Archive for the ‘The Moustache of Wisdom’ Category

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 25, 2017

The Moustache of Wisdom thinks he knows all about “Smart Approaches, Not Strong-Arm Tactics, to Jobs” and he, as usual, informs us that Democrats need to take the long view.  Mr. Cohen, in “The Banal Belligerence of Donald Trump,” says Americans will have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why.  Mr. Bruni is sure he knows all about “The Wrong Way to Take On Trump,” and says if we insult his youngest son, curse, or surrender the high ground we’ll lose it all.  There will be a comment from one of the ladies after that…  Here’s TMOW, writing from London:

I’ve actually been watching the early Trump presidency from London. (I would have gone to the moon, but I couldn’t get a ride.) Even from here I have vertigo.

My head is swirling from “alternative facts,” trade deals canceled, pipelines initiated, Obamacare in the Twilight Zone and utterly bizarre rants about attendance on Inauguration Day and fake voters on Election Day. Whatever this cost Vladimir Putin, he’s already gotten his money’s worth — a chaos president. Pass the vodka.

But moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who opposed Donald Trump need to beware. He can make you so nuts — he can so vacuum your brains out — that you can’t think clearly about the most important questions today: What things are true even if Trump believes them, and therefore merit support? And where can Democrats offer smarter approaches on issues, like jobs, for instance — approaches that can connect to the guts of working-class voters as Trump did, but provide a smarter path forward.

Where Trump’s instinct is not wrong is on the need to strike a better long-term trading arrangement with China. But I worry about his pugnacious tactics. I would be negotiating with Beijing in total secret. Let everybody save face. If he smacks China with “America First,” China will smack him with “China First,” and soon we’ll have a good ol’ trade war.

Where I think Democrats should focus their critique, and fresh thinking, is how we actually bring back more middle-class jobs. A day barely goes by without Trump threatening some company that plans to move jobs abroad or build a factory in Mexico, not America.

If Trump’s bullying can actually save good jobs, God bless him. But what Trump doesn’t see is that while this may get him some short-term jobs headlines, in the long-run C.E.O.s may prefer not to build their next factory in America, precisely because it will be hostage to Trump’s Twitter lashings. They also may quietly replace more workers with robots faster, because Trump can’t see or complain about that.

“Trump wants to protect jobs,” explained Gidi Grinstein, who heads the Israeli policy institute Reut. “What we really need is to protect workers.”

You need to protect workers, not jobs, because every worker today will most likely have to transition multiple times to multiple jobs as the pace of change accelerates. So the best way you help workers is by ensuring that they are flexible — that they have the skills, safety nets, health care and lifelong learning opportunities to make those leaps and that they live in cities open to innovation, entrepreneurship and high-I.Q. risk-takers.

The societal units protecting workers best are our healthy communities — where local businesses, philanthropies, the public school system and universities, and local government come together to support a permanent education-to-work-to-life-long-skill-building pipeline.

Businesses signal to schools and colleges, in real time, the skills they need to thrive in the global economy, and philanthropies fund innovative programs for supplemental education and training. Schools also serve as adult learning and social service centers — and local and state governments support them all, including reaching out globally for investors and new markets.

Eric Beinhocker, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford, calls this the “new progressive localism.” For too long, he argues, “progressives have been so focused on Washington, they’ve missed the fact that most of the progress on the issues they care about — environment, education, economic opportunity and work-force skills — has happened at the local level. Because that is where trust lives.” Trust is what enables you to adapt quickly and experiment often, i.e., to be flexible. And there is so much more trust on the local level than the national level in America today.

When Trump strong-arms a company to retain jobs, but kills Obamacare without a credible alternative, he is saving jobs but hurting workers, because he is making workers less secure and less flexible.

Another of Trump’s jobs fallacies is that regulation always holds companies back. In some cases it does, and thoughtful deregulation can help. But Trump’s argument that we must ignore climate science because steadily upgrading clean energy standards for our power, auto and construction companies kills jobs is pure nonsense.

Fact: California has some of the highest clean energy standards for cars, buildings and electric utilities in America. And those standards have kept California one of the world’s leaders in clean-tech companies and start-ups, and its jobs and overall economy have grown steadily since 2010.

“The Golden State has more than half a million advanced energy jobs,” says Energy Innovation C.E.O. Hal Harvey. “That’s 10 times more — in this state alone — than total U.S. coal jobs.” Trump’s strategy is to “make America last” on clean energy and to double down on coal. Insane.

In sum, Democrats should and can take the language of “strength” away from Trump and own it themselves. They should be for strong workers, not strong walls; for building strong communities, not relying on a strongman to strong-arm employers; and for strong standards to create strong companies. Those would be my fightin’ words.

Well, at least this time he’s not suggesting that we take our gently used designer frocks to the consignment store to earn money.  Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

The soldiers, millions of them, came home from the war. They dispersed across the country, in big towns and small. It was not easy to recount what had happened to them, and for the dead it was impossible.

Something in the nature of their sacrifice was unsayable. The country was not especially interested. War had not brought the nation together but had divided it. The sudden flash, the boom, the acrid stench and utter randomness of death were as haunting as they were incommunicable.

This was war without victory, the kind that invites silence. For the soldiers, who fought in the belief that their cause was right and their nation just, the silence was humiliating. They bore their injuries, visible and invisible, with stoicism.

Resentments accumulated. The years went by, bringing only mediocrity. Glory and victory were forgotten words. Perhaps someone might mutter, “Thank you for your service.” That was it. There was no national memorial, for what would be memorialized?

Savings evaporated overnight in an economic meltdown engineered by financiers and facilitated by the abolishers of risk.

Democracy, the great diluter, slow and compromised, was inadequate for the expression of the soldiers’ emotions. Reasonable leaders with rational arguments could not assuage the loss. They seemed to belittle it with their parsing of every question and their half-decisions.

No, what was needed was a leader with answers, somebody to marshal a popular movement and cut through hesitations, a strongman who would put the nation first and mythologize its greatness, a figure ready to scapegoat without mercy, a unifier giving voice to the trampled masses, a man who could use democracy without being its slave.

Over 15 years national embitterment festered and yearning intensified. But which 15 years? Anyone these days may be forgiven for moments of disorientation. The 15 years from the devastating German defeat of 1918 to the electoral victory (with 43.9 percent of the vote) of Adolf Hitler in 1933? Or the 15 years from the devastating 9/11 attack on the United States to the electoral victory (with 46.1 percent of the vote) of Donald Trump in 2016?

National humiliation is long in gestation and violent in resolution.

German soldiers, two million of them killed in the Great War, came home to fractious and uneasy democratic politics, the ignominy of reparations, the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, the crash of 1929, and the paralysis of a political system held hostage by the extremes of left and right.

Some 2.7 million American soldiers came home to a country that had been shopping while they served in the Afghan and Iraqi wars, with 6,893 killed and more than 52,000 injured. They returned to an increasingly dysfunctional and polarized polity; to the financial disaster of 2008; to the mystery of what the spending of trillions of dollars in those wars had achieved; to stagnant incomes; to the steady diminishment of American uniqueness and the apparent erosion of its power.

Every American should look at the map in Kael Weston’s powerful book, “The Mirror Test.” It shows, with dots, the hometowns of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. No state is spared. The map should be hung in classrooms across the country.

I have tried to tread carefully with analogies between the Fascist ideologies of 1930s Europe and Trump. American democracy is resilient. But the first days of the Trump presidency — whose roots of course lie in far more than the American military debacles since 9/11 — pushed me over the top. The president is playing with fire.

To say, as he did, that the elected representatives of American democracy are worthless and that the people are everything is to lay the foundations of totalitarianism. It is to say that democratic institutions are irrelevant and all that counts is the great leader and the masses he arouses. To speak of “American carnage” is to deploy the dangerous lexicon of blood, soil and nation. To boast of “a historic movement, the likes of the which the world has never seen before” is to demonstrate consuming megalomania. To declaim “America first” and again, “America first,” is to recall the darkest clarion calls of nationalist dictators. To exalt protectionism is to risk a return to a world of barriers and confrontation. To utter falsehood after falsehood, directly or through a spokesman, is to foster the disorientation that makes crowds susceptible to the delusions of strongmen.

Trump’s outrageous claims have a purpose: to destroy rational thought. When Primo Levi arrived at Auschwitz he reached, in his thirst, for an icicle outside his window but a guard snatched it away. “Warum?” Levi asked (why?). To which the guard responded, “Hier ist kein warum” (here there is no why).

As the great historian Fritz Stern observed, “This denial of ‘why’ was the authentic expression of all totalitarianism, revealing its deepest meaning, a negation of Western civilization.”

Americans are going to have to fight for their civilization and the right to ask why against the banal belligerence of Trump.

And now we get to Mr. Bruni:

You know how Donald Trump wins? I don’t mean a second term or major legislative victories. I’m talking about the battle between incivility and dignity.

He triumphs when opponents trade righteous anger for crude tantrums. When they lose sight of the line between protest and catcalls.

When a writer for “Saturday Night Live” jokes publicly that Trump’s 10-year-old son has the mien and makings of a killer.

“Barron will be this country’s first home-school shooter,” the writer, Katie Rich, tweeted. I cringe at repeating it. But there’s no other way to take proper note of its ugliness.

That tweet ignited a firestorm — and rightly so — but it didn’t really surprise me. It was just a matter of time. This is the trajectory that we’re traveling. This, increasingly, is what passes for impassioned advocacy.

Look elsewhere on Twitter. Or on Facebook. Or at Madonna, whose many positive contributions don’t include her turn at the microphone at the Women’s March in Washington, where she said that she’d “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House,” erupted into profanity and tweaked the lyrics to one of her songs so that they instructed Trump to perform a particular sex act.

What a sure way to undercut the high-mindedness of most of the women (and men) around her on that inspiring day. What a wasted opportunity to try to reach the many Americans who still haven’t decided how alarmed about Trump to be. I doubt that even one of them listened to her and thought: To the barricades I go! If Madonna’s dropping the F bomb, I must spring into action.

All of this plays right into Trump’s hands. It pulls eyes and ears away from the unpreparedness, conflicts of interest and extreme conservatism of so many of his cabinet nominees; from the evolving explanations for why he won’t release his tax returns; from his latest delusion or falsehood, such as his renewed insistence that illegally cast ballots cost him the popular vote; from other evidence of an egomania so profound that it’s an impediment to governing and an invitation to national disaster.

There’s so much substantive ground on which to confront Trump. There are acres upon acres. Why swerve into the gutter? Why help him dismiss his detractors as people in thrall to the theater of their outrage and no better than he is?

And why risk that disaffected Americans, tuning in only occasionally, hear one big mash of insults and insulters, and tune out, when there’s a contest — over what this country stands for, over where it will go — that couldn’t be more serious.

After Rich’s tweet, “Saturday Night Live” suspended her, and she was broadly condemned, by Democrats as well as Republicans, for violating the unofficial rule against attacks on the young children of presidents. Chelsea Clinton, on her Facebook page, urged people to give Barron space and peace — something that wasn’t always done for her, for George W. Bush’s daughters or for Barack Obama’s.

But the treatment of presidential progeny isn’t the real story here. And that’s a complicated saga anyway, because so many presidents and candidates try to have things both ways, putting family on display when it suits them and then declaring them off limits when it doesn’t.

The larger, more pressing issues are how low we’re prepared to sink in our partisan back-and-forth and what’s accomplished by descending to Trump’s subterranean level. His behavior has been grotesque, and it’s human nature to want to repay him in kind. It feels good. It sometimes even feels right.

Many people I know thrilled to the viral footage a few days ago of the vile white supremacist Richard Spencer being punched in the head during a television interview. But that attack does more to help him than to hurt him.

