Blow, Bruni, and Krugman

October 17, 2016

In “Donald Trump, the Worst of America” Mr. Blow says he is the logical extension of misogyny, racism, privilege and anti-intellectualism.  Mr. Bruni, in “For Donald Trump, Lessons in Grace,” says the patriotic concession speeches of prior presidential candidates show an alternative to his corrosive conspiracies.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Their Dark Fantasies:”  Why do Republicans hate America? He says their vision of the country is at odds with the reality.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump has virtually stopped trying to win this election by any conventional metric and is instead stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre with the great anticipation of setting it ablaze if current polls turn out to be predictive.

There is something calamitous in the air that surrounds the campaign, a hostile fatalism that bespeaks a man convinced that the end is near and aiming his anger at all within reach.

As his path to victory grows narrower, his desperation grows more pronounced.

Last week a steady stream of women stepped forward to accuse Trump of some form of sexual assault, abuse or inappropriate behavior. Trump’s response has been marked by a stunning lack of grace and dignity, let alone contrition or empathy, a response much like the man himself.

Instead, he is doubling down on sexism.

On Thursday, Trump said of the People magazine reporter who accused him of forcibly kissing her: “Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

He said on Friday of the woman accusing him of groping her on an airplane: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”

He also said of Clinton, “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

His response to these charges has been surprisingly — and perhaps, revealingly — callow. He has mocked, whined, chided, bemoaned and belittled. It’s as if the man is on a mission to demonstrate to voters the staggering magnitude of his social vulgarity and emotional ineptitude. He has dispensed with all semblances of wanting to appear presidential and embraced what seems to be most natural to him: acting like a pig.

Furthermore, everything is rigged against him, from the media to the election itself. He’s threatening to sue The New York Times. He says he and Clinton should take a drug test before the next debate.

These are the ravings of a lunatic.

Trump is back to carelessly shooting off his mouth and recklessly shooting himself in the foot.

It is sad, really, but for him I have no sympathy. He has spent this entire election attacking anyone and everyone whom he felt it would be politically advantageous to attack. Trump, now that you’re under attack, you want to cry woe-is-me and have people commiserate. Slim chance, big guy.

The coarseness of your character has been put on full display, and now the electorate has come to cash the check you wrote.

Trump now looks like a madman from Mad Men, a throwback to when his particular privileges had more perks and were considered less repugnant. He looks pathetic.

He is a ball of contradictions that together form a bully, a man who has built a menacing wall around the hollow of his self. He is brash to mask his fragility.

But in a way, Trump was authentically made in America.

America has a habit of romanticizing the playboy as much as the cowboy, but there is often something untoward about the playboy, unseemly, predatory and broken.

For years, Trump built a reputation on shuffling through women, treating his exploits with jocularity and having too much of America smiling in amusement at the bad boy antics.

But he’s not a kid; he’s a cad.

And he seems constitutionally incapable of processing the idea that wealth is not completely immunizing, that some rules are universally applicable, that common decency is required of more than just “common” folks. He seems genuinely offended that he should be held to the same standards of truth, decorum and even law as those less well off.

Trump is in fact the logical extension of toxic masculinity and ambient misogyny. He is the logical extension of rampant racism. He is the logical extension of wealth worship. He is the logical extension of pervasive anti-intellectualism.

Trump is the logical extension of the worst of America.

With him you get a man who believes himself superior in every way: through the gift of fortune and the happenstance of chromosomes. He believes the rules simply don’t apply. Not rules that govern the sovereignty of another’s body, not rules that dictate decorousness.

And the Republican Party was just the right place for him to park himself.

When you have a political party that takes as its mission to prevent government from working instead of to make government work, a party that conflates the ill effects of a changing economy with the changing complexion of the country and is still struck by fever over the election of President Obama, Trump is a natural, predictable endpoint.

Furthermore, Trump is what happens when you wear your Christian conservative values like a cardigan to conveniently slip off when the heat rises.

Trump is fundamentally altering American politics — coarsening them, corrupting them, cratering them. And America, particularly conservative America, has only itself to blame.

Republicans sowed intolerance and in its shadow, Trump sprang up like toxic fungi.

Next up we have Mr. Bruni:

As Donald Trump seethes recklessly through the final weeks of this furious campaign, he should take just a few minutes to read something important: Al Gore’s words on Dec. 13, 2000.

Gore had reason to feel burned by the electoral process. His fight against George W. Bush for the presidency went all the way to the Supreme Court, which then had more Republican than Democratic appointees.

But when he conceded, there was no talk of anything “rigged.” There was no reminder that he’d won the popular vote. He clearly understood that the circumstances of his defeat were a threat to many Americans’ faith in the system, especially if their rancor was stoked.

“While I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it,” he said, going on to add: “For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession. I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president-elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together.”

I realize that those remarks came as the battle ended, not in the heat of it. So there’s no neat and clean comparison to what he said then and what Trump is saying now.

But Trump’s conspiracy-minded rants, with which he exhorts voters to treat any victor other than him as illegitimate, are the obvious precursors to a singularly dangerous concession speech, should he be called upon to deliver one. I’m close to sure that he will be. And now is as good a time as any to point him toward the way real patriots behave, to remind ourselves that losing needn’t be as incendiary as he is hell-bent on making it, and to reacquaint ourselves with decency in American politics.

Gore’s speech is just one example of it. In fact it’s the norm among the Democratic and Republican nominees who fell short of the White House — the Democratic and Republican nominees who preceded Trump. To revisit their words is to savor a maturity, dignity and civic spirit that he lacks.

In 1952, after Adlai Stevenson was shellacked by Dwight Eisenhower, he said: “It hurts too much to laugh, but I’m too old to cry.” And he urged Americans to give the new president “the support he will need to carry out the great tasks that lie before him. I pledge him mine. We vote as many, but we pray as one.”

I went back and took a close look at the presidential contenders’ concession speeches since 1992, which was the year that a different Clinton — Bill, not Hillary — won the election.

He beat the first President Bush, who was seeking re-election and responded by exalting “the majesty of the democratic system,” telling voters that “America must always come first,” and also saying:

I want to share a special message with the young people of America. I remain absolutely convinced that we are a rising nation. We have been in an extraordinarily difficult period, but do not be deterred, kept away from public service by the smoke and fire of a campaign year or the ugliness of politics. As for me, I plan to get — I’m going to serve and try to find ways to help people. But I plan to get very active in the grandchild business. And in finding ways to help others. But I urge you, the young people of this country, to participate in the political process. It needs your idealism. It needs your drive. It needs your conviction.

Four years later, when Bob Dole failed in his effort to deny President Clinton a second term, these were some of his remarks:

I’ve said repeatedly in this campaign that the president was my opponent and not my enemy. And I wish him well and I pledge my support in whatever advances the cause of a better America, because that’s what the race was about in the first place, a better America as we go into the next century.

Then came the 2000 election, which remained undecided for weeks after voters went to the polls, as a recount of the Florida vote began and was then stopped. Gore’s concession speech included, in addition to the sentences I presented above, these:

Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country. …

I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country. And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome . . . .

While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party.

In 2004, after losing to the second President Bush, John Kerry alsospoke of national unity, national pride and common values:

In an American election, there are no losers. Because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. And that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth.

With that gift also comes obligation. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion.

I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years.

I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. I know this is a difficult time for my supporters. But I ask them — all of you — to join me in doing that.

John McCain’s concession speech in 2008 didn’t just encourage his supporters to respect the election’s outcome and to put common cause among wounded feelings. It also took full, celebratory note of the historic nature of Barack Obama’s victory:

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Four years later, another Republican, Mitt Romney, also lost to Obama and also took the high road, saying that he wished “the president, the first lady and their daughters” well and that he was looking to “Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.” There were also these words:

We can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.

Rising. Healing. Linking arms. Moving on. That’s what’s supposed to happen in the aftermath of even the bitterest elections. At least that’s what vanquished candidates are supposed to encourage. May the loser in this election uphold that tradition. So very much rides on it.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

I’m a baby boomer, which means that I’m old enough to remember conservatives yelling “America — love it or leave it!” at people on the left who criticized racism and inequality. But that was a long time ago. These days, disdain for America — the America that actually exists, not an imaginary “real America” in which minorities and women know their place — is concentrated on the right.

To be sure, progressives still see a lot wrong with the state of our society, and seek change. But they also celebrate the progress we have made, and for the most part the change they seek is incremental: It involves building on existing institutions, not burning everything down and starting over.

On the right, however, you increasingly find prominent figures describing our society as a nightmarish dystopia.

This is obviously true for Donald Trump, who views the world through blood-colored glasses. In his vision of America — clearly derived largely from white supremacist and neo-Nazi sources — crime is running wild, inner cities are war zones, and hordes of violent immigrants are pouring across our open border. In reality, murder is at a historic low, we’re seeing a major urban revival and net immigration from Mexico is negative. But I’m only saying that because I’m part of the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, you find almost equally dark visions, just as much at odds with reality, among establishment Republicans, people like Paul Ryan, speaker of the House.

Mr. Ryan is, of course, a media darling. He doesn’t really command strong support from his own party’s base; his prominence comes, instead, from a press corps that decided years ago that he was the archetype of serious, honest conservatism, and clings to that story no matter how many times the obvious fraudulence and cruelty of his proposals are pointed out. If the past is any indication, he will quickly be forgiven for his moral spinelessness in this election, his unwillingness to break with Mr. Trump — even to condemn him for questioning the legitimacy of the vote — no matter how grotesque the G.O.P. nominee’s behavior becomes.

But for what it’s worth, consider the portrait of America Mr. Ryan painted last week, in a speech to the College Republicans. For it was, in its own way, as out of touch with reality as the ranting of Donald Trump (whom Mr. Ryan never mentioned).

Now, to be fair, Mr. Ryan claimed to be describing the future — what will happen if Hillary Clinton wins — rather than the present. But Mrs. Clinton is essentially proposing a center-left agenda, an extension of the policies President Obama was able to implement in his first two years, and it’s pretty clear that Mr. Ryan’s remarks were intended as a picture of what all such policies do.

According to him, it’s very grim. There will, he said, be “a gloom and grayness to things,” ruled by a “cold and unfeeling bureaucracy.” We will become a place “where passion — the very stuff of life itself — is extinguished.” And this is the kind of America Mrs. Clinton “will stop at nothing to have.”

