Archive for the ‘Kristof’ Category

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 23, 2017

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

Folks, we have been here before.

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

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

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

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

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

But it was not as it seemed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now here’s Mr. Kristof:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things bear repeating ad infinitum:

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

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

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

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

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

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

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

Today the question is the same.

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

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

Great question, Mr. Vice President.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

The Post continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

He continued later:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next day, Trump again took to Twitter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2016, my mom became a naturalized

Citizen just in time to watch
America denature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

February 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a certain symmetry here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

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

“How normal!” enthused a CNN commentator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) Fight! Fight! Fight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

A) Pence’s Poodle.

B) Pence’s Pomeranian.

C) Pence’s Pekingese.

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

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

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

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

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

Take that, dudes.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

January 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The site continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristof and Bruni

January 22, 2017

In “Why 2017 May Be the Best Year Ever” Mr. Kristof says that for much of humanity, things keep getting better.  Mr. Bruni, in “The President Who Buried Humility,” says Donald Trump’s inauguration heralds a new age of arrogance and says something sad and scary.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

There’s a broad consensus that the world is falling apart, with every headline reminding us that life is getting worse.

Except that it isn’t. In fact, by some important metrics, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity. And 2017 will probably be better still.

How can this be? I’m as appalled as anyone by the election of Donald Trump, the bloodshed in Syria, and so on. But while I fear what Trump will do to America and the world, and I applaud those standing up to him, the Trump administration isn’t the most important thing going on. Here, take my quiz:

On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:

A.) Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.

B.) Stays about the same.

C.) Drops by 250,000.

Polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same. But in fact, the correct answer is C. Every day, an average of about a quarter-million people worldwide graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures.

Or if you need more of a blast of good news, consider this: Just since 1990, more than 100 million children’s lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that’s only half as likely today as in 1990.

When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be. (Extreme poverty is defined as less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for inflation.)

For nearly all of human history, extreme poverty has been the default condition of our species, and now, on our watch, we are pretty much wiping it out. That’s a stunning transformation that I believe is the most important thing happening in the world today — whatever the news from Washington.

There will, of course, be continued poverty of a less extreme kind, smaller numbers of children will continue to die unnecessarily, and inequality remains immense. Oxfam calculated this month that just eight rich men own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.

Yet global income inequality is actually declining. While income inequality has increased within the U.S., it has declined on a global level because China and India have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty.

All this may seem distant or irrelevant at a time when many Americans are traumatized by Trump’s inauguration. But let me try to reassure you, along with myself.

On a recent trip to Madagascar to report on climate change, I was struck that several mothers I interviewed had never heard of Trump, or of Barack Obama, or even of the United States. Their obsession was more desperate: keeping their children alive. And the astonishing thing was that those children, despite severe malnutrition, were all alive, because of improvements in aid and health care — reflecting trends that are grander than any one man.

Some of the most remarkable progress has been over diseases that — thank God! — Americans very rarely encounter. Elephantiasis is a horrible, disfiguring, humiliating disease usually caused by a parasite, leading a person’s legs to expand hugely until they resemble an elephant’s. In men, the disease can make the scrotum swell to grotesque proportions, so that when they walk they must carry their scrotum on a homemade wheelbarrow.

Yet some 40 countries are now on track to eliminate elephantiasis. When you’ve seen the anguish caused by elephantiasis — or leprosy, or Guinea worm, or polio, or river blindness, or blinding trachoma — it’s impossible not to feel giddy at the gains registered against all of them.

There’s similar progress in empowering women and in reducing illiteracy. Until the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate; now, 85 percent of adults are literate. And almost nothing makes more difference in a society than being able to read and write.

Michael Elliott, who died last year after leading the One Campaign, which battles poverty, used to say that we are living in an “age of miracles.” He was right, yet the progress is still too slow, and a basic question is whether President Trump will continue bipartisan U.S. efforts to fight global poverty. A four-page questionnaire from the Trump team to the State Department seems to suggest doubts about the value of humanitarian aid.

One reason for the Trump team’s skepticism may be the belief that global poverty is hopeless, that nothing makes a difference. So let’s keep perspective. Yes, Trump may cause enormous damage to America and the world in the coming years, and by all means we should challenge him at every turn. But when the headlines make me sick, I soothe myself with the reflection that there are forces in the world that are larger than Trump, and that in the long history of humanity, this still will likely be the very best year yet.

Remember: The most important thing happening is not a Trump tweet. What’s infinitely more important is that today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

The word popped up in the opening sentence of Barack Obama’s first Inaugural Address and in the opening paragraphs of George W. Bush’s.

“Humbled,” each man said of himself, and while it was pure cliché, it was also what we wanted and needed: a sign, no matter how rote, that even someone self-assured enough to pursue the presidency was taking the measure of that responsibility and asking if he was worthy of it.

Does that question cross Donald Trump’s mind?

I don’t think so. I certainly didn’t get that sense from his inaugural remarks, and not just because “humbled” went missing. As he stood just feet from four of the last six presidents, he trashed them, talking about a Washington establishment blind and deaf to the struggles of less fortunate Americans.

He characterized his election as part of “a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen.” Forget about his loss of the popular vote. Or his 40 percent favorability rating. Or the puny crowd at his inauguration in comparison with the throngs at Obama’s eight years ago. Trump remained a singular man on a singular mission — a legend in his own mind.

We’ve already become so accustomed to his egomania that we sometimes forget how remarkable it is. He’s a braggart beyond his predecessors in the Oval Office, and that says something sad and scary about the country that elected him and the kind of leader he’s likely to be. With Trump we enter a new age of arrogance. He’s the cock crowing at its dawn.

His first stop after arriving here on Thursday afternoon for the inaugural festivities was his recently opened hotel, a transformation of the Old Post Office. He pronounced its principal ballroom “gorgeous” and declared that “a total genius must have built this place.” He was referring to himself.

Then, talking about his nominees for top administration jobs, he said: “We have, by far, the highest I.Q. of any cabinet ever assembled.” That’s obviously unknowable. But it’s entirely in keeping with his nonstop insistence that everything about him is magical, epochal, amazing.

As he went through the traditional inaugural paces, he toggled between the dignified bearing expected of a man in his role and the coarse bravado that he prefers.

His remarks to his supporters at the Lincoln Memorial early Thursday evening included the assertion that his victory was really theirs. “You had much more to do with it than I did,” he told them. “I’m just the messenger.”

