Krugman’s blog, 5/17/16

May 18, 2016

There were two posts yesterday.  The first was “Democratic Groundhog Day:”

Ugh. More primaries today. Do they matter?

Not for the nomination. Clinton has won — her big victories in the mid-Atlantic states ended any chance that Sanders can catch up on pledged delegates or popular vote, and he’s not going to convince superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters. Again, the math: Clinton leads by 280 pledged delegates, with 897 left. To overtake, Sanders would need to win the remaining contests by a 280/897 margin, or 31 percent. This is not going to happen.

This is very much true even if he wins both primaries tonight. KY and OR are both very favorable states for Sanders, basically because they’re very white. Alan Abramowitz predicts Sanders +6 in OR, +1 in KY; Benchmark Politics predicts narrow Clinton win in KY, narrow Sanders win in OR. Suppose Abramowitz is right. Then Sanders might narrow the gap by 5 delegates — but there will be only 781 left to go, and his required margin would rise to 275/781 or 35 percent. And the demography gets much worse for him in the remaining states.

But here’s the thing: a lot of Sanders supporters don’t understand this reality — 29 percent still believe that he’s the likely nominee, and another 11 percent aren’t sure. If news reports say that he “won” tonight, they’ll persist in their illusions — and the narrative that Clinton is somehow stealing the nomination will continue to fester.

Sanders could end all of this at any point. He doesn’t even have to drop out, all he needs to do is talk honestly about the realities — and clearly condemn the kind of behavior we saw in Las Vegas over the weekend. But I’m losing hope that he will ever do the right thing.

Yesterday’s second post was “Questions of Character:”

Like a lot of people, I was shocked by the statement Bernie Sanders put out about Nevada. No hint of apology for his supporters’ behavior, lots of accusations about a “rigged” process when the issue in Nevada was whether Clinton should get more delegates in a state where she won the vote. And the general implication that the nomination is somehow being stolen when the reality is that Clinton won because a large majority of voters chose to support her.

But maybe we shouldn’t have been shocked. It has been obvious for quite a while that Sanders — not just his supporters, not even just his surrogates, but the candidate himself — has a problem both in facing reality and in admitting mistakes. The business with claiming that Clinton only won conservative states in the deep South told you that; and even before, there were strong indications that he would not accept defeat gracefully or even rationally.

Here’s what I wrote more than a month ago:

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

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

I’m afraid that we now know the answer. And I feel sorry for all the genuinely idealistic, well-meaning people who got caught up in this terrible mess.

Friedman and Bruni

May 18, 2016

The Moustache of Wisdom has some advice for Teh Donald.  In “Donald, Save Your Golf Greens, and the Planet” he says Trump could protect his financial interest, America’s interest and his grandkids’ if he embraced the reality of climate change.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.  If it doesn’t involve tweeting or insulting someone Teh Donald ain’t interested.  Mr. Bruni, in “Where Republican Dreams Die?”, says in a tumultuous patch of the South, some of 2016’s biggest themes and questions will play out.  Here’s TMOW:

MEMO TO: DONALD TRUMP

FROM: TOM FRIEDMAN

SUBJECT: GOLF COURSES

Dear Donald,

It’s been a while since we talked on the practice tee at Doral. (Nice course you built.) I am only going to do this once, but I am going to offer you some free advice — and it’s about all the things you love most: yourself, your kids, winning, money and golf. Have I got a deal for you …

You see, Donald, I was looking at all the golf courses you own. Some of them are real gems, like Doral, Turnberry, Doonbeg, Palm Beach, Aberdeenshire. But you know what else I noticed? How many of them are on or near coastlines. And do you know what’s going to happen to those golf courses, Donald, if the climate scientists are even half right? They’re going to go from oceanfront property to ocean-floor property. Because ice melt and sea level rise are going to threaten all of them. Here’s a July 21, 2015, story from Weather.com:

“As our seas continue to rise, some cities, like Miami, are planning to spend billions on revamping infrastructure. But some scientists say sea level rise will lead to another phenomenon in South Florida, and local leaders need to start preparing for it now. The region that’s home to thousands of high-priced homes nestled against the water is expected to be threatened directly by the rising seas in the coming decades, and when the harsh reality sets in, a mass exodus could commence. … In short, there’s no way to save South Florida, and lawmakers should start to prepare for millions to move north. … More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. … ‘This is not a future problem. It’s a current problem,’ Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University, told PBS.”

In other words, Donald, there is no candidate in this race who is more exposed to climate change than … you. And I am not talking only about your coastal golf courses. Global warming doesn’t mean the weather, on average, just gets hotter. It means the weather gets weirder. You get more weather extremes — hotter hot days, wetter wet ones, longer droughts, fiercer storms, heavier snows.

The Climate Wire quoted a United States Golf Association turf expert in August 2014 as saying that “individual golfers and club leadership are becoming aware that these are real issues.” I can only imagine what this will mean for insurance rates for golf course. And that was before Nature magazine published a new study in March indicating that sea levels could rise almost twice as much as previously predicted by the end of the century — “an outcome that could devastate coastal communities around the globe,” as The Washington Post noted, unless we curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Ask your golf course greens keepers how many of them think climate change is a hoax?

So here’s the advice: I know that you’ve tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Just as an aside, Donald, that’s incredibly stupid. The Chinese are ahead of us in putting a price on carbon because they can’t breathe.) But let’s put that aside. We both know that you know as much about climate change as you did about abortion rights and the nuclear triad. It was just one of those things you put out there to keep you looking like a Republican good ol’ boy.

Donald, you’ve done something truly revolutionary: You’ve single-handedly reshaped the agenda of the Republican Party, mixing some left-of-center and centrist positions with the G.O.P.’s traditional right-of-center stuff. You should do the same now, embrace the reality of climate change and vow as president that you will be “huge, huuuuuge” on this issue — that “I’ll make the whole planet great again.”

It would be in your financial interest, America’s interest and your grandkids’ interest. Nobody who voted for you in the primaries did so because of climate, except maybe coal miners in West Virginia. Your base does not care about this issue, and, by the way, all their kids are telling them climate change is real. The reason the G.O.P. has its head in the sand on climate is the oil companies force it to. But you don’t need Big Oil’s money.

Here’s what you need: some Bernie Sanders voters. You can’t win without some of them. And they’re all greens. If you promised to take climate change seriously, you’d make it much easier for some of them, who dislike Hillary, to hold their noses and vote for you. You’d also get a lot of other people to give you a second look. Most important, it would tip the G.O.P. on this issue.

Cards on the table, Donald, I won’t be voting for you. But if you really want to make this race interesting, continue to reshape the G.O.P., raise the odds of winning Florida, preserve your wealth and do something to make America great again, tweet this: “Talked to some scientists, smartest in the world, changing position on climate change. Feeling the burn. Gotta protect our kids.”

After all, Donald, you don’t want to be remembered as the politician who’ll be the answer to the question, “Who lost Florida?”

If TMOW thinks any Sanders supporters will go to Trump I’d love to have some of what he’s smoking.  Here’s Mr. Bruni, writing from Raleigh, NC:

Ohio and Florida. Florida and Ohio. What a pair of election-year divas, always preening for the pundits. Enough. There are other comely swing states on the stage.

Let’s gawk at North Carolina.

If Donald Trump drags down Republicans across the board, this is one of the places where they’ll flail. Its Republican governor, nearing the end of a tumultuous first term, is in trouble. One of the state’s two Republican senators is facing a tougher re-election battle than was predicted just months ago. Democrats are circling. Make that drooling.

Although purple, North Carolina turned deceptively red over the last few years, and Republican lawmakers have behaved with a potentially suicidal swagger. In the process they’ve managed to enrage corporate America, exposing a newly profound tension in the G.O.P. between its business-minded wing and the religious right.

Some of the most interesting crosswinds of American politics blow through this state.

In 2008 it voted for Barack Obama — by a margin of just .32 percent. Enthusiasm for him helped to propel Democratic women to the Senate and the governor’s office.

Both are gone now, replaced by Republican men, and Mitt Romney won the state narrowly in 2012. But the more sweeping change has been in the state legislature, where an overwhelming Republican majority took hold and hurtled forward (or, rather, backward).