Does today’s America look anything like that? No. We have many problems, but we’re hardly living in a miasma of despair. Leave government statistics (which almost half of Trump supporters completely distrust) on one side; Gallup finds that 80 percent of Americans are satisfied with their standard of living, up from 73 percent in 2008, and that 55 percent consider themselves to be “thriving,” up from 49 percent in 2008. And there are good reasons for those good feelings: recovery from the financial crisis was slower than it should have been, but unemployment is low, incomes surged last year, and thanks to Obamacare more Americans have health insurance than ever before.

So Mr. Ryan’s vision of America looks nothing like reality. It is, however, completely familiar to anyone who read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” as a teenager. Nowadays the speaker denies being a Rand devotee, but while you can at least pretend to take the boy out of the cult, you can’t take the cult out of the boy. Like Ms. Rand — who was basically writing about America in the Eisenhower years! — he sees the horrible world progressive policies were supposed to produce, not the flawed but hopeful nation we actually live in.

So why does the modern right hate America? There’s not much overlap in substance between Mr. Trump’s fear-mongering and Mr. Ryan’s, but there’s a clear alignment of interests. The people Mr. Trump represents want to suppress and disenfranchise you-know-who; the big-money interests that support Ryan-style conservatism want to privatize and generally dismantle the social safety net, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there.

The big question is whether trash-talking America can actually be a winning political strategy. We’ll soon find out.

Brooks, Cohen, and Krugman

October 14, 2016

Bobo’s decided to pretend that The Short Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t exist.  Today he’s graced us with a thing called “The Beauty of Big Books,” in which he informs us that a law professor takes a swing at the mother of all questions.  In the comments “syfredrick” from Providence, RI had this to say:  “Another book report from Mr. Brooks as he whistles past the graveyard.”  Nothing else needs to be said.  Mr. Cohen, in “How Dictatorships Are Born,” says thanks to Trump the unsayable can now be said. “Go back to where you came from,” is the phrase of the moment.  Prof. Krugman considers “The Clinton Agenda” and says a large margin of victory will be needed for an effective presidency.  Here’s Bobo:

Not long ago, an astonishing book landed on my desk. It’s called “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan” and it weighs in at an impressive 1,076 pages. The author is Anthony Kronman, the former dean of the Yale Law School.

In an age of academic specialization, this is an epically ambitious book. In an age when intellectuals have lost their sense of high calling, this is an intellectual adventure story based on the notion that ideas drive history, and that to dedicate yourself to them is to live a bigger, more intense life.

Kronman has always had an abiding obsession: to understand the meaning of the modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” he writes, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.”

Kronman has never been religious, but he felt that to understand the current era, you had to understand it in relation to all the other moments in history.

He was convinced that if he understood the meaning of this history, he would be saved from the moral perplexities of life, and he would even in some way conquer death: “Although we cannot be immortal, the worldis, and … every increase in our understanding of it, and in our power to sing its song, is a further, deeper experience of the deathlessness of the world.”

When Kronman was a college student in the 1960s, Karl Marx explained all things to him. In Marx’s view, history is driven by a single mechanism, class conflict, and it has a goal, communism, and we’re one revolutionary step away from it.

Then Kronman became a follower of Max Weber. Weber argued that science and reason give us vast powers, but the price is that we no longer feel our lives enchanted by religious significance. We live in a godless universe and must have the courage to face that squarely.

Later, as a middle-aged law professor, he became more Burkean. The search for a big philosophic explanation for everything is a fool’s errand, but we can gradually add to the practical wisdom of our species, and work out better ways to do things.

But the antiphilosophical position is too cold. Kronman wanted a worldview that would explain the sense of loving gratitude that is the proper response to living: “A life without the yearning to reach the everlasting and divine is no longer recognizably human.”

He is now a “born-again pagan.” He’s learned from the Greeks and the atheists, but he thinks such thinkers render people too prideful and solitary. He’s also learned from the Christians, but he thinks their emphasis on the next world disparages this world. He doesn’t like the way religion asks the intellect to bow down before faith.

To be a born-again pagan is to believe that God is not something outside the world; God is the world, down to its smallest detail. Kronman’s mother’s last significant words were, “The world comes back.” He reflects, “perhaps what she meant is this — that the world, from which we are separated at birth, returns to reclaim us at death, that it leaves no stragglers behind.”

His guiding philosophers now are Spinoza, Nietzsche and Walt Whitman, men who saw God “as the eternal intelligibility of the world itself, now expanded to include the whole of reality.”

Whitman, for example, was the prophet of diversity. The point is not for all of us to approximate a single model or a fixed pattern of living. Instead, “the supreme goal of democracy is to promote the uniqueness of every individual” — for each person to be vibrantly distinct.

Democracy isn’t a political or legal bargain. It’s enchanted like romantic love, but on a larger scale. Each democratic citizen receives the love of her fellows as a gift to which the only appropriate response is gratitude and love in return.

The poet has a special responsibility as society’s seer, who grasps the eternity in the present and sings to people about their own unique divine powers within.

Personally, I have issues with born-again paganism. Shapeless, it leads to laxness — whatever moral quandary you bring it, it gives back exactly the answer you’d prefer to hear. It throws each person back on himself and leads to self-absorption and atomization, as everybody naturally worships the piece of God that is one’s self. Naïve, it neglects the creedal structures that are necessary for those moments when love falters.

But Kronman’s book is like a gift from another epoch, a time when more people did believe that time-tested books held the golden keys to life, a time when people defined themselves by philosophic commitments as much as by partisan, sexuald or ethnic ones, a time when it was generally believed that if you didn’t throw yourself in some arduous way at the big questions of your moment, you’d live a meager life, and would have to live and die with that awful knowledge.

Bobo’s as much a coward as Paul Ryan.  Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”

Of course Bob Dylan deserved the Nobel Prize for Literature. We’re all Mister Jones now. It’s the wildest political season in the history of the United States.

Just to make his pedigree clear, Donald Trump is now suggesting that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty, in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors.”

What was it the Nazis called the Jews? Oh, yes, “rootless parasites,” that’s it. For Stalin they were rootless cosmopolitans.

Just saying.

Societies slide into dictatorship more often than they lurch, one barrier falling at a time. “Just a buffoon,” people say, “and vulgar.” And then it’s too late.

I’ve been reminded in recent weeks of the passage in Fred Uhlman’s remarkable novella, “Reunion,” in which a proud German Jewish physician, twice wounded in World War I, and convinced the Nazis are a “temporary illness,” lambasts a Zionist for trying to raise funds for a Jewish homeland:

“Do you really believe the compatriots of Goethe and Schiller, Kant and Beethoven will fall for this rubbish? How dare you insult the memory of twelve thousand Jews who died for our country?”

Germans fell for the rubbish. The Republican Party fell for the garbage.

Today, millions of Americans who plan to vote for Trump are apparently countenancing violence against their neighbors, people who might be different from them, perhaps Muslim or Latino. It’s easy to inject the virus of hatred: just point a gun.

That Trump traffics in violence is irrefutable. His movement wants action — deportations, arrests, assassination and torture have been mooted. The most worrying thing is not that Trump likes Vladimir Putin, the butcher of Aleppo, but that he apes Vladimir Putin.

Speaking of Latinos, here’s what happened the other day to Veronica Zuleta, who was born in El Salvador and became an American citizen more than a decade ago. She was in the upscale Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park when the man next to her said:

“You should go to Safeway. This store is for white people.”

Zuleta was shocked. Never had she encountered a comment like that about her brown skin. But even the Democratic bastion of Silicon Valley is not immune to the Trump effect: Once unsayable things can now be said the world over. “Go back to where you came from” is the phrase du jour.

In the three months after the Brexit vote in Britain, homophobic attacks rose 147 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. It’s open season for bigots.

Financial and emotional pressures have been mounting on Zuleta. She lives in what the visionaries of Google, Facebook and the like consider the center of the universe. Where else, after all, are people thinking seriously about attaining immortality; or life on Mars; or new floating cities atop the oceans; or a universal basic income for everyone once the inevitable happens and artificial intelligence renders much of humanity redundant?

Y Combinator, a big start-up incubator, has announced it will conduct a basic income experiment with 100 families in Oakland, giving them between $1,000 and $2,000 a month for up to a year. Just to see what people do when they have nothing more to do. Oh, Brave New World.

Back in the present, prices for real estate have soared. Zuleta lives in a modest rented place on what used to be the wrong side of the tracks, in East Menlo Park, east of Route 101 that runs down the Valley. As it happens, her home is now a couple of blocks from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters designed by Frank Gehry that opened last year. She asked about a job in the kitchen, to no avail. She struggles to make ends meet.

Facebook, she told me, “is intimidating for people like me. It’s like, get out of here if you don’t know anything about technology.”

For its part, Facebook says it cares about and invests in the local community — $350,000 in grants donated to local nonprofits this year and last, new thermal imaging cameras for the local fire district, and so on. Its revenue in 2015 was $17.9 billion.

Zuleta works from 6:30 in the morning until midnight, cleaning homes, driving children to school and activities, running errands for wealthy families (like shopping for them at Draeger’s), and cleaning offices at night. In between she tries to care for her two young children. The other day, she was in the kitchen, collapsed and found herself in the hospital.

“The doctor said I need to sleep and relax,” she told me. “But I can’t!”

Life is like that these days for many Americans: implacable and disorienting. As a Latina, Zuleta said she would never vote for Trump, but she feels overwhelmed.

Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

And now we get to Prof. Krugman:

It ain’t over until the portly gentleman screams, but it is, as intelligence analysts say, highly likely that Hillary Clinton will win this election.  Poll-based models put her chances at around 90 percent earlier this week — and that was before the campaign turned totally X-rated.

But what will our first female president actually be able to accomplish? That depends on how big a victory she achieves.

I’m not talking about the size of her “mandate,” which means nothing: If the Obama years are any indication, Republicans will oppose anything she proposes no matter how badly they lose. The question, instead, is what happens to Congress.

Consider, first, the effects of a minimal victory: Mrs. Clinton becomes president, but Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress.

Such a victory wouldn’t be meaningless. It would avert the nightmare of a Trump presidency, and it would also block the radical tax-cutting, privatizing agenda that Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has made clear he will steamroll through if Mr. Trump somehow wins. But it would leave little room for positive action.