Many people I know thrilled to BuzzFeed’s publication of a dossier with unsubstantiated allegations about Trump. But that decision bolstered his ludicrous insistence that journalists are uniquely unfair to him. It gave him a fresh weapon in his war on the media.

If Trump’s presidency mirrors its dangerous prelude, one of the fundamental challenges will be to respond to him, his abettors and his agenda in the most tactically prudent way and not just the most emotionally satisfying one. To rant less and organize more. To resist taunts and stick with facts. To answer invective with intelligence.

And to show, in the process, that there are two very different sets of values here, manifest in two very distinct modes of discourse. If that doesn’t happen, Trump may be victorious in more than setting newly coarse terms for our political debate. He may indeed win on many fronts, over many years.

I’m not the only woman who is sick unto death of being told how to behave by the likes of David Brooks and Frank Bruni.  Here’s a comment on this POS by “Lorie” from Portland, OR:

“And there you have it, ladies. First David Brooks and now Mr. Bruni schooling women on how to respond to the election to the highest office in the country of a man who has admitted to sexually assaulting women, and we are expected to immediately take the high road. Do you know how well acting “ladylike” has worked for us? All you need to do is look at the picture of seven white men reinstating the gag order. The gloves need to come off. Please stop telling us how we need to express our anger in a gentle way so as not to be displeasing to the delicate sensibilities of men (and some women) who find profanity too much for their adult minds to bear. And enough with this “stop picking on Barron” nonsense. It was one tweet, and a few other comments – nothing compared to the barrage of horrible, profane comments “conservatives” unleashed on the Obama girls when one celebrated her 15th birthday and the other announced her intention to attend Harvard. There is no comparison. Again, we are being asked to accept a false equivalence in the name of “civility”. Can we women at least have a few months to express our anger how we want before the men swoop in to tell us how wrong we are doing it? Or is that just too much to ask?”

I’m sure it is, Lorie.  And maybe I’d be more willing to keep my mouth shut if there were substantial numbers of men protesting as well.  But, of course, Trump and his minions aren’t about to get all up in their vaginas, are they?

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 18, 2017

In “Retweeting Donald Trump” The Moustache of Wisdom asks us to imagine the benefits to the country if the president-elect’s messages were nice, not nasty.  Yeah, Tommy…  And if wishes were horses beggars would ride, and if my aunt had wheels she’d be a bus.  I don’t usually put up comments to Friedman’s stuff, but this time “Bruce Rozenblit” from Kansas City, MO has something important to tell The Moustache of Wisdom.  Mr. Cohen, in “Israel as the Lights Go Out,” says in America, there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.  Mr. Bruni asks “This Year #OscarsSoBlack?” and says against a backdrop of tense race relations, three widely praised movies should bring needed diversity to this year’s Academy Award nominations.  Here’s TMOW:

When Donald Trump was elected president, it felt to me like the most reckless thing our country had done in my lifetime. But like many Americans, I hoped for the best: He’ll grow into the job. He’ll surround himself with good people. The country could use a jolt of fresh thinking. He’ll back off some of his most extreme views.

But now that Trump is about to put his hand on the Bible and be sworn in, I’ve never been more worried for my country. It’s for many reasons, but most of all because of the impulsive, petty and juvenile tweeting the president-elect has engaged in during his transition.

It suggests an immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency that could roil his government and divide the country. I fear that we’re about to stress our unity and institutions in ways not seen since the Vietnam War.

As a leader, you only have one chance to make a second impression. And it is troubling how badly Trump wasted his. A recent Gallup poll found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of his transition — compared with 83 percent for President Obama’s and 61 percent for George W. Bush’s.

Yes, I know, in his Inaugural Address Trump will again summon us to “bind the wounds of division.” But given all his impulsive digital ax wielding, those words will ring hollow. He’s already emptied them of all emotional force with his venomous tweets and refusal to bring even one Democrat into his cabinet.

Trump is hardly the first person elected president to have his legitimacy attacked. Indeed, he led the onslaught on President Obama’s legitimacy. But more than any president since Richard Nixon, Trump has shown himself incapable of turning the other cheek and converting doubters into allies. In an age that demands giant leadership, he’s behaved utterly small.

What if, after Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes to decry Trump’s cruel impersonation of a handicapped reporter, Trump — instead of ridiculously calling her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” — had tweeted: “Meryl Streep, greatest actress ever, ever, ever. Stuff happens in campaigns, Meryl. Even I have regrets. But watch, I’ll make you proud of my presidency!!!!”

What if, after John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights hero, questioned the legitimacy of Trump’s election, Trump hadn’t sneered that Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk” and “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape.” What if Trump instead tweeted: “John Lewis, a great American, let’s walk together through your district and develop a plan to improve people’s lives there. Obama was all talk. I’m all action. Call me Friday after 1 p.m. 202-456-1414. I’ll show you how legit I am.”

What if on New Year’s Trump — instead of tweeting “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies” who “lost so badly they just don’t know what to do” — had tweeted: “Happy New Year to every American — especially to Hillary Clinton and her supporters who fought a tough campaign — very tough. Let’s together make 2017 amazing (!!!!!!) for every American. Love!”

What if, after a cast member of the musical “Hamilton” appealed to Vice President-elect Mike Pence to “uphold our American values” and “work on behalf of all of us,” Trump — instead of denouncing the actor as being “very rude and insulting” and claiming he “couldn’t even memorize lines” — had instead tweeted: “To the cast of Hamilton: Appreciate your sincere concern for our country. When I am in the room where it happens, good stuff will happen. I will not throw away my shot to work on behalf of all of us!!!”

What if Trump — instead of calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “head clown” — had tweeted: “Chuck, you are THE MAN!!! Top Democrat now that Obama’s gone!!! You love to deal. Send me your best health care experts and we’ll fix this thing together in 24 hours, so every American gets better, cheaper care. We’ll both be heroes (well, me just a little bit more). Call me!!!”

That is the sound of magnanimity. It would have generated a flood of good will that would make solving every big problem easier. And it would have cost Trump nothing.

I’ve noted before that one of my favorite movies is “Invictus,” which tells how Nelson Mandela, when he became South Africa’s president, built trust with the white community. Shortly after Mandela took power, his sports advisers wanted to change the name and colors of the country’s famed rugby team — the almost all-white “Springboks” — to something more reflective of black African identity.

Mandela refused. He told his black aides that the key to making whites feel at home in a black-led South Africa was not uprooting all of their cherished symbols. “We have to surprise them with restraint and generosity,” said Mandela.

Most Americans are good-hearted people who are actually starved to feel united again. Many who voted against Trump would have given him a second look had he surprised them with generosity and grace. He did just the opposite. Sad.

And now here’s “Bruce Rozenblit” in response:

“Mr. Friedman is getting close to the root of the problem with Trump. He accurately outlines Trump’s character flaws, demonstrating that he is unfit to be president. He dances around the root issue. Mr. Friedman, like most of the world is still clinging to their denial about Trump.

Trump is unfit to lead because his mind is unfit. Trump can’t lead because his mental defects corral his decisions into either adulation or attack. Everyone around him is trying to manage him. Just today, The Times is running an article stating that Reince Priebus is Trump’s tamer. To make such a statement is to conclude that Trump is unfit to lead. The president isn’t supposed to be tamed. He should do the taming.

Just Sunday, The Times ran an article about women who voted for Trump. The theme was they looked past the bad in hopes of the good. More denial. They created hopes of good when faced with disqualifying bad. Horrible bad.

When my uncle was dying, he refused to accept that the end was near. The doctors were wrong he said. That is when I learned about extreme denial. He clung to life until he finally accepted his fate and then quickly past. He let go.

We have yet to let go of our denial about Trump. We have yet to accept our fate. The truth is too difficult to bear. We continue to reject it.

The truth is that we have elected an incompetent, mentally unstable, man child to the White House. Words do matter. Start listening.”

And next up we have Mr. Cohen, writing from Washington:

The bizarre burst of diplomatic activity on IsraelPalestine in the waning days of the Obama administration has been tantamount to an admission that, on this subject, things only get said too late and when they no longer mean anything. The rest of the time political cowardice in the form of silence prevails.

In a matter of weeks we have had a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to “immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory;” a long speech by Secretary of State John Kerry setting out the Obama administration’s parameters for a two-state peace agreement and defending the American abstention that allowed the U.N. resolution to pass; and a Paris peace conference that urged Israelis and Palestinians, neither of them present, to take concrete steps to get the two-state idea off life support.

None of this piety will change anything on the ground, where settlements continue to grow, the daily humiliations that constitute Palestinian life continue to accumulate, and the occupation that will mark its 50th anniversary this year continues to entrench itself. The only possible change will come with President-elect Donald Trump, whose dalliance with moving the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amounts to pyromania, and whose choice of ambassador, his sometime lawyer David Friedman, suggests hard-line American support for Israeli settlements.

Trump’s thirst for the “ultimate deal” in the Holy Land could not be more far-fetched, however much his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hones his skills with Henry Kissinger. There’s nobody and nothing to work with after a half-century of moral corrosion and progressive estrangement.

Speaking of Kushner, I was told he refused to meet with a senior French diplomat after a demand from Trump Tower that the Paris conference be canceled was ignored. Get used to my-way-or-the-highway diplomacy with team Trump.

U.N. resolution 2334 infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who called it “shameful.” He seemed surprised that ignoring Obama’s veto of an earlier settlements resolution in 2011 would have consequences. Obama ran out of patience because, despite his forbearance, Israel went right on planning housing for tens of thousands more settlers while absorbing “more than one half of our entire global foreign military financing,” in Kerry’s words. Gratitude is not Netanyahu’s forte.

There was little new in the resolution, given America’s consistent opposition to settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over several decades. In fact, the twinning of criticism of Israel with condemnation under international law of “incitement” — a reference to persistent Palestinian practice — was among the fresher elements. Still, the language was sharp. The resolution called on states to distinguish “in their relevant dealings” between Israel and “the territories occupied since 1967”; and it declared that “The cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution.”

I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it. Annexation would be awkward; some 2.75 million Palestinians would demand the vote. Better to play games and let millions of strangers squirm.

Kerry’s speech was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.

It’s ugly, but then ugliness is having its day.

Kerry finally set out the terms of a two-state peace: secure borders based on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps; a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people where the rights of all citizens (Arabs in Israel, Jews in an eventual Palestine) are upheld; a just solution for Palestinian refugees including compensation and acknowledgment of suffering but without changing “the fundamental character of Israel” — so only very limited return to Israel proper; Jerusalem as “the capital of the two states;” a demilitarized Palestinian state, a full end to the occupation after an agreed transition, and elaborate Israeli security guarantees; an end to the conflict and all outstanding claims along with broader peace for Israel with all its Arab neighbors and a regional security partnership.

Why was this unremarkable formula unsayable for so long? Because cowardice inhabits Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah: This little diplomatic flurry has been obscene. Kerry was honorable; Obama lacked courage. Netanyahu dismissed the “last twitches of yesterday’s world.” It is a measure of where we are that tomorrow’s may well be worse.

And last but not least we come to Mr. Bruni:

On the bright side, at least Jenna Bush Hager didn’t say “Hidden Fences in the Moonlight,” mashing together all three of the critically acclaimed movies about African-Americans that are in theaters right now.

I’m referring to that cringe-worthy moment at the Golden Globes when Hager, a correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show, mistakenly referred to “Hidden Figures” as “Hidden Fences,” something that the actor Michael Keaton also did later that same night. “Fences” is its own production, and it, “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” are all in the hunt for Oscar nominations, to be announced next Tuesday.

They tell unrelated stories in unrelated styles. And they’re not equally accomplished, not to my eye. “Moonlight” has a daring, a visual poetry and a jolting intimacy that lift it well above the other two.