But then he recited, for perhaps the thousandth time, how emphatically he defied so many pundits’ predictions and how huge his rallies were. He has indulged this tangent so repeatedly that Politico recently published a story with the headline “Trump Can’t Stop Talking About How He Won.”

And while he kept his remarks at the inauguration brief and said “you” and “we” much more often than “I,” that’s exactly why they were so flaccid. To find his full voice, he must be singing his own praises.

It was a dark speech, bemoaning “this American carnage” of gangs and drugs. It was a mean speech, insulting every one of his new colleagues by describing politicians as “all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.”

But mostly it was a flat speech, bereft of the poetry that this tense juncture called for. He used pared-down language, simple sentences and a sluggish delivery, as if he were reading to children. Call it the “Goodnight Moon” of Inaugural Addresses.

He does as he pleases, expectations be damned, and indeed the most striking aspect of Trump’s transition was an absence of humility. Although he owed his Electoral College win to just 77,000 votes in three states, and it was clouded by questions about James Comey and the Russians, he didn’t bother much with outreach to adversaries or appeals for unity.

He put together that high-I.Q. team of his with few of the usual courtesies and considerations. None of his cabinet nominees are Democrats. None is Latino. Only one, Ben Carson, his choice for housing secretary, is black.

Many are billionaires or bigmouths whose outsize vanity mirrors Trump’s. Rick Perry came to his assignment as energy secretary from a stint on “Dancing With the Stars.” Carson’s palatial Maryland home has been described as a gaudy shrine to … Ben Carson, with plaques that honor him and photographs that glamorize him on prominent display.

Every president in my lifetime has been conceited. It’s more or less a job requirement. Bush had a bloated faith in his gut and his charm, while Obama fancied himself the smartest, most soulful person in almost any room.

But they were nothing like Trump, who’s a preening cartoon. He brags like he breathes. It’s autonomic. And he gloats the way our parents and teachers always told us not to.

But that admonition predated Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Social media have blurred the line between sharing and showing off, and they’ve turned self-promotion into a tic. In our private and our professional lives, we’re prodded to burnish our images, to advertise our assets, to sell, sell, sell. Is it any wonder, then, that we looked up on Friday to see, in front of the Capitol, taking the oath of office, a gaudy confidence man who’s all about the sale? Is it any accident?

His campaign was an unprecedented orgy of self-congratulation. At the start of almost every rally, he trumpeted his poll numbers, and I don’t mean a few quick bleats — I mean a vulgar music that could go on for minutes. At the conclusion of almost every debate, he announced how brilliantly he’d done.

When he stepped up to a microphone to introduce Mike Pence as his running mate, he seemed to forget all about him, and instead paid tribute to himself in a rambling soliloquy more than 20 minutes long. He didn’t stick around onstage for Pence’s remarks.

At the Republican National Convention, warning of national decline, he thundered, “I alone can fix it.” And in the months before and after, he complimented himself out loud and lavishly on everything from the magnitude of his wealth to the majesty of his phallus. That might have disqualified him in another era, but Americans stomached it. More than that, they rewarded it, proving that ours is a different moment, with different mores.

Trump took credit for a drop in the television viewership for pro football: He was providing a superior spectacle. When the ratings for “The New Celebrity Apprentice” with Arnold Schwarzenegger were revealed, he tweeted that they paled next to those for the original “Apprentice,” which starred “the ratings machine, DJT.”

Presidential? Hah! But neither was the tweet that wished a “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

It’s staggering, and it’s endless. During his only real news conference as president-elect, he mused that he could master the management of the country and of his business simultaneously, noting that while the law bars other government officials from such double duty, there’s no such formal restriction on the president.

“I would be the only one that would be able to do that,” he said. “I could run the Trump Organization — great, great company — and I could run the country. I’d do a very good job.” It was like a Russian nesting doll of self-infatuation: boast within boast within boast.

If Trump and his tribe were humble or humbled, they wouldn’t have been caught trying to monetize his political currency, as when one of his sons peddled coffee with Ivanka or when her company hawked copies of the dress she wore at the convention and the jewelry she flashed on “60 Minutes.”

The Trumps are extreme, but they’re also emblematic of a creeping crassness and lack of restraint in public life. I think of the North Carolina Republicans who gallingly moved to dilute the governorship’s power before it could change hands from someone in their party to a Democrat.

I think of an interview that Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader, recently gave to New York magazine’s Jason Zengerle as he prepared to retire from the Senate. “I’ve done stuff no one else will do,” Reid volunteered, and then recalled — proudly, it seemed — the time during the 2012 presidential campaign when he falsely accused Mitt Romney of not having paid taxes. There was no modesty in that lie, and there’s no modesty in his apparent peace with it.

Still, he’s no Trump. Who is? Maybe Howard Roark, the protagonist of “The Fountainhead,” by Ayn Rand. Roark must defend his creative genius against the meddling of lesser mortals. Trump once described the novel as profound.

He has other Rand fans around him. Last month, The Washington Post’s James Hohmann identified a batch of cabinet nominees, including Rex Tillerson, who are taken with her philosophy and work.

What does that bode for the coming months? We’ve seen hints in the past ones. Under fire, Trump rages, rails and frequently doubles down on his convictions and even his fictions. He rearranges reality to suit his self-regard, flinging accusations of “rigged” surveys and “fake news.”

A humbler man would doubt himself, extend an olive branch to his enemies, contemplate a middle ground. But then a humbler man wouldn’t have come down that escalator at Trump Tower and proceed to say what Trump said and do what he did. As I watched him flourish, I watched humility die. On Friday, our 45th president said its last rites.

Blow and Kristof

January 19, 2017

Mr. Blow asks “Are You Not Alarmed?” and says Donald Trump may push us into another war.  Well, I guess he’s heard that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia…  Mr. Kristof is “Missing Barack Obama Already,” and says for eight years, the president and his family have set an impeccable example, for which we’ll soon feel nostalgia.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

I continue to be astonished that not enough Americans are sufficiently alarmed and abashed by the dangerous idiocies that continue to usher forth from the mouth of the man who will on Friday be inaugurated as president of the United States.

Toss ideology out of the window. This is about democracy and fascism, war and peace, life and death. I wish that I could write those words with the callous commercialism with which some will no doubt read them, as overheated rhetoric simply designed to stir agitation, provoke controversy and garner clicks. But alas, they are not. These words are the sincere dispatches of an observer, writer and citizen who continues to see worrisome signs of a slide toward the exceedingly unimaginable by a man who is utterly unprepared.