Things will be quite different if Democrats retake the Senate. Poll-based models give this outcome only around a 50-50 chance, but people betting on the election give it much better odds, two or three to one.

Now, even a Democratic Senate wouldn’t enable Mrs. Clinton to pass legislation in the face of an implacably obstructionist Republican majority in the House. It would, however, allow her to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.

Doing that would have huge consequences, for environmental policy in particular. In his final years in office, President Obama has made a major environmental push using his regulatory powers, for example by sharply tightening emission standards for heavy trucks.

But the most important piece of his push — the Clean Power Plan, which would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants — is currently on hold, thanks to a stay imposed by the Supreme Court. Democratic capture of the Senate would remove this roadblock.

And bear in mind that climate change is by far the most important issue facing America and the world, even if the people selecting questions for the presidential debates for some reason refuse to bring it up. Quite simply, if Democrats take the Senate, we might take the minimum action needed to avoid catastrophe; if they don’t, we won’t.

What about the House? All, and I mean all, of the Obama administration’s legislative achievements took place during the two-year period when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Can that happen again?

Until the last few days, the chances of flipping the House seemed low, even if, as now seems all but certain, Democratic candidates in total receive more votes than Republicans. Partly that’s because G.O.P.-controlled state governments have engaged in pervasive gerrymandering; partly it’s because minority voters, who overwhelmingly favor Democrats, are clustered in a relatively small number of urban districts.

But a sufficiently big Clinton victory could change that, especially if suburban women desert a G.O.P. that has turned into the gropers-owned party. And that would let her pursue a much more expansive agenda.

There’s not much mystery about what that agenda would be. I don’t know why so many pundits claim that Mrs. Clinton lacks a vision for America, when she has actually provided an unusual level of detail on her website and in speeches.

Broadly speaking, she would significantly strengthen the social safety net, especially for the very poor and children, with an emphasis on family-related issues like parental leave. Such programs would cost money, although not as much as critics claim; she proposes, credibly, to raise that money with higher taxes on top incomes, so that the overall effect would be to reduce inequality.

Democratic control of the House would also open the door for large-scale infrastructure investment. If that seems feasible, I know that many progressive economists — myself included — will urge Mrs. Clinton to go significantly bigger than she is currently proposing.

If all of this sounds to you like a second round of what President Obama did in 2009-2010, that’s because it is. And why not? Despite Republican obstruction, Mr. Obama has presided over a remarkable rise in the number of Americans with health insurance, a significant decline in poverty and the creation of more than 11 million private-sector jobs.

In any case, the bottom line is that if you’re thinking of staying home on Election Day because the outcome is assured, don’t. Barring the political equivalent of a meteor strike, Hillary Clinton will be our next president, but the size of her victory will determine what kind of president she can be.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

October 13, 2016

In “Donald Trump, Unshackled and Unhinged” Mr. Blow says he still has a chance to turn things around, but he’s showing no inclination that he wants to.  Mr. Kristof, in “What Donald Trump Is Right About,” says actions count more than words, and his are heinous.  In “And Now, the Good News Is…” Ms. Collins says we should always look on the bright side of Donald Trump.  Here’s Mr. Blow:’

Donald Trump tweeted this week that his “shackles have been taken off.” The rest of us need to buckle up.

The effects of a 2005 tape on which Trump brags of a history of sexually predatory behavior is still rippling though the Trump campaign and wreaking havoc.

This is a particularly, spectacularly potent scandal, because of the moral clarity of how reprehensible it is.

This is not an issue that you can couch in policy or strategy. This is so very clearly about character. It is unambiguous and lecherous. It is repulsive and rapacious.

And it appears to fit a pattern.

BuzzFeed reported on Wednesday: “Four women who competed in the 1997 Miss Teen USA beauty pageant said Donald Trump walked into the dressing room while contestants — some as young as 15 — were changing.”

One of the young contestants told BuzzFeed that when Trump entered the dressing room while she was getting dressed, he “said something like, ‘Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.’”

As Newsweek reported on Sunday:

“Jill Harth, a pageant owner trying to work with Trump in the mid-1990s, filed suit against him in federal court in Manhattan in 1997, describing a ‘relentless’ campaign of sexual harassment and assault including an incident in which he reached under a table, put his hands on her thighs and grabbed her ‘intimate private parts’ during a meeting at a New York restaurant.”

Temple Taggart, Miss Utah 1997, told The Times in May that when she was introduced to Trump, “He kissed me directly on the lips. I thought, ‘Oh my God, gross.’”

Gross is right.

No one can defend it, but that hasn’t stopped Trump and his supporters from twisting themselves into knots trying to. Trump has repeatedly called it “locker room” talk and suggested that he was lying when he said that he had assaulted women.

Supporters have done everything from deny that what Trump described was indeed assault to saying the tape was made before Trump began his faith journey to attacking Beyoncé lyrics and Hillary Clinton’s admiration of the pop star.

None of that has worked particularly well. Trump’s post-tape polls look absolutely horrendous.

Furthermore, prominent Republicans are fleeing in droves.

According to The Times, more that 160 Republican leaders, most of them members of Congress or governors, have declared that they won’t support Donald Trump. Nearly a third of those fled from Trump in the wake of the lewd tape.

In a statement, John McCain wrote: “Donald Trump’s behavior this week, concluding with the disclosure of his demeaning comments about women and his boasts about sexual assaults, make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

The Times reported on Monday, referring to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan: “Mr. Ryan informed Republican lawmakers on a morning conference call that he would never again campaign for Mr. Trump and would dedicate himself instead to defending the party’s majority in Congress.” Ryan’s spokeswoman followed up with a statement confirming that “the speaker is going to spend the next month focused entirely on protecting our congressional majorities.”

Trump is bleeding badly. But many of us know this from nature: A wounded animal is a dangerous animal. Trump is lashing out like a man with nothing left to lose. If he is going down, he’s threatening to take the entire ecosystem with him.

He’s lashing out at the Republican establishment — especially Ryan and McCain — in a striking and seemingly unprecedented intraparty feud just weeks ahead of the election.

But Trump is also striking out at Clinton and Obama.

Trump threatened this week, “If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things.” He also continues to threaten to investigate Clinton and lock her up, and seemed to return to the absurd assertion that Obama founded the Islamic State.

None of this seems like an effective strategy to broaden his base and actually win in November. This feels like Trump having a temper tantrum. This feels like a campaign in its death throes.

Trump had some good weeks when he was following a disciplined strategy of reading speeches from a teleprompter and effectively deceiving some into believing that he was not in fact the man who he has, over the course of his life, revealed himself to be.

Apparently, that deception was a set of shackles. In other words, it was a lie.

This is true Trump: mean, erratic, abrasive and pathological.

Trump still has a chance to turn things around, but as of now he’s showing no inclination that he wants to. As disturbing as the idea of a foreign government trying to interfere with our elections is, the content of leaked emails from the Clinton campaign could be far more damaging to her in the hands of a more competent opposition.

But Trump isn’t a competent opponent. He’s a maladroit savage spiraling out of control.

And next up we have Mr. Kristof:

Astonishingly, Donald Trump is right about something!

After recently being caught on a 2005 tape gloating about sexual assaults, Trump issued an unapologetic apology in which he focused on the “big difference” between words and actions. And he has a point.

But there’s abundant evidence that Trump has indulged in not just scurrilous rhetoric, but also in heinous actions. Several more women have stepped forward to offer on-the-record accounts of having been aggressively groped or kissed by Trump against their will, right after he met them.

I also find entirely credible the allegations of Jill Harth, a former business partner of Trump’s, that he assaulted her in 1992 and 1993. Equally credible is the assertion by a former Miss Utah that Trump inappropriately kissed beauty contestants on the lips.

Some Republicans have demanded laws to ban transgender women from entering women’s restrooms or locker rooms, but instead they might focus on the risk of Trump doing this. He has boasted that he marched unannounced into changing rooms to ogle beauty pageant contestants naked, and a former contestant, Miss Arizona, Tasha Dixon, said he did just that as they were changing into bikinis. “Some girls were topless,” she said. “Other girls were naked.”

The pageant theme that year? Empowering women.

There’s more. In Trump’s 2005 tape, he referred in vulgar ways to a married woman, Nancy O’Dell, he had unsuccessfully pursued, but what’s less known is that in 2007 he reportedly tried to have her fired from hosting the Miss USA Pageant. Why? Because she was pregnant.

Of course, as Trump acknowledged, words matter as well. On my blog, I posted an essay by a survivor of a home invasion and rape, Michelle Bowdler, who recounted that her attacker had said he wanted “some pussy” — and the moment he used that word, she felt that her life was in danger, that she “existed only as a thing.”

What is dehumanizing is not necessarily dirty words as such, but rather the casual braggadocio by men that normalizes assault. One study of 16,000 comments on a website for fraternity men found that the most common body part mentioned was “ass,” followed by “tits.” Men posting on the site were 25 times as likely to refer to a woman’s “ass” as to her “smile.”

There’s some evidence that hearing sexist language may be linked to greater tolerance of rape. And we already have a national problem with sexual harassment: One large survey found that almost one-quarter of American women said they had been groped in public spaces.

So I’m delighted that at least one person, Billy Bush, is paying in a concrete way for the words in the Trump tape. Maybe this can be a wake-up call for us men to appreciate that sexist epithets are no more acceptable than racist epithets.

All that said, Trump is right to emphasize the importance of actions more than words: If we’re outraged by vulgar words, shouldn’t we be even more appalled by predatory actions? And policies? Here the truth is that a Trump administration’s policies might be less titillating than his words, but they would be far more dangerous.

Every year, 550,000 women in America require medical attention after an assault by a boyfriend or husband. That’s an issue that is belatedly being addressed through screenings under Obamacare, which Trump wants to repeal, and by the Violence Against Women Act, which a large bloc of Republicans opposed in Congress. Trump’s concern about such assaults seems dubious, and in fact both he and his campaign C.E.O., Steve Bannon, have been accused of domestic violence themselves.

Since he never held public office, Trump lacks a voting record. But his running mate has tended to look at what might help women and do the opposite, including voting against equal-pay legislation.

Mike Pence also signed a bizarre anti-abortion bill as Indiana’s governor requiring burial or cremation even of tissue from an early miscarriage. That led women to form a Facebook group, Periods for Pence, and announce their periods, just in case they might be miscarriages.

