Category Archives: Character

Zuckerberg’s right about diversity, although I question his judgment

In defending Facebook for having Trump supporter Peter Thiel on its board, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“We care deeply about diversity. That’s easy to say when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It’s a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post visible only to Facebook employees, a photograph of which was shared on Hacker News on Tuesday.

“We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate,” Zuckerberg continued….

Absolutely. Diversity of thought is the most important kind — and too often, the kind people have the greatest trouble accepting. If you have a wide variety of skin colors and a perfect balance of gender, but everyone in your group thinks exactly alike, you have utterly failed to achieve a diverse result, and your group is weaker because of it.zuckerberg

Zuckerberg probably should have stopped there, though. He kind of lost me when he went on to say, “There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault.”

Are there? At this point, it’s getting a little hard to see those “many reasons.” Hard for me, anyway; perhaps the vision of others is sharper.

So let’s assume those many reasons exist. There’s another problem here.

Diversity of thought, of ideas, is indeed critically important. It is essential, in a liberal democracy, to respect those who see things differently. (And to accept it if they win an election.)

But in 2016, we’re not experiencing a contest of ideas. We’ve gone well past that. We’re experiencing an election in which one of the major-party nominees is a man of demonstrably contemptible character, not just somebody you or I may disagree with on matters of policy.

And there’s a point at which, to the extent that we respect our own ability to reason and to form opinions that may or may not differ from the opinions of others, we have to make a judgment.

And in doing so, it’s legitimate for us to question Mr. Thiel’s judgment in continuing to support Mr. Trump despite shock after shock. And to question Mr. Zuckerberg’s for defending having someone of such questionable judgment on his board.

Mr. Thiel, and Mr. Zuckerberg, are entitled to their opinions. And we are entitled to ours…

Again, Trump completely disqualifies himself

They set the precedent, and Trump could not care less...

They set the precedent, and Trump could not care less…

Sorry I haven’t had time to post today, ere now… Anyway, to business…

As bizarre and grotesquely inappropriate as some of the things Donald Trump said in the second debate were (“tremendous hate in her heart”), the most important and instructive was his threat to imprison his opponent if he wins the election.

Similarly, as agog as we may be from such outbursts as “Such a nasty woman!”,  the one thing we heard in the third and final (thank the Lord) debate last night that was easily the most important, and instructive, was that Trump will not agree to abide by the results of the election. Something that was not a slip of the tongue or a momentary lapse, as he doubled down on it today.

As I said via Twitter last night:

If there were referees in American politics, Trump would have been thrown out of the game for the offense in the second debate (actually, much sooner, but let’s stick with the debates). He completely and utterly disqualified himself.

And if the refs had been deaf and blind in that instance, they would have tossed him out for the offense last night. He showed in both instances that he has no idea at all what elections are about in this country.

The gift that America gave to the world was not merely the promise, but the fact, of the orderly and peaceful transfer of power from one person, party or faction to another. As I said above, the miracle of the election of 1800 — one that for sheer nastiness at least deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as this one — was that Jefferson took over from rival Adams, and everyone accepted it.

This miracle has been repeated every four years, with one exception: South Carolina, and a number of other Southern states, refused to accept the results of the election of 1860. Thanks to the preternatural wisdom, leadership and political skills of the man who won that election, and the blood of hundreds of thousands, the nation was saved. But that was the central crisis of our history, as Lincoln himself explained. It was the great test as to “whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

So we got through that and made it all the way to 2016, and Donald Trump — a man who does not have a clue what this nation is all about, and does not care. Trump, the nominee of the party of Lincoln. God help us.

When he is asked whether he will accept the results of the election if he loses, he thinks it is a question about him, and what he wants, and how he feels. Because in his universe, everything is all about him.

The nation, and the things that make it exceptional and wonderful, matter not at all…

The NYT, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a lawyer who can WRITE



You’ve got to read the letter that David E. McCraw, a lawyer for The New York Times, wrote in response to a letter from an attorney for Donald Trump asking the paper to retract an article that featured two women accusing Mr. Trump of touching them inappropriately years ago, and issue an apology.

No, really, you should read it. It’s not the usual legalese that gives you a headache before you get through the first sentence. It’s pretty awesome. It tells home truths, lays down a challenge and dares ’em to come on.

Click here to see the original document. Here’s the full text:

October 13, 2016


Marc E. Kasowitz, Esq.
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019-6799

Re: Demand for Retraction

Dear Mr. Kasowitz:

I write in response to your letter of October 12, 2016 to Dean Baquet concerning your client Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States. You write concerning our article “Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately” and label the article as “libel per se.” You ask that we “remove it from [our] website, and issue a full and immediate retraction and apology.” We decline to do so.

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio host’s request to discuss Mr. Trump’s own daughter as a “piece of ass.” Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trump’s unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

But there is a larger and much more important point here. The women quoted in our story spoke out on an issue of national importance – indeed, an issue that Mr. Trump himself discussed with the whole nation watching during Sunday night’s presidential debate. Our reporters diligently worked to confirm the women’s accounts. They provided readers with Mr. Trump’s response, including his forceful denial of the women’s reports. It would have been a disservice not just to our readers but to democracy itself to silence their voices. We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.

David E. McCraw

Well said, sir.

Could we go ahead and adjudicate this now?

The interesting debate we could have had, under other circumstances


Let’s set aside for a moment this contest of character and pretend we have the luxury of talking about ideas in this presidential election.

Were that the case, the most interesting moment in last night’s debate would have come at this point:

RADDATZ: … This question involves WikiLeaks release of purported excerpts of Secretary Clinton’s paid speeches, which she has refused to release, and one line in particular, in which you, Secretary Clinton, purportedly say you need both a public and private position on certain issues. So, Tu (ph), from Virginia asks, is it OK for politicians to be two-faced? Is it acceptable for a politician to have a private stance on issues? Secretary Clinton, your two minutes…

Let’s set aside the loaded wording of the question (“two-faced”), and look at the underlying issue, which speaks to the nature of leadership and the ways we communicate in a representative democracy.

Can an honest person have a public position that differs from what he thinks in his heart of hearts? Yes, he (or she) can. In fact, there are times when he or she must.

As a longtime editorial page editor, I’m quite familiar with this. Most of the time, our editorial position was consistent with my own personal position. But we operated by consensus — I was not the only member of the board — and what we ended up with was not always exactly what I thought. I deferred to my colleagues, at least to the extent of modifying the position so that we could get everybody on board. And once the decision was made, I did not publicly say things to contradict it, because that would have militated against our consensus. I had a duty as leader of the board not to undermine its positions — even on the extremely rare occasions when our official position was very different from my own, such as when we endorsed George W. Bush over John McCain in 2000.

But my care with my utterances in order to keep the board together was nothing compared to what a president faces.

