Archive for the ‘Whistling past the graveyard’ Category

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.

Bobo, solo

November 1, 2016

Bobo’s decided to continue avoiding things.  In “Read Buber, Not the Polls!” he gurgles that the writings of the Jewish sage Martin Buber offer a distraction from election anxiety.  “Gemli” from Boston will have a thing or two to say about that.  Here’s Bobo:

If America were a marriage we’d need therapy.

There has been so much bad communication over the past year: people talking in warring monologues past each other, ignoring the facts and using lazy stereotypes like “elites” and “Trumpeans” to reduce complex individuals into simplistic categories. Meanwhile, our main candidates are poor connectors. We’ve got the self-enclosed narcissism of Donald Trump and, to a lesser degree, the mistrustful defensiveness of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

As an antidote for all this, I’ve been reading the work of Martin Buber, the early 20th century Jewish theologian who dedicated his career to understanding deep intimacy. Buber is famous for the distinction between I-It relationships and I-Thou relationships.

I-It relationships come in two varieties.

Some are strictly utilitarian. You’re exchanging information in order to do some practical thing, like getting your taxes done.

But other I-It relationships are truncated versions of what should be deep relationships. You’re with a friend, colleague, spouse or neighbor, but you’re not really bringing your whole self to that encounter. You’re fearful, closed or withdrawn — objectifying her, talking at her, offering only a shallow piece of yourself and seeing only the shallow piece of her.

I-Thou relationships, on the other hand, are personal, direct, dialogical — nothing is held back. A Thou relationship exists when two or more people are totally immersed in their situation, when deep calls to deep, when they are offering up themselves and embracing the other in some total, unselfconscious way, when they are involved in “mutual animated describing.”

A doctor has an I-It relationship with a patient when he treats him as a machine in need of repair. But Peter DeMarco described an I-Thou relationship in a letter to the doctors and nurses who cared for his dying wife, which was published in The Times:

“How many times did you hug me and console me when I fell to pieces, or ask about Laura’s life and the person she was, taking the time to look at her photos or read the things I’d written about her? How many times did you deliver bad news with compassionate words, and sadness in your eyes?”

In our culture we use phrases like finding oneself, finding your passion, loving yourself so you can love others. But Buber argued that it’s nonsensical to think of the self in isolation. The I only exists in relation to some other.

“The development of the soul in the child is inextricably bound up with that of the longing for the Thou,” he wrote. All through life, the self is emerging out of some dialogue, either a cold stifling one or a rich complete one: “All real living is meeting.”

You can’t intentionally command I-Thou moments into being. You can only be open to them and provide fertile soil.

Some people go through life with a detached posture, trying to self-differentiate themselves and be more sophisticated than others. Those people tend to have mechanical relationships. Their feelings are self-enclosed. They don’t get to experience the Thou.

Others adopt a guard-down posture that is openhearted and open-minded. They regard others as unique persons and not objects. They have histories in which trust and vulnerability are rewarded.

Such people experience moments of genuine dialogue. Buber described genuine dialogue as a sort of social flow. Teachers and students are learning with each other. An audience and an artist are lost in a performance.

These moments don’t last. It is the “exalted melancholy of our fate” that Thou moments always fade back into It moments. But a world has been built during such intense moments. A binding cord has been strengthened. The person who has experienced the Thou has been thickened and come closer to wholeness.

Buber’s writing reminds us to be intentional and brave about relationships. But it also has communal and political implications. Some organizations and leaders nurture openhearted bonds. Such communities usually began, Buber wrote, with some sacred Thou moment — like the Exodus story for the Jews or the revolutionary struggles of the early Americans. Leaders connect current problems to that “living effective center” and set the table for situations of caring and trust.

Buber’s story is also apt because he overcame betrayal to come to a posture of trust. When he was a small boy, his mother eloped with an Army officer and wasn’t seen for 30 years. But he still had the courage to throw himself wholly in with his wife, Paula. Their marriage became a living example of a true and equal Thou.

Today, America is certainly awash in distrust. So many people tell stories of betrayal. So many leaders (Trump) model combativeness, isolation and distrust. But the only way we get beyond depressing years like this one is at the level of intimacy: if Americans reconnect with the living center of the national story and they rebuild Thous at every level.

And now here’s “gemli:”

“We live in a country that would rather let poor people die than give them affordable medical care. We lock up a higher percentage of our citizens than any other nation on earth. We cling to the death penalty, worrying more about where we’ll get the next batch of poison than what it says about our system of justice. We lament our absurd murder rate while we hand out guns like Tic Tacs, yet we’re so afraid of guns that we shoot black people at traffic stops. We let rich people write laws that let them hoard all of the money, while the rest of us go begging. We let sexual abuse slide when it might embarrass politicians, sports stars or religious leaders, and then attack those who point out the abuse. We invent gods so that we can make homophobia holy.

We’re not an I-Thou sort of country. It’s become more of an Us-Them kind of thing. We were doing pretty well over most of the last century, giving unions power over robber barons, paying living wages, making sure old people had money in retirement, feeding the hungry, waking from the nightmare of racial intolerance, recognizing women’s rights, giving them control over their well-being and their bodies, realizing that gay people were people.

Conservatives fought against every one of these things, and the fight has paid off. After a long incubation, they’ve given birth to their philosophy’s apotheosis. Now it’s all about I, and Thou can go to hell.”

Bobo, solo

October 25, 2016

Bobo is here to tell us to stop worrying, and that everything will be just peachy keen.  Hakuna matata!  (He actually ends his column with that…)  In “The Epidemic of Worry” he burbles that the thing we have to fear is anxiety itself.  He’ll be followed by “gemli” from Boston.  I’ve heard that Bobo assigns the reading of the comments to an assistant because his ever-so-delicate fee-fees get hurt…  Here he is:

We’ve had a tutorial on worry this year. The election campaign isn’t really about policy proposals, issue solutions or even hope. It’s led by two candidates who arouse gargantuan anxieties, fear and hatred in their opponents.

As a result, some mental health therapists are reporting that three-quarters of their patients are mentioning significant election-related anxiety. An American Psychological Association study found that more than half of all Americans are very or somewhat stressed by this race.

Of course, there are good and bad forms of anxiety — the kind that warns you about legitimate dangers and the kind that spirals into dark and self-destructive thoughts.

In his book “Worrying,” Francis O’Gorman notes how quickly the good kind of anxiety can slide into the dark kind. “Worry is circular,” he writes. It may start with a concrete anxiety: Did I lock the back door? Is this headache a stroke? “And it has a nasty habit of taking off on its own, of getting out of hand, of spawning thoughts that are related to the original worry and which make it worse.”