But they are indeed linked, because together they represent a real chance, after the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, for a bit of an #OscarsSoBlack correction, or at least an #OscarsMoreDiverse one. The number of nominations that these three movies do or don’t receive will be one of the main lenses through which the 2017 Academy Awards are analyzed, especially in light of this tense juncture for race relations.

The president-elect feuds in an unnecessary, undignified fashion with a hero of the civil rights movement. (Then again, the president-elect feuds in that fashion with a sprawling cast.) He built a political base partly on the lie that our first black president was born outside the country. Because of that and much more, many black members of Congress, among other Democrats, won’t attend his inauguration.

Race has already been a significant part of Oscar talk, with disputes about why Casey Affleck, the white star of “Manchester by the Sea,” is teed up for a best actor nomination (and, possibly, a win) when Nate Parker, the star and director of “The Birth of a Nation,” is almost certain to be passed over. Parker has been dogged by a long-ago rape accusation; Affleck has confronted more recent sexual harassment suits. Is it the difference in the allegations, in the quality of their movies or in the color of their skin that explains their divergent fates?

After there were no black nominees in the acting and directing categories for the last two years, the Academy instituted plans to diversify its membership. No matter how this year’s voting goes, I expect complaints: that the pendulum swung too far or not far enough; that merit is being inflated or denied.

And so I’d like to dwell, beforehand, on the happy, hopeful fact of these three movies themselves. Along with other examinations of race on screens big and small, they have a grace and an insight missing in so much of our public debate. Better still, they’re finding appreciative audiences.

That was one takeaway from the Globes, where “Moonlight” and the television comedies “Atlanta” and “black-ish” won big. It’s also evident in the triumph of “Hidden Figures” as the top-grossing movie in America each of the last two weekends.

“Hidden Figures” tells the fact-based story of three black women who were unheralded heroes at NASA in the 1960s. It has a vital message, affectingly rendered: Prejudice not only strangles individual dreams but stupidly bleeds a society of the talents it needs to reach its fullest potential.

“Fences,” adapted from August Wilson’s play, concentrates on one black family in the 1950s, in particular one black man, played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the movie. It shows how insidiously an awareness of unjustly imposed limits eats away at a person.

Although “Moonlight” comes at the wages of racism less bluntly, its depiction of a tormented boy’s journey to manhood asks big, haunting questions about the social and cultural forces that doom too many young, disadvantaged African-Americans today. Its director, Barry Jenkins, sees a hurt that you can’t turn away from and a hope that you can’t ignore where so many news stories and politicians see only statistics. Maybe that’s because he’s black. Or maybe it’s because he’s brilliant.

I don’t mean to hold up the movies as some uniquely enlightened antidote to the ugliness elsewhere. Meryl Streep’s Hollywood-flattering speech at the Globes conveniently overlooked the industry’s habit of pairing male stars with female ones half their age, thwarting female directors, stereotyping minorities, glamorizing reprobates and putting money above morality time and again.

Movies give us some of our worst ideas about ourselves. But then, like great fiction, they’re our bridges to insufficiently understood lives, our compasses to inadequately learned truths. That’s the case with the three films I just described.

They may yield a best supporting actress nominee apiece and thus an Oscar first: three black contenders in one acting category. That would hardly make up for all the oversights past. But it would be cause for celebration nonetheless.

And a small personal housekeeping matter — Welcome to Savannah, Jay!  I left you a reply to your comment.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

January 11, 2017

In “Online and Scared” The Moustache of Wisdom says a critical mass of our interactions has moved to a realm where we’re all connected but no one’s in charge.  Mr. Cohen, in “Streep vs. Trump for America,” says Americans have been duped by a showman, but to unseat him, liberals must reckon with how they lost sight of their country.  Would that be because we don’t pander to racists, homophobes and neonazis?  Mr. Bruni, in “The Dark Magic of Kellyanne Conway,” says Donald Trump’s cheeriest defender is a political wonder.  Well, that’s one thing you could call her…  Here’s TMOW:

And so it came to pass that in the winter of 2016 the world hit a tipping point that was revealed by the most unlikely collection of actors: Vladimir Putin, Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and the Macy’s department store. Who’d have thunk it?

And what was this tipping point?

It was the moment when we realized that a critical mass of our lives and work had shifted away from the terrestrial world to a realm known as “cyberspace.” That is to say, a critical mass of our interactions had moved to a realm where we’re all connected but no one’s in charge.

After all, there are no stoplights in cyberspace, no police officers walking the beat, no courts, no judges, no God who smites evil and rewards good, and certainly no “1-800-Call-If-Putin-Hacks-Your-Election.” If someone slimes you on Twitter or Facebook, well, unless it is a death threat, good luck getting it removed, especially if it is done anonymously, which in cyberspace is quite common.

And yet this realm is where we now spend increasing hours of our day. Cyberspace is now where we do more of our shopping, more of our dating, more of our friendship-making and sustaining, more of our learning, more of our commerce, more of our teaching, more of our communicating, more of our news-broadcasting and news-seeking and more of our selling of goods, services and ideas.

It’s where both our president-elect and the leader of ISIS can communicate with equal ease with tens of millions of their respective followers through Twitter — without editors, fact-checkers, libel lawyers or other filters.

And, I would argue, 2016 will be remembered as the year when we fully grasped just how scary that can be — how easy it was for a presidential candidate to tweet out untruths and half-truths faster than anyone could correct them, how cheap it was for Russia to intervene on Trump’s behalf with hacks of Democratic operatives’ computers and how unnerving it was to hear Yahoo’s chief information security officer, Bob Lord, say that his company still had “not been able to identify” how one billion Yahoo accounts and their sensitive user information were hacked in 2013.

Even President Obama was taken aback by the speed at which this tipping point tipped. “I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyberhacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies,” he told ABC News’s “This Week.”

At Christmas, Amazon.com taught yet more traditional retailers how hard the cybertipping point has hit retailing. Last week, Macy’s said it was slashing 10,000 jobs and closing dozens of stores because, according to The Wall Street Journal, “Macy’s hasn’t been able to solve consumers’ shift to online shopping.”

At first Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder, insisted that fake news stories carried by Facebook “surely had no impact” on the election and that saying so was “a pretty crazy idea.” But in a very close election it was not crazy at all.

Facebook — which wants all the readers and advertisers of the mainstream media but not to be saddled with its human editors and fact-checkers — is now taking more seriously its responsibilities as a news purveyor in cyberspace.

Alan S. Cohen, chief commercial officer of the cybersecurity firm Illumio (I am a small shareholder), noted in an interview on siliconAngle.com that the reason this tipping point tipped now was because so many companies, governments, universities, political parties and individuals have concentrated a critical mass of their data in enterprise data centers and cloud computing environments.

Ten years ago, said Cohen, bad guys did not have the capabilities to get at all this data and extract it, but “now they do,” and as more creative tools like big data and artificial intelligence get “weaponized,” this will become an even bigger problem. It’s a huge legal, moral and strategic problem, and it will require, said Cohen, “a new social compact” to defuse.

Work on that compact has to start with every school teaching children digital civics. And that begins with teaching them that the internet is an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information, where they need to bring skepticism and critical thinking to everything they read and basic civic decency to everything they write.

A Stanford Graduate School of Education study published in November found “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the internet. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from. … One assessment required middle schoolers to explain why they might not trust an article on financial planning that was written by a bank executive and sponsored by a bank. The researchers found that many students did not cite authorship or article sponsorship as key reasons for not believing the article.”

Prof. Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report, said: “Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite to be true.”

In an era when more and more of our lives have moved to this digital realm, that is downright scary.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

There are economic tensions in the United States, insufficient to explain the election of a petulant egomaniac to the highest office in the land, and there’s an all-out culture war that does explain it.

Donald Trump will become president next week because a sufficient number of Americans have had it with the confining, tiptoeing, politically correct form of speech and interaction favored by liberal elites on the coasts who believe they hold a monopoly on wisdom and the only key to progress.

It’s the culture, stupid.

The issues that afflict the economy — rising inequality, stagnant middle-class incomes, marginalization — are not enough to explain Americans’ decision to leap off a cliff and entrust their fate to a collection of billionaires and ex-generals under the diktat of a thin-skinned showman of conspicuous “cruelty and ignorance,” in the words of Garrison Keillor.

Meryl Streep, in a speech at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, waded into this culture war. She was Hollywood lambasting the people’s choice. Without naming the president-elect, she singled out his cruelty, as expressed in Trump’s mocking imitation during the campaign of a reporter with a disability. They did that in the Middle Ages, you know.

Trump, goaded, is like a child whose candy has been taken away. He throws a fit. His version of a scream is a tweet (or in this case several) calling Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” and a “Hillary flunky,” and claiming — grotesquely — that he never mocked the reporter, my colleague Serge Kovaleski. Trump finished up with his usual gibe at the “very dishonest media.”

Trump’s psyche is no great riddle. He’s a study in neediness. Adulation is what he craves; admonishment he cannot abide. Trafficking in untruths and conspiracies, he calls the press that he secretly venerates dishonest for pointing this out. That’s called transference. Soon he will have at his disposal far more potent weapons than Twitter to assuage his irascibility and channel his cruelty. It is doubtful that he will resist them over time. There is rational cause for serious alarm. If the world was anchored by America, it is about to be unmoored.

Streep did an important thing in pointing to how Trump’s bullying allows open season for everyone’s inner bigot. A time of violence is upon us. She did another important thing in saying that, “We need the principled press to hold power to account.” If Trump sees himself as America’s “voice,” every countervoice is needed, loud and clear and persistent.

But will Streep’s words have any impact with Trump’s tens of millions of supporters, or will they redouble these people’s anger toward elites in Hollywood and other centers of dogmatic liberalism?

Meghan McCain, a conservative commentator and daughter of Senator John McCain, tweeted that, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will get him re-elected.” She has a point. Trump lost the popular vote in November by 2.8 million. But outside California and New York, he won by 3 million. That’s America’s story in a nutshell.

Getting America out of its mess begins with the acknowledgment that New York and California do not have a stranglehold on truth, any more than Kansas and Missouri do. Out there in God-fearing gun country there are plenty of smart, upstanding Americans who, as Mark Lilla of Columbia University put it, paraphrasing Bernie Sanders, are “sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.”

Lilla, in the same important piece, identified the “moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message” as a principal cause of the Democrats’ defeat; and he also called out a “generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups” — specifically the working-class whites who voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

For this, of course, Lilla was widely vilified by the thought police of identity politics. His colleague at Columbia University, Katherine Franke, suggested he was doing the “nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.” That’s an outrageous allegation but not one untypical of our times.

It’s not only the alt-right that wants to silence dissenting views. The alt-left is in full mobilization. Trump is a travesty. But just denouncing him without understanding him leads nowhere. As Michael Wolff pointed out in Newsweek, where liberals see an attack on free speech, Trump supporters see the media stifling “real speech.”

The weeks since Nov. 8 have demonstrated Trump’s contempt for his supporters. He wants to “drain the swamp” through nepotism, empower the marginalized through the coddling of the superrich, and toss the ethics of hard-working heartland Americans out the window of that gold-daubed apartment atop his tower. It’s been a stomach-turning display.

With time, more Americans will side with Streep. They will see that a mean, shallow actor has duped them. But to finish with Trump, liberals will also have to reckon with how they lost sight of their country.

Stuff it up your butt, Roger.  I’m sick unto death of being told I’m not a “real American” because I’m not a gun-humping, screeching member of y’all-Qaeda.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If you happened to watch CNN on Friday morning, you saw a brutal exchange about Russian hacking between a righteous anchor with steam coming out of his ears and a right-wing operative with ice in her veins.

