Archive for the ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!’ Category

Blow, Kristof and Collins

March 3, 2016

Well.  The NYT columnists are all in a state of panic over Trump.  In “Demagogue for President” Mr. Blow says a nativist, sexist, arguably fascist and racist liar is the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.  He’s right, but at least it’s not Ted Cruz.  Mr. Kristof has a conversation with an imaginary voter in “After Super Tuesday, Bracing for a President Trump.”  He says Donald Trump is a demagogue who has damaged America’s reputation, insulted women and minorities — and has a decent chance of being our next president.  And again, at least it’s not Ted Cruz.  Ms. Collins, in “Call Me Mr. Trump,” says back during “The Apprentice” and now when being introduced by a new sidekick, the gold-plated candidate has had no first name.  I do wish Mr. Kristof had managed to speak to two elderly (one’s 88, the other 76) ladies in my church, both staunch Republicans.  They’re HORRIFIED by what’s going on and would NEVER vote for Trump.  What they also understand, and will tell anyone who listens, is that while Trump is crazy Cruz is evil.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Sometimes you have to simply step back from the hubbub and take stock, with cleareyed sobriety, at a moment in history to fully appreciate its epochal import. Now is such a time.

A nativist, sexist, arguably fascist and racist demagogue who twists the truth is the front-runner in the race to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, over the protestations of the party’s establishment, who rightly view his ascendance as an existential threat to an already tattered brand.

He is odd and entertaining, vacuous and vain, disarming and terrifyingly dangerous.

And, according to The New York Times, he “could lock up the nomination in May” if he “keeps winning by the same margins.” Furthermore, the Republican Party is seeing record turnout on its way to this end. There is a political revolution in this country but, so far at least, it appears to be one driven in large part by the Republicans.

Let this sink in, America.

Stop thinking that it’s all a joke, a hoax, a game. It’s not. Maybe he began this quest as a branding exercise, but it has morphed into something quite real: a challenge to the collective moral character of the republic. The success of his candidacy so far calls into question the very definition and direction of America.

Later we can condemn the media for its complicity in his rise, the way we and the candidate operated in a symbiotic relationship, exchanging cheap ratings for free publicity, but it can’t be undone now. The candidate has now risen.

This is a guy who began his presidential bid by branding Mexican immigrants as drug mules, criminals and rapists.

This is a guy at whose rallies minorities have been shouted down and even manhandled — like the University of Louisville student Shiya Nwanguma— with little or no condemnation from the candidate.

This is a man who refused to immediately and unequivocally denounce and disavow the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, who said on his radio program that voting against the turgid real estate developer was tantamount to “treason to your heritage.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that we can safely assume that Mr. Grand Wizard emeritus meant white heritage.

Again, America, let that sink in: America’s white heritage candidate, according to the illustrious David Duke, is the person so far winning a plurality of votes in the Republican contests and collecting a large share of that party’s delegates.

Indeed, his candidacy is providing a refuge for, and giving voice to, white fear and anger over the inevitable changing demography of the country, the erosion of the center and the rewarding of whiteness as a commodity.

Anger, not policy, is in fact the cornerstone of his candidacy. His policies are carpaccio-thin. He feeds his followers vague, morning-mirror affirmations like “make America great again” and endless “winning,” while largely avoiding particulars and parrying fact-checkers and his own history of inconsistencies.

And yet, the people who support him, angry at the establishment, their own party, America itself, don’t really care. He has touched their frustration and they feel reflected in his brutishness.

But even beyond the troubling racial realities of his candidacy is the misogyny of it.

This is a man who has called various women “disgusting,” “a slob,” “grotesque,” “a dog.” And he says that he cherishes women.

His candidacy also promotes what would surely be characterized as war crimes — interrogation tactics “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and killing the families of terrorism suspects.

Not only does he want to build a wall on the border, he wants to round up and deport those undocumented in this country, stop Muslims from entering and send back Syrian refugees.

One last time, America: Pause and let all that sink in.

