims in Muslim lands.

I’ve lived too long in the Muslim world, and experienced the decency of Muslim communities, to believe that this is the essence of Islam. But I have seen too much of this suicidal violence for too long to believe that it has nothing to do with the puritanical, anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-female, anti-religious-pluralism versions of Islam that are too often promoted by sources in the Arab world, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The websites, social networks and mosques that promote these intolerant ideas can “light up” lost souls anywhere in the world. Until that stops, we’re just waiting around for the next Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino or Orlando.

And the only thing that can stop them is from the inside: a meaningful mass movement by Muslim governments, clergymen and citizens to delegitimize this behavior. It takes a village and only stops when the village clearly says, “No more!” And that has not happened at the scale and consistency it needs to happen.

Finally, in an age when individuals can become super-empowered, we need to ensure our government has all the surveillance powers it needs — under appropriate judicial review — to monitor and arrest violent extremists of all stripes. The bad guys now have too many tools to elude detection.

Obama closed his speech at Hiroshima with words that could easily have been said of Orlando: “Those who died, they are like us. … They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

We need to make choices appropriate for our age when technology can so amplify the power of one. We need common-sense gun laws, common-sense gender equality and religious pluralism and common-sense privacy laws.

But that takes common-sense leaders, not ones who think the complexities of this age can be bombed away, walled away, willed away or insulted away. Stop for a moment and reflect on what this week would have been like had Donald Trump been president — the carpet-bombing he’d have ordered in the Middle East, the fear and isolation his Muslim ban would have engendered in every Muslim-American, the joy that ISIS would have taken from being at war with all of America, the license this would have given to crazies in our own society to firebomb a mosque. And the backlash that would engender among Muslims around the world, the most radical of whom would be firebombing our embassies. When America goes nuts, the world goes nuts.

I don’t agree with Obama on all aspects of this issue, but the guy is thinking deeply and acting responsibly. Trump is shooting from the hip, spraying insults 360 degrees, telling lies, stoking fears and making threats that many in our military and the F.B.I. would refuse to implement. If you Republican senators and congressmen support Trump for president, he will own you — and you will own everything he does.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Some of June’s gay pride celebrations happened last weekend, but many are still ahead. The one in Louisville, Ky., is among them. There’s a parade scheduled for Friday.

That’s your state, Mitch McConnell. You should go.

If you’re not comfortable marching, mingle on the sidelines. If parades aren’t your thing, make an appearance at one of the other pride events in Kentucky in coming days.

Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of “gay” or “L.G.B.T.” in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre — and in the statements of so many other prominent Republicans — isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign that stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it.

For more than 48 hours, Paul Ryan also seemed to avoid any mention of the kind of nightclub that the Orlando gunman chose and one of the reasons its revelers were marked for death.

On Tuesday morning that silence finally ended, as Ryan told journalists in Washington that he wanted to “be clear.”

“Members of the L.G.B.T. community were the targets,” he said. “They were simply attacked for who they are.”

He thus joined his 2012 running mate, Mitt Romney, who sent out a tweet midday Monday offering “a special prayer for the L.G.B.T. community that was the focus of this attack.”

Ryan also joined Donald Trump, who mentioned L.G.B.T. Americans repeatedly in his formal remarks on Monday afternoon, expressing “solidarity with the members of Orlando’s L.G.B.T. community” and asserting that the gunman wanted “to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation.”

But more conspicuous than what Romney and Trump said was what so many other Republicans didn’t.

Bemoaning the carnage, they justly condemned the Islamic State and violent extremists. They rightly paid tribute to “first responders.”

But this specificity didn’t extend to the lives and loves of the people killed. Even Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, initially sidestepped the subject, failing to emphasize that many of them spent their final terrified minutes in a place where they had sought precisely the comfort and belonging that they didn’t always feel on the other side of its walls.

We still have much to learn about the exact mix of the gunman’s motives. There are reports that he cased other locations. His unhinged diatribes apparently extended to women, blacks and Jews as well as gays.

His past behavior and his call to 911 demonstrated an overarching hatred of America, with its celebration of diversity and individual liberty. The revelers in Pulse epitomized that liberty, and what happened to them is part of a bigger story and a bigger struggle that affect all Americans.

But that doesn’t preclude an acknowledgment of their sexual orientations, and it doesn’t excuse any reluctance to discuss that.

Roman Catholic leaders, too, shied away. Statements by the bishop of Orlando and by the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said nothing about a gay nightclub or gays.

Such omissions so troubled the Rev. James Martin, a best-selling Jesuit author, that he posted a video commentary about them on Facebook on Monday afternoon. Twenty-four hours later, it had been viewed about 700,000 times.

“If the murders had happened, God forbid, in a church of a particular Christian denomination, Catholic leaders would decry the murders and then naturally express their solidarity with members of that denomination,” he said in the video, adding that for the most part, “this was not done for the grieving L.G.B.T. community.”

He told me on Tuesday that there were exceptions, including Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., who wrote a blog post in which he conceded that religion, including Catholicism, “often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,” and that this contempt can lead to violence. Lynch stressed that the Orlando victims “were all made in the image and likeness of God.”

“We teach that,” Lynch wrote. “We should believe that. We must stand for that.”

“We” includes leaders of both parties. If Ted Cruz can mourn Orlando as an attack on gay people — which, in fact, he did — then every other Republican can, too.

This is one of those moments, in the wake of terror, when we find the most apt and evocative ways to underscore our oneness and renounce our fear. When we make grand gestures. When we make pointed ones.

So Majority Leader McConnell, pick your rally. Speaker Ryan, accompany him. Governor Scott, attend the funerals of gay victims. Other Republicans and Democrats, recognize L.G.B.T. Americans with both your words and your presence at gay pride celebrations.

You want to show our enemies what America stands for? Then stand with us.

Friedman, Cohen, and Collins

June 8, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom says we should “Dump the G.O.P. for a Grand New Party.”  He tells us that after much selling out, the Republican Party has become morally bankrupt. We need a New Republican Party to support a healthy two-party system.  Gee, Tommy — how many Friedman Units did it take you to figure that out?  Mr. Cohen considers “Kerrey’s Vietnam Dilemma” and says former  Senator Bob Kerrey should not quit his role at the new Fulbright University Vietnam, despite an outcry over his war record.  Ms. Collins, in “What Hillary Imagines,” says she asked her to pick one person from the past to tell about her historic victory. And, nope, she didn’t pick Susan B. Anthony.  Here’s TMOW:

If a party could declare moral bankruptcy, today’s Republican Party would be in Chapter 11.

This party needs to just shut itself down and start over — now. Seriously, someone please start a New Republican Party!

America needs a healthy two-party system. America needs a healthy center-right party to ensure that the Democrats remain a healthy center-left party. America needs a center-right party ready to offer market-based solutions to issues like climate change. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense gun laws. America needs a center-right party that will support common-sense fiscal policy. America needs a center-right party to support both free trade and aid to workers impacted by it. America needs a center-right party that appreciates how much more complicated foreign policy is today, when you have to manage weak and collapsing nations, not just muscle strong ones.

But this Republican Party is none of those things. Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education — an ethically challenged enterprise that enriches and perpetuates itself by shedding all pretense of standing for real principles, or a truly relevant value proposition, and instead plays on the ignorance and fears of the public.

It is just an empty shell, selling pieces of itself to the highest bidders, — policy by policy — a little to the Tea Party over here, a little to Big Oil over there, a little to the gun lobby, to antitax zealots, to climate-change deniers. And before you know it, the party stands for an incoherent mess of ideas unrelated to any theory of where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century.

It becomes instead a coalition of men and women who sell pieces of their brand to whoever can most energize their base in order for them to get re-elected in order for them to sell more pieces of their brand in order to get re-elected.

And we know just how little they are attached to any principles, because today’s Republican Party’s elders have told us so by (with a few notable exceptions) being so willing to throw their support behind a presidential candidate whom they know is utterly ignorant of policy, has done no homework, has engaged in racist attacks on a sitting judge, has mocked a disabled reporter, has impugned an entire religious community, and has tossed off ignorant proposals for walls, for letting allies go it alone and go nuclear and for overturning trade treaties, rules of war and nuclear agreements in ways that would be wildly destabilizing if he took office.

Despite that, all top G.O.P. leaders say they will still support Donald Trump — even if he’s dabbled in a “textbook definition” of racism, as House Speaker Paul Ryan described it — because he will sign off on their agenda and can do only limited damage given our checks and balances.

Really? Mr. Speaker, your agenda is a mess, Trump will pay even less attention to you if he is president and, as Senator Lindsey Graham rightly put it, there has to be a time “when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Will it ever be that time with this version of the G.O.P.?

Et tu, John McCain? You didn’t break under torture from the North Vietnamese, but your hunger for re-election is so great that you don’t dare raise your voice against Trump? I hope you lose. You deserve to. Marco Rubio? You called Trump “a con man,” he insults your very being and you still endorse him? Good riddance.

Chris Christie, have you not an ounce of self-respect? You’re serving as the valet to a man who claimed, falsely, that on 9/11, in Jersey City, home to many Arab-Americans, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” Christie is backing a man who made up a baldfaced lie about residents of his own state so that maybe he can be his vice president. Contemptible.