“Chris Cuomo bulldozes Kellyanne Conway,” said a headline in one of the many publications so impressed by the encounter that they reported on it.

If you happened to watch CNN on Monday morning, you saw that Conway was actually back with Cuomo for more.

Surprised? Then you don’t know the first thing about her.

She’s no mere mouthpiece, no measly surrogate. She’s more like the David Blaine of political spin, intent on working feats of magic that few others would attempt and surviving situations that would cripple any ordinary mortal. He catches a bullet in his mouth; she makes Donald Trump sound like a humble servant of the common man. He lasts 44 days in a plexiglass case over the Thames; she lasts 40 minutes with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

She reunited with Cuomo not just to pooh-pooh Vladimir Putin’s misdeeds anew but to answer Meryl Streep’s complaint about the way Trump once mocked a disabled journalist. And she came up with that gem about disregarding the president-elect’s words and judging him instead by what’s in his heart, which she apparently knows to be good. She has done Blaine one better. She’s a stuntwoman and a cardiologist.

As the cabinet nominees submit to their inquisitions and Trump holds his first news conference since the election, there’s a surfeit of political spectacle this week.

But for sheer, jaw-dropping wonder, I doubt that any of it will improve on a typical Conway television interview, which is a circus of euphemisms, a festival of distractions and a testament to the stamina of a willed smile. She looks cheery when attacking, even cheerier when attacked and absolutely radiant when descending into a bog of half-truths and fictions. It’s always sunny on Conway’s side of the street.

And it’s always a landslide when her candidate wins. She describes Trump’s victory as a mandate — never mind its narrowness or all that Russian nefariousness — and dismisses his critics by citing their inability to see that heady triumph coming. They had no foresight. Now they have no grounds.

Waving away what Hollywood stars said about Trump at the Golden Globes, she told Cuomo: “That place, this network, frankly, all believed the election would turn out a different way.”

She also questioned why Streep would go after Trump and not the “four young African-American adults in Chicago screaming racial anti-Trump expletives” at a disabled young man in that chilling Facebook Live video. Is this the new bar for taking Trump to task? You can’t do it until you’ve completed a roll call of every bully in the news?

“Saturday Night Live” is transfixed by Conway, but they don’t get her quite right. As portrayed by Kate McKinnon, she experiences pinpricks of horror over abetting Trump’s ascent. The real-life Conway shows no such remorse. She’s exultant to the point of taunting Hillary Clinton’s aides for their defeat, as she did when she appeared with them at Harvard in December for an election post-mortem.

That was the occasion of my favorite Conway-ism. She was asked if Trump’s baseless insistence that he would have won the popular vote except for millions of illegal ballots constituted presidential behavior.

“He’s the president-elect, so that’s presidential behavior,” she said.

Many journalists don’t get Conway quite right, either, assigning her more power in Trump World than she has. When you’re doing that much TV, you can be in only so many meetings.

What she possesses is a showmanship that Trump can’t help appreciating. I know dozens of people who despise her politics but are mesmerized by her performances. She’s the Streep of “Fox & Friends” (of “Morning Joe,” too) and a perfect emblem of these polarized times, when no claim is too laughable or denial too ludicrous if it counters the supposed insidiousness of the other side.

She’s also the gold-haired standard for a rising generation of unflappable partisans. I imagine that Kayleigh McEnany, the Trump apologist on CNN, studies her moves the way a backup quarterback watches the starter. Should Conway go down with a broken fibula, McEnany’s ready to lead the drive.

The Trump booster Anthony Scaramucci is perhaps another of the sorceress’ apprentices. With MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle last week, he was Conway-esque in pivoting from the questions he was asked to the answers he preferred to give.

But he needs practice: I heard nothing at the altitude of Conway’s claim this week that the Democrats demanding more financial information from Trump’s nominees were “political peeping Toms.” What pith. What alliteration. What a year we’re in for.

Friedman and Bruni

January 4, 2017

In “From Hands to Heads to Hearts” The Moustache of Wisdom says that remembering what makes us human is how to show economic value in the age of smarter and smarter machines.  It’s a very typical Friedman column…  Mr. Bruni, in “Donald Trump’s Disastrous Example,” says the mess over a congressional ethics office reflects the muck of his own behavior.  Here’s TMOW:

Software has started writing poetry, sports stories and business news. IBM’s Watson is co-writing pop hits. Uber has begun deploying self-driving taxis on real city streets and, last month, Amazon delivered its first package by drone to a customer in rural England.

Add it all up and you quickly realize that Donald Trump’s election isn’t the only thing disrupting society today. The far more profound disruption is happening in the workplace and in the economy at large, as the relentless march of technology has brought us to a point where machines and software are not just outworking us but starting to outthink us in more and more realms.

To reflect on this rapid change, I sat down with my teacher and friend Dov Seidman, C.E.O. of LRN, which advises companies on leadership and how to build ethical cultures, for his take. “What we are experiencing today bears striking similarities in size and implications to the scientific revolution that began in the 16th century,” said Seidman. “The discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo, which spurred that scientific revolution, challenged our whole understanding of the world around and beyond us — and forced us as humans to rethink our place within it.”

Once scientific methods became enshrined, we used science and reason to navigate our way forward, he added, so much so that “the French philosopher René Descartes crystallized this age of reason in one phrase: ‘I think, therefore I am.’” Descartes’s point, said Seidman, “was that it was our ability to ‘think’ that most distinguished humans from all other animals on earth.”

The technological revolution of the 21st century is as consequential as the scientific revolution, argued Seidman, and it is “forcing us to answer a most profound question — one we’ve never had to ask before: ‘What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines?’”

In short: If machines can compete with people in thinking, what makes us humans unique? And what will enable us to continue to create social and economic value? The answer, said Seidman, is the one thing machines will never have: “a heart.”

“It will be all the things that the heart can do,” he explained. “Humans can love, they can have compassion, they can dream. While humans can act from fear and anger, and be harmful, at their most elevated, they can inspire and be virtuous. And while machines can reliably interoperate, humans, uniquely, can build deep relationships of trust.”

Therefore, Seidman added, our highest self-conception needs to be redefined from “I think, therefore I am” to “I care, therefore I am; I hope, therefore I am; I imagine, therefore I am. I am ethical, therefore I am. I have a purpose, therefore I am. I pause and reflect, therefore I am.”

We will still need manual labor, and people will continue working with machines to do extraordinary things. Seidman is simply arguing that the tech revolution will force humans to create more value with hearts and between hearts. I agree. When machines and software control more and more of our lives, people will seek out more human-to-human connections — all the things you can’t download but have to upload the old-fashioned way, one human to another.

Seidman reminded me of a Talmudic adage: “What comes from the heart, enters the heart.” Which is why even jobs that still have a large technical component will benefit from more heart. I call these STEMpathy jobs — jobs that combine STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills with human empathy, like the doctor who can extract the best diagnosis from IBM’s Watson on cancer and then best relate it to a patient.

No wonder one of the fastest-growing U.S. franchises today is Paint Nite, which runs paint-while-drinking classes for adults. Bloomberg Businessweek explained in a 2015 story that Paint Nite “throws after-work parties for patrons who are largely lawyers, teachers and tech workers eager for a creative hobby.” The artist-teachers who work five nights a week can make $50,000 a year connecting people to their hearts.

Economies get labeled according to the predominant way people create value, pointed out Seidman, also author of the book “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.” So, the industrial economy, he noted, “was about hired hands. The knowledge economy was about hired heads. The technology revolution is thrusting us into ‘the human economy,’ which will be more about creating value with hired hearts — all the attributes that can’t be programmed into software, like passion, character and collaborative spirit.”

It’s no surprise that the French government began requiring French companies on Jan. 1 to guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology — when they are not at work — trying to combat the “always on” work culture.

Leaders, businesses and communities will still leverage technology to gain advantage, but those that put human connection at the center of everything they do — and how they do it — will be the enduring winners, insisted Seidman: “Machines can be programmed to do the next thing right. But only humans can do the next right thing.”

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Donald Trump rightly reprimanded House Republicans on Tuesday for their move to disembowel the Office of Congressional Ethics, but let’s not be duped or dumb. This was like a crackhead dad fuming at his kids for smoking a little weed.

Their conduct hardly measured up to his, which obviously encouraged it. When they look at him, here’s what they see: a presidential candidate who broke with decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns and thus shine a light on his conflicts of interest. A president-elect who has yet to spell out how he would eliminate those conflicts — and who has, instead, repeatedly reminded reporters and voters that he’s under no explicit legal obligation to eliminate them at all. A plutocrat whose children have toggled back and forth between his government activities and his corporate interests, raising questions about the separation of the two.

Is it any wonder that House Republicans felt O.K. about trying to slip free of some of their own ethical shackles, no matter how ugly the optics?

The story here isn’t what, specifically, they attempted to do. Nor is it their abandonment of the plan once the media gasped and their dear leader wagged his finger at them.

It’s the tone that Trump has set and the culture that he’s creating. He operates with an in-your-face defiance, so these House Republicans did, too. He puts his own desires and comfort first, so they reserved the right to do the same. With more than a few of his cabinet picks, he demonstrated little sense of fidelity to what he promised voters and even less concern about appearances. House Republicans decided to treat themselves to a taste of that freedom.

In this instance, they were slapped down, though I sincerely doubt that they came away from the confrontation with the feeling that Trump had higher standards than they imagined. No, they just realized that he’s even more hypocritical and inconstant than they expected.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is no model operation. Democrats as well as Republicans have chafed at what some of them see as its occasional overzealousness and disregard for due process. Had House Republicans called for a bipartisan and transparent review of its role and tactics, they might not have encountered all that much resistance.

But that’s not what happened. In a secretive closed-door meeting late Monday, before the first official day of the new Congress, the House Republican Conference voted to diminish the office’s power and independence. This was dark-of-night, no-prying-eyes stuff, done over the objections of Paul Ryan, the House speaker, who could sense how disastrously it would play in the media.

After it played precisely that disastrously, Trump sent out two tweets Tuesday morning asking why House Republicans would take aim at the ethics office when there was so much other important work to do. House Republicans then dropped the plan.

The whole mess said a whole lot about the chaotic days to come. Although Ryan on Tuesday was re-elected to his leadership post, his grip on his caucus isn’t exactly a firm one. And the wires between Trump and House Republicans are evidently crossed.

For that matter, the wires between Trump and Kellyanne Conway are as well: Mere hours before he tweeted his disapproval of what the Republicans were doing, she appeared on “Good Morning America” and defended their actions as part of the “mandate” — her word, or rather hallucination — that they and Trump had received from voters to shake things up.

I suppose that gutting the ethics office would indeed qualify as a shake-up. But so would declaring Thursdays in the Senate to be clothing-optional or having the Rockettes perform during the State of the Union. Not all shake-ups are created equal.

And turning “mandate” into a mantra, which is a favorite Republican tactic right now, doesn’t turn it into a truth. There’s no mandate here, not when Hillary Clinton received roughly three million more votes than Trump did. Not when there are lingering questions about meddling that may have worked in Trump’s favor. Not when the Republicans’ majorities in the Senate and House just shrank. Not when their edge in the House owes more to gerrymandering than to any tidal wave of demonstrable enthusiasm for their agenda.

I’m not disputing the election results or Republicans’ right — heck, their obligation — to seize the reins of leadership. I’m arguing against the shamelessness of what they just tried to do with the ethics office.

And I’m pleading that Trump stop behaving in a way that sets the stage for it. The new Congress — the new Washington — will be no more or less swampy than its new top gator. Best that he wash away his own muck.

He won’t.

Friedman and Collins

December 29, 2016

In “Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump” The Moustache of Wisdom says a true friend of Israel wouldn’t enable Netanyahu.  Ms. Collins has her annual “Year’s End Quiz” in which she says let’s take a look back on 2016 and see how much of the silliness you remember.  Here’s TMOW:

For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.