In a series of interviews and testimonies Donald Trump and his cronies have granted in the last several days, they have demonstrated repeatedly how destabilizing, unpredictable and indeed unhinged the incoming administration may be. Their comments underscore the degree to which this administration may not simply alter our democracy beyond recognition, but also potentially push us into armed conflict.

Last week, Trump’s secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, said during his confirmation hearing that the United States had to “send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

The only way to do this is with some sort of naval blockade, which China would undoubtedly interpret as an act of war.

Indeed, as Business Insider reported, Chinese state-run media responded in an editorial, “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”

Business Insider quoted Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who pointed out that Tillerson’s position could easily result in war.

If the United States put “a cordon of ships around one or all of the islands, and the Chinese flew in aircraft to one of their new islands, what are we going to do? Shoot it down?” Glaser asked. “We’d certainly end up in a shooting war with China.”

But even short of the conflict over the islands, The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Browne suggested Tuesday, Trump’s talk on trade alone could escalate into an armed conflict with China. Trump has said he will make continued adherence to the “one China” policy — which recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China — conditional on negotiations over what he sees as currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices by China.

As Browne points out:

“The gambit has profound security and military implications. Taiwan is a regional flash point. Beijing regards the island as an inalienable part of Chinese territory; ‘One China’ expresses not just its political desire for unification but a core part of Chinese identity. Chinese leaders will fight for it. They can’t lose Taiwan.”

Make no mistake: As bad of an actor as China is, the United States actually depends on China. It is one of our biggest trade partners, but furthermore it is one of the last remaining checks on an erratic North Korea. China could simply stop using its influence to make North Korea behave.

And as you may recall, during the campaign Trump suggested that the way to contain North Korea was for nuclear proliferation in the region. In March, Trump said of nuclear weapons: “You have so many countries already — China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia — you have so many countries right now that have them.” He continued: “Now, wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

Then there is the destabilizing and downright frightening random rhetoric. Trump has suggested that he equally trusts America’s friend-in-arms Angela Merkel and his friend-in-spirit Vladimir Putin.

Trump told The Washington Post this week that he may start having military parades in major American cities à la North Korea: “Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country.” He continued: “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military. That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

And, Trump continues to trash NATO, calling it “obsolete.”

This is insanity. But too many Americans don’t want to see this threat for what it is. International affairs and the very real threat of escalating militarization and possibly even military conflict seems much harder to grasp than the latest inflammatory tweet.

Maybe people think this possibility is unthinkable. Maybe people are just hoping and praying that cooler heads will prevail. Maybe they think that Trump’s advisers will smarten him up and talk him down.

But where is your precedent for that? When has this man been cautious or considerate? This man with loose lips and tweeting thumbs may very well push us into another war, and not with a country like Afghanistan, but with a nuclear-armed country with something to prove.

Are you not alarmed?

No, Mr. Blow I’m not alarmed.  I think gibbering terror would describe it better.  Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

Barack Obama’s legacy is being systematically unraveled even before he leaves office, with The Wall Street Journal scoffing that he “has been a historic president but perhaps not a consequential one.”

Historians will also note that the Democratic Party is in far worse shape today than when Obama took office: It has lost its House and Senate majorities, as well as 13 governorships and more than 900 state legislative seats.

More broadly, the sunny Obama optimism of “Yes, we can” has faded into a rancorous miasma of distrust and dysfunction. One example of that rancor is unfolding at the Woodmont Country Club outside Washington, where hawkish pro-Israeli members are campaigning to deny Obama membership — even though there’s no official indication he will even apply.

Yet here’s my prediction: America and the world will soon be craving that Obama Cool again.

Voters are fickle and promiscuous, suffering an eight-year itch for a fling with someone who is the opposite of their last infatuation. Sick of Bill Clinton, we turned to a Texas governor who was utterly different. Eight years later, weary of George W. Bush, we elected his polar opposite, a liberal black law professor. And now we’ve elected Obama’s antipode.

Polls suggest that voters are already souring on Donald Trump, in ways that may soon create nostalgia for Obama. Newly elected presidents usually enjoy a honeymoon, but Gallup says Trump’s approval is at the lowest level the pollster has recorded in a presidential transition.

Mostly, I think we journalists overdo the personal and pay insufficient attention to policies — such as those that led Obama’s presidency to enjoy the longest streak of consecutive private-sector job creation in the 78 years the statistic has been recorded. But while Obama’s policy legacy is being whittled away, he also has an important personal legacy that Trump inadvertently burnishes.

A president inevitably is not just commander in chief, but also a role model, a symbol of American values around the world. We won the Cold War not only with American missiles, but also with American “soft power,” and one element of our soft power arsenal is a president who commands respect and admiration at home and abroad. We want our children and the world’s to admire our president — and that is where Obama is strongest and Trump weakest.

Trump spews emotional tweets impetuously and vindictively, lacing his venom with misspellings or grammatical mistakes. We’ll be craving Obama’s prudence, intellect and reserve.

The personal differences between them aren’t just that Obama was an African-American son of a single mom, while Trump was the scion of a real estate tycoon. It’s more the behaviors they model. Trump has had five children by three wives, has boasted of his infidelities, has shrugged at conflicts of interest and is a walking scandal.

“He will never, ever, let you down. … Donald is intensely loyal,” we were told at the Republican convention — by his third wife. In contrast, Obama has the most boring personal life imaginable, and is the rare president who got through a second term without significant scandals.

That seems to be because of extreme caution. When Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he solicited a 13-page memo from Justice Department lawyers verifying that there was absolutely no conflict in accepting it. And then he donated the money to charities.

Whatever our views of Obama’s politics, we should be able to agree that he is a superlative family man. For eight years, this family has made us proud. The graciousness that the Obamas displayed toward the Trumps, even as in private they must have been beating their heads against the wall, exemplified class.

When Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago this month, he was accompanied by Michelle and his older daughter, Malia, but 15-year-old Sasha was missing. Twitter was abuzz, and #WheresSasha was soon trending. It turned out that she wasn’t in a drunken stupor, or staying away in an angry teenage sulk. Rather, it seemed that the Obamas had Sasha stay home to study for an exam the next morning.

If I were Sasha, I’d be annoyed: “C’mon, Dad! You coulda written me a note!” But I’m proud of a first family that so values education, and is so averse to asserting privilege.