This is exactly why so many Republican voters opted for Trump in the first place. They intuited that the only thing these G.O.P. politicians were interested in was holding onto their seats in office — and they were right. It made voters so utterly cynical that many figured, Why not inflict Trump on them? It’s all just a con game anyway. And at least Trump sticks it to all of those politically correct liberals. And anyway, governing doesn’t matter — only attitude.

And who taught them that?

But it does matter. I know so many thoughtful conservatives who know it matters. One of them has got to start the N.R.P. — New Republican Party — a center-right party liberated from all the Trump birthers, the Sarah Palins, the Grover Norquists, the Sean Hannitys, the Rush Limbaughs, the gun lobby, the oil lobby and every other narrow-interest group, a party that redefines a principled conservatism. Raise your money for it on the internet. If Bernie Sanders can, you can.

This is such a pivotal moment; the world we shaped after W.W. II is going wobbly. This is a time for America to be at its best, defending its best values, which are now under assault in so many places — pluralism, immigration, democracy, trade, the rule of law and the virtue of open societies. Trump will never be a credible messenger, or a messenger at all, for those values. A New Republican Party can be.

If you build it, they will come.

With all due respect, Tommy, bullshit.  The proles have voted for what could be expected after 40 years of Republican dog whistle politics.  The only difference is that Trump has put down the dog whistle and picked up a klaxon.  And now, of course, TPTB in Washington have all taken to their fainting couches, clutching their pearls, and wondering how on earth it has all come to this…  You sowed the wind, now you’re reaping the whirlwind.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen, writing from Ho Chi Minh City:

Lives can turn in an instant. For former Senator Bob Kerrey, that moment came on Feb. 25, 1969, when, as a young lieutenant in the Navy SEALs, he led his squad into the Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong. By the time they withdrew, 20 civilians had been slaughtered, including 13 children, according to survivors.

“It haunted me from the moment we pulled out of the area,” Kerrey told me in a telephone conversation. “I knew we had done something wrong. I did not walk away saying that was great. It did not go away. But if you don’t adjust you end your life, and we are talking, so I did not end my life.”

In fact, Kerrey went to work to build a special relationship between the United States and Vietnam. He was an early advocate of the normalization through which many wounds have healed. Trade has flourished. The rapturous reception extended last month to President Obama — the warmest accorded by any nation during his presidency, as he confided to an American diplomat — was a measure of an almost miraculous reconciliation.

One area in which Kerrey has worked hard is education, both as senator and later as president of the New School in New York. For many years he helped to raise money for a project Obama announced: the opening of the Fulbright University Vietnam, the first such private institution in the country. Financed in part by the U.S. Congress, the school will accept its first students next year. Kerrey has been named chairman of the board.

The appointment has ignited a storm. From cafes to Facebook a debate rages on whether Kerrey is fit to head the university. Some people say that, whatever his contrition, his admission that he ordered the killing in cold blood of Vietnamese women and children disqualifies him. (Whether Kerrey himself killed civilians is still disputed.)

Kerrey was awarded a Bronze Star after his unit falsely reported that it had killed 21 Vietcong guerrillas. For more than 30 years he kept silent until The New York Times and CBS News were about to publish a joint investigation in 2001.

I asked Kerrey if all his efforts on behalf of Vietnam had a redemptive purpose. He said the episode and his work were “a double helix,” inseparable from each other. I asked him about his long silence. “For a soldier in a war,” he said, “to keep silent is not an anomaly but a rule.” I asked him about the medal. “I have never worn it,” he said, “and the anger would not end if I mailed it back to the Department of Defense.”

It is human — in fact it is uniquely human — to seek redemption. The crime begets a reproachful whisper that will not be stilled. In every war I have covered, from Beirut to Bosnia, I have listened to men (always men) recount moments that left shame — the terrorizing of a child in a quest for intelligence, the abandonment of a son encircled by the enemy. More than one million innocent Vietnamese civilians were killed; Kerrey’s story is one of many. We were not there in the heat, in the night, in that tension, with that responsibility. I listen to Kerrey and think: There but for the grace of God go I.

“I don’t believe in redemption,” Kerrey told me. “Do good deeds undo a bad deed? I don’t think that. You cannot change your past. You can only change the future.”

To go through this pain again (“Part of me wants to run away from it,” he told me) is a gauge of Kerrey’s commitment. It is brave. I understand Pham Thuy Huong of Hanoi, who wrote on Facebook, “I cannot look at his face.” I listen to Kerrey and think also of Bui Van Vat, a 65-year-old grandfather whose throat was slit, survivors said. The elevation of peace over grievance involves wrestling with impossible moral dilemmas. Acceptance that there is no wholly satisfactory answer is part of moving forward.

Nguyen Ngoc Chu, a mathematician, suggested in a statement supporting Kerrey that there were valuable lessons in the discussion for the university’s first students: that every judgment requires historical context; that successful people live for the future rather than in past hatreds.

Certainly, this unusually vigorous and open debate is an example of what the university should embody in a country under one-party rule. As Ben Wilkinson, the executive director of the Trust for University Innovation in Vietnam, the nonprofit corporation behind the project, told me, “The university will be a major advance for organized civil society.”

Kerrey should resist calls to quit. As no other, he embodies the agony of overcoming war’s legacy. But he should send back that medal. He should push for the establishment of a Bui Van Vat fellowship in international humanitarian law. And he should ensure that somewhere on campus the words with which Muhammad Ali explained his conscience-driven refusal of the draft are engraved: “I ain’t got nothing against them Vietcong.”

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Hillary Clinton. First woman presidential nominee.

Okay, of a major political party. We’re not going into the minor-party exceptions since that would require a lengthy discussion of Victoria Woodhull in 1872. Under normal circumstances, Woodhull would certainly be worth talking about, given the faith healing and the brokerage firm and the obscenity trial. But this is Hillary’s moment.

“It’s really emotional,” she said in a speech this week. Clinton brings up the first-woman thing a lot, and the idea of showing little girls that they can be “anything you want to be. Even President of the United States.” For many young women, that’s actually old news, since Hillary the potential president has been around most of their lives. Back when she was first elected to the Senate in 2000, the coverage was so omnipresent that my niece Anna, who was around 3, asked my sister whether it was possible for a man to be a senator.

The people who get most excited are the ones who remember how things used to be, back when girls couldn’t envision being in the Little League, let alone the White House. And can you imagine going back in history and sharing Clinton’s news with the suffragists? This is one of my favorite mind games – pretend you’re returning to 1872 and telling the story to Susan B. Anthony while she was being handcuffed for the crime of voting while female.

Or there’s the other route of telling some historical figure who would faint with horror. Like Thomas Jefferson – wouldn’t you want to see his face? We all know how good Jefferson was on freedom of speech, but he was possibly the worst sexist in the very competitive group known as the Founding Fathers. (“Our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe and calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate.”)

But Clinton wouldn’t want this to be a moment for rancor. So I asked for her own pick.

And her answer was: if she could go into the past to tell someone that she’d been nominated for President of the United States, it would be her mother.

Dorothy Rodham had an auspicious date of birth — June 4, 1919, the very same day the Senate passed a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. But otherwise, she had a terrible beginning. Her parents abandoned her. At 8, she was riding across the country, unaccompanied except for her younger sister, on the way to live with grandparents who didn’t want them. She went off on her own at 14, working as a housekeeper during the Depression. But she got herself through high school, was a good student and raised her own daughter to believe the sky was the limit.

Before we head off on the rest of this deeply imperfect election, take a second and enjoy. Imagine Hillary Clinton going back in time. She sits in the train next to a frightened little girl, and delivers the news about what happened this week.

Friedman, solo

June 1, 2016

In “Politicians and the Lies That Matter” The Moustache of Wisdom says that some whoppers could affect the whole country.  Here he is:

Your Honor, I rise this week in defense of Hillary Clinton.

I see from polls that Hillary scores very low on “trustworthy” questions. Well, let’s talk about truth in politics. All politicians shade the truth at times. Some do it more than others. Indeed, when Donald Trump tells the truth, it should be labeled “Breaking News — Trump tells truth without immediately contradicting himself. We’re going live to the scene right now.”

Here is what is relevant: Lying is serious business. But Hillary’s fibs or lack of candor are all about bad judgments she made on issues that will not impact the future of either my family or my country. Private email servers? Cattle futures? Goldman Sachs lectures? All really stupid, but my kids will not be harmed by those poor calls. Debate where she came out on Iraq and Libya, if you will, but those were considered judgment calls, and if you disagree don’t vote for her.

But while Hillary’s struggles with the whole truth on certain issues have garnered huge attention, driving up her negatives, Trump and Bernie Sanders have been getting away with some full Burger King Double Whoppers that will come crashing down on the whole country if either gets the chance to do what he says.

Trump told a biker rally in Washington on Sunday: “When you think of the great General Patton and all our generals, they are spinning in their graves when they watch we can’t beat ISIS. … We are going to knock the hell out of them.” Then, for good measure, he repeated his longstanding call to build a wall along the Mexican border, and when he asked who would pay for it, the crowd shouted in unison: “Mexico!” Trump added, “Not even a doubt.”