Take the recently passed measure known as H.B. 2. It’s the law that mandates that people use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. Republicans, including Gov. Pat McCrory, gambled that it would energize elements of the party’s base.

But it went much, much further than that supposed solution to a nonexistent problem, overriding local anti-discrimination statutes. Many prominent companies denounced it. Some withdrew business from the state — or are threatening to. Conventions have been canceled. Tourism has declined. By some estimates, the state has already lost tens of millions of dollars.

“I’m talking to businesspeople all the time,” Deborah Ross told me when I sat down with her in Raleigh last week. “They are livid.”

Ross is the Democratic challenger to Senator Richard Burr. She’s a fierce underdog: an articulate, energetic lawyer who served for decades in the legislature. She’d be the third woman sent to the Senate by North Carolinians, after Elizabeth Dole and Kay Hagan.

But her résumé also includes work for the A.C.L.U., and Republicans detect a gold mine of negative ads. I wager that the Koch brothers and other big G.O.P. donors will flood this state with money. How much could be decisive.

There are other pivotal questions, reflecting crucial dynamics around the country.

Will new voter-identification laws hurt Democrats? Since the last presidential election, Republicans here significantly tightened rules and requirements — and not out of the goodness of their hearts.

Which demographic and economic trends will hold the greatest sway? North Carolina is America in miniature: Its minority population has grown and it has urbanized, developments that favor Democrats, but it has also hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs, so it brims with the sorts of displaced workers who’ve rallied to Trump.

A recent Pew Research Center study listed three of North Carolina’s metropolitan areas among the 10 nationally that had “lost the most in economic status” between 2000 and 2014. By that measure, it fared worse than any Rust Belt state.

“There’s a lot of economic anxiety here, mixed with race and cultural change, that will keep Trump and other Republicans viable,” said Ferrel Guillory, a longtime analyst of state politics who is now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Can Republicans profit from a culture war? They failed with H.B. 2. But the Obama administration’s new directive advising schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity may scramble the situation, allowing the G.O.P. to pin the charge of overreach on the federal government.

“There’s a possibility that the Obama directive is something of a lifeline to Republicans,” said Pope McCorkle, a former Democratic consultant who teaches at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Just how toxic is Trump? McCorkle noted, with a chuckle, that the state’s Democrats have usually been the ones fretting about their party’s presidential nominee: “Do you go to the airport to greet him? Touch him? Allow a picture?”

“What’s interesting,” he added, “is how much the shoe is on the other foot this time.” Burr hasn’t said whether he’ll campaign with Trump.

Perhaps he noticed several polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a lead over Trump in a head-to-head matchup in this state, which has 15 electoral votes, just three fewer than Ohio. It matters. And it’s ready for its close-up.

Krugman’s blog, 5/16/16

May 17, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “The GOP Is Not America, Clinton Is Not Rubio:”

Greg Sargent interviews Hillary’s chief strategist about the coming general election, and finds him dismissive of claims that Donald Trump can repeat his march through the Republican primary. You never know — but it does seem obvious, except to the political pundits completely flabbergasted by Trump’s rise, that the general election is going to be a very different story. For the truth is that Trump’s Republican rivals fought with both hands tied behind their backs, and that just won’t happen from here on in.

Greg summarizes the case very well, but let me do it a bit differently. Think about Trump’s obvious weaknesses, why Republicans couldn’t exploit them, but why Democrats can.

First, he’s running a campaign fundamentally based on racism. But Republicans couldn’t call him on that, because more or less veiled appeals to racial resentment have been key to their party’s success for decades. Clinton, on the other hand, won the nomination thanks to overwhelming nonwhite support, and will have no trouble hitting hard on this issue.

Second, Trump is proposing wildly irresponsible policies that benefit the rich. But so were all the other Republicans, so they couldn’t attack him for that. Clinton can.

Third, Trump’s personal record as a businessman is both antisocial and just plain dubious. Republicans, with their cult of the entrepreneur, couldn’t say anything about that. Again, Clinton can.

The GOP paralysis on these issues explains why, again and again, Republicans turned to a proven line of attack — that is, proven not to work: insisting that Trump isn’t a true conservative, which matters to voters not at all. Obviously Democrats will be able to go after different and, I imagine, a lot more salient issues.

And there’s one last thing, which I suspect may make the biggest difference of all: Clinton’s campaign can go after Trump’s fundamental buffoonery.

I mean, he is a ludicrous figure, and everything we learn just makes him more ludicrous. So why couldn’t Republicans make that stick? I’d argue that it was because there was something fairly ludicrous about all his opponents, too.

Think about Marco Rubio: even before his famous brain glitch, it was just obvious that he was a prefab candidate, a nice-looking guy with no real convictions or experience reciting lines he was told to deliver. The infamous “We must dispel with …” wasn’t just vile and stupid (even the first time, let alone repeated); it was also, transparently, not something Rubio believed or even cared about except that his handlers told him to say it.

Or think about Ted Cruz, whose mean-spiritedness and self-centered nature evidently stand out even in today’s conservative movement, making him a hated figure even among those who should like his message.

Clinton, on the other hand, is not ludicrous. She can think on her feet; she’s tough as nails. Do you really think the person who stared down the Benghazi committee for 11 hours is going to wither under schoolboy taunts?

The news media will, I fear, try their best to pretend that the contrast isn’t what it is. We’ll hear endless explanations of why Trump’s vanity, ignorance, and lack of moral fiber somehow prove his “authenticity”, which Clinton somehow lacks. And maybe that will stick with voters. But I don’t think it will. In the end, it will be a race between a tough, smart lady and someone who is obviously a yuge, um, Antonin Scalia School of Law. And voters will notice.

From your lips to God’s ears, Paul.

Brooks and Cohen

May 17, 2016

In “One Neighborhood at a Time” Bobo babbles that healing the social fabric is complex, but communities like Lost Hills, Calif., are beacons of hope.  He neglects to tell us that his friends are bloated plutocrats.  Here’s a comment by “Socrates” from Downtown Verona NJ:  “One Orwellian Inspiration At A Time, Lord Brooks.  75% of Lost Hills’ poor, mostly Latino 2,400 people work for one company, Paramount Farms, the pistachio/almond water-hungry subsidiary of the duplicitously named Wonderful Company LLC, the private corporation owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick that uses 120 billion gallons of water each year, enough to supply San Francisco’s 852,000 residents for a decade.  The Resnicks are the Koch Brothers of both California and Fiji water who work full-time behind the political scenes to ensure their privatized profits are guaranteed full exploitative economic rights over public water rights.  “As a result of the political influence of billionaires who receive taxpayer-subsidized water, California’s Dept. of Water Resources functions almost as a subsidiary of the water exporters,” wrote Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.  “Through a series of subsidiary companies, Roll International (Wonderful’s old company name) is able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder” and as one of the largest private water brokers in the US, Roll International makes millions in profits off marketing subsidized public water back to the public, wrote journalist Yasha Levine.  https://goo.gl/zWEg2z ,  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/09/fiji-spin-bottle  This column is completely nuts on every conceivable level.”  Just as most of his stuff is.  Mr. Cohen considers “The Know-Nothing Tide” and says that Trump says America was strongest when “politics ended at water’s edge.” He’s wrong.  Here, gawd help us, is Bobo extolling his plutocrat buddies:

What is the central challenge facing our era? My answer would be: social isolation.

Gaps have opened up among partisan tribes, economic classes and races. There has been a loss of social capital, especially for communities down the income scale.

Take, for example, the town of Lost Hills. Lost Hills is a farming town in the Central Valley, 42 miles northwest of Bakersfield. It is not a rich town, but neither is it a desolate one. There are jobs here, thanks to the almond and pistachio processing plants nearby. When you go to the pre-K center and look at the family photos on the wall, you see that most of the families are intact — a mom, a dad and a couple kids standing proudly in front of a small ranch house. Many of these families have been here for decades.

But until recently you didn’t find the community organizations that you’d expect to find in such a place. There’s still no permanent church. Up until now there has been no library and no polling station. The closest police station is 45 miles away. Until recently there were no sidewalks nor many streetlights, so it was too dangerous to go trick-or-treating.