We can argue about Obama’s policies. For my part, I deplored his passivity on Syria. But even on issues that I disagreed with him on, I never doubted his integrity or intelligence, his decency or honor.

Trump may dismantle Obamacare and pull out of the Paris climate accord. But he cannot undo Obama’s legacy of dignity and old-fashioned virtue, and the impression he made on all of us.

And if, as I fear, we see the White House transformed into a bog of scandals flowing from an unprincipled narcissist, we as a nation will be more appreciative of a first family that set an impeccable example for all the world.

Kristof, solo

January 15, 2017

In “Donald Trump: Kremlin Employee of the Month?” Mr. Kristof says a dossier has been circulating in Washington that’s completely unsubstantiated and yet also plausible.  Here he is:

The humor writer Andy Borowitz recently joked that Donald Trump had been named the Kremlin’s “employee of the month.” I giggled at that, and then winced. It’s painful even to joke about.

Some of the most explosive reports about America in the last few days appeared in Israeli newspapers. They suggested that American intelligence officials had warned Israel to “be careful” about sharing classified information with the Trump White House, for fear that it would be given to Russia.

American intelligence officials reportedly cautioned that Vladimir Putin might have “leverages of pressure” to extort Trump. That presumably was a reference to the hanky-panky recounted in the dossier alleging that Moscow compromised Trump by filming him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

Perhaps more troubling are suggestions of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Trump strongly denies all this, the dossier has zero public evidence behind it, and it should be treated with skepticism. But it reflects an unprecedented uncertainty: There is a disorienting kernel of doubt about whether we can fully trust the man who will occupy the Oval Office.

So is our new president a Russian poodle?

Here’s what we know. The dossier was gathered by a former British MI6 spy, Christopher Steele. A onetime British ambassador to Russia described Steele as a “very competent professional operator” who would not make things up.

Still, the dossier began as opposition research funded by people looking for dirt on Trump, and for weeks it has been in the hands of news organizations (including The Times), the F.B.I., politicians and others, and no one has been able to prove its allegations. Perhaps the closest: The BBC suggested that the “head of an East European intelligence agency” was aware of the material and that C.I.A. officers investigating the issue provided details including that there was “more than one tape.”

Look, it’s poetic justice that Donald Trump, who for years falsely bellowed that President Obama was born abroad, is now caught in similarly unsubstantiated rumors. So Democrats have a right to chortle. But they should remain skeptical.

This isn’t “fake news” of the kind fabricated by Macedonian websites, but it’s both plausible and completely unsubstantiated. Unlike Trump’s claims that Obama was foreign-born, even after the president produced his birth certificate, this hasn’t been disproved or discredited, and it was regarded as credible enough to brief the president and president-elect about. This occupies a murky middle ground: Maybe it’s true and maybe not.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced an investigation of Russian election meddling, and other Senate Republicans seem intent on pursuing the issue as well. That’s good: Democrats have little credibility investigating Trump, so it makes sense for Republicans to lead on this.

In the meantime, let’s put aside sexual blackmail and focus on what is undisputed: Trump praises Putin, criticizes NATO and downplays Russian war crimes and its attempts to steal our election.

In contrast, Trump compares the American intelligence community to Nazis, suggesting it was behind the leaking of the dossier. It’s astonishing to see a president-elect in effect hug the Russians while giving his own team the finger, creating a chasm between the White House and the intelligence community.

“It’s extraordinarily serious,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel to the C.I.A. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” He said that the C.I.A. was buoyed by the nomination of Mike Pompeo to lead it, but that morale and effectiveness would suffer if the rift with the Trump White House continued.

It’s also indisputable that Trump has appointed people soft on Russia. Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the new national security adviser, took money in 2015 from RT, the Russian propaganda front, and sat next to Putin at an RT dinner. Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, is one of the American executives friendliest to Putin.

For months, there have been indications of bizarre ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, including the Russian government’s assertion in November that it maintained contacts with Trump’s “immediate entourage.” The F.B.I. investigated Trump’s Russia ties over the summer and fall, and reportedly sought approval to monitor his aides suspected of improper contacts with Russian officials.

So what’s going on?

The most important question is simply why our president-elect has been so determined to side with Russia — undermining his own intelligence community as he does so. Perhaps it’s a genuine if naïve attempt to “reset” relations. But, oops, new presidents have tried that before, and it fails each time.

The Trump view is so far from the foreign policy mainstream that inevitably there will be darker theories offered for the softness toward Russia. These involve financial ties with Moscow, since Trump refuses to release his tax statements, or the kind of sordid blackmail alleged in the dossier.

Such rumors may well be wrong and unfair — but they persist. They damage Trump, the intelligence community and the United States itself, and the best disinfectant will be transparency. That means congressional inquiries, led by Republicans, and a continued F.B.I. investigation.

We can’t afford even the perception that our president is the Kremlin’s man in Washington.

Kristof and Bruni

January 8, 2017

In “As Donald Trump Denies Climate Change, These Kids Die of It” Mr. Kristof says droughts caused by global warming have left southern Africa starved for food.  Mr. Bruni, in “Rumors of Hillary Clinton’s Comeback,” says Donald Trump only thought he got rid of her.  Here’s Mr. Kristof, writing from Tsihombe, Madagascar:

She is just a frightened mom, worrying if her son will survive, and certainly not fretting about American politics — for she has never heard of either President Obama or Donald Trump.

What about America itself? Ranomasy, who lives in an isolated village on this island of Madagascar off southern Africa, shakes her head. It doesn’t ring any bells.

Yet we Americans may be inadvertently killing her infant son. Climate change, disproportionately caused by carbon emissions from America, seems to be behind a severe drought that has led crops to wilt across seven countries in southern Africa. The result is acute malnutrition for 1.3 million children in the region, the United Nations says.

Trump has repeatedly mocked climate change, once even calling it a hoax fabricated by China. But climate change here is as tangible as its victims. Trump should come and feel these children’s ribs and watch them struggle for life. It’s true that the links between our carbon emissions and any particular drought are convoluted, but over all, climate change is as palpable as a wizened, glassy-eyed child dying of starvation. Like Ranomasy’s 18-month-old son, Tsapasoa.

Southern Africa’s drought and food crisis have gone largely unnoticed around the world. The situation has been particularly severe in Madagascar, a lovely island nation known for deserted sandy beaches and playful long-tailed primates called lemurs.