Really, not even a doubt? Why hasn’t President Obama been a “real man” and just carpet-bombed ISIS off the face of the earth? Answer: 1.) ISIS is embedded in urban areas, among Iraqi and Syrian civilians, so we can’t carpet-bomb the terrorists without killing all the civilians around them. 2.) If Obama sent the 82nd Airborne into Mosul and wiped out ISIS, after horrific door-to-door fighting, the morning after the battle we would own Mosul, because there is no agreement among Sunni tribes there, let alone the Kurds, Shiites and neighboring Turkey, over who should control Mosul post-ISIS. In other words, we’d be stuck governing it. So Obama is trying to squeeze ISIS with one hand while trying to squeeze Iraqis to come together around a post-ISIS order with the other.

It’s called being strategic and General Patton would be applauding from his grave.

On Mexico, please tell me why it would pay for a multibillion-dollar wall on our border and how we would compel our neighbor to do so and what impact that would have on U.S. companies? To act as if those are not even issues is fraud.

Trump’s tax plan? The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that it would decrease tax revenues over 10 years by $11.2 trillion, and since Trump has ruled out entitlement cuts, he would need to slash all discretionary federal spending by 80 percent — that’s where the defense, research and education budgets come from. This is not just magical thinking, it’s nonsense, and if Trump implemented half of it, your kids would pay dearly.

As for Sanders, he is promising to break up the big banks. Under what legal authority? What would be the economic fallout? And how would this raise stagnant incomes for middle-class Americans? Bernie mumbles on these questions.

The Tax Policy Center said in a study of Sanders’s full economic plan, including free health care, with no premiums or co-pays, and free college education, more generous Social Security benefits and 12 weeks of family leave, “Even though Sanders would raise taxes on nearly all households by a total of more than $15 trillion over the next decade, his plan still would add an additional $18 trillion (plus at least $3 trillion in interest) to the national debt over the period” and thereby “create an enormous fiscal challenge.” Even eliminating the defense budget wouldn’t come close to balancing his books.

If you’re a college student “feeling the Bern,” I hope you’re wearing sunscreen, because if Sanders wins, you and your kids will be paying for his cash burn for eternity.

All lying in politics is not created equal. I think the ideology Bernie is selling is fanciful, but underlying it is a moral critique of modern capitalism that has merit and deserves to be heard. But Bernie is not being truthful about the costs. What is grating about Hillary is that her prevarications seem so unnecessary and often insult our intelligence. But they are not about existential issues. As for Trump, his lies are industrial size and often contradict each other. But there is no theory behind his lies, except what will advance him, which is why Trump is only scary if he wins. Otherwise, his candidacy will leave no ideas behind. It will just be a reality TV show that got canceled.

This is serious. We’re about to elect all three branches of our government. I wish we had better choices, but given the options, I’d vote for the candidate who is most likely to be a practical unifier and get some things done — and who only tells whoppers about herself, not about my country’s future.

Friedman and Bruni

May 25, 2016

In “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that in his scheme, his country may suffer but he survives.  Mr. Bruni ponders a question in “Trumping on Eggshells:”  Do his relatives support Donald Trump? He doesn’t want to know.  Here’s TMOW:

Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique. But a lot of it is also driven by Israel’s desire to destroy itself — thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Netanyahu is a man who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never crossing it, always teasing you (“I’m coming your way — I’m going to make a decision”), only to remain right where he is, balancing between all his rivals, so that he alone survives. Meanwhile, Israel sinks ever deeper into a de facto binational state controlled by Jewish extremists.

Soon, this newspaper will have to call Netanyahu what he’s made himself into: “Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine.”

I raise this now because Israel under Netanyahu has gone from bad to worse. He just forced out Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon, a former army chief of staff, is a very decent man — a soldier’s soldier, determined to preserve the Israeli Army as a people’s army that aspires to the highest standards of integrity in the middle of a very dangerous neighborhood.

Netanyahu plans to replace Yaalon with the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, who boasts he could not care less what American Jews think about how Israel is behaving and a man whom, Haaretz reported, was only recently dismissed by Bibi’s team as “a petty prattler,” unfit to be even a military analyst, and whose closest brush with a real battle was dodging a “tennis ball.”

Lieberman, when he has not been under investigation for corruption, has mused about blowing up Egypt’s Aswan Dam, denounced Israelis who want Israel to get out of the West Bank as traitors and praised an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head as he was lying on the ground awaiting medical attention.

Describing Netanyahu’s dumping of Yaalon for Lieberman, Yediot Aharonot columnist Nahum Barnea wrote, “Instead of presenting to the world a more moderate government ahead of the diplomatic battles to come in the fall, Netanyahu is presenting the most radical government to ever exist in Israeli history.”

Yaalon himself warned, “Extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement and are destabilizing our home and threatening to harm its inhabitants.” Former Labor Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli government by dangerous elements.” Former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz that Bibi and his far-right cronies “insulted not only Yaalon, they insulted the I.D.F. [Israeli Army]. It’s a people’s army.”

This whole episode started March 24 when Azaria, a medic, was caught on video shooting the wounded Palestinian. He was one of two Palestinians armed with knives who had stabbed an Israeli soldier, lightly wounding him. Azaria just decided on his own to kill him.

Yaalon and the Army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, reacted swiftly, saying this is not how the Israeli Army behaves. Azaria was charged with manslaughter and inappropriate military conduct. At first Netanyahu, too, said the killing violated the army’s values, but when his settler base came out in favor of the killing, Netanyahu shifted, urging the court to take a balanced view of what happened. Lieberman actually went to the court to show support for Azaria.

All of this deeply troubled Yaalon and the army leadership, and it erupted on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day when the army’s deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, speaking to the nation, said, “It’s scary to see horrifying developments that took place in Europe begin to unfold here.” Yes, you read that right.

Netanyahu slammed Golan, but Yaalon, in an address to the army’s top generals, said, “Keep acting in accordance with your humane conscience and moral compass, and not according to which way the winds are blowing.”

So Netanyahu, who only acts the way the wind blows, purged Yaalon. With that move, said the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal, we are witnessing “Israel’s ruling party being transformed from a hawkish nationalist party that used to have a humanitarian and democratic base, into an ultranationalist party that is now defined by turning against the ‘enemies’ from within — the courts, the NGOs, the education system, the Arab minority and now, the army — anyone who stands in the way of their project of permanent occupation of the West Bank. Having failed to deliver a solution for the enemies on the outside, so now Likud is focused on the enemies inside. This is a major transformation in Israel and should be looked upon with great concern.” The army’s leadership, added Halbertal, “is trying to transcend this war of all against all and impose moral order on chaos rather than inflame it for narrow political gains.”

Netanyahu does just the opposite. For those of us who care about Israel’s future, this is a dark hour.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I recently asked a good friend where her boss stood on Donald Trump.

This wasn’t an idle question. Her boss gives big money to Republican candidates. He’s both power broker and weather vane. And she talks politics with him all the time.

But she has no idea about him and Trump. She hasn’t inquired, because she doesn’t want to know. She’s fond of her boss. She respects him. But what if he’s made peace with a candidate who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, mocked a disabled journalist, belittled John McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war, praised Vladimir Putin’s thuggish leadership style, complimented the Chinese government on its brutal handling of the uprising in Tiananmen Square, made misogynistic remarks galore and boasted during a debate about the size of his penis?

She can’t go there.

I understand.

I have many relatives who loyally vote Republican, regardless of their excitement about the particular nominee. There’s a definite chance that some of them back Trump. So I steer clear of talk about this election, though we’ve spoken plenty — and placidly — about every other election.

One of these relatives routinely pushes back at any Trump-negative columns I write, and I’ve convinced myself that he’s just baiting me and playing devil’s advocate. I’ve never said to him, point blank, “Are you actually voting for Trump?” And I won’t. It’s my goal to get to and through Election Day without learning the truth.

There are various measures of the chilling singularity of Trump’s candidacy, including the last two Republican presidents’ announcement that they won’t be attending their party’s convention, all the prominent G.O.P. donors who have publicly rejected Trump and the stubborn drumbeat among some Republicans for a third-party challenger, if only as a means to assure Hillary Clinton’s victory. These are extraordinary developments. We mustn’t forget that.

But another gauge of this freaky interlude is the number of us who are steadfastly avoiding conversations we’d normally have. We pride ourselves on not letting political arguments disrupt personal relationships. We have friends across the ideological spectrum. We esteem leaders from both parties. We value a healthy give-and-take.

But we can’t fit Trump into that. He’s a disagreement too far, an enthusiasm too bizarre. So we’re treading lightly and maneuvering around him. We’re Trumping on eggshells.

That’s not the same as burying our heads in the sand, and it’s not a squandered opportunity to dissuade someone from Trump. Most Trump supporters aren’t ignorant of the litany I presented above. They’ve decided not to be bothered by it. They’ve crafted a counterargument. I’ve heard it.