That’s what’s happening this year. Anxiety is coursing through American society. It has become its own destructive character on the national stage.

Worry alters the atmosphere of the mind. It shrinks your awareness of the present and your ability to enjoy what’s around you right now. It cycles possible bad futures around in your head and forces you to live in dreadful future scenarios, 90 percent of which will never come true.

Pretty soon you are seeing the world through a dirty windshield. Worry dims every sunrise and amplifies mistrust. A mounting tide of anxiety makes people angrier about society and more darkly pessimistic about the possibility of changing it. Spiraling worry is the perverted underside of rationality.

This being modern polarized America, worry seems to come in two flavors.

Educated-class anxiety can often be characterized as a feeling overabundant of options without a core of convicting purpose. It’s worth noting that rich countries are more anxious than poorer ones. According to the World Health Organization, 18.2 percent of Americans report chronic anxiety while only 3.3 percent of Nigerians do.

Today, when you hear affluent people express worry, it’s usually related to the fear of missing out, and the dizziness of freedom. The affluent often feel besieged by busyness and plagued by a daily excess of choices. At the same time, there is a pervasive cosmic unease, the anxiety that they don’t quite understand the meaning of life, or have not surrendered to some all-encompassing commitment that would bring coherence and peace.

Many affluent people use money to buy privacy, and so cut themselves off from both the deep relationships that could give them purpose and the neighborly support systems that could hold them up if things go south.

This election has also presented members of the educated class with an awful possibility: that their pleasant social strata may rest on unstable molten layers of anger, bigotry and instability. How could this guy Trump get even 40 percent of the votes? America may be not quite the country we thought it was.

Among the less educated, anxiety flows from and inflames a growing sense that the structures of society are built for the exploitation of people like themselves. Everything is rigged; the rulers are malevolent and corrupt.

Last weekend’s “Black Jeopardy” skit on “Saturday Night Live” did a beautiful job of showing how this sensation overlaps among both progressive African-Americans and reactionary Trumpians.

It is a well-established fact that people who experience social exclusion have a tendency to slide toward superstitious and conspiratorial thinking. People who feel exploited by, and invisible to, those at the commanding heights of society are not going to worry if their candidate can’t pass a fact-check test. They just want someone who can share their exclusion and give them a better story.

Anxiety changes people. We’ve seen a level of thuggery this election cycle that is without precedent in recent American history. Some of the anti-Trump demonstrators seem more interested in violence than politics. Some of the Trumpians are savage.

David French wrote a shocking essay for National Review describing the appalling online abuse he suffered because of his anti-Trump stance. His anonymous assailants Photoshopped pictures of his daughter’s face in a gas chamber and left GIFs of grisly executions on his wife’s blog.

Some of the things that have made us vulnerable to this wave of anxiety are not going away — the narratives of fear, conspiracy and the immobilizing stress. America’s culture may be permanently changed for the worse.

But the answer to worry is the same as the answer to fear: direct action. If the next president starts enacting a slew of actual policies, then at least we can argue about concrete plans, rather than vague apocalyptic moods.

Furthermore, action takes us out of ourselves. Worry, like drama, is all about the self. As O’Gorman puts it, the worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse: “He doesn’t give out energy for the benefit of others. He absorbs energy at others’ cost.”

If you’re worrying, you’re spiraling into your own narcissistic pool. But concrete plans and actions thrust us into the daily fact of other people’s lives. This campaign will soon be over, and governing, thank God, will soon return.

Hakuna matata.

Lord above…  Here’s “gemli:”

“Governing will soon return? Really? The reason that we’re facing a threat from Donald Trump today is because Republicans disabled the government the day Obama was elected. The rise of the Tea Party, the birther movement and the Sarah Palin asteroid that nearly struck the earth were indications that the wheels were coming off our democracy. Just when we couldn’t imagine it getting any worse, Donald Trump demonstrated that we simply lacked imagination.

Trump is the result of years of dysfunction that resulted from Republicans refusing to show up for work. They governed by fear, fundamentalism and filibuster rather than good-faith efforts to work with the president. Low-information voters were fed on a diet of conspiracy theories, science denial and resentment. Now we’re reaping the crop of deplorables that Republicans sowed.

Trump will almost certainly lose, but Clinton has been so demonized during this campaign that half of American thinks that this indefatigable, wonkish and politically experienced woman is the antichrist. The prophecy that another Democrat will be a disaster will be fulfilled by those who have something to gain from continued chaos.

Donald Trump is the symptom, not the problem. He’s the rash that our sick political system has broken out in. If we’re waiting for Washington to fix itself, we’ve got a long wait. It’s a democracy, stupid. We are the ones who make it work, and we’re also to blame when it fails.”

Bobo, solo

June 24, 2016

Bobo’s desperate.  He’s frantically searching for a way out…  In “At the Edge of Inside” he babbles that organizations have insiders and outsiders, and then there’s a third position.  The response from “gemli” in Boston will follow, but here’s Bobo, whistling happily past the graveyard:

In any organization there are some people who serve at the core. These insiders are in the rooms when the decisions are made. Hillary Clinton, for example, is now at the core of the Democratic Party.

Then there are outsiders. They throw missiles from beyond the walls. They are untouched by internal loyalties and try to take over from without. Donald Trump is a Republican outsider.

But there’s also a third position in any organization: those who are at the edge of the inside. These people are within the organization, but they’re not subsumed by the group think. They work at the boundaries, bridges and entranceways. Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, is sometimes on the edge of the inside of the G.O.P.

I borrow this concept from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who lives in Albuquerque. His point is that people who live at the edge of the inside have crucial roles to play. As he writes in his pamphlet “The Eight Core Principles,” when you live on the edge of any group, “you are free from its central seductions, but also free to hear its core message in very new and creative ways.”

A person at the edge of inside can see what’s good about the group and what’s good about rival groups. Rohr writes, “A doorkeeper must love both the inside and the outside of his or her group, and know how to move between these two loves.”

A person at the edge of inside can be the strongest reformer. This person has the loyalty of a faithful insider, but the judgment of the critical outsider. Martin Luther King Jr. had an authentic inner experience of what it meant to be American. This love allowed him to critique America from the values he learned from America. He could be utterly relentless in bringing America back closer to herself precisely because his devotion to American ideals was so fervent.

A person on the edge of the inside knows how to take advantage of the standards and practices of an organization but not be imprisoned by them. Rohr writes, “You have learned the rules well enough to know how to ‘break the rules properly,’ which is not really to break them at all, but to find their true purpose: ‘not to abolish the law but to complete it.’”