But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

That is what precipitated this fight over Obama’s decision not to block a U.N. resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlers’ goal is very clear, as Kerry put it on Wednesday: to strategically place settlements “in locations that make two states impossible,” so that Israel will eventually annex all of the West Bank. Netanyahu knows this will bring huge problems, but his heart is with the settlers, and his passion is with holding power — at any cost. So in any crunch, he sides with the settlers, and they keep pushing.

Obama ordered the U.S. to abstain on the U.N. resolution condemning the settlements (three months after Obama forged a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel — the largest for any U.S. ally ever) in hopes of sparking a debate inside Israel and to prevent it from closing off any chance of a two-state solution.

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and right now Obama and Kerry rightly believe that Israel is driving drunk toward annexing the West Bank and becoming either a bi-national Arab-Jewish state or some Middle Eastern version of 1960s South Africa, where Israel has to systematically deprive large elements of its population of democratic rights to preserve the state’s Jewish character.

Israel is clearly now on a path toward absorbing the West Bank’s 2.8 million Palestinians. There are already 1.7 million Arabs living in Israel, so putting these two Arab populations together would constitute a significant minority with a higher birthrate than that of Israeli Jews — who number 6.3 million — posing a demographic and democratic challenge.

I greatly sympathize with Israel’s security problems. If I were Israel, I would not relinquish control of the West Bank borders — for now. The Arab world is far too unstable, and Hamas, which controls another 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, would likely take over the West Bank.

My criticism of Netanyahu is not that he won’t simply quit all the West Bank; it is that he refuses to show any imagination or desire to build workable alternatives that would create greater separation and win Israel global support, such as radical political and economic autonomy for Palestinians in the majority of the West Bank, free of settlements, while Israel still controls the borders and the settlements close to it.

Bibi never lays down a credible peace plan that truly puts the ball in the Palestinians’ court. And when someone like Obama exposes that — and Bibi comes under intense criticism from the liberal half of Israel, which sees the country getting more and more isolated and less and less democratic — Bibi just calls Obama an enemy of Israel and caves to the settlers. U.S. Jewish “leaders” then parrot whatever Bibi says. Sad.

More worrisome is the fact that President-elect Donald Trump— who could be a fresh change agent — is letting himself get totally manipulated by right-wing extremists, and I mean extreme. His ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.

Trump also has no idea how much he is being manipulated into helping Iran and ISIS. What is Iran’s top goal when it comes to Israel? That Israel never leaves the West Bank and that it implants Jewish settlers everywhere there.

That would keep Israel in permanent conflict with Palestinians and the Muslim world, as well as many Western democracies and their college campuses. It would draw all attention away from Iran’s own human rights abuses and enable Iran and ISIS to present themselves as the leading Muslim protectors of Jerusalem — and to present America’s Sunni Arab allies as lackeys of an extremist Israel. This would create all kinds of problems for these Arab regimes. A West Bank on fire would become a recruitment tool for ISIS and Iran.

One day Trump will wake up and discover that he was manipulated into becoming the co-father, with Netanyahu, of an Israel that is either no longer Jewish or no longer democratic. He will discover that he was Bibi’s chump.

What a true friend of Israel and foe of Iran would do today is just what Obama and Kerry tried — assure Israel long-term military superiority to the tune of $38 billion, but, unlike Trump, who is just passing Israel another bottle of wine, tell our dear ally that it’s driving drunk, needs to stop the settlements and apply that amazing Israeli imagination to preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Happy almost New Year! Wow, we’ve been through a lot. Let’s take a look back on 2016 and see how much of the silliness you remember. We’re not going to talk about Hillary. Too sad. But here’s an end-of-the-year quiz about:

1  REPUBLICANS WE ONCE KNEW

It’s been a long year for Chris Christie, but he made history when …

  • A) The National Governors Association voted him “Least Likely to Succeed.”

  • B) A Quinnipiac poll in New Jersey showed his job disapproval rating at 77 percent.

  • C) He did the tango on “Dancing With the Stars.”

2  Ted Cruz said that when his wife, Heidi, became first lady …

  • A) “She’ll put prayer back in the prayer breakfast.”

  • B) “Michelle Obama’s garden will become a croquet court.”

  • C) “French fries are coming back to the cafeteria.”

3  Marco Rubio’s ad about how “It’s Morning Again in America” made news because …

  • A) It was an excellent depiction of why he is truly a Reagan conservative.

  • B) It was filmed in a way that made Rubio appear to be more than six feet tall.

  • C) It opened with a shot of the Vancouver skyline.

4  In a debate, Ben Carson said that when a president vets potential Supreme Court nominees, he should consider …

  • A) “How they’d look in the group picture.”

  • B) “The fruit salad of their life.”

  • C) “Legal things.”

5  THE CABINET OF TOMORROW

This year Rick Perry, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of energy …

  • A) Lost the paso doble competition to Vanilla Ice on “Dancing With the Stars.”

  • B) Came up with some new ideas for combating global warming.

  • C) Said his earlier reference to Trump’s campaign as “a barking carnival act” was simply “one of my ‘oops’ moments.”

6  Retired Gen. Jim Mattis, Trump’s selection for secretary of defense, is nicknamed …

  • A) Mad Dog.

  • B) Cranky Corgi.

  • C) Sullen Setter.

7  Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick to head the Small Business Administration, has known the president-elect a long time. McMahon’s husband. Vince, once paired with Trump in a …

  • A) Professional wrestling production in which Trump shaved off McMahon’s hair.

  • B) Build-the-Wall golf match in which they tried to see who could hit the most balls into Mexico.

  • C) Public service announcement warning young men about steroid abuse.

8  Trump’s choice for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, is a fast-food franchise baron who once said …

  • A) “Vegetables are much more dangerous than people realize.”

  • B) “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”

  • C) “Everybody has a minimum wage. Mine just happens to be $1 million a year.”

9  TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP

Trump won the Electoral College by one of the lowest margins in American history, and got nearly three million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton. Afterward, he referred to his victory as …

  • A) “God’s will.”

  • B) “A gift from the founding fathers.”

  • C) “A landslide.”

10  In a TV interview, Trump said that when he looks in the mirror he sees …

  • A) “Orange skin.”

  • B) “Fantastic hair.”

  • C) “A person that is 35 years old.”

11  Trump said he didn’t need a daily intelligence briefing because …

  • A) “I’m, like, a smart person.”

  • B) “The C.I.A. is out to get me.”

  • C) “Putin’s people give me plenty of information.”

12  Trump’s doctor, who wrote the famous letter declaring Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” gave an interview in which he said it had never occurred to him that Trump, at 70, would be the oldest president-elect. But he added …

  • A) “70 is the new 41.”

  • B) “If something happens to him, then it happens to him. … That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying.”

  • C) “Bronzer keeps you young.”

13  AND IN OTHER NEWS …

In a Seattle suburb, Dane Gallion was so unnerved by stories of mass shootings that he armed himself before going to see the movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” Watching the film with a handgun tucked into his waistband, Gallion …

  • A) Became a hero when a disturbed man waving a rifle walked into the auditorium.

  • B) Became a hero when he stopped an armed robbery at the snack bar.

  • C) Accidentally shot the woman sitting in front of him.

I’ve got to admit that I had forgotten how utterly and irredeemably stupid some of this crap was…

 

Here’s the answer key:

 

 

1B, 2C, 3C, 4B, 5A, 6A, 7A, 8B, 9C, 10C, 11A, 12B, 13C

Friedman, solo

December 14, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom seems to be taking note of something that escaped him in the past.  In “Trump’s Approach: A Fresh Start or Crazy Reckless?” he realizes that the president-elect isn’t showing much appreciation for facts or science.  It took him long enough to realize that…  Here he is:

Maybe it will all turn out O.K. If it does, put me down as promising to applaud.

But my fellow Americans, whatever mix of motives led us to create an Electoral College majority for Donald Trump to become president — and overlook his lack of preparation, his record of indecent personal behavior, his madcap midnight tweeting, his casual lying about issues like “millions” of people casting illegal votes in this election, the purveying of fake news by his national security adviser, his readiness to appoint climate change deniers without even getting a single briefing from the world’s greatest climate scientists in the government he’ll soon lead and his cavalier dismissal of the C.I.A.’s conclusions about Russian hacking of our election — have no doubt about one thing: We as a country have just done something incredibly reckless.

There is actually something “prehistoric” about the cabinet Trump is putting together. It is totally dominated by people who have spent their adult lives drilling for, or advocating for, fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal.

You would never know that what has actually made America great is our ability to attract the world’s smartest and most energetic immigrants and our ability “to develop technology and to nurture our human capital” — not just drill for coal and oil, remarked Edward Goldberg, who teaches at N.Y.U.’s Center for Global Affairs and is the author of “ The Joint Ventured Nation: Why America Needs a New Foreign Policy.”

Don’t misunderstand me: It is excusable to raise questions about climate change. But it is inexcusable not to sit down with our own government experts at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a briefing before you appoint flagrant climate deniers with no scientific background to every senior environmental position.

It is excusable to question if Russia really hacked our election. But it is inexcusable to dismiss the possibility without first getting a briefing from the C.I.A., some of whose agents risked their lives for that intelligence.

That is reckless behavior — totally unbecoming a president, a professional or just a serious adult.

It’s not that all of Trump’s goals are wrongheaded or crazy. If he can unlock barriers to innovation, infrastructure investment and entrepreneurship, that will be a very good thing. And I am not against working more closely with Russia on global issues or getting more tough-minded on trade with China.

But growth that is heedless of environmental impacts, collaboration with Russia that is heedless of Vladimir Putin’s malevolence, and greater aggressiveness toward China that is heedless of the carefully crafted security balance among the U.S., China and Taiwan — which has produced prosperity and stability in Asia for over four decades — is reckless.

For an administration that lost the popular vote by such a large margin to suddenly take the country to such extreme positions on energy, environment and foreign policy — unbalanced inside by any moderate voices — is asking for trouble, and it will produce a backlash.

Already, some G.O.P. lawmakers who love our country more than they fear Trump’s tweets — like Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain — are insisting that Russia’s apparent cyberhacking to help Trump win election be investigated by Congress. If Congress affirms what the intelligence community believes — that Russia intervened in our democratic process — that is an act of war. And it calls for the severest economic sanctions.

At the same time, Trump’s readiness to dismiss the entire intelligence community because its conclusions contradict his instincts and interests could really haunt him down the road.

Let’s imagine that in six months the C.I.A. concludes that North Korea is about to perfect a nuclear missile that can reach our West Coast and President Trump orders a pre-emptive strike, one that unleashes a lot of instability in Asia. And then the next day Trump and his national security adviser, Mike Flynn, the purveyor of fake news about Hillary Clinton, defend themselves by saying, “We acted on the ‘high confidence’ assessment of the C.I.A.” Who’s going to believe them after they just trashed the C.I.A.?

Finally, Trump has demonstrated a breathtaking naïveté toward Putin. Putin wanted Trump to win because he thinks that he’ll be a chaos president who will weaken America’s influence in the world by weakening its commitment to liberal values and will weaken America’s ability to lead a Western coalition to confront Putin’s aggression in Europe. Putin is out to erode democracy wherever he can. Trump needs to send Putin a blunt message today: “I am not your chump.”

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond noted in an essay on Atlantic.com last week: “The most urgent foreign-policy question now is how America will respond to the mounting threat that Putin’s Russia poses to freedom and its most important anchor, the Western alliance. Nothing will more profoundly shape the kind of world we live in than how the Trump administration responds to that challenge.”

We’re effing doomed.