At least he’s not Clinton, they say. True. Neither is Kim Kardashian. Shall we elect her? Her husband, Kanye West, has said that he might run in 2020. Let’s accelerate the timetable and speed the couple to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump has a furtive decency and unsung sensitive side, or so his boosters claim. They cite his relationship with his grown children. You know who else is an obviously loving and beloved parent? Clinton. You know who had a strained relationship with his kids? Ronald Reagan. If that wasn’t a mark against him, why is the opposite a gold star for Trump?

But Trump will be a competent executive! Let’s assume that’s so. Will he be executing a Muslim ban? In that case, wouldn’t incompetence be preferable?

Enough about the Muslim ban, his accommodators respond: He doesn’t believe in three-quarters of what he puts out there. It’s all theater.

Great! So what does he believe in? Are we supposed to guess and hope for the best? And will his theatrical impulse dissipate when he takes the oath of office? Or will it flare now and again, sending markets into turmoil and ships into battle?

With Clinton, they say, we get the status quo. With Trump we get disruption.

Possibly. But disruption cuts many different ways. And Trump’s particular disruption could leave us in shreds.

To some of us, Trump is a fundamentally unserious person, and thus a dangerous one. To others, he’s a vessel of grievance and protest, and that’s enough. The chasm between those viewpoints isn’t easily bridged. So we take detours around it. They’re as elaborate as cloverleafs.

Friends have asked me about the leanings of other friends, because they shudder to find out for themselves. Relatives have grilled me on other relatives. I’m acquainted with anti-Trump Republicans who have purged the billionaire from their discourse with Trump-acquiescent Republicans, simply so they can press on.

There will be epic ugliness in the foreground of this election. But pockets of silence in the background will be just as unsettling, because they’ll reflect a despair and bafflement beyond words.

Friedman and Bruni

May 18, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has some advice for Teh Donald.  In “Donald, Save Your Golf Greens, and the Planet” he says Trump could protect his financial interest, America’s interest and his grandkids’ if he embraced the reality of climate change.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  If it doesn’t involve tweeting or insulting someone Teh Donald ain’t interested.  Mr. Bruni, in “Where Republican Dreams Die?”, says in a tumultuous patch of the South, some of 2016’s biggest themes and questions will play out.  Here’s TMOW:

MEMO TO: DONALD TRUMP

FROM: TOM FRIEDMAN

SUBJECT: GOLF COURSES

Dear Donald,

It’s been a while since we talked on the practice tee at Doral. (Nice course you built.) I am only going to do this once, but I am going to offer you some free advice — and it’s about all the things you love most: yourself, your kids, winning, money and golf. Have I got a deal for you …

You see, Donald, I was looking at all the golf courses you own. Some of them are real gems, like Doral, Turnberry, Doonbeg, Palm Beach, Aberdeenshire. But you know what else I noticed? How many of them are on or near coastlines. And do you know what’s going to happen to those golf courses, Donald, if the climate scientists are even half right? They’re going to go from oceanfront property to ocean-floor property. Because ice melt and sea level rise are going to threaten all of them. Here’s a July 21, 2015, story from Weather.com:

“As our seas continue to rise, some cities, like Miami, are planning to spend billions on revamping infrastructure. But some scientists say sea level rise will lead to another phenomenon in South Florida, and local leaders need to start preparing for it now. The region that’s home to thousands of high-priced homes nestled against the water is expected to be threatened directly by the rising seas in the coming decades, and when the harsh reality sets in, a mass exodus could commence. … In short, there’s no way to save South Florida, and lawmakers should start to prepare for millions to move north. … More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. … ‘This is not a future problem. It’s a current problem,’ Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, told PBS.”

In other words, Donald, there is no candidate in this race who is more exposed to climate change than … you. And I am not talking only about your coastal golf courses. Global warming doesn’t mean the weather, on average, just gets hotter. It means the weather gets weirder. You get more weather extremes — hotter hot days, wetter wet ones, longer droughts, fiercer storms, heavier snows.

The Climate Wire quoted a United States Golf Association turf expert in August 2014 as saying that “individual golfers and club leadership are becoming aware that these are real issues.” I can only imagine what this will mean for insurance rates for golf course. And that was before Nature magazine published a new study in March indicating that sea levels could rise almost twice as much as previously predicted by the end of the century — “an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe,” as The Washington Post noted, unless we curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Ask your golf course greens keepers how many of them think climate change is a hoax?

So here’s the advice: I know that you’ve tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Just as an aside, Donald, that’s incredibly stupid. The Chinese are ahead of us in putting a price on carbon because they can’t breathe.) But let’s put that aside. We both know that you know as much about climate change as you did about abortion rights and the nuclear triad. It was just one of those things you put out there to keep you looking like a Republican good ol’ boy.

Donald, you’ve done something truly revolutionary: You’ve single-handedly reshaped the agenda of the Republican Party, mixing some left-of-center and centrist positions with the G.O.P.’s traditional right-of-center stuff. You should do the same now, embrace the reality of climate change and vow as president that you will be “huge, huuuuuge” on this issue — that “I’ll make the whole planet great again.”

It would be in your financial interest, America’s interest and your grandkids’ interest. Nobody who voted for you in the primaries did so because of climate, except maybe coal miners in West Virginia. Your base does not care about this issue, and, by the way, all their kids are telling them climate change is real. The reason the G.O.P. has its head in the sand on climate is the oil companies force it to. But you don’t need Big Oil’s money.

Here’s what you need: some Bernie Sanders voters. You can’t win without some of them. And they’re all greens. If you promised to take climate change seriously, you’d make it much easier for some of them, who dislike Hillary, to hold their noses and vote for you. You’d also get a lot of other people to give you a second look. Most important, it would tip the G.O.P. on this issue.

Cards on the table, Donald, I won’t be voting for you. But if you really want to make this race interesting, continue to reshape the G.O.P., raise the odds of winning Florida, preserve your wealth and do something to make America great again, tweet this: “Talked to some scientists, smartest in the world, changing position on climate change. Feeling the burn. Gotta protect our kids.”

After all, Donald, you don’t want to be remembered as the politician who’ll be the answer to the question, “Who lost Florida?”

If TMOW thinks any Sanders supporters will go to Trump I’d love to have some of what he’s smoking.  Here’s Mr. Bruni, writing from Raleigh, NC:

Ohio and Florida. Florida and Ohio. What a pair of election-year divas, always preening for the pundits. Enough. There are other comely swing states on the stage.

Let’s gawk at North Carolina.

If Donald Trump drags down Republicans across the board, this is one of the places where they’ll flail. Its Republican governor, nearing the end of a tumultuous first term, is in trouble. One of the state’s two Republican senators is facing a tougher re-election battle than was predicted just months ago. Democrats are circling. Make that drooling.

Although purple, North Carolina turned deceptively red over the last few years, and Republican lawmakers have behaved with a potentially suicidal swagger. In the process they’ve managed to enrage corporate America, exposing a newly profound tension in the G.O.P. between its business-minded wing and the religious right.

Some of the most interesting crosswinds of American politics blow through this state.

In 2008 it voted for Barack Obama — by a margin of just .32 percent. Enthusiasm for him helped to propel Democratic women to the Senate and the governor’s office.

Both are gone now, replaced by Republican men, and Mitt Romney won the state narrowly in 2012. But the more sweeping change has been in the state legislature, where an overwhelming Republican majority took hold and hurtled forward (or, rather, backward).

Take the recently passed measure known as H.B. 2. It’s the law that mandates that people use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, gambled that it would energize elements of the party’s base.

But it went much, much further than that supposed solution to a nonexistent problem, overriding local anti-discrimination statutes. Many prominent companies denounced it. Some withdrew business from the state — or are threatening to. Conventions have been canceled. Tourism has declined. By some estimates, the state has already lost tens of millions of dollars.

“I’m talking to businesspeople all the time,” Deborah Ross told me when I sat down with her in Raleigh last week. “They are livid.”

Ross is the Democratic challenger to Senator Richard Burr. She’s a fierce underdog: an articulate, energetic lawyer who served for decades in the legislature. She’d be the third woman sent to the Senate by North Carolinians, after Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan.

But her résumé also includes work for the A.C.L.U., and Republicans detect a gold mine of negative ads. I wager that the Koch brothers and other big G.O.P. donors will flood this state with money. How much could be decisive.

There are other pivotal questions, reflecting crucial dynamics around the country.

Will new voter-identification laws hurt Democrats? Since the last presidential election, Republicans here significantly tightened rules and requirements — and not out of the goodness of their hearts.

Which demographic and economic trends will hold the greatest sway? North Carolina is America in miniature: Its minority population has grown and it has urbanized, developments that favor Democrats, but it has also hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, so it brims with the sorts of displaced workers who’ve rallied to Trump.

A recent Pew Research Center study listed three of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas among the 10 nationally that had “lost the most in economic status” between 2000 and 2014. By that measure, it fared worse than any Rust Belt state.

“There’s a lot of economic anxiety here, mixed with race and cultural change, that will keep Trump and other Republicans viable,” said Ferrel Guillory, a longtime analyst of state politics who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Can Republicans profit from a culture war? They failed with H.B. 2. But the Obama administration’s new directive advising schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity may scramble the situation, allowing the G.O.P. to pin the charge of overreach on the federal government.