When the behavioral economist Richard Thaler uses the lessons of psychology to improve economic modeling, he is operating just inside the edge of his own discipline and making it better.

The person on the edge of inside is involved in constant change. The true insiders are so deep inside they often get confused by trivia and locked into the status quo. The outsider is throwing bombs and dreaming of far-off transformational revolution. But the person at the doorway is seeing constant comings and goings. As Rohr says, she is involved in a process of perpetual transformation, not a belonging system. She is more interested in being a searcher than a settler.

Insiders and outsiders are threatened by those on the other side of the barrier. But a person on the edge of inside neither idolizes the Us nor demonizes the Them. Such a person sees different groups as partners in a reality that is paradoxical, complementary and unfolding.

There are downsides to being at the edge of inside. You never lose yourself in a full commitment. You may be respected and befriended, but you are not loved as completely as the people at the core, the band of brothers. You enjoy neither the purity of the outsider nor that of the true believer.

But the person on the edge of inside can see reality clearly. The insiders and the outsiders tend to think in dualistic ways: us versus them; this or that. But, as Rohr would say, the beginning of wisdom is to fight the natural tendency to be dualistic; it is to fight the natural ego of the group. The person on the edge of inside is more likely to see wholeness of any situation. To see how us and them, which seem superficially opposed, are actually in complementary relationship within some larger process.

Lincoln could see the divisions between North and South, but in his Second Inaugural he transcended these divisions and saw both North and South as actors and partners in a larger human drama.

When people are afraid or defensive, they have no tolerance for the person at the edge of inside. They want purity, rigid loyalty and lock step unity. But now more than ever we need people who have the courage to live on the edge of inside, who love their parties and organizations so much that they can critique them as a brother, operate on them from the inside as a friend and dauntlessly insist that they live up to their truest selves.

He’s probably one government shut-down from a complete nervous breakdown.  Here’s what “gemli” had to say to him:

“That’s the trouble with these cutesy constructs that oversimplify complicated issues. You can make them say anything you want.

A case in point is Lindsey Graham, who was practically the co-host of Face the Nation for a couple of years doing nothing but attacking Hillary Clinton. If you asked him for the time of day he’d yell “Benghazi!” That wasn’t edge-talk. He was in deep.

And good luck trying to make us think Donald Trump is a Republican outsider. He’s at their true core, the singularity at the center of a black hole of ignorance and denial. He gave birth to the birther movement, the illegitimate offspring of greed and power that sought to undermine the president’s legitimacy.

Now that the G.O.P. has fomented chaos for the past two decades, engaging in ruinous wars, wrecking the economy, and embracing fundamentalist zealots, science deniers and a level of income inequality that would embarrass a banana-republic dictator, David Brooks wants us to leave the chaotic center and move to the edge. Can’t we all just get along?

Brooks helped create the mess we’re in, sneering at those who occupied Wall Street, opposing a higher minimum wage, telling gay people they should go slower in their quest for dignity. Now he drags in the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a role model of moderation.

If Republicans had embraced Dr. King when he was alive, they wouldn’t be circling the drain, trying to escape a maelstrom of their own making. Good luck at the center of that.”

Brooks and Krugman

April 8, 2016

Bobo is busy clutching at straws on his way to the fainting couch.  In “The Lincoln Caucus” he gurgles that Republican convention delegates should use their power and unite to bargain with candidates for a better Republicanism.  Were Lincoln alive to day he wouldn’t be a Republican…  In the comments “C.L.S.” from MA had this to say:  “Ah, yes, the Republicans who believe in pragmatic compromise …. they could model their caucus on the wonderful pragmatic compromise evidenced in Congress these late eight years.  Sure.”  Prof. Krugman, in “Sanders Over the Edge” says the revolutionary isn’t cute anymore.  Here’s Bobo:

The Republican presidential campaign just changed. Until now this has been a candidate-centric process. All the different candidates were competing to get a majority of delegates to the G.O.P. convention. But now it’s likely no candidate will get that majority on the first ballot.

So the campaign has become a delegate-centric process. Suddenly the delegates have all the power and the candidates have to woo them for their support. The crucial question is, how are delegates going to use their power?

Well, they could go the solitary path. In this model the delegates give away their support one by one. But they’d get nothing for it in return — except maybe a hug from Ivanka Trump or a Ted Cruz coffee mug. Big whoop.

Or they could choose the collective path.

This is the path that recognizes that the situation we’re in now is more like a parliamentary process than a presidential process. Even very small groups can have an amazing influence over big candidates who are trying to build a majority coalition. Think of the way small Israeli religious parties extract concessions from the much larger Israeli parties.

So I’m suggesting some number of delegates organize themselves into a caucus called the Lincoln Caucus. The Lincoln Caucus would not be an explicitly anti-Trump caucus or an anti-Cruz caucus. It would just be a caucus made up of delegates who are not happy with the choices currently before them.

The evidence suggests that there will be a lot of these delegates. Only 10 percent of the delegates are named by the presidential campaigns. The vast majority, still to be chosen, will be local activists or state legislators.

If they have a chance on a second or third ballot, many of them will love to vote against Donald Trump. By July, many of them, I suspect, will be less satisfied with Cruz than they are today — after he gets crushed in a bunch of big primaries and gets bloodied in the Trump-Cruz civil war.

I’m suggesting that the delegates who signed up to be members of the Lincoln Caucus make a pledge to work and vote together at the convention.

The first thing the Lincoln Caucus would do is plant a flag for a different style of Republicanism. Members of the caucus would remind the country that there still are Republicans who believe in prudent globalism, reform conservative ideas to lift up the working class. There are still Republicans who believe in certain standards of polite behavior in public and pragmatic compromise.

If the Republican ticket gets devastated in November, members of the Lincoln Caucus could say, “We stood for something different,” and they’d be in a good position to lead the rebuilding process.

But the Lincoln Caucus would primarily serve more immediate ends.

First, the Lincoln Caucus would work with the rules committee to get rid of any party bylaws that inhibit delegate flexibility at the convention. Second, it would tell the Trump and Cruz campaigns this: After the second ballot, we will entertain offers for our support. You may offer us policy pledges, personnel positions or anything you think will win our favor.

After the offers were in, members of the Lincoln Caucus would hold a public vote. They could vote for the Trump offer, for the Cruz offer or for some as yet unknown third candidate. If most of the Lincoln Caucus votes went for the third option, then that person would be the caucus candidate in the ensuing convention ballots.

This process would bring the Trump and Cruz campaigns back toward the Republican mainstream. It would create a road toward party unity after one deal or another was reached. It might go some way toward heading off a general election debacle.