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that Americans are great at forming spontaneous voluntary groups. But in towns like Lost Hills, and in neighborhoods across the country, that doesn’t seem to be as true any more.

Maybe with the rise of TV and the Internet people are happier staying in the private world of home. Maybe it’s the loss of community leaders. Every town used to have its small-business owners and bankers. But now those businesses and banks are owned by investment funds far away.

Either way, social isolation produces rising suicide rates, rising drug addiction, widening inequality, political polarization, depression and alienation.

Fortunately, we’re beginning to see the rise of intentional community instigators. If social capital isn’t going to form spontaneously, people and groups will try to jump-start it into existence.

Lost Hills is the home of a promising experiment. The experiment is being led by Lynda Resnick, who, with her husband, Stewart, owns the Wonderful Company, which includes FIJI Water, POM juice and most of the pistachios and almonds you eat. You should know that I’m friends with Lynda and Stewart and am biased in their direction. But what they are doing is still worth learning from.

First, they are flooding the zone. They’re not trying to find one way to serve this population. The problems are so intertwined, they are trying to change this community from all directions at once. In Lost Hills there are new health centers, new pre-K facilities, new housing projects, new gardens, new sidewalks and lights, a new community center and a new soccer field. Through the day, people have more places to meet, play and cooperate with their neighbors.

Second, they’ve created a practical culture of self-improvement. You can talk about social reform in ways that seem preachy. But the emphasis here is on better health and less diabetes, a nonmoralistic way to change behavior.

At the nut plant I met men and women who’d lost over 100 pounds. One of the workers gets up at 2:45 every morning, so he can hit the gym by 4 and be at work by 6. This guy wants to be around to watch his kids grow, and his self-disciplined health regime has led to a whole life transformation. He’s now taking business and law courses online.

The new institutions here are intensely social. When you go to the health center, you don’t sit silently in the waiting room before going into a small room for your 15-minute visit. Many of the patients have group visits (sort of like Al Anon groups) to meet communally with doctors and encourage one another’s healthier behavior. The medical staffs perform as teams, too. Staff members sit together in a central workroom collaborating all day.

Finally, there are more cross-class connections. Dr. Maureen Mavrinac moved here from the UCLA Family Medicine Department. Dr. Rishi Manchanda was the lead physician for homeless primary care at the Los Angeles V.A. These are among the dozens who have come to Lost Hills not to save the place from outside, but to befriend it. Their way of being ripples. I met several local women who said they were shy and quiet, but now they are joining community boards and running meetings.

What’s the right level to pursue social repair? The nation may be too large. The individual is too small. The community is the right level, picking a piece of land and giving people a context in which they can do neighborly things — like the dads here who came to the pre-K center and spent six hours building a shed, and with it, invisibly, a wider circle of care for their children.

Bobo should be put in a barrel with 5 angry weasels and rolled down a hill.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

On the evidence, ethnocentrism is a pretty basic human instinct. Band together with your own. Keep the outsider down or out. In the 1850s, at another moment of American unease, the Know-Nothings swept Massachusetts and won mayoral elections in Philadelphia and Washington on a nativist platform to “purify” national politics by stopping the influx of Irish and German Catholics.

Papist influence was then the perceived scourge through which the Know-Nothing movement, as the Native American Party (later the American Party) was commonly known, built its following. Today the supposed threat is Muslim and Mexican infiltration. Or so Donald Trump, the de facto Republican presidential candidate, would have us believe in his “America First” program.

A know-nothing tide is upon us. Tribal politics, anchored in tribal media, has made knowing nothing a badge of honor. Ignorance, loudly declaimed, is an attribute, especially if allied to celebrity. Facts are dispensable baggage. To display knowledge, the acquisition of which takes time, is tantamount to showing too much respect for the opposition tribe, who know nothing anyway.

Any slogan can be reworked, I guess. America First has a long, unhappy history, the America First Committee having pressed the view that the United States should stay out of the war to defeat Fascism in World War II. Its most famous advocate was Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, who undermined the movement when he revealed that he blamed Jews for prodding America toward war. That was in 1941, not a good year for Jews anywhere, particularly in Europe, where, while Lindbergh opined, the annihilation of Jewry had begun.

Well, America First is back, tweaked as Trump’s we-won’t-be-suckers-anymore ideology. In his favor, it cannot be said that Trump has a stranglehold on political stupidity. Britain is seriously debating leaving the European Union, the greatest force for peace and stability in Europe since the carnage of the 1940s.

One is put in mind of the remark of James L. Petigru, a prominent jurist and politician, upon the secession of South Carolina from the Union in 1860: “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”

Britain’s pathologies resemble South Carolina’s.

Now where was I? Ah, yes, Trump, naturally. Trump, who has declared — or perhaps it was only a suggestion — that “Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at water’s edge.” Totally, he said that. Absolutely, he said that. Really, really, he said that. To deny it would be “absolutely a total lie.”

I suppose Trump was thinking of the Normandy landings, or perhaps the Marshall Plan, or Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this wall,” or the freeing of hundreds of millions of people from the totalitarian Soviet imperium, or the opening to China.

American isolationism is an oxymoron because America is a universal idea. That does not change however far short of its ideals the nation may fall.

On China, Trump has said: “We can both benefit or we can both go our separate ways.” Go our separate ways! Let’s unpack that. Right now America buys everything China makes, and China buys the American debt incurred for all the spending sprees on stuff from Guangzhou. Just because there may be separate ways into the gutter does not make the gutter any more alluring. Chinese-American symbiosis is an existential issue.

As for Egypt, Trump believes America ousted “a friendly regime” (of the former dictator, Hosni Mubarak) “that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel.” No, Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel. Mr. Mubarak did not.

Speaking of Israel, Trump says, “President Obama has not been a friend to Israel.” Right, he has not been a friend to the tune of over $20.5 billion in foreign military financing since 2009. He has not been a friend by providing over $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome defense system alone since 2011. He has not been a friend by, in 2014, opposing 18 resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly that were biased against Israel; by helping to organize in 2015 the first U.N. General Assembly session on anti-Semitism in the history of the body; and by working tirelessly on a two-state peace, not least on the security arrangements for Israel that are among its preconditions. He has not been a friend by turning the other cheek in the face of what Nancy Pelosi once called “the insult to the intelligence of the United States” from Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The know-nothings are on the march. But of course they must know something. Millions of people who vote for Trump cannot be wrong. Perhaps their core idea, along with the unchanging appeal of ethnocentrism, is that politics no longer really matter. Celebrity matters.

Power centers are elsewhere — in financial systems, corporations, technology, networks — that long since dispensed with borders. That being the case, loudmouthed, isolationist trumpery may just be a sideshow, an American exercise in après-moi-le-déluge escapism.

Krugman’s blog, 5/16/16

May 16, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Orwell Does Cato:”

David Glasner has an interesting post about how the Cato Institute suppressed an old paper of his, refusing either to publish it or release it for publication elsewhere, not for a few months, but for decades. What Glasner may not know or recall is that Cato has a long-standing habit of trying to send inconvenient history down the memory hole, in ways that — I’m sorry to say — are more consequential than the suppression of his thoughts on fiat money.

You see, back in the 1990s Cato had a long-standing project titled the Project on Social Security Privatization. Then they discovered that the term polled badly, and renamed it The Project on Social Security Choice. OK. But they also tried to pretend that they had never used the term privatization, which was clearly a liberal smear — and they went so far as to edit old web pages and records of old conferences to eliminate the term “privatization”, as if it had never been used. This was, by the way, in concert with the Bush administration, which was similarly trying to bully reporters into abandoning the term (with a fair bit of success).

I still sometimes run into people suggesting that Cato is a relatively honest if misguided operation, unlike the obvious hackery of Heritage. But it ain’t so, and never was.

