Collins, solo

September 17, 2016

In “Trump Makes His Birther Lie Worse” Ms. Collins says the most awful retraction in American history includes still another lie.  Here she is:

Wow. Donald Trump says President Obama was born here. What a concession. No wonder he’s trending up in the polls.

How did we get to this place, people? The big story of the day is that a candidate for president of the United States — a candidate who, according to The Times’s Upshot model, now has a one in four chanceof being elected — admits he spent years telling the American people a stupendous lie. And even now, he won’t say he’s sorry.

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,”Trump said abruptly and briefly on Friday. This was at his new Washington hotel, which he has been promoting with an avidity he has never devoted to, say, getting his immigration policy straight.

Then Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton had been first to spread the rumor that Obama was not a native-born citizen. This is a lie. A lie that all the fact checkers in the world debunked when he started saying it long ago.

People, I know some of you get very frustrated that news coverage of this election does not begin every day with: “In yet another total falsehood, Donald Trump …” This is your moment.

The Day of the Double Falsehood is a very clear, very dramatic example of Trump’s tendency to, um, speak fictionally. He was just a real estate guy with a cheesy TV show until 2011, when he sort of ran for president, in a bid that focused almost entirely on his claims that Barack Obama had come from Kenya.

“Three weeks ago I thought he was born in this country. Right now I have some real doubts. I have people that actually have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” he told an NBC interviewer.

We never did learn what they found. But Trump has continued to get some of his most startling information from “people.” During the primary season in New Hampshire, a man at a Trump town hall gathering got up to claim Obama was a Muslim and “not even an American.” Strong candidates tell guys like this they’re wrong. Weak candidates ignore them. Trump responded, “You know, a lot of people are saying that. …”

None of the outrageous things he says are his fault. You got a complaint, take it to the people.

Trump’s campaign wanted the birther issue to be made to go away. First, running mate Mike Pence said hebelieved Obama was a natural-born American citizen.

“I confirm that and Donald Trump now confirms that,” First Pal Rudy Giuliani told another interviewer. Trump had changed his mind, Giuliani claimed, two or three years ago. That would have been around the time he was tweeting: “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

Moving the candidate himself was obviously a harder job. When The Washington Post asked him this week if he’d changed his mind, Trump said, “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

I’ve always said that women won’t vote for a candidate who yells because he’ll remind them of a bad boyfriend. This is the behavior of the nightmare date from hell. Who tells you exciting stories over drinks, all of which are clearly untrue, and then gets sullen and refuses to talk when you ask a couple of questions.

Trump’s people were forced to come up with an unwinding scenario that did not require the candidate to admit he’d ever done anything wrong. So they sent out a press release announcing that Trump was the hero of the story — the man who stamped out the birther rumor, which was started by Hillary Clinton’s “vicious and conniving behavior.”Trump’s demands for the truth had forced Obama to release the long-form version of his Hawaii birth certificate while “Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer.”

“Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” the campaign’s statement concluded.

Even the most creative minds in the press office could not come up with any explanation for why it took Trump five years to acknowledge what the birth certificate proved. Asked about that, Pence said, disjointedly and desperately, that his running mate’s record on behalf of the African-American community “really speaks for itself.”

What we have here is a candidate for president of the United States who makes stuff up all the time, but is either incapable of realizing that he’s telling a lie, or constitutionally unable to take blame for being untruthful.

Yet, according to the polls, Hillary Clinton’s biggest problem is that the public thinks she’s dishonest. Amazing.

And terrifying.  This whole fustercluck may go all pear-shaped and we may wind up with the short fingered vulgarian in the White House.

Brooks and Krugman

September 16, 2016

Bobo has decided to school us on “The Uses of Patriotism.”  He says he’s trying to explain to high school athletes why pulling a Kaepernick is counterproductive.  In the comments “squiggles macgillicuddy” from Silver Spring had this to say:  “Now if you could explain to the young men who take a knee rather than stand up and sing the national anthem how, exactly, putting your hand over your heart and standing will fix the roads, bring jobs back to the inner cities, change the mind of the policeman about to fire, make education, healthcare, housing affordable and make the justice system such that a young black kid who shoplifts a candy bar and gets 3 years in Rikers while a white banking executive gets a big, fat bonus for money laundering billions then maybe you can persuade them that it has any real meaning and not as Samual Johnson tells us “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel””  In “Obama’s Trickle-Up Economics” Prof. Krugman says new statistics show that government can raise the quality of life for ordinary families without hurting the economy.  Here’s Bobo:

This column is directed at all the high school football players around the country who are pulling a Kaepernick — kneeling during their pregame national anthems to protest systemic racism. I’m going to try to persuade you that what you’re doing is extremely counterproductive.

When Europeans first settled this continent they had two big thoughts. The first was that God had called them to create a good and just society on this continent. The second was that they were screwing it up.

The early settlers put intense moral pressure on themselves. They filled the air with angry jeremiads about how badly things were going and how much they needed to change.

This harsh self-criticism was the mainstream voice that defined American civilization. As the historian Perry Miller wrote, “Under the guise of this mounting wail of sinfulness, this incessant and never successful cry for repentance, the Puritans launched themselves upon the process of Americanization.”

By 1776, this fusion of radical hope and radical self-criticism had become the country’s civic religion. This civic religion was based on a moral premise — that all men are created equal — and pointed toward a vision of a promised land — a place where your family or country of origin would have no bearing on your opportunities.

Over the centuries this civic religion fired a fervent desire for change. Every significant American reform movement was shaped by it. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “If ever I feel the soul within me elevate and expand to those dimensions not entirely unworthy of its almighty Architect, it is when I contemplate the cause of my country.”

Martin Luther King Jr. sang the national anthem before his “I Have a Dream” speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it.

This American creed gave people a sense of purpose and a high ideal to live up to. It bonded them together. Whatever their other identities — Irish-American, Jewish American, African-American — they were still part of the same story.

Over the years, America’s civic religion was nurtured the way all religions are nurtured: by sharing moments of reverence. Americans performed the same rituals on Thanksgiving and July 4; they sang the national anthem and said the Pledge in unison; they listened to the same speeches on national occasions and argued out the great controversies of our history.

All of this evangelizing had a big effect. As late as 2003, Americans were the most patriotic people on earth, according to the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.

Recently, the civic religion has been under assault. Many schools no longer teach American history, so students never learn the facts and tenets of their creed. A globalist mentality teaches students they are citizens of the world rather than citizens of America.

Critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen, arguing that the American reality is so far from the American creed as to negate the value of the whole thing. The multiculturalist mind-set values racial, gender and ethnic identities and regards national identities as reactionary and exclusive.

There’s been a sharp decline in American patriotism. Today, only 52 percent of Americans are “extremely proud” of their country, a historical low. Among those 18 to 29, only 34 percent are extremely proud. Americans know less about their history and creed and are less likely to be fervent believers in it.

Sitting out the anthem takes place in the context of looming post-nationalism. When we sing the national anthem, we’re not commenting on the state of America. We’re fortifying our foundational creed. We’re expressing gratitude for our ancestors and what they left us. We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.

If we don’t transmit that creed through shared displays of reverence we will have lost the idea system that has always motivated reform. We will lose the sense that we’re all in this together. We’ll lose the sense of shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives.

If these common rituals are insulted, other people won’t be motivated to right your injustices because they’ll be less likely to feel that you are part of their story. People will become strangers to one another and will interact in cold instrumentalist terms.

You will strengthen Donald Trump’s ethnic nationalism, which erects barriers between Americans and which is the dark opposite of America’s traditional universal nationalism.

I hear you when you say you are unhappy with the way things are going in America. But the answer to what’s wrong in America is America — the aspirations passed down generation after generation and sung in unison week by week.

We have a crisis of solidarity. That makes it hard to solve every other problem we have. When you stand and sing the national anthem, you are building a little solidarity, and you’re singing a radical song about a radical place.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Only serious nerds like me eagerly await the annual Census Bureau reports on income, poverty and health insurance. But the just-released reports on 2015 justified the anticipation.

We expected good news; but last year, it turns out, the economy partied like it was 1999. And this tells us something very important — namely, that a government that wants to can make American society more equitable, improving the quality of life for ordinary families.

The reports showed strong progress on three fronts: rapid growth in the incomes of ordinary families — median income rose a remarkable 5.2 percent; a substantial decline in the poverty rate; and a significant further rise in health insurance coverage after 2014’s gains. It was a trifecta that we haven’t hit since, yes, 1999.

It’s true that the surge in median income comes after years of disappointment, and even now the typical family’s income, adjusted for inflation, is slightly lower than it was before the financial crisis. But the percentage of Americans without health insurance is now at a record low. And the overall performance of the Obama economy has given the lie to much of the criticism leveled at President Obama’s policies.

Think back to the 2012 election campaign. There were already signs of the conspiracy-theory, bigotry-driven politics of this year’s election; Donald Trump was loudly proclaiming that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was fake, and Mitt Romney eagerly accepted Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

But there was also something of a policy debate. Republicans accused Mr. Obama of being a “redistributionist,” taking money away from “job creators” to give free stuff to the 47 percent. And they claimed that these socialistic policies were destroying incentives and blocking economic recovery.

There was, in fact, a grain of truth in the first part of this accusation. Mr. Obama is no socialist, but since his re-election he has presided over a significant rise in taxes on high incomes. In fact, the top one percent is now paying about the same share of its income in federal taxes as it did in 1979, before Ronald Reagan began the era of big tax cuts for the rich. And some of the increased tax take is being used to subsidize health insurance for middle- and lower-income families.

Conservatives predicted disaster from these initiatives. Tax hikes on the rich, they insisted, would stall the economy. Obamacare’s combination of regulation and subsidies, they declared, would kill millions of jobs without increasing the number of Americans with insurance.

What happened instead after Mr. Obama was re-elected was the best job growth since the 1990s. But family incomes, at least as estimated by the Census, continued to lag. So there was still some statistical basis for the right’s Obama-bashing. Now that statistical basis is gone.

You might ask whether these numbers reflect reality. It’s often claimed that Americans aren’t feeling any economic recovery — and if anyone were to ask Mr. Trump, he would no doubt claim that the Census numbers, like every number he doesn’t like, are cooked.

But be wary of polling on this issue. When Americans are asked how the economy is doing, many of them just repeat what they think they heard on Fox News: By large margins, Republicans say that unemployment is up and the stock market is down under Mr. Obama, the opposite of the truth. On the other hand, when you ask people how well they personally are doing, the Obama years have been marked by large improvements — a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who see themselves as thriving.

So the good news is real. And it should (but won’t) finally break the grip of trickle-down ideology on much of our political class.

You know how the argument goes: Any attempt to help working families directly, we’re told, will backfire by hurting the economy as a whole. So we must cut taxes on those “job creators” instead, counting on a rising tide to raise all boats.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the Obama administration has done the reverse, but there definitely was an element of trickle-up economics in its response to the Great Recession: Much of the stimulus involved expanding the social safety net, not just to protect the vulnerable, but to increase purchasing power and sustain demand. And in general Obama-era policies have tried to help families directly, rather than by showering benefits on the rich and hoping that the benefits trickle down.

Now the results of this policy experiment are in, and they’re not bad. They could have been better: The stimulus should have been bigger and more sustained, and Republican opposition hamstrung the administration’s economic policy after the first two years. Still, progressive policies have worked, and the critics of those policies have been proved wrong.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

September 15, 2016

In “Trump’s ‘Deplorable’ Deflections” Mr. Blow says his entire campaign is engaged in an elaborate ruse — accusing his opponent of the very things of which he is guilty.  Mr. Blow, that’s typical Republican behavior — it’s all projection all the time.  Mr. Kristof ponders “When a Crackpot Runs for President” and says journalistic efforts at fairness may risk normalizing Donald Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is.  But, but, but…  It’s a horse race, and both sides do it…  Ms. Collins has a question:  “Trump Talks, but Can He Tango?”  She says maybe he’ll end up on “Dancing With the Stars,” which seems to be a place to find redemption.  Well, I wonder if even DWTS would stoop that low.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

In August 2015, The New York Daily News published an exclusive report on a 1991 letter that Donald Trump wrote to the chairman of the State Assembly’s Committee on Cities, complaining about disabled veterans vending their wares on Fifth Avenue, home of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

A New York State law dating from 1894 “allowed disabled veterans to work as sidewalk peddlers in New York City regardless of municipal rules,” as The New York Times wrote in 1991.

But Trump was not empathetic to these wounded warriors’ plight, at least not on Fifth Avenue. He saw them and their vending as an eyesore.

The Daily Beast published its own report on Trump’s efforts to get the veterans booted from this tony part of Manhattan, quoting Trump’s letter as reading:

“While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its taxpaying citizens and businesses?”

He continued, according to The Daily Beast, “Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?”

The Daily Beast said that Trump renewed his calls in a 2004 letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, writing, “Whether they are veterans or not, they [the vendors] should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.”

And in that letter, what did Trump call the situation with the injured veterans simply trying to make a living vending on his Fifth Avenue?

That’s right: “very deplorable.”

This should come as no surprise from a man who belittled the heroism of Senator John McCain, himself a wounded warrior, or who attacked a Gold Star family whose son was killed in Iraq.

But it does point to the staggering, unabashed hypocrisy of the man and the degree to which his entire campaign is engaged in an elaborate ruse of deflection — accusing his opponent of the very things of which he is guilty.

So please spare me your faux outrage about Hillary Clinton’s accurate comments that many of the people supporting Trump are deplorable. Your emperor has no clothes.

That’s why it’s so outlandish to have Trump — a man who seems to have never apologized for anything! — demanding an apology from Hillary Clinton for calling his supporters “deplorable” when he has called the situation of a class of the most honorable Americans, those who put their bodies on the line for our freedoms, “deplorable.”

This is by no means confined to the “deplorable” issue.

Trump has called Clinton “a world-class liar,” but there is no bigger liar than Trump himself — just look at PolitiFact. The man is pathological.

Trump attacks Clinton for a lack of transparency, but this is the same man who has yet to release his tax returns, something every major party nominee in modern American politics has done. And he is telling a flat-out lie about why he can’t do it.

Trump calls Clinton “crooked,” but this is the same man who — along with his businesses — has been sued more than 1,300 times.

This is the same man who is at this moment the subject of three class-action lawsuits over the sham that was Trump University — two cases in California and one in New York.

Trump calls the Clinton Foundation the “most corrupt enterprise in political history,” but this is a man who donated $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

This is a man whose own foundation, the Trump Foundation, has recently been accused in news reports of breaking the law by being used essentially as a political slush fund.

In fact, the New York attorney general has opened an inquiry into the Trump Foundation and its operations following those news reports.

Trump clearly understands that in politics, it is far better to be on offense than defense, but his offense is ultimately offensive because he is pointing out a perceived — or even concocted — flaw in another person to distract from the very same flaw in himself.

You might call the strategy masterly if it were not also maleficent, if the future of the country were not on the line, and if this country’s standing in the world were not on the line.

It cannot be said often or loudly enough: Donald Trump is the worst kind of person who brings out the worst in other people. His sinister sleight of hand is that he attempts to make those who call out his nefariousness the purveyors of enmity.

I see straight through that smoke and those mirrors and right to the darkness at the center. It cannot run. It cannot disguise itself. This light will shine on it until it withers.

From your lips to God’s ear, Mr. Blow.  Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

One of the mental traps that we all fall into, journalists included, is to perceive politics through narratives.

President Gerald Ford had been a star football player, yet somehow we in the media developed a narrative of him as a klutz — so that every time he stumbled, a clip was on the evening news. Likewise, we in the media wrongly portrayed President Jimmy Carter as a bumbling lightweight, even as he tackled the toughest challenges, from recognizing China to returning the Panama Canal.

Then in 2000, we painted Al Gore as inauthentic and having a penchant for self-aggrandizing exaggerations, and the most memorable element of the presidential debates that year became not George W. Bush’s misstatements but Gore’s dramatic sighs.

I bring up this checkered track record because I wonder if once again our collective reporting isn’t fueling misperceptions.

A CNN/ORC poll this month found that by a margin of 15 percentage points, voters thought Donald Trump was “more honest and trustworthy” than Hillary Clinton. Let’s be frank: This public perception is completely at odds with all evidence.

On the PolitiFact website, 13 percent of Clinton’s statements that were checked were rated “false” or “pants on fire,” compared with 53 percent of Trump’s. Conversely, half of Clinton’s are rated “true” or “mostly true” compared to 15 percent of Trump statements.

Clearly, Clinton shades the truth — yet there’s no comparison with Trump.

I’m not sure that journalism bears responsibility, but this does raise the thorny issue of false equivalence, which has been hotly debated among journalists this campaign. Here’s the question: Is it journalistic malpractice to quote each side and leave it to readers to reach their own conclusions, even if one side seems to fabricate facts or make ludicrous comments?

President Obama weighed in this week, saying that “we can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.”

I’m wary of grand conclusions about false equivalence from 30,000 feet. But at the grass roots of a campaign, I think we can do better at signaling that one side is a clown.

There are crackpots who believe that the earth is flat, and they don’t deserve to be quoted without explaining that this is an, er, outlying view, and the same goes for a crackpot who has argued that climate change is a Chinese-made hoax, who has called for barring Muslims and who has said that he will build a border wall and that Mexico will pay for it.

We owe it to our readers to signal when we’re writing about a crackpot. Even if he’s a presidential candidate. No, especially when he’s a presidential candidate.

There frankly has been a degree of unreality to some of the campaign discussion: Partly because Hillary Clinton’s narrative is one of a slippery, dishonest candidate, the discussion disproportionately revolves around that theme. Yes, Clinton has been disingenuous and legalistic in her explanations of emails. Meanwhile, Trump is a mythomaniac who appears to have systematically cheated customers of Trump University.

Clinton’s finances are a minefield, which we know because she has released 39 years of tax returns; Trump would be the first major party nominee since Gerald Ford not to release his tax return (even Ford released a tax summary). And every serious analyst knows that Trump is telling a whopper when he gleefully promises to build a $25 billion wall that Mexico will pay for.

Then there’s the question of foundations. Yes, Clinton created conflicts of interest with the family foundation and didn’t fully disclose donors as promised. But the Trump Foundation flat out broke the law by making a political contribution.

It’s also worth avoiding moral equivalence about the work of the two foundations: The Clinton Foundation saves lives around the world from AIDS and malnutrition, while the Trump Foundation used its resources to buy — yes! — a large painting of Trump, as a gift for Trump (that may violate I.R.S. rules as well).

The latest dust-up has been health care. Neither candidate has been very open about health, but Clinton has produced much more detailed medical records than Trump, and an actuarial firm told The Washington Post Fact Checker that Clinton has a 5.9 percent chance of dying by the end of a second term in office, while Trump would have a 8.4 percent chance.

So I wonder if journalistic efforts at fairness don’t risk normalizing Trump, without fully acknowledging what an abnormal candidate he is. Historically we in the news media have sometimes fallen into the traps of glib narratives or false equivalencies, and we should try hard to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

We should be guard dogs, not lap dogs, and when the public sees Trump as more honest than Clinton, something has gone wrong.

For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. And somehow that is what our barks need to convey.

Well, Nick, it’s now most likely a situation of “way too little, and WAAAY to late.”  But perhaps you could have a wee chat with TPTB at the Times about their coverage…  And now here’s Ms. Collins:

Thoughts while watching Rick Perry do the cha-cha on “Dancing With the Stars”:

“My name is Rick Perry and I’m the governor of the great state of Texas. I am — I’m not the governor of the great state of Texas. That’s not right. I’m the former governor,” he said in a taped introduction.

Yes! It was definitely Rick Perry. The man who gave the nation the “oops” presidential debate was back, dancing on a map of Texas, to a song about Texas, which was sung by the group Little Texas. There was a theme there somewhere.

Do you think Barack Obama was watching? The president hasn’t mentioned “Dancing With the Stars” recently. But he’s been beseeching the country not to confuse low-rent entertainment with high-end politics. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality TV show,” he said this week while campaigning for the ailing Hillary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump responds to requests for the release of his medical records by taping an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show.”

Trump is, of course, the ultimate example of reality TV as a political version of the circle of life. Does anyone believe that he’d be the Republican presidential nominee if he hadn’t put in all those years on “Celebrity Apprentice”? In days of yore politicians made their TV mark on “Meet the Press.” Soon, they’re going to be announcing their candidacy for the U.S. Senate on “Big Brother.”

And maybe, if we’re very, very lucky, we’ll hear in another few years that Donald Trump, former presidential candidate, will be doing a clog dance on next season’s “America’s Got Talent.” Or cooking tacos on “Top Chef.” Or demonstrating how he can circle the globe in “The Amazing Race” while still flying home every night to sleep in his own bed.

Perry says he’s dancing on TV as a way to draw attention to veterans’ issues. Right now it’s sort of stylish to pin everything on the poor vets. Remember when Trump dodged a primary debate by announcing he needed the time to raise money for needy ex-servicemen and women?

The one gold star Hillary Clinton deserves this week is for not claiming that her near-faint at the 9/11 ceremony was the result of thinking about our armed forces overseas.

“Dancing With the Stars” has great potential as a kind of high-ratings hostel for failed officeholders. Perry isn’t the first to try to use it as a way to elbow back into the public eye. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — of Texas! — was on the show in 2009, and few people who tuned in will ever forget his choreographic interpretation of “Wild Thing.” Sadly, he was forced to drop out of the competition with a stress fracture to the foot, and returned to the more traditional political retirement occupations of lobbying and beating a money-laundering indictment.

DeLay did seem to feel he got a kind of redemption from the show. “When I walk through airports today, more people recognize me from ‘Dancing With the Stars’ than being the former majority leader,” he said.

This is undoubtedly true. Ex-politicians who do commercials for home equity loans probably also get more attention in airports than they did when they were in office. Nobody could possibly be surprised that DeLay got more celebrity from waltzing in an outfit lined with leopard skin than he did from running the House of Representatives.

The great attraction of reality TV is its message of redemption. Everybody gets a second/third/fourth chance. You might be voted off the island today, but there’s going to be a twist during the sweeps ratings period, and whoever can eat the most boiled otter in three minutes will be back in the game.

A great many contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” seem to be washed-up child actors in search of a comeback. Also, there’s Ryan Lochte, the semi-disgraced Olympic swimmer, whose dancing debut was marred when two men rushed him onstage, apparently still irritated about that incident with the Brazilian police. Lochte said his feelings were hurt, but he will definitely return to fox trot again.

Perry began his performance with a trip to an onstage corn-dog stand — probably a tribute to the Iowa State Fair, where he was mobbed in 2011 as the Republican primary front-runner and totally ignored when he tried to do it again last year. Still, he looked extremely cheerful. A cynic might say he was the most charming ex-governor ever to have vetoed a bill that would have ended the death penalty for the mentally retarded.

However, he scored last during the initial round. First he loses to Donald Trump. Then he comes in behind Vanilla Ice. Well, there’s always next week.

And the week after — where do you think he’ll show up next? The prospects for the 2020 primary season are pretty dim. Rodeo? Professional poker? I hear there’s a Toe Wrestling Championship.

Does he bake?  There’s always “Cupcake Wars” for him to consider…

Krugman’s blog, 9/13/16

September 14, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Why Are The Media Objectively Pro-Trump?”:

Because they are, at this point. It’s not even false equivalence: compare the amount of attention given to the Clinton Foundation despite absence of any evidence of wrongdoing, and attention given to Trump Foundation, which engaged in more or less open bribery — but barely made a dent in news coverage. Clinton was harassed endlessly over failure to give press conferences, even though she was doing lots of interviews; Trump violated decades of tradition by refusing to release his taxes, amid strong suspicion that he is hiding something; the press simply dropped the subject.

Brian Beutler argues that it’s about protecting the media’s own concerns, namely access. But I don’t think that works. It doesn’t explain why the Clinton emails were a never-ending story but the disappearance of millions of George W. Bush emails wasn’t, or for that matter Jeb Bush’s deletion of records; the revelation that Colin Powell did, indeed, offer HRC advice on how to have private email the way he did hasn’t even been reported by some major news organizations.

And I don’t see how the huffing and puffing about the foundation — which “raised questions”, but where the media were completely unwilling to accept the answers they found — fits into this at all.

No, it’s something special about Clinton Rules. I don’t really understand it. But it has the feeling of a high school clique bullying a nerdy classmate because it’s the cool thing to do.

And as I feared, it looks as if people who cried wolf about non-scandals are now engaged in an all-out effort to dig up or invent dirt to justify their previous Clinton hostility.

Hard to believe that such pettiness could have horrifying consequences. But I am very scared.

Friedman and Bruni

September 14, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom, in “Donald Trump’s Putin Crush,” says Trump doesn’t let reality, including the harm the Russian leader has brought to his own people, get in the way of his post-truth politics.  Mr. Bruni considers “Hillary Clinton’s Sick Days” and has a question:  How are her coughing fits more alarming than Donald Trump’s hissy fits?  Here’s TMOW:

When it comes to rebutting Donald Trump’s idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader — “far more than our president has been a leader” — it is hard to top the assessment of Russian-born Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, which The Times’s Andrew Higgins quoted in his story from Moscow: “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal K.G.B. dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”

Indeed, Kasparov’s point cuts to the core of what is so scary about a Trump presidency: Trump is what The Economist has called “the leading exponent of ‘post-truth’ politics — a reliance on assertions that ‘feel true’ but have no basis in fact,” and, sadly, “his brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” When politics becomes “like pro-wrestling,” society pays a huge cost, The Economist added, because any complex explanation of any problem is dismissed as experts just trying “to bamboozle everyone else.”

So Trump just skips from blaming Mexican immigrants for high murder rates, to President Obama for inventing ISIS, to China for creating the concept of global warming, to thousands of Muslims in New Jersey for celebrating 9/11, to Obama for really having been born in Kenya, to an I.R.S. audit for preventing him from showing us his tax returns — which would probably show that he paid no taxes.

Every word of it is a lie that most in his own party won’t call out. Can you imagine the damage Trump could do to the fabric of our democracy if he had the White House pulpit from which to preach his post-truth politics — how it would filter down into public discourse at large and infect every policy debate?

“Donald Trump has not only brought haters into the mainstream, he has normalized hate for a much broader swathe of the population who were perhaps already disaffected but had their grievances and latent prejudices held in check by social norms,” observed Josh Marshall, publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com, in his blog on Saturday. “This isn’t some minor point or critique. It’s a fundamental part of what is at stake in this election, what makes it different from Obama v. Romney. … This election has become a battle to combat the moral and civic cancer Trump has [been] injecting into the body politic.”

Think about the ridiculous trope Trump has been peddling, that if only Obama were as “strong” as Putin. Well, if he were, here are some of the benefits America would enjoy:

A 2015 report in The Moscow Times noted that “life expectancy in Russia has been growing several times slower than in the rest of the world for the past 20 years, according to a research by the U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.” That coincides almost exactly with Putin’s leadership of the country. The article explained, “During the period of 1990-2013 [life expectancy] only grew by 1.8 years in Russia, while the global average number increased by 6.2 years, pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position — between Iraq and North Korea.”

Why don’t we have a leader strong enough to slow gains in the life expectancy of an entire nation?

An investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency released last summer found that Putin’s Russia was operating a state-sponsored doping scheme for four years across the “vast majority” of Summer and Winter Olympic sports. According to a July 18, 2016, BBC report on the investigation, “Russia’s sports ministry ‘directed, controlled and oversaw’ manipulation of urine samples provided by its athletes.” Scores of Russian athletes were barred from the Rio Olympics as a result.

I get it: A weak president doesn’t dare tamper with his Olympic athletes. A strong president dopes up his Summer and Winter Olympic teams for multiple Games.

Since Putin invaded Ukraine to shore up his faltering domestic popularity, and then got hit with Western economic sanctions, the dollar-ruble exchange rate has gone from around 36 rubles to the dollar to 65 rubles to the dollar. Russia’s economic growth fell 3.7 percent in 2015, and the I.M.F. predicts it will fall 1 percent in 2016. Inflation in Russia doubled to 15.4 percent in 2015, compared with 7.8 percent in 2014. A World Bank report quoted by the BBC in April said “the number of Russians living below the poverty line will grow at its fastest pace in more than 17 years in 2016.”

It takes a strong leader to shrink his currency by 50 percent, double inflation and vastly accelerate poverty in just two years. A weak leader could never do that.

Putin is a leader who is always looking for dignity in all the wrong places — by investing in bullying wars, not in his own people; by jailing and likely poisoning his opponents; and by being so insecure that he just shut Russia’s last independent polling firm after it indicated that many Russians may not vote in the coming parliamentary elections because, among other things, they think they’re “rigged.”

This is the man Donald Trump admires more than our own president.

And now here’s Mr. Bruni:

Before we delve any further into the coughs heard round the world and the swoon that changed history, some perspective:

Running for president isn’t hard. It’s brutal. The oddity isn’t that one of the candidates would succumb to illness and be forced off the trail for a few days. The oddity is that all of the candidates don’t drop like flies.

What we ask of them is less preparation than mortification, physical as well as psychological. Between formal speeches and informal rallies and briefings and fund-raisers and long flights and short bus rides and coffee-shop huddles and state-fairground scrums, they endure 20-hour days in which they cram in twice that many hours of work. They’re miracles of perseverance, so much so that a certain 68-year-old Democratic nominee can get a pneumonia diagnosis and deliver a big (if cloddishly rendered) speech at a fund-raiser that same night.

Their stamina isn’t at issue, just their sanity.

We haven’t learned anything new about Hillary Clinton’s penchant for secrecy. We’ve had it confirmed — for the millionth time. Her self-protection is a perverse form of self-destruction. It’s borderline pathological. But it’s something that most voters accepted or rejected somewhere along the quarter-century timeline from Travelgate to her emails. A roadside crumpling and a round of antibiotics aren’t going to change that.

Her lack of transparency might well be disqualifying if her opponent were the political equivalent of freshly Windexed glass. Her opponent is the political equivalent of a thickly armored car.

Donald Trump won’t show us his taxes. He won’t illuminate his philanthropic activity or the workings of his charity, which, according to David Fahrenthold’s terrific reporting in The Washington Post, operates in a bizarrely self-aggrandizing fashion.

He’s promising more detailed health information and a sit-down with Dr. Oz, who is Trump with a stethoscope, approaching matters of great seriousness with great silliness. (Next up: Judge Judy hears the Trump University lawsuit.)

But what Trump presented previously — a few gushing sentences from a physician who later admitted to ginning them up on the fly — was a Valentine’s Day card masquerading as medicine. I’m surprised there weren’t hearts and Cupids in the margins.

Apart from it, there’s no evidence of Trump as Hercules. More like Nero, with a coterie of sycophants fanning him and peeling his grapes.

He’s the master of phoning in to news shows rather than appearing on set, which would require more exertion. He has often done just one event a day, near an airport, so he can fly home in his plush private jet and sleep in his own comfy bed. He’s the rare exception to the slog I described above. During the primaries, it was huge news when he finally overnighted in a chain hotel in Iowa and, that same weekend, sat through all 60 minutes of a church service. Praise the Lord and pass the Gatorade.

Although his hair refuses to accept it, he’s 70 years old, and if there’s footage out there of him doing the P90X workout, I missed it. I haveseen him playing golf, which isn’t much more aerobically demanding than backgammon.

All of this makes him a singularly ineffective critic of Clinton’s health. And his surrogates and supporters are bungling the case by overstating it. To hear them talk, she’s some sporadically animated cadaver, a mash-up of “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “The Candidate.” They’re going to look ridiculous when she stands sturdily on the debate stage for 90 minutes and speaks in sentences fuller, more coherent and more grammatical than his.

Of course events could unfold differently. She could have a debate so terrible that naysaying about her health is the least of her worries. She could continue to struggle with illness, compromising the intensity with which she stumps. She could shortchange us on the additional medical records that she has rightly pledged to share, yanking her campaign off message yet again. She could have a lurking malady — as could Trump.

But we don’t have any more proof of her physical unfitness for the presidency than we did a week ago. There’s no clear link between the blood clot of 2013 and Sunday’s swoon.

What we have is a stress-aggravated instance of frailty from one of two senior citizens engaged in a marathon. Will it really eclipse the race’s other dynamics?

In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, only 36 percent of respondents said that Trump was qualified to be president. I can’t imagine any one of the other 64 percent reasoning: “He’s ignorant, but so robustlyignorant. A liar, but such a strapping one. Forget those hateful tirades; look at those cholesterol levels.”

I can’t see her coughing fits excusing his hissy fits, which are scarier and harder to cure.

Brooks and Cohen

September 13, 2016

In “The Avalanche of Distrust” Bobo tells us that Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and much of society isolate themselves.  Right, Bobo…  Both sides do it, don’t they?  “Gemli” from Boston will have something to say about this.  Mr. Cohen, in “Fail Better, America, on this 9/11 Anniversary,” tells us not to believe in American disunity, and to lift our gazes beyond Yeats’ “weasels fighting in a hole.”  Here’s Bobo:

I’m beginning to think this whole sordid campaign is being blown along by an acrid gust of distrust. The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are remarkably distrustful. They have set the modern standards for withholding information — his not releasing tax and health records, her not holding regular news conferences or quickly disclosing her pneumonia diagnosis. Both have a problem with spontaneous, reciprocal communication with a hint of vulnerability.

Both ultimately hew to a distrustful, stark, combative, zero-sum view of life — the idea that making it in this world is an unforgiving slog and that, given other people’s selfish natures, vulnerability is dangerous.

Trump’s convention speech was the perfect embodiment of the politics of distrust. American families, he argued, are under threat from foreigners who are as violent and menacing as they are insidious. Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” riff comes from the same spiritual place. We have in our country, she jibed, millions of bigots, racists, xenophobes and haters — people who are so blackhearted that they are, as she put it, “irredeemable.”

The parishioners at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., felt that even the man who murdered their close friends was redeemable, but Clinton has written off vast chunks of her fellow citizens as beyond hope and redemption.

But these nominees didn’t emerge in a vacuum. Distrustful politicians were nominated by an increasingly distrustful nation. A generation ago about half of all Americans felt they could trust the people around them, but now less than a third think other people are trustworthy.

Young people are the most distrustful of all; only about 19 percent of millennials believe other people can be trusted. But across all age groups there is a rising culture of paranoia and conspiracy-mongering. We set out a decade ago to democratize the Middle East, but we’ve ended up Middle Easternizing our democracy.

The true thing about distrust, in politics and in life generally, is that it is self-destructive. Distrustful people end up isolating themselves, alienating others and corroding their inner natures.

Over the past few decades, the decline in social trust has correlated to an epidemic of loneliness. In 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no close friend with whom they could discuss important matters. By 2004, 25 percent had no such friend.

When you refuse to lay yourself before others, others won’t lay themselves before you. An AARP studyof Americans aged 45 and up found that 35 percent suffer from chronic loneliness, compared with 20 percent in a similar survey a decade ago.Suicide rates, which closely correlate with loneliness, have been spiking since 1999. The culture of distrust isn’t the only isolating factor, but it plays a role.

The rise of distrust correlates with a decline in community bonds and a surge of unmerited cynicism. Only 31 percent of millennials say there is a great deal of difference between the two political parties. Only 52 percent of adults say they are extremely proud to be Americans, down from 70 percent in 2003.

The rise of distrust has corroded intimacy. When you go on social media you see people who long for friendship. People are posting and liking private photos on public places like Snapchat and Facebook.

But the pervasive atmosphere of distrust undermines actual intimacy, which involves progressive self-disclosure, vulnerability, emotional risk and spontaneous and unpredictable face-to-face conversations.

Instead, what you see in social media is often the illusion of intimacy. The sharing is tightly curated — in a way carefully designed to mitigate unpredictability, danger, vulnerability and actual intimacy. There is, asStephen Marche once put it, “a phony nonchalance.” It’s possible to have weeks of affirming online banter without ever doing a trust-fall into another’s arms.

As Garry Shandling once joked, “My friends tell me I have an intimacy problem, but they don’t really know me.”

Distrust leads to these self-reinforcing spirals. As Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University observed recently, in distrustful societies parents are less likely to teach their children about tolerance and respect for others. More distrust leads to tighter regulations, which leads to slower growth, which leads to sour mentalities and more distrust.

Furthermore, fear is the great enemy of intimacy. But the loss of intimacy makes society more isolated. Isolation leads to more fear. More fear leads to fear-mongering leaders. And before long you wind up in this death spiral.

The great religions and the wisest political philosophies have always counseled going the other way. They’ve always advised that real strength is found in comradeship, and there’s no possibility of that if you are building walls. They have generally championed the paradoxical leap — that even in the midst of an avalanche of calumny, somebody’s got to greet distrust with vulnerability, skepticism with innocence, cynicism with faith and hostility with affection.

Our candidates aren’t doing it, but that really is the realistic path to strength.

And Bobo gets paid vast, rolling tracts of cash to produce stuff like that…  Here’s what “gemli” had to say to him:

Barack Obama had the audacity to run on a platform of hope and change, yet he was savaged by a Republican Party that accused him of lying about every detail of his life. They showed their trust by demanding his birth certificate and his college transcripts. They accused him of being an anti-colonial Muslim foreigner. They stonewalled his every initiative, and when they weren’t shutting down the government they were making it a dysfunctional mess.

Women’s rights are under attack and fundamentalism is on the rise. LGBT citizens are being refused service, if not at lunch counters, at bakeries. Young people see a future of low salaries, usurious student loans and rising sea levels, all engineered by Republicans that make up in greed what they lack in compassion and common sense.

Yet in this glare of hatred, accusation, disdain, institutionalized ignorance and utter lack of cooperation, David Brooks turns the spotlight on us. Somehow, all 330 million Americans have decided to become distrustful. Whatever could the reason be?

Brooks tries to make Democrats and Republicans equally to blame. The disjointed ravings of an unqualified buffoon are the same as Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. Her pointed honesty about a large swathe of Trump supporters is read as distrust, because Brooks must drag Clinton down to Trump’s level. If there’s no real equivalence, Brooks will draw a false one.

That’s trust, Republican style.”

Now here’s Mr. Cohen:

Joe Quinn is speaking. His brother Jimmy died on 9/11. The sun is shining from a clear sky, as it was that day. I am on the treadmill listening to music, watching images of the memorial service on the 15th anniversary of the attack on America. I pull the headphone plug out of my iPod and insert it in the treadmill jack.

The voice is strong. After his brother’s death Quinn was inspired to serve, doing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recalls the national unity that followed the loss of 2,977 lives in the 9/11 attacks, 2,753 of them at New York’s twin towers, and notes the disunity that seems to have become the American condition since then.

“Don’t believe it,” Quinn says.

No, don’t believe it. Suspend all doubt and rancor. Of the 2,753 victims in New York, no identifying trace of 1,113 was ever found, according to the medical examiner’s office. If it has been required of so many to make their peace with such absence, it behooves us all to lift our gazes beyond Yeats’ “weasels fighting in a hole.”

Don’t believe in American disunity. Believe in the daily fashioning and refashioning of America, its constant reinvention and its high idealism, believe that, as Lincoln said, “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” — and recall the onerous sacrifice over generations for that cause.

There are always politicians who, as the German Social Democrat Kurt Schumacher noted in a speech to the Reichstag in Berlin in 1932, make “a continuous appeal to the inner swine” of people by “ceaselessly mobilizing human stupidity.” Fear is the fertile soil in which such appeals propagate. The past year in the United States has demonstrated that. Resist fear. It is a distorting lens.

Some people jumped from the burning towers. I see them still. The choices we face may seem difficult. They are not.

Fifteen years. Time does not fly. Time eddies, accelerates, slows down and turns back on itself. A sob wells up in me as I watch Quinn.

I am staring again, a couple of days after the attack, at a photograph of a pregnant woman’s ultrasound tacked to a subway wall: “Looking for the father of this child.”

There are a lot of children aged 14-and-a-half who love but never saw their dads.

The commemoration service proceeds through name after name that evoke every corner of the earth, every creed. People who tried to get out of the towers and people who went into the towers to help them. A New Yorker is born every day from the acceptance this city offers.

Now I am back on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, near the East River, just before 9:00 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, having dropped my son at school. I am driving, stopped at a traffic light, and a guy on a motorbike leans over and says, “Hey, look, the World Trade Center is on fire.”

Smoke billows from the north tower. As I turn right toward Brooklyn Heights, where my family is in a temporary apartment having just moved from Berlin, I feel a boom and shudder as United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower at 9:03 a.m.

It is my daughter Adele’s fourth birthday (“Dad,” she will say years later, “my birthday’s famous but I’m not.”). It is my third week back in the United States. It is my first day in a new job as foreign editor.

I board a No. 2 subway headed for Times Square. All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan are closed at 9:21 AM; this must have been the last train to run. A woman beside me is crying. I try to console her. She believes her brother is in one of the towers. I reach my desk in time to see the south tower collapse at 9:59 a.m.

There follows the alchemy of newspapering, diverse talents fusing under pressure, to make that headline — “U.S. Attacked” — and that remarkable paper of Sept. 12 with its lead story by my colleague Serge Schmemann:

“Hijackers rammed jetliners into each of New York’s World Trade Center towers yesterday, toppling both in a hellish storm of ash, glass, smoke and leaping victims, while a third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia.”

I emerged late that evening onto Times Square. There was nobody. Not a soul. I started to walk beneath the neon signs.

“Put one foot in front of the other,” says Quinn. Turn off your TV. Power down your phone, say hi to your neighbor, and introduce yourself to a stranger. Connect. Be the unity you seek.

The fires burned for weeks. The acrid sweet smell below Houston Street persisted. Papers from the towers fluttered across the East River toward Brooklyn. I picked one up and found on it — or did I imagine them? — these lines from Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Krugman’s blog, 9/10/16

September 12, 2016

There was one post on Saturday, “Tobin Was Right (Implicitly Wonkish):”

Right now, when not trying to do something about the political horror unfolding, I’m revising macro chapters and also preparing for several European speeches, including this one on macroeconomic lessons from recent experience. And I found myself returning to a theme I’ve touched on a few times over the years: it seems to me, all too often, that both economists and economic policymakers might actually have done a better job responding to the crisis if they has been using an old-fashioned theoretical toolkit, say what smart Keynesians believed circa 1970.

Lately I’ve found myself sort of putting a face on my hypothesis: I like to imagine how we would have responded if we were taking advice from a character I think of as “imaginary James Tobin.” And along the way I’ve found myself rereading some writings of actual James Tobin from the time; and it has been a revelation.

Let me focus in particular on Tobin’s 1972 presidential address to the American Economic Association, “Inflation and unemployment” (sorry, I don’t see an ungated version.) I remember how that address was seen among my fellow grad students a few later: it was seen as Tobin’s last stand, a desperate rearguard action in the debate with Milton Friedman over the natural rate hypothesis. And everyone knew that Friedman won that debate, vindicated by stagflation.

Except if you read Tobin again now, he’s the one who looks vindicated. He argues that the long-run Phillips curve probably isn’t vertical at low inflation, perhaps because of downward nominal wage rigidity combined with churn so that some labor markets are at that lower bound while others aren’t — exactly the frameworkDaly and Hobijn (who do cite Tobin) have applied recently. (Akerlof and Perry also made similar points in the 1990s.) And he offers an acute empirical observation to justify his position: the need to avoid

the empirically questionable implication of the usual natural rate hypothesis that unemployment rates only slightly higher than the critical rate will trigger ever-accelerating deflation. Phillips curves seem to be pretty flat at high rates of unemployment. During the great contraction of 1930-33, wage rates were slow to give way even in the face of massive unemployment and substantial deflation in consumer prices. Finally in 1932 and 1933 money wage rates fell more sharply, in response to prolonged unemployment, layoffs, shutdowns, and to threats and fears of more of the same.

Sure enough, the return of mass unemployment after 2008 didn’t produce much in the way of wage decline, except, finally, after years of Depression-level unemployment in Greece.

When talking about the things an earlier generation got more right than all too many modern macroeconomists, I usually focus on the demand side — on how IS-LM-type reasoning could and should have given people a pretty good read on monetary and fiscal policy. But on the aggregate supply side, too, the oldies were goodies.

Blow and Krugman

September 12, 2016

In “About the ‘Basket of Deplorables'” Mr. Blow says that it was a politically unwise, but not untrue, statement.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “Thugs and Kisses:”  Who admires Putin, and why?  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Let’s get straight to it: Hillary Clinton’s comments Friday at a fund-raiser that half of Donald Trump’s supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables” wasn’t a smart political play.

Candidates do themselves a tremendous disservice when they attack voters rather than campaigns. Whatever advantage is procured through the rallying of one’s own base is outweighed by what will be read as divisiveness and disdain.

Here is Clinton’s full quote:

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

Then, she continued: “But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

That second basket got too little attention. Context doesn’t provide the sizzle on which shock media subsists. Noted.

What Clinton said was impolitic, but it was not incorrect. There are things a politician cannot say. Luckily, I’m not a politician.

Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

And there is some evidence that Trump’s supporters don’t simply have a passive, tacit acceptance of an undesirable platform, but instead have an active set of beliefs that support what is deplorable in Trump.

In state after state that Trump won during the primaries, he won a majority or near majority of voters who supported a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country and who supported deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally.

In June a Reuters/Ipsos poll found: “Nearly half of Trump’s supporters described African-Americans as more ‘violent’ than whites. The same proportion described African-Americans as more ‘criminal’ than whites, while 40 percent described them as more ‘lazy’ than whites.”

A Pew poll released in February found that 65 percent of Republicans believe the next president should “speak bluntly even if critical of Islam as a whole” when talking about Islamic extremists.

Another Reuters/Ipsos online poll in July found that 58 percent of Trump supporters have a “somewhat unfavorable” view of Islam and 78 percent believe Islam was more likely to encourage acts of terrorism.

A February Public Policy Polling survey found “Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades.” What the poll found about those South Carolina supporters’ beliefs was truly shocking:

• Eighty percent of likely Trump primary voters supported Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims.

• Sixty-two percent supported creating a national database of Muslims and 40 percent supported shutting down mosques in the United States.

• Thirty-eight percent wished the South had won the Civil War.

• Thirty-three percent thought the practice of Islam should be illegal in this country.

• Thirty-two percent supported the policy of Japanese internment during World War II.

• Thirty-one percent would support a ban on homosexuals entering the country.

On Saturday, Clinton issued a statement pointing out that “I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong.” Place the percentage where you will — or don’t — but the fact is indisputable.

I understand that people recoil at the notion that they are part of a pejorative basket. I understand the reflexive resistance to having your negative beliefs disrobed and your sense of self dressed down.

I understand your outrage, but I’m unmoved by it. If the basket fits …

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

First of all, let’s get this straight: The Russian Federation of 2016 is not the Soviet Union of 1986. True, it covers most of the same territory and is run by some of the same thugs. But the Marxist ideology is gone, and so is the superpower status. We’re talking about a more or less ordinary corrupt petrostate here, although admittedly a big one that happens to have nukes.

I mention all of this because Donald Trump’s effusive praise for Vladimir Putin — which actually reflects a fairly common sentiment on the right — seems to have confused some people.

On one side, some express puzzlement over the spectacle of right-wingers — the kind of people who used to yell “America, love it or leave it!” — praising a Russian regime. On the other side, a few people on the left are anti-anti-Putinists, denouncing criticism of Mr. Trump’s Putin-love as “red-baiting.” But today’s Russia isn’t Communist, or even leftist; it’s just an authoritarian state, with a cult of personality around its strongman, that showers benefits on an immensely wealthy oligarchy while brutally suppressing opposition and criticism.

And that, of course, is what many on the right admire.

Am I being unfair? Could praise for Russia’s de facto dictator reflect appreciation of his substantive achievements? Well, let’s talk about what the Putin regime has, in fact, accomplished, starting with economics.

Mr. Putin came to power at the end of 1999, as Russia was recovering from a severe financial crisis, and his first eight years were marked by rapid economic growth. This growth can, however, be explained with just one word: oil.

For Russia is, as I said, a petrostate: Fuels account for more than two-thirds of its exports, manufactures barely a fifth. And oil prices more than tripled between early 1999 and 2000; a few years later they more than tripled again. Then they plunged, and so did the Russian economy, which has done very badly in the past few years.

Mr. Putin would actually have something to boast about if he had managed to diversify Russia’s exports. And this should have been possible: The old regime left behind a large cadre of highly skilled workers. In fact, Russian émigrés have been a key force behind Israel’s remarkable technology boom — and the Putin government appears to have no trouble recruiting talented hackers to break into Democratic National Committee files. But Russia wasn’t going to realize its technology potential under a regime where business success depends mainly on political connections.

So Mr. Putin’s economic management is nothing to write home about. What about other aspects of his leadership?

Russia does, of course, have a big military, which it has used to annex Crimea and support rebels in eastern Ukraine. But this muscle-flexing has made Russia weaker, not stronger. Crimea, in particular, isn’t much of a conquest: it’s a territory with fewer peoplethan either Queens or Brooklyn, and in economic terms it’s a liabilityrather than an asset, since the Russian takeover has undermined tourism, its previous mainstay.

An aside: Weirdly, some people think there’s a contradiction between Democratic mocking of the Trump/Putin bromance and President Obama’s mocking of Mitt Romney, four years ago, for calling Russia our“No. 1 geopolitical foe.” But there isn’t: Russia has a horrible regime, but as Mr. Obama said, it’s a “regional power,” not a superpower like the old Soviet Union.

Finally, what about soft power, the ability to persuade through the attractiveness of one’s culture and values? Russia has very little — except, maybe, among right-wingers who find Mr. Putin’s macho posturing and ruthlessness attractive.

Which brings us back to the significance of the Putin cult, and the way this cult has been eagerly joined by the Republican nominee for president.

There are good reasons to worry about Mr. Trump’s personal connections to the Putin regime (or to oligarchs close to that regime, which is effectively the same thing.) How crucial has Russian money been in sustaining Mr. Trump’s ramshackle business empire? There are hints that it may have been very important indeed, but given Mr. Trump’s secretiveness and his refusal to release his taxes, nobody really knows.

Beyond that, however, admiring Mr. Putin means admiring someone who has contempt for democracy and civil liberties. Or more accurately, it means admiring someone precisely because of that contempt.

When Mr. Trump and others praise Mr. Putin as a “strong leader,” they don’t mean that he has made Russia great again, because he hasn’t. He has accomplished little on the economic front, and his conquests, such as they are, are fairly pitiful. What he has done, however, is crush his domestic rivals: Oppose the Putin regime, and you’re likely to end up imprisoned or dead. Strong!

Krugman’s blog, 9/9/16

September 10, 2016

There was one post yesterday:  “Is The Fever Finally Breaking?”:

The last month has been a disgraceful time for the news media, with headline after headline, news report after news report on supposed Clinton scandals that were obvious nothingburgers — as the Washington Post, I’m happy to say, has now acknowledged. All of this created an “aura of scandal” around Clinton, even though, as Greg Sargent notes, voters couldn’t come up with specifics when pressed.

And meanwhile, a simply incredible record of downplaying Trump’s extremism and his many real scandals.

For what it’s worth, my guess is that this would have happened even if Clinton hadn’t had a private server. For one thing, it was always been an obviously — obviously! — trivial story, so the overwhelming media pile-on reflected a desire to go after Clinton, not something objective. And the way that the Clinton Foundation — which, you know, saves the lives of children — was spun as a negative shows that if it hadn’t been for the emails the gang would have found something else to pretend was a scandal.

The good news, I think, is that we may have reached some sort of turning point. Matt Lauer may have done us all a favor with his catastrophically bad performance. By devoting so much time to emails and rushing through Clinton on ISIS, on one side, while letting Trump’s Iraq lie slide by unchallenged, on the other, Lauer offered a demonstration of the prevailing double standard so graphic that it was hard to ignore. But it wasn’t just Lauer: I think the accumulation of really bad examples, of failing to cover the Bondi bribe, of making an unsuccessful request for passports — to rescue imprisoned journalists! — a supposed scandal, even some of the botched initial reaction to the Lauer debacle, may have finally reached a critical mass.

So maybe, just maybe, this is a turning point. I’m not saying that Clinton will or should be exempt from criticism. All she and the country need is journalism that describes things as they really are, that doesn’t pretend that her human fallibility is as bad or worse than Trump’s record of terrible behavior and promise of more.

On the other hand, maybe nothing has been learned. Maybe the first debate will be full of question about emails, while Trump is allowed to lie freely. If so, weep for America.

Collins, solo

September 10, 2016

In “Sexism: Let’s Deconstruct Donald” Ms. Collins says there are insults, and then there are insults.  Here she is:

Are Donald Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton sexist? To be fair, Trump is a guy who makes insulting personal remarks about everyone he disagrees with, regardless of gender. Let’s not jump to conclusions. This deserves a serious breakdown.

YELLING

Trump frequently complains that Clinton yells too much. “That’s why I turned her off last night … I just couldn’t stand it. I got such a headache,” he told a rally earlier this year. “But I won’t say it, because I’m not allowed to say it, right?” He added that he had “great respect for women, believe me.”

Rule No. 1: When grading a candidate’s level of sexism, add one point for every time he says that what he just said is not politically correct. Add two if he interjects that he has great respect for women.

Voice is a sensitive issue. We heard for decades and decades that a woman could never be a TV news anchor because viewers would not — in the words of one NBC executive — “accept the news from a woman’s voice.” And Trump yells all the time. If this were coming from someone like, say, Mitt Romney, we could have a discussion about whether the comment was sexist, or just irritating. But Trump is basically saying that only guys get to holler.

HEALTH

“She looks sick,” said Rudy Giuliani on Fox News. Giuliani, Trump’s top surrogate, spent the summer arguing that there was something very, very wrong with Clinton’s health. He urged people to just go online “and put down ‘Hillary Clinton illness.’ ” No better proof that something is true than the fact that you can find it on the internet. It’s like making the case for a space invasion by telling people to Google “aliens among us.”

Clinton does have allergies that sometimes send her off into fits of coughing. There’s also a video of her tripping and being helped up by a flight attendant — an incident that seems to be what Giuliani is referring to when he says she had to be “lifted onto airplanes.”

Trump has been on this one as well. “Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack, yet it is #1 trending. What’s up?” demanded the man whose own released medical information consisted of a four-paragraph letter that started off with “To Whom My Concern.”

This is nuts, but not necessarily sexist. Trying to start rumors about an opponent’s health was a staple of presidential politics long before we had a woman in the race. Ronald Reagan called Michael Dukakis an “invalid.” A top Democrat discussing Reagan in 1984 said, “Well, he didn’t quite drool.” Obama supporters tried to raise concerns about a reoccurrence of melanoma in John McCain, but McCain answered the question by releasing a huge medical report from his doctors.

Actually, both of our current candidates ought to follow McCain’s example.

“WEAK”

Trump likes to describe Clinton as “weak.” He’s gone on and on about how she doesn’t have “the strength or the stamina to be a good president.” This is the guy who’s flying around the country in a massive, super-comfy personal plane, doing an event and then flying home so he can sleep in his own bed every night.

“I think he projects his own weaknesses onto other people,” said Clinton’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri.

Nobody — at least until now — has ever accused Clinton of being short on stamina. But on this subject Trump is arguably an equal opportunity insulter. Just ask Jeb “low energy” Bush.

DOESN’T LOOK PRESIDENTIAL

“We talk about presidential. Do I look presidential?” Trump demanded at a rally, clearly expecting a positive answer. “Do you think Hillary looks presidential? I don’t think so. And I’m not going to say it, because I’m not allowed to say it because I want to be politically correct.”

Remember Rule No. 1.

Trump has gone there before. During a visit to an American Legion post in Cleveland, he chatted with a dozen men — there was also one woman — about how tough he’d be in the White House. As Ashley Parker reported in The Times, he then turned to the subject of Clinton, asking, “And she looks presidential, fellows?”

Sexist? Well, duh.

FAILURE TO SMILE

“@HillaryClinton was angry + defensive the entire time — no smile and uncomfortable,” tweeted the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, after this week’s presidential forum.

The smile critique was most definitely sexist. Trump didn’t do a whole lot of beaming at the forum himself. And it’s hard to think of a male presidential candidate taking the heat for not looking cheerful enough. This is a country that once elected Calvin Coolidge.

Priebus’s comment was so awful, the Clinton people loved it. “People. Reince actually said HRC needed to smile more. This is real,” tweeted Palmieri.

“Actually, that’s just what taking the office of President seriously looks like,” Clinton tweeted, presumably with a big grin.