Archive for the ‘The Trumpanzee’ Category

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

August 4, 2016

In “Trump Reflects White Male Fragility” Mr. Blow says that if you support Trump, you support his bigotry and racism.  Just like all but a handful of Republicans…  In “Donald Trump and a C.I.A. Officer Walk Into a Room” Mr. Kristof asks us to imagine being a fly on the wall at his first intelligence briefing.  In “Intervening Donald” Ms. Collins says Trump has had plenty to say while Republicans try to get him to stick to a message that could get him elected.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Reports of Donald Trump’s demise are an exaggeration, to paraphrase and repurpose Mark Twain.

Yes, he can’t stop shooting off his mouth and shooting himself in the foot, and there are reports that his messy campaign is nearing the point of mutiny.

Yes, he knows nearly nothing about world affairs and that becomes ever more apparent every time he stumbles through an interview. Sir, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, the same year you filmed your last installment of your reality game show “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Yes, his continued feud with the family of a fallen Muslim soldier may be the most ill advised and foolhardy folly in recent political memory (Trump keeps racking these up.) This is the same man who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, one for “bone spurs in his heels” according to The New York Times. While throngs of his contemporaries were fighting — and dying – in battle, Trump was being featured on the front page of The Times after he and his father were sued by the Department of Justice for anti-black bias in their rental properties.

Three years later, The Times profiled him with a backhanded compliment of the nouveau riche: “He rides around town in a chauffeured silver Cadillac with his initials, DJT, on the plates. He dates slinky fashion models, belongs to the most elegant clubs and, at only 30 years of age, estimates that he is worth ‘more than $200 million.’”

Yes, he doesn’t seem to know the difference between Tim Kaine, the Democratic Virginia senator whom Hillary Clinton tapped as her running mate, and Tom Kean, the Republican former governor of New Jersey who last held that office 26 years ago, the same year Trump boasted in his book “Surviving at the Top,” “I’ve never had any trouble in bed,” and counseled in Vanity Fair, “When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of ass — a good one! — there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left.”

Yes, yes, yes.

But Donald Trump is bigger than all of this, or shall I say, smaller.

He appeals to something deeper, something baser: Fear. His whole campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is in fact an inverted admission of loss — lost primacy, lost privilege, lost prestige.

And who feels that they have lost the most? White men.

As the New York Times’ Upshot pointed out in July, “According to our estimates, Mrs. Clinton is doing better among basically every group of voters except for white men without a degree.” Put another way: “Hillary Clinton is largely performing as well or better than Barack Obama did in 2012, except among white men without a degree.”

Indeed, a Monday report in The Times put it this way: “A New York Times/CBS News poll two weeks ago found that white men preferred her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, to Mrs. Clinton almost two to one, 55 percent to 29 percent.”

These are the voters keeping Trump’s candidacy alive.

He appeals to a regressive, patriarchal American whiteness in which white men prospered, in part because racial and ethnic minorities, to say nothing of women as a whole, were undervalued and underpaid, if not excluded altogether.

White men reigned supreme in the idealized history, and all was good with the world. (It is curious that Trump never specifies a period when America was great in his view. Did it overlap with the women’s rights, civil rights or gay rights movements? For whom was it great?)

Trump’s wall is not practical, but it is metaphor. Trump’s Muslim ban is not feasible, but it is metaphor. Trump’s huge deportation plan isn’t workable, but it is metaphor.

There is a portion of the population that feels threatened by unrelenting change — immigration, globalization, terrorism, multiculturalism — and those people want someone to, metaphorically at least, build a wall around their cultural heritage, which they conflate in equal measure with American heritage.

In their minds, whether explicitly or implicitly, America is white, Christian, straight and male-dominated. If you support Trump, you are on some level supporting his bigotry and racism. You don’t get to have a puppy and not pick up the poop.

And acceptance of racism is an act of racism. You are convicted by your complicity.

I am not accustomed to dancing around an issue; I prefer to call it what it is. I prefer to shine a bright light on it until it withers. Supporting Trump is indefensible and it makes you as much of a pariah as he is.

As Toni Morrison once told Charlie Rose:

“Don’t you understand that the people who do this thing, who practice racism, are bereft? There is something distorted about the psyche. It’s a huge waste, and it’s a corruption, and a distortion. Its like it’s a profound neurosis that nobody examines for what it is.”

That stops here, today. For as long as racism and tribalism and xenophobia exist in this country, Trump’s foibles will not signal his ultimate failure. But let’s not let off the people who prop him up, claiming that they’re simply being party loyalists, or Hillary haters or having Supreme Court concerns.

Trump is a mirror. He is a reflection of — indeed a revealing of — the ugliness that you harbor, only it is possible that you may have gone your life expressing it in ways that were more coded and politic. Trump is an unfiltered primal scream of the fragility and fear consuming white male America.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

The government is arranging classified intelligence briefings for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to prepare them for the White House. This longstanding practice of briefing nominees is controversial this year: Senator Harry Reid has urged the C.I.A. to give Trump a “fake” briefing, while House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Clinton can’t handle classified material. But what would a Trump briefing look like, anyway?

“Mr. Trump, I’m Gene Smith from the C.I.A.”

“Smith, huh? Is that your code name? You know, I know a huge amount about the C.I.A., more than most C.I.A. directors. A terrific, beautiful, very good organization.”

“Actually, Smith is my real name. Anyway, let’s get started with China and our assessment that Xi is much more aggressive than Hu.”

“She is more aggressive than who?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, I’d like to meet her. I like aggressive women. She sounds like a 10.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. That aggressive woman.”

“I’m not sure I understand. Anyway, in China we assess with high confidence that Xi will continue this aggressive nationalistic ——”

“She sounds hot. No, I’m just joking. But, seriously, women love me.”

“Mr. Trump, Xi is a man, president of China.”

“She is a man? China’s president is trans? Boy, they’re more modern than I realized — I mean, I knew that. I know so much about China. You should see me use chopsticks! Did I ever tell you about this hot Chinese girl I once dated? She was so modern, and built like ——”

“Mr. Trump! We expect China will maintain its nationalistic claims in the South China Sea ——”

“Oh, don’t worry. I have lots of Chinese friends. I love Chinese food. Best pad Thai in the world at Trump Tower. So what’s your take, what do the Chinese think of me?”

“We assess with high confidence that the Chinese leadership wants you to win the election.”

“I’m not surprised. There are very, very bad reporters at completely and totally failing newspapers that nobody reads who say I might start a trade war. But China wants me to win the election! Amazing! So why does she want me to win, that transsexual president of theirs?”

“Xi is not trans! Xi would like you to win because alliance management is not your priority, and your presidency could lead to an unprecedented decline in U.S. influence.”

“Unprecedented! Amazing! So the Chinese think that I’d be unprecedented? Who else likes me?”

“Well, North Korea has already officially endorsed you, Mr. Trump. It called you ‘prescient’ and ‘wise.’”

“‘Present and wise!’ They love me! And Russia loves me, too. Putin and I go way back. We’re like this” — Trump knits his fingers together — “and after I’m elected I hope to finally meet him.”

“Yes, we believe that President Putin is backing you.”

“Putin the Pro. Not like Little Ukraine. Sad!”

“Well, Putin believes that NATO might collapse in your presidency and that he would have a freer hand in Ukraine and the Baltics.”

“The Baltics, I know them better than anybody! Melania is from Slovenia. Some people say I leaked those amazing pictures of her to The New York Post. Why would I do that? Did you see them? Here ——”

“Mr. Trump! And you mean the Balkans, even though Slovenia isn’t ——”

“Balkans, Baltics — I don’t get bogged down in details. I’m a strategy guy. Now what about ISIS? I know more about ISIS than the generals do. But I’d like to hear your take. Are they supporters?”

“We assess that they are supporting you in the belief that you help recruitment. Indeed, we fear that they may conduct a terror strike in hopes of helping you get elected.”

“Everybody’s supporting me! What about the Middle East? I’ll probably do a peace deal — I’m a terrific deal maker, you know that? I’ll probably get a Nobel Peace Prize to go with my new Purple Heart.”

“Well, sir, the Middle East is complicated ——”

“The Middle East is a complete and total disaster. They don’t respect us. What about nuclear weapons? If we have nukes, why not use em?”

“Sir, we only offer intel, not policy advice. But ——”

“Shouldn’t we just drop a few nukes on those Kurds?”

“The Kurds? In Syria, they’re our only effective ally.”

“They’re doing bad things. Very bad things. I saw it on a Sunday show.”

“Oh, you mean … the Quds Force?”