At a time when 11 women a day die of cervical cancer, Trump and Pence have also been stalwart opponents of women’s health programs that provide cancer screenings. They are motivated partly by hostility toward Planned Parenthood over abortions, but Pence, while a congressman, also sponsored legislation to defund Title X, the main federal family planning program. It does not pay for abortions but does help screen more than 750,000 women for cervical cancer a year.

New York magazine once quoted Trump as telling a friend about women, “you have to treat ‘em like——” well, manure. But to me, his language pales beside his behavior and likely policies. So let’s try to pivot from outrage at gross words to condemnation of unconscionable behavior and policies. On that sole point, that actions matter more than words, Trump is exactly, frighteningly right.

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

We’ve already learned so much this election year. Besides the importance of not bragging about girl-grabbing when there’s a microphone pinned to your lapel.

For instance, boring people have never looked better. This is a seldom-defended subset of the American population, but after a year or so of the exciting Donald Trump, we have a new appreciation. Right now, many voters may be looking at their local congressman — a person they would change lines at the grocery store in order to avoid having to engage in conversation — and thinking, “Wow, Fred may be a snooze, but when you think about it, there are so many worse possibilities.”

Can you imagine how deliriously happy the Republican Party would be if Trump woke up one morning feeling boring? But no, he’s still bounding from one rally to the next, attacking members of his own party and demanding that Hillary Clinton go to jail. The new WikiLeaks from her campaign, he thundered on Wednesday, “make more clear than ever … how unattractive and dishonest our country has become.”

Unattractive? Is there no entity this man doesn’t judge in terms of physical appearance? Do you think Trump secretly believes America has gained weight? Had an unsuccessful breast enhancement?

The WikiLeaks, so far, have just underlined how blessedly boring Clinton’s campaign has been — it turns out that her talking points sometimes include instructions on when to smile, and that some of her major tweets have been the work of up to four aides. Deep in their hearts, most Americans know that’s way better than having a president who wakes up at 3 a.m. and just starts free associating.

Another important lesson of 2016: There are a lot of things worse than political correctness. Trump brags constantly about his own freedom from that particular defect, and some of his followers feel liberated to attend the rallies wearing signs or shirts that call Hillary Clinton every conceivable vulgarity.

During the last debate, a sad-looking Muslim woman asked how she could deal with “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country. …” Trump replied, “You’re right about Islamophobia and that’s a shame,” without any particular tone of sympathy. “But,” he continued, “one thing we have to do is, we have to make sure that, because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

Not often you can avoid political correctness in a way that mangles so many sentences. Trump then veered off into a complaint about how neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters noticed a whole ton of armaments at the family home but failed to say anything about it, presumably because they didn’t want to look anti-Muslim. We could point out that this is a make-believe story, totally unsupported by fact. Except that it would sound so darned you-know-what.

On the plus side, the campaign’s recent unpleasantness has provided a wonderful opportunity to randomly torture irritating Republican officeholders. Ted Cruz — who insulted Trump by failing to endorse him at the convention, then panicked and gave him a nod just before the trash-talk tape went public — must be having the worst week of his political life. Which certainly is a mood raiser.

Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, whose longstanding flirtation with the birther movement led him once to aver that there were enough votes in the House to impeach President Obama, fell into a rabbit hole this week while he was defending his Trump endorsement on MSNBC. Anchor Chris Hayes prodded, asking whether he’d feel the same if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying, “I really like to rape women. …”

“That would be bad and I would have to consider it,” said Farenthold, who then followed up with a desperate series of Twitter retractions. (“During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question.”) Which then gave Austin political writer Jonathan Tilove a chance to revisit a conversation he had with the congressman about Trump’s appalling attacks on a Mexican-American judge. “He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” explained Farenthold.

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is obsessed with the Republicans who’ve gotten … cold. The candidate himself complains at his rallies that the speaker of the House failed to congratulate him after the last debate. (“So wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going?’”) Attacking members of Congress who’ve dropped off the team, Trump said he “wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole” with people like John McCain. And campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews that some of the congressmen who’ve complained about Trump’s sex remarks were known for “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”

It’s always possible to learn more than you really want to know this season.

Krugman’s blog, 10/11/16

October 12, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Notes on Brexit and the Pound:”

The much-hyped severe Brexit recession does not, so far, seem to be materializing – which really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise, because as I warned, the actual economic case for such a recession was surprisingly weak. (Ouch! I just pulled a muscle while patting myself on the back!) But we are seeing a large drop in the pound, which has steepened as it becomes likely that this will indeed be a very hard Brexit. How should we think about this?

Originally, stories about a pound plunge were tied to that recession prediction: domestic investment demand would collapse, leading to sustained very low interest rates, hence capital flight. But the demand collapse doesn’t seem to be happening. So what is the story?

For now, at least, I’m coming at it from the trade side – especially trade in financial services. It seems to me that one way to think about this is in terms of the “home market effect,” an old story in trade but one that only got formalized in 1980.

Here’s an informal version: imagine a good or service subject to large economies of scale in production, sufficient that if it’s consumed in two countries, you want to produce it in only one, and export to the other, even if there are costs of shipping it. Where will this production be located? Other things equal, you would choose the larger market, so as to minimize total shipping costs. Other things may not, of course, be equal, but this market-size effect will always be a factor, depending on how high those shipping costs are.

In one of the models I laid out in that old paper, the way this worked out was not that all production left the smaller economy, but rather that the smaller economy paid lower wages and therefore made up in competitiveness what it lacked in market access. In effect, it used a weaker currency to make up for its smaller market.

In Britain’s case, I’d suggest that we think of financial services as the industry in question. Such services are subject to both internal and external economies of scale, which tends to concentrate them in a handful of huge financial centers around the world, one of which is, of course, the City of London. But now we face the prospect of seriously increased transaction costs between Britain and the rest of Europe, which creates an incentive to move those services away from the smaller economy (Britain) and into the larger (Europe). Britain therefore needs a weaker currency to offset this adverse impact.

Does this make Britain poorer? Yes. It’s not just the efficiency effect of barriers to trade, there’s also a terms-of-trade effect as the real exchange rate depreciates.

But it’s important to be aware that not everyone in Britain is equally affected. Pre-Brexit, Britain was obviously experiencing a version of the so-called Dutch disease. In its traditional form, this referred to the way natural resource exports crowd out manufacturing by keeping the currency strong. In the UK case, the City’s financial exports play the same role. So their weakening helps British manufacturing – and, maybe, the incomes of people who live far from the City and still depend directly or indirectly on manufacturing for their incomes. It’s not completely incidental that these were the parts of England (not Scotland!) that voted for Brexit.

Is there a policy moral here? Basically it is that a weaker pound shouldn’t be viewed as an additional cost from Brexit, it’s just part of the adjustment. And it would be a big mistake to prop up the pound: old notions of an equilibrium exchange rate no longer apply.

Friedman and Bruni

October 12, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has a question:  “Can the U.S. Win This Election?”  He says it will be a tragedy if little changes after all we’ve gone through.  Mr. Bruni considers “Daughters and Trumps” and has a memo to Republicans: You don’t need to be a dad to be sickened by Donald. Just a human being.  Here’s TMOW:

Seriously, why didn’t we sell tickets? If only our national election had been pay-per-view for the rest of the world, we could have wiped out the national debt. But while viewers around the world seem to be lapping up our national reality TV show, are we, the citizens of America, going to get anything out of it?

Specifically, are we going to get the thing we need most and have enjoyed least this century: effective government? We have too much deferred maintenance to fix, too much deferred leadership to generate and too much deferred reimagining to undertake to wait another four years to solve our biggest problems, especially in this age of accelerating technology and climate change.

If we will have indulged in almost two years of electoral entertainment and pathos just to end up back where we were, only worse, with even more venomous gridlock in Washington, it won’t just be emotionally depressing, we’ll really start to decline as a nation. When we forfeit governing our country strategically at the national level for this long, inevitably the roof will start to leak and the floors will start to buckle.

But how can anything good come from a campaign where the entertainment is increasingly X-rated and where the winner will be so morally injured — because of the hatchet wounds that were inflicted by the loser or that were self-inflicted?

What needs to happen for this election-drama script to end differently, or at least not so tragically?

For starters, this version of the Republican Party has to die. I don’t say that as a partisan. I say that as a citizen who believes that America needs a healthy center-right party that offers more market-based solutions to problems; keeps the pressure on for deregulation, freer trade and smaller government; and is willing to compromise. But today’s version of the G.O.P. is not such a problem-solving party.

We have known that ever since the G.O.P. speaker of the House John Boehner quit, not because he couldn’t work with President Obama but because roughly a quarter of House Republicans, the so-called Freedom Caucus, were simply not interested in governing and had made his job impossible.

For the sake of the country, this version of the Republican Party has to be fractured, with the extreme far right going off with the likes of Donald Trump, the Tea Party, Ted Cruz — along with all the right-wing TV and radio gasbags who thrive on chaos — leaving behind a moderate center-right bloc, which, one hopes, one day would become the new G.O.P. But it will need to nurture a new base, one inspired by a Jack Kemp spirit of conservative innovation, not by Trump dog whistles of anger, xenophobia and racial enmity.

Toward that end it is particularly important that Trump be crushed at the polls to send the message inside the G.O.P. and out that someone of his poisonous ilk can never win in America, and to strip him and his loyalists of any argument that the election was rigged.

At the same time, we have to hope not only that Hillary Clinton wins the national election but also that Democrats retake at least the Senate, so she has some real leverage to forge trade-offs with a more sane G.O.P. to start fixing things: putting in place common-sense gun laws, like restoring the Assault Weapons Ban, requiring universal background checks and making it illegal for anyone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun; borrowing money at near-zero interest rates to rebuild our infrastructure; replacing some income and corporate taxes with a revenue-neutral carbon tax to stimulate more clean-energy production; fixing Obamacare; and implementing sensible immigration reform and responsible tax and entitlement reforms.

The bigger Clinton’s margin of victory, the less dependent she’d be, I hope, on the left wing of her party, and the more likely she’d work with Republicans, as she vowed during the last debate, by “finding common ground, because you have to be able to get along with people to get things done in Washington.”

I say “hope” because I don’t know who the real Hillary is — the more Bernie Sanderish one speaking publicly or the more Bill Clintonish one who spoke privately to Goldman Sachs.