It would also create a democratic path toward a Republican nominee who is not Trump or Cruz. Remember, the members of the caucus would be delegates, not Washington insiders. They would be a committeeman from Missouri or a state rep from Ohio. They’d be tied to the grass roots, and the press would be all over these people at the convention. This is the best way to get a non-Trump/Cruz candidate without sparking riots in the streets.

Mostly, members of the Lincoln Caucus would stand up for the legitimate rights of the party. In our republican system, it is parties that choose nominees; not primary voters. Parties are lasting institutions that manage coalitions, preserve historical commitments, protect us from flash-in-the-pan demagogues and impose restraints on the excessively ambitious. The Lincoln Caucus would embody these legitimate institutional responsibilities.

It’s impossible to tell where this process is heading. It would be nice to have a pre-organized faction, standing up for pragmatic, reform conservative ideas, ready for whatever may come.

If modern conservatives don’t stand together, they will surely hang separately.

I wonder if Bobo is going to be in Cleveland, to watch what The Donald’s mob will do if their candidate is weaseled out of the nomination…  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

From the beginning, many and probably most liberal policy wonks were skeptical about Bernie Sanders. On many major issues — including the signature issues of his campaign, especially financial reform — he seemed to go for easy slogans over hard thinking. And his political theory of change, his waving away of limits, seemed utterly unrealistic.

Some Sanders supporters responded angrily when these concerns were raised, immediately accusing anyone expressing doubts about their hero of being corrupt if not actually criminal. But intolerance and cultishness from some of a candidate’s supporters are one thing; what about the candidate himself?

Unfortunately, in the past few days the answer has become all too clear: Mr. Sanders is starting to sound like his worst followers. Bernie is becoming a Bernie Bro.

Let me illustrate the point about issues by talking about bank reform.

The easy slogan here is “Break up the big banks.” It’s obvious why this slogan is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?

Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.

Yet going on about big banks is pretty much all Mr. Sanders has done. On the rare occasions on which he was asked for more detail, he didn’t seem to have anything more to offer. And this absence of substance beyond the slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.

You could argue that policy details are unimportant as long as a politician has the right values and character. As it happens, I don’t agree. For one thing, a politician’s policy specifics are often a very important clue to his or her true character — I warned about George W. Bush’s mendacity back when most journalists were still portraying him as a bluff, honest fellow, because I actually looked at his tax proposals. For another, I consider a commitment to facing hard choices as opposed to taking the easy way out an important value in itself.

But in any case, the way Mr. Sanders is now campaigning raises serious character and values issues.

It’s one thing for the Sanders campaign to point to Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street connections, which are real, although the question should be whether they have distorted her positions, a case the campaign has never even tried to make. But recent attacks on Mrs. Clinton as a tool of the fossil fuel industry are just plain dishonest, and speak of a campaign that has lost its ethical moorings.

And then there was Wednesday’s rant about how Mrs. Clinton is not “qualified” to be president.

What probably set that off was a recent interview of Mr. Sanders by The Daily News, in which he repeatedly seemed unable to respond when pressed to go beyond his usual slogans. Mrs. Clinton, asked about that interview, was careful in her choice of words, suggesting that “he hadn’t done his homework.”

But Mr. Sanders wasn’t careful at all, declaring that what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s past sins, including her support for trade agreements and her vote to authorize the Iraq war — for which she has apologized — make her totally unfit for office.

This is really bad, on two levels. Holding people accountable for their past is O.K., but imposing a standard of purity, in which any compromise or misstep makes you the moral equivalent of the bad guys, isn’t. Abraham Lincoln didn’t meet that standard; neither did F.D.R. Nor, for that matter, has Bernie Sanders (think guns).

And the timing of the Sanders rant was truly astonishing. Given her large lead in delegates — based largely on the support of African-American voters, who respond to her pragmatism because history tells them to distrust extravagant promises — Mrs. Clinton is the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the “Bernie or bust” crowd, walking away if he can’t pull off an extraordinary upset, and possibly helping put Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the White House? If not, what does he think he’s doing?

The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism and energy that the progressive movement needs. It has also, however, brought out a streak of petulant self-righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?

Brooks and Cohen

March 8, 2016

In “It’s Not Too Late!” Bobo moans that Republicans still have time to reject Donald Trump, avoid Ted Cruz and pick a nominee who allows them to maintain their standards.  The poor S.O.B.  I’d almost feel sorry for him if he hadn’t been playing Gunga Din to the worst of the worst for decades.  In the comments “soxared040713” from Crete, IL had this to say:  “Mr. Brooks, the desperation in your column (and the panic in the headline over it) reveal the barren landscape that has defined your party for half a century.”  Mr. Cohen is seeing “An Anti-Semitism of the Left” and says this was overheard at Oberlin: The Holocaust was mere “white on white crime.”  He got taken to the woodshed in the comments.  “Peter Feld” from New York had this to say:  “Any definition of anti-Semitism that relies on attitudes toward Zionism, Israel or the Palestinians is corrupt. How does rejecting settler-colonialism, or showing “uncritical” support for Palestinians (who had their land stolen by Israel and now live under ethnic repression or in exile) make anyone anti-Semitic? I will never condone anti-Semitism but it is we Jews who have turned our own Star of David into a symbol of terror and apartheid by putting it on the flag of a supremacist ethnocracy.”  Here’s Bobo:

It’s 2 a.m. The bar is closing. Republicans have had a series of strong and nasty Trump cocktails. Suddenly Ted Cruz is beginning to look kind of attractive. At least he’s sort of predictable, and he doesn’t talk about his sexual organs in presidential debates!

Well, Republicans, have your standards really fallen so low so fast? Are you really that desperate? Can you remember your 8 p.m. selves, and all the hope you had about entering a campaign with such a deep bench of talented candidates?

Back in the early evening, before the current panic set in, Republicans understood that Ted Cruz would be a terrible general election candidate, at least as unelectable as Donald Trump and maybe more so. He is the single most conservative Republican in Congress, far adrift from the American mainstream. He’s been doing well in primaries because of the support of “extremely conservative” voters in very conservative states, and he really hasn’t broken out of that lane. His political profile is a slightly enlarged Rick Santorum but without the heart.

On policy grounds, he would be unacceptable to a large majority in this country. But his policy disadvantages are overshadowed by his public image ones. His rhetorical style will come across to young and independent voters as smarmy and oleaginous. In Congress, he had two accomplishments: the disastrous government shutdown and persuading all his colleagues to dislike him.