But the southern part of the island doesn’t look anything like the animated movie “Madagascar”: Families are slowly starving because rains and crops have failed for the last few years. They are reduced to eating cactus and even rocks or ashes. The United Nations estimates that nearly one million people in Madagascar alone need emergency food assistance.

I met Ranomasy at an emergency feeding station run by Catholic nuns who were trying to save her baby. Ranomasy had carried Tsapasoa 12 hours on a trek through the desert to get to the nuns, walking barefoot because most villagers have already sold everything from shoes to spoons to survive.

“I feel so powerless as a mother, because I know how much I love my child,” she said. “But whatever I do just doesn’t work.”

The drought is also severe in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and a related drought has devastated East Africa and the Horn of Africa and is expected to continue this year. The U.N. World Food Program has urgently appealed for assistance, but only half the money needed has been donated.

The immediate cause of the droughts was an extremely warm El Niño event, which came on top of a larger drying trend in the last few decades in parts of Africa. New research, just published in the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, concludes that human-caused climate change exacerbated El Niño’s intensity and significantly reduced rainfall in parts of Ethiopia and southern Africa.

The researchers calculated that human contributions to global warming reduced water runoff in southern Africa by 48 percent and concluded that these human contributions “have contributed to substantial food crises.”

As an American, I’m proud to see U.S. assistance saving lives here. If it weren’t for U.S.A.I.D., the American aid agency, and nonprofit groups like Catholic Relief Services that work in these villages, far more cadavers would be piling up. But my pride is mixed with guilt: The United States single-handedly accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions over the last 150 years, more than twice as much as any other country.

The basic injustice is that we rich countries produced the carbon that is devastating impoverished people from Madagascar to Bangladesh. In America, climate change costs families beach homes; in poor countries, parents lose their children.

In one Madagascar hamlet I visited, villagers used to get water from a well a three-hour walk away, but then it went dry. Now they hike the three hours and then buy water from a man who trucks it in. But they have almost no money. Not one of the children in the village has ever had a bath.

Families in this region traditionally raised cattle, but many have sold their herds to buy food to survive. Selling pressure has sent the price of a cow tumbling from $300 to less than $100.

Families are also pulling their children out of school, to send them foraging for edible plants. In one village I visited, fewer than 15 percent of the children are attending primary school this year.

One of the children who dropped out is Fombasoa, who should be in the third grade but now spends her days scouring the desert for a wild red cactus fruit. Fombasoa’s family is also ready to marry her off, even though she is just 10, because then her husband would be responsible for feeding her.

“If I can find her a husband, I would marry her,” said her father, Sonjona, who, like many villagers, has just one name. “But these days there is no man who wants her” — because no one can afford the bride price of about $32.

Sonjona realizes that it is wrong to marry off a 10-year-old, but he also knows it is wrong to see his daughter starve. “I feel despair,” he said. “I don’t feel a man any more. I used to have muscles; now I have only bones. I feel guilty, because my job was to care for my children, and now they have only red cactus fruit.”

Other families showed me how they pick rocks of chalk from the ground, break them into dust and cook the dust into soup. “It fills our stomachs at least,” explained Limbiaza, a 20-year-old woman in one remote village. As it becomes more difficult to find the chalk rocks, some families make soup from ashes from old cooking fires.

Scientists used to think that the horror of starvation was principally the dying children. Now they understand there is a far broader toll: When children in utero and in the first few years of life are malnourished, their brains don’t develop properly. As a result, they may suffer permanently impaired brain function.

“If children are stunted and do not receive the nutrition and attention in these first 1,000 days, it is very difficult to catch back up,” noted Joshua Poole, the Madagascar director of Catholic Relief Services. “Nutritional neglect during this critical period prevents children from reaching their full mental potential.”

For the next half century or so, we will see students learning less in school and economies held back, because in 2017 we allowed more than a million kids to be malnourished just here in southern Africa, collateral damage from our carbon-intensive way of life.

The struggling people of Madagascar are caught between their own corrupt, ineffective government, which denies the scale of the crisis, and overseas governments that don’t want to curb carbon emissions.

Whatever we do to limit the growth of carbon, climate problems will worsen for decades to come. Those of us in the rich world who have emitted most of the carbon bear a special responsibility to help people like these Madagascar villagers who are simultaneously least responsible for climate change and most vulnerable to it.

The challenges are not hopeless, and I saw programs here that worked. The World Food Program runs school feeding programs that use local volunteers and, at a cost of 25 cents per child per day, give children a free daily meal that staves off starvation and creates an incentive to keep children in school.

We need these emergency relief efforts — and constant vigilance to intervene early to avert famines — but we can also do far more to help local people help themselves.

Catholic Relief Services provides emergency food aid, but it also promotes drought-resistant seed varieties and is showing farmers near the coast how to fish. It is also working with American scientists on new technologies to supply water in Madagascar, using condensation or small-scale desalination.

American technology helped create the problem, and it would be nice to see American technology used more aggressively to mitigate the burden on the victims.

For me, the most wrenching sight of this trip was of two starving boys near the southern tip of Madagascar. Their parents are climate refugees who fled their village to try to find a way to survive, leaving the boys in the care of an aunt, even though she doesn’t have enough food for her own two daughters.

I met the boys, Fokondraza, 5, and Voriavy, 3, in the evening, and they said that so far that day they hadn’t eaten or drunk anything (the closest well, producing somewhat salty water, is several hours away by foot, and fetching a pail of water becomes more burdensome when everyone is malnourished and anemic). Their aunt, Fideline, began to prepare the day’s meal.

She broke off cactus pads, scraped off the thorns and boiled them briefly, and the boys ate them — even though they provide little nutrition. “My heart is breaking because I have nothing to give them,” Fideline said. “I have no choice.”

At night, the boys sometimes cry from hunger, she said. But that is a good sign. When a person is near starvation, the body shuts down emotion, becoming zombielike as every calorie goes to keeping the heart and lungs working. It is the children who don’t cry, those quiet and expressionless, who are at greatest risk — and the two boys are becoming more like that.

I don’t pretend that the links between climate change and this food crisis are simple, or that the solutions are straightforward. I flew halfway around the world and then drove for two days to get to these villages, pumping out carbon the whole way.

Yet we do know what will help in the long run: sticking with the Paris agreement to limit global warming, as well as with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. We must also put a price on carbon and invest much more heavily in research on renewable energy.