The nightmare scenario — ruling out, God forbid, a Trump victory — is that Clinton wins with a slim majority and the G.O.P. holds the House and the Senate. The Democratic left would have a stranglehold on Clinton while Trump, who would start his own TV network and movement, would keep the Republican base in a state of permanent anger, intimidating every Republican lawmaker who contemplated compromise. If that happens, America will be adrift.

One more wish. Within hours of the leak of the “Access Hollywood” tape showing Trump saying vile things about women, WikiLeaks, which seems to have become an arm of Russian intelligence, leaked Democratic Party emails meant to embarrass Clinton. The Clinton camp suggested that Russia was trying to tilt the election to Trump. If so, crushing Trump at the polls is the best way for Americans to say to Vladimir Putin, “You can manipulate your elections, but you can’t manipulate ours.”

But please, Lord, let that not be the only good thing to come out of this election.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

As the father of no daughters, I’m appalled by Donald Trump’s comments about groping women.

As the husband of no wife, I’m offended.

What, you ask, do my parental and marital status have to do with recognizing the outrage of what he said? I wonder, too. But they must be germane, because Republicans seem unable to censure Trump without invoking female spouses and especially offspring. In this version of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, the work is displaying concern for women, and the daughters are less protégées than props.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used a written statement of displeasure with Trump to identify himself as “the father of three daughters.” This was apparently a wellspring of his pique, which didn’t rise to the level of actually rescinding his endorsement of Trump. Would a fourth daughter have done the trick? A fifth?

“As a husband and father” was how Mike Pence, who has a son and two daughters, commenced his own short-lived reprimand of Trump. Jeb Bush tweeted that he was “the grandfather of two precious girls.” In a debate in Arizona on Monday night, John McCain referred to his daughters.

Sometimes sons were mentioned, and sometimes female politicians did the mentioning. But the pattern of husbands standing up for wives and fathers looking out for daughters was most noticeable — and most discordant.

As Yochi Dreazen noted in a post for Vox, it cast men in the role of protectors and carried a stronger whiff of chivalry than of equality. It also defined women in terms of men and caring about them in terms of their places in men’s families.

“Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” tweeted Ted Cruz, who seemed to catch himself midsentence and realize what he was doing. So why not go back to the start of the tweet and undo it?

In much of this there was a familiar insinuation that parenthood is a singularly sensitizing, enlightening circumstance, giving someone a special stake in a more just world. But doesn’t Trump himself contradict that?

He’s a parent five times over. He’s a father of two daughters himself, and that’s a credential he carried with him into his nauseating exchange with Billy Bush in 2005 and into his vulgar conversations with Howard Stern across the years.

It didn’t prevent him from giving Stern permission to call Ivanka “a piece of ass.” It didn’t give him pause as he objectified Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Alicia Machado and so many other women. Trump could begin every sentence with the words “as the father of two daughters,” and while they’d be true, unlike three-quarters of what he says, they’d be a testament to nothing more than a history of unprotected intercourse.

Trump’s an egregious example but hardly an isolated one. McConnell’s three daughters obviously haven’t clued him in to the special challenges many women still face in the work force, because he has spoken and voted on legislation in a manner that minimizes those.

And while Scott Garrett, a Republican congressman from New Jersey, called himself “a husband and father of two daughters” when he assailed Trump’s remarks, he has taken positions against insurance coverage for mammograms and medical privacy for rape victims. What did the women in his life have to say about that?

There’s something off-key when lawmakers — Republicans or Democrats, in connection with Trump or in other instances — describe the importance of an issue in accordance with its relevance to the people closest to them and its proximity to their doorstep. Or when they present their descendants as the best proof of their investment in the future.

The message of that is antithetical to public service and political leadership, which are ideally about representing kin and strangers alike, casting the widest possible net of compassion and letting common values, not personal interests, be the compass.

My loins are fruitless but my principles are clear: No human being — woman or man — should be regarded as a conquest or an amusement with a will subservient to someone else’s. That’s how Trump seems to treat most of the people in his life, and I object to that not as the brother of three admirable siblings (including a sister), not as the son of two extraordinary parents (including a mother), not as the uncle of many talented nieces and nephews, not as the partner of a wonderful man, and not as a friend to brilliant men and women whose welfare matters greatly to me.

I object to it as the citizen of a civilized society. I object to it because it threatens the people I don’t know as well as the people I do. I object to it because it’s wrong.

Solo Bobo

October 11, 2016

Poor, sad Bobo is wringing his hands over “Donald Trump’s Sad, Lonely Life.”  He moans that politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that.  But he does tell us that he thinks Trump has a mental problem, and in doing so he used a term (alexithymia) I had never seen in 35+ years of doing medical transcription.  Let’s draw the veil of charity over the fact that Bobo seems to be a YOOGE fan of Erick Erickson, one of the nastier pieces of work on his side of the aisle.  And, OF COURSE, he never implies that he won’t be voting for him.  He will be followed by a comment from “Thin Edge Of The Wedge” from Farquier County, VA.  Here’s Bobo:

The point of town hall debates is that regular voters get to ask questions. In every town hall I’ve seen, the candidate turns to the voter, listens attentively and directs the answer at least partially back to that person.

The candidates do that because it’s polite, because it looks good to be seen taking others seriously and because most of us instinctively want to make some connection with the people we are talking to.

Hillary Clinton, not exactly a paragon of intimacy, behaved in the normal manner on Sunday night. But Donald Trump did not. Trump treated his questioners as unrelatable automatons and delivered his answers to the void, even when he had the chance to seem sympathetic to an appealing young Islamic woman.

That underlines the essential loneliness of Donald Trump.

Politics is an effort to make human connection, but Trump seems incapable of that. He is essentially adviser-less, friendless. His campaign team is made up of cold mercenaries at best and Roger Ailes at worst. His party treats him as a stench it can’t yet remove.

He was a germophobe through most of his life and cut off contact with others, and now I just picture him alone in the middle of the night, tweeting out hatred.

Trump breaks his own world record for being appalling on a weekly basis, but as the campaign sinks to new low after new low, I find myself experiencing feelings of deep sadness and pity.

Imagine if you had to go through a single day without sharing kind little moments with strangers and friends.

Imagine if you had to endure a single week in a hate-filled world, crowded with enemies of your own making, the object of disgust and derision.

You would be a twisted, tortured shrivel, too, and maybe you’d lash out and try to take cruel revenge on the universe. For Trump this is his whole life.

Trump continues to display the symptoms of narcissistic alexithymia, the inability to understand or describe the emotions in the self. Unable to know themselves, sufferers are unable to understand, relate or attach to others.

To prove their own existence, they hunger for endless attention from outside. Lacking internal measures of their own worth, they rely on external but insecure criteria like wealth, beauty, fame and others’ submission.

In this way, Trump seems to be denied all the pleasures that go with friendship and cooperation. Women could be sources of love and affection, but in his disordered state he can only hate and demean them. His attempts at intimacy are gruesome parodies, lunging at women as if they were pieces of meat.

Most of us derive a warm satisfaction when we feel our lives are aligned with ultimate values. But Trump lives in an alternative, amoral Howard Stern universe where he cannot enjoy the sweetness that altruism and community service can occasionally bring.

Bullies only experience peace when they are cruel. Their blood pressure drops the moment they beat the kid on the playground.

Imagine you are Trump. You are trying to bluff your way through a debate. You’re running for an office you’re completely unqualified for. You are chasing some glimmer of validation that recedes ever further from view.

Your only rest comes when you are insulting somebody, when you are threatening to throw your opponent in jail, when you are looming over her menacingly like a mafioso thug on the precipice of a hit, when you are bellowing that she has “tremendous hate in her heart” when it is clear to everyone you are only projecting what is in your own.

Trump’s emotional makeup means he can hit only a few notes: fury and aggression. In some ways, his debate performances look like primate dominance displays — filled with chest beating and looming growls. But at least primates have bands to connect with, whereas Trump is so alone, if a tree fell in his emotional forest, it would not make a sound.

It’s all so pathetic.

On Monday, one of Trump’s conservative critics, Erick Erickson, published a moving essay called “If I Die Before You Wake… .” Erickson has been the object of vicious assaults by Trump supporters. He and his wife are both facing serious health ailments and may pass before their children are grown. Yet as the essay makes clear, both are living lives of love, faith, devotion and service. Both have an ultimate confidence in the goodness of creation and their grace-filled place in it.

You may share that faith or not, but Erickson is living an attached life — emotionally, spiritually, morally and communally. Donald Trump’s life, by contrast, looks superficially successful and profoundly miserable. None of us would want to live in the howling wilderness of his own solitude, no matter how thick the gilding.

On Nov. 9, the day after Trump loses, there won’t be solidarity and howls of outrage. Everyone will just walk away.

Now here’s “Thin Edge Of The Wedge:”

“Sympathy for the devil, eh, Mr. Brooks? Although your description is accurate, it still treats Trump as if he is an unprecedented, isolated phenomenon within the GOP. Not so. Trump is the GOP. He is the avatar exposing the rotten core, the dead soul of the Republican Party. Trump, Pence, Cruz, McConnell, Ryan, Christie, Ailes, all the way back through Nixon to Joseph McCarthy, dead men walking, every one, surrounded by their mindless, amoral howling storm troopers. Trump won’t just walk away, nor will his supporters. And even if he should, Republicans like the Koch brothers will continue to create, promote, and fund new Trumps. They’ve been at it my entire adult life, and won’t quit until they have strip mined the US Constitution, economy, and entire society for their own selfish ends.”

Blow and Krugman

October 10, 2016

The power just came back on!  Today Mr. Blow, in “Donald Trump, Barbarian at the Debate,” says we have to stop grading this man on a curve.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Predators in Arms:”  Is there a partisan pattern here?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

What the hell did I just watch in that presidential debate last night?

Before the debate even commenced, did a man who was just caught on a hot mike bragging about being a serial sexual predator who routinely assaults women by kissing them without their consent and grabbing them by the vagina actually organize a news conference with the sexual abuse accusers of Bill Clinton?

Did he actually plunge the debate into a reality television swamp of tawdriness and tackiness?

By the way, at least one of these women was part of a group of accusers whom Donald Trump in 1998 called “terrible” and a “really unattractive group.” In that same interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News, Trump said of Bill Clinton: “He is really a victim himself.”

Did Trump actually use those women, whom he had chastised and demeaned for their looks (something he is wont to do because he is a sexist and a cretin), as a political prop?