The president of the United States daily, if not hourly, faces situations in which it would be grossly impolitic, unwise, and even harmful to the country to say precisely what he or she personally thinks or feels about a situation. A president must be diplomatic, not only with representatives of other nations, but with multiple contending and overlapping constituencies right here at home. This is why a president is surrounded by people who are talented at helping choose precisely the right words needed to help move things in a desired direction. It would be grossly irresponsible, indeed a dereliction of duty and perhaps a deadly danger to the country, for a president simply to spout off from the gut without pausing to temper the message (see “Trump, Donald”).

People who don’t work professionally with words are sometimes pleased to call carefully moderating one’s speech “lying.” Those of us who work with words know better. You can say the same true thing many different ways, and how you choose to say it can make all the difference between communicating effectively and having the desired effect, or failing miserably.

Back to the debate

Secretary Clinton responded this way to that loaded question:

As I recall, that was something I said about Abraham Lincoln after having seen the wonderful Steven Spielberg movie called “Lincoln.” It was a master class watching President Lincoln get the Congress to approve the 13th Amendment. It was principled, and it was strategic…

Did you see the film? If so, you know there was a lot more to Lincoln than the fine words in the Gettysburg Address. He may have been the most skilled, determined, clear-eyed, illusionless man ever to hold the office — and the most effective. (The only two men I can imagine coming close to him in these regards were FDR and LBJ.)

The film shows Lincoln involved in the noble task of permanently saving our country from the stain of slavery, going beyond what fine words or even four years of unbelievable bloodshed could accomplish. The Emancipation Proclamation had been a stratagem in winning the war (and one he had held back from issuing, with flawless timing, until the political climate was ripe for it), an ephemeral, self-contradictory thing that did not truly free the slaves. He needed something that went far beyond that; he needed to amend the Constitution.

And he pulled out all the stops — all the stops — in getting that done. Set aside the unseemly spectacle of promising government jobs to lame-duck congressmen — that was routine horse-trading in that day. Let’s look at the central deception — and the word is apt — that was essential to getting the 13th Amendment passed.

Lincoln knew that once the war ended, Congress would see little need to ban slavery — and the war was in danger of ending before he could get it done. In fact, a delegation led by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens was on its way to Washington to sue for peace. It would in fact have arrived if Lincoln hadn’t ordered Union troops to detain it some distance from the capital. While the delegation cooled its heels, Lincoln worked feverishly to get his amendment passed.

At a critical moment in the debate in Congress in the film, a rumor spreads that there is a Confederate peace delegation in the city. This threatens to defeat the amendment. Lincoln tells Congress that not only is there no such group in Washington, but that he does not expect there to be. He conveniently leaves out the fact that the reason he doesn’t expect there to be is because he has issued orders to that effect.

Another instance in which Lincoln has a public position differing from his private position is with regard to Republican power broker Francis Preston Blair. The reason the Confederate delegation started on its journey to begin with was that Lincoln had reluctantly allowed Blair to reach out to Richmond. Why had he done that? Because Blair urgently wanted peace, and Lincoln needed his support to keep conservative Republicans in line on the amendment.

So… Lincoln did these things — playing every angle, and saying what needed to be said to the people who needed to hear them –, and rather drawing our disapprobation for having done so, he is rightly revered.

As I said above, the only two presidents I can see even coming close to Lincoln in terms of political skill and effectiveness were Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Which reminds me of a contretemps from 2008. An excerpt from my column of January 20 of that year:

It started when the senator from New York said the following, with reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.”
The white woman running against a black man for the Democratic Party nomination could only get herself into trouble mentioning Dr. King in anything other than laudatory terms, particularly as she headed for a state where half of the voters likely to decide her fate are black.
You have to suppose she knew that. And yet, she dug her hole even deeper by saying:
“Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me. Basically compared himself to two of our greatest heroes. He basically said that President Kennedy and Dr. King had made great speeches and that speeches were important. Well, no one denies that. But if all there is (is) a speech, then it doesn’t change anything.”…

Hillary Clinton was not my choice for president that year. Several weeks later, we endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination (right after endorsing John McCain — whom we would later endorse in the general — for the Republican).

Her point was that fine words (such as those with which her opponent excelled) are well and good, but if you want to see a good thing get done, you need someone who will roll up sleeves, dig in and do what it takes. Which LBJ never shied away from.

When she was a fresh grad at Wellesley, Hillary Clinton was dismissive of politics being the art of the possible. As she grew up, ran into brick walls of opposition and in other ways found how resistant the world could be to fine words and finer sentiments, she learned. Her concept of what it took to get things done — and of what things were doable — matured.

Hence what she said in that leaked speech.

I don’t say this to defend Hillary Clinton personally. As I said, I wanted to raise a point that we might discuss were we in a different situation. But we’re not in a different situation. Right now, our representative democracy faces supreme degradation, and possibly worse, if Donald Trump is elected. So we have that appalling threat to deal with, and fine points and ethical ambiguities are not the order of the day.

So pretend that speech — the one to the paying audience, not to Wellesley grads — was delivered by someone else. Think for a moment about the ideas being expressed, not the person expressing them.

It’s a question that all of us should wrestle with as we grow and mature. When I was a young and cocky editor, very free with my thoughts on everything, and to hell with whether others agreed, my then-boss posed me a question: Would you rather be right, or effective?

Of course, I wanted to be both. But what about when you can’t be?

What needed to happen last night did not happen


What needed to happen in the debate last night was this: Hillary needed to beat Trump — or rather, he needed to beat himself — as soundly as in the first debate. That, combined with the recording of Trump being Trump in 2005, would have meant the end of this drawn-out farce. Continuing the weekend trend, virtually every Republican who has gone along with his campaign would desert him, and we could all talk about something else for the next four weeks, secure in the knowledge that he would be so crushed on Nov. 8 that nothing like this will ever be repeated.

That didn’t happen. Not that Trump debated well, or in any way acted like the standard-bearer of a major party. But the bar for him is the lowest in living memory, perhaps in U.S. history, and in the expectations game, he held his own, since he was no worse than he is on an average day.

There were many low points in this debate, but what was the lowest? It was this:

Only that had been lacking to complete the portrait of Trump as the jefe of a banana republic: The use of the power of the state to persecute and imprison political opponents. All hail the caudillo!

This was no doubt lost on people who support Trump, and those who might consider voting for him. But this was a low point in American democracy, another bold step toward fascism. By contrast, his statement that his opponent has “hate in her heart” — also something we’ve never seen before — was less remarkable. And all the talk about adolescent sexuality was just background noise.

His supporters will protest: But Hillary said he had run a “hateful, divisive campaign!” Yes, she did, and that would indeed be a terrible thing to say if it weren’t true. Even being true, it’s not helpful, only a step or two above deplorable. But the difference between running an awful campaign and having hate in your heart is considerable.