“Kurds, Quds, what’s the difference? If I give the order to bomb ’em, you guys can sweat the details. Call Mike Pence.”

“But you’re running to be ——”

“Anyway, tell me about internet security. I’m a little bored. How about we hack into the phone of Miss Sweden and check out her selfies? When I’m elected I’m going to have a whole team on that. …”

What’s the over/under on how long it will take him to tweet something classified?  And now we get to Ms. Collins:

Do you think it’s true that the Republicans are trying to get Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich to do an intervention with an out-of-control Donald Trump?

This is the best rumor of the summer, so let’s hope so. If they televised it, no one in the world would be watching the Olympics.

And it does tell you something that Giuliani and Gingrich are supposed to be the voices of moderation and self-control in the campaign. The former mayor who told a press conference that he was going to end his marriage before he told his wife. And the former House speaker who once presided over a government shutdown, which he seemed to attribute to the bad seat he got on Air Force One.

“The campaign is doing really well. It’s never been so well united,” Trump himself fibbed at a rally in Florida on Wednesday.

He was introduced by a retired general who announced that the rally was “an intervention of the people of this country.” This was the same retired general who recently got in trouble for retweeting an anti-Semitic message.

As usual, Trump spent a good chunk of his speech explaining how unjust his critics are. He was outraged, for instance, that he could have been charged with being unsympathetic to people with disabilities when he’s “spent millions of dollars on ramps” for his buildings.

He also took the opportunity of the Florida visit to brag about having been endorsed by “the great Brian France,” the head of Nascar. Who got the top job upon the retirement of the previous C.E.O., who happened to be Brian France’s father.

Wouldn’t you think Trump would be a little bit embarrassed to preen over the backing of another … heir? But he’s never met a sports celebrity he doesn’t like. This was a guy who boasted that he’d been endorsed by Mike Tyson, convicted rapist. Who really, really wanted to put Don King, the boxing promoter, on the convention speakers’ list. It apparently took quite a bit of persuasion to convince the candidate that it was not a good idea to publicize his friendship with a man who was once convicted of manslaughter for stomping someone to death.

You can’t deny that Trump has kept his promise to run a whole new kind of campaign. Just a week into the general election race and he’s already gotten into an ongoing fight with the parents of a slain war hero, arguing that he had “made a lot of sacrifices” himself. Plus refused to endorse the speaker of the House in a meaningless primary. Plus humiliated a woman with a crying baby.

Things are getting exhausting, aren’t they? I’m prepared to take a couple of questions.

During the fight with the parents of the slain war hero, remind me exactly what Trump claimed his sacrifices for the country were?

Oh, you know, building … buildings. And raising massive amounts of money for veterans. Only the first of which is entirely true.

And what about the crying baby?

Yeah, there was a baby crying at one of the rallies. Trump took the trouble to point it out to the hundreds of people in his audience. “Don’t worry about that baby,” he told the mother. “I love babies.” Wouldn’t you presume he was serious? The worst politician in the country would not be sarcastic about a baby. Rudy Giuliani would not be sarcastic about a baby. Bada-bing: “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here.” And then he made fun of the mother for believing him.

Now that he’s been criticized, he’ll probably start pointing out that Mar-a-Lago doesn’t discriminate against pregnant women.

I live in California and all I can think about is this election. But the only voters who count seem to be in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania! How can that be fair?

Look, normally I’d be sympathetic, what with living in New York and all. But we’ve got a presidential nominee here who apparently didn’t know the Russians had invaded Ukraine until George Stephanopoulos broke the news to him on national television. There are problems larger than the value of your itty-bitty ballot.

Trump keeps saying the election is going to be rigged. Do you think he’s looking for an excuse to drop out

No, I’m just worried that he’s preparing his excuse for when he loses. You do not want this to end with Donald Trump telling his supporters — many of whom appear to have a minimum of 20 guns in the basement — that he was robbed. In the Florida speech he did warn the audience to beware of “people voting 10 times.”

O.K., that’s scaring me.

Let’s have some faith in the electorate. I believe most Americans, when given the choice between explaining the outcome with election fraud or “kept making fun of mothers,” will know which way to go.

Brooks and Krugman

July 22, 2016

Bobo is bewailing “The Death of the Republican Party” and moans that Donald Trump’s acid bath hollows out the G.O.P.  Right.  It’s THOSE people, over THERE who created the mess, with no help at all from pandering pundits.  His ravings will be followed by a comment from “soxared040713” from Crete, Illinois.  Prof. Krugman, in “Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate,” says the Republicans’ presidential nominee doesn’t just admire Vladimir Putin.  Here’s Bobo:

On the surface, this seems like a normal Republican convention. There are balloon drops, banal but peppy music from the mid-1970s and polite white people not dancing in their seats.

But this is not a normal convention. Donald Trump is dismantling the Republican Party and replacing it with a personality cult. The G.O.P. is not dividing; it’s ceasing to exist as a coherent institution.

The only speaker here who clearly understands this is Ted Cruz. He understands that the Trump phenomenon is probably not going to end the way a normal candidacy ends. It’s going to end catastrophically, in November or beyond, with the party infrastructure in tatters, with every mealy mouthed pseudo-Trump accommodationist permanently stained.

Some rich children are careless that way; they break things and other people have to clean up the mess.

I’m not a Cruz fan, but his naked ambition does fuel amazing courage. As the Republican Party is slouching off on a suicide march, at least Cruz is standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” When the Trump train implodes, the docile followers who are now booing and denouncing Ted Cruz will claim they were on his side all along.

It’s been gruesomely fascinating to see the Trumpian acid eat away the party of Lincoln and T.R. and Reagan.

A normal party has an apparatus of professionals, who have been around for a while and can get things done. But those people might as well not exist. This has been the most shambolically mis-run convention in memory — with a botched V.P. unveiling, a plagiarism scandal, listless audiences most of the time, empty seats midway through prime time, vote-counting strong-arm tactics, zero production creativity, no coherent messaging and a complete inability to control the conversation.

A normal party is united by a consistent belief system. For decades, the Republican Party has stood for an American-led international order abroad and small-government democratic capitalism at home. That capitalist ethos at least gave Republicans a future-oriented optimism.

Trump is decimating that too, along with the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, compassionate conservatism and the relatively open movement of ideas, people and trade.

There’s no actual agenda being put in its place, just nostalgic spasms that, as David Frum has put it, are part George Wallace and part Henry Wallace. This has been a convention of loss — parents who have lost children, workers who have lost the code that gave them dignity, white retirees who in a diversifying America have lost an empire and not found a role. Trump policies, if they exist, are defensive recoils: build a wall, ban Muslims, withdraw from the world.

A normal party has a moral ethos. For Republicans it has been inspired by evangelical Christianity. That often put the party on the losing side of the sexual revolution, but it also gave individual Republicans a calling toward private acts of charity, a commitment toward personal graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney is no evangelical, but his convention was lifted by stories of his personal mentorship.

All that is eviscerated, too. The selection of Mike Pence for his running mate notwithstanding, Trump has replaced Christian commitment with the ethos of a whining gladiator. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. He’s shown you can be a public thug and a good dad, but even in his children’s speeches, which have been excellent, he exists mostly as a cheerleader for high grades, moneymaking and worldly success.

This has been the Lock Her Up convention. The proper decibel level was set by Rudy Giuliani screaming. The criminalization of political difference was established by Chris Christie. Most of the delegates here are deeply ambivalent about their nominee, so they grab onto extreme Hillary bashing as one thing they can be un-ambivalent about.

But think about it: Can you think of a party or political movement that has devoted so much time to hatred without being blinded by it?

For example, look at the way Donald Trump has been calling people liars and traitors for a year. Then when Cruz has the temerity to use the phrase “vote your conscience,” the Trumpians fall all over themselves mewling, whining and twitching, without any faint self-awareness of how ridiculous they appear.

Confronted with Cruz’s non-endorsement, the Trump people seemed to decide they could crush him under a chorus of boos and antipathy. But this is a long game.

The Republican Party is not going to return to its old form. For a long time it will probably be a party for the dispossessed, but I suspect it will look a lot more like Ted Cruz in the years ahead than Donald Trump: anti-immigrant, anti-trade, but also more conventionally small government, more socially conservative. Ted Cruz types will lead the party in a million ways I don’t like. But at least it will be a party, not the narcissistic vehicle for one soft core Putin.

Poor, poor, Bobo and his big sad…  Here’s what “soxared040713” had to say:

“Mr. Brooks, you got the party and convention you deserved.