There is another path, one that doesn’t leave you self-loathing in the morning. It’s a long shot, but given the alternatives, it’s worth trying. First, hit the pause button on the rush to Cruz. Second, continue the Romneyesque assault on Trump. The results on Saturday, when late voters swung sharply against the Donald, suggest it may be working.

Third, work for a Marco Rubio miracle in Florida on March 15. Fourth, clear the field for John Kasich in Ohio. If Rubio and Kasich win their home states, Trump will need to take nearly 70 percent of the remaining delegates to secure a majority. That would be unlikely; he’s only winning 44 percent of the delegates now.

The party would go to the convention without a clear nominee. It would be bedlam for a few days, but a broadly acceptable new option might emerge. It would be better than going into the fall with Trump, which would be a moral error, or Cruz, who in November would manage to win several important counties in Mississippi.

This isn’t about winning the presidency in 2016 anymore. This is about something much bigger. Every 50 or 60 years, parties undergo a transformation. The G.O.P. is undergoing one right now. What happens this year will set the party’s trajectory for decades.

Since Goldwater/Reagan, the G.O.P. has been governed by a free-market, anti-government philosophy. But over the ensuing decades new problems have emerged. First, the economy has gotten crueler. Technology is displacing workers and globalization is dampening wages. Second, the social structure has atomized and frayed, especially among the less educated. Third, demography is shifting.

Orthodox Republicans, seeing no positive role for government, have had no affirmative agenda to help people deal with these new problems. Occasionally some conservative policy mavens have proposed such an agenda — anti-poverty programs, human capital policies, wage subsidies and the like — but the proposals were killed, usually in the House, by the anti-government crowd.

The 1980s anti-government orthodoxy still has many followers; Ted Cruz is the extreme embodiment of this tendency. But it has grown increasingly rigid, unresponsive and obsolete.

Along comes Donald Trump offering to replace it and change the nature of the G.O.P. He tramples all over the anti-government ideology of modern Republicanism. He would replace the free-market orthodoxy with authoritarian nationalism.

He offers to use government on behalf of the American working class, but in negative and defensive ways: to build walls, to close trade, to ban outside groups, to smash enemies. According to him, America’s problems aren’t caused by deep structural shifts. They’re caused by morons and parasites. The Great Leader will take them down.

If the G.O.P. is going to survive as a decent and viable national party, it can’t cling to the fading orthodoxy Cruz represents. But it can’t shift to ugly Trumpian nationalism, either. It has to find a third alternative: limited but energetic use of government to expand mobility and widen openness and opportunity. That is what Kasich, Rubio, Paul Ryan and others are stumbling toward.

Amid all the vulgarity and pettiness, that is what is being fought over this month: going back to the past, veering into an ugly future, or finding a third way. This is something worth fighting for, worth burning the boats behind you for.

The hour is late and the odds may be long. But there is still hope. It’s a moment for audacity, not settling for Ted Cruz simply because he’s the Titanic you know.

And then he tottered off to his fainting couch…  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

Last month, a co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, quit in protest at what he described as rampant anti-Semitism among members. A “large proportion” of the club “and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews,” he said in a statement.

Chalmers referred to members of the executive committee “throwing around the term ‘Zio’” — an insult used by the Ku Klux Klan; high-level expressions of “solidarity with Hamas” and explicit defense of “their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”; and the dismissal of any concern about anti-Semitism as “just the Zionists crying wolf.”

The zeitgeist on campuses these days, on both sides of the Atlantic, is one of identity and liberation politics. Jews, of course, are a minority, but through a fashionable cultural prism they are seen as the minority that isn’t — that is to say white, privileged and identified with an “imperialist-colonialist” state, Israel. They are the anti-victims in a prevalent culture of victimhood; Jews, it seems, are the sole historical victim whose claim is dubious.

A recent Oberlin alumna, Isabel Storch Sherrell, wrote in a Facebook post of the students she’d heard dismissing the Holocaust as mere “white on white crime.” As reported by David Bernstein in The Washington Post, she wrote of Jewish students, “Our struggle does not intersect with other forms of racism.”

Noa Lessof-Gendler, a student at Cambridge University, complained last month in Varsity, a campus newspaper, that anti-Semitism was felt “in the word ‘Zio’” flung around in left-wing groups.” She wrote, “I’m Jewish, but that doesn’t mean I have Palestinian blood on my hands,” or should feel nervous “about conversations in Hall when an Israeli speaker visits.”

The rise of the leftist Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour Party appears to have empowered a far left for whom support of the Palestinians is uncritical and for whom, in the words of Alan Johnson, a British political theorist, “that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is.”

Corbyn is no anti-Semite. But he has called Hamas and Hezbollah agents of “long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region,” and once invited to Parliament a Palestinian Islamist, Raed Salah, who has suggested Jews were absent from the World Trade Center on 9/11. Corbyn called him an “honored citizen.” The “Corbynistas” on British campuses extol their fight against the “racist colonization of Palestine,” as one Oxford student, James Elliott, put it. Elliott was narrowly defeated last month in a bid to become youth representative on Labour’s national executive committee.

What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with, the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This was not “colonialism” but the post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.

As Simon Schama, the historian, put it last month in The Financial Times, the Israel of 1948 came into being as a result of the “centuries-long dehumanization of the Jews.”

The Jewish state was needed. History had demonstrated that. That is why I am a Zionist — now a dirty word in Europe.

Today, it is Palestinians in the West Bank who are dehumanized through Israeli dominion, settlement expansion and violence. The West Bank is the tomb of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Palestinians, in turn, incite against Jews and resort to violence, including random stabbings.

The oppression of Palestinians should trouble every Jewish conscience. But nothing can justify the odious “anti-Semitic anti-Zionism” (Johnson’s term) that caused Chalmers to quit and is seeping into British and American campuses.

I talked to Aaron Simons, an Oxford student who was president of the university’s Jewish society. “There’s an odd mental noise,” he said. “In tone and attitude the way you are talked to as a Jew in these left political circles reeks of hostility. These people have an astonishingly high bar for what constitutes anti-Semitism.”

Johnson, writing in Fathom Journal, outlined three components to left-wing anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. First, “the abolition of the Jewish homeland; not Palestine alongside Israel, but Palestine instead of Israel.” Second, “a demonizing intellectual discourse” that holds that “Zionism is racism” and pursues the “systematic Nazification of Israel.” Third, a global social movement to “exclude one state — and only one state — from the economic, cultural and educational life of humanity.”

Criticism of Israel is one thing; it’s needed in vigorous form. Demonization of Israel is another, a familiar scourge refashioned by the very politics — of identity and liberation — that should comprehend the millennial Jewish struggle against persecution.