Blow and Krugman

May 16, 2016

In “Trump’s Asymmetric Warfare” Mr. Blow says that what makes Trump difficult to counter is that his supporters refuse to understand that they are being conned.  Prof. Krugman says “It Takes a Policy” and that the U.S. stands out from other advanced countries in its shameful neglect of children.  Paul, Paul, Paul…  You should know by now that the “Right to Life” people don’t give a crap about that life once it emerges from the womb.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

It has been somewhat fascinating and sometimes fun to watch Elizabeth Warren do battle with Donald Trump in alternating salvos of tweets, but in the end I fear that this approach of trying to “beat a bully,” as Warren put it in one of her tweets, is a futile effort.

There is no way to sufficiently sully a pig or mock a clown. The effort only draws one further onto the opponent’s turf and away from one’s own principles and priorities.

There is no way to shame a man who lacks conscience or to embarrass an embarrassment. Trump is smart enough to know what he lacks — substance — and to know what he possesses in abundance — insolence.

So long as he steers clear of his own weakness and draws others in to the brier patch that is his comfort, he wins.

As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said in December, this is asymmetric warfare. Conventional forms of political fighting won’t work on this man. Truth holds little power, and the media is still enthralled by the monster it made.

He is hollow, inconsistent, dishonest and shifty… and those who support him either love him in spite of it, or even more disturbingly, because of it.

He has waffled or equivocated or backtracked on tax plans, releasing his tax returns, his proposed Muslim ban, abortion and any number of issues.

It is hard to know where the hard bottom is beneath this morass of lies and bile. He has changed the very definition of acceptability as well as the expectations of the honor of one’s words. He has exalted the art of deceit to a new political normalcy.

This has made him nearly impervious to even the cleverest takedowns, and trust me, many have tried, comparing him to everyone from P. T. Barnum to Hitler.

But none of these comparisons are likely to shift public opinion. Some people will continue to see him, rightly, as an imminent danger to this nation and the world, and others will continue to see him as a salvation from it.

You see, part of the problem here is that some people believe, improbably, that virtue can be cloaked in vice, that what he says and what he means are fundamentally different, that the former is acting as a Trojan horse for the latter. One of Trump’s greatest pros is that he has convinced his supporters, all evidence to the contrary, that they are not being conned.

We are a society in search of an instant fix to some of America’s most intractable problems. Politicians of all stripes keep lying to us and saying things are going to be O.K.; that broad prosperity is just around the corner, only requiring minor tweaks; that for some of our issues there are clear good and bad options, rather than a choice between bad and worse options.

Into this mess of stubborn realities steps a simpleton with a simple message: Make America great again. We’ll win so much that you will get tired of winning.

Some folks want to be told that we could feasibly and logistically deport millions of people and ban more than a billion, build more walls and drop more bombs, have ever-falling tax rates and ever-surging prosperity. They want to be told that the only thing standing between where we are and where we are told we could be is a facility at crafting deals and a penchant for cracking down.

This streamlined message appeals to that bit of the population that is frustrated by the problems we face and quickly tires of higher-level cerebral function. For this group of folks, Trump needn’t be detailed, just different. He doesn’t need established principles, as long as he attacks the establishment.

This part of America isn’t being artfully deceived, it is being willfully blind.

One the one hand, over Trump’s life and over this campaign he has been so wrong in so many ways that there is a danger that the sheer volume of revelations may render the hearers numb to them.

On the other, as Joe Keohane wrote in the Boston Globe in 2010:

“Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

Supporting Trump is a Hail Mary pass of a hail-the-demagogue assemblage. Trump’s triumph as the presumptive Republican Party nominee is not necessarily a sign of his strategic genius as much as it’s a sign of some people’s mental, psychological and spiritual deficiencies.

It’s hard to use the truth as an instrument of enlightenment on people who prefer to luxuriate in a lie.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

U.S. politicians love to pose as defenders of family values. Unfortunately, this pose is often, perhaps usually, one of remarkable hypocrisy.

And no, I’m not talking about the contrast between public posturing and personal behavior, although this contrast can be extreme. Which is more amazing: the fact that a long-serving Republican speaker of the House sexually abused teenage boys, or how little attention this revelation has received?

Instead, I’m talking about policy. Judged by what we actually do — or, more accurately, don’t do — to help small children and their parents, America is unique among advanced countries in its utter indifference to the lives of its youngest citizens.

For example, almost all advanced countries provide paid leave from work for new parents. We don’t. Our public expenditure on child care and early education, as a share of income, is near the bottom in international rankings (although if it makes you feel better, we do slightly edge out Estonia.)

In other words, if you judge us by what we do, not what we say, we place very little value on the lives of our children, unless they happen to come from affluent families. Did I mention that parents in the top fifth of U.S. households spend seven times as much on their children as parents in the bottom fifth?

But can our neglect of children be ended?

In January, both Democratic candidates declared their support for a program that would provide 12 weeks of paid leave to care for newborns and other family members. And last week, while the news media was focused on Donald Trump’s imaginary friend, I mean imaginary spokesman, Hillary Clinton announced an ambitious plan to improve both the affordability and quality of U.S. child care.

This was an important announcement, even if it was drowned out by the ugliness and nonsense of a campaign that is even uglier and more nonsensical than usual. For child-care reform is the kind of medium-size, incremental, potentially politically doable — but nonetheless extremely important — initiative that could well be the centerpiece of a Clinton administration. So what’s the plan?

O.K., we don’t have all the details yet, but the outline seems pretty clear. On the affordability front, Mrs. Clinton would use subsidies and tax credits to limit family spending on child care — which can be more than a third of income — to a maximum of 10 percent. Meanwhile, there would be aid to states and communities that raise child-care workers’ pay, and a variety of other measures to help young children and their parents. All of this would still leave America less generous than many other countries, but it would be a big step toward international norms.

Is this doable? Yes. Is it desirable? Very much so.

When we talk about doing more for children, it’s important to realize that it costs money, but not all that much money. Why? Because there aren’t that many young children at any given time, and it doesn’t take a lot of spending to make a huge difference to their lives. Our threadbare system of public support for child care and early education costs 0.4 percent of the G.D.P.; France’s famously generous system costs 1.2 percent of the G.D.P. So we could move a long way up the scale with a fairly modest investment.

And it would indeed be an investment — every bit as much of an investment as spending money to repair and improve our transportation infrastructure. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. So it’s an incredible waste, not just for families but for the nation as a whole, that so many children’s futures are stunted because their parents don’t have the resources to take care of them as well as they should. And affordable child care would also have the immediate benefit of making it easier for parents to work productively.

Are there any reasons not to spend a bit more on children? The usual suspects will, of course, go on about the evils of big government, the sacred nature of individual choice, the wonders of free markets, and so on. But the market for child care, like the market for health care, works very badly in practice.

And when someone starts talking about choice, bear in mind that we’re talking about children, who are not in a position to choose whether they’re born into affluent households with plenty of resources or less wealthy families desperately trying to juggle work and child care.

So can we stop talking, just for a moment, about who won the news cycle or came up with the most effective insult, and talk about policy substance here?

The state of child care in America is cruel and shameful — and even more shameful because we could make things much better without radical change or huge spending. And one candidate has a reasonable, feasible plan to do something about this shame, while the other couldn’t care less.

Cohen and Krugman

May 13, 2016

In “The Arab Withering” Mr. Cohen tells us how the civic spirit of the Arab Spring gave way to the brutal theocracy of the Islamic State.  Prof. Krugman, in “Trump and Taxes,” says his personal returns, his shifting policy proposals and how he picked his experts ar

This seems to be the week for Trump tax mysteries. One mystery is why Donald Trump, unlike every other major party nominee in modern times, is refusing to release his tax returns. The other is why, having decided that he needs experts to clean up his ludicrous tax-cut proposals, he chose to call on the services of the gang that couldn’t think straight.

On the first mystery: Mr. Trump’s excuse, that he can’t release his returns while they’re being audited, is an obvious lie. On the contrary, the fact that he’s being audited (or at least that he says he’s being audited) should make it easier for him to go public — after all, he needn’t fear triggering an audit! Clearly, he must be hiding something. What?

It could be how little he pays in taxes, a revelation that hurt Mitt Romney in 2012. But I doubt it; given how Mr. Trump rolls, he’d probably boast that his ability to game the tax system shows how smart he is compared to all the losers out there.