What was Hillary Clinton’s lowest point? Well, I was most bothered by this:

See what she did there? She normalized Trump. She mainstreamed him. She did the thing that I, and many others, have begged people not to do: pretend this is just another election like any other, a contest between (in Republican eyes) wild-eyed, left-wing statists and (in Democratic eyes) fat cats who look like the little top-hatted man in Monopoly. She watered down one of the most disturbing things about Trump — that he’s always out for himself, not the country, or a party, or a class, or a faction. Just himself.

Yeah, I know why she does it: To please the “feel the Bern” crowd in her own party. But this is NOT a contest between classes, or of ideas. This is an election to decide whether an out-of-control, deeply narcissistic, crude, avaricious, vindictive, unbalanced man with fascist tendencies and no concept of what a liberal democracy is about will hold the most powerful position in the world.

That is all this election is about. It could have been about other things, had the Republicans seen their way clear to nominating a normal person. But it isn’t, because they didn’t.

(Perhaps this is a good moment to pause to speak to those just joining us, who have not followed my blog over the past 11 years, or my long career before that: I’m not one of the “liberal media” one hears so much about. I’m a guy known for only endorsing Republicans for president during all those years leading The State‘s editorial board — although we were about 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans on the state level. I’m a guy who is stunned that the GOP didn’t nominate someone normal, such as John Kasich — someone who is as disgusted by Trump as I am, someone I would gladly vote for instead of Hillary Clinton. I just thought I’d mention all that, in case you don’t know me and you think, like Hillary Clinton, that this is about Democrats vs. Republicans.)

Maybe in four years we can have a normal election, talking about the usual tiresome stuff, with 40 percent of the population voting one way without thinking and 40 percent doing the same in the other direction, and the 20 percent of us who don’t subscribe to either brand of nonsense will step in and made the decision.

From the perspective of this election, that almost sounds lovely. But we don’t have that luxury this year…

Even the Gray Lady has been dragged through the mire

Bill Castronuovo, a former editor at The State, shared this with me today.

This is what Trump, the candidate from Howard Stern, has done to America. He’s dragged the Gray Lady, the most staid newspaper in America, down to the point that she has to publish gutter language in to cover what’s going on in the campaign for president of the United States.

He’s also caused my blog to get down on the same level in order to tell you about it.

And the world is not better for that having happened…


Could this farce be at an end? No, because Trump won’t quit

Donald Trump has “apologized” for the things he said on a hot mic on the above video in 2005 — before launching into an attack on the Clintons and saying there was no way he was going to drop out of the race, despite calls from some Republicans that he do so.

So, he’s determined to weather yet another storm that would end the political career of anyone else. Because, you know, he has no shame.

Fortunately, a lot of mainstream Republicans do, which is why Speaker Paul Ryan, regaining his pride and courage, refused to let Trump appear on a stage with him yesterday.

Oh, wait: Did I say Ryan had regained his pride and courage? Well, sorta, kinda. We don’t need to hold a ticker-tape parade for him or anything:

But Mr. Ryan did not go so far as to withdraw his support for Mr. Trump, which for now keeps him in the political purgatory of endorsing the Republican nominee for president while continually having to say why he finds his remarks and policy positions despicable….

On one level, I’m thinking, why is this even a news story? We all know this is what Trump is like. What’s new here? But for some, this has been the last straw, and the pressure on him actually went to the point that he had to issue a statement refusing to resign.

The shock and horror that some Republican supporters, or former supporters, are expressing is reminiscent of Captain Renault’s “shocked!” in “Casablanca.” Really? They didn’t know he was like this? Riiiigghhttt

And do you think this will affect Trump’s support out among the hoi polloi? No, of course not. It never did before when things arose that should have caused his support to evaporate. Why would it happen now?

I wish this would have an effect on the polls; it would raise my estimation of the electorate somewhat from the depths to which it has sunk.

But I fear not.

So, as Trump said in his “apology” (below), on to Sunday night’s debate…

Yet another thing that will roll off Trump’s back


So much about the candidacy of Donald Trump — a man who should have been laughed off the presidential stage more than a year ago — defies all reason, and everything we’ve learned about politics in my lifetime.

For instance, POLITICO tweeted this today:

It haunts him? For any actual politician, that would be a death knell. Seriously, can you imagine any other political figure being best buds with Howard Stern for decades, and regularly going on his show to speak in crude terms about his sex life, continuing to be a political figure? Not even as shameless a yo-yo as Anthony Weiner could accomplish that.

I can’t imagine it, either. We’ve spoken in the past of this or that pol having a Teflon coating, but they were nothing compared to this guy. One thing after another that would destroy anyone else I’ve ever seen in politics, and his fans just love him more.

Then there’s this, in The Washington Post a couple of days back:

The headline alone would send a shudder down the spine of most elected officials: “‘Apprentice’ cast and crew say Trump was lewd and sexist.”

That’s the top of a story from the Associated Press posted Monday morning that details Trump’s often-inappropriate behavior toward women who both appeared and worked on his hit TV show “The Apprentice.” The AP talked to 20(!) former contestants or crew members on the show including 12(!) who spoke on the record to the news organization. That’s remarkable. And what’s as remarkable is that they all told a very similar story about Trump: While on the set of the show, he would openly discuss women’s looks and whether he would sleep with them….

For any normal political candidate, a story like this one would be an absolute cataclysm. Almost two dozen former employees and contestants speaking out about behavior that the average voter would deem deeply inappropriate in a workplace environment?  It would be enough to push some candidates out of a race entirely. For others, it would be a deep wound from which they might not be able to recover.

For Trump, it’s just another Monday….

Absolutely. Everyone, from his fans to those of us who see him as anathema, will just shrug it off. Why? Because that’s Trump. We know that’s who he is. We’ve known it for years, which is why it was so ridiculous when he started running for president last year. The nerve of this bozo!

Which is why it strikes me as pointless that the story currently leading the Post’s site is headlined, “Trump’s use of debts and tax laws spurs concerns about his methods.”

Really? Yawn… You think that’s going to affect anything? Not with this guy, with far more lurid stuff being shrugged off multiple times daily…

The vice-presidential debate last night

Still from NYT video feed.

Still from NYT video feed.

Yeah, I watched it until the end, although I want you to know I didn’t enjoy it.