Bobo, solo

February 2, 2016

In “Donald Trump Isn’t Real” Bobo gurgles that the Iowa vote shows some version of normalcy returned to the G.O.P. race and the vulnerability of the showbiz candidate.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “The big story from Iowa is not the third-place finish of the sniveling, evangelical-pandering science-denier in high heels Rubio, but that Bernie Sanders held his own against Hillary Clinton.  Republican voters, on the other hand, no matter how sane Mr. Brooks would have you believe they are, swept in Ted Cruz in a Santorum-like sweep that recalled his great victory of 2012. Second place went to a self-aggrandizing egomaniacal buffoon with less than zero qualifications for the presidency.”  Here’s Bobo, who still seems to be whistling past the graveyard:

Donald Trump was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2013. He’d been involved with professional wrestling for over a quarter century. At first his interest was on the business side, because so many of the events were held at his hotels. But then he began appearing in the ring as an actual character.

His greatest moment came in 2007 with the pay-per-view series called “Battle of the Billionaires,” when he verbally went up against the WWE’s chief executive, Vince McMahon. The feud started when Trump interrupted McMahon on Fan Appreciation Night and upstaged him by raining thousands of dollars in cash down on the crowd in the arena. It continued with a verbal barrage and proxy match, and ended with a triumphant Trump shaving McMahon’s head in the middle of the ring.

From the moment he entered this presidential race, his campaign has been one long exercise in taking the “low” manners of professional wrestling and interjecting them into the “respectable” arena of presidential politics.

This is an anxious and angry nation. Many people have lost faith in its leadership. Somewhere in his marketer’s brain Donald Trump intuited that manners are more important than laws and that if you want to assault the established powers you have to assault their manners first.

By shifting the cultural language Trump initiated a new type of culture war, really a manners war. He seemed fresh, authentic and resonant to a lot of people who felt alienated from the way elites govern, talk and behave.

Professional wrestling generates intense interest and drama through relentless confrontation. Everybody knows it’s fake at some level, but it is perceived as fake and real at the same time (sort of like politics). What matters is not so much who wins or loses, or whether you are good or evil, but the aggressiveness by which you wage each mano-a-mano confrontation.

Trump brought this style onstage at the first Republican debate, and a thousand taboos were smashed all at once. He insulted people’s looks. He stereotyped vast groups of people — Mexicans and Muslims. He called members of the establishment morons, idiots and losers.

Trump was unabashedly masculine, the lingua franca of pro wrestling. Every time he was challenged, he was compelled by his code to double down the confrontation and fire back.

Social inequality is always felt more acutely than economic inequality. Trump rose up on behalf of people who felt looked down upon, made them feel vindicated and turned social conduct on its head.

But in Iowa on Monday night we saw the limit of Trump’s appeal. Like any other piece of showbiz theatrics, Trump was more spectacle than substance.

Many supporters may have been interested in symbolically sticking their thumb in somebody’s eye, but they are reality TV watchers, not actually interested in politics or governance. They didn’t show up. We can expect similar Trump underperformance in state after state.

Furthermore, we saw a big management failure in Trump’s organization. Bernie Sanders is a good enough executive that he was able to lead a campaign that brought outsiders to the polls. Trump is not as effective a leader as Sanders.

Trump’s whole campaign was based on success breeding success, the citing of self-referential poll victories to justify his own candidacy. How does he justify a campaign built entirely around his own mastery? Can an aggressor like him respond gracefully in the days ahead to self-created failure? His concession speech was an act of pathetic self-delusion.

What happened in Iowa was that some version of normalcy returned to the G.O.P. race. The precedents of history have not been rendered irrelevant.

Ted Cruz picked up the voters who propelled Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to victory in previous caucuses. His is a Tea Party wing in the G.O.P. But its size and geographic reach is limited.

The amazing surge for Marco Rubio shows that the Republican electorate has not gone collectively insane. At the last moment, and in a state that is not naturally friendly to him, a lot of Republicans showed up to support a conservative who could conceivably get elected and govern.

Marco Rubio now has his moment. He is the only candidate who can plausibly unify the party. Desperate Cruz-hating Republicans will turn their faces to him.

But can he rise to this moment? Can he see that the Trump phenomenon touched something, even if the blowhard candidate offered people nothing but bread and circuses? Can Rubio take his growing establishment base and reach out to the working-class voters with a message that offers concrete assistance for those who are being left behind?

The Republican Party usually nominates unifying candidates like Marco Rubio. The laws of gravity have not been suspended. He has a great shot. But he has to show one more burst of imagination.

Marco Rubio is an empty suit.

Brooks and Cohen

January 26, 2016

Bobo seems to be heading for a nervous breakdown.  In “Stay Sane America, Please!” he tries to convince himself that there are many good reasons to think Trump, Cruz and Sanders won’t make it past the primaries, much less the conventions.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston had this to say:  “Too bad, Mr. Brooks. You’ve made your bed, and now you can lose sleep in it. The subliminal messages you try to send by mentioning Reagan in the company of FDR, Lincoln and Eisenhower won’t work. Neither will Bernie Sanders be diminished by lumping him in with the odious Trump and Cruz. Rhetorical tricks aren’t going to elevate Republicans, or tear down the Democrats.”  In “Donald Trump Goes Rogue” Mr. Cohen says Palin speaks of “squirmishes” in the Middle East. It’s January and 2016 is already cause to squirm.  Here’s Bobo, whistling past the graveyard:

In January of 2017 someone will stand at the U.S. Capitol and deliver an Inaugural Address. This is roughly the place where Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan once stood. I am going to spend every single day between now and then believing that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders will be standing on that podium. One of them could win the election, take the oath, give the speech and be riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will still refuse to believe it.

Yes, I know what the polling evidence is telling us about Trump, Sanders and Cruz, but there are good reasons to cling to my disbelief.

First, these primary campaigns will not be settled in February. They won’t be settled in March or April. Sometimes a candidate can sweep Iowa and New Hampshire and cruise to the nomination. But that candidate has to be broadly acceptable to all parts of the party. Trump, Cruz and Sanders are not.

As Jay Cost writes in The Weekly Standard, “This could mean a lengthy nomination battle that stretches all the way to the California primary in June.”

On the Republican side the early primaries and caucuses allocate delegates proportionally. Only 16.2 percent of the delegates over all come from winner-take-all states. That means the delegate-getting war will be a slog.

The first day when any candidate could rack up a big winner-take-all delegate harvest is March 15, an eternity from now. More than half the delegates will be allocated after that date.