“There’s a possibility that the Obama directive is something of a lifeline to Republicans,” said Pope McCorkle, a former Democratic consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Just how toxic is Trump? McCorkle noted, with a chuckle, that the state’s Democrats have usually been the ones fretting about their party’s presidential nominee: “Do you go to the airport to greet him? Touch him? Allow a picture?”

“What’s interesting,” he added, “is how much the shoe is on the other foot this time.” Burr hasn’t said whether he’ll campaign with Trump.

Perhaps he noticed several polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a lead over Trump in a head-to-head matchup in this state, which has 15 electoral votes, just three fewer than Ohio. It matters. And it’s ready for its close-up.

Friedman and Bruni

May 11, 2016

In “Trump’s Miss Universe Foreign Policy” The Moustache of Wisdom says he based it on a beauty pageant, a convenience store and statements of fiction.  Mr. Bruni, in “Obama’s Gorgeous Goodbye,” says as he prepares to exit, the president makes a final plea about cooperation and common purpose.  Here’s TMOW:

O.K., it’s easy to pick on Donald Trump’s foreign policy. But just because he recently referred to the attack on the World Trade Center as happening on “7/11” — which is a convenience store — instead of 9/11, and just because he claimed that “I know Russia well” because he held a “major event in Russia two or three years ago — [the] Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event” — doesn’t make him unqualified.

I’m sure you can learn a lot schmoozing with Miss Argentina. You can also learn a lot eating at the International House of Pancakes. I never fully understood Arab politics until I ate hummus — or was it Hamas?

And, by the way, just because Trump’s big foreign policy speech was salted with falsehoods — like “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libyan oil” — it doesn’t make him unqualified.

The New York Times Magazine just profiled one of the president’s deputy national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, reporting how he and his aides boasted of using social media, what the writer called a “largely manufactured” narrative, and a pliant press to, in essence, dupe the country into supporting the Iran nuclear deal. The Donald is not the only one given to knuckleheaded bluster and misrepresentation on foreign policy.

Life is imitating Twitter everywhere now.

Indeed, criticizing Trump for inconsistency when it comes to foreign policy is a bit rich when you consider that both Democrats and Republicans have treated Pakistan as an ally, knowing full well that its secret service has trucked with terrorists and coddled the Taliban — the people killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; they’ve both treated Saudi Arabia as an ally because we needed its oil, knowing full well that its export of Salafist Islam has fueled jihadists; they both supported decapitating Libya and then not staying around to support a new security order, thus opening a gaping hole on the African coast for migrants to flow into Europe; they’ve both supported NATO expansion into Russia’s face and then wondered aloud why the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is so truculent.

No, if I were critiquing Trump’s foreign policy views it would not be on inconsistency, hypocrisy or lying. It would be that he shows no sign of having asked the most important question: What are the real foreign policy challenges the next president will face? I don’t think he has a clue, because if he did, he wouldn’t want the job. This is one of the worst times to be conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Consider some of the questions that will greet the Oval Office’s next occupant. For starters, what does the new president do when the necessary is impossible but the impossible is necessary? Yes, we’ve proved in Iraq and Afghanistan that we don’t know how to do nation-building in other people’s countries. But just leaving Libya, Syria and parts of Iraq and Yemen ungoverned, and spewing out refugees, has led to a flood of migrants hitting Europe and stressing the cohesion of the European Union; that refugee flood could very well lead to Britain’s exit from the E.U.

President Obama has been patting himself on the back a lot lately for not intervening in Syria. I truly sympathized with how hard that call was — until I heard the president and his aides boasting about how smart their decision was and how stupid all their critics are. The human and geopolitical spillover from Syria is not over. It’s destabilizing the E.U., Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan and Jordan. The choices are hellish. I would not want the responsibility for making them. But nobody has a monopoly on genius here, and neither Obama’s victory lap around this smoldering ruin nor Trump’s bombastic and simplistic solutions are pretty to watch.

And there are more of these stressors coming: Falling oil prices, climate change and population bombs are going to blow up more weak states, hemorrhaging refugees in all directions.

There’s also the question of what you should do about the networked nihilists? Ever since the rise of Osama bin Laden, super-empowered angry men have challenged us. But at least Bin Laden had an identifiable cause and set of demands: cleansing the Arabian Peninsula of Western influence. But now we are seeing a mutation. Can anyone tell me what the terrorists who killed all those people in Brussels, Paris or San Bernardino wanted? They didn’t even leave a note; their act was their note. These suicidal jihadist-nihilists are not trying to win; they just want to make us lose. That’s a tough foe. They can’t destroy us — now — but they will ratchet up the pain if they get the ammo. Curbing them while maintaining an open society, with personal privacy on your cellphone and the Internet, will be a challenge.

And then there are Russia and China. They’re back in the game of traditional sphere-of-influence geopolitics. But both Russia and China face huge economic strains that will tempt their leaders to distract attention at home with nationalist adventures abroad.

The days of clear-cut, satisfying victories overseas, like opening up China or tearing down the Berlin Wall, are over. U.S. foreign policy now is all about containing disorder and messes. It is the exact opposite of running a beauty pageant. There’s no winner, and each contestant is uglier than the last.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

In this twilight of his presidency, Barack Obama is unlikely to deliver much in the way of meaningful legislation.

But he’s giving us a pointed, powerful civics lesson.

Consider his speech to new graduates of Howard University last weekend. While it brimmed with the usual kudos for hard work, it also bristled with caveats about the mistakes that he sees some young people making.

He chided them for demonizing enemies and silencing opponents. He cautioned them against a sense of grievance too exaggerated and an outrage bereft of perspective. “If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, ‘young, gifted and black’ in America, you would choose right now,” he said. “To deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”

He was by no means telling them to be satisfied, and he wasn’t talking only or even chiefly to them. He was talking to all of us — to America — and saying: enough. Enough with a kind of identity politics that can shove aside common purpose. Enough with a partisanship so caustic that it bleeds into hatred.

Enough with such deafening sound and blinding fury in our public debate. They make for entertainment, not enlightenment, and stand in the way of progress.

His remarks at Howard were an extension of those in his final State of the Union address in January and of those to the Illinois General Assembly in February, nine years to the day after he announced his history-making bid for the presidency. The Illinois speech, wise and gorgeous, received less attention than it deserved.

“We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas,” he said then. Otherwise, he warned, “Extreme voices fill the void.” This current presidential campaign has borne him out.

Obama detractors and skeptics probably hear in all of this a professorial haughtiness that has plagued him and alienated them before. And there’s legitimate disagreement about the degree to which he has been an agent as well as a casualty of the poisoned environment he rues. His administration’s actions haven’t always been as high-minded as his words.

But we should all listen to him nonetheless, for several reasons.

One is that he’s not just taking jabs at opponents. He’s issuing challenges to groups — African-Americans, college students — from whom he has drawn strong support and with whom he has real credibility.

“We must expand our moral imaginations,” he told black students at Howard, imploring them to recognize “the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.”

Just two weeks earlier, at a town-hall-style meeting in London, hevolunteered a critique of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that once “elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can’t just keep on yelling at them.”

Another reason to listen to Obama is the accuracy and eloquence with which he’s diagnosing current ills. In Illinois he noted that while ugly partisanship has always existed, it’s fed in our digital era by voters’ ability to curate information from only those news sources and social-media feeds that echo and amplify their prejudices.

“We can choose our own facts,” he lamented. “We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.” Advocacy groups often make matters worse, he added, by “keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.”

At Howard, Obama insisted that change “requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.”

“If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want,” he continued. “So don’t try to shut folks out. Don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.”

At this late point, his message isn’t a self-serving one about the political climate that he personally wants to operate in and benefit from. It’s about the climate that would serve everyone best. If it draws attention to the improvements that he pledged but couldn’t accomplish, he’s O.K. with that. It still needs saying.

And so he’s fashioning this blunt, soulful goodbye, a reflection on our troubled democracy that, I fear, will be lost in the din of the Trump-Clinton death match. It brings him full circle, from the audacity to the tenacity of hope.

Friedman and Bruni

May 4, 2016

In “Trump and the Lord’s Work” The Moustache of Wisdom says that in order to get the nation’s politics unstuck, the intransigent version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed.  Mr. Bruni considers “Ted Cruz’s Bitter End” and says sour, smug and nakedly ambitious, the Texas senator was never built to go the distance.  To which I say “Thank God!”  Here’s TMOW:

Like many others, I watched the video that President Obama showed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday of him inviting former House Speaker John Boehner over to solicit his advice on what Obama should do post-presidency. It was remarkable to see the real Boehner and the real Obama acting like best buddies in the White House movie theater. Boehner even tells Obama that he finally got a “grand bargain” — only it was on a Chevy Tahoe, not the one they tried to negotiate on the economy.

I watched that video with Chuck Todd, the host of “Meet the Press,” and he had the exact same reaction I had: “Where was that brotherly love when America needed it” for a real grand bargain?