Did Trump actually sit those women in the debate hall and use them to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband’s behavior?

By the way, in 1999 Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Clinton was “a wonderful woman,” “really a very terrific woman” who has “been through more than any woman should have to bear, everything public.”

But last night did he actually add to that public burden and call Clinton a lying “devil” who “has tremendous hate in her heart” to boot?

When the moderator Anderson Cooper said to Trump, “You described kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” did Trump actually respond: “No, I didn’t say that at all. I don’t think you understood what was — this was locker room talk”?

Did Trump essentially say that he didn’t actually say the things we all heard him say? Did he actually try to deflect and normalize sexual predation as ubiquitous jocular language intrinsic to maleness itself? Does he not actually realize that this is precisely how rape culture is maintained and perpetuated — through normalization? Does he not register that that answer should scare the daylights out of every woman and shame every man who knows full well how aberrant and not at all normal those comments were?

Furthermore, did Trump actually suggest that as president he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his political opponent and would jail her?

Did Trump actually suggest that he indeed had not paid federal income taxes for many years, as many had speculated, because of a $916 million loss he reported in 1995? And then, did he actually try to pin his not paying taxes on Clinton, saying:

“A lot of my write-off was depreciation and other things that Hillary as a senator allowed. And she’ll always allow it, because the people that give her all this money, they want it. That’s why.”

Did Donald Trump actually throw his running mate Mike Pence under the bus on live television?

The moderator Martha Raddatz asked the candidate what he would do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, and said to Trump:

“I want to remind you what your running mate said. He said provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength and that if Russia continues to be involved in airstrikes along with the Syrian government forces of Assad, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike the military targets of the Assad regime.”

Did Trump actually say: “O.K. He and I haven’t spoken, and I disagree. I disagree.”

Did Raddatz have to respond with what many were thinking: “You disagree with your running mate?”

Throughout the debate, did Trump actually use his physicality as a tall, rotund man to menace Clinton as he stalked and prowled about the stage like an agitated animal, grimacing and sniffing, glowering over her back and getting uncomfortably close when she was answering questions, seemingly trying to unnerve and intimidate his female opponent?

I was gobsmacked at the whole spectacle and incredulous as to whether I was actually hearing and seeing what I was hearing and seeing. Could this really be happening, or was I losing my mind?

Yes, all of that happened, Charles. You are not crazy. Trump’s performance, however, was.

Forget all the post-debate “it was a draw” foolishness you may have watched and read. It wasn’t. Though Trump stood tall, last night his campaign continued to crumble. Indeed, an admittedly Democrat-heavy CNN/ORC poll of debate watchers showed a clear victory for Clinton, with 57 percent saying Clinton won, as opposed to 34 percent for Trump, although most said Trump exceeded expectations.

We have to stop grading this man on a curve, against abysmal expectations. The curve is how he has been allowed to bend the truth, to bend decency, to bend decorum, to bend America’s moral fiber.

I try not to give predictions, but if I had to give one after this week, with that lascivious tape and this bizarre debate, this would be it: Trump is toast.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

As many people are pointing out, Republicans now trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump need to explain why The Tape was a breaking point, when so many previous incidents weren’t. On Saturday, explaining why he was withdrawing his endorsement, Senator John McCain cited “comments on prisoners of war, the Khan Gold Star family, Judge Curiel and earlier inappropriate comments about women” — and that leaves out Mexicans as rapists, calls for a Muslim ban, and much more. So, Senator McCain, what took you so long?

One excuse we’re now hearing is that the new revelations are qualitatively different — that disrespect for women is one thing, but boasting about sexual assault brings it to another level. It’s a weak defense, since Mr. Trump has in effect been promising violence against minorities all along. His insistence last week that the Central Park Five, who were exonerated by DNA evidence, were guilty and should have been executed was even worse than The Tape, but drew hardly any denunciations from his party.

And even if you consider sexual predation somehow uniquely unacceptable, you have to ask where all these pearl-clutching Republicans were back in August, when Roger Ailes — freshly fired from Fox News over horrifying evidence that he used his position to force women into sexual relationships — joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser. Were there any protests at all from senior G.O.P. figures?

Of course, we know the answer: The latest scandal upset Republicans, when previous scandals didn’t, because the candidate’s campaign was already in free fall. You can even see it in the numbers: The probability of a House Republican jumping off the Trump train is strongly related to the Obama share of a district’s vote in 2012. That is, Republicans in competitive districts are outraged by Mr. Trump’s behavior; those in safe seats seem oddly indifferent.

Meanwhile, the Trump-Ailes axis of abuse raises another question: Is sexual predation by senior political figures — which Mr. Ailes certainly was, even if he pretended to be in the journalism business — a partisan phenomenon?

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about bad behavior in general, which occurs among politicians (and people) of all political leanings. Yes, Bill Clinton had affairs; but there’s a world of difference between consensual sex, however inappropriate, and abuse of power to force those less powerful to accept your urges. That’s infinitely worse — and it happens more than we’d like to think.

Take, for example, what we now know about what was happening politically in 2006, a year that Nate Cohn, The Times’s polling expert, suggests offers some lessons for this year. As Mr. Cohn points out, as late as September of that year it looked as if Republicans might retain control of Congress despite public revulsion at the Bush administration. But then came the Foley scandal: A member of Congress, Representative Mark Foley, had been sending sexually explicit messages to pages, and his party had failed to take any action despite warnings. As Mr. Cohn points out, the scandal seems to have broken the dam, and led to a Democratic wave.

But think about how much bigger that wave might have been if voters had known what we know now: that Dennis Hastert, who had been speaker of the House since 1999, himself had a long history of molesting teenage boys.

Why do all these stories involve Republicans? One answer may be structural. The G.O.P. is, or was until this election, a monolithic, hierarchical institution, in which powerful men could cover up their sins much better than they could in the far looser Democratic coalition.

There is also, I’d suggest, an underlying cynicism that pervades the Republican elite. We’re talking about a party that has long exploited white backlash to mobilize working-class voters, while enacting policies that actually hurt those voters but benefit the wealthy. Anyone participating in that scam — which is what it is — has to have the sense that politics is a sphere in which you can get away with a lot if you have the right connections. So in a way it’s not surprising if a disproportionate number of major players feel empowered to abuse their position.

Which brings us back to the man almost all senior Republicans were supporting for president until a day or two ago.

Assuming that Mr. Trump loses, many Republicans will try to pretend that he was a complete outlier, unrepresentative of the party. But he isn’t. He won the nomination fair and square, chosen by voters who had a pretty good idea of who he was. He had solid establishment support until very late in the game. And his vices are, dare we say, very much in line with his party’s recent tradition.

Mr. Trump, in other words, isn’t so much an anomaly as he is a pure distillation of his party’s modern essence.

Brooks and Krugman

October 7, 2016

Bobo has a question in “Intimacy for the Avoidant:”  What is phone addiction doing to friendship?  Instead of “gemli” from Boston let’s have “Sally Gschwend” from Uznach, Switzerland respond to Bobo’s question with one of her own:  “Has David Brooks switched over to pop psychology because he can’t bear to talk about his beloved GOP?”  Prof. Krugman, in “What About the Planet?,” also has a question:  Why is the media not raising climate change as part of the presidential race?  Probably because that would involve covering actual policy positions instead of a horse race.  Here’s Bobo:

Over the past generation there seems to have been a decline in the number of high-quality friendships.

In 1985, most Americans told pollsters that they had about three confidants, people with whom they could share everything. Today, the majority of people say they have about two. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.

All of this has left people wondering if technology is making us lonelier. Instead of going over to the neighbor’s house, are we sitting at home depressingly surfing everybody else’s perfect lives on Facebook?

Over the past decade, the best research has suggested that no, technology and social media are not making us lonelier. These things are tools. It’s what you bring to Facebook that matters. Socially engaged people use it to further engage; lonely people use it to mask loneliness.

As Stephen Marche put it in The Atlantic in 2012, “Using social media doesn’t create new social networks; it just transfers established networks from one platform to another.”

But recently, people’s views of social media have grown a bit darker. That’s because we seem to be hitting some sort of saturation level. Being online isn’t just something we do. It has become who we are, transforming the very nature of the self.

Earlier this year, Jacob Weisberg had a fine essay in The New York Review of Books reporting that, according to a British study, we check our phones on average 221 times a day — about every 4.3 minutes.

A decade ago almost no one had a smartphone. Now the average American spends five and half hours a day with digital media, and the young spend far more time. A study of female students at Baylor University found that they spent 10 hours a day on their phones.

A lot of this traffic is driven by the fear of missing out. Somebody may be posting something on Snapchat that you’d like to know about, so you’d better constantly be checking. The traffic is also driven by what the industry executives call “captology.” The apps generate small habitual behaviors, like swiping right or liking a post, that generate ephemeral dopamine bursts. Any second that you’re feeling bored, lonely or anxious, you feel this deep hunger to open an app and get that burst.

Last month, Andrew Sullivan published a moving and much-discussedessay in New York magazine titled “I Used to Be a Human Being” about what it’s like to have your soul hollowed by the web.

“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality,” Sullivan wrote, “we are diminishing the scope of [intimate] interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact. We remove or drastically filter all the information we might get by being with another person. We reduce them to some outlines — a Facebook ‘friend,’ an Instagram photo, a text message — in a controlled and sequestered world that exists largely free of the sudden eruptions or encumbrances of actual human interaction. We become each other’s ‘contacts,’ efficient shadows of ourselves.”

At saturation level, social media reduces the amount of time people spend in uninterrupted solitude, the time when people can excavate and process their internal states. It encourages social multitasking: You’re with the people you’re with, but you’re also monitoring the six billion other people who might be communicating something more interesting from far away. It flattens the range of emotional experiences.

As Louis C.K. put it in a TV appearance, “You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kinda satisfied with your products. And then you die.”

Perhaps phone addiction is making it harder to be the sort of person who is good at deep friendship. In lives that are already crowded and stressful, it’s easier to let banter crowd out emotional presence. There are a thousand ways online to divert with a joke or a happy face emoticon. You can have a day of happy touch points without any of the scary revelations, or the boring, awkward or uncontrollable moments that constitute actual intimacy.