In the short and medium term, we must step up assistance to climate refugees and sufferers, both to provide relief and to assist with new livelihoods that adjust to new climate realities. (For individuals who want to help, the organization most active in the areas I visited was Catholic Relief Services, which accepts donations for southern Madagascar.)

The most basic starting point is for the American president-elect to acknowledge what even illiterate Madagascar villagers understand: Climate change is real.

As the sun set, I told Fideline that there was a powerful man named Trump half a world away, in a country she had never heard of, who just might be able to have some impact, over many years, on the climate here. I asked her what she would tell him.

“I would ask him to do what he can, so that once more I can grow cassava, corn, black-eyed peas and sorghum,” she said. “We’re desperate.”

Mr. President-elect, are you listening?

No, Mr. Kristof, he isn’t.  There’s no way for him to make a buck…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Hillary Clinton as New York City mayor?

Imagine the fun:

City building inspectors start to show up daily at Trump Tower, where they find a wobbly beam here, a missing smoke detector there, outdated wiring all over the place. City health inspectors fan out through Trump’s hotels, writing citations for clogged drains in the kitchens and expired milk in the minibars.

The potholes near his properties go unfilled. Those neighborhoods are the last to be plowed. There’s a problem with the flow of water to his Bronx golf course, whose greens are suddenly brown. And the Russian Consulate keeps experiencing power failures. It’s the darnedest thing. Clinton vows to look into it, just as soon as she returns from the Hamptons.

She makes Alec Baldwin her cultural affairs commissioner, Alicia Machado the head of the city’s office of food policy. She invites the Rockettes to perform at every official city event. Without any hand-wringing, all of them accept.

And she’s the belle of the international ball. When foreign dignitaries cycle through the United Nations, they make sure to drop by City Hall, especially because she was once the country’s secretary of state. She winds up meeting with some of them more often than Trump does. He handles this as any grown-up in a position of extraordinary responsibility would, with crack-of-dawn tweets about what a lumpy loser Angela Merkel is and where he places her on a scale of 1 to Melania.

“Sad!” he fumes, but Clinton couldn’t be happier. His hometown is her fief. She’s the boss of him whenever he’s in the Big Apple, and he’s in the Big Apple a whole lot.

I’m fantasizing, yes, but with a glimmer of encouragement. On Wednesday Newsmax, a conservative outlet, reported that Democrats who couldn’t abide the city’s current mayor, Bill de Blasio, were courting Clinton to run against him in a Democratic primary this year and deny him a second term. The Times weighed in on Thursday, noting that speculation about a Clinton candidacy had been “bubbling up for weeks” and was intensifying.

Neither source actually suggested that she’d follow through with this, and several prominent, well-connected Democrats assure me that it won’t happen. So does my gut. Lofty as the perch of New York City mayor is, it’s still a big comedown from what she had in her sights — twice. By campaigning for it, she’d risk coming off as a has-been hankering for any old place at the table.

And if she lost? Yikes. She’d be one of the starkest cases of dashed hopes and downward mobility in modern American politics.

But she’d almost certainly beat de Blasio, and you have to admit that the idea of a Clinton mayoralty is genius. It’s revenge, redemption and a chance for New Yorkers to be rescued from his shortcomings all in one.

Also, Clinton can’t spend the rest of her days in hiding and on nature walks. The woods around Chappaqua, N.Y., are lovely, dark and deep, but really. No one ever mistook her for a forest nymph. She’s a creature of pavement, pantsuits and politics. Shouldn’t she get back to all three?

De Blasio’s first term has been a turbulent mix of successes and frustrations. He delivered on his promise of universal prekindergarten for children in New York, and he put plans for affordable housing in motion. But to live here, as I do, is to notice deteriorations since the end of Mike Bloomberg’s administration: public spaces that seem dirtier, subways that feel more packed, an apparent rise in the number of homeless people on the streets.

De Blasio and aides of his are under investigation for their fund-raising activities, with grand jury decisions expected soon. Any indictments could open the door to several Democrats who have eyed the 2017 mayor’s race and so far balked at jumping into it.

But Clinton has assets that they don’t: the name recognition, donors and intense popularity among New Yorkers to nullify de Blasio’s strengths, no matter his legal fate. In the presidential election, 79 percent of New Yorkers voted for her over Trump.

That she isn’t actually a resident of the city doesn’t matter, so long as she fixed that by the time voters headed to the polls. And she might be a terrific mayor. Bloomberg evidently thought so: Back when his 12 years in City Hall were ending, he tried to persuade her to succeed him. She weds a technocrat’s love of details with an idealist’s expansive gaze, befitting an assignment with concrete local responsibilities and ceremonial obligations that transcend New York.

She’d get to shatter a glass ceiling: New York has not yet had a female mayor.

Besides, there are so many scores she could settle, so many ways she could meddle. In vanquishing de Blasio, she’d be punishing someone whose endorsement of her in last year’s Democratic presidential primary struck many Democrats as late and lackluster.

She’d get back at Anthony Weiner, whose uncontrolled lust and unconcealed loins indirectly led to the F.B.I. director James Comey’s disrupting the final weeks of her presidential campaign. Weiner once sought the mayoralty himself. Now he’d watch as his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, waltzed into and out of Gracie Mansion at Clinton’s side, not his.

Clinton would have a special role in the 2020 contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, because New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, is obviously angling for it. One of his favorite gubernatorial sports has been trying to crush de Blasio like a cockroach, but he’d have to play nice with her, given her political weight. How highly and readily she praised him would be a factor in his fate, and that would give her a leverage with the state that de Blasio doesn’t have.

She’d be the mayor of the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, who lives in Brooklyn. So she’d be able to jockey for public attention with a showboat who has never exactly been a bosom buddy.

But above all there’d be the torturing of Trump, who so gleefully tortures his own political foes and even some of his political friends. (Just ask Chris Christie.) Within a few months of her inauguration, the prevalence of his name on high-rises in Manhattan would pale next to the omnipresence of her face on billboards in all five boroughs.

The city’s Mexican Day Parade would be rerouted, from Madison Avenue over to Fifth, right past Trump Tower. A new city zoning experiment would locate detention centers in the strangest places. And in the city’s libraries, “The Art of the Deal” would be impossible to find, while upfront, on vivid display, there’d be copies galore of “It Takes a Village” and “Hard Choices.”