I don’t want anyone to say, when we look back at this moment, that they didn’t see the signs. I don’t want anyone to feign surprise. I don’t want people to say that they didn’t take it all seriously because they had faith that their fellow citizens would somehow see the light and not allow this candidate to rise.

No. You don’t get that option. He has risen and continues to rise. Most smart money is on him becoming the Republican nominee, unless party leaders can devise some last-minute plan to blunt him.

And, it is not at all clear to me that, whoever the Democratic nominee is, she or he would have a cakewalk to an easy victory in the general election.

Say this out loud: The leading candidate for president on the Republican side is a demagogue. He is on track to be that party’s nominee. He is attracting record numbers of voters to the polls. If he wins the nomination, he could also win the presidency.

Scared yet? Good! Stop laughing this off. It’s not a joke. It’s quite real. And you need to remember the moment that you woke up and realized just how real it was.

And now we get to Mr. Kristof and his imaginary friend:

The general election campaign may have already begun.

In the aftermath of Super Tuesday election results, betting markets show Hillary Clinton with more than a 90 percent chance of becoming the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump with at least a 75 percent chanceof emerging as the Republican nominee.

This is the most astonishing presidential election since at least 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. The G.O.P. front-runner is reviled not only by Democrats, but also by many prominent Republicans, and has less government experience than any president in history.

Only two presidents — William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover — lacked background in major elective office or in the military, and both had held cabinet posts. In short, a Trump presidency would be unprecedented not only for his bizarre policy positions and propensity to insult women and minorities, but also because of his staggering lack of relevant experience or knowledge.

Trump has shrewdly manipulated the news media and has proved a much more accurate reader of the electorate than we pundits. Yet I’ve never met a national politician so ill informed, so evasive, so bombastic and, frankly, so puerile.

According to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, most Republican candidates spoke at a high-school or middle-school level in the last G.O.P. debate, based on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Index. Meanwhile, Trump spoke at a third- or fourth-grade level. After the Nevada caucuses, Ted Cruz spoke at a ninth-grade level, Clinton at a seventh-grade level — and Trump at about a second-grade level! (I checked Trump’s victory speech on Super Tuesday evening, a more moderate speech that seemed to reach for the center, and Trump had raised his rhetoric to a sixth-grade level.)

So let me engage a (imaginary) Trump voter:

Me: How can you possibly support a demagogue with less experience than any president in history?

Voter: You media know-it-alls are so patronizing! Trump has experience where it matters, making things happen in the business world. Anyway, what have experienced politicians brought us? A corrupt and broken system. Let’s try something new — and at least he’s a straight shooter.

Me: He has a reputation as a straight shooter, but he lies. When PolitiFact was choosing its “lie of the year,” it found that all its real contenders were Trump statements — so it collectively awarded his many campaign misstatements the “lie of the year” award. And in backing him, you’re pretty much guaranteeing a Hillary Clinton presidency. Indeed, because of Trump, the betting markets are now predicting a Democratic Senate as well.

Voter: Come on! Trump proved all of you pundits wrong again and again, and he’ll do so again. And even those betting markets you like to cite — they show Trump with at least a one-in-four chance of being our next president, and that’s while other Republicans are trying to rip him apart. Just wait until the party rallies around Trump.

Me: But how can you support a candidate who is so hateful? This is a man who calls Mexican immigrants rapists, who is slow to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, and who is mulling a registry for Muslims. You’re O.K. with a racist in the White House?

Voter: Give me a break. You media guys always roll out the race card, but we’re fed up with political correctness. I don’t agree with everything Trump says, but at least he isn’t pussyfooting around. He’ll make America strong again. As for his wilder statements, take them with a grain of salt. He probably doesn’t believe them himself, but he’ll use them to negotiate. His history is as a deal maker, not an ideologue.

Me: But Trump is already damaging America’s reputation worldwide bycommenting sympathetically about Putin and the Chinese massacre of protesters from the Tiananmen democracy movement. More than 580,000 Britons have signed a petition to ban him from British shores. And Larry Summers warns that just the prospect of a protectionist demagogue as president could tip the United States into recession or trigger an international financial crisis.

