Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Human social virtues in a time of crisis

April 1, 2020

Garrison Keillor once said, if the purpose of one’s life is to serve others, then what purpose is served by the existence of those others? This actually poses a deep philosophical issue. John Donne wrote that no man is an island. Yet each of us experiences existence only within the confines of our own skulls. Experiencing only one’s own feelings, not those of others.

It can be argued that we only ever do seemingly selfless deeds when it rewards us with good feelings. Evolution programmed us to have such feelings — and with empathy for the feelings of others, even if we cannot experience them directly — to make us do things for the common good. Hence even if pure selfishness might seem strictly logical, a degree of selflessness is a fundamental part of our human nature (barring sociopaths who failed to get that software installed). And we measure our virtue largely in terms of our interactions with others. Summed up pretty well by the golden rule. Nobody is perfect but most of us try.

And not just because of our programming. Your rational brain tells you that if you want to live in a society where people treat each other well, it behooves you to behave that way yourself. And if everybody does this, it’s good for everybody. We do what’s right mainly because we know it’s right, and why.

Holding fast to these standards of conduct is especially vital in a crisis like today’s, where the temptations for selfishness are heightened, and so is its ill effect. Where social solidarity is more needful than ever. Americans are largely meeting the test.

Acting rightly does make one feel good about oneself. But that may not be enough. We all have egos, greedy for such feelings, and one way to pump them up is through validation from others. This may seem strange because, again, you don’t have direct access to what others feel. But you’re affected by their behavior, which in turn is affected by their feelings toward you. And our social programming makes our position in society important to us. All this makes us crave the good opinion of others, and suckers for flattery.

Thus if we do good or are successful, we want others to know it. One way is to tell them. But that actually contravenes the golden rule. How so? Well, do you enjoy hearing others’ boasts? Saying “Look how great I am” implicitly tells the hearer, “and you’re not.” Even if unintentionally, self-aggrandizement forces the hearer to ponder the comparison. It’s not nice. That’s why bragging has a negative connotation, and modesty and humility are virtues.* A basic rule of living in society.

Much human behavior seeks to evade that rule. Successful, rich people cannot wear a badge announcing their net worth. But a lot of what they do (and buy) is mainly to advertise to others about their success. Boastfulness by other means.

But some are boastful by boasting. “I am very rich,” Trump has said. “I am very smart.” He’s even boasted of being the most modest person ever. And he tells us he’s doing a great job. Thus his coronavirus briefings (whose TV ratings he’s bragged about). Recently the word of the day, repeated like a verbal tic, was “tremendous.” Then he switched to “incredible.” Maybe tomorrow it will be “fantastic.” And not content to trumpet his wonderfulness himself, he trots out sycophantic flatterers to bubble about it.

What’s truly incredible is a president using a horrific crisis, with thousands dying, and millions suffering deprivation, as an occasion for sickening orgies of self-congratulation.

And contemptible as such braggadocio is, worse yet if the boasts are lies. It’s been factually documented how his failure of leadership delayed forceful action on testing to contain the virus. Doing what other countries did would have saved many thousands of lives and trillions in economic devastation. This reality might have brought forth some humility. A different reality can only be constructed out of lies. Like the simply false claim that we’re testing more than any other nation. (Our per-capita testing rate is certainly way below.)

I have pilloried Governor Cuomo in the past, but his coronavirus briefings are models of what Trump’s are not. No self-praise extravaganzas. No bashing the press and other critics, no demanding obsequious flattery. No lying. Cuomo gives us the unvarnished truth. He takes responsibility. He brings the situation home to us in a very human way we can all relate to. He tells us what needs to be done, what we all must do.

Knowing he’s being unfavorably compared to Cuomo infuriates Trump. But, incapable of learning from Cuomo, he resorts to pot-shots at him: “He had a chance to buy, in 2015, 16,000 ventilators at a very low price . . . he shouldn’t be talking about us. He should be buying his own ventilators.” But instead, said Trump, Cuomo goes for “death panels and lotteries.”

Albany Times-Union columnist Chris Churchill has deconstructed exactly how vile this Trump cheap shot is. It came (surprise) from the internet, a right-wing website, based on a 2015 state task force report on pandemic planning. Churchill read it and interviewed the task force leader — concluding that the attack on Cuomo was “blatantly dishonest.” The report discussed strategies for dealing with a ventilator shortage, but did not recommend buying thousands just in case. Let alone somehow present an option to buy 16,000 “at a very low price.”