So my guess, shared by a number of observers, is that the dirty secret hidden in those returns is that he isn’t as rich as he claims to be. In Trumpworld, the revelation that he’s only worth a couple of billion — maybe even less than a billion — would be utterly humiliating. So he’ll try to tough it out. Of course, if he does, we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, however, we can look at the candidate’s policy proposals. And what has been going on there is just as revealing, in its own way, as his attempt to dodge scrutiny of his personal finances.

The story so far: Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to nonpartisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Now, the inconsistency between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his specific proposals didn’t seem to hurt him in the Republican primaries. Neither did the wild irresponsibility of those specifics, perhaps because all the major contenders for the G.O.P. nomination were proposing huge, budget-busting tax cuts for the rich. True, none of them were quite as off the charts as the Trump plan, but such distinctions were probably lost on primary voters — $4 trillion, $10 trillion, who cares?

Having secured the nomination, however, Mr. Trump apparently feels the need to seem more respectable. The goal, I suspect, is to bring the headline numbers down enough to let the media’s propensity for false equivalence kick in. Hillary Clinton has a plan that actually adds up, while Donald Trump has a plan that will cost $4 trillion, but which he claims is deficit-neutral? Hey, it’s the same thing!

Oh, and meanwhile he suggested once again that he might raise taxes on the rich, then walked it back, with credulous media eating it all up.

But what’s really interesting is whom, according to Politico, Mr. Trump has brought in to revise his plans: Larry Kudlow of CNBC and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. That news had economic analysts spitting out their morning coffee all across America.

For those who don’t follow such things, Mr. Kudlow has a record of being wrong about, well, everything. In 2005 he ridiculed “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes in Las Vegas or Naples, Florida, to bring down the consumer, the rest of the economy, and the entire stock market” — which was exactly what happened. In 2007 he predicted three years of “Goldilocks” prosperity. And on and on.

Mr. Moore has a comparable forecasting record, but he also has a remarkable inability to get facts straight. Perhaps most famously, he once attempted to rebut, well, me with an article detailing the supposed benefits of state tax cuts; incredibly, not one of the many numbers in that article was right.

So why would Mr. Trump turn to these of all people to, ahem, fix his numbers?

e all mysterious.  Here’s Mr. Cohen:

A little over five years ago I was with my colleague Robert F. Worth in Pierre Sioufi’s rambling apartment overlooking Tahrir Square in Cairo. We watched as the Egyptian people rose to overthrow the 30-year-old dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and stake its claim to citizenship, representation, dignity and the rule of law.

Bearded members of the Muslim Brotherhood, their skin scarred by the torture of Mubarak’s security state, embraced secular Egyptian liberals and declared common cause. Young men and women, their eyes burning with conviction, proclaimed that the 18 days in Tahrir had given their lives meaning for the first time by demonstrating the power to effect change. They had discovered agency; they would build a better Egypt. Alaa Al Aswany, an Egyptian novelist, told the crowd: “The revolution is a new birth, not just for Egypt but on an individual level. It’s like falling in love: you become a better person.”

Those were heady days. It was impossible not to suspend one’s disbelief. The army was impassive, the Brotherhood restrained and Twitter-empowered Arab youth ascendant. Liberation unfurled in a wave unseen since 1989.

After the fall less than a month earlier of the Tunisian dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, it seemed the frozen, decades-long Arab confrontation of cynical dictators and repressed Islamists — fecund in the incubation of jihadi terrorists — had given way to the possibility of more inclusive societies. If Egypt, home to about a quarter of the world’s Arab population, could see the birth of meaningful citizenship, festering Arab humiliation would be replaced by empowering dignity. The West might escape its conspiracy-fueled place in the Arab mind as the hypocritical enabler of every iniquity. That would be a more powerful boost to its security than any far-flung war in Muslim lands.

It was not to be. Five years on, Tahrir has the quality of a dream. Read Worth’s remarkable new book, “A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS,” and weep. The chasm between the civic spirit of the square and the brutal theocracy of the Islamic State reveals the extent of the failure.

The book is a beautifully written chronicle, told through the struggles of ordinary people, of shattered hopes, lives, families and societies. Worth excavates the personal wounds revelatory of larger betrayals. Everywhere outside Tunisia, sect, tribe and the Mukhabarat (secret police) prove stronger than the aspiration for institutions capable of mediating differences and bringing the elusive “karama,” or dignity, that, as Worth notes, was the “rallying cry of all the uprisings.”

Who should be blamed for this epic failure? The Muslim Brotherhood for reneging on its promise not to contest Egypt’s first post-uprising presidential election? The Egyptian army and corrupt “deep state” for never giving the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi (“the country’s first democratically elected president in six thousand years of history”) the means to govern? Morsi himself for his foolish power grabs, inept rigidity and inability to realize that he had to demonstrate he was everyone’s president, not merely the Brotherhood’s? Egyptian liberals for so quickly abandoning the idea of democracy to side with the military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his bloody coup that the United States never called by its name?

Or was it Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for burying the Syrian uprising in rivers of blood? Or Saudi money cynically deployed against every agent of liberalizing transformation? Or a wavering Obama administration that, as in Iran in 2009, and Syria since 2011, has wrapped itself in righteous caution as the winds of change coursed through the Middle East? Or the feckless West that intervened in Libya only to abandon it? Or, simply, the impossibility of delivering more liberal, representative societies to a region where political Islam invokes not the power of the people but the all-pervasive authority of God?

Worth does not judge. He reveals. He notes the remarkable compromises in Tunisia between the Islamist party, Ennahda, and the old secular guard that has enabled this small country, alone, to realize something of the hopes of 2011.

Leadership counts; Tunisia found a leader in Rached Ghannouchi, an Islamist whose long exile in Britain taught him the life-saving wisdom of democratic give and take. Elsewhere in the Arab world, there has been nothing resembling leadership.

But, with equal force, Worth demonstrates how the failure of 2011 led many who had sought but not found dignity to seek it anew in a border-straddling land controlled by the Islamic State. When the dream of the uprisings evaporated, he writes, “many gave way to apathy or despair, or even nostalgia for the old regimes they had assailed. But some ran headlong into the seventh century in search of the same prize” — a place “they could call their own, a state that shielded its subjects from humiliation and despair.”

This shocking last sentence of “A Rage for Order” is the measure of the world’s dilemma in the bloodstained ruins of the Arab Spring. How, after all, can anyone see the barbaric practices of ISIS in those terms?

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

This seems to be the week for Trump tax mysteries. One mystery is why Donald Trump, unlike every other major party nominee in modern times, is refusing to release his tax returns. The other is why, having decided that he needs experts to clean up his ludicrous tax-cut proposals, he chose to call on the services of the gang that couldn’t think straight.

On the first mystery: Mr. Trump’s excuse, that he can’t release his returns while they’re being audited, is an obvious lie. On the contrary, the fact that he’s being audited (or at least that he says he’s being audited) should make it easier for him to go public — after all, he needn’t fear triggering an audit! Clearly, he must be hiding something. What?

It could be how little he pays in taxes, a revelation that hurt Mitt Romney in 2012. But I doubt it; given how Mr. Trump rolls, he’d probably boast that his ability to game the tax system shows how smart he is compared to all the losers out there.

So my guess, shared by a number of observers, is that the dirty secret hidden in those returns is that he isn’t as rich as he claims to be. In Trumpworld, the revelation that he’s only worth a couple of billion — maybe even less than a billion — would be utterly humiliating. So he’ll try to tough it out. Of course, if he does, we’ll never know.

Meanwhile, however, we can look at the candidate’s policy proposals. And what has been going on there is just as revealing, in its own way, as his attempt to dodge scrutiny of his personal finances.

The story so far: Last fall Mr. Trump suggested that he would break with Republican orthodoxy by raising taxes on the wealthy. But then he unveiled a tax plan that would, in fact, lavish huge tax cuts on the rich. And it would also, according to nonpartisan analyses, cause deficits to explode, adding around $10 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Now, the inconsistency between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and his specific proposals didn’t seem to hurt him in the Republican primaries. Neither did the wild irresponsibility of those specifics, perhaps because all the major contenders for the G.O.P. nomination were proposing huge, budget-busting tax cuts for the rich. True, none of them were quite as off the charts as the Trump plan, but such distinctions were probably lost on primary voters — $4 trillion, $10 trillion, who cares?