That scene plucked the deepest emotional chord in the country today: The nonstop fighting between our two political parties has left many Americans feeling like the children of two permanently divorcing parents. The country is starved to see its two major parties do big hard things together again. And getting a glimpse — even just a pretend one — of Obama and Boehner teaming up reminds you what’s been lost.

I think what’s propelling Donald Trump’s success more than anything is the feeling of many Americans that our politics are totally stuck. There is an overwhelming sense of “stuckness” — and the fantasy that Trump plays to, and plays up, is that he can pull the sword from the stone and do deals. No one was more responsible for this “stuckness,” though, than today’s Republican Party. When Mitch McConnell, the G.O.P. leader in the Senate, said in October 2010 that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” he described the Republicans’ dominant strategy since 2008. The party stopped thinking seriously about market-based alternatives. Into that emptiness entered Trump, like an invasive species.

This was a really bad time for us to be stuck. I’m just finishing writing a new book, which is partly about the inflection point we hit around 2007. In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone, beginning the smartphone/apps revolution; in late 2006 Facebook opened its doors to anyone, not just college and high school students, and took off like a rocket; Google came out with the Android operating system in 2007; Hadoop launched in 2007, helping create the storage/processing power for the big data revolution; Github, launched in 2007, scaling open-source software; Twitter was spun off as its own separate platform in 2007. Amazon came out with the Kindle in 2007. Airbnb started in 2007.

In short, on the eve of Obama’s presidency, something big happened:Everything started getting digitized and made mobile — work, commerce, billing, finance, education — reshaping the economy. A lot of things started to get very fast all at once. It was precisely when we needed to double down on our formula for success and update it for a new era — more lifelong learning opportunities for every worker, better infrastructure (roads, airports, rails and bandwidth) to promote the flow of commerce, better rules to incentivize risk-taking and prevent recklessness, better immigration policies to attract the world’s smartest minds, and more government-funded research to push out the boundaries of science and sow the seeds for the next generation of start-ups.

That was the real grand bargain we needed. Instead, we had the 2008 economic meltdown, which set off more polarization, and way too much gridlock, given how much rethinking, reimagining and retooling we needed to do. In this vortex a lot of the public got unmoored and disoriented, opening the way for populists with simple answers. Get rid of immigrants, end trade with China or eliminate big banks and all will be fine. It’s nonsense.

We got strong as a country through democracy and capitalism. We got rich as a country through trade. We got smart and powerful as a country through immigration. We got fair as a country through Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare. They all lead to vastly more winners than losers. This is no time to lose confidence in what got us here. If you’re running for president and are not for all these things, you’re wrong — and I hope you lose.

But if you’re for these things only as they now exist, you’re also wrong. Each one needs retooling. It’s clear: Free trade with China has hurt more people than originally thought. It’s clear: Low-skilled illegal immigration has hurt more American workers than we’ve fully understood. (And more high-skilled immigration in a knowledge age would enhance our economy more than most people understand.) It’s clear: Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare all need fixes to remain sustainable. It’s clear: Capitalism driven more by machines and robots poses new challenges for both white-collar and blue-collar workers.

Every one of these challenges can be met if we put our heads and hands together. For that to happen, though, this version of the Republican Party had to be destroyed, so a thinking center-right party can emerge. If that is what Trump has done, he’s done the Lord’s work. We also need Democrats to be a center-left party, though, and not let Bernie Sanders pull them to the far left. If both happen, maybe something good can actually emerge from this crazy election.

Oh, FFS…  Bernie Sanders is about as “far left” as FDR.  And Eisenhower.  And I wonder how many Friedman Units it will take before what’s left of the Republican party comes to its senses.  I doubt that I’ll be alive to see it…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If you listened much to Ted Cruz over these last furious months, you heard him talk frequently about “the abyss,” as in what this country was teetering on the edge of. If you listened to him over these last furious hours, you heard him mention the “yawning cavern of insecurity” that motivates Donald Trump and other bullies.

Cruz should take up spelunking. He’s obviously fascinated by unfathomable depths, and with his loss in Indiana on Tuesday, his candidacy for the presidency is finished, giving him a whole lot of extra time. A new hobby is definitely in order.

As we bid Cruz adieu, we should give him his due: He took a mien and manner spectacularly ill suited to the art of seducing voters about as far as they could go. He outlasted the likes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. He outperformed Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.

Like him, Santorum and Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses and built from there, courting the religious right with particular fervor. But they lacked the intensity of Cruz’s professed disdain for Washington, which was his other big sales pitch, made at its moment of maximum potency. He peddled extravagant piety and extreme contempt in equal measure.

If that sounds paradoxical, it is, and the tension between contradictory Cruzes is what ultimately did him in.

He spoke out of both sides of his scowl, itching to be the voice of the common man but equally eager to demonstrate what a highfalutin, Harvard-trained intellect he possessed. He wed a populist message to a plummy vocabulary. And while the line separating smart and smart aleck isn’t all that thin or blurry, he never could stay on the winning side of it.

He wore cowboy boots, but his favorites are made of ostrich.

Two peacocks in a pod, he and Trump, and what ghastly plumage they showed on Tuesday.

Trump somehow saw fit to bring up a National Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz exploded, branding Trump a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.” He also brought up an interview from many years ago in which Trump told Howard Stern that his effort to steer clear of sexually transmitted diseases was his “personal Vietnam.”

Where was this rant six months ago, when the Republican field was crowded and Cruz played footsie with Trump? Back then he was wagering that Trump would fade, and he wanted to be in a friendly position to inherit the billionaire’s supporters.

But by Tuesday, Trump was the main obstacle between Cruz and the Republican presidential nomination, and Cruz has just one true compass: his own advancement.

The nakedness of his vanity and transparency of his ambition were always his biggest problem. He routinely excoriated other politicians for self-centeredness while repeatedly hogging center stage, his remarks interminable — after his Iowa victory, for example, or when he presumptuously introduced Carly Fiorina as his running mate — and his pauses so theatrically drawn out that you could watch the entirety of “The Revenant” during some of them.

He trashed “the establishment” and wore its rejection of him as a badge of honor only until it stopped rejecting him and its help was his best hope to wrest the nomination away from Trump. At that point he did dizzy cartwheels over every prominent endorsement that came his way.

He took great pride in an adversarial relationship with the media, decreeing us irrelevant, until he went in hunt of a fresh excuse for losing to Trump and decided over the last few days that it was all our fault. We didn’t matter and then we did, depending on which estimation flattered him.

He purported to be more high-minded than his peers but pettily mocked Michelle Obama for urging schoolchildren to eat leafy greens. When Heidi Cruz is first lady, he pledged, “French fries are coming back to the cafeteria.” Heidi Cruz is not going to be first lady, so she’ll need some other platform for the promotion of calorie bombs and second chins.

And where in her husband was the humility that a Christian faith as frequently proclaimed as his should encompass? It wasn’t evident when he stormed into the Senate in early 2013, an upstart intent on upstaging the veterans.

There were flickers of it on Tuesday night, as he conceded defeat not just in Indiana but in the presidential contest, announcing that he was suspending his campaign “with a heavy heart.” He articulated gratitude to those Americans — no small number of them — who had buoyed him.

He went overboard in his praise of Fiorina, merely reminding us all of what an odd and oddly timed alliance theirs was. “An incredible, phenomenal running mate,” he called her, as if they’d been on some epic journey. It was less than a week long. How many phenomena could she accomplish in that time?

He left Trump out of his remarks. There were no congratulations. There was no indication of whether he’d publicly back Trump in the months to come. There was nothing to purge the memory of what he’d said earlier Tuesday, when he described Trump as “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.” Yes, we have, and so has he, every day, in the mirror.

That’s why he’ll undoubtedly be back to try for the presidency again. But this bid is moribund. It’s time for Cruz to rest in peevishness.

As far as I’m concerned it’s past time for the Lord to call him home…

Friedman and Bruni

April 27, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom is in Dakar, Senegal.  In “Out of Africa, Part III” he says that in Senegal, a rap artist and a weatherman both worry for their nation’s future.  Mr. Bruni considers “The Cult of Sore Losers” and moans that in 2016, there’s seemingly no legitimate victory or gracious defeat.   He says that spells trouble for all of us.  Here’s TMOW:

You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.

The rapper, Babacar Niang, known simply as Matador, the 40-year-old voice of the voiceless and one of the pioneers of African rap, emerged from the oft-flooded Thiaroye slum of Dakar to become the godfather of the underground hip-hop scene here. I attended his concert at a cultural center a few nights ago. I confess it was my first hip-hop concert and it took a little getting used to. The guy behind me had a big can of bug repellent that he would spray and light the plume, creating a makeshift flamethrower, which he used to express his approval of key lyrics — and heat up the back of my neck.

But it never distracted from the hypnotic beat of Matador’s rap, which appeals to young Senegalese not to join the migration to Europe — now driven by a toxic brew of government failures, overpopulation and extreme floods and droughts — but to stay home and build their country.

The weatherman is Ousmane Ndiaye, head of the climate unit for the National Civil Aviation and Meteorology Agency. He trained at Columbia in climate science. His stage is a drab office at Dakar Airport. His voice is a monotone. His audience of one was me. His flamethrower is his graphs, displaying the recent extreme weather patterns and the oscillating beat of parched and drenched soils from which Matador and his followers emerged.