But Trump’s gross distortion of the facts is kind of beside the point. He’s repeatedly shown he needs no facts at all to slime somebody. And keeping up such divisive dishonesty, even in this time of national trauma, is just ghastly.

Here is the real point, that all this leads up to. I started out talking about our most fundamental human precepts for living among others. How normal people have that software pre-installed, and how crucial it is in a crisis like we face now. When the leadership we choose is someone who has not had that software installed, we are in very deep trouble as a society.

* Certain commenters will jump to sneer about my own modesty. I was tempted to actually talk about it here. But that would be immodest.

Responsibility

March 15, 2020

“Leadership: Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.”

—— Trump, tweeting in 2013, slamming Obama)

“No, I don’t take responsibility at all.”

—— Trump at Friday’s event, asked about the disgraceful testing lag)

Bernie: time to support Biden

March 11, 2020

In any human endeavor, rationality demands asking what purpose is served. It’s not always obvious.

What purpose is served now by Sanders continuing to campaign? After the latest primaries, his probability of nomination is approximately zero. No: make that precisely zero.

Thank goodness. His nomination could have ensured Trump’s re-election. That in fact is the main reason why most Democrats have voted against him. And so many doing so proves how wrong was the argument that he’d be the strongest nominee. Most Democrats recognized that Sanders is not what the nation most needs: not another upheaval, but a president of simple decency, honesty, responsibility, and sanity. That’s Biden.

Showcased by his speech last night. What a stark contrast with the blowhard asshole in the White House. I’m increasingly confident sanity will finally prevail.

Left wingers are always whining that “the system” unfairly screws them (a mirror-image to Trumpian grievance politics). They relentlessly claimed the media buried news about opposition to the Iraq war. It got relentless coverage, in my recollection. Likewise with Sanders, always the complaint he isn’t covered enough, equally bogus.

Now it’s “the establishment” and “Wall Street corporate billionaires” in some imagined conspiracy to thwart Bernie’s candidacy. When what’s really thwarting it is voters.

They aren’t being manipulated by some “establishment.” The surge to Biden is an entirely spontaneous one, with Democrats sizing up the field and deciding on their own. On Super Tuesday Biden won some states he didn’t even campaign in. It’s black voters especially who show the good sense to reject Bernie’s stridency and embrace instead an achievable vision of America at its best. Yes, after all the shit they’ve suffered, still it’s they who most believe in what America means, bless their hearts.

And in the end it may be said it was they who saved the country. They’re the ones with the greatest role in keeping the Democratic party from barreling down the kind of rabbit hole that’s swallowed up Republicans. This former conservative Republican feels very comfortable having left the deranged cult my party became, joining instead the one retaining its sanity.

To Sanders voters: you are passionate idealists. You wanted radical change. I didn’t agree with it, but I get it, and respect it. You did have a fair argument to make; you made it well; you didn’t persuade a majority. That’s democracy. Democracy means you have to accept it when the other side wins.

In 2016 we had a revolution by the populist right. Sandernistas wanted a revolution too. Van Jones, on CNN last night, said what we’re seeing is a revolution after all — a revolution by the middle.

Many Bernie Bros say they won’t vote for Biden. On a radio call-in, I heard one declare he’s looking forward to saying “I told you so” on November 4. How can you back Sanders but relish another Trump term? This is nuts. It’s why I say we need to restore sanity to our politics, to combat such toxic divisiveness.

Van Jones also said Bernie must now decide whether to be a uniter or divider. He should end his campaign and urge his supporters to unite behind Biden. Full-throated support for Biden will make Sanders a hero. Continuing an effort to tear Biden down can only serve to help Trump.

Super Tuesday and American democracy

March 4, 2020

As Super Tuesday loomed, I hoped for a triumph of sanity — but feared its last stand.

Thank you, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, tribunes of sanity who did the right thing. And to voters who took a cold hard look at Sanders — and decided “uh uh.” It seems the moral imbecility of his praising Castro hurt him. Virtually everywhere, he got fewer votes than in 2016. Biden won states he hadn’t even campaigned in. He is now the clear leader in popular votes and delegates. This broad-based victory will strengthen his momentum. Sanders will continue to torment Biden, but cannot be nominated.

So enough already with this foolishness of wanting on “outsider” who will “shake things up.” We got that last time. Now let’s please put things back together, with a president who actually knows what he’s doing, actually understands the world, and is actually a decent honest human being.