Friedman and Bruni

December 7, 2016

Little Tommy Friedman has decided to go whistling past the graveyard again.  In “Say What, Al Gore, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump?” he babbles about what he thinks is an opening for lessons in climate change.  As if…  Mr. Bruni has a question in “Paul Ryan’s Dangerous Silence on Donald Trump:”  How long can the House speaker bite his tongue about the president-elect?  Forever, Frank, as long as he thinks his career will benefit.  Here’s TMOW:

Good for Al Gore for meeting with Donald Trump on Monday. Good for Ivanka Trump for inviting Gore to come in for a talk on climate change, and good for President-elect Trump for embracing the encounter.

Alas, though, a single meeting does not an environmental policy make; skepticism is in order. The ultimate proof will only come from the appointments Trump makes for his key environmental and energy jobs and the direction he gives them — whether to press ahead with U.S. leadership on mitigating climate change and introducing clean energy and efficiency standards, or abandon that role, as Trump previously indicated he might, and try to revive the U.S. coal industry and unleash more drilling for fossil fuels from sea to shining sea.

Ivanka clearly has an influence on her father’s thinking, and the fact that she went out of her way to set up a meeting with Gore, who has done more to alert the world to the perils of climate change than anyone else on the planet, and the fact that Gore described the meeting as “a sincere search for areas of common ground … to be continued,” offer a glimmer of hope.

When my publisher had Trump in to The Times recently, it became clear to me that very few people had thought he would win election, and so the people who were gathered around him for the last year and a half were not exactly America’s best and brightest.

Extreme, long-shot campaigns often attract a Star Wars bar collection of extreme opportunists and conspiracy theorists — and the Trump campaign was the Good Ship Lollipop for many such types.

For a man who seems to learn mostly from those in his friendship circle, or from TV news shows, such an unbalanced team made many of Trump’s bad instincts worse. Some of those characters were from the coal and oil industries, and they saw in Trump their last chance to kill the renewable energy revolution at a time when many other Republicans were already moving on.

One hopes that Ivanka is telling her father that nothing would force his critics — in America and abroad — to give him a second look more than if he names serious scientists to the key environmental jobs.

And I suspect that Trump himself discovered during the campaign that outside of the U.S.’s coal-mining regions, a vast majority of Americans understand not only that human-generated climate change is real, but also that when residents of both Beijing and New Delhi can’t breathe, clean energy systems will become the next great global industry. They represent a huge manufacturing export market.

It would be flat-out crazy for America to give up its leadership in this field by turning back to burning dirty lumps of coal when wind and solar are beginning to beat fossil fuels in price without subsidies.

I don’t expect Trump to abandon his effort to increase oil drilling or to ban coal. But I laud Gore for trying to work with him on this issue, because if Trump was to embrace the science of climate change, it would be game over for the fossilized climate deniers who remain in his own party. (Many Republican lawmakers would be relieved.) It’s also probably his single best peacetime possibility to unite Americans.

A fantasy? Maybe. But it is worth remembering how the last G.O.P. administration evolved. Texas oilman George W. Bush went from shocking the world by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto climate treaty to embracing “wind and solar” and calling for Americans “to address the serious challenge of climate change” in his 2007 State of the Union address.

Bush also appointed experts in environmental law and practitioners — like Andy Karsner and Jim Connaughton, two of the smartest people I know on energy and the environment — and directed them to promote clean energy through bipartisan legislation and regulation that remain the basis of a lot of policy today. Bush decried the fact that America was “addicted to oil” and ended up creating a “major emitters” conference that helped pave the way for the Paris climate agreement.

In short, I am not sure Trump realizes all this — that impugning climate science and just unleashing coal and oil would be a departure from the last two Republican administrations. It was George H.W. Bush, in 1989, who first proposed using a cap-and-trade system to slash by 50 percent sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

I detest what Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party movement have put our nation through, prioritizing their need for our president to fail over the good of our country. I am not over that. But you also have to think where we are: The stakes couldn’t be higher. When so many big forces — technology, globalization and climate change — are accelerating at once, small errors in navigation can have huge consequences. We can get really far off track, really fast.

As long as Trump is open to learning on the environment, we have to push our best and brightest through the doors of Trump Tower to constructively engage him. The more the better. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised and supportive of any turns to the positive. But the minute his door closes to learning and evolving, man the barricades.

He actually seems to think that Trump gives a crap about anything except himself and his money and his cronies.  How cute…  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Paul Ryan has long been cast as Congress’s Boy Scout: earnest, honest and brimming with the best intentions, whether you agree with his proposals or not.

Donald Trump is putting an ugly end to that.

Or, rather, Ryan himself is, with his example of utter submission to Trump. Other Republicans are looking to the speaker of the House for guidance on when to confront the president-elect and when to let his craziness go unchecked. And Ryan is charting the wrong course.

I’m referring to his recent “60 Minutes” interview, the apotheosis of all of his tongue biting and conscience snuffing to date. In particular I mean the part when he was asked about Trump’s reckless — and wholly unsubstantiated — tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.

“I’m not really focused on these things,” Ryan said, all too blithely. Then: “I have no knowledge of such things. It doesn’t matter to me.”

Such things? Was he at a tea in the Cotswolds, discussing the pesky upkeep of the carriage house?

Doesn’t matter? No, I guess a president-elect’s effort to undermine Americans’ confidence in our political system — and, beyond that, his attachment to conspiracy theories — aren’t pressing concerns. My bad for assuming otherwise.

Ryan’s answer was marginally better than the one given on the ABC News show “This Week” by Mike Pence, who described Trump’s tweets as “refreshing.” An adjective’s connotations can change from era to era as a language evolves, but I still associate “refreshing” with lemonade and dips in the sea, not wild accusations of voter fraud. My command of English is clearly slipping.

Pence, of course, is Trump’s designated sycophant. That’s practically written into a vice president’s job description. Ryan has no similar duty, just a growing willingness to part ways with principle.

I do understand the position that he and many pols in both parties are in. They’re alarmed by Trump, and frequently aghast at him, but they want enough peace to steer him in the directions they desire and to minimize the damage over all.

They have seen how prone he can be to manipulation, how susceptible to flattery, how influenced by the last voice in his ear. So they’re trying to stick close enough to whisper, and one of the main stories of the Trump presidency, unless it goes completely off the rails, will be their ceaseless calculations about when they can afford to stay mum and when they can’t.

But they can’t afford to stay mum when Trump, merely to stroke his own ego and assert his potency, tells a lie about election results, calling Clinton’s advantage in the popular vote a sham. Certainly Ryan can’t, because he’s a role model and because this lie epitomizes Trump’s demagogic tendencies and legitimizes fake news, the dark consequences of which are becoming ever clearer.

The disregard for truth — and indulgence of fantasy — among people at the pinnacle of power right now is chilling. Beyond Trump there’s Michael Flynn, his nominee for national security adviser, who has tweeted pure bunk about Clinton’s ties to pedophilia and money laundering. Flynn’s son, who was his chief of staff, perpetuated the whole “pizzagate” madness. And then of course there’s Ben Carson, the housing secretary to be, with his conviction that the pyramids were grain silos.

Is Ryan really content to look the other way just for an Obamacare repeal and some tax reform? There’s plenty he can’t count on getting from Trump, who pledged not to monkey with Medicare, which Ryan yearns to change, and is talking about steep tariffs that run counter to Ryan’s philosophy.

Ryan has at least hinted about his opposition to those tariffs. But he and other supposedly principled conservatives publicly applauded Trump’s dealings with the air-conditioning manufacturer Carrier, a degree of meddling in the free market that they would have savaged President Obama for.

On the subject of Trump, Ryan has spoken out of so many sides of his mouth that it’s less an oval than an octagon at this point. Last spring he even affirmed his endorsement of Trump while calling him out for racism. Behold leadership at its most gelatinous.

Discussing Trump on “60 Minutes,” he had a manner that was borderline coquettish. He said that Trump, with his tweets, was “basically giving voice to a lot of people who have felt that they were voiceless.”

Sometimes, yes. But many times, Trump is giving a green light to kooks and the finger to the dignity that Americans rightly expect of a president and that Ryan should demand of him.

Ryan is sacrificing too much for too little, and it’s time he rummaged through his wobbly endoskeleton and made fresh acquaintance with his spine. Until that happens, this sadly groveling Boy Scout will be lost in the woods.

Friedman and Bruni

November 23, 2016

Oh, FFS…  The Moustache of Wisdom is the latest to fall for Mein Fubar’s “I’m not so bad” act.  In “At Lunch, Donald Trump Gives Critics Hope” he tells us that the campaign is over, but the struggle for Trump’s soul has just begun.  Tommy, the use of the word “soul” assumes facts not in evidence.  Mr. Bruni may have a slightly clearer vision of what’s going on.  In “Donald Trump’s Demand for Love” he says his meeting with The Times was a marvel of boasting and bending.  Here’s TMOW:

Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

There are many decisions that President-elect Trump can and will make during the next four years. Many of them could be reversible by his successor. But there is one decision he can make that could have truly irreversible implications, and that is to abandon America’s commitment to phasing out coal, phasing in more clean energy systems and leading the world to curb CO2 emissions before they reach a level that produces a cycle of wildly unpredictable climate disruptions.

When asked where he stood on that climate change issue — which in the past he dismissed as a hoax — and last December’s U.S.-led Paris emissions-reduction accord, the president-elect did not hesitate for a second: “I’m looking at it very closely. … I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. … You can make lots of cases for different views. … I will tell you this: Clean air is vitally important. Clean water, crystal-clean water is vitally important.”

Do you think climate change is caused by human activity?

“I think there is some connectivity,” Trump answered. It is not clear “how much,” and what he will do about it “depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.” Trump said he would study the issue “very hard” and hinted that if, after study, he was to moderate his views, his voice would be influential with climate skeptics.

On the question of whether the U.S. military should use waterboarding and other forms of torture to break suspected terrorists — a position he advocated frequently during the campaign to great applause — Trump bluntly stated that he had changed his mind after talking with James N. Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general, who headed the United States Central Command.

Trump said Mattis told him of torture: “I’ve never found it to be useful.” (Many in the military and the C.I.A. have long held this view.)

He quoted Mattis as saying, “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I always do better” than anyone using torture. Concluded Trump, “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Speaking of the Middle East, Trump said unprompted: “I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” adding, “I have reason to believe I can do that.” And he hinted that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, could be his special envoy and “he’d be very good at it. … He knows the region.” (Wow, watching Trump try to forge a deal between Bibi Netanyahu and the Palestinians would be pay-per-view!)

The one area where I think Trump is going to have the hardest time delivering on his campaign promises is to create “millions” of good-paying jobs by incentivizing and pressuring American companies to manufacture more in the U.S. He still talks about America as a manufacturing wasteland when, in fact, manufacturing remains the largest sector of the U.S. economy but employs far fewer workers.

As the management consultant Warren Bennis famously observed: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Bottom line: The campaign is over, but the struggle for Donald Trump’s soul has just begun. Trump clearly learns by talking to people, not reading. Because so few thought he would win, many of those who gathered around him and had his ear were extreme characters.

But now that he has been elected president he is exposing himself to, and hearing from, a much wider net of people. He mentioned that he had had telephone conversations with Bill Gates and with Apple C.E.O. Tim Cook. And he stressed repeatedly that he wants to succeed: “I am doing this to do a good job.”

To do that he needs to moderate many views and learn from a much wider network of people. For those of us who opposed Trump’s election, it is not time to let down our guard and stop drawing redlines where necessary. But for moderate Republicans and Democratic business leaders, like a Bill Gates, who can gain his ear and respect, and who have made big investments in clean energy, Trump may be — may be — persuadable on some key issues. They need to dive in now and try to pull him toward the center.