I liked this Tweet:

… to which I responded by reTweeting, with the added comment, “Rephrase: ‘Please, be gentlemen!’…”

A few general observations:

  • If you have to pick a winner, it was Mike Pence. But it’s less that he won, and more that Tim Kaine lost it — threw it away, really. Yeah, I understand that the running mate is supposed to be the attack dog so that his principal seems more likable, but now we have a situation in which neither Hillary nor Kaine is seen as likable — which means, I don’t think we saw the real Tim Kaine. He was playing a different character last night, and it was awful.
  • When I say Kaine lost, we’re talking in terms of the impressions we got of the candidates’ characters, not about issues. I can’t begin to tell you who did better on issues, although I’ll say that with some exceptions, Kaine did better on facts, especially when the facts involved Donald Trump — which most did. Kaine would cite an incontrovertible fact, and Pence would look incredulous, pained, saddened that Kaine would say such awful things — when all Kaine was doing was quoting Trump. Since Pence stayed above the fray, but failed to offer any substantive defense of his principal, some analysts today are saying Pence won, but Trump did not. (The one way Trump would be a winner is if he did a credible impression of his running mate in the next debate. But is he capable of that?)
  • About that moderator… Last night, I saw something bizarre happening over on Facebook — a couple of Trump fans I’m friends with were protesting vehemently about how the moderator was biased against their guy. One said of Pence, ” Poor guy had to deal with PLANNED INTERRUPTIONS FROM TWO!” Another said, “Can you not see that the questions are biased?” Which kind of made me wonder what debate they were watching. The moderator was a cipher, a nonentity, utterly ineffectual. I know that she asked some questions, but I can’t remember any of them. She was like a substitute teacher in middle school, pathetically trying to keep order, completely in vain. The moments I came closest to turning the thing off was when all three of them were talking at once, and no one listening to anyone.
  • I started off praising them for their civility and maturity, and then having to quickly eat those words. Which were not tasty.
  • Civility returned at the end when both men talked about their faith, for which I was grateful. It caused me to Tweet that “At least they’re not shouting over each other over their religious beliefs. So our politics have made SOME progress since the 15th century.” Toward the end of that segment, Pence did get on Kaine’s case a bit over abortion, but then he was just saying what I was thinking — especially after having read this piece that morning in the WSJ. And it stayed civil.
  • I liked a point that Mark Shields made after the debate was over on PBS. He said yeah, the veep candidate is supposed to build up the head of the ticket, but Kaine was just too fawning when talking about Hillary. Absolutely. Yeah, she’s way, way better than Trump, but she’s not that awesome.

Shields also said this, which I appreciated: “This was supposed to be the nice guys.” Right. So the night was a great disappointment — especially Kaine. I still think he’s a guy I’d like in a quiet meeting in an editorial boardroom. But he did himself no favors last night…

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant 'moderate?'

For the next debate, instead of these media types, how about having a Marine drill sergeant ‘moderate?’

A restrained, disciplined Trump is scary

On a previous post, Bud was complaining about Hillary’s “fainting spell” continuing to be a story three days later.

Well, first, it’s not a fainting spell. It’s pneumonia. She was warned by a doctor to rest, but she ignored it, went to an event sick and said stupid stuff about the opposition (“basket of deplorables”), then was seen collapsing leaving a big-deal public event.

All while trying to tough it out and keep the pneumonia a secret. Which is just too like her.

All of which made it more of a story than it might have been otherwise.

As for it continuing to be a story for days afterward — well, of course it is. Because now she IS resting, and not making new news to compete with it. What else is there to say about her right now?

You know what concerns me in this situation? That Trump is acting like a grownup and not talking about her health problem right now. He’s following the playbook and letting his opponent’s illness work against her without pulling the attention to himself. Instead, he’s sticking to complaining about the “deplorables” comment.

That shows discipline. Trump showing discipline worries me. Normally we could depend on him to blow the advantage of having his opponent out of action by saying stupid, horrible things about it.

He may still have supporters punching out 69-year-old women up in Asheville, but the loosest cannon on his ship — the captain himself — is restraining himself.

He’s playing to win now. And he could win now. And that’s just unthinkable…

Oh, and to the helpful citizen who provided video of the grandma-punching incident (screenshot below): Turn your phone sideways!



Graham: ‘Tell the administration to go F themselves’

Speaking of intemperate speech…

This is in The Washington Post today:

After long and arduous negotiations, Israel and the Obama administration have agreed on a landmark military aid package that would increase U.S. aid to Israel over the next 10 years. But the White House is reluctant to sign the deal because officials are upset one leading lawmaker won’t go along: Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).


Lindsey Graham/File photo.

The new agreement, which officials say would raise Israel’s annual package of military aid from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion starting in 2018, is a complicated deal that both the White House and the Israeli government badly want to announce before President Obama leaves office, and preferably much sooner. A senior administration official described the deal as “the largest single pledge of military assistance to any country in U.S. history.” It’s Obama’s parting attempt to establish a legacy of strong U.S. support for Israel’s security. The negotiations on the memorandum of understanding (MOU), as it is known, have been finished for several weeks.

But before announcing it, the White House wants to make sure that Congress won’t undermine the deal by going its own way on aid to Israel. Graham, the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the foreign affairs budget, has already marked up a bill that would give Israel $3.4 billion next year, more than the number the White House negotiated.

The administration hasn’t complained to Graham directly; it told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about its problem, and he talked to Graham about it in a phone call last month. But in Graham’s view, Congress has no obligation to agree to the deal, given that it was not included in the negotiations….

I can understand Lindsey Graham being irritated at the Obama administration for enlisting Bibi to lobby him. He is right to say, “If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill.” I can also see his objection to the administration trying to steer the appropriations process, a legislative prerogative.

But I don’t appreciate him saying this to the prime minister of Israel: “Tell the administration to go F themselves.”

That’s uncalled-for, and I expect better from him.

Pundits execute pincer movement on Trump & GOP

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

E.J. Dionne, on a visit to Columbia in 2011.

They’re closing in from the left and right.

E.J. Dionne went further than he has to date in a piece headlined, “The Republican Party has lost its soul.” An excerpt:

Let’s focus on the most revealing aspect of this week’s turmoil within a party now aghast over the unstable egotist at the top of its ticket.

Trump could falsely claim that Obama was born abroad, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call Mexican immigrants “rapists,” but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could lie repeatedly — about, for example, whether he had met Vladimir Putin and whether he had opposedthe Iraq War — but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could call for a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him. He could make degrading comments about women and mock people with disabilities, but that wasn’t enough to disqualify him.

No, it seems, all this and more were sufficiently within the bounds of acceptability for House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell delegates to the Republican National Convention that “only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way.”

So what really set off the crisis in the Republican Party this week? Trump suddenly became unacceptable because, in an interview with Philip Rucker of The Post, he refused to endorse Ryan and John McCain in their Republican primaries.

No matter what Trump said, Reince Priebus, the Republican national chairman, was willing to bow and scrape before Trump for months in trying to pull the party together behind him. Now, and only now, is Priebus reported to be “furious” and “apoplectic” at Trump. The message: Trump can say anything he wants about women, the disabled, Mexicans and Muslims, but how dare The Donald cause any trouble for Priebus’s friend Paul Ryan?