Voter hatred for “politicians” had long been intensifying. Yet who elected those people? The real problem is politicians heeding the uninformed whims of voters who can’t say how many branches the federal government has or in what century the Civil War occurred. Politicians will do what they must, to coddle voters. Democracy would work a lot better without voters mucking it up.

A recent Michael Gerson column laments that the outsider shake-up fetish serves to encourage “unpleasant, ill-mannered loudmouths.” Trump unquestionably represents a collapse of civic decency. Sanders is not much better. Supporters may say they don’t like the nastiness, but wave it off as not really important. Gerson disagrees. The phenomenon, he says, has “blossomed into a crisis of democratic values.”

Here’s why. Democracy is not just voting. It’s a culture, with pluralism — different kinds of people getting along together — of the essence. This means respecting the legitimacy of opposing interests and viewpoints, engaging in rational persuasion, compromising with them, even accepting their victories.

That does not describe America’s political culture lately.

Trumpers blast Democrats as supposedly never accepting the 2016 election. But Republicans overplay that election result as a universal trump card. Meaning everyone with different views about anything should just shut up and go away. And any effort toward presidential accountability somehow disrespects Trump’s voters. As if Republicans don’t disrespect the greater number who actually voted against him. This is not how a democratic culture works. Elections do have consequences — but not the ending of debate and suppression of opposition.

Gerson comments that a politician’s promise “to burn down the house is visceral and emotional. That does not make institutional arsonists more sincere or wise.” Putting it mildly. The sad truth is that voters who want the house burned down are ignorant of what it’s made of. They do not understand democratic culture, nor the role of the institutions that sustain it. And what terrible consequences will ensue from their conflagration.

Call in the firefighters. That’s what Biden’s campaign is really mainly about, and I feel confident he can defeat Trump.

American Nightmare — Sanders versus Trump

March 1, 2020

American Nightmare” is The Economist’s latest cover story. This is an authoritative, extremely serious, sober publication, not given to hysteria. But this editorial is strong stuff. I copy it below, with some editing by me, mainly for brevity:

Sometimes people wake from a bad dream only to discover that the nightmare goes on. This is the prospect facing America if Democrats nominate Sanders against Trump. An appalling choice with no good outcome.

Sanders is so convinced he is morally right, he has a dangerous tendency to put ends before means. And, where Trump has whipped up politics into a frenzy of loathing, Sanders’s election would feed the hatred.

He is not a cuddly Scandinavian social democrat who would let companies do their thing and then tax them to build a better world. Instead, he believes American capitalism is rapacious and needs to be radically weakened. He puts to shame Jeremy Corbyn [hard-left British Labour party leader who recently led his party to electoral disaster] proposing to confiscate not 10% but 20% of the equity of companies and hand it over to workers [actually, the government]. On trade, Sanders is at least as hostile to open markets as Trump is. He seeks to double government spending. With unemployment at a record low and wages in the bottom quarter growing by 4.6%, his call for a revolution in the economy is an epically poor prescription for what ails America.

Sanders displays the intolerance of a Righteous Man. He embraces perfectly reasonable causes like reducing poverty, universal health care and decarbonising the economy, and then insists on the most unreasonable extremes in the policies to achieve them. Like banning private health insurance (not even Britain, devoted to its National Health Service, goes that far). He wants to cut billionaires’ wealth in half over 15 years. A sensible ecologist would tax fracking; Sanders would ban it outright. Making college cost-free is a self-defeating way to alleviate poverty, because most of the subsidy would go to people who are, or will be, relatively wealthy. Banning nuclear energy would stand in the way of his goal to create a zero-carbon economy.

His ideological bent gives him a habit of indulging autocrats, like in Cuba and Nicaragua, so long as they claim to be “socialist.”

Last is the effect of a President Sanders on America’s political culture. The country’s political divisions helped make Trump’s candidacy possible. They are now enabling Sanders’s rise. Leftist activists find his revolution thrilling. They seem to have almost as much hatred for his Democratic opponents as for Republicans.

This speaks to Sanders’s political style. When asked how he would persuade Congress to eliminate private health insurance (which 60% of Americans oppose), Sanders replies that he would hold rallies in the states of recalcitrant senators until they relented. Traveling around the country holding rallies for a far-left program he could not get through Congress would widen America’s divisions. Political realities blocking his revolution would frustrate his supporters. On the right, an actual socialist in the White House would generate even greater fury.

The mainstream three-quarters of Democrats have begun to tell themselves that Sanders would not be so bad. Some say he would not be able to do many of the things he promises. This sounds worryingly familiar. Trump has shown that it is unwise to dismiss what a man seeking power says he wants to do with it.

If Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, America will have to choose between a corrupt, divisive, right-wing populist, who scorns the rule of law and the constitution, and a sanctimonious, divisive, left-wing populist, who blames a cabal of billionaires and businesses for everything wrong with the world. All this when the country is as peaceful and prosperous as ever. It is hard to think of a worse choice. Wake up, America! 

Postscript (this is Frank writing): Sanders could not be nominated were Obama still alive. Everything he worked for faces destruction. His weighing in would have huge impact. Yet he is inert. One commentator discussing this stressed the word “caution.” Reminds me of Obama’s anemic foreign policy. There are times for caution and times for taking a stand. This time, right now, is the latter.

 

 

Insanity: a global contagion

August 8, 2019

Hong Kong is China’s richest, most advanced, most economically vibrant part. When Britain agreed to return it in 1997, the deal was “one country, two systems.” China pledged to respect Hong Kong’s liberalism, rule of law, and move toward free elections there. The Chinese regime lied. Making clear by now they’ll never allow democracy anywhere.

They’ve shanghaied Hong Kong political targets back to China for intimidation and torture. More recently, they’ve proposed to legalize such extradition. Hong Kong erupted in massive protests. The extradition bill was shelved (for now). But meantime the regime further antagonized the population by meeting the protests with excessive violence. Even deployed gangs of goons to brutalize people. In response, the civil disobedience is ramping up.

A sane Chinese regime would strive to defuse this through dialog with its critics — encompassing most of Hong Kong’s population — making some concessions to mollify them. Instead the regime simply threatens more violence.

This will end badly. Likely China will send its army into Hong Kong, imposing martial law. Another Tienanmen bloodbath. Destroying the jewel of the nation. The regime acts like it was appointed by Heaven to rule in perpetuity, no matter what. That actually was the traditional Chinese theory of rulership. It has no place in the 21st century. It’s insane.

* * *

I’ve written of how India’s Hindu-nationalist Modi regime is trying to make its large Muslim minority into second-class citizens — or even non-citizens. Insanity, given the long bloody history of communal violence.

Kashmir is India’s lone Muslim-majority state. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have quarreled over it; in effect they’ve split it, amid chronic violence. But India’s half has always had its own local government, and elections, like the rest of the country. But now the Modi regime proposes to revoke that and rule Kashmir from the center. To what end? This will surely enrage the population and make Kashmir an even more contentious and violent trouble spot; while poisoning relations with India’s Muslim neighbors (notably Pakistan). Utterly insane.

* * *

Great Britain, in 2016, voted to leave the European Union (“Brexit”), by a narrow 52% margin. That “will of the people” has been sanctified by Brexiteers as holy writ — never mind that it was based on massive lies and disinformation (Russia had a hand). Brexiteers intone “will of the people” yet refuse to consult them further, ruling out a second referendum, even to vote on the actual Brexit deal — or lack thereof.

The deal negotiated with the EU — belying all Brexiteer promises — was clearly worse than continuing membership. But clearly better than leaving with no deal, which would be economic catastrophe. Brexiteers insist that’s a price worth paying. They’re even willing to see the country literally destroyed, as Brexit could well propel Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the union.

So they’ve made Boris Johnson prime minister. An irresponsible goofball windbag at a moment of gravest crisis. He vows Brexit will happen at the new deadline of October 31, deal or no deal, “do or die.” (Trump cheers him on.) Johnson says the odds against a no-deal Brexit are “a million to one,” yet has no clue how to get a deal that can pass his own red lines — and Parliament, which has thrice rejected the only deal possible.

The sticking point is to avoid a “hard border” with customs formalities between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, both of which hate the idea. The EU’s deal solves this by keeping Britain in its customs union. (The EU won’t screw Ireland, a member.) Brexit fanatics refuse to accept this. If Johnson caves on it, they’ll immolate him.

Their Conservative party — like our GOP — has gone off the deep end. So has the opposition Labour party, with 1940s hard left Stalinism.

Parliament (having no Conservative majority) has meantime also voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit. Johnson could get around this by suspending Parliament. Unconstitutional you say? Actually, Britain has no written constitution. This thing is driving the country into very dark waters.

What’s that word again? Insane.

* * *

And what of America? Electing a deranged moral creep, ignoramus, criminal con man, pathological liar, Russian tool, and hate-monger, trashing every ideal America ever stood for. And 40% still support him! While no matter how many mass shootings we have, we still cannot ban military style weapons whose only function is to kill a lot of people fast.