You’re making the same mistake by cheering Ted Cruz your party made by ignoring the signposts that led to Donald Trump. If all you have, in your ideological despair this Friday morning is a ruin of a party with Canadian-born Cruz at its center, you become Sisyphus. You’ll never get to the top of the steep climb without the stone rolling down to the bottom. The GOP is officially a bomb shelter.

You also need to drop “the party of Lincoln” lie. The 16th president lived and died to preserve the union. Ronald Reagan moved the right-leaning party from the devious Richard Nixon into territory co-opted by Trump for the past year, one truly “oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination.”

The acid core of the current GOP was minted by Reagan. You know this but continue to praise him as one of its champions. Reagan made segregation and racism acceptable in the GOP. He was the popular populist who threw stones at government as the people cheered. His message was “it doesn’t work; let’s kill it.” And you’re surprised that Trump echoes the nostalgia that won Reagan two terms?

Cruz led the insurgent Tea Party shutdown of the federal government and you tell us he’s the party’s future champion? You say “I’m not a Cruz fan” but then, like Mark Antony, you go on to praise murdered Caesar in the public square; you come not to bury Trump but to praise Cruz. How are they different?

GOP, rest not in peace. Just die.”  Amen.  Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

If elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? This should be a ludicrous, outrageous question. After all, he must be a patriot — he even wears hats promising to make America great again.

But we’re talking about a ludicrous, outrageous candidate. And the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering just what kind of hold Mr. Putin has over the Republican nominee, and whether that influence will continue if he wins.

I’m not talking about merely admiring Mr. Putin’s performance — being impressed by the de facto dictator’s “strength,” and wanting to emulate his actions. I am, instead, talking about indications that Mr. Trump would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America’s allies and her own self-interest.

That’s not to deny that Mr. Trump does, indeed, admire Mr. Putin. On the contrary, he has repeatedly praised the Russian strongman, often in extravagant terms. For example, when Mr. Putin published an article attacking American exceptionalism, Mr. Trump called it a “masterpiece.”

But admiration for Putinism isn’t unusual in Mr. Trump’s party. Well before the Trump candidacy, Putin envy on the right was already widespread.

For one thing, Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law when he decides to invade a country. He’s “what you call a leader,” declared Rudy Giuliani after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It’s also clear that the people who gleefully chanted “Lock her up” — not to mention the Trump adviser who called for Hillary Clinton’s execution — find much to admire in the way Mr. Putin deals with his political opponents and critics. By the way, while the Secret Service is investigating the comments about executing Mrs. Clinton, all the Trump campaign had to say was that it “does not agree with those statements.”

And many on the right also seem to have a strange, rather creepy admiration for Mr. Putin’s personal style. Rush Limbaugh, for example, declared that while talking to President Obama, “Putin probably had his shirt off practicing tai chi.”

All of this is, or should be, deeply disturbing; what would the news media be saying if major figures in the Democratic Party routinely praised leftist dictators? But what we’re now seeing from Mr. Trump and his associates goes beyond emulation, and is starting to look like subservience.

First, there was the Ukraine issue — one on which Republican leaders have consistently taken a hard line and criticized Mr. Obama for insufficient action, with John McCain, for example, accusing the president of “weakness.” And the G.O.P. platform was going to include a statement reaffirming this line, but it was watered down to blandness on the insistence of Trump representatives.

Then came Mr. Trump’s interview with The New York Times, in which, among other things, he declared that even if Russia attacked members of NATO he would come to their aid only if those allies — which we are bound by treaty to defend — have “fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Now, some of this is Mr. Trump’s deep ignorance of policy, his apparent inability to understand that you can’t run the U.S. government the way he has run his ramshackle business empire. We know from many reports about his stiffing of vendors, his history of profiting from enterprises even as they go bankrupt, that he sees contracts as suggestions, clear-cut financial obligations as starting points for negotiation. And we know that he sees fiscal policy as no different; he has already talked about renegotiating U.S. debt. So why should we be surprised that he sees diplomatic obligations the same way?

But is there more to the story? Is there some specific channel of influence?

We do know that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, has worked as a consultant for various dictators, and was for years on the payroll of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin ally.

And there are reasons to wonder about Mr. Trump’s own financial interests. Remember, we know nothing about the true state of his business empire, and he has refused to release his taxes, which might tell us more. We do know that he has substantial if murky involvement with wealthy Russians and Russian businesses. You might say that these are private actors, not the government — but in Mr. Putin’s crony-capitalist paradise, this is a meaningless distinction.

At some level, Mr. Trump’s motives shouldn’t matter. We should be horrified at the spectacle of a major-party candidate casually suggesting that he might abandon American allies — just as we should be horrified when that same candidate suggests that he might welsh on American financial obligations. But there’s something very strange and disturbing going on here, and it should not be ignored.

Solo Bobo

July 19, 2016

Poor, poor Bobo.  He’s stunned, STUNNED I tell you.  It turns out that Trump is Trump after all.  In “Trump Is Getting Even Trumpier!” he finally asks himself the question:  Is the Republicans’ nominee losing it?  Bobo’s POS will be followed by a comment from “Socrates” from Downtown Verona, NJ.  Here, FSM help us all, is Bobo:

Does anybody else have the sense that Donald Trump is slipping off the rails? His speeches have always had a rambling, free association quality, but a couple of the recent ones have, as the Republican political consultant Mike Murphy put it, passed from the category of rant to the category of full on “drunk wedding toast.

Trump’s verbal style has always been distinct. He doesn’t really speak in sentences or paragraphs. His speeches are punctuated by five- or six-word jabs that are sort of strung together by connections that can only be understood through chaos theory: “They want the wall … I dominated with the evangelicals … I won in a landslide … We can’t be the stupid people anymore.”

Occasionally Trump will attempt a sentence longer than eight words, but no matter what subject he starts the sentence with, by the end he has been pulled over to the subject of himself. Here’s an example from the Mike Pence announcement speech: “So one of the primary reasons I chose Mike was I looked at Indiana, and I won Indiana big.” There’s sort of a gravitational narcissistic pull that takes command whenever he attempts to utter a compound thought.

Trump has also always been a little engine fueled by wounded pride. For example, writing in BuzzFeed, McKay Coppins recalls the fusillade of abuse he received from Trump after writing an unflattering profile (he called Mar-a-Lago a “nice, if slightly dated, hotel”).

Trump was so inflamed he tweeted retaliation at Coppins several times a day and at odd hours, calling him a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility.” The attacks went on impressively for over two years, which must rank Coppins in the top 100,000 on the list of people Donald Trump resents.

Over the past few weeks these longstanding Trump patterns have gone into hyperdrive. This is a unique moment in American political history in which the mental stability of one of the major party nominees is the dominating subject of conversation.

Everybody is telling Trump to ratchet it down and be more sober, but at a rally near Cincinnati this month and in his Pence announcement speech on Saturday, Trump launched his verbal rocket ship straight through the stratosphere, and it landed somewhere on the dark side of Planet Debbie.

The Pence announcement was truly the strangest vice-presidential unveiling in recent political history. Ricocheting around the verbal wilds for more than twice as long as the man he was introducing, Trump even refused to remain onstage and gaze on admiringly as Pence flattered him. It was like watching a guy lose interest in a wedding when the bride appears.

The structure of his mental perambulations also seems to have changed. Formerly, as I said, his speeches had a random, free-form quality. But on Saturday his remarks had a distinct through line, anchored by the talking points his campaign had written down on pieces of paper. But Trump could not keep his attention focused on this through line — since the subject was someone else — so every 30 seconds or so he would shoot off on a resentment-filled bragging loop.

If you had to do a rough diagram of the Trump remarks it would be something like this: Pence … I was right about Iraq … Pence … Hillary Clinton is a crooked liar … I was right about “Brexit” … Pence … Hillary Clintons ads are filled with lies … We’re going to bring back the coal industry … Christians love me … Pence … I talk to statisticians … Pence is good looking My hotel in Washington is really coming along fantastically … Pence.

Donald Trump is in his moment of greatest triumph, but he seems more resentful and embattled than ever. Most political conventions are happy coronations, but this one may come to feel like the Alamo of aggrieved counterattacks.

It’s hard to know exactly what is going on in that brain, but science lends a clue. Psychologists wonder if narcissists are defined by extremely high self-esteem or by extremely low self-esteem that they are trying to mask. The current consensus seems to be that they are marked by unstable self-esteem. Their self-confidence can be both high and fragile, so they perceive ego threat all around.