Having secured the nomination, however, Mr. Trump apparently feels the need to seem more respectable. The goal, I suspect, is to bring the headline numbers down enough to let the media’s propensity for false equivalence kick in. Hillary Clinton has a plan that actually adds up, while Donald Trump has a plan that will cost $4 trillion, but which he claims is deficit-neutral? Hey, it’s the same thing!

Oh, and meanwhile he suggested once again that he might raise taxes on the rich, then walked it back, with credulous media eating it all up.

But what’s really interesting is whom, according to Politico, Mr. Trump has brought in to revise his plans: Larry Kudlow of CNBC and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation. That news had economic analysts spitting out their morning coffee all across America.

For those who don’t follow such things, Mr. Kudlow has a record of being wrong about, well, everything. In 2005 he ridiculed “bubbleheads who expect housing-price crashes in Las Vegas or Naples, Florida, to bring down the consumer, the rest of the economy, and the entire stock market” — which was exactly what happened. In 2007 he predicted three years of “Goldilocks” prosperity. And on and on.

Mr. Moore has a comparable forecasting record, but he also has a remarkable inability to get facts straight. Perhaps most famously, he once attempted to rebut, well, me with an article detailing the supposed benefits of state tax cuts; incredibly, not one of the many numbers in that article was right.

So why would Mr. Trump turn to these of all people to, ahem, fix his numbers?

It could be a peace offering, an attempt to reassure insiders by bringing in Mr. Kudlow and Mr. Moore, who are influential members of the Republican establishment — which incidentally tells you a lot about their party.

But my guess is that the explanation is simpler: The candidate has no idea who is and isn’t competent. I mean, it’s not as if he has any independent knowledge of economics, or even knows what he doesn’t know. For example, he keeps asserting that America has the world’s highest taxes, when we’re actually at the bottom among advanced nations.

So he probably just went with a couple of guys he’s seen on TV, assuming that they must be there because they know their stuff.

Now, you might wonder how someone that careless and incurious was such a huge success in business. But one answer is, how successful was he, really? What’s in those tax returns?

Krugman’s blog, 5/11/16

May 12, 2016

There was one post yesterday, “Send In The Clowns:”

Still boggled by reports that Trump, having realized that the numbers on his tax plan aren’t remotely credible, has decided to fix things by bringing in as experts … Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore. I mean, at some level this was predictable. But it still tells you a lot about both Donald the Doofus and his chosen party.

Granted that Trump is deeply ignorant about policy; still, you might have thought that he would try to signal his independence from the establishment by, say, turning to some business economist. Instead, he turned to the usual suspects from the right-wing noise machine. And what a choice!

I mean, Kudlow is to economics what William Kristol is to political strategy: if he says something, you know it’s wrong. When he ridiculed “bubbleheads” who thought overvalued real estate could bring down the economy, you should have rushed for the bomb shelters; when he proclaimed Bush a huge success, because a rising stock market is the ultimate verdict on a presidency (unless the president is a Democrat), you should have known that the Bush era would end with epochal collapse.

And then there’s Moore, who has a similarly awesome forecasting record, and adds to it an impressive lack of even minimal technical competence. Seriously: read the CJR report on his mess-up over job numbers:

The recurring “oops,” intended as a dig at Krugman, took on an unintended irony after Abouhalkah discovered that Moore’s numbers did not match those of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, Moore later acknowledged, he was using BLS numbers not from “the last five years” but from an earlier five-year period: December 2007 to December 2012. Focusing on that period is arguably dubious, because the span captures the depths of the Great Recession and the housing crash, which hit some states harder than others—and whose impact likely would have swamped any tax-rate effect. There are other issues with the quality of Moore’s argument, too, like its glancing-at-best treatment of how factors like housing costs shape population and job growth.

In any case, Abouhalkah found, Moore’s numbers were wrong even for 2007-12, in ways that complicated the “low taxes = more jobs” message.

Texas did not gain 1 million jobs in the 2007-2012 period Moore measured. The correct figure was a gain of 497,400 jobs.

Florida did not add hundreds of thousands of jobs in that span. It actually lost 461,500 jobs.

New York, with [its] very high income tax rates, did not lose jobs during that time. It gained 75,900 jobs.

Oops, indeed.

Of course, Moore remains the chief economist at Heritage. And maybe Trump believes that this is a certificate of quality, that anyone in that position must be a real expert.

Truly, Donald Trump, you know nothing.

Blow, Kristof, and Collins

May 12, 2016

In “As West Virginia Goes…” Mr. Blow says if Trump has a path to the presidency, it will likely be because of the Democrats’ weakness among voters who look a lot like the voters in this state.  Mr. Kristof, in “Congress to America: Drop Dead,” says Republicans played politics two years ago with the Ebola epidemic, and now they’re stalling on the president’s funding request to fight Zika.  Ms. Collins says “Bring Hillary and Bernie Together” and that Democrats could turn his standard speech into the party’s platform.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

West Virginia turned on Hillary Clinton.

In 2008, when running for the Democratic nomination against then-Senator Barack Obama, Clinton won every county in the state, carrying it by a whopping 41 points.

Clinton said in 2008 during her West Virginia victory speech that no Democrat had won the White House since 1916 without taking West Virginia. What she didn’t say was that they all could have won without it. The margins of victory in those races ranged from 23 to 515 electoral votes. West Virginia has five.

That is precisely what Obama did. He won the election in 2008 without winning West Virginia, and he was re-elected in 2012 without winning even a single county in the state.

The Hill reported this week that, according to a political-science professor at a West Virginia college, West Virginia voters were so “fiercely anti-Obama that they voted in large numbers in 2012 for his primary opponent, who was a jailed felon in Texas.”

This cycle, a major part of Clinton’s strategy has been to so closely align herself with President Obama that there is very little light between them. This helped her secure and retain some minority voters, but most likely distanced her from many white ones.

On Tuesday, Clinton lost every county in the state and trailed Bernie Sanders by nearly 16 points.

So what’s going on in West Virginia? First, it is one of the whitest states in the country, and the absolute whitest in the South. It is also the least educated state and one of the poorest.

As of 2014, almost 94 percent of its citizens are white, only 18.7 percent have attained a bachelor’s degree and 17.2 percent fall below the poverty threshold.

West Virginia is the only state wholly contained in Appalachia, a collection of counties that stretches from Mississippi to New York and covers portions of swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. This region has been trending away from Democrats in recent elections. Obama won fewer than 30 of Appalachia’s 420 counties in 2012; he won 44 in 2008; John Kerry won 48 in 2004; and Al Gore won 66 counties 2000.

West Virginia is also heavily reliant on the coal industry, which is at odds with liberal clean-energy initiatives.

In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle in 2008, Obama said of his proposed energy plans:

If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.

Bankruptcies aside, the Obama years saw a steep decline in coal production in the state. According to a report published by West Virginia University, “After climbing to nearly 158 million short tons in 2008, the state’s coal mine output has tumbled in each successive year to an annual total of approximately 115 million short tons in 2014 ─ or a cumulative decline of 27 percent.”

This was the right long-term clean-energy approach, but it hit a sour chord in West Virginia.

True to her Obama-emulating form, Clinton took a similar tack this cycle when she said during a CNN town hall:

I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?

And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.

Now we’ve got to move away from coal and all the other fossil fuels, but I don’t want to move away from the people who did the best they could to produce the energy that we relied on.

Again, smart long-term policy, but doesn’t sit well in West Virginia. Clinton recently apologized for the “misstatement,” saying, “I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context for what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time.”

But the apology was too little, too late for voters in West Virginia.

West Virginia illustrates the danger that accompanies the Clinton strategy of closely aligning with President Obama and his policies: Many white voters, particularly white men, detest him. Many on the right think he went too far and many on the left don’t think he went far enough. The populist movements at both ideological extremes are to some degree anti-Obama movements.

