Opinion | Trump Was Too Focused on the Economy to Fight the Coronavirus – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“It’s the money. With President Trump, that never changes. The Dow at 30,000 was his obsession. Get to that number and the November election was a lock. Maybe even win with 400 Electoral College votes. A landslide!

The index came close. It was at its high of 29,551 on Feb. 12, more than three weeks after President Xi Jinping of China, his disastrous delaying tactics exhausted, warned that the coronavirus outbreak “must be taken seriously.” A Nasdaq record high followed on Feb. 19, almost three weeks after the World Health Organization declared a “global health emergency.”

“We have it totally under control.” That was Trump’s message at the time. Jared Kushner, Trump’s de facto campaign manager, liked that. So did Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary. Don’t spook the markets! Champagne on ice! Trump’s path to re-election involved getting enough Americans to say, I can’t stand this guy but, hell, I’m making money.

This sordid calculation meant the opportunity to avert the Covid-19 disaster was lost. Warnings were ignored. Chaos prevailed, starting at the top with a president who can no more think through a process than feel empathy.”

“. . .  When the Pearl Harbor Commission on this American catastrophe convenes, even Trump the perennial escape artist will not be able to slither from history’s judgment.

There’s nobody left in the presidential entourage who can question his folly. The toadying of Vice President Mike Pence captures the terror that reigns in Trump’s off-with-his-head court.

Court is the appropriate word. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said this week. Prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to the timely reminder, “We don’t have a king in this country.”

The thing is, Trump is the king. He’s Mark Twain’s king, more precisely. He’s the great American swindler, relying on the vastness of American space to afford him the opportunity to stay just ahead of disaster by conjuring up one more tall story. Twain’s king and duke in “Huckleberry Finn” — claiming to be the dauphin of King Louis XVI of France and the usurped Duke of Bridgewater — lie and scam their way down the Mississippi in the quintessentially American story.”

Opinion | Vacillating Trump Supporter, Take Two – by Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Hardwick’s is very much an American story. He was born in rural Kentucky, where his father, Joseph, was a grocery store manager. His mother, who was manic-depressive and underwent electroconvulsive therapy, died when he was 5. His dad eventually remarried and borrowed heavily to open a truck-stop restaurant in Burnside, Ky., on a busy highway. The restaurant failed. It took years to pay off the loans.

Hardwick’s father moved the family to Akron, Ohio. Wonder Bread hired Joseph as a bakery worker. He was 50. He was happy because you had to have 15 years of experience to qualify for the pension plan, so he would just qualify if he retired at 65.

“We had no car and he walked to work every day for 15 years,” Hardwick told me. “He was crushed in an elevator accident when I was in the eighth grade and he didn’t work for over a year. I dropped off the basketball team and got a paper route delivering The Akron Beacon Journal and essentially became self-supporting. I also gave money to the family from the $15 a week which I earned, good for a kid in the mid-1950s.”

Hardwick’s break came when Wonder Bread supported a new program at Florida State University that granted degrees in baking science and management, and chose to jump-start it with scholarships to four children of employees. Hardwick was one of those children. He eventually earned an M.B.A. in marketing, worked for two years for Wonder Bread and joined Pfizer in 1966. Over almost four decades, he rose to the highest echelons of the company.

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The American dream? Looks pretty like it to me. Along the way Hardwick was involved in the civil rights movement in Florida in the 1960s. At the end of his Pfizer career, he worked for several months in Vietnam on a program to eliminate trachoma. He does not rule out Medicare for all one day, and he thinks there’s a case for a wealth tax, but he’s convinced Elizabeth Warren’s program shifts the United States leftward too far, too fast, denying some essence of the country that gave him and countless others an opportunity to get ahead through hard work.

There’s not much point denying that Trump, foul as he is, has released Keynes’s “animal spirits” in the United States. The challenge to the next Democratic candidate is to keep the economy strong while returning the country Trump has dishonored to decency. The task is immense: reasserting American values, widening opportunity, reinventing education, tackling the climate crisis, re-establishing the meaning of truth. It needs the involvement of all Americans of good will.

Hardwick is such an American. Plutocrat? Oligarch? Big Pharma? I don’t think such labels help. I don’t think they tell you anything about the human being so labeled. If there’s one sure route to a second Trump term, it’s more of the liberal contempt that produced the “deplorables.” It’s more of the knee-jerk stereotyping that denies that Trump supporters have reasons for thinking as they do. We know exactly how that movie ended in 2016.

Opinion | Greece Is the Good News Story in Europe – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Greek resilience through crisis demonstrates that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a rally in Athens on Thursday.CreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

“ATHENS — If you’re looking for an optimistic story in Europe, try Greece. Yes, you read that right. Having lost a quarter of its economy in a devastating recession, Greece has turned the corner, its democracy intact, its extremist temptations defeated and its anti-Americanism defunct.

The landslide election on Sunday of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the dynamic leader of the center-right New Democracy party, marked the end of a chapter. Greece rejected Alexis Tsipras, the leftist leader who took the country to the brink of ruin in 2015 before discovering a pragmatic streak. It also voted the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn out of Parliament. At the height of the crisis, Golden Dawn had become the country’s third-largest party.

First into populism, Greece is now first out. For a country in free fall, the anchors of the European Union and NATO are not so negligible after all. Europe is not simply a story of growing nationalism and xenophobia. It’s a continent in violent flux, torn between liberal democratic and nativist currents.

Despite unemployment that reached almost 30 percent, a chaotic near-exit from the euro, huge bailouts to save it from bankruptcy, mandated austerity programs and a wave of desperate refugees from Syria, Greece stabilized itself. It’s a reminder that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated.”

Opinion | Hold a Second Brexit