Some choices aren’t hard at all. Run, Hillary, run.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

January 5, 2017

In “The Anti-Inauguration” Mr. Blow suggests that we augment our outrage with actions that are affirming.  Mr. Kristof considers “The G.O.P. Health Care Hoax” and says Republicans plan to replace Obamacare with TBD.  In “Reality Politics, Starring Donald Trump” Ms. Collins says it’s here and it can’t be canceled for four years.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States is just two weeks away, so now is the time to begin making plans to send him the strongest possible signal that your opposition to the presidency he has foreshadowed will not be pouting and passive, but active and animated.

Now is the time to begin making your plans for the anti-inauguration.

Exclaiming your resistance, while necessary, is insufficient. Resistance is a negative position. While negativity in the face of this menace is justified and admirable, negativity alone is a fractional response. As with most things in a fully articulated life, balance is required. You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values.

When politics seem out of your control, remember that community and culture are very much in your control. We help shape the world we inhabit every day. A life is a collection of thousands of decisions, large and small, made every day. Make those decisions with purpose and conviction, especially for Jan. 20.

The point is not necessarily to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, but rather to deprive it of oxygen and eyeballs; to plant a flag of resistance firmly at the opening gate. This doesn’t mean that people won’t attend or watch. They will. But every station that carries it, as many will, should feel the impact of your absence.

Just because succession of power in our fragile democracy isn’t denied by dictator or compelled by coup does not mean that the majority of Americans who voted for someone other than Trump, and view his ascension as an offense, should feel any pressure or compunction to bear witness to the pomp and pageantry surrounding the installation of a demi-fascist and full-blown demagogue as president.

This ceremony is part of a governmental apparatus meant to project a picture of seamless continuity and normalcy to Americans and the world.

But making Trump appear normal is contingent on public cooperation, which must be denied.

Here are some ways to make your opposition felt and bring forth some light on the impending Day of Darkness.

Protest.

Protests are being organized all over the country, including in the capital itself. Join in. One group, under the banner “Not My President,” is even planning a silent protest at the U.S. Capitol. Then of course there will be the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration. With more than 100,000 people saying they will attend on Facebook, and organizers estimating that they could get 200,000, this could be the largest anti-Trump rally yet.

Volunteer.

If you can’t travel to Washington or if there are no protests being organized in your area, volunteer at an agency or nonprofit that serves a community or advocates on an issue that has been directly targeted by the incoming president. These range from women’s rights, to civil liberties, to immigrant outreach, to environmental protection.

Donate.

If you can’t find a way to volunteer, donate. These groups will need as much funding as possible to defend themselves and their positions from a hostile administration and compliant Congress.

Subscribe.

Coming from me this may sound self-interested, but please try to look over my obvious and admitted conflict to see that the press, even with all its flaws — particularly those exposed during this election — is one of the last lines of defense against corruption and a slide toward autocracy. Trump’s hostility to, and delegitimizing of, the press is a deliberate tactic meant to shield him against future discovery and disclosure.

As Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said on CNN’s Reliable Sources last month:

“If Donald Trump is trying to inoculate himself in advance, it’s like giving himself a vaccine, to prevent the illness that’s going to come when the media turn on his tax returns if they get another leak on it, when they look at some of the business dealings as he’s talking to foreign leaders. There are all kinds of stories that you can imagine, that have already been written, some of them, and what he’s trying to do here is, as I say, sort of inoculate himself by demonizing media. So, don’t believe anything they say.”

Read.

Spend part of the day reading about the rise and fall of empires and how it always seems far-fetched and inconceivable until it actually happens. There are many books that address this topic, but if you want something shorter, try Andrew Sullivan’s “Democracies End When They Are Too Democratic,” a counterintuitive meditation on how tyranny can spring from populism, or my colleague Paul Krugman’s “How Republics End.”

But, by all means, read something. That is oppositional in and of itself when facing a frightening man who seems constitutionally averse to intelligence — from national intelligence to individual intelligence — and who is apparently, how shall I say this, far from a voracious reader.

Watch.

If you must watch something on Jan. 20, try to find specific anti-inauguration counterprogramming. CNN this week reported one such effort:

“A group of entrepreneurs have banded together to create Love-a-thon, a Jerry Lewis-style telethon for the digital age. Love-a-thon will be a three-hour Facebook Live broadcast, beginning at 12:30 p.m. E.T. on Inauguration Day, January 20. The move is a part of an effort to raise money for three organizations — the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Planned Parenthood and Earthjustice.”

Write.

If you don’t already know, find out who all your representatives in government are, from the local level to the national level, get their addresses, and send them a letter or an email expressing your views and explaining in no uncertain terms what you expect from them going forward. Warn that if they let you down, you will remember your disappointment at the polls. Public pressure has a very real impact on political power. Don’t be silent. Don’t be invisible. Make them remember your name.

Connect.

Reach out to your friends and family — the people in what I call your “great sphere of influence.” First, let them know that you love them. This may seem mawkish, but in the wake of Trump’s hateful rhetoric, expressions of love and support are necessary. But beyond that, make sure that they too have an anti-inauguration plan. If they don’t, have them join you in yours. Also, make sure that everyone in your sphere is registered to vote.

You have the power to make anti-inauguration day an enormously effective first step on the path forward through an arduous four years, which promise to be difficult to navigate. Affirmative actions must be as much your guide and solace as resistance is your fuel and fire.

Remember your pre-Trump ideals and make sure that they survive into a post-Trump world.

Now here’s Mr. Kristof:

This week, President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans began to dismantle Obamacare, and here are the details of their replacement plan:

—— —- —- —- – —— —- —— —- – —- —- — —— —- —— —- —- —- — — – – – – —— —- —- —— —- —- —- – —— —- —— —- – —- —- — —— —- – —- —- — – —- —- — —— —- – —- —- — – —- —-

That captures the nonexistent Republican plan to replace Obamacare. They’re telling Americans who feel trapped by health care problems: “Jump! Maybe we’ll catch you.”

This G.O.P. fraud is called “repeal and delay.” That means repealing the Affordable Care Act, effective in a few years without specifying what will replace it.

If the Republicans ran a home renovation business, they would start tearing down your roof this month and promise to return in 2019 with some options for a new one — if you survived.

And survival will be a real issue. The bottom line of the G.O.P. approach is that millions of Americans will lose insurance, and thousands more will die unnecessarily each year because of lack of care.