Maybe as Trump has gotten more successful his estimation of what sort of adoration he deserves has increased while the outside criticism has gotten more pronounced. This combination is bound to leave his ego threat sensors permanently inflamed. So even if Candidate Trump is told to make a normal political point, Inner Boy Trump will hijack the microphone for another bout of resentful boasting.

Suddenly the global climate favors a Trump candidacy. Some forms of disorder — like a financial crisis — send voters for the calm supple thinker. But other forms of disorder — blood in the streets — send them scurrying for the brutal strongman.

If the string of horrific events continues, Trump could win the presidency. And he could win it even though he has less and less control over himself.

But so far Bobo hasn’t bothered to tell us that he’s not going to vote for the lunatic.  At least George Effing Will was that honest.  Here’s what “Socrates” had to say:

“And Brooks is getting Brooksier.

You could’ve chosen adulthood at some point, Mr. Brooks, and taken the time and dignity to mention that the horror show of Donald Trump’s reality-Presidential-candidacy is a cataclysm to be categorically rejected by reasonable voters, but instead you conclude with the theme song of the Doris Day Show.

“Que sera, sera – Whatever will be, will be – The future’s not ours to see – Que sera, sera”.

Political Frankensteins don’t just happen by themselves; Grand Old Psychopaths build them.

Mad Republican political scientists hellbent on greed and power created Trumpenstein in their Machiavellian labs through decades of market testing the darker angels of anger, racism, misogyny, cultured stupidity, religious fanaticism, flag waving war and gun anarchy.

Trump’s a political mutation created by a mutant political party that has no interest in roads, bridges, tunnels, schools, health care, technology, infrastructure, housing, public safety, civil rights, voting rights or living wages for 320 million Americans who could use a just a little decent public policy to help their everyday lives.

Trumpenstein wants to give America a 1000-mile wall magically paid for by Mexico and Vice President Mike Pence – a Salem Witch Trial cast member who adores forced pregnancies and hates homosexuals – and all you can say is “que sera sera” ?

Mr. Brooks, stand up tell the truth: GOP swindling and con-artistry and Trumpery has no place in the serious adult world.”

Blow, Cohen and Krugman

July 18, 2016

In “Trump’s Chance to Reboot” Mr. Blow says the Republican candidate has a golden opportunity at the convention to improve his standing with the voters, but don’t count on it.  Mr. Cohen considers “Turkey’s Coup That Wasn’t” and says a failed coup in Turkey does not mean democracy is the winner. In fact Erdogan may now undermine democracy further.  Prof. Krugman, in “Both Sides Now?,” says many in the news media feel the need to set up a false equivalence between a candidate who lies repeatedly and his opponent.  He’s a voice crying in the wilderness.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

As the Republican National Convention kicks off Monday, Donald Trump has a tremendous opportunity to rebrand and reboot his campaign, to make it look and feel more professional and less petulant.

Even for the people who loathe him — and there are many — the intensity of outrage inevitably wanes. This says less about those people’s commitment to their core principles or the veracity of their objections, and more about the very human propensity toward fatigue.

Sustained outrage can be exhausting. Some folks eventually succumb to resignation or tacit acceptance. That’s just the way people are built.

Outrage is a beast that needs constant feeding to remain strong, and over the last few weeks, following the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the police officers in Dallas, Trump has been noticeably more in control and controversy-free.

It seems almost certain that someone has gotten through to him, convincing him that he needs to tamp down the tweets and pump up the scripted speeches.

None of this changes the essence of the man. The intolerance, bigotry and narcissism are not so easily alterable. But public personas are protean. And that’s why a convention offers an incredible opportunity for a candidate.

All Trump — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter — has to do is to move a relative few of the people who now say, “I could never…” toward a position of “I could possibly…”

Conventions offer the most unfiltered and uninterrupted visions of parties and presidential candidates during a campaign. They are about shaping a message and conveying it. They allow candidates to completely reframe the conversation and to remake people’s perceptions.

These are big-money, high-stakes, focused-attention affairs. Voters who don’t follow every machination and who don’t stay glued to the television are likely to tune in just for the pageantry and spectacle of it all.

And these conventions usually are great shows. When the political parties concentrate on their candidates and put the totality of their attention into a single message, they can even doll up the devil.

But something tells me that Trump does not have the constitutional restraint and self-interested prudence to allow this to happen.

One of Trump’s greatest flaws — putting aside for the moment his utter vileness and ignorance of virtually every issue — is that he simply can’t stop being himself. He can’t coast; he must careen. He doesn’t trust drift, only drive.

This instinct may have served him well in business (although the many bankruptcies and lawsuits, as well as the unreleased tax returns, suggest that his business acumen and personal wealth may be in some part an illusion) but it creates conditions that are prime for a cascade of errors.

Unconventional campaigns can handicap what a political convention is great at providing — clarity.

Trump seems allergic to clarity.

Just take the rollout of his vice-presidential pick, Mike Pence, about as drab and boring a public figure as one could imagine. Of course this all disguises a man who is rabidly opposed to things like gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, but the political minds inside the campaign were apparently able to convince Trump that boring was the perfect balance to his own bombast.

First he orchestrated the selection like a reality show. It was hard to know if one was watching the final decision of a candidate or the final episode of The Bachelor.

In the end, Pence prevailed, although there were rumblings and reports that Trump still had trepidations up until the last minute.

Was this Trump’s preferred choice or simply a bow to pressure? Both, according to the meandering, sleep-on-my-sofa-because-you-may-be-drunk speech Trump gave to introduce Pence. In the speech Trump said that Pence was both his “first choice” and a choice for “party unity.”

Yes, there are many in Trump’s own party who still have serious misgivings about him, who no doubt wake up occasionally like I do in a cold sweat, with the realization that this man actually will be the Republican Party’s nominee.

Pence is meant to assuage those fears.

In a way, Trump picked Pence, a man who presents as an adult, so that Trump himself can continue to behave like a child. The vice-presidential pick has the presidential disposition on the ticket. Go figure.

But this arranged marriage looks as uncomfortable as it sounds and signals a precarious prelude to a convention that holds the potential to catapult Trump into greater acceptability before the Democrats and their all-star lineup of heavy hitters pick him apart at next week’s Democratic National Convention.

It would not surprise me one iota if Trump squanders this opportunity. He is proving to be a horrible general election campaigner. The man seems tragically prone to self-sabotage. For instance, after Sunday’s killing of police officers in Baton Rouge, Trump was back to sending incendiary tweets calling America a “divided crime scene” when he should have focused on Cleveland and unity.

I will pay close attention this week to see if this candidate transforms an event that has always served as a moment of ascendance into a moment of collapse. If I were a betting man…

Next up we have Mr. Cohen:

As coups go, the Turkish effort was a study in ineptitude: No serious attempt to capture or muzzle the political leadership, no leader ready to step in, no communication strategy (or even awareness of social media), no ability to mobilize a critical mass within either the armed forces or society. In their place a platoon of hapless soldiers on a bridge in Istanbul and the apparently uncoordinated targeting of a few government buildings in Ankara.

It was enough for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on his cellphone’s FaceTime app, to call supporters into the streets for the insurrection to fold. That Erdogan will no doubt be the chief beneficiary of this turmoil, using it to further his push for an autocratic Islamist Turkey, does not mean that he staged it. The Turkish Army remains isolated from society. It is entirely plausible that a coterie of officers believed a polarized and disgruntled society would rise up once given a cue. If so, they were wrong — and the error has cost more than 260 lives.

But in Erdogan’s Turkey, mystery and instability have become the coin of the realm. It is no wonder that conspiracy theories abound. Since an electoral setback in 2015, the president has overseen a Turkey that is ever more violent. This dangerous lurch has enabled him to bounce back in a second election in November and portray himself as the anointed one averting mayhem. His attempt to blame, without any evidence, the attempted coup on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and erstwhile ally living in Pennsylvania, forms part of a pattern of murkiness and intrigue.

Through Erdogan’s fog this much seems clear: Over 35 years after the last coup, and almost 20 years after the 1997 military intervention, Turks do not want a return to the seesawing military and civilian rule that marked the country between 1960 and 1980. On the contrary, they are attached to their democratic institutions and the constitutional order. The army, a pillar of Kemal Atatürk’s secular order, is weaker. Every major political party condemned the attempted coup. Whatever their growing anger against the president, Turks do not want to go backward.

A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the Anatolian heartland, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams echoed the president’s call for people to pour into the street. There can be little doubt that any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The blow to what is left in the Middle East of democratic institutions and the rule of law would have been devastating.

No wonder President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence of bloodshed.”