Voter: Take a deep breath. I don’t care whether foreigners like us, as long as they fear us.

Me: And you don’t have a problem with a candidate who demeans women as sexual playthings, who critiques women based more on busts than brains (in his words: “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10”), who insults or leers at half the population?

Voter: In the past, Trump was an entertainment personality, so he said outrageous things. From now on, he’ll be more presidential and more moderate, reaching out to Democrats — which he can do better than Cruz or Rubio, because he’s not so conservative. And for all your naysaying, he’ll be elected president, and he’ll show that all your anxieties are as imaginary as I am. Get used to the phrase: President Trump.

Nick, give up the “imaginary friend” stuff.  MoDo’s better at it than you.  Now we get to Ms. Collins:

What do you think we should call Donald Trump?

Now stop that. This is a serious question. It came up on Super Tuesday night, when Chris Christie introduced the triumphant candidate in Florida.

“Since June 16, when Mr. Trump declared his candidacy, he has shown himself to be tough and strong and bold,” the phantom governor of New Jersey began. Remember when Christie was supposed to be tough and strong and bold? Now he’s just Donald Trump’s sidekick — his Robin, or maybe more appropriately, his Chewbacca.

Trump and his helper made their Super Tuesday appearance at Mar-a-Lago, his gold-plated Florida club where the chandeliers are as high as an elephant’s eye and the membership fee is $100,000. Recently, Trump said it represents his championship of equality.

Seriously. When Trump was asked about the Ku Klux Klan controversy on “Good Morning America,” he once again “disavowed” the former K.K.K. leader David Duke, and then added: “There’s nobody that’s done so much for equality as I have. You take a look at Palm Beach, Fla. I built the Mar-a-Lago Club totally open to everybody.”

On Super Tuesday night in the ballroom of equality, Christie stood behind Trump appearing totally miserable. As a number of commentators noted, he looked like a person who had just been informed that his family was being held hostage and would be released only if he kept quiet and stared straight ahead.

Most of us can live with the possibility that he has not found happiness in his new role as Donald Trump’s most prominent supporter. Instead, let’s consider the fact that in his introduction, Christie called the candidate “Mr. Trump.” To which Trump responded, “Chris, thank you very much.” Then he congratulated “Ted” for winning Texas and looked forward to taking on “Hillary.”

Why is Donald Trump always “Mister”? True, since he has absolutely no record of public service, he lacks a title like Senator or Governor. But this goes way back — on his reality show, all the would-be apprentices, including the celebrity ones, called the host “Mr. Trump,” even when he wasn’t in the room. “It’s this underlying power,” an ex-contestant explained to Cosmopolitan.

Just remember that this will be an administration where all millionaires, whatever race, creed or color, will be given equal opportunity. As long as they don’t call him Donald.

Is there anybody who can beat him? The only candidate who seemed discouraged by Super Tuesday was Ben Carson, although so far he’s only announced he will not be in Thursday’s debate. We will certainly miss him complaining that nobody ever asks him a question. And his answers! At about the same time Carson made his semi-news, a website posted a video in which he avers: “We have a process, an electoral process. That is a process that I am in the process of following, and will continue to follow.”

There’s still Ted Cruz, who won Texas, where he lives, plus Oklahoma and Alaska. Three states that are really, really into oil. If there’s a derrick on the horizon, Cruz can’t lose.

And Marco Rubio won the Minnesota caucus. His first state! “We are so excited about what lies ahead for our campaign,” the junior senator from Florida said. He’d better be, since once this is over Rubio won’t even have a job. He’s vacating his Senate seat, which he never seemed to sit in all that much anyway. His other family income is mainly from people who’ve believed he had a presidential future worth investing in.

The last time he was in terrible financial trouble, Rubio solved the problem by writing a memoir, “An American Son,” for which he got $800,000. I am wondering what the bidding will be for “An American Also-Ran,” the inspiring story of the man who won the Minnesota caucus.