The paradox of Obamacare is that it is both unpopular and saves lives. Preliminary research suggests that it has already begun saving lives, but it’s too early to have robust data on the improvements to life expectancy among the additional 20 million people who have gained insurance. It is notable that an Urban Institute study found that on the eve of Obamacare’s start, lack of health insurance was killing one American every 24 minutes.

One careful study found that the Republican health care plan in Massachusetts, which was the model for Obamacare, noticeably lowered mortality rates. For every additional 830 adults covered by insurance, one death was prevented each year.

The American College of Physicians warned this week that the G.O.P. course could result in seven million Americans losing their health insurance this year alone, by causing parts of the insurance market to implode. Back-of-envelope calculations suggest that the upshot would be an additional 8,400 Americans dying annually.

How can insurance make such a difference?

I’ve written about my college roommate Scott Androes, a fellow farm boy from Oregon, who switched careers in 2003 and didn’t buy health insurance on the individual market because it was so expensive. Then in 2011 he had trouble urinating and didn’t see a doctor because of the cost.

By 2012 he had blood in his urine and finally was scared enough that he sought medical help. He had waited too long: He had stage IV prostate cancer.

“I blew it,” Scott told me. “I feel like a damned fool.” He showed immense courage in agreeing to tell his story — despite concern that his legacy would be an article highlighting his foolishness — because he wanted people to understand the human cost of a lack of universal insurance. He died soon afterward.

That’s the system that the Republicans are trying to take us back to.

Americans spend two or three times as much on health care as a share of G.D.P. as other industrialized countries but get worse outcomes. American children are 75 percent more likely to die in the first five years of life than British or German children, according to World Bank data, and American women are twice as likely to die in pregnancy as Canadian women. The reasons have to do partly with American poverty, and partly with the high number of uninsured.

Trump would have you believe that he will keep the popular parts of Obamacare, such as the ban on discriminating against pre-existing conditions, while eliminating unpopular parts like the mandate. That’s impossible: The good and bad depend on each other.

The Trump approach would be like trying to amputate a dog’s rear end so you wouldn’t have to clean up its messes. It just doesn’t work that way.

A full repeal of Obamacare would also worsen the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office said in 2015 that “repealing the A.C.A. would increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion over the 2016-2025 period.” That’s more than $1,000 per American household.

Yes, health policy makes eyes glaze over. But focus on these two points: By broad agreement, the number of people insured will drop if Republicans “repeal and delay,” and more uninsured Americans means more Americans dying. That’s why the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association and even conservative health care analysts have warned Congress not to repeal Obamacare without stipulating what comes next.

Republicans spent $7 million investigating the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and ultimately found no evidence of high-level wrongdoing. Now they are rushing toward a scam that may cost thousands of American lives every year.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Two big political events this week. A new Congress started work and “The New Celebrity Apprentice” arrived on TV.

“Celebrity Apprentice” is now hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former action movie star who became a governor and is now recycling back into entertainment. He is replacing Donald Trump, a former reality TV star now preparing to move into the White House. Trump’s cabinet choices include one former governor who transitioned into “Dancing With the Stars” and is now seeking to become secretary of energy.

On Wednesday we learned that Omarosa Manigault, a former “Apprentice” contestant who’s said she’s done “20-plus reality shows,” is joining the new White House staff.

I think we are seeing a pattern here. Two major questions:

One is whether we’re going to wind up getting the next generation of political leaders out of these shows. If there were two tracks to becoming a future presidential candidate, would you rather collect thousands of signatures to run for the state assembly, or just spend a month locked in a house with a dozen strangers and 100 cameras?

O.K., you are a serious citizen and I do believe you would go for the signatures. But trust me, the future is not on your side.

The other question is whether the actual workings of government are coming to resemble a long-running reality TV series.

Senate Republicans began their year with health care. Their plan requires brave lawmakers to vote that Obamacare be replaced by Something Different. Nobody knows exactly what Something Different looks like. The Republicans are just sure it’s out there — sort of like the hidden immunity idol on “Survivor.”

“The answer here is bold action,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. Think of it this way: Repeal is Season 1. To find out what really happens, you’re going to have to tune in for Season 2, when Paul and the gang go off to a Pacific island, where they will compete to find the health care plan concealed under a rock in the forest.

But about the first week of Congress. The House Republicans started things off by voting to castrate the office that oversees legislators’ ethics. This was such a terrible beginning that you can’t help wondering if it was staged to gin up a little excitement and make Trump, who tweeted his opposition, look … bold. It’s like one of those “Real Housewives” shows where people walk into the room and instantly start telling X what Y just said about her downstairs.

The important thing was that Trump expressed his displeasure via Twitter, which is most certainly going to be the prime method of communication in reality politics.

How can you beat it? If the North Koreans say they’re building a weapon that could nuke America, you tweet “won’t happen.” Mission accomplished. If there’s deep confusion about Russian hacking in the last election, you announce that you’ll clear everything up by Tuesday. When Tuesday arrives you can tweet that a critical intelligence briefing had been delayed until Friday. And just to be clear what you think of folks like the C.I.A., you put “Intelligence” in quotes and add “Very strange!”

This is the future, people. Little tiny messages that end with a teeny-weeny sentence with an exclamation point. Soon we’ll look on email as an incredibly laborious method of communication, like our parents regarded 20-page letters written with quill pens. Trump saw the future a long time ago. “Half of my friends are under indictment right now because they sent emails to each other about how they’re screwing people,” he confided to Howard Stern back in 2005. “They’ll write you a message that they’re having sex with 15 different married women. It’s unbelievable. Email is unbelievable.”

So unbelievable.

Trump actually did once have an email address, MrTrump@GoTrump.com, which was advertised as a place where you could both do your travel booking and get “travel tips and advice” from the man himself. That business is no more, like the Trump steaks.

However, the president-elect does still have a connection to “Celebrity Apprentice,” where he is listed as an executive producer. Of course, anybody can be an executive producer — you’re reading this, so you can call yourself executive producer of reading. Yet why would the future president of the United States want credit for making a cheesy reality show, currently starring a guy who supported John Kasich in the primaries?

If you think of an answer, tweet it.

Trump’s alleged oversight has not stopped “Celebrity Apprentice” from being a pretty pathetic effort at entertainment. This week it lost in the ratings to “The Bachelor.” The new candidate there is a guy named Nick who has already been on three reality dating shows before. He has not found love, so it does seem as if his life requires a new direction. I am thinking the next stop’s the Iowa caucuses.