I met them both while filming a documentary, “Years of Living Dangerously,” on climate change that is to air in the fall on National Geographic Television.

Matador showed me the Thiaroye slum, where he grew up and began rapping with his pals. Starting with the droughts of the 1970s, many rural migrants moved to Dakar for work, and many settled in the only open space: marshland dried up by the drought. But around 2000 the rains returned, often torrential, and Thiaroye became uninhabitable — but fully inhabited. Today it’s one of those grim intersections where climate, migration, population and the lack of urban planning all meet.

The home where Matador got his start is literally engulfed by giant weeds. Putrid sewage and standing water abound. But people are living anywhere there are four walls and a dry enough floor. He notes that Senegal’s government recently spent millions on a new sports stadium but has no money to properly drain his old neighborhood. One of his biggest hits — rapped in Wolof, the local language — is a homage to this place. It’s called “Catastrophe,” and here’s some of it:

Clouds piling up from the north announce the rain to come.
People’s faces read worry first, then fear
With the first rains come the first wave of departures
Those who prayed for rain sure got their prayers answered
Long gone are the days where we would beg the spirits for water
Today the rain is falling and it won’t stop
The stagnant waters keep piling up
And soon the floods will sweep away our homes
The torrent chases us out to reclaim its bed
You can try to keep nature out, it will always return
After the drought, now we face the rain.
Wading in the mud, day in, day out
Using the flood as a pretext, some empty their septic tanks at night
As the tanks overflow, it’s neighbor against neighbor
Puddles become streams and rivers in which crocodiles and snakes swim
At night, the hum of mosquitoes and frogs turns into a racket
A drowned newborn is pulled from the muddy flow
Then malaria and cholera finish off the survivors
If there was aid money on its way, we never saw it

Standing next to a broken drainage pipe, Matador says to me: “It pains me because the people, they’re forced to leave. To build Senegal we need those young people. But how can we keep them here in these conditions?” No wonder Matador has a popular rap lyric, which plays on an alliteration, that describes the choice for too many of his generation: “Barça or Barsak” — either catch a boat to Barcelona or to the beyond — i.e., die.

Out at the airport, Ndiaye, the climate expert, click, click, clicks through his climate graphs for me on his Dell desktop, providing his own backup beat to Matador’s rap.

“Last week the weather was five degrees Celsius above the normal average temperature, which is a very extreme temperature for this time of year,” he explains. Click to Graph 2. “From 1950 to 2015 average temperature in Senegal has gone up two degrees Celsius,” says Ndiaye, adding that the whole Paris U.N. climate conference was about how to avoid a two-degree rise in the global average temperature since the Industrial Revolution … and Senegal is already there.

Click. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “in 2010 gave four scenarios for Senegal, and the worst was unbelievable — and now,” he says, “the observation says we’re following that path even faster than we imagined, and it leads to four degrees Celsius rise in average temperature by 2100. People are still doubting climate change, and we are living it.” Click.

Matador’s most famous rap song is called “Tukki,” which means “trip.” It’s a migrant’s lament — the story of life as a tumbleweed. Africans have a long history of migration, but mostly within Africa and their own countries.

But the land and the climate cannot sustain enough of them anymore. And they don’t want a benefit concert in Central Park or Hyde Park. They want what they see on their cellphones — Europe, which involves a trek across the desert and a boat across the sea. But who can blame them?

Matador is torn between understanding his generation’s need to find work and money to send home and his gut instinct that it is better to be poor in one’s home than a stranger in a strange land — so stay and build Senegal. Some of the “Tukki” verses are:

Go to France to Belgium to Italy
To Spain to Switzerland to go to Denmark to the Netherlands
One must go to Germany
Norway Sweden China Japan Portugal go to Brazil
Mexico and Great Britain
All these places are great to earn a living
All work is noble all means are good to survive
Master the system and assert yourself
Play hide-and-seek with the police
In the blistering cold, one fights how one can …
Eating the leftovers from restaurants
You cannot return and you don’t know when you’ll get back
Illegal and undocumented who makes you think you’ll go back to your country
Everyone for himself and God for us all
Headphones screwed on your head ears blocked
A stare that reminds you that no one wants you here …
Ready to leave for better tomorrows and without hope
One ends up discouraged
A lot of money for a distant tomb
You won’t even end up in a cemetery
Setting sail or passing through the desert
Our scarce savings for a visa
Face the borders …
Calls from the home country multiply
Everyone has a request not a moment’s rest
When will you sign up for your return? When will you send the money?

The weatherman can’t rap as well, but he sure can annotate the lyrics. “The only hope is that humankind will see we are one body,” says Ndiaye, “because if it goes the other way and everyone is for themselves — and just builds a wall — this will be really, really crazy. People will just get out of here.”

When human beings are under stress, he adds, “they will do anything to survive. You live here and you see on TV people having a good life, and democracy [in Europe], and here you are in a poor life, people have to do something — people now are taking any kind of boat to get to Europe. And even if they see people dying, they are still going. They don’t have the tools to survive here. The human being is just a more intelligent animal, and if [he or she] is pushed to the extreme, the animal instinct will come out to survive. Everyone wants a better life.”

Click.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Bernie Sanders isn’t losing. Just ask many of his backers or listen to some of his own complaints. He’s being robbed, a victim of antiquated rules, voter suppression, shady arithmetic and a corrupt Democratic establishment. The swindle includes the South’s getting inordinate sway and the poor none at all. If Americans really had a voice, they would shout “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” until too hoarse to shout anymore.

Donald Trump isn’t winning. Just ask Ted Cruz, by whose strange and self-serving logic it is “the will of the people” (his actual words) that he and John Kasich collude to prevent Trump from amassing a majority of delegates so that some runner-up with less demonstrable support can leapfrog past him to become the Republican presidential nominee. Democracy in action!

I agree that Trump’s nomination would be frightening. I disagree that Cruz’s would be better. It certainly wouldn’t be more justified, but such rational thinking has gone missing in this year of losing gracelessly.

And in this era of irresolution. All too often, contests don’t yield accepted conclusions and a grudging acquiescence by those who didn’t get their way. They prompt accusations of thievery, cries of illegitimacy and a determination to neuter the victor, nullify the results or reverse them as soon as possible.

Elections don’t settle disputes, not even for some fleeting honeymoon. They accelerate them, because there’s a pernicious insistence that they’re not referendums on the public mood but elaborate board games in which the triumphant player used the wickedest skulduggery.

When you honestly believe or disingenuously assert that you’ve been outmaneuvered rather than outvoted, why declare a truce, let alone cooperate, in the aftermath?

The process has never been smooth and the defeated seldom docile. To pluck just one example from the annals of acrimony, Teddy Roosevelt formed the Progressive Party in 1912 as a revolt against the Republicans’ nomination of the incumbent president, William Howard Taft, rather than him.

But an epoch of unrelieved mutual suspicion between competitors — and especially between Republicans and Democrats — took hold somewhere on a timeline that runs through Watergate; the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas; the serial investigations into the Clintons; and Mitch McConnell’s vow to thwart President Obama at every turn.

In the midst of that came Bush v. Gore, in which a majority of Republican appointees on the Supreme Court decided a presidential election in the Republican candidate’s favor.

All trust, most etiquette and many rules went out the window. And while Republicans have been more audacious than Democrats, the manifold accusations made by Sanders supporters show that the effort to delegitimize winners is a pan-partisan tic.

The pro-Sanders actor Tim Robbins fired off a tweet this week with the charge that “this election is being stolen,” the hashtag #VoterFraud and the insinuation that The Times and CNN were essentially conspiring with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Sanders camp is right to raise questions about voting irregularities in a few places, including New York, where there’s an investigation underway, and about the odd patchwork of closed and open primaries across the country.

But all of the candidates knew about that patchwork going in, and Clinton’s successful navigation of it — she has a multi-million-vote lead over Sanders — is more persuasive than any dark claims of dastardly tricks.

On the Republican side, Trump and Cruz have each bellowed about the other’s supposedly unfair advantages at a volume that’s hardly constructive. It’s self-promotion with a side of cynicism.

The graceless losing of 2016 owes something to this election’s particular characters. When you’re not just a man but a revolution (Sanders), you can never quit the fight or flee the front.

When you’re the Don Quixote of extreme conservatism (Cruz), you can never ditch your armor. And it’s easy to tell yourself — because it’s easy forall of us to tell ourselves — that surrendering to Trump is surrendering your patriotism.

But there’s more at work. The refusal to grant victors legitimacy bundles together so much about America today: the coarseness of our discourse; the blind tribalism coloring our debates; the elevation of individualism far above common purpose; the ethos that everybody should and can feel like a winner on every day.

Our system for electing presidents is indeed a mess. It estranges voters and is ripe for reform. I explored that last week.

But pushing for change is different from rejecting any unwelcome outcome as the bastard fruit of a poisoned tree. If grievances are never retired, then progress has no chance. If everything is rigged, then all is fair, not just in love and war but on the banks of the Potomac, where we can look forward to four more years of inertia and ugliness.