The corruption of a once-great political party is now complete….

Attacking simultaneously from the right, George Will wrote that “Trump’s shallowness runs deep.” An excerpt from that:

His speeches are, of course, syntactical train wrecks, but there might be method to his madness. He rarely finishes a sentence (“Believe me!” does not count), but perhaps he is not the scatterbrain he has so successfully contrived to appear. Maybe he actually is a sly rascal, cunningly in pursuit of immunity through profusion.

George Will

George F. Will

He seems to understand that if you produce a steady stream of sufficiently stupefying statements, there will be no time to dwell on any one of them, and the net effect on the public will be numbness and ennui. So, for example, while the nation has been considering his interesting decision to try to expand his appeal by attacking Gold Star parents, little attention has been paid to this: Vladimir Putin’s occupation of Crimea has escaped Trump’s notice.

It is, surely, somewhat noteworthy that someone aspiring to be this nation’s commander in chief has somehow not noticed the fact that for two years now a sovereign European nation has been being dismembered. But a thoroughly jaded American public, bemused by the depths of Trump’s shallowness, might have missed the following from Trump’sappearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

When host George Stephanopoulos asked, “Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?” — removing the call for providing lethal weapons for Ukraine to defend itself — Trump said: “[Putin’s] not going into Ukraine, okay? Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.”

Stephanopoulos: “Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?”…

I deeply appreciate Will’s efforts recently to try to focus our attention on international affairs, and Trump’s utter and complete lack of preparedness or inclination to properly address them.

Sure, you can dismiss my friend E.J. as a consummate liberal, and wave away Will as a supercilious snob who doesn’t think Trump’s supporters are of the right sort.

So how about something closer to home? Check out this piece by a South Carolinian who has long admired Pat Buchanan, which is as conservative — as down-home, no-frills, paleoconservative — as anyone can get. Jeff Quinton writes:

Trump is wholly unqualified for the job of president. On top of that, his character is so fundamentally flawed that he cannot be trusted. On the character issue, I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton so I will not be voting for her either.

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

As a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the military, I will not vote for Trump based on national security and foreign policy issues. As a former soldier, Trump’s assurances that the troops will follow his orders, even if they are illegal ones to target civilians just because he says so are troubling. Trump’s vow to violate our treaty obligations to NATO are a major problem as well. I have concerns about Trump and his campaign manager’s connections to the Russian government—whether it was the Republican platform plank that hangs Ukraine out to dry or the Russian connections to Trump corporate finances. That doesn’t include the investigation of the DNC email leaks and where that might lead. Another foreign policy issue that bothers me relates to immigration and religious intolerance.

Trump’s immigration policies play to the basest fears in society. Whether it is his proposed Muslim ban or his criticisms of Pope Francis, it brings out the worst in his supporters online. From Ann Coulter tweeting that the Founding Fathers were right to distrust Catholics to Trump’s own proposal to keep a registry of Muslims in the country, it reminds me of one of the worst parts of American history for religious freedom—the Know Nothing era.

Trump’s appeals to the “alt-right” are nothing but a dog whistle for the fringes of the Republican Party. I have seen them get caught up in questionable conspiracy theories. They post about “false flag” theories after mass shootings that were supposedly were arranged in support of gun control. Jewish critics of Trump have been threatened and ridiculed for daring to question anything the man says. Polls show self-identifying evangelical Christians largely support him—a fact that leaves many observers scratching their heads.

As a faithful Catholic, I have also been active in the pro-life movement both locally and nationally. I do not trust Donald Trump’s pandering on pro-life issues. Being around the conservative movement in Washington for the past few years, I should not have been surprised to see so many conservatives and pro-lifers in the capital who were dead set against Trump in the primaries roll over for him as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. It is about nothing but being team players for access, power, and fundraising purposes….

And so forth. Go read the whole thing at The Daily Beast.

As a lagniappe, I’ll close with this, the first in a series of seven Tweets from Bill Kristol yesterday:

Graham, McCain on Trump and the Khans


OK, vacation’s over and I’m back in the saddle, and we are in mid-outrage over the latest deeply offensive nonsense from Donald Trump. And, as is so often the case, the most pointed criticism is coming from leading members of the party that nominated him week before last for POTUS:

Already, the party’s leaders in the House and the Senate have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks, and other Republican figures are attacking their nominee forcefully.
Sen. John McCain issue a very personal statement Mondaay blasting Trump’s comments about the Khans and paying homage to their son Humayun’s sacrifice. McCain noted that his son also served in the Iraq War and the McCains have been serving in the US military for hundreds of years.

“It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party,” McCain said. “While our Party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us.

“Lastly, I’d like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Khan: thank you for immigrating to America. We’re a better country because of you. And you are certainly right; your son was the best of America, and the memory of his sacrifice will make us a better nation — and he will never be forgotten.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement: “This is going to a place where we’ve never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen. There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics — that you don’t do — like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier even if they criticize you.”

“If you’re going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism. Mr. Trump can’t,” Graham said. “The problem is, ‘unacceptable’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.”…

As I noted last week (you’ll recall that I did spend most of my evenings blogging despite being on holiday, because I’m just that kinda guy), a lot of the Democratic Convention consisted of fare and themes we normally get from the Republicans — upbeat “Morning in America” patriotism, appeals to fundamental, traditional American values and the like.

Which has to be eating at Sens. McCain and Graham almost as much as anything else. Their values used to be what their party was all about. In recent years, that’s been changing, as ideological loonies have been squeezing them out. It was happening already in 2008, which is why I wrote this column, “Give me that old-time conservatism.” In 2012, the “base” (can an insurgency be called “the base?” Oh, yeah, I guess it can) reluctantly settled for the sane Mitt Romney after spending much of the primary season flitting from one extreme to another.

And this year, of course, it went screaming off the rails, which is why people such as McCain, Graham, Romney, John Kasich and the Bushes did not attend their party’s convention.

Cindi Scoppe’s Gonzales Award acceptance speech

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn't ideal...

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn’t ideal…

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was my day for awards ceremonies. The best, for me, was the one at The State at which Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe received the paper’s Gonzales Award (named for the paper’s first editor, who was shot and killed on Main Street by the lieutenant governor in 1903).

It was the second time she had received the award, having gotten it in 1999 as well.

Bud Ferillo, Bob McAlister and I had written letters supporting her nomination, which is why we were there.

The work for which Cindi was honored took place during her first months alone, as the last remaining member of the editorial department. (There were once nine of us.) I addressed the significance of that in my letter supporting her:

When it comes to cold, dispassionate, hard-eyed assessment of South Carolina government and politics, no one touches Cindi Scoppe. Not in 2014, and not in 2015, either.

But in 2015, she did something else as well. She grew. She still did everything she had always done, the stuff no one else could do, but she added a couple of new ingredients: Heart and Soul.