For a meeting between the newsmaker and this news organization that has covered him without fear or favor, the lunch was fairly relaxed, but not without some jousting. Asked if he read The New York Times, Trump said: “I do read it. Unfortunately. I would live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”

Well, that was just pitiful.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

I had just shaken the president-elect’s normal-size hand and he was moving on to the next person when he wheeled around, took a half step back, touched my arm and looked me in the eye anew.

“I’m going to get you to write some good stuff about me,” Donald Trump said.

It’s entirely possible. I keep an open mind. But I’m decided on this much: Winning the most powerful office in the world did nothing to diminish his epic ache for adoration or outsize need to tell everyone how much he deserves it.

He sat down for more than an hour with about two dozen of us at The Times on Tuesday afternoon, and what subject do you suppose he spent his first eight minutes on? When the floor was his, to use as he pleased?

The incredibleness of his win two weeks ago.

“A great victory,” he said as he went back, unbidden, through all the Trump-affirming highlights: the size of his crowds; the screens and loudspeakers for the overflow; the enthusiasm gap between his rallies and poor Hillary Clinton’s. It’s a song I’ve heard so often I could sing it in my sleep.

He volunteered that until he came along, Republican presidential candidates had been foiled in both Michigan and Pennsylvania for “38 years or something.” The “something” apparently covered the actual figure, 28.

He said that he got close to 15 percent of African-Americans’ votes, though exit polls suggest it was just 8 percent, and he asserted that their modest turnout was in fact a huge compliment to him, demonstrating that “they liked what I was saying” and thus didn’t bother to show up for Clinton.

He mentioned the popular vote before any of us could — to let us know that he would have won it if it had mattered and his strategy had been devised accordingly.

“The popular vote would have been a lot easier,” he said, making clear that his Electoral College triumph was the truly remarkable one.

For Trump, bragging is like breathing: continuous, spontaneous. He wants nothing more than for his audience to be impressed.

And when his audience is a group of people, like us, who haven’t clapped the way he’d like?

He sands down his edges. Modulates his voice. Bends.

That was perhaps the most interesting part of the meeting, the one that makes his presidency such a question mark. Will he tilt in whatever direction, and toward whichever constituency, is the surest source of applause? Is our best hope for the best Trump to be so fantastically adulatory when he’s reasonable that he’s motivated to stay on that course, lest the adulation wane?

The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall.

He more or less told us to disregard all the huffing and puffing he’d done about curtailing press freedoms, and he looked forward to another meeting — a year from now — when we’d all reunite in a spirit of newfound amity to celebrate his administration’s uncontroversial accomplishments. I could see the big group hug. I could hear “Kumbaya.”

And though one of his splenetic tweets just seven hours before our meeting had again branded The Times a “failing” news organization, he said to our faces that we weren’t just a “great, great American jewel” but a “world jewel.”

There was a lesson here about his desire to be approved of and his hunger to be loved. There was another about the shockingly unformed, pliable nature of the clay that is our 70-year-old president-elect.

His reservations about waterboarding, he said, arose from a conversation he’d just had with James Mattis, a retired Marine general under consideration for secretary of defense. During that talk Mattis had bluntly questioned waterboarding’s effectiveness — and so, now, did Trump.

It was as if he’d never really thought through the issue during that endless campaign, and it suggested that the most influential voice in Trumplandia is the last one he happened to listen to. That’s worrying, because some of the voices he has thus far put closest to him — those of Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions — aren’t the most constructive, restrained, unifying ones.

And to my eyes and ears, Trump still has grandiose intentions in lieu of concrete plans. Toward the end of our meeting, he went so far as to prophesy that he might be able to accomplish what his predecessors couldn’t and broker a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

That’d definitely do the trick. We’d all be writing nothing but very, very good stuff about him then.

Friedman and Bruni

November 16, 2016

Poor little Tommy.  He’s gone delusional…  In “Donald Trump, Help Heal the Planet’s Climate Change Problem” he whines “Sir, please revisit your claim that it’s all a hoax.”  I guess he hasn’t heard that a premier climate change denier, Myron Ebell, is being bandied about as head of the EPA.  In “Obama in Trumpland” Mr. Bruni asks us to behold the president’s wishful bid to tame the president-elect.  Here’s TMOW:

Dear President-elect Trump:

Well, you won. You were not my choice, but you’re soon going to be my president. I have no intention of forgetting or forgiving the abhorrent things you said and did during the campaign. They hurt real people, debased our political process and erased social norms vital for keeping our diverse society together. I am not done resisting all that just because you won.

However, I’m not going to spend every day hoping you fail. Too much is at stake. Since you’re clearly rethinking some of your extreme campaign promises, the right response for me is principled engagement. So let’s start now: Please revisit your claim that climate change is a hoax.

Nothing would get the attention of your opponents more than if you declared your intent to take a fresh look at the climate issue. It would force many of them to give you a second look — and virtually none of your supporters would care, because few voted for you on this issue and they all know that their kids understand the climate is changing and would be heartened if you did, too.

Speaking of kids, Mr. Trump, yours run your golf course business. Surely they’ve mentioned that Doral will be your first course threatened by global warming, because parts of Miami are already flooding due to sea-level rise from melting ice. According to The Real Deal, which covers South Florida real estate news, “Parts of Miami Beach could be inundated with floodwaters in as little as 15 years.” That would make your oceanside courses into ocean-floor courses.

This is no hoax. The U.S. just experienced its third-warmest October on record, and, as The Washington Post noted on Thursday, “North America’s most astonishing warmth this week has focused in Canada, where temperatures have been up to 30 degrees warmer than normal.” That’s unprecedented.

When you visit the Pentagon, ask the generals about climate change. Here’s what they’ll tell you: A majority of immigrants flooding Europe today are not coming from Syria or Iraq. Three-quarters are from arid zones in central Africa, where the combination of climate change and runaway population growth are making small-scale farming unsustainable.

Last April, as part of a National Geographic Channel documentary, I followed a group of these refugees from Senegal through Niger on their way to Libya and Europe. Thousands make this trek every month. The same thing will happen in our hemisphere — and no wall will keep them back. You can’t ignore climate change and think you have an immigration policy.

At the same time, please understand, if you appoint a climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency and walk America away from the Paris accord, which committed 190 countries to reduce their emissions of the carbon dioxide pollutants that warm the planet, you will trigger a ferocious reaction by young people in America and across Europe. The backlash in Europe will totally undermine your ability to lead the Western alliance.

And as the climate physicist Joe Romm put it to me, do you really want to risk “going down in history as the man who killed the world’s last, best chance to avoid catastrophic warming”?

There is a better way — for you. You can frame the entire shift in your position in terms of free-market economics.

Hal Harvey, who advises major companies on climate and energy policy, notes that thanks to technological advances, “the cost of solar energy has dropped more than 80 percent since 2008, wind costs dropped more than 50 percent since 2008, battery costs dropped more than 70 percent since 2008, and LED lighting costs dropped more than 90 percent since 2008. As a result, a clean future now costs less than a dirty one.”

Today, from California to Mexico to the Middle East, solar and wind prices are as low as 3 cents a kilowatt-hour. Added Harvey: “That compares to about 6 cents for a new natural gas power plant, and double that for new coal. And remember: Commodity costs — coal, oil, gas — fluctuate, but technology costs — wind, solar, LEDs — follow irreversible trends downward, and so when a new technology crosses the cost line with an old commodity, it’s goodbye to the old commodity for good.”

Have you seen the pictures from New Delhi and Beijing lately? People there can’t breathe, owing to the pollution from burning crops and fossil fuels. So what are the Indians doing? They’re curbing the burning of crops, the use of diesel cars, and they just shut down the coal-based Badarpur power plant. They have to find alternatives to fossil fuels. So they’re investing heavily in clean tech.

Is your strategy to keep America addicted to coal and scuttle our lead in clean tech — which is destined to become the next great global export industry and is already spawning good blue-collar jobs — so we can import clean energy systems from India and China?

Mr. Trump, you won Florida, but do you know who lost there besides Hillary? Old-line utilities. They spent over $20 million pushing a referendum intended to curb the growth of solar energy in the state.

So Floridians said “yes” to Trump, “yes” to solar energy and “no” to those who wanted to stop both. There is a message for you in that bottle.

Tell it to Myron Ebell.  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

If Election Day seemed to be a dream (or, rather, nightmare) devoid of logic, the week since has done little to render the world more coherent.

Let’s review:

Donald Trump, exulting in his big win, addressed the question of The Wall. You know, the central pledge of his candidacy, reiterated at every rally. A mighty barrier between the United States and Mexico that only he was potent enough to erect.

And what did he have to say?

That it might be a mere fence in spots.

A fence! Just three days after his victory, he was downscaling, backtracking. At this rate, he’ll be talking at his inauguration about a glorious hedge along the border. By April it’ll be flowering shrubs, with blossoms that spell out “Welcome to America.” And by June? Some sort of new Christo installation, maybe the world’s largest-ever topiary display.

As for Obamacare, it’s apparently not so awful after all. Trump said he liked the part that lets kids stay on their parents’ insurance plans, which is, if you think about it, sort of what Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric have been doing all along. He also liked the part that prevents insurers from disqualifying people for pre-existing conditions.

My hunch? If some crafty Democrat drafts legislation to keep the Affordable Care Act as is but rechristen it Trumpcare, he’ll sign the bill in a nanosecond. He’s a man in thrall to ego, not policy.

President Obama is betting on that. He’s suddenly professing faith in Trump — or, rather, playing a fascinating mind game in which he endeavors to save his legacy by complimenting Trump into compliance.

That was some through-the-looking-glass news conference on Monday, when Obama, who had previously warned that Trump was all four horsemen of the apocalypse rolled into one shocking jockey, spoke of Trump’s “gifts” and how “gregarious” he could be.

“I don’t think he is ideological,” Obama said. “Ultimately, he is pragmatic.” From your lips, Mr. President, to God’s ear.

He said that their initial meeting had gone so well that he could, on this last foreign trip of his presidency, allay our allies’ anxieties.

Never mind that Trump and Vladimir Putin were already whispering sweet nothings to each other over the phone. (“You’re the man.” “No, you’re the man.”) Or that Steve Bannon was en route to the West Wing.

Perhaps the Bannon appointment didn’t sink in fully until Tuesday, when Obama, in Greece, had chillier words of warning about the direction in which a Trump administration might — but mustn’t — turn.

“We are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism,” he said. That’s hardly the extent of the vigil. Trump is reportedly seeking security clearances for his children, who will be running his business, and a former State Department official watching an increasingly messy transition process took to Twitter to warn other Republicans to “stay away” from Trump’s “angry, arrogant” team.

Obama is partly trying to save face after Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss. In the weeks before the election, he implored Americans: Honor me by choosing her. Not enough of them did, and at Monday’s news conference, he seemed to steal a page from Trump’s playbook and take issue with her stamina.

He never said her name but noted, pointedly, how he had trudged through “every small town and fair and fish fry” in Iowa, a state that he won in 2008 and 2012 and that she, with less trudging, lost.

He also repeatedly recited a litany of yardsticks by which he was leaving the country in fantastic fettle. Was he reassuring us — or himself?

From his electrifying address at the 2004 Democratic convention through his stirring 2008 presidential campaign, he spoke of transcending blue and red, uniting black and white, healing.

And here we are. It has to gall him. It definitely gives him incentive to use whatever psychological jujitsu necessary to nudge and manipulate Trump. He doesn’t want historians to write that he opened the door to a monster. So he’s pressing for a sunnier tale: the monster defanged, the nation safe and sound.

And he’s a patriot, always has been, which is what’s so rich here. Trump bangs on about putting America first, when he really puts himself before all else. That shriveled, unhinged hood ornament of his, Rudy Giuliani, is on the record questioning Obama’s love for America.