Well, we sure can look forward to more years of inertia and ugliness as long as the current batch of Republican’ts is there.

Friedman and Bruni

April 20, 2016

In “Out of Africa, Part II” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that a farming village too parched to sustain crops is also losing its men, who leave in search of work to support their families.  Mr. Bruni, in “No Way to Elect a President,” says beyond New York’s primary is a system and sourness we must address.  Here’s TMOW, writing from Ndiamaguene, Senegal:

I am visiting Ndiamaguene village in the far northwest of Senegal. If I were giving you directions I’d tell you that it’s the last stop after the last stop — it’s the village after the highway ends, after the paved road ends, after the gravel road ends and after the desert track ends. Turn left at the last baobab tree.

It’s worth the trek, though, if you’re looking for the headwaters of the immigration flood now flowing from Africa to Europe via Libya. It starts here.

It begins with a trickle of migrants from a thousand little villages and towns across West Africa like Ndiamaguene, a five-hour drive from the capital, Dakar. I visited with a team working on the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” about the connection between climate change and human migration, which will appear this fall on the National Geographic Channel. The day we came, April 14, it was 113 degrees — far above the historical average for the day, a crazy level of extreme weather.

But there is an even bigger abnormality in Ndiamaguene, a farming village of mud-brick homes and thatch-roof huts. The village chief gathered virtually everyone in his community to receive us, and they formed a welcoming circle of women in colorful prints and cheerful boys and girls with incandescent smiles, home from school for lunch. But the second you sit down with them you realize that something is wrong with this picture.

There are almost no young or middle-aged men in this village of 300. They’re gone.

It wasn’t disease. They’ve all hit the road. The village’s climate-hammered farmlands can no longer sustain them, and with so many kids — 42 percent of Senegal’s population is under 14 years old — there are too many mouths to feed from the declining yields. So the men have scattered to the four winds in search of any job that will pay them enough to live on and send some money back to their wives or parents.

This trend is repeating itself all across West Africa, which is why every month thousands of men try to migrate to Europe by boat, bus, foot or plane. Meanwhile, refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are doing the same. Together, these two flows pose a huge challenge for the future of Europe.

Tell these young African men that their odds of getting to Europe are tiny and they will tell you, as one did me, that when you don’t have enough money to buy even an aspirin for your sick mother, you don’t calculate the odds. You just go.

“We are mostly farmers, and we depend on farming, but it is not working now,” the village chief, Ndiougua Ndiaye, explained to me in Wolof, through a translator. After a series of on/off droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, the weather patterns stabilized a bit, “until about 10 years ago,” the chief added. Then, the weather got really weird.

The rainy season used to always begin in June and run to October. Now the first rains might not start until August, then they stop for a while, leaving fields to dry out, and then they begin again. But they come back as torrential downpours that create floods. “So whatever you plant, the crops get spoiled,” the chief said. “You reap no profits.”

The chief, who gave his age as 70 but didn’t know for sure, could remember one thing for certain: When he was young he could walk out to his fields any time during the planting season “and your feet would sink into” the moist earth. “The soil was slippery and oily and it would stick to your legs and feet and you would have to scrape it off.” Now, he said, picking up a fistful of hot sand, the soil “is like a powder — it is not living anymore.”

Has he ever heard of something called “climate change”? I asked. “We heard about it on the radio, and we have seen it with our own eyes,” he answered. The temperature is different. The winds are different. They’re hot when they should be cold.

The chief’s impressions are not wrong. Senegal’s national weather bureau says that from 1950 to 2015, the average temperature in the country rose two degrees Celsius, much faster than anticipated, and since 1950, the average annual rainfall has declined by about 50 millimeters (about two inches). So the men of Ndiamaguene have no choice but to migrate to bigger towns or out of the country.

The lucky few find ways to get smuggled into Spain or Germany, via Libya. Libya was like a cork on Africa, and when the U.S. and NATO toppled the Libyan dictator — but did not put troops on the ground to help secure a new order — they essentially uncorked Africa, creating a massive funnel through chaotic Libya to the Mediterranean coast.

The less lucky find work in Dakar or Libya or Algeria or Mauritania, and the least lucky get marooned somewhere along the way — caught in the humiliating twilight of having left and gained nothing and having nothing to return to. This is creating more and more tempting recruiting targets for jihadist groups like Boko Haram, which can offer a few hundred dollars a month.

The chief introduced me to Mayoro Ndiaeye, the father of a boy who left to find work. “My son left for Libya one year ago, and since then we have no news — no telephone, nothing,” he explained. “He left a wife and two children. He was a tile fixer. After he made some money [in the nearby town] he went to Mauritania and then to Niger and then up to Libya. But we have not heard from him since.”

The father started to tear up. These people live so close to the edge. One reason they have so many children is that the offspring are a safety net for aging parents. But the boys are all leaving and the edge is getting even closer.

Which means they are losing the only thing they were rich in: a deep sense of community. Here, you grow up with your family, parents look after children and children then look after parents, and everyone eats and lives together. But now with the land no longer producing enough, “everyone has a [male] family member who has had to leave,” said the chief. “When I was young, everyone in the family was together. … The mother would be in the house and the man would go to the farm. And everyone stayed with their family, and now it is not what it used to be. I am afraid of losing my community, because my people can’t live here anymore.”

Africa has always had migrants, but this time is different. There are so many more people and so much less natural capital — Lake Chad alone has lost 90 percent of its water — and with cellphones everyone can see a better world in Europe.

Gardens or walls? It’s really not a choice. We have to help them fix their gardens because no walls will keep them home.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

With Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s victories in New York, we’re one furious contest closer to the end of this spectacle. But we’ve known for a while now where we’re headed, and it isn’t anyplace good.

American voters are displeased with the candidates they’ve been given. They’re disengaged from the process that winnows the field.

And that process disregards the political center, erodes common ground and leaves us with a government that can’t build the necessary consensus for, let alone implement, sensible action in regard to taxes, to infrastructure, to immigration, to guns, to just about anything.

Make America great again? We need to start by making it functional.

This election has certainly been extraordinary for its characters, but it’s equally remarkable for its context, one of profound, paralyzing sourness.

A poll released by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal on Sunday showed that 68 percent of American voters couldn’t imagine themselves casting a vote in the general election for Trump, while 61 percent said the same about Ted Cruz and 58 percent about Clinton.

A much, much higher percentage of voters viewed each of these three unfavorably than favorably. “Unpopularity Contest” was the headline on the story on the NBC News website, which rightly asked how well any president of such polarizing effect would be able to govern.

We’ve had such presidents (and candidates) before. And pessimism isn’t new.

But there have been developments and differences in 2016 that may well be making the situation worse.

The media, for one. This election isn’t being covered so much as marketed, by news organizations whose desperation for eyeballs has turned many of them into drama queens. Each new poll is a major scoop. There are countdown clocks for events as humdrum as candidate town halls. Debates are teased with ominous soundtracks and photographs better befitting prizefights.

When you treat a campaign as if it were an athletic competition, you turn it into more of a blood sport than it already is. And when you breathlessly promote it the way you would a hit TV show’s season finale, it becomes just another piece of theater. Neither approach encourages sober-minded engagement.

Nor does the manner in which so many voters use the Internet in general and social media in particular, to curate and wallow in echo chambers that amplify their prejudices, exacerbate their tribalism and widen the fault lines between us. The online behavior of the Bernie Bros is a great example, but it’s hardly the only one.

Additionally, the precise unfolding of the Republican and Democratic races this time around, along with complaints from the candidates themselves, has exposed the undemocratic quirks and mess of the process: the peculiarity of caucuses; the seduction of delegates and superdelegates; closed versus open primaries; states that are winner-take-all as opposed to states that are winner-take-most; the possibility of a brokered convention at which an interloper could be crowned.

To prevail, a candidate doesn’t even have to persuade an especially large share of the electorate, given how splintered and detached voters are. In an important commentary published in The Hill on Monday, the Democratic pollster and strategist Mark Penn extrapolated from Trump’s and Clinton’s vote tallies to note that, in his estimation, “We now have a system in which it takes just 10 million votes out of 321 million people to seize one of the two coveted nominations.”

“The result,” he wrote, “is a democracy that is veering off course, increasingly reflecting the will of powerful activist groups and the political extremes.” Would-be nominees needn’t worry much about the roughly 40 percent of Americans who at least technically consider themselves independents — a group that’s grown over the last decade — or the 60 percent who say that a third political party is needed.

No, these candidates “can just double down on elements of their base,” Penn observed. “Rather than bring the country together, they demonize their opponents to hype turnout among select groups, targeted by race, religion or ethnicity.”

Penn suggested several smart reforms to increase voters’ participation and sense of investment, including the abolition of caucuses and a rotation of the order in which states vote, so that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina don’t always get such outsize sway.

I wish we could also find a way to shorten these presidential campaigns significantly, so that they’re not such a soul-draining, throat-ravaging turnoff to almost anyone who’s not an epic narcissist or mired in politics to the point of no return.

Then maybe we’d look up one of these years and be choosing among the greater of goods, not the lesser of evils, and the victor would be left, physically and ideologically, with a voice that still carries.