But “restraint” is not part of Erdogan’s vocabulary. As Philip Gordon, a former special assistant to Obama on the Middle East, told me: “Rather than use this as an opportunity to heal divisions, Erdogan may well do the opposite: go after adversaries, limit press and other freedoms further, and accumulate even more power.” Within hours, over 2,800 military personnel had been detained and 2,745 judges removed from duty.

A prolonged crackdown on so-called “Gulenists,” whoever Erdogan deems them to be, and the Kemalist “deep state” (supporters of the old secular order) is likely. An already divided society will grow more fissured. Secular Turkey will not quickly forget the cries of “Allahu akbar” echoing from some mosques and from crowds in the streets.

A rapid push by Erdogan to reform the Constitution by referendum and create a presidency with sweeping powers is possible. He now has a case to say only such powers will keep enemies at bay.

“It may well be that democracy has triumphed in Turkey only to be strangled at a slower pace,” Jonathan Eyal, the international director at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, told me. There can be little doubt the expressions of support for Erdogan from Western capitals came through gritted teeth.

For the Obama administration, the dilemmas of the Middle East could scarcely have been more vividly illustrated. When an Egyptian general, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, led a coup three years ago against the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Obama did not support the democratic government, as he has now in Turkey. The administration even avoided use of the word “coup” in Egypt. In effect, the president sided with the generals in the name of order.

True, Morsi was deeply unpopular. The Egyptian coup had massive support. It was a fait accompli by the time Obama weighed in. Still, principles in the Middle East are worth little. Policy often amounts to choosing the least bad option.

The least bad — Erdogan’s survival — has prevailed. That does not mean much worse won’t follow. A failed coup doesn’t mean democracy is the winner. The worst of this prickly autocrat may now be unleashed upon Turkey, with America and its allies able to do little about it.

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

When Donald Trump began his run for the White House, many people treated it as a joke. Nothing he has done or said since makes him look better. On the contrary, his policy ignorance has become even more striking, his positions more extreme, the flaws in his character more obvious, and he has repeatedly demonstrated a level of contempt for the truth that is unprecedented in American politics.

Yet while most polls suggest that he’s running behind in the general election, the margin isn’t overwhelming, and there’s still a real chance that he might win. How is that possible? Part of the answer, I’d argue, is that voters don’t fully appreciate his awfulness. And the reason is that too much of the news media still can’t break with bothsidesism — the almost pathological determination to portray politicians and their programs as being equally good or equally bad, no matter how ludicrous that pretense becomes.

Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that distorted news coverage is the whole story, that nobody would support Trumpism if the media were doing their job. The presumptive Republican nominee wouldn’t have gotten this far if he weren’t tapping into some deep resentments. Furthermore, America is a deeply divided country, at least in its political life, and the great majority of Republicans will support their party’s nominee no matter what. Still, the fact is that voters who don’t have the time or inclination to do their own research, who get their news analysis from TV or regular news pages, are fed a daily diet of false equivalence.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. During the 2000 campaign George W. Bush was flatly dishonest about his policy proposals; his numbers didn’t add up, and he claimed repeatedly that his tax cuts, which overwhelmingly favored the 1 percent, were aimed at the middle class. Yet mainstream coverage never made this clear. In frustration, I wrote at the time that if a presidential candidate were to assert that the earth was flat, news analysis articles would have the headline “Shape of the planet: Both sides have a point.”

And Mr. Trump is far from being the only current political figure who benefits from the determination to find balance where none exists. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has a reputation as a policy wonk, committed to fiscal responsibility, that is utterly incomprehensible if you look at the slapdash, fundamentally dishonest policy documents he actually puts out. But the cult of balance requires that someone on the Republican side be portrayed as a serious, honest fiscal expert, so Mr. Ryan gets slotted into that role no matter how much a con man he may be in reality.

Still, there are con men, and then there are con men. You might think that Donald Trump, who lies so much that fact-checkers have a hard time keeping up, who keeps repeating falsehoods even after they’ve been proved wrong, and who combines all of this with a general level of thuggishness aimed in part at the press, would be too much even for the balance cultists to excuse.

But you would be wrong.

To be fair, some reporters and news organizations try to point out Trump statements that are false, frightening, or both. All too often, however, they still try to maintain their treasured balance by devoting equal time — and, as far as readers and viewers can tell, equal or greater passion — to denouncing far less important misstatements from Hillary Clinton. In fact, surveys show that Mrs. Clinton has, overall, received much more negative coverage than her opponent.

And in the last few days we’ve seen a spectacular demonstration of bothsidesism in action: an op-ed article from the incoming and outgoing heads of the White House Correspondents’ Association, with the headline “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press.” How so? Well, Mr. Trump has selectively banned news organizations he considers hostile; he has also, although the op-ed didn’t mention it, attacked both those organizations and individual reporters, and refused to condemn supporters who, for example, have harassed reporters with anti-Semitic insults.

Meanwhile, while Mrs. Clinton hasn’t done any of these things, and has a staff that readily responds to fact-checking questions, she doesn’t like to hold press conferences. Equivalence!

Stung by criticism, the authors of the op-ed issued a statement denying that they had engaged in “false equivalency” — I guess saying that the candidates are acting “similarly” doesn’t mean saying that they are acting similarly. And they once again refused to indicate which candidate was behaving worse.

As I said, bothsidesism isn’t new, and it has always been an evasion of responsibility. But taking the position that “both sides do it” now, in the face of this campaign and this candidate, is an act of mind-boggling irresponsibility.

Brooks and Krugman

July 8, 2016

Oh, cripes.  Bobo has now decided to harangue us on “The Power of Altruism.”  He bleats that we inherently desire to do good, but society’s assumptions of selfishness affect our behavior.  His “thoughts” will be followed by a comment by “Socrates” from Downtown Verona, NJ.  Prof. Krugman considers “All the Nominee’s Enablers” and says the G.O.P. establishment, and the people behind it, will accept a lot as long as the rich ultimately benefit.  Here’s Bobo:

Western society is built on the assumption that people are fundamentally selfish. Machiavelli and Hobbes gave us influential philosophies built on human selfishness. Sigmund Freud gave us a psychology of selfishness. Children, he wrote, “are completely egoistic; they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to satisfy them.”

Classical economics adopts a model that says people are primarily driven by material self-interest. Political science assumes that people are driven to maximize their power.

But this worldview is clearly wrong. In real life, the push of selfishness is matched by the pull of empathy and altruism. This is not Hallmark card sentimentalism but scientific fact: As babies our neural connections are built by love and care. We have evolved to be really good at cooperation and empathy. We are strongly motivated to teach and help others.

As Matthieu Ricard notes in his rigorous book “Altruism,” if an 18-month-old sees a man drop a clothespin she will move to pick it up and hand it back to him within five seconds, about the same amount of time it takes an adult to offer assistance. If you reward a baby with a gift for being kind, the propensity to help will decrease, in some studies by up to 40 percent.

When we build academic disciplines and social institutions upon suppositions of selfishness we’re missing the motivations that drive people much of the time.

Worse, if you expect people to be selfish, you can actually crush their tendency to be good.

Samuel Bowles provides a slew of examples in his book “The Moral Economy.” For example, six day care centers in Haifa, Israel, imposed a fine on parents who were late in picking up their kids at the end of the day. The share of parents who arrived late doubled. Before the fine, picking up their kids on time was an act of being considerate to the teachers. But after the fine, showing up to pick up their kids became an economic transaction. They felt less compunction to be kind.

In 2001, the Boston fire commissioner ended his department’s policy of unlimited sick days and imposed a limit of 15 per year. Those who exceeded the limit had their pay docked. Suddenly what had been an ethic to serve the city was replaced by a utilitarian paid arrangement. The number of firefighters who called in sick on Christmas and New Year’s increased by tenfold over the previous year.

To simplify, there are two lenses people can use to see any situation: the economic lens or the moral lens.

When you introduce a financial incentive you prompt people to see their situation through an economic lens. Instead of following their natural bias toward reciprocity, service and cooperation, you encourage people to do a selfish cost-benefit calculation. They begin to ask, “What’s in this for me?”

By evoking an economic motivation, you often get worse outcomes. Imagine what would happen to a marriage if both people went in saying, “I want to get more out of this than I put in.” The prospects of such a marriage would not be good.

Many of our commitments, professional or civic, are like that. To be a good citizen, to be a good worker, you often have to make an altruistic commitment to some group or ideal, which will see you through those times when your job of citizenship is hard and frustrating. Whether you are a teacher serving students or a soldier serving your country or a clerk who likes your office mates, the moral motivation is much more powerful than the financial motivations. Arrangements that arouse the financial lens alone are just messing everything up.