What’s that word again?

Mad Dog

December 24, 2018

While the government is partly shut down, held hostage to his futile wall demand, the Russian stooge in the White House is pulling our troops out of Syria. He says ISIS is defeated. That’s as true as his claiming North Korea is denuclearizing. Trump’s first foreign policy precept is (as in everything): just lie.

Here too is the great deal maker in action. His negotiating strategy, and second foreign policy precept: give away everything for nothing in return. As with moving our embassy to Jerusalem, which he actually boasted took that issue off the table. For nothing in return. Now he’s given Putin, and Iran, and Bashar Assad, and ISIS, and Turkey’s Erdogan, something they all wanted very much. Getting nothing in return.

Meantime our erstwhile Kurdish allies — the one force in the region that was really in our corner — we’ve now repaid by royally screwing, abandoning them to the mercies of the Turks, Syrians, Russians, Iranians, and ISIS, all of whom want them destroyed.

Trump is also pulling half our troops from Afghanistan. For years we’ve tried to get the Taliban to negotiate. Now their intransigence is rewarded. They too are delighted by Trump’s actions.

So there’s his third foreign policy precept: give our allies the finger while rewarding our foes.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in protest against this policy, pointedly saying Trump “deserves” a defense secretary who’s in line with it. If such a person exists. (But none of this should be dignified with the word “policy;” in truth Trump just acts blindly on whim.)

Mattis’s letter said he’d retire February 28. Trump then tweeted he’d be out by January 1.

When first nominating him, Trump reveled in his “Mad Dog Mattis” nickname. Mattis himself reportedly hated that name. Who’s the real mad dog?

Jim Mattis should be the Democrats’ presidential candidate. “Make America great again?” Let’s just hope it survives this shitstorm. Not even half over, two years and 27 days left. And it will get worse.

Would and wouldn’t

July 19, 2018

Back in my PSC days, a telephone company witness filed prepared testimony containing a huge blunder. On the stand, he said to delete the entire paragraph. Cross-examining, I asked why.

“It was a typo,” he answered, with a straight face.

I was reminded of this by Trump’s Tuesday claim that he’d merely mis-spoken Monday. Faced with a firestorm of condemnation, he did what he always does: he lied.

His Helsinki performance was a disgrace from beginning to end. What he meant was perfectly clear. And he imagines changing one word fixes everything? (Meantime, on Wednesday, he was unable to stick to the Tuesday script; and we still don’t know what he told Putin in private.)

Even before Tuesday’s “typo correction,” Hannity said those who criticize Trump regarding Helsinki are traitors to conservatism. Is this what “conservatism” now has come to? Getting in bed with a murdering Russian dictator who subverted our democracy? To think I once called myself a conservative.

Yes, good relations with Russia are desirable. But not at the cost of trashing everything America used to represent.

My daughter pointed me to a July 8 article by Jonathan Chait about Trump-and-Russia. I started reading, thinking, “yada yada yada;” however, this proved to be a devastating exposition (pulling together information already public) of just how thoroughly dirty Trump is. Read it.

Yet if Putin does “have something” on Trump, it seems a moot point. After “grab them by the pussy,” Stormy Daniels, Trump University, the constant lying, and so much else. Shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. Trump’s mind-slaves have sealed their deal with the Devil.

And whether Putin has him by the balls, or it’s Trump’s own psychopolitical pathology, doesn’t much matter because the result is the same. He is selling out America’s fundamental values and ideals, and tearing down the structure of alliances and the rules-based global order we so painstakingly built, that for seven decades served us and the free world so well, a bulwark of prosperity and peace.

It’s not simply “America First” or even “America Alone;” not merely a cynical transactional view of the world, nor even just a might-makes-right view. All of them myopically self-destructive. It’s worse yet: it’s realigning America, from the free world and the Enlightenment, to the dark side.

A monumental historical tragedy.

Let’s recap

June 10, 2017

The big story, according to Trump and his flacks, is his total vindication by Comey’s testimony that Trump was not under FBI investigation.

This is fake news. A lie. Because that was never even an issue. Instead, the issues were Trump’s improper attempts to stop the investigation of Russian meddling and of Michael Flynn; and his firing Comey.

Comey testified that he made careful notes of his conversations with Trump because he feared Trump would lie about them. And that Trump did lie, “plain and simple,” in saying he was fired because of disarray at the FBI and lack of support within the agency. Trump later said he actually fired Comey to get the Russia investigation off his back. Thus confirming that his other stories about it were, indeed, lies.