There was a time when she didn’t have to do that sort of writing, and that comforted her. She liked being, in her own assessment, the board’s “Designated Mean Bitch.” When empathy and violins were called for, she was more than happy to let other associate editors “resonate” with the proper emotion for the moment – and some of them were really good at it. She would stick to the hard stuff.

But by mid-2015, there were no other associate editors. Warren Bolton – an ordained minister who could speak to the heart as well as anyone who had ever served on the board – left in the spring, and by June, Cindi was alone….

That sort of sets up what Cindi had to say in her acceptance speech. Here it is, shorn of some personal acknowledgments at the beginning:

The day after Dylann Roof slaughtered those nine innocents, Bertram Rantin stopped by my office to chat. I probably said I knew I needed to write something about the massacre but I had no idea what to say. Because what our community needed, what our state needed was not policy prescriptions but emotion and understanding. What was needed was RESONATING. And I don’t do resonating.

And Bertram said, you know, we used to have two people who could speak to this sort of situation. And isn’t it ironic that this would happen just weeks after we lost both Warren Bolton and Carolyn Click.

We talked some more about other things, and he left, but his words stayed in my head. And at some point, I realized that I had to step up to the task. I realized, as Brad wrote in his letter supporting my nomination, that I had to grow. I had to become a writer I had not been willing to.

Three thousand years ago, when God wondered aloud who he could send to speak to his people, the prophet Isaiah answered saying “Here am I, send me.” I think that’s one of the coolest passages in the Bible. Christians and Jews see that as a great act of faith. But it could also be seen as an act of dedication, of commitment to a cause, to a calling.

And don’t we all have a calling? Isn’t that what journalism is?

Shouldn’t we all be willing to ask, in the secularized iteration of Isaiah’s response: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Isn’t that the commitment that all of us need to give to our craft, to our community?

Now, except for Paul, there’s no one on the second floor who should be doing what I do routinely – advocating for policy positions. It’s probably not often that you should be writing about your personal experiences. Certainly not about how your faith informs your life decisions, or how it relates to public policy.

But what I had to do last year – after the massacre and a few months later, after the flood – is something every one of us can and should be willing to do every day: Look for where we can make a difference, fill roles we might not be comfortable filling, grow, if necessary, into the bigger demands of our jobs.

In his supporting letter, Bob McAlister said this about our jobs:

“I have spent my professional life in South Carolina’s political/media axis and have seen the media, especially newspapers, evolve. Of this I am certain: Our citizens have never needed good journalism more to help them wade through the complexities of life and the chaos of the Internet.”

As newspaper staffs grow smaller and the cacophony of self-interested voices grows louder and objective truth becomes increasingly optional, what each one of us does becomes exponentially more critical.

I would urge all of us to focus on the critical nature of what we would do: Not duplicating what others are doing, but providing our readers with important information they can’t get anywhere else. I urge you all to be truth-tellers, not just stenographers.

Today people in public life just make stuff up..

I can remember a time when it simply didn’t occur to journalists that we needed to verify basic facts from someone in a position of authority. Oh, we needed to watch for spin. We needed to make sure they weren’t manipulating numbers or not quite telling the whole story. But if a governor said half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests, it was safe to assume that was true. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way we can fact-check every single thing that public figures say. We can’t even fact-check every single thing a governor says.

But at the very least, we can do this: When people say things we know are not accurate, and we report what they say, we can point out the facts. We can say this is what the law actually says. This is what was actually spent. Or this is what the audit actually recommended.

This isn’t being an editorial writer. This is being an authoritative voice. This is being a journalist. This is something I did as a reporter. It’s something y’all do sometimes as reporters. It’s something we all need to do more of. We need to help our readers understand what is true and what is not. We need to give our readers the facts and the context they need to make informed decisions. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with those choices or not; it matters that they are informed.

Of course, as Jeff will remind us, we need to write things that people will read. And this is the hardest part. It’s never been easy to get people to read the stuff they need to know, and now we have metrics that show, at least in the online world, how little they read it. So it’s very tempting to just give up and give people what they want. That’s the easy way to drive up our unique visitor numbers.

It is not the right way.

The right way is keep trying to figure out how to turn what people need into what they want.

It is a daily battle. It is a battle that I often lose.

But it is a battle that I absolutely must keep fighting.

It’s a battle that you absolutely must keep fighting.

We have big and difficult jobs, and they are getting bigger and more difficult every day. And we have to stretch and grow to fill those jobs.

We have a calling. We work for our community.

Not to entertain our community. To inform our community. To give our readers the tools they need to be active citizens.

It is not an overstatement to say that our system of self-governance depends on our willingness to fulfill our calling.

Amen to that.

Paul Ryan’s capitulation has eroded his ability to reason


I like this screengrab from a video put out by the Speaker’s office because it looks like the lady is thinking, “Wait! What did he just say?”

Reading The Washington Post this morning, I saw that some of the nation’s top Lippmans (to borrow a term from Heinlein) were really pounding House Speaker Paul Ryan, which was fine by me because I can hardly think of anyone who more richly deserves it after his abject surrender to Donald Trump last week.

Richard Cohen’s column was headlined “Paul Ryan’s profile in cowardice,” and the body text reflected the hed. An excerpt:

What I know about Ryan is that he could not be proud of endorsing Trump. He shouldn’t be. Trump will not respect him for his acquiescence (he’ll call him a loser), and neither will anyone else. Ryan puts his legislative agenda above his own principles and the good name of the country so someday he could say, yes, Trump got us into a ruinous trade war but I trimmed a bit off the Affordable Care Act….

But that was hugs and kisses compared to the way George F. Will crushed the subject. It began like this:

The Caligulan malice with which Donald Trump administered Paul Ryan’s degradation is an object lesson in the price of abject capitulation to power. This episode should be studied as a clinical case of a particular Washington myopia — the ability of career politicians to convince themselves that they and their agendas are of supreme importance.

The pornographic politics of Trump’s presidential campaign, which was preceded by decades of ignorant bile (about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and much else), have not exhausted Trump’s eagerness to plumb new depths of destructiveness. Herewith the remarkably brief timeline of the breaking of Ryan to Trump’s saddle….

And continued in the same strong vein. While his purpose is to chop up Ryan into little pieces, he manages to eviscerate Trump on his backswing. Caligulan malice… pornographic politics…

Nicely done, sir.

Then he further grinds Ryan down with contempt for the magic beans he sold his integrity for, ending with a final, slashing description of Trump:

All supposedly will be redeemed by the House agenda. So, assume, fancifully, that in 2017 this agenda emerges intact from a House not yet proved able to pass 12 appropriations bills. Assume, too, that Republicans still control the Senate and can persuade enough Democrats to push the House agenda over the 60-vote threshold. Now, for some really strenuous assuming: Assume that whatever semblance of the House agenda that reaches President Trump’s desk is more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk….