In 1776, Adam Smith defined capitalism as a machine that takes private self-interest and organizes it to produce general prosperity. A few years later America’s founders created a democracy structured to take private factional competition and, through checks and balances, turn it into deliberative democracy. Both rely on a low but steady view of human nature and try to turn private vice into public virtue.

But back then, there were plenty of institutions that promoted the moral lens to balance the economic lens: churches, guilds, community organizations, military service and honor codes.

Since then, the institutions that arouse the moral lens have withered while the institutions that manipulate incentives — the market and the state — have expanded. Now economic, utilitarian thinking has become the normal way we do social analysis and see the world. We’ve wound up with a society that is less cooperative, less trusting, less effective and less lovely.

By assuming that people are selfish, by prioritizing arrangements based on selfishness, we have encouraged selfish frames of mind. Maybe it’s time to upend classical economics and political science. Maybe it’s time to build institutions that harness people’s natural longing to do good.

Great.  Let’s start by destroying the Republican party and everything it currently stands for.  They don’t call Paul Ryan the “Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver” for nothing, Bobo.  Here’s the comment by “Socrates:”

“Machiavelli would be perfectly at home moored in the bay of one of today’s 0.1% Cayman Island or Panamanian tax havens, napping peacefully on his 500-foot super yacht on a bed of red roses handpicked by serfs this morning.. “completely egoistic; feeling his needs intensely and striving ruthlessly to satisfy” his insatiable greed.

0.1% individuals and their families have as much as $32 trillion of hidden financial assets in offshore tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network, and economist James Henry.

0.1% trillions of graft and greed is held in tax havens by private elites and puts it beyond the reach of tax authorities and excludes it from the common good.

Research estimates that since the 1970s, the richest citizens of 139 countries had amassed $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of “unrecorded offshore wealth” by 2010.

Private wealth held offshore represents “a subterranean” systemic “economic equivalent of an astrophysical black hole” of 0.1% greed in the world economy.

The $32T estimate is roughly twice the size of the US GDP —- offshored ‘altruism’ and compassionate 0.1% conservatism at its truly finest.

“Wall Street and other major banks manage the tax havens — their business is fraud and grand theft. Private banking operations yield huge profits. Keeping funds secreted tax free attracts rich clients and criminals – funds are welcome from anyone, “no questions asked”, wrote Stephen Lendman of Global Research.

The Power Of Greed is a timeless psychopathy, Mr. Brooks.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman, the voice crying in the wilderness:

A couple of weeks ago Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, sort of laid out both a health care plan and a tax plan. I say sort of, because there weren’t enough details in either case to do any kind of quantitative analysis. But it was clear that Mr. Ryan’s latest proposals had the same general shape as every other proposal he’s released: huge tax cuts for the wealthy combined with savage but smaller cuts in aid to the poor, and the claim that all of this would somehow reduce the budget deficit thanks to unspecified additional measures.

Given everything else that’s going on, this latest installment of Ryanomics attracted little attention. One group that did notice, however, was Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan deficit-scold group that used to have substantial influence in Washington.

Indeed, Fix the Debt issued a statement — but not, as you might have expected, condemning Mr. Ryan for proposing to make the deficit bigger. No, the statement praised him. “We are concerned that the policies in the plan may not add up,” the organization admitted, but it went on to declare that “we welcome this blueprint.”

And there, in miniature, is the story of how America ended up with someone like Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee and possible next president. It’s all about the enablers, and the enablers of the enablers.

At one level, all Mr. Trump has done is to channel the racism that has always been a part of our political life — it’s literally as American as apple pie — and hitch it to the authoritarian impulse that has also always lurked behind democratic norms. But there’s a reason these tendencies are sufficiently concentrated in the G.O.P. that Trumpism could triumph in the primaries: a cynical political strategy that the party’s establishment has pursued for decades.

To put it bluntly, the modern Republican Party is in essence a machine designed to deliver high after-tax incomes to the 1 percent. Look at Mr. Ryan: Has he ever shown any willingness, for any reason, to make the rich pay so much as a dime more in taxes? Comforting the very comfortable is what it’s all about.

But not many voters are interested in that goal. So the party has prospered politically by harnessing its fortunes to racial hostility, which it has not-so-discreetly encouraged for decades.

These days, former President George H.W. Bush is treated as an elder statesman, too gentlemanly to endorse the likes of Donald Trump — but remember, he’s the one who ran the Willie Horton ad. Mitt Romney is also sitting this one out — but he was happy to accept Mr. Trump’s endorsement back when the candidate was best known for his rabid birtherism.

And Mr. Ryan, after a brief pretense of agonizing about Mr. Trump, is now in full attack-dog mode on the candidate’s behalf. After all, the Trump tax plan would be a huge windfall for the wealthy, while Hillary Clinton would surely sustain President Obama’s significant tax hike on high incomes, and try to push it further.

I’m not saying that all leading Republicans are racists; most of them probably aren’t, although Mr. Trump probably is. It is that in pursuit of their economic — actually, class-interest — goals they were willing to act as enablers, to make their party a safe space for prejudice. And the result is a party base that is strikingly racist, in which a plurality of voters believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and more — a base just waiting for a candidate willing to blurt out what the establishment conveyed by innuendo.

But there’s one more crucial element here: We wouldn’t have gotten to this point if so many people outside the G.O.P. — in particular, journalists and self-proclaimed centrists — hadn’t refused to acknowledge what was happening.

Political analysts who tried to talk about the G.O.P.’s transformation, like Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, were effectively ostracized for years. Instead, the respectable, “balanced” thing was to pretend that the parties were symmetric, to turn a blind eye to the cynicism of the modern Republican project.

Which brings me back to Mr. Ryan, the de facto leader of his party until the Trumpocalypse. How did he reach that position? Not by inspiring deep loyalty in the base, but rather by getting incredibly favorable treatment from journalists and centrists eager to show their bipartisanship by finding a serious, honest Republican to praise — or at least someone able to do a passable job of playing that character on TV. And as the latest from Fix the Debt shows, the charade is still going on.

The point is that this kind of false balance does real harm. The Republican establishment directly enabled the forces that led to Trump; but many influential people outside the G.O.P. in effect enabled the enablers. And so here we are.

Blow and Krugman

July 4, 2016

In “Giving Clinton Her Due” Mr. Blow says of the two flawed presidential candidates, one is clearly out-campaigning the other.  Prof. Krugman considers “Trump, Trade and Workers” and says bashing China doesn’t make you labor’s friend.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It is easy in an election cycle that has seen the improbable rise of the preposterous presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to center all discussion about the race on him: how poorly he’s doing, how outrageous this week’s comments were, how damning a new investigative report into his past has proved.

But doing so exposes a bias toward the sensational, underselling another rather remarkable story, at least for the month of June: Hillary Clinton ran an incredibly strong campaign last month.

First, let’s start with the obvious. As Gallup pointed out last week: “Trump and Clinton are currently among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades.” But the article continued: “In the race to the bottom, however, Trump’s 42 percent highly unfavorable score easily outpaces Clinton’s 33 percent. Prior to now, 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater had the highest negative score, with 26 percent rating him highly unfavorably in October 1964.”

A couple of weeks ago Gallup found that “Americans’ views of Donald Trump have drifted slightly more negative over the past month and a half, with his net favorable rating slipping to -33 for June 13-19 from -28 in the first week of May. Americans’ views of Hillary Clinton have remained significantly less negative than their views of Trump — and have been more stable, with her current -13 net favorable rating almost identical to her -14 from early May.”

Both Clinton and Trump are flawed and damaged candidates, but they aren’t equally flawed and damaged. And while Trump is digging his holes deeper, Clinton is remaining steady in some and climbing out of others.

Clinton began the month with a major foreign policy speech that CNN called an “evisceration of Donald Trump,” and she never let up. She delivered a stinging critique of Trump as dangerous in an economic policy speech in Ohio. In an article about the speech, The New York Times pointed out: “The barrage comes at a perilous moment for Mr. Trump, who fired his campaign manager on Monday and faces severe disadvantages in fund-raising and on-the-ground organization. One supporter introducing Mrs. Clinton said gleefully that the campaign had more staff members in Ohio than Mr. Trump had nationwide.”

How did Trump respond to this speech? He live-tweeted his objections.

When he did give a major speech in response, it was roundly condemned for the numerous falsehoods it contained. But this is nothing new for Trump. Of all the statements by Trump that have been examined by the fact-checking site PolitiFact, most have been rated false or “pants on fire.”