Yet White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.” Seriously? How many of his hundreds of documented lies need one mention? (Like his giant whopper that Obama wiretapped him.)

Then first his lawyer Kasowitz, and then the Liar-in-chief himself, denied that he’d demanded a pledge of loyalty from Comey.* Trump also denied asking Comey to lay off on Flynn. He added that it wouldn’t have been wrong anyway. (Bzzt. It most surely was wrong.) But if it’s Comey’s credibility versus Trump’s — are you kidding me?

Trump also called Comey a “showboater.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump.

And called him a “nutjob.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump. 

The Lie House has also gotten much mileage labeling Comey a “leaker.” This from the guy who actually blabbed highly sensitive classified information to the Russians, in the Oval Office! The very day after a Congressional hearing into Russian meddling! But never mind that. To call Comey a “leaker” is yet another lie. Comey gave the press his personal notes about conversations he’d had that were not privileged or classified. That’s not “leaking.”

Then Paul Ryan covered himself with shame by cheerily waving off the whole ghastly story as merely the missteps of an inexperienced beginner. Begging the issue of having a president so clueless. But it’s naive to think Trump was acting from naivite. Even my cat would know his interactions with Comey were improper.

* Trump accidentally said something true at his press conference when a reporter misspoke by asking whether Comey had asked him for a pledge of loyalty. “No he did not,” Trump robotically answered.

What is to be done?

May 19, 2017

Around January I wrote about some friends saying, “It’s worse than we expected,” and I said it’s not worse than I expected, because what I expected was very bad.

Well, OK, now it’s worse than even I expected. I thought Trump would better control his irresponsible impulses. Can we endure another 44 months of this?

Forget impeachment. Not gonna happen. Even if the House goes Democratic in 2018 (still unlikely), and he’s impeached, you’d need 67 Senate votes. Dems now have only 48 and can’t increase that much in 2018.

The 25th Amendment allows sidelining a president if the VP and a majority of the cabinet certify his incapacity. But if he resists, then it requires a 2/3 vote in both houses to override him. So forget that too.

Nixon was forced out basically because the whole nation turned against him for what he’d done. It was a different country then. One where Republicans could put country above party. One that was unforgiving toward politicians caught lying or otherwise transgressing — maybe even too unforgiving. But that’s turned upside down. Trump saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and lose no votes was (uncharacteristically) truthful.

And, indeed, through the train wreck of his first four months, full of lies, blunders and misdeeds that in past times would have sunk any politician ten times over, Trump’s core supporters have hardly budged. I guess if you can excuse the pussygrabbing, you can excuse anything.

What might shake them? Maybe nothing. They believe Trump that all the bad news is fake, and he’s doing great. Trumpeters have made a psychological commitment not open to reason (like their belief in a benevolent god). And as long as Trump retains that diehard support from a third of the electorate, few Congressional Republicans will have the intestinal fortitude to do anything but go along. They’re circling the wagons. That’s why he won’t be removed.

I used to bemoan political polarization and each side’s demonization of their opponents. And I considered the left more guilty than the right. But that’s different now too. When Democrats and lefties demonize Trump and Republicans today, there’s ample justification. If anything, they don’t come on too strong, but not strong enough.

Trump’s problems aren’t really White House disarray, bad messaging, press unfairness, “fake news,” simple bungling, a “witch hunt,” or any such. Instead it’s all character: a vile creep, who sought the presidency for all the wrong reasons, who is out of his depth and out of his mind.

America is full of wonderful people. It kills me that we elected as president such a stinker.

His supporters bizarrely continue the mantra that Hillary was the biggest liar in politics, while Trump seems incapable of not lying. But it’s not just a matter of one man’s mental sickness. It’s shredding the whole concept of truth, trying to destroy confidence in an independent press as an information source. Without that, the public cannot hold government and its officials to account; and without that, meaningful democracy is impossible.

The seriousness of the situation can hardly be overstated. I’ve closely studied American political life for over half a century, and this is a discontinuity. A change from one paradigm to a very different one. A downward cultural lurch. And I don’t see the toothpaste being put back in the tube.

Macron

Is my optimism dead? France has meantime decisively rejected — by a 66% vote! — a Trumplike candidate, electing instead Emmanuel Macron, a remarkably good man moved by excellent ideas. He now faces a terrific battle against entrenched interests. But who ever imagined I’d look to France for political inspiration?