But Obama loves this country enough to summon the same grace for his successor that other presidents did for theirs, though his is a nasty, juvenile breed apart.

And he loves this country enough to try to calm it when it most needs calming, even if that means a willed optimism about Trump that’s oh so difficult to share.

Friedman, Cohen, and Bruni

November 9, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom is feeling “Homeless in America.”  He says Americans’ feeling of having lost their community may explain Trump’s victory, but that victory now makes him feel lost.  Mr. Cohen, in “President Donald Trump,” says he had an intuition about American anger, and the country’s liberal elites were too arrogant to take him seriously.  Mr. Bruni considers “Donald Trump’s Shocking Success” and says there are crucial lessons in the 2016 race’s cruel turn.  Here’s TMOW:

I began election night writing a column that started with words from an immigrant, my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”

With Donald Trump now elected president, I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could do just that — break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function.

From the moment Trump emerged as a candidate, I’ve taken seriously the possibility that he could win; this column never predicted otherwise, although it certainly wished for it. That doesn’t mean the reality of it is not shocking to me.

As much as I knew that it was a possibility, the stark fact that a majority of Americans wanted radical, disruptive change so badly and simply did not care who the change agent was, what sort of role model he could be for our children, whether he really had any ability to execute on his plan — or even really had a plan to execute on — is profoundly disturbing.

Before I lay out all my fears, is there any silver lining to be found in this vote? I’ve been searching for hours, and the only one I can find is this: I don’t think Trump was truly committed to a single word or policy he offered during the campaign, except one phrase: “I want to win.”

But Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.

I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.

I assume that Trump will not want to go down as the worst president in history, let alone the one who presided over the deepest fracturing of our country since the Civil War. It would shake the whole world. Therefore, I can only hope that he will, as president, seek to surround himself with the best people he can, which surely doesn’t include the likes of Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, let alone the alt-right extremists who energized his campaign.

But there is also a deeply worrying side to Trump’s obsession with “winning.” For him, life is always a zero-sum game: I win, you lose. But when you’re running the United States of America, everything can’t be a zero-sum game.

“The world only stays stable when countries are embedded in win-win relationships, in healthy interdependencies,” observed Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which advises companies on leadership, and the author of the book “How.”

For instance, America undertook the Marshall Plan after World War II — giving millions of dollars to Europe — to build it up into a trading partner and into a relationship that turned out to be of great mutual benefit. Does Trump understand that? Do those who voted for him understand how many of their jobs depend on America being embedded in healthy interdependencies around the world?

How do I explain Trump’s victory? Way too soon to say for sure, but my gut tells me that it has much less to do with trade or income gaps and much more to do with culture and many Americans’ feeling of “homelessness.”

There is nothing that can make people more angry or disoriented than feeling they have lost their home. For some it is because America is becoming a minority-majority country and this has threatened the sense of community of many middle-class whites, particularly those living outside the more cosmopolitan urban areas.

For others it is the dizzying whirlwind of technological change we’re now caught up in. It has either wiped out their job or transformed their workplace in ways they find disorienting — or has put stressful demands on them for lifelong learning. When the two most important things in your life are upended — the workplace and community that anchor you and give you identity — it’s not surprising that people are disoriented and reach for the simplistic solutions touted by a would-be strongman.

What I do know for certain is this: The Republican Party and Donald Trump will have control of all the levers of government, from the courts to the Congress to the White House. That is an awesome responsibility, and it is all going to be on them. Do they understand that?

Personally, I will not wish them ill. Too much is at stake for my country and my children. Unlike the Republican Party for the last eight years, I am not going to try to make my president fail. If he fails, we all fail. So yes, I will hope that a better man emerges than we saw in this campaign.

But at the moment I am in anguish, frightened for my country and for our unity. And for the first time, I feel homeless in America.

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

President Donald Trump. Get used to it. The world as we knew it is no more.

To give Trump credit, he had a single formidable intuition: That American anger and uncertainty in the face of the inexorable march of globalization and technology had reached such a pitch that voters were ready for disruption at any cost.

Enough of elites; enough of experts; enough of the status quo; enough of the politically correct; enough of the liberal intelligentsia and cultural overlords with their predominant place in the media; enough of the financial wizards who brought the 2008 meltdown and stagnant incomes and jobs disappearing offshore. That, in essence, was Trump’s message. A New Yorker, he contrived to channel the frustrations of the heartland, a remarkable sleight of hand. Ohio and Wisconsin lurched into the Trump camp.

This upset victory over Hillary Clinton, the representative par excellence of the American political establishment, amounted to Brexit in American form. Ever since Britain’s perverse, self-defeating vote last June to leave the European Union, it seemed plausible that the same anti-globalization, often xenophobic forces could carry Trump to victory.

And so it proved. The disenfranchised, often living lives of great precariousness, arose and spoke. Clinton never quite seemed to understand their frustrations, as her challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, did.

I write in a New York stunned into silence. What a difference from the victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 when cheering crowds gathered in Times Square! The silence in this great city, a stronghold of Clinton and the Democratic Party, is revealing: The elites of the East and West coasts, betraying a dangerous arrogance, were dismissive and ignorant to the last of the heartland anger feeding Trump’s rise.

This is the revenge of Middle America, above all of a white working-class America troubled by changing social and cultural mores — not every American loves choose-your-gender bathrooms — and by the shifting demographics that will make minorities the majority by midcentury.

Barack Obama is popular, but racism did not die with America’s first black president. Sexism is also alive and well, as Trump’s misogyny-sullied road to victory illustrates. For some Americans – and this is painful to admit – a woman following a black man to the White House was simply too much to swallow.

This is a dangerous moment in world affairs, fraught with uncertainty. The institutions of American democracy are strong; the United States is not Weimar Germany. But Trump has shown a worrying contempt for core American values, including respect for diversity, inclusiveness, an independent judiciary, and, at one point, the democratic process itself.

With the Republican Party retaining control of the House and Senate, Trump will have enormous power, more than Obama who faced a hostile Congress. He is a man ill prepared for the highest office, without political experience beyond this bruising campaign. The past months have revealed a personality given to impetuous anger, meanness, mendacity and petulance. How far the people he chooses to place around him will be able to control these instincts will be of critical importance.

Leaders like President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran favored Trump for a reason: They believe he will make America weaker, the trans-Atlantic alliance weaker, and the American-buttressed post-1945 global order weaker. They could well be right.

Trump has spoken in ways that have undermined NATO and the American commitment to its allies in Europe and Asia. From Estonia to Japan, people wonder if Trump’s America will really defend them in the breach. This is a welcome development for all those, like Putin, who want nothing more than to probe American weakness, be it in Syria or the Baltics. Trump will have to work very hard to reassure the world.

His first words were encouraging: It was now time, he said in his acceptance speech, “for us to come together as one united people.” But then Trump has said everything and the contrary of everything. He has lied repeatedly. The divisions in this bruised America emerging from the most ugly of campaigns should not be underestimated.

Democracy is unpredictable but must be respected. It is, as Churchill noted, the worst system of government except for all others that have been tried. The country wanted change. Clinton could not embody that. People were tired of the Clinton machine, with its culture of secrecy and evasion, and its way of walking a fine line — too fine — between noble political causes and dubious personal enrichment. Bill Clinton entered the White House almost a quarter-century ago. America tends to want to roll the dice and move forward.

In this case, with Trump, it has taken an extraordinary risk.

I fear the worst. Trump intuited and revealed the worst traits of worried Americans — their search for scapegoats, their desire to prostrate themselves before an autocratic savior, their bigotry. If Trump governs as he has campaigned, America and the world face real and present danger.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Just days ago I was in Ohio. I was talking to Republicans, and this was the refrain I kept hearing: Donald Trump is throwing this election away. He has no real campaign here. No get-out-the-vote operation. No ground game. Nothing that signifies or befits a truly serious presidential candidate.

These Republicans thought that he’d win the state — barely. But they didn’t think that he could snatch victories in some of the other places that he did on Tuesday, or draw so close to Hillary Clinton elsewhere, or compete so tightly in the election over all. It was done, over, finished.

She had the best experts that money could buy, the most sophisticated data operation that the smartest wonks could put together, and the dutiful troops who went door to door, handing out “Stronger Together” literature and pleading her case.

He had his hair and his ego.

And yet Donald Trump was just elected the 45th president of the United States, soon to take a seat at the most important desk in the most august office in the most consequential residence of the world. Yes, Donald Trump. That gale-force sigh of relief you heard was Chris Christie’s. That demonic cackle of glee was Rudy Giuliani’s.

That shriek of horror was mine.

Trump defied the predictions of pundits and pollsters, more than a few of whom foresaw an Electoral College landslide for Hillary Clinton. That’s what their numbers told them.

But that’s not what America had to say.

On Election Day, Trump did what he had throughout his surreal campaign: exploded the traditional assumptions, upended the usual expectations and forced us to look afresh at the accepted truisms and hoary clichés of our political life. There are important lessons to learn and crucial questions to ask.

Democrats are in the same position that Republicans were when Trump romped to their party’s nomination, which they were convinced for so long he could never get. They need to look seriously at the way they do business and how they arrived at this surprising, humbling destination.

Are the unglamorous, tedious approaches to rounding up votes as powerful as the booming voice of a celebrity with hours of free television time and millions of rapt Twitter followers? Does the imprimatur of the establishment and a towering stack of endorsements and a bulging retinue of pop stars and Hollywood actors make any difference when there’s a fury out there that you haven’t fully and earnestly tried to understand? Does accurate polling lag behind the nature of contemporary American life?

And is a party being remotely realistic — or entirely reckless — to try to sell a candidate who personifies the status quo to an electorate that’s clearly hungry for some kind of shock to the system?

There was an arrogance and foolishness to lining up behind Hillary Clinton as soon as so many Democratic leaders did, and to putting all their chips on her.

She fit the circumstances of 2016 awkwardly, in the same way that Jeb Bush did.

She was a profoundly flawed candidate unable to make an easy connection with voters. She was forever surrounded by messes: some of her own making, some blown out of proportion by the news media, all of them exhausting to voters who had lived through a quarter century of political melodrama with her.

She never found a pithy, pointed message. One Ohio resident noted to me that while Clinton’s campaign workers showed up at his doorstep several times a week, they dropped off pamphlets dense with the rationale for her candidacy, the policies she’d espouse, the promises she was making.

To read it was a commitment, and you couldn’t reduce to one sentence, or even two, what the meaning of her candidacy was.

It’s insane that a pledge to “make America great again” works better, because the vow is so starry-eyed and pat. But it’s concise. Digestible. It takes emotion into account. Democrats in general and Clinton in particular aren’t always good at that.

The party had a night so miserable that its leaders cannot chalk it up to the Russians or to James Comey, though there will be plenty of talk about that, much of it warranted. They had a gorgeous chance to retake their Senate majority, and not only did they fail to do so, but Democratic candidates who were thought to be in tight races lost by significant margins.

Clinton struggled more than had been predicted in the so-called Rust Belt — states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — in yet another illustration of how disaffected working-class white men had become and how estranged from a new economy and a new age they felt.

Their anger was the story of the primaries, the fuel not just for Trump’s campaign but for Bernie Sanders’s as well. And it manifested itself in the general election. Both parties are going to have to reckon with it.

And they should. If this were all that Trump had shown us, we’d owe him our thanks.

But there are darker implications here, too. After all the lies he told, all the fantasy he indulged in, all the hate he spewed and all the divisions he sharpened, he was rewarded with the highest office in the land. What does that portend for the politics of the next few years, for the kinds of congressional candidates we’ll see in 2018, for the presidential race of 2020?

I can’t bear to think about the conflagrations to come.