When Montaigne was describing the accumulating intimacy he enjoyed with his best friend, he described an emotional interaction that was full and progressive: “It was not one special consideration, nor two, nor three, nor four, nor a thousand; it was some mysterious quintessence of all this mixture which possessed itself of my will and led it to plunge and lose itself in his; which possessed his whole will and led it, with a similar hunger, and a like impulse, to plunge and lose itself in mine.”

When we’re addicted to online life, every moment is fun and diverting, but the whole thing is profoundly unsatisfying. I guess a modern version of heroism is regaining control of social impulses, saying no to a thousand shallow contacts for the sake of a few daring plunges.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Our two major political parties are at odds on many issues, but nowhere is the gap bigger or more consequential than on climate.

If Hillary Clinton wins, she will move forward with the Obama administration’s combination of domestic clean-energy policies and international negotiation — a one-two punch that offers some hope of reining in greenhouse gas emissions before climate change turns into climate catastrophe.

If Donald Trump wins, the paranoid style in climate politics — the belief that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast international conspiracy of scientists — will become official doctrine, and catastrophe will become all but inevitable.

So why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? Why, in particular, does it almost seem as if there’s a rule against bringing it up in debates?

Before I get there, a brief summary of the policy divide.

It’s strange how little credit the Obama administration gets for its environmental policies.

Everyone has heard about how loan guarantees to one solar-energy company, Solyndra, went sour — at a cost, by the way, that amounted to only a bit more than half the amount Mr. Trump personally lost in just one year thanks to bad business decisions. Few people, by contrast, have heard about the green energy revolution that the administration’s loans and other policy support helped promote, with plunging prices and soaring consumption of solar and wind power.

Nor have many heard about the administration’s tightening of fuel efficiency standards, especially for trucks and buses, which in itself is one of the most significant environmental moves in decades.

And if Mrs. Clinton wins, it’s more or less certain that the biggest moves yet — the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate emissions from power plants, and the Paris climate agreement, which commits all of the world’s major economies to make significant emission cuts — will become reality.

Meanwhile, there’s Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has suggested that it was invented by China to hurt U.S. competitiveness. I wish I could say that this puts him outside the mainstream of his party, but it doesn’t.

So there is a huge, incredibly consequential divide on climate policy. Not only is there a vast gap between the parties and their candidates, but this gap arguably matters more for the future than any of their other disagreements. So why don’t we hear more about it?

I’m not saying that there has been no reporting on the partisan climate divide, but there has been nothing like, say, the drumbeat of stories about Mrs. Clinton’s email server. And it’s really stunning that in the three nationally televised forums we’ve had so far — the “commander inchief” forum involving Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, the first presidential debate and the vice-presidential debate — the moderators have asked not a single question about climate.

This was especially striking in Tuesday’s debate.

Somehow Elaine Quijano, the moderator, found time for not one but two questions inspired by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — an organization concerned that despite relatively low budget deficits now and extremely low borrowing costs, the federal government may face fiscal problems a couple of decades down the line. There may be something to this, although not as much as deficit scolds claim (and Ms. Quijano managed to suggest that Mrs. Clinton’s proposals, which are fully paid for, are no better than Mr. Trump’s multitrillion-dollar debt blowout).

But if we’re worried about the longer-term implications of current policies, the buildup of greenhouse gases is a much bigger deal than the accumulation of low-interest debt. It’s bizarre to talk about the latter but not the former.

And this blind spot matters a lot. Polling suggests that millennial voters, in particular, care a lot about environmental protection and renewable energy. But it also suggests that more than 40 percent of young voters believe that there is no difference between the candidates on these issues.

Yes, I know, people should be paying more attention — but this nonetheless tells us how easy it is for voters who rely on TV news or don’t read stories deep inside the paper to miss what should be a central issue in this campaign.

The good news is that there are still two debates to go, offering the opportunity to make some amends.

It’s time to end the blackout on climate change as an issue. It needs to be front and center — and questions must be accompanied by real-time fact-checking, not relegated to the limbo of he-said-she-said, because this is one of the issues where the truth often gets lost in a blizzard of lies.

There is, quite simply, no other issue this important, and letting it slide would be almost criminally irresponsible.

A small personal note — Hurricane Matthew is scheduled to visit Savannah tonight.  We’re likely to lose power, and during the last storm, which wasn’t as severe as Matthew some people in town were without power for almost 3 days.  If that happens I’ll do a post (or several posts) of what I missed when the lights were out.  Keep your fingers crossed for us, please.

Kristof and Collins

October 6, 2016

In “The Blot on Obama’s Legacy” Mr. Kristof wants us to listen to a 7-year-old girl in Syria.  Ms. Collins, in “Who’s Sorry Now? The Country” Ms. Collins says Clinton even leads Trump when it comes to apologies.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

Our excuse for failing to respond to mass atrocities used to be that we didn’t fully appreciate the horrors until it was too late. “If only we had known,” became one refrain, along with, “Never again!”

In Syria, we are deprived of that excuse: We have a daily window into war crimes. If you’re on Twitter, follow a 7-year-old girl in Aleppo, Bana al-Abed, @alabedbana, who with her mom’s help is tweeting the carnage around her.

One tweet shows a video clip of Bana looking out the window and plugging her ears as bombs drop. “I am very afraid I will die tonight,” she worried in imperfect English. “This bombs will kill me now.”

“This is my friend house bombed,” Bana tweeted with a photo. “She’s killed. I miss her so much.”

Her mother, Fatemah, an English teacher who has been teaching Bana English for several years, chimes in as well.

“Sleeping as you can hear the bombs fall,” Fatemah tweeted. “I will tweet tomorrow if we are alive.”

I interviewed Fatemah and Bana by email, which they access on a cellphone that they recharge with a solar panel. Bana’s school was destroyed by a bomb last year, and Fatemah said that they were surviving on pasta and rice that were now running out.

“Bana is very weak,” her mom told me.

Russia and Syria appear to be deliberately targeting civilians like Bana.The aim seems to be to bomb and starve civilians into exhaustion and submission, so that they flee or no longer support the opposition, or else support extremists regarded as better fighters. That would bolster the Syrian government narrative that the opposition consists of terrorists who must be fought.

For those of us who generally admire President Obama as a man of principle, it is wrenching to watch his paralysis. As I see it, Syria has been his worst mistake, a huge blot on his legacy.

We can’t be sure that more robust strategies advocated by Hillary Clinton, David Petraeus, John Kerry and others would have succeeded, but Obama’s approach has manifestly failed — and after five years, it should be time to reconsider strategy.

Some of you are thinking: This is horrific, but what can the West possibly do? In a previous column, I quoted a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Cartwright, about the “many things we can be doing now” in Syria. Charles Lister, author of a recent book on Syria, has written a detailed nine-page plan of action for the U.S. I’ve suggested cratering Syrian military runways with missiles fired from Turkey so that Syrian military aircraft can’t take off (Turkish officials have told me that they would go along with this).

Of course, we shouldn’t dispatch ground troops. But if we had cratered Syrian runways several years ago, as many suggested, the horrors of barrel bombing would have been reduced.

One sign that curbing Syrian bombing is feasible is that we’re already doing it. In August, the U.S. quietly imposed a de facto no-fly zone over parts of northern Syria where American advisers are located. I’m wary of military adventurism and opposed the Iraq war and the surge in Afghanistan, but I also note that in places from Kosovo to Kurdistan the military toolbox has saved lives. Obama himself conducted a military intervention on Mount Sinjar on the Iraq-Syria border that saved the lives of thousands of Yazidi.

The Syrian government has shown that it doesn’t respond to moral appeals but to credible threats of military force. In 2013, when Obama looked as if he might order airstrikes, Syria hurriedly agreed to give up chemical weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry has pleaded with the White House for more aggressive military measures precisely to make a cease-fire more achievable; instead, Obama undercut his secretary of state and denied him leverage.

As a senator, Obama used to complain to me and others that President George W. Bush was too passive about atrocities in Darfur. “I am strongly supportive of us doing what it takes to stop the slaughter that is taking place, and I think that no-fly zones have to be part of that formula,” Obama told me in 2006. He should listen to himself.

Look, cratering runways may not work. It’s easy for those of us on the sidelines to agitate; everything is always more complex than it seems. Except when it’s simpler: Bill Clinton says that his biggest foreign policy mistake was not stopping the Rwanda genocide.

Let’s have this discussion, and also acknowledge the risks of remaining passive. So far, Obama’s paralysis has been linked to the loss of perhapshalf a million lives in Syria, the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State, genocide against the Yazidi and Christians, the worst refugee crisis in more than 60 years and the rise of ultranationalist groups in Europe. Aleppo may fall, and lives like Bana’s hang in the balance.

If we don’t act after half a million deaths, will we after one million? After two million? When?

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally exhausted by the public’s obsession with the vice-presidential debate. Everywhere I go, people are babbling about Mike Pence and Tim Kaine! Who knew it would be so electric? The world can’t stop talking about Veep Vitriol.

O.K., I made that up. I’m sorry. Nobody is talking about the vice-presidential debate at all. This was really just a sneaky way to introduce the subject of apologies.

It came up in the debate, during an argument over who had the most “insult-driven campaign.” Pence saw an opening to mention that Hillary Clinton had once described half of Donald Trump’s followers as a racist, sexist, homophobic “basket of deplorables.” Kaine retorted that at least Clinton had apologized.

Which is true. Clinton said she regretted being “grossly generalistic, and that’s never a good idea.” It would have worked if she had not prefaced her original “deplorables” remark — made at a private fund-raising event — with, “To just be grossly generalistic …”

You can’t say you’re sorry for something you admitted was wrong when you were saying it. Clinton needs new material. A truly sincere apology would probably have been something along the lines of: “I deeply regret having said something at an off-the-record fund-raiser that I wouldn’t want taped and broadcast to the world. You’d think everybody would have learned that lesson by now.”

Still, certainly not the worst apology of the era. That might have been the time a radical rebel group in Syria put up a statement expressing regret for having beheaded the wrong person.

Also, possibly former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose’s ongoing attempt to apologize for his seamy past by selling balls on which he’d written “I’m sorry I bet on baseball” for $300 and up.

(Cincinnati still has a downtown street called Pete Rose Way, which illustrates the importance of not naming major pieces of infrastructure after people who are still alive. I always found it amusing until I ran across New York’s Donald J. Trump State Park.)