Second, Cruz and Trump will go after each other with increasing ferocity over the next many weeks or months. There is a decent chance, given their personalities, that they will make each other maximally unattractive and go down in each other’s death embrace.

Third, the Trump and Sanders turnout problems are real. Trump is doing very well among people who haven’t voted in the past four elections. It’s possible he has energized them so much they will actually caucus and vote, but you wouldn’t want to bet your gold-plated faucets on it. People who don’t vote generally don’t vote.

Sanders is drawing support from nonvoters, too. As Nate Cohn wrote in The Upshot on Monday, Sanders is up in some polls over all, but he trails big time among people in Iowa who caucused in 2008 and among those who are definitely registered to vote.

It’s quite possible that the big story post-Iowa will be how badly these two underperformed.

Fourth, establishment Republicans who are softening on Trump because they think he is more electable than Cruz are smoking something. According to a Pew Research survey, a majority of Americans think Trump would make a poor or terrible president.

Chuck Todd ran through Trump’s favorable-unfavorable ratings on “Meet the Press” on Sunday: Among independents, Trump is negative 26 points; among women, negative 36; among suburban voters, negative 24. Is the Republican Party really going to nominate one of the most loathed men in American public life?

Fifth, America has never elected a candidate maximally extreme from the political center, the way Sanders and Cruz are. According to the FiveThirtyEight website, Cruz has the most conservative voting record in the entire Congress. That takes some doing.

Sixth, sooner or later the candidates from the governing wing of their parties will get their acts together. Marco Rubio has had a bad month, darkening his tone and trying to sound like a cut-rate version of Trump and Cruz.

Before too long Rubio will realize his first task is to rally the voters who detest or fear those men. That means running as an optimistic American nationalist with specific proposals to reform Washington and lift the working class.

If he can rally mainstream Republicans he’ll be at least tied with Trump and Cruz in the polls. Then he can counter their American decline narrative, with one of his own: This country is failing because it got too narcissistic, became too much like a reality TV show. Americans lost the ability to work constructively to get things done.

Finally, eventually the electorate is going to realize that in an age of dysfunctional government, effective leadership capacity is the threshold issue. That means being able to listen to others, surround yourself with people smarter than you, gather a governing majority and above all have an actual implementation strategy. Not Trump, Cruz or Sanders has any remote chance of turning his ideas, such as they are, into actual laws.

In every recent presidential election American voters have selected the candidate with the most secure pair of hands. They’ve elected the person who would be a stable presence and companion for the next four years. I believe they’re going to do that again. And if they’re not, please allow me a few more months of denial.

Eat a huge pile of salted donkey dicks, Bobo, and retire to your fainting couch and STFU about the catastrophe you helped create.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

I used to think 2015 was bad but that was before the first few weeks of 2016. It’s still January and Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, has already said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.?”

The really scary part — without getting into what this line of thinking might presage in terms of Trump’s actions if he ever got to the Oval Office — is he could be right. Teflon Trump: nothing sticks.

People like to be bullied when the world feels too upended and menacing to cope; when, as Trump puts it in one his favorite tropes, “Something’s going on.” Trump’s plugging into Dylan, odious as that thought is: “Something is happening here/But you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?”

We’ll find out just what over the next few months. Napoleon used to ask of his prospective generals, “Is he lucky?” Trump appears to be. That’s scary too.

The scariest part, however, is that Sarah Palin supports Trump and she said: “Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, O.K.? Well, Trump, what he’s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I’m glad about, he’s going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well.”

O.K.!

Or as James Joyce put it in Finnegans Wake: “Did you aye, did you eye, did you everysee suchaway, suchawhy, eeriewhigg airywhugger?”

No wonder Stephen Colbert, preparing to imitate Palin on The Late Show, first fired a taser gun at “the part of my brain that understands sentence structure.” That did the trick.

Minus his occipital lobe Colbert was right at home with Palin’s, “Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny, but now, what they’re doing is wailing, ‘Well, Trump and his, uh, uh, uh, Trumpeters, they’re not conservative enough.”’

Uh, huh?

I wonder what Palin will say if former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, appalled by this political spectacle, decides to spend a billion dollars of his loose change on going rogue center as a presidential candidate. Could happen. Or is it too “hopey, changey” to imagine that?

Still, I have to hand it to Palin. Her new word — “squirmish” — is useful. She characterized the Middle East as a place of “squirmishes that have been going on for centuries.”

The world in 2016 does make you squirm. In just three weeks close to $8 trillion has been wiped off global equity markets by a “correction.” The reasons seem unclear, which is not very comforting.

China is slowing. There is no next China. Oil prices are sinking, a trend that should have benefits but appears to have few this time. The terrible relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, that is to say the Shiite and Sunni Muslim worlds, just got far more terrible.

Nobody really knows what to do about ISIS, unless it’s Palin, who on the one hand wants to “kick ISIS ass” and on the other wants to “let Allah sort it out.”

Allah’s got a way with squirmishes if you just give him time.

And it’s not like the year began on a high. In fact 2015 was already a real downer. It brought the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Paris massacre, the San Bernardino slaughter, the rise and internationalization of ISIS, the death toll in Syria to about 250,000, the arrival of over one million desperate migrants and refugees in Europe, dead little Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, a senseless Saudi war in Yemen, Putin offensives on various fronts, the warmest year on record, American bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, and sundry other disasters.

At least an American Embassy in Havana opened. There was the Paris climate accord.

Look no further than this troubling world to understand Trump and the various rightist populists making a lot of noise on the European fringes. Take two lost wars, stagnant wages for most people, threats of terrorism, plunging 401(k) retirement plans, and rampant anxiety — and put all that together with a practiced showman promising restored greatness — and you get the Weimar volatility of this unanchored America.

Well, at least it snowed. It snowed a lot. It snowed on the nation’s capital. It snowed on New York. We were snowed under with coverage — the build-up, the blizzard, the post-blizzard. At least the snow was white, unlike the black flags of ISIS, and at least it really had nothing to do with Trump or Palin.

Unless, as I confess I did, you found yourself imagining Trump opening fire on Fifth Avenue on some slacker not wielding a shovel and staining the snow red with blood — to the roar of the “Trumpeters.”

Brooks and Krugman

December 4, 2015

Bobo, drenched in flop sweat, is whistling past the graveyard.  In “No, Donald Trump Won’t Win” he tries to convince us that in the voting booth, responsible will top exciting but risky.  Bobo, I wouldn’t bet on that if I were you.  Y’all have spent 40 years creating the monster, and now you seem to be terrified of it.  Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.  My schadens are freuded…  Prof. Krugman, in “Republican’s Climate Change Denial Denial,” says elected Republicans deny climate change and moderate unelected Republicans who recognize it are in denial that the deniers will smarten up.  Here’s Bobo:

A little while ago I went rug shopping. Four rugs were laid out on the floor and among them was one with a pink motif that was dazzlingly beautiful. It was complex and sophisticated. If you had asked me at that moment which rug I wanted, I would have said the pink one.