If we lost Marco Rubio, I’d really miss his fund-raising emails. Late on Super Tuesday, I got one asking for a donation on the basis of his spectacular performance.

“Friend” (Marco always calls me Friend) “In the days leading up to tonight, a lot of the media had written us off. … I’m happy to be an underdog. We’re a country of underdogs. I come from a community of underdogs, too, as I said in Miami tonight. I’ve been an underdog in the past — and once again, we’re going to be an underdog campaign that WINS.”

Wow, a lot of underdogs. A little bit later I got a letter from the campaign, just checking to make sure I got Marco’s note. “There’s no doubt he feels like an underdog now, but it’s important to recognize what he accomplished last night, and one sign he’ll win this thing: He picked up a whole bunch of delegates from all across the country.”

Well, at least they didn’t call him “Mister Rubio.”

Wee Marco looks like he belongs in short pants.

MoDo, solo.

December 30, 2009

The Moustache of Wisdom is off, so MoDo has the stage to herself.  In “As the Nation’s Pulse Races, Obama Can’t Seem to Find His” (I think it’s a winner for longest title) she shrieks that in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, President Obama once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253. Here she is:

I was walking through a deserted downtown on Christmas Eve with a friend, past the lonely, gray Treasury Building, past the snowy White House with no president inside.

“I hope the terrorists don’t think this is a good time to attack,” I said, looking protectively at the White House, which always looks smaller and more vulnerable and beautiful than you expect, no matter how often you see it up close.

I thought our guard might be down because of the holiday; now I realize our guard is down every day.

One thrilling thing about moving from W. to Barack Obama was that Obama seemed like an avatar of modernity.

W., Dick Cheney and Rummy kept ceaselessly dragging us back into the past. America seemed to have lost her ingenuity, her quickness, her man-on-the-moon bravura, her Bugs Bunny panache.

Were we clever and inventive enough to protect ourselves from the new breed of Flintstones-hardy yet Facebook-savvy terrorists?

W.’s favorite word was “resolute,” but despite gazillions spent and Cheney’s bluster, our efforts to shield ourselves seemed flaccid.

President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles.

Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe.

We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses.

Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward.

If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?

We are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch watch-listers sashay through while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back.

In a rare bipartisan success, House members tried to prevent the Transportation Security Administration from implementing full-body imaging as a screening tool at airports.

Just because Republicans helped lead the ban on better technology and opposed airport security spending doesn’t mean they’ll stop Cheneying the Democrats for subverting national security.

Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan was weaselly enough to whack the president and “weak-kneed liberals” in his gubernatorial fund-raising letter.

Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned.

On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano (who learned nothing from an earlier Janet named Reno) had first tried to deny: that there had been “a systemic failure” and a “catastrophic breach of security.”

But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants.

Given that every utterance of the president is usually televised, it was a throwback to radio days — just at the moment we sought reassurance that our security has finally caught up to “Total Recall.”

All that TV viewers heard, broadcast from a Marine base in Kaneohe Bay, was the president’s disembodied voice, talking about “deficiencies.”

Citing the attempt of the Nigerian’s father to warn U.S. authorities six months ago, the president intoned: “It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect’s name on a no-fly list.”

In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared.

Heck of a job, Barry.

MoDo, honey, here — have a Xanax.  That’s okay, wash it down with a bourbon.  You’ll feel better.  Take a deep breath, and unknot your panties.  NOTHING HAPPENED.  Remember Richard Reid?  W took six days (he was on vacation, doncha know) to make any public mention of him.  Do us all a favor, and if you really need to crap your pants do it in private.  Thank you.