But about apologies: Other rules include not blaming the problem on the hearer (“I’m sorry if you guys were offended”). And not using your apology to repeat the original infraction. Perhaps you remember the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who apologized for making racist statements about Magic Johnson in an interview during which he told Anderson Cooper “some of the African-Americans, they don’t want to help anybody.”

We need a president who will know just the right thing to say if our drones accidentally hit somebody’s presidential palace, or the new ambassador to France gets drunk and demands to know why Parisians aren’t friendly. Clinton’s own apology record is mixed, although lately her comments on the emails have been sounding less like expressions of regret for having been caught.

On this point, like so very many in the current campaign, Clinton’s failings tend to vanish when compared with the behavior of her opponent. If you’re having an argument about who does an apology better, it’s not much of a contest when one of the two parties doesn’t seem to ever admit he was wrong about anything.

A Trumpian apology would be the thing he did recently in Washington, when he retracted years of birtherism by blurting out “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” Then trying to claim he had done the president a favor by pushing the matter so hard. Then blaming the whole thing on Hillary at the end of a promo for his new hotel.

People, we are being deprived of our God-given right to complain about both presidential candidates. Every time someone comes up with a Hillary flaw, someone else will do a comparison. Yeah, while Clinton was secretary of state the Clinton Foundation took money from foreign bigwigs to help fund its work with impoverished people overseas. But the other guy spent his charity’s money on a six-foot portrait of himself. Any more questions?

For Trump surrogates like Pence, the best response is to deny the original offense ever occurred. During the debate, Kaine pointed out that Trump had said women who seek an abortion should be punished. Hard to deny, given the fact that he made the comment on MSNBC. But Pence said Trump “would never support legislation” along that line.

And it’s true that hours after the MSNBC taping, the Trump campaign issued a statement saying he only wanted to punish doctors, and adding a comment from The Man himself: “My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.”

We have here the perfect encapsulation of the current Republican presidential campaign:

1) Trump says something very strange.

2) The campaign says he didn’t really say it.

3) Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan.

Pence, cornered by Kaine, finally blurted out, “Look, he’s not a polished politician like you and Hillary Clinton.”

Well, that would be one way of putting it.

Friedman and Bruni

October 5, 2016

In “Let’s Get Putin’s Attention” The Moustache of Wisdom tells us that the Russian leader’s rogue behavior threatens America and the E.U.  Mr. Bruni, in “Mike Pence’s Galling Amnesia,” says Donald Trump’s running mate made no apologies during a tense vice-presidential debate.  Here’s TMOW:

You may have missed this story, so I am repeating it as a public service:

MOSCOW, Special to The New York Times, Oct. 1 — A previously unheard-of group called Hackers for a Free Russia released a treasure trove of financial records online today indicating that President Vladimir Putin owns some $30 billion in property, hotels and factories across Russia and Europe, all disguised by front organizations and accounting charades.

The documents, which appear to be authentic, include detailed financial records and emails between Mr. Putin’s Kremlin office and a number of his Russian cronies and Swiss banks. They constitute the largest hack ever of Mr. Putin. Russian censors are scrambling to shut down Twitter inside the country and keep the emails out of Russian-language media.

At a news conference in Washington, C.I.A. Director John Brennan was asked if U.S. intelligence services had any hand in the cyberleak of what is being called “The Putin Files.” With a slight grin, Mr. Brennan said: “The U.S. government would never intervene in Russian politics, just as President Putin would never intervene in an American election. That would be wrong.” As Mr. Brennan left the podium, though, he burst out laughing.

No, you didn’t miss this story. I made it up. But isn’t it time there was such a story? Isn’t it time we gave Putin a dose of his own medicine — not for juvenile playground reasons and not to instigate a conflict but precisely to prevent one — to back Putin off from what is increasingly rogue behavior violating basic civilized norms and increasingly vital U.S. interests.

Putin “is at war with us, but we are not at war with him — both the U.S. and Germany are desperately trying to cling to a decent relationship,” remarked Josef Joffe, editor of Die Zeit, a weekly German newspaper and a leading strategic thinker in Europe. No one should want to start a shooting war between great powers “in the shadow of nuclear weapons,” Joffe told me.

But we also cannot just keep turning the other cheek. Putin’s behavior in Syria and Ukraine has entered the realm of war crimes, and his cyberattacks on the American political system threaten to undermine the legitimacy of our next election.

Just read the papers. Last week a Dutch-led investigation adduced irrefutable video evidence that Putin’s government not only trucked in the missile system used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 civilians onboard, but also returned it to Russia the same night and then engaged in an elaborate cover-up.

On Sept. 19, what U.S. intelligence officials say was almost certainly a Russian Su-24 warplane bombed a U.N. convoy in Syria carrying relief supplies for civilians. The Red Cross said at least 20 people were killed. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the bombing “savage and apparently deliberate.”

For a long time, Putin’s excesses were just a tragedy for the Russian people and for many people in Ukraine and Syria, so President Obama could plausibly argue that the right response was economic sanctions and troop buildups in Eastern Europe. But in the last nine months, something has changed.

Putin’s relentless efforts to crush both the democratic and Islamist opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria; his rejection of any real power-sharing solution there; and his joining with Assad in mercilessly bombing civilians in Aleppo are not only horrific in and of themselves, but they also keep pushing more refugees into the European Union. This is fostering an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe that is spawning right-wing nationalist parties and fracturing the E.U.

Meanwhile, Russia’s hacking of America’s Democratic Party — and signs that Russian or other cyberwarriors have tried to break into American state voter registration systems — suggests that Putin or other cyberdisrupters are trying to undermine the legitimacy of our next national election.

Together, these actions pose a threat to the two pillars of global democracy and open markets — America and the E.U. — more than anything coming from ISIS or Al Qaeda.

“The Soviet Union was a revolutionary state that sought a wholesale change in the international order,” observed Robert Litwak, director of security studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “Deterring Nuclear Terrorism.” Putin is ostensibly not seeking a revolution of the international order, Litwak added, but Putin’s departure from standard great-power competition — encouraging a flood of refugees and attacking thHe e legitimacy of our political system — “is leading to shifts in global politics that could have revolutionary consequences, even if Putin is not motivated by revolutionary ideology.”

Obama believed that a combination of pressure and engagement would moderate Putin’s behavior. That is the right approach, in theory, but it’s now clear that we have underestimated the pressure needed to produce effective engagement, and we’re going to have to step it up. This is not just about the politics of Syria and Ukraine anymore. It’s now also about America, Europe, basic civilized norms and the integrity of our democratic institutions.

He does love to rattle his sabers and swing his dick, doesn’t he?  Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Back when Mike Pence hosted a talk radio show in the 1990s, he described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”

For much of Tuesday night, he was like Forrest Gump on chamomile, squarely and steadily plodding forward, seldom tugged from his talking points and never particularly rattled. His expression was a sort of upbeat blur. His voice was a lulling drone.

It wasn’t exactly a vivid performance, but it was an eerily consistent one, and it answered the question of how a man who supposedly prides himself on his virtue defends a running mate who is often bereft of it. He sets his jaw. He slows his pulse. He practices a bemused chuckle, perfects deafness to anything he prefers not to hear and purges from his memory anything he doesn’t want to own.

That included the whole grotesque cornucopia of Donald Trump’s slurs and bad behavior, which Tim Kaine had studied up on exhaustively, knew by heart and kept throwing at Pence, pressing for the barest glimmer of shame or the slightest hint of apology. It was pointless — a point that Kaine himself made about an hour into this exercise in futility.

“Six times tonight, I have said to Governor Pence: I can’t imagine how you can defend your running mate’s position on one issue after the next,” Kaine said, his voice somewhat squeaky with frustration. “And in all six cases, he’s refused to defend his running mate, and yet he is asking everybody to vote for somebody that he cannot defend.”

That’s a fair enough summary of the vice-presidential debate, and it flagged what made the event so fascinating, which was Pence — specifically, the astonishing peace he has made with Trump and his wholehearted readiness to promote a man who should be so offensive to him.

In the face of Kaine’s incessant grilling, Pence blithely denied that Trump had made statements that he inarguably had, changed the subject to Hillary Clinton’s failings, mocked Kaine for being scripted and dismissed Kaine and Clinton as career politicians — ignoring the fact that he fits that description, too.

Substantively, it was galling. Strategically, it may well have worked. With his minimalist speaking style, Pence drew attention to Kaine’s maximalist salvos. Pence’s unflappability threw Kaine’s irritation and interruptions into relief.

One of Pence’s assignments was to counter Trump’s childish excitability with adult calm, which he did almost flawlessly. Another of his assignments was to make Trump palatable to wavering Americans by communicating that Trump was positively yummy to him. He aced that, too, meaning that he’s either a phenomenally talented actor or a master of self-deception.

I wrongly expected that the debate would be a letdown, especially after last week’s blistering matchup of Trump and Clinton. Following that face-off with this one was like chasing a Quentin Tarantino movie with a rerun of “Touched by an Angel” — or so I assumed.

But I was forgetting the devil in Pence and what an engrossing, depressing character study the Indiana governor has turned out to be. It’s hard to think of a vice-presidential candidate in modern history who has gone so far against his supposed nature and his proclaimed values in the service of his running mate.

He has always worn his religiousness conspicuously, even flamboyantly, introducing himself time and again as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

In 1991, after losing a race for the United States Congress in which he harshly attacked his opponent, he published an essay, “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he invoked Jesus and mentioned sin as he swore off such ugliness in the future.

“Negative campaigning is wrong,” he wrote, adding, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.”

The Trump campaign has demonstrated anything but, and yet Pence has repeatedly vouched for Trump, even as Trump savaged the Muslim parents of a soldier who died defending America, seemed to encourage Second Amendment enthusiasts to take aim at Clinton, pinned the birther conspiracy on her, and spent the days after his own debate — a disastrous one — lashing out at a former Miss Universe and tweeting about pornography.

On Tuesday night Pence rewarded Trump’s inane, insane antics with a debate performance that reflected fierce determination and precisely the kind of thorough preparation that Trump had skipped. Pence didn’t forget to bring up the Clinton Foundation. Or the “basket of deplorables,” a knife he twisted dexterously.

Never has he taken Trump to task or taken a stand for “basic human decency.” He seems to have reversed the order of those three adjectives in his identity. “Republican” now comes first and “Christian” last.

Maybe he’ll atone and make amends in another post-campaign “Confessions.” God knows he has plenty of material.