Tell it, Brother George!

But then, I had no sooner finished reading these pieces and sharing them via Twitter than this came to my attention:

So, I thought: The man has a spine after all.

I read on to see that he had also said that what Trump had said about the judge fit “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

All right, then, I thought — the man has awakened from his zombie-like state. He is repudiating last week’s contemptible capitulation.

But no. Turns out that he still manages a complicated backflip and says he’s still supporting the racist who says indefensible things.

About what Trump said, Ryan said:

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “But do I think Hillary Clinton is the answer? No, I do not.”

Who, pray tell, aside from aging members of the Democratic establishment and the Identity Politics warriors who think it’s highly meaningful that she is a woman, thinks Hillary Clinton is “the answer,” in the sense that Neo was “the One?”

She’s not “the answer.” But the fact is, she’s all we’ve got between us and Trump, and as Will suggested, there is no mere political consideration “more important than keeping this impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man from being at that desk.”

Also, Mr. Ryan, examine your words. If Trump is, indeed, “absolutely unacceptable” — and he is — then you have no choice! You have to do all you can that is lawful and moral, even things that might be deeply distasteful to you, to stop him. Because the unacceptability is absolute! (And don’t tell me he just meant the words and not Trump. A president who goes around saying things that are “absolutely unacceptable” is himself just as unthinkable.)

Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase what the Godfather said to Sonny, I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy you’re playing with that buffoon. When Ryan threw aside the interests of the country to preserve his prerogatives in a job he didn’t want in the first place, his ability to reason abandoned him along with his honor.

Will Bernie Sanders have the grace to bow out?

fist 2

I doubt it. What we’ve seen up to now doesn’t point to that.

Sure, we’ve seen plenty of tough primary races in the past, followed by the losers lining up loyally behind the nominee for the general election. Hillary Clinton is the model for that. After hanging on, fighting Barack Obama every inch of the way for longer than seemed (to me, at the time) reasonable, she got with the program and followed him faithfully, with the proverbial salute stapled to her forehead.

That’s the norm.

But there is nothing normal about this situation, starting with Bernie himself.

For one thing, he isn’t a Democrat. Never has been, never will be. He’s not a guy to do the standard thing of lining up behind his party’s nominee for the simple reason that it’s not his party.

Next, do you seem him opting to back down to fight another day? Can you see Bernie, at his age, realistically having an opportunity to run again eight years from now — when he’s 82? No, of course not. And neither can he.

Also, he really, truly thinks he ought to be president, as unlikely as that seems to someone with my centrist perspective. He doesn’t think it’s an outlandish idea. In fact, he believes, he would be president, or at least the nominee, if the system weren’t “rigged” against him. He looks in the mirror and sees a POTUS. He really does.

Finally, there are his followers, whose expectations are at least as unrealistic as his own. They, egged on by him, had an absolute cow when The Washington Post (and others) reported the fact that Hillary had it wrapped up mathematically. (They are so furious about it that, if Sanders wins New Jersey and California today, it will likely be in part because his supporters’ ire toward the facts.) These folks will not be satisfied with, “Well, we gave it a good go and did better than anyone expected, and we got a hearing for our issues.”

Normally, at this point in a campaign (especially if he loses California today, although even winning there won’t get him the nomination), the candidate stands up and says he’s quitting and throws his support to the winner, and his supporters start to boo — we’ve seen this scene a thousand times — and he says no, no, his opponent is worthy and won fair and square and now it’s time for us to get behind her and win the election.

But this isn’t “normally.” There’s every indication that Bernie Sanders is in no way inclined to do something like that.

Why does this matter, especially to someone with an UnParty perspective? Well, to use that word again, normally it wouldn’t. Normally the Republicans would have nominated a normal human being, and the country wouldn’t be in danger from what George Will describes as an “impetuous, vicious, ignorant and anti-constitutional man” who practices “pornographic politics” with “Caligulan malice.” (Will came back from England just full of beans — that was one of the best columns he’s written in years.)

All that matters now, for anyone who cares about this country and can see straight — regardless of such petty considerations as party — is stopping Trump.

But Bernie Sanders has indicated that he is unconcerned about that, and will do whatever he can to hobble Trump’s opponent for as long as possible.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Sanders loses tonight, and plays out the usual graceful loser scene, and calms and redirects his impassioned followers.

But I’m not very optimistic about it at the moment.

He's not going to play the loyal Democrat because he's never been a Democrat.

He’s not going to play the loyal Democrat because he’s never been a Democrat.

The Don, unlike The Donald, did not utter threats

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

The Don: Man of Reasonableness who never utters threats.

Don’t you hate it when people use pop-culture analogies and get them wrong? Check out this one, from an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

But the Republican Party is not one of his golf courses for which he can determine who has what tee times. A political party is an alliance of people who share enough principles to unite to win elections and run the government. They can’t be ordered around by Don Corleone-style threats. They have to be persuaded and mobilized. Are Mr. Trump and his campaign going to require loyalty oaths of every Republican officeholder who wants to attend the convention?…

No, no, no! It most assuredly was not the Don’s style to make threats! He was way too cool, too smart, too self-contained — and therefore dangerous — for that.

Sonny made threats. Neither the Don, nor Michael, ever would. Some screenshots from the book, in case your memory is flawed:

threat 1

threat 2

threat 3

See what I mean? Case closed. Be more careful in the future, WSJ.

Yeah, there was that time he was rumored to have threatened the bandleader on his godson’s behalf. But even if that was true and not just a story people told about him, it’s the exception that proves the rule.,,,

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

The Donald: Man of Bluster who does little else.

Karl, all Trump ‘needs’ is to LOSE, for the sake of the nation

Democrats, and probably even some Republicans, demonize Karl Rove. Some probably have a litany of specific sins they can recite, but in general he seems to be for them a dark, menacing presence pulling strings in the background, like “the Koch brothers,” or Sauron behind Saruman.

But whatever he has done or not done to deserve that reputation, he has assuredly done a monstrous thing today.


Rove in the early 2000s.

He has offered, without apology or irony, advice to Donald Trump on how to win the general election. As though he were just another Republican candidate, another client (which is perhaps what Rove hopes he will be), and this is just another election.

In the same 24 hours in which his former bosses, Bushes 41 and 43, have said they do not plan to support Trump, and in which one of those very Koch brothers has hinted he might vote for Hillary Clinton, Rove has offered Trump calm, sensible, bloodless pointers on how to succeed. As though his success were a desirable thing.

His Wall Street Journal piece is headlined “What Donald Trump Needs Now,” and the subhed tells you that Rove isn’t being facetious: “To stand a chance, he must tone it down, hire a fact-checker and open his wallet.” To which I respond, to hell with what Trump “needs;” what the nation needs is for him to lose, and lose big.