Friedman, solo

March 11, 2009

MoDo is off today (I guess she has spring fever too), which leaves us with The Moustache of Wisdom, with his hair on fire.  He screams “This Is Not a Test.  This Is Not a Test,” and says economically, this financial crisis is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12. Yet, in too many ways, we seem to be playing politics as usual.  Of course, the crisis may hit home a bit more for the Friedmans because Mrs. Friedman’s family trusts have lost over $3.5  billion…  My heart bleeds…  Here he is, hold onto your hat:

It’s always great to see the stock market come back from the dead. But I am deeply worried that our political system doesn’t grasp how much our financial crisis can still undermine everything we want to be as a country. Friends, this is not a test. Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12. Yet, in too many ways, we seem to be playing politics as usual.

Our country has congestive heart failure. Our heart, our banking system that pumps blood to our industrial muscles, is clogged and functioning far below capacity. Nothing else remotely compares in importance to the urgent need to heal our banks.

Yet I read that we’re actually holding up dozens of key appointments at the Treasury Department because we are worried whether someone paid Social Security taxes on a nanny hired 20 years ago at $5 an hour. That’s insane. It’s as if our financial house is burning down but we won’t let the Fire Department open the hydrant until it assures us that there isn’t too much chlorine in the water. Hello?

Meanwhile, the Republican Party behaves as if it would rather see the country fail than Barack Obama succeed. Rush Limbaugh, the de facto G.O.P. boss, said so explicitly, prompting John McCain to declare about President Obama to Politico: “I don’t want him to fail in his mission of restoring our economy.” The G.O.P. is actually debating whether it wants our president to fail. Rather than help the president make the hard calls, the G.O.P. has opted for cat calls. It would be as if on the morning after 9/11, Democrats said they wanted no part of any war against Al Qaeda — “George Bush, you’re on your own.”

As for President Obama, I like his coolness under fire, yet sometimes it feels as if he is deliberately keeping his distance from the banking crisis, while pressing ahead on other popular initiatives. I understand that he doesn’t want his presidency to be held hostage to the ups and downs of bank stocks, but a hostage he is. We all are.

Great and difficult crises are what produce great presidents, so one thing we know for sure: Mr. Obama’s going to have his shot at greatness. This crisis is uniquely difficult in four respects.

First, to get out of a crisis like this you need to let markets clear. You need to let failed companies, or homeowners, go bankrupt, unlock their dead capital and reapply it to thriving entities. That is how the dot-com bust ended, and out of that carnage emerged a whole new set of companies. The problem with this crisis is that A.I.G., Citigroup and General Motors — and your neighbor’s subprime mortgage — are not Dogfood.com. You let the market clear them away, and we could all be wiped out with them. Therefore, the president has to find a way to punish bad financial actors without setting off another Lehman Brothers domino effect.

Second, we need to get a market going that would bring fair value and clarity to the “toxic mortgages” crippling the balance sheets of our major banks. This will likely require some degree of government subsidy to private equity groups and hedge funds to get them to make the first bids for these toxic assets by guaranteeing they will not lose. This could make great policy sense, but be a nightmare to sell politically. It will strike many as another unfair giveaway to Wall Street.

Unfortunately, the president may have to look the American people in the eye and explain that “fairness is not on the menu anymore.” All that’s on the menu now is whether or not we avoid a system meltdown — and this will require rewarding some new investors.

Third, the president may have to make some trillion-dollar decisions — like nationalizing major banks or doubling the economic stimulus — with no real precedent and without knowing all the long-term ramifications.

Finally, to do all this, the president has to make us realize how dangerous a moment we’re in, without creating a panic that will prompt Americans to put every dime in their mattresses and undermine the economy even more.

All this will require leadership of the highest order — bold decisions, persistence and persuasion. There is a huge amount of money on the sidelines eager to bet again on America. But right now, there is too much uncertainty; no one knows what will be the new rules governing investments in our biggest financial institutions. If President Obama can produce and sell that plan, private investors, big and small, will give us a stimulus like you’ve never seen.

Which is why I wake up every morning hoping to read this story: “President Obama announced today that he had invited the country’s 20 leading bankers, 20 leading industrialists, 20 top market economists and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to join him and his team at Camp David. ‘We will not come down from the mountain until we have forged a common, transparent strategy for getting us out of this banking crisis,’ the president said, as he boarded his helicopter.”