Trump simply can’t muster the discipline that is one of Clinton’s hallmarks. While giving a trade speech in New Hampshire last week, Trump departed from the subject to again go after Mexico. What is this man’s issue with Mexico, anyway?

As The Times observed: “Donald J. Trump was seven minutes into an address on Thursday on the loading dock of a shuttered lighting plant here in New Hampshire, reading from prepared remarks, when he turned his attention to Mexico. That country’s leaders are smarter than those in the United States, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. Then, as the sound of a plane overhead drowned out his voice, Mr. Trump went off his script. ‘In fact,’ Mr. Trump said, pointing his finger toward the sky, ‘that could be a Mexican plane up there. They’re getting ready to attack.’”

At times last month, Clinton and her campaign so outmatched Trump that the competition wasn’t even close.

And perhaps most intriguingly, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Orlando and Turkey and the Brexit vote in England, Clinton turned what many had seen as a negative for her into a positive: Her cautious delivery, which can sometimes feel a bit guarded and robotic, began to sound steady, reassuring and presidential.

Trump, in contrast, stumbled terribly, because rather than rise in these moments of trauma and volatility, he sinks to being more, well, Trump. He made everything about him.

After the Orlando massacre, Trump tweeted: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Following the Brexit vote, MSNBC reported: “Asked about economic turmoil and the degree to which the Brexit results are undermining the value of the British pound,” Trump replied “that the market decline is good news — for him. ‘If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly,’ he said, referring to the location of his resort. ‘For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.’ ”

There’s no way to know if this will continue, especially in light of the ongoing F.B.I. investigation of her emails, but last month Clinton out-campaigned and outclassed Trump at every turn. It’s important that she is given her due.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump gave a speech on economic policy last week. Just about every factual assertion he made was wrong, but I’m not going to do a line-by-line critique. What I want to do, instead, is talk about the general thrust: the candidate’s claim to be on the side of American workers.

Of course, that’s what they all say. But Trumponomics goes beyond the usual Republican assertions that cutting taxes on corporations and the rich, ending environmental regulation and so on will conjure up the magic of the marketplace and make everyone prosper. It also involves posing as a populist, claiming that getting tough on foreigners and ripping up our trade agreements will bring back the well-paying jobs America has lost.

That’s a departure, although not as much as you may think — people forget that Mitt Romney similarly threatened a trade war with China during the 2012 campaign. Still, it was interesting to see a Republican presidential candidate name-check not just Bernie Sanders but the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which has long been critical of globalization.

But the institute is having none of it: Lawrence Mishel, the think tank’s president, put out a derisive reply to what he called the “Trump trade scam.” His point was that even if you think, as he does, that trade agreements have hurt American workers, they’re only part of a much broader set of anti-labor policies. And on everything else, Donald Trump is very much on the wrong side of the issues.

About globalization: There’s no question that rising imports, especially from China, have reduced the number of manufacturing jobs in America. One widely-cited paper estimates that China’s rise reduced U.S. manufacturing employment by around one million between 1999 and 2011. My own back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that completely eliminating the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods would add about two million manufacturing jobs.

But America is a big place, and total employment exceeds 140 million. Shifting two million workers back into manufacturing would raise that sector’s share of employment back from around 10 percent to around 11.5 percent. To get some perspective: in 1979, on the eve of the great surge in inequality, manufacturing accounted for more than 20 percent of employment. In the 1960s it was more than 25 percent. I’m not sure when, exactly, Mr. Trump thinks America was great, but Trumponomics wouldn’t come close to bringing the old days back.

In any case, falling manufacturing employment is only one factor in the decline of the middle class. As Mr. Mishel says, there have been “many other intentional policies” driving wages down even as top incomes soar: union-bashing, the failure to raise the minimum wage with inflation, austerity, financial deregulation, the tax-cut obsession.

And Mr. Trump buys fully into the ideology that has driven these wage-destroying policies.

In fact, even as he tried to pose as a populist he repeated the same falsehoods usually used to justify anti-worker policies. We are, he declared, “one of the highest taxed nations in the world.” Actually, among 34 advanced countries, we’re No. 31. And, regulations are “an even greater impediment” to our competitiveness than taxes: Actually, we’re far less regulated than, say, Germany, which runs a gigantic trade surplus.

As Mr. Mishel wrote, “if is he so keen to help working people, why does he then steer the discussion back toward the traditional corporate agenda of tax cuts for corporations and the rich?” I think we know the answer.

But never mind Mr. Trump’s motivations. What’s important is that voters not mistake tough talk on trade for a pro-worker agenda.

No matter what we do on trade, America is going to be mainly a service economy for the foreseeable future. If we want to be a middle-class nation, we need policies that give service-sector workers the essentials of a middle-class life. This means guaranteed health insurance — Obamacare brought insurance to 20 million Americans, but Republicans want to repeal it and also take Medicare away from millions. It means the right of workers to organize and bargain for better wages — which all Republicans oppose. It means adequate support in retirement from Social Security — which Democrats want to expand, but Republicans want to cut and privatize.

Is Mr. Trump for any of these things? Not as far as anyone can tell. And it should go without saying that a populist agenda won’t be possible if we’re also pushing through a Trump-style tax plan, which would offer the top 1 percent huge tax cuts and add trillions to the national debt.

Sorry, but adding a bit of China-bashing to a fundamentally anti-labor agenda does no more to make you a friend of workers than eating a taco bowl does to make you a friend of Latinos.

Blow and Collins

June 23, 2016

In “Trump, Champion of the Downtrodden? Ha!” Mr. Blow says his speech was garbage, pure and simple — false and flimsy, an effort to paint himself as an advocate for the people who loathe him most.  Ms. Collins, in “Hillary Gossip Redux,” says a book with little credibility is digging up the shards of the 1990s.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave a meandering, fact-challenged speech — read from a teleprompter, no less — that framed him and the Republican Party as champions of America’s women and racial, ethnic and L.G.B.T. minorities. I laughed out loud, repeatedly.

Trump continues to make the incredible claim that his religion-based anti-Muslim policies on immigration and refugees would be good for members of the L.G.B.T. communities because many of those people come from countries with brutally anti-gay records.

As Trump put it: “I only want to admit people who share our values and love our people. Hillary Clinton wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death.”

What? Not only has Trump never specified a values-based exemption to his Muslim ban, but also how on earth would a values test be administered? And where is the specific proof that Clinton explicitly “wants to bring in people who believe women should be enslaved and gays put to death”?

Who is buying that nonsense? I know, I know, a disturbingly large percentage of the electorate, but still: This is just a string of lies stitched together with a silver thread.

At another point, Trump said that Clinton “took millions” from countries that “pushed oppressive Shariah law” or otherwise “horribly abuse women and the L.G.B.T. citizens” while not disclosing that, as CNN reported last week:

“[Trump], too, has financial ties to some of the same companies. From licensing his name to a golf club in Dubai to leasing his suburban New York estate to former Libyan strongman Muammar el-Gaddafi, Trump has launched several new business ventures connected to Middle Eastern countries since 2000.”

This man gives new meaning to the word hypocrisy.

But he didn’t stop there. He also framed himself as the best candidate for African-Americans (a group he once said he hated counting his money) and Hispanics (even though he has labeled many Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals).

Trump said of Clinton:

“She has pledged to grant mass amnesty and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement, and thus create totally open borders for the United States. The first victims of her radical policies will be poor African-American and Hispanic workers who need jobs. They’re also the ones she will hurt the most, by far.”

He continued:

“She can’t claim to care about African-American and Hispanic workers when she wants to bring in millions of new low-wage earners to compete against them.”

This is the epitome of the politics of public division that seeks to pit one part of the electorate against the other, a way of making starving dogs fight for scraps. It’s revolting and un-American — not only the liberal vision of America, but also the conservative vision of America as articulated by Paul Ryan in 2011 when he was hammering President Obama for engaging in what he thought was class warfare.

At the time, Ryan told The Heritage Foundation:

“The perfection of our Union, especially our commitment to equality of opportunity, has been a story of constant striving to live up to our Founding principles. This is what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said, ‘In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve.’ ”

Ryan continued:

“The American Idea is not tried in times of prosperity. Instead, it is tested when times are tough: when the pie is shrinking, when businesses are closing, and when workers are losing their jobs. Those are the times when America’s commitment to equality of opportunity is called into question. That’s when the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns — when many in Washington use the politics of division to evade responsibility for their failures and to advance their own narrow political interests.”

Who is now exploiting fear and envy, Speaker Ryan? Oh yeah, the man you’ve endorsed.

The question that ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Ryan earlier this month still lingers in search of a sufficient answer:

“You’ve said, in explaining why you’re standing by your endorsement of Mr. Trump, what matters more to you than anything are our core principles. But what core principle is more important to the party of Lincoln than stepping up against racism?”

Trump ended his specious speech with a string of baseless boasts about all the fairy-tale, utopian improvements that a Trump presidency would somehow magically induce. One of those boasts was that “inner cities” — invariably a term of art in American politics for poor minority neighborhoods — “which have been horribly abused by Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party, will finally, finally, finally be rebuilt.”

Again, what on earth does “rebuilt” mean? Never mind. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything specific, or have any policy substance, but rather simply to sound positive and impressive.

Trump’s speech was garbage, pure and simple. Not only was it too often false, it was also flimsy, an effort to paint himself as a champion of the people who loathe him most.

Maybe the people who support him despise Clinton more than they cherish the truth, but for those who can see this man’s naked bigotry for what it is, this speech fell like seeds on a stony place. Nothing will come of it.

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

I am so excited to tell you that we’re returning to the question of whether or not Hillary Clinton threw a vase at her husband in the White House.

Really, this one hasn’t come up for about 20 years. But Gary Byrne says he saw the pieces! In a box! Byrne is a former Secret Service officer who has written a tell-all book, “Crisis of Character,” about the (horrible/embarrassing/appalling) things he purportedly witnessed during the Bill Clinton presidency.

It’s coming out next week to what’s supposed to be a big rollout in the conservative media. Donald Trump has been twittering about it, and he quoted from it in his speech on Wednesday. (That was the speech in which the new, measured Trump said Clinton “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” whose “decisions spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched.”)

Byrne was a low-ranking officer who could never have gotten near enough to the Clintons to see all the things he says he knew firsthand. His juiciest anecdotes are just a rehash of old rumors. “One must question the veracity and content of any book which implies that its author played such an integral part of so many (claimed) incidents,” said the Association of Former Agents of the U.S. Secret Service, which issued a denunciation.

This is typical of what concerned citizens are going through this year. We ought to be diligently examining the downside of Hillary’s history as part of our civic duties. But having Trump on the other side of the ledger makes Travelgate and the Goldman Sachs speeches seem sort of irrelevant. “Crisis of Character” is supposed to give us an insight into the old White House messes, but it’s written by a guy who has doubts about whether Vince Foster really killed himself.

One of the legends Byrne rakes up is that Hillary mistreated her security detail. (He claims the first lady’s bullying drove some of his comrades to alcohol, drugs, prostitutes or — this is a little unusual — performance enhancers.) This is old gossip, but not everyone agrees.

“Those stories have always kind of been out there. I don’t know why; she’s more than pleasant,” said a higher-ranking agent who had been on the Clinton security detail. “I spent close to two years with her — most days, to be honest. I never found Mrs. Clinton to be anything but professional.”

Speaking in a phone interview, on the condition of anonymity, the agent said Hillary tended to get irritable mainly when the agents pushed people out of the way when she was walking, or stopped traffic for her when she was driving: “She’s just kind of someone who wants to swim with the fish. She didn’t like royal treatment.”

Although the book is being promoted as a cautionary tale about Hillary’s character, beyond the rudeness stories there’s actually only one juicy anecdote about her. That’s the vase-throwing story. It’s been around almost since the Clintons arrived in Washington, although the object being hurled has traditionally been described as a lamp.

I remember going home to Ohio a few weeks after the inauguration and telling it to my mother, who had already heard it on Rush Limbaugh. Several months later, Katie Couric went on a tour of the White House with the first lady and asked her to “point out just where you were when you threw the lamp at your husband.”

“Well, you know … I’m looking for that spot, too,” Hillary replied.

Gossip is, in part, an expression of public anxiety — people speculated, endlessly, about which politicians might be secretly gay back when there was an overriding fear of homosexuality, and before that, we had periodic rumors about presidential candidates with “Negro blood.” It’s possible the Hillary-lamp stories stemmed from nervousness about a first lady who intended to wield actual political power in the job.

As time went on, a Bible and “punches” were added to the things that Hillary was rumored to have thrown at her husband. Then 23 years later a former Secret Service officer, writing a tell-all book about people he barely glimpsed in the course of duty, breathlessly announced he had once spotted a telltale box full of vase shards. (“The rumors were true.”)

Most of the Byrne book is actually devoted to the sex escapades of Bill Clinton. There’s one bit about an alleged affair with a woman who’s not alive to defend herself. Beyond that, it’s likely that those of us who were around for the Monica Lewinsky era know as much as Byrne does about the subject. We’ve already been there. The country has already demonstrated that it is prepared to accept leaders with stupendously imperfect personal lives if they get us where we want to go in public.

But I vote that if Hillary threw a vase, more power to her.

Collins, solo

June 18, 2016

In “The Trump Disaster Chronicle” Ms. Collins tells us that nobody knows empathy like The Donald.  Here she is:

It’s natural to wonder how our next president would respond, on a human level, to a disaster like Orlando. The candidates have been pretty clear on policy, but how would he/she relate to a community, and country, in pain?

We ought to have some clues, since both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were New Yorkers when the World Trade Center towers came down on Sept. 11.

Clinton was a U.S. senator at the time, so her script was pretty clear. She comforted the afflicted, joined hands with political adversaries for a show of unity, fought to get aid for the city and the survivors.

We obviously wouldn’t have expected all that from Trump, who was a private citizen. But a very rich, important one — he must have done a lot for the city and survivors, right? He once boasted to The Times’s Mark Leibovich that as president, he’d be great at reaching out in a crisis. Empathy, he said, “will be one of the strongest things about Trump.”

Trump apparently was at his apartment in Midtown Manhattan during the attacks and their aftermath. However, he has occasionally relocated himself to ground zero. He told people at a rally in Buffalo this spring that “I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11.”

It was probably the only time in history that a presidential candidate confused an epic disaster with a convenience store.

People, do you think it’s unfair to make fun of Trump’s verbal pratfalls? This week he told the crowd at another rally that “Belgium is a beautiful city.” Could be an endearing foible. Could be a symptom of a supreme indifference to reality in all its forms.

Trump also claimed that on 9/11 he saw “thousands and thousands of people” in a New Jersey area with a heavy Arab population “cheering as that building was coming down.” When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pointed out that nothing like that happened, Trump said: “It was on television. I saw it.” Nobody else did. But we can be confident that if a disaster fell upon us during a Trump presidency, he would somehow blame it on American Muslims. If there was a hurricane, it’d be their fault for not issuing advance warning.

I asked the Trump campaign what the candidate had done to be helpful in the wake of 9/11, and this is the list:

■ “Allowed people to use 40 Wall Street to store equipment, stay in the building, etc.” This is a 72-story skyscraper that Trump owns. When the government began a program to encourage businesses to stay in Lower Manhattan after the attack, he managed to milk $150,000 for 40 Wall Street, which was not going anywhere.

■ “… donated massive amounts of Trump water to those working at ground zero.” This would presumably be Trump Ice, the bottled water he plugged during a campaign news conference.

■ “Mr. Trump visited immediately after the attacks with a group of construction workers.” This seems a more likely description than the one he gave at that Buffalo rally, when he seemed to suggest he had actually been laboring at ground zero himself. (“… and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit. …”) Two days after the attack, Trump was interviewed near the site by a reporter for German TV. He was wearing a distinctly nonworkmanlike suit and volunteered, “I have a lot of men down here.”

So Trump helped by sending helpers? We would have no reason to question that story, except that he does have a way of claiming his “people” are doing things that aren’t actually happening. In 2011, when he was claiming that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, he told NBC’s Meredith Vieira: “I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,”

We never did learn what those people found. Perhaps they’re still out there somewhere, sifting through evidence. Sending bills that history suggests Trump might never bother to pay.

Back to the list. Trump’s campaign says he:

■ “… made many significant contributions to organizations like the American Red Cross to be put towards the relief efforts.” The details are unclear. We’ll just have to wait until those darned tax returns become available, something I predict we can expect the very second hell freezes over.

■ “… made a $100,000 [contribution] to the 9/11 Memorial Fund after touring the museum.”

In the days right before the New York primary, he did visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. He would have walked past a wall celebrating benefactors who donated money to help build it. Donald Trump’s name is conspicuously not there. Finally, when he was running for president in 2016, he forked over a check.

By the way, if Trump had ever been to the museum before, or visited the two reflecting pools that now sit on the site of the destroyed towers, it was never publicized. Perhaps he did it very quietly, the better to allow for contemplation.

And perhaps I’m the Tsarina of All The Russias.