As ABC News reported Tuesday about preliminary exit polls in the state, “the highest level of economic concern in any Democratic primary this year and greater-than-usual turnout among men, whites, political independents and critics of President Obama characterized Hillary Clinton’s challenges in the West Virginia primary.”

In 2014, Gallup reported on the depths of this problem for Democrats in general:

President Barack Obama’s job approval rating among white non-college graduates is at 27 percent so far in 2014, 14 percentage points lower than among white college graduates. This is the largest yearly gap between these two groups since Obama took office. These data underscore the magnitude of the Democratic Party’s problem with working-class whites, among whom Obama lost in the 2012 presidential election, and among whom Democratic House candidates lost in the 2014 U.S. House voting by 30 points.

These white non-college graduates are a strong base of support for Donald Trump, who exclaimed in Nevada, “I love the poorly educated.” Apparently, the feeling is mutual.

If Trump has a path to the presidency, it will most likely be because of Clinton’s — and Democrats’ — weakness among people who look an awful lot like the voters in West Virginia.

Next up we have Mr. Kristof:

In a moment, we’ll get to the Zika virus.

First, remember how scathing Republicans were about President Obama’s handling of Ebola in the fall of 2014? They lambasted his reluctance to ban travelers from affected nations, with Paul Broun, a House member from Georgia then, even wondering if Obama had a “purposeful” plan to use Ebola to harm America.

Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative gadfly, suggested that Obama didn’t care if Ebola devastated the United States: “He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too.”

A Fox News contributor, Dr. Keith Ablow, suggested in a radio broadcast that Obama perhaps wanted America to suffer from Ebola because “his affiliations” are with Africa rather than with America.

Then there was Donald Trump. After a New York physician, Craig Spencer, returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa and showed symptoms of the disease, Trump tweeted that if the doctor developed Ebola (he did), “Obama should apologize to the American people & resign!”

Trump added: “President Obama, you are a complete and total disaster, but you have a chance to do something great and important: STOP THE FLIGHTS!” That was a reference to what appeared to be the G.O.P. strategy at the time: Let Ebola destroy Africa and much of the rest of the world, but try to seal off the United States from infection.

In the 2014 elections, Republican candidates ran hundreds of ads denouncing the Obama administration’s handling of Ebola.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey forcibly confined Kaci Hickox, a nurse returning from West Africa, as she passed through Newark’s airport on her way to Maine. By quarantining her in a tent though she tested negative for Ebola, he complicated initiatives to send health workers to fight the disease in Africa.

In contrast, Obama’s approach was spectacularly successful. With crucial support from Britain and France, and heroic efforts by groups like Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse, Obama deployed troops to West Africa and was able to pretty much extinguish the virus there, averting a global humanitarian and economic catastrophe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had calculated that without an intervention there might be 1.4 million cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 2015. From there it could have catapulted around the world, killing millions, entering the United States, devastating the global economy and becoming impossible to eradicate in some places.

That might have happened if someone like Trump or Christie had been in charge. It’s tragic that 11,300 West Africans died from Ebola, but the toll would have been incomparably higher — in Africa and in America — if not for Obama’s actions.

Hey, Mr. Trump, do you still think that President Obama should resign for his handling of Ebola?

All of that is worth reviewing because congressional Republicans are now again trying to block a sensible effort to address a public health crisis, this time a Zika virus outbreak that is steadily moving to the continental U.S., bringing with it calamitous birth defects.

In February, Obama urgently requested more than $1.8 billion to address Zika, and Congress since then has done nothing but talk. Republicans have protested that the administration doesn’t need the money, that they have questions that haven’t been answered or that the request is vague. These objections are absurd.

Even Senator Marco Rubio laid into his fellow Republicans a few weeks ago, saying: “The money is going to be spent. And the question is, Do we do it now before this has become a crisis, or do we wait for it to become a crisis?”

Rubio is right. It’s always more cost-effective and lifesaving to tackle an epidemic early.

“I’m very worried, especially for our U.S. Gulf Coast states,” said Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, a tropical diseases expert at Baylor College of Medicine. “I cannot understand why a member of Congress from a Gulf Coast state cannot see this train approaching. It’s like refusing emergency preparedness funds for an approaching hurricane.”

We don’t know how badly Zika will hit the U.S. But, the first American has just died of it, and federal health professionals are debating whether to counsel women in Zika areas to avoid pregnancy — and to me, that sounds serious.

The larger mistake is that budget cutters have systematically cut public health budgets that address Zika, Ebola and other ailments. The best bargain in government may be public health, and Republicans have slashed funding for it while Democrats have shrugged.

“Special funds for public health preparedness have been cut by more than 30 percent over the last decade and hospital preparedness by more than half,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener of Columbia University and its National Center for Disaster Preparedness. “All of this leaves the country far more vulnerable than people realize to threats like a Zika outbreak — or whatever else the future has in store.”

He added, “We will pay a steep price for this particular shortsightedness.”

And now we get to Ms. Collins:

Bernie Sanders is not going away. And why should he? The weather is nice, the crowds are enormous and he keeps winning primaries. Hillary Clinton has what appears to be an insurmountable lead in delegates, but hope springs eternal.

“It is a steep hill to climb,” he admits.

Actually, probably harder to surmount than Gangkhar Puensum. (Which is the world’s highest unclimbed mountain. I am telling you this to distract you from the subject of delegate counts.)

But about Sanders: Democrats, what do you think he should do?

A) Convention floor fight. “Game of Thrones”! Jon Snow is alive!

B) Go away. When Clinton lost, did she torture Barack Obama over who was going to be on the platform committee? No, she sucked it up and gave an extremely nice endorsement speech.

C) Why can’t we all just get along?

Personally, I think that last one is possible. Although it would probably be a good idea to avoid saying a Clinton nomination could be a “disaster simply to protect the status quo,” as Sanders’s campaign manager did in an email on Wednesday.

In an ideal world the Democrats would nominate a presidential candidate who’s got an inspiring vision of change and the competence to run the country from Day 1. This person is not going to be on the ballot this year. So let Hillary Clinton have the nomination and give Bernie Sanders the party platform.

He deserves a role. Sanders has spent the last year speaking about narrowing the gulf between the rich and the bottom 99 percent, fighting climate change and keeping special interests out of government. He’s inspired millions. It’s pretty much always the same speech, but he’s the one who can bring the music.

(Question: Will the Republicans have a fight about their platform? Nah — Donald Trump will let his opponents put in anything they want. Look, the man has convention entertainment to plan. Given the option of choosing the party position on health care or the dance numbers, you know which way he’s going to go.)

The Democrats could just make the Sanders speech into a platform, then join hands and march into the future. There actually aren’t a lot of areas of disagreement. Clinton thinks his call for free public college tuition is … well, let’s not say dumb. Dumb is not going to get you a united convention. Let’s just say too much of a good thing. But she does want free community college tuition. Did you know that? She announced it on the very first official stop of her campaign. Since then not, um, frequently. Feel free to remind her.

They both believe in universal health care coverage. Sanders wants “Medicare for all.” Clinton’s campaign says she does, too, in theory, but just doesn’t believe anything like that could get through Congress. This week she proposed a new option for 50-somethings that The Times’s Alan Rappeport and Margot Sanger-Katz called “Medicare for more.”

And you know, if Clinton could actually deliver on those two promises, it would be stupendous. This is an excellent example of the Democratic bottom line: On many, many issues, her platform is what the Sanders platform would look like if it actually got through the congressional wringer.

On other matters, the Democrats’ current policy divisions are just about doubting Hillary Clinton’s intentions. Sanders wants to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, which bars commercial banks from going into the investment banking business. Clinton says she can crack down on Wall Street better with more recent legislation. Sanders followers don’t believe she means it.

I say, be impressed that there’s a party full of young voters for whom “Glass-Steagall” is a big applause line. You can’t not want to encourage that. Put Glass-Steagall in the platform. Even if Clinton is right, all you’d have is duplication of effort, and it would be an excellent gesture of solidarity.

Finally, there’s the influence of big-money donors on American politics. In theory, Sanders and Clinton are pretty much in the same place. But in practice, he’s built his entire campaign around the concept of throwing out special interest money, while Clinton’s barely provided lip service.