The closest Rove comes to criticizing Trump comes at the beginning, when he says Trump’s “success was achieved only by inflicting tremendous damage to the party,” and that his suggestion that Cruz’ father was connected to the JFK assassination was “nuts.” But rather than treat these as evidence of something fundamentally wrong with Trump, Rove looks upon them as rough edges to be smoothed. Trump has damaged the party? Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. As for saying something “nuts,” Rove is like, Ya knucklehead! We need to break you of that silly habit so you can win this thing!

As though he were coaching an otherwise gifted boxer to remember not to drop his guard.

The everyday ordinariness, the sheer banality, of the advice Rove offers is appalling. An excerpt:

For the general election, the Trump campaign is behind in everything: digital operations, the ground game, advertising, you name it. The campaign must add new people and talents but would be wise to leave the ground game to the Republican National Committee. Sign the “joint fundraising agreements” that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP Senate and House campaign committees must have to collect the resources necessary for a massive voter turnout effort that is beyond the Trump campaign’s abilities.

Mr. Trump should also avoid attacking Mrs. Clinton in ways that hurt him and strengthen her. He is already in terrible trouble with women: In the April 14 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 69% of women rate him negatively, 58% very negatively. So stop saying things like: “Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5% of the vote.” He was lucky her response to that jibe was so lame. Next time it won’t be.

Mr. Trump must also retool his stump speech. Voters will tire of The Donald if he doesn’t have a second rhetorical act with far fewer insults and more substance. Reading more speeches from a teleprompter, particularly on the economy, will help. The Trumpistas argue that voters don’t need details, but those up for grabs in November do. These speeches will put meat on the bones of his policy views and yield new material for the stump….

As though… as though the idea of Trump becoming president was just an interesting challenge, a puzzle to be solved, and not an unthinkable nightmare for the country.

This same day, E.J. Dionne has a piece in The Washington Post in which he appeals to Republicans, the media, and the rest of us to avoid this very thing. “Please don’t mainstream Trump,” he pleads, and he’s absolutely right. Don’t act like this is just another election, and Trump just another nominee.

He concludes:

My friend, the writer Leon Wieseltier, suggested a slogan that embodies the appropriate response to Trump’s ascent: “Preserve the Shock.”

“The only proper response to his success is shame, anger and resistance,” Wieseltier said. “We must not accustom ourselves to this. . . . Trump is not a ‘new normal.’ No amount of economic injustice, no grievance, justifies the resort to his ugliness.”

Staying shocked for six months is hard. It is also absolutely necessary.

Amen to that, E.J….

The two Nikki Haleys: One makes us proud, the other makes us cringe

Nikki Facebook

This is one of the places where the old, less-admirable Nikki Haley is sometimes sighted.

It’s being reported that Time magazine has named Nikki Haley as one of the 100 most influential people — in the world, apparently.

And you know, if you think of the Nikki Haley who led us through taking down the flag last year, that’s not a shock. Good people such as Mari and Emile and Tom could have protested every day for a year, and if Nikki Haley had not decided to lead, that flag would likely still be there.

Ever since then, I have tended to focus on that Nikki, the one who has grown so fully into the job she’s held the last five years.

But this announcement comes at a weird moment, when we’re contemplating her snippiness toward Sheriff Leon Lott yesterday — which was petty and entirely unnecessary, and resurrects the image of the not-ready-for-statewide-office Haley I used to criticize. The one who makes what Speaker Jay Lucas has termed “middle-school comments” rather than finding ways to play well with others.

I prefer to see the Haley of last summer, and praise her for her leadership. Because that’s who I want to see. That’s the governor South Carolina needs to see. I just wish she’d stop seizing opportunities to remind us of the old, pre-growth Haley…

The man who was once Chris Christie stares out from the heart of darkness. The horror… the horror…

Christie 3

On the day after Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved huge strides toward victory, those who beheld the scene seem transfixed by the eloquence of Chris Christie’s eyes as he contemplated what had come to pass.Christie 1

In various forms, the image of Christie standing, horror-struck, behind Trump in his moment of victory appeared with no fewer than five separate stories about Super Tuesday in my Washington Post app this morning. Two Post writers — Janell Ross and Alexandra Petri — devoted entire columns to the sight.

The Ross piece, actually, was less a column and more a recitation of ways that Twitter reacted to Christie’s silent performance.Christie 5

Ms. Petri, as is her wont, got more creative, employing a battalion of pop-culture references to explain the look on the New Jersey governor’s face. I definitely recommend you go read it:

Chris Christie spent the entire speech screaming wordlessly. I have never seen someone scream so loudly without using his mouth before. It would have been remarkable if it had not been so terrifying.Christie 2

Sometimes, at night, do you still hear them, Clarice? The screaming of the Christies?

His were the eyes of a man who has gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back, and then he endorsed the abyss.

It was not a thousand-yard stare. That would understate the vast and impenetrable distance it encompassed.

He looked as if he had seen a ghost and the ghost had made him watch Mufasa die again….

“When are they coming to airlift me out?” Chris Christie’s eyes are pleading. “Please tell me that they are coming and that it is soon.” But then his expression hardens. Chris Christie knows that they are not coming back for him.

This is his life now.

Soon he must return to the plane onto which Trump humiliatingly sent him before. Soon he must return to the small cupboard under the stairs where he is kept and occasionally thrown small slivers of metaphorical raw meat. When he asked to be part of Trump’s cabinet he never thought to specify “presidential cabinet, of course, not a literal cabinet underground where the ventilation is poor and there is no light.” It just did not occur to him. Why would it?…

And so forth. As I said, go read the whole thing — I’ve probably exceeded the fuzzy bounds of Fair Use already. And I hope I’ll be forgiven for the image screengrabs. I just wanted to illustrate my point about how many times the image was repeated — all five came from the WashPost app this morning.

Somehow, she managed to avoid Heart of Darkness. Perhaps that’s because she wasn’t born yet when “Apocalypse Now” came out — in fact, it preceded her by about nine years. I had to look up “watch Mufasa die” to realize it was from “The Lion King,” whereas it came out when she was about 6, and therefore made a big impression.Christie 4

Looking at him, I was reminded of something I learned from my spotty career as an amateur actor — that the hardest thing for an actor is figuring out what to do on stage when someone else is speaking lines. What do you do with your hands? What should your face be doing? You need to keep acting, but not upstage the person speaking. It’s hard.

But you know what? It was worse than that. In the video below, you see and hear what Christie said to the crowd before Trump came out. And it’s incredible. Here he is speaking the lines, but doing so like a man with a gun to his head, like a POW blinking Morse code in the video, imploring the folks on the homefront to realize he doesn’t mean a word of what he’s saying.

He doesn’t even try to look happy. Which, of course, he isn’t…