This conviction lasted about five minutes. But then my mentality flipped and I started asking some questions. Would the furniture go with this rug? Would this rug clash with the wall hangings? Would I get tired of its electric vibrancy?

Suddenly a subtler and more prosaic blue rug grabbed center stage. The rugs had not changed, but suddenly I wanted the blue rug. The pink rug had done an excellent job of being eye-popping on its own. The blue rug was doing an excellent job of being a rug I could enjoy living with.

For many Republicans, Donald Trump is their pink rug. He does the job that they want done at this moment. He reflects their disgust with the political establishment. He gives them the pleasurable sensation that somebody can come to Washington, kick some tail and shake things up.

But decision-making is a journey, not an early December snapshot. It goes in stages.

The campaign may seem old, but we are still in the casual attention stage. Every four years pollsters ask Iowa and New Hampshire voters when they made up their minds. Roughly 70 or 80 percent make up their minds in the final month of the race. Up until then they are busy with life and work and just glancing at the campaign. If you ask them which candidate they support, that question may generate an answer, but that doesn’t mean they are actually committed to electing the name they happen to utter.

Over at the FiveThirtyEight blog, Nate Silver looked at campaign-related Google searches in past years in the weeks before the Iowa caucuses. Until a week or two before the caucuses very few people are doing any serious investigations of the candidates. Then just before and after the caucuses voters get engaged and Google searches surge.

Silver produced a chart showing what this year’s polling would look like if we actually took the current levels of casual attention and uncertainty seriously. In that chart “Undecided” had 80 percent support. Trump had 5 percent support; Carson, 4; Cruz, 3; and Rubio, 2.

That’s about the best description of where the Republican race is right now.

Just because voters aren’t making final decisions doesn’t mean they are passive. They’re in the dressing room. They’re trying on different outfits. Most of them are finding they like a lot of different conflicting choices.

Human beings have multiple selves. The mind dances from this module to that module. When Montaigne tried to describe his mind, he wrote, “I cannot keep my subject still. It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness.” In one mood Trump seems pretty attractive to some people. In another it’s Carson, or Cruz or Rubio.

But in the final month the mentality shifts. The question is no longer, What shiny object makes me feel good? The question is, Who do I need at this moment to do the job? Different sorts of decision-making styles kick in.

For example, there are two contrasting types of decision-making mentalities, maximizing and satisficing. If you’re choosing a marriage partner, you probably want to maximize. You want to find the very best person you are totally in love with. You’ll need that passion to fuse you two together so you can survive the tough times. You want somebody who can inspire and be a messenger to your best future.

But politics is not like that. Politics is a prosaic activity most of the time. You probably want to satisfice, pick the person who’s good enough, who seems reasonably responsible.

When campaigns enter that final month, voters tend to gravitate toward the person who seems most orderly. As the primary season advances, voters’ tolerance for risk declines. They focus on the potential downsides of each contender and wonder, Could this person make things even worse?

When this mental shift happens, I suspect Trump will slide. All the traits that seem charming will suddenly seem risky. The voters’ hopes for transformation will give way to a fear of chaos. When the polls shift from registered voters to likely voters, cautious party loyalists will make up a greater share of those counted.

The voting booth focuses the mind. The experience is no longer about self-expression and feeling good in the moment. It’s about the finger on the nuclear trigger for the next four years. In an era of high anxiety, I doubt Republican voters will take a flyer on their party’s future — or their country’s future.

Bobo seems to forget that the entire Republican party has lost its collective mind.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Future historians — if there are any future historians — will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe.

Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party.

O.K., I know the reaction of many readers: How partisan! How over the top! But what I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.

Anyone who follows U.S. political debates on the environment knows that Republican politicians overwhelmingly oppose any action to limit emissions of greenhouse gases, and that the great majority reject the scientific consensus on climate change. Last year PolitiFact could find only eight Republicans in Congress, out of 278 in the caucus, who had made on-the-record comments accepting the reality of man-made global warming. And most of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination aresolidly in the anti-science camp.

What people may not realize, however, is how extraordinary the G.O.P.’s wall of denial is, both in the U.S. context and on the global scene.

I often hear from people claiming that the American left is just as bad as the right on scientific issues, citing, say, hysteria over genetically modified food or nuclear power. But even if you think such views are really comparable to climate denial (which they aren’t), they’re views held by only some people on the left, not orthodoxies enforced on a whole party by what even my conservative colleague David Brooks calls the “thought police.”

And climate-denial orthodoxy doesn’t just say that the scientific consensus is wrong. Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.

In a way, this is part of a long tradition: Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” was published half a century ago. But having that style completely take over one of our two major parties is something new.

It’s also something with no counterpart abroad.

It’s true that conservative parties across the West tend to be less favorable to climate action than parties to their left. But in most countries — actually, everywhere except America and Australia — these parties nonetheless support measures to limit emissions. And U.S. Republicans are unique in refusing to accept that there is even a problem. Unfortunately, given the importance of the United States, the extremism of one party in one country has enormous global implications.

By rights, then, the 2016 election should be seen as a referendum on that extremism. But it probably won’t be reported that way. Which brings me to what you might call the problem of climate denial denial.

Some of this denial comes from moderate Republicans, who do still exist — just not in elected office. These moderates may admit that their party has gone off the deep end on the climate issue, but they tend to argue that it won’t last, that the party will start talking sense any day now. (And they will, of course, find reasons to support whatever climate-denier the G.O.P. nominates for president.)

Everything we know about the process that brought Republicans to this point says that this is pure fantasy. But it’s a fantasy that will cloud public perception.

More important, probably, is the denial inherent in the conventions of political journalism, which say that you must always portray the parties as symmetric — that any report on extreme positions taken by one side must be framed in a way that makes it sound as if both sides do it. We saw this on budget issues, where some self-proclaimed centrist commentators, while criticizing Republicans for their absolute refusal to consider tax hikes, also made a point of criticizing President Obama for opposing spending cuts that he actually supported. My guess is that climate disputes will receive the same treatment.

But I hope I’m wrong, and I’d urge everyone outside the climate-denial bubble to frankly acknowledge the awesome, terrifying reality. We’re looking at a party that has turned its back on science at a time when doing so puts the very future of civilization at risk. That’s the truth, and it needs to be faced head-on.