“One of the four pillars of her campaign was going to be democracy issues,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of the reform group Democracy 21. “Well, the pillars haven’t been around too much.”

Wertheimer had his heart broken by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who both promised to make campaign finance a top priority, then didn’t. Hillary Clinton, he thinks, ought to promise something more specific that she could implement right away. “Set up a task force in the White House whose job it is to pursue this reform. Of top staff people,” he suggested.

Or a blue-ribbon committee featuring Bernie Sanders. Who would certainly never let her hear the end of it if she failed to deliver. Put that in the platform and smoke it.

Friedman and Bruni

May 11, 2016

In “Trump’s Miss Universe Foreign Policy” The Moustache of Wisdom says he based it on a beauty pageant, a convenience store and statements of fiction.  Mr. Bruni, in “Obama’s Gorgeous Goodbye,” says as he prepares to exit, the president makes a final plea about cooperation and common purpose.  Here’s TMOW:

O.K., it’s easy to pick on Donald Trump’s foreign policy. But just because he recently referred to the attack on the World Trade Center as happening on “7/11” — which is a convenience store — instead of 9/11, and just because he claimed that “I know Russia well” because he held a “major event in Russia two or three years ago — [the] Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event” — doesn’t make him unqualified.

I’m sure you can learn a lot schmoozing with Miss Argentina. You can also learn a lot eating at the International House of Pancakes. I never fully understood Arab politics until I ate hummus — or was it Hamas?

And, by the way, just because Trump’s big foreign policy speech was salted with falsehoods — like “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libyan oil” — it doesn’t make him unqualified.

The New York Times Magazine just profiled one of the president’s deputy national security advisers, Ben Rhodes, reporting how he and his aides boasted of using social media, what the writer called a “largely manufactured” narrative, and a pliant press to, in essence, dupe the country into supporting the Iran nuclear deal. The Donald is not the only one given to knuckleheaded bluster and misrepresentation on foreign policy.

Life is imitating Twitter everywhere now.

Indeed, criticizing Trump for inconsistency when it comes to foreign policy is a bit rich when you consider that both Democrats and Republicans have treated Pakistan as an ally, knowing full well that its secret service has trucked with terrorists and coddled the Taliban — the people killing U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; they’ve both treated Saudi Arabia as an ally because we needed its oil, knowing full well that its export of Salafist Islam has fueled jihadists; they both supported decapitating Libya and then not staying around to support a new security order, thus opening a gaping hole on the African coast for migrants to flow into Europe; they’ve both supported NATO expansion into Russia’s face and then wondered aloud why the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is so truculent.

No, if I were critiquing Trump’s foreign policy views it would not be on inconsistency, hypocrisy or lying. It would be that he shows no sign of having asked the most important question: What are the real foreign policy challenges the next president will face? I don’t think he has a clue, because if he did, he wouldn’t want the job. This is one of the worst times to be conducting U.S. foreign policy.

Consider some of the questions that will greet the Oval Office’s next occupant. For starters, what does the new president do when the necessary is impossible but the impossible is necessary? Yes, we’ve proved in Iraq and Afghanistan that we don’t know how to do nation-building in other people’s countries. But just leaving Libya, Syria and parts of Iraq and Yemen ungoverned, and spewing out refugees, has led to a flood of migrants hitting Europe and stressing the cohesion of the European Union; that refugee flood could very well lead to Britain’s exit from the E.U.

President Obama has been patting himself on the back a lot lately for not intervening in Syria. I truly sympathized with how hard that call was — until I heard the president and his aides boasting about how smart their decision was and how stupid all their critics are. The human and geopolitical spillover from Syria is not over. It’s destabilizing the E.U., Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan and Jordan. The choices are hellish. I would not want the responsibility for making them. But nobody has a monopoly on genius here, and neither Obama’s victory lap around this smoldering ruin nor Trump’s bombastic and simplistic solutions are pretty to watch.

And there are more of these stressors coming: Falling oil prices, climate change and population bombs are going to blow up more weak states, hemorrhaging refugees in all directions.

There’s also the question of what you should do about the networked nihilists? Ever since the rise of Osama bin Laden, super-empowered angry men have challenged us. But at least Bin Laden had an identifiable cause and set of demands: cleansing the Arabian Peninsula of Western influence. But now we are seeing a mutation. Can anyone tell me what the terrorists who killed all those people in Brussels, Paris or San Bernardino wanted? They didn’t even leave a note; their act was their note. These suicidal jihadist-nihilists are not trying to win; they just want to make us lose. That’s a tough foe. They can’t destroy us — now — but they will ratchet up the pain if they get the ammo. Curbing them while maintaining an open society, with personal privacy on your cellphone and the Internet, will be a challenge.

And then there are Russia and China. They’re back in the game of traditional sphere-of-influence geopolitics. But both Russia and China face huge economic strains that will tempt their leaders to distract attention at home with nationalist adventures abroad.

The days of clear-cut, satisfying victories overseas, like opening up China or tearing down the Berlin Wall, are over. U.S. foreign policy now is all about containing disorder and messes. It is the exact opposite of running a beauty pageant. There’s no winner, and each contestant is uglier than the last.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

In this twilight of his presidency, Barack Obama is unlikely to deliver much in the way of meaningful legislation.

But he’s giving us a pointed, powerful civics lesson.

Consider his speech to new graduates of Howard University last weekend. While it brimmed with the usual kudos for hard work, it also bristled with caveats about the mistakes that he sees some young people making.

He chided them for demonizing enemies and silencing opponents. He cautioned them against a sense of grievance too exaggerated and an outrage bereft of perspective. “If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, ‘young, gifted and black’ in America, you would choose right now,” he said. “To deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”

He was by no means telling them to be satisfied, and he wasn’t talking only or even chiefly to them. He was talking to all of us — to America — and saying: enough. Enough with a kind of identity politics that can shove aside common purpose. Enough with a partisanship so caustic that it bleeds into hatred.

Enough with such deafening sound and blinding fury in our public debate. They make for entertainment, not enlightenment, and stand in the way of progress.

His remarks at Howard were an extension of those in his final State of the Union address in January and of those to the Illinois General Assembly in February, nine years to the day after he announced his history-making bid for the presidency. The Illinois speech, wise and gorgeous, received less attention than it deserved.

“We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas,” he said then. Otherwise, he warned, “Extreme voices fill the void.” This current presidential campaign has borne him out.

Obama detractors and skeptics probably hear in all of this a professorial haughtiness that has plagued him and alienated them before. And there’s legitimate disagreement about the degree to which he has been an agent as well as a casualty of the poisoned environment he rues. His administration’s actions haven’t always been as high-minded as his words.

But we should all listen to him nonetheless, for several reasons.

One is that he’s not just taking jabs at opponents. He’s issuing challenges to groups — African-Americans, college students — from whom he has drawn strong support and with whom he has real credibility.

“We must expand our moral imaginations,” he told black students at Howard, imploring them to recognize “the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.”

Just two weeks earlier, at a town-hall-style meeting in London, hevolunteered a critique of the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that once “elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can’t just keep on yelling at them.”

Another reason to listen to Obama is the accuracy and eloquence with which he’s diagnosing current ills. In Illinois he noted that while ugly partisanship has always existed, it’s fed in our digital era by voters’ ability to curate information from only those news sources and social-media feeds that echo and amplify their prejudices.

“We can choose our own facts,” he lamented. “We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.” Advocacy groups often make matters worse, he added, by “keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.”

At Howard, Obama insisted that change “requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise.”

“If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want,” he continued. “So don’t try to shut folks out. Don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.”

At this late point, his message isn’t a self-serving one about the political climate that he personally wants to operate in and benefit from. It’s about the climate that would serve everyone best. If it draws attention to the improvements that he pledged but couldn’t accomplish, he’s O.K. with that. It still needs saying.

And so he’s fashioning this blunt, soulful goodbye, a reflection on our troubled democracy that, I fear, will be lost in the din of the Trump-Clinton death match. It brings him full circle, from the audacity to the tenacity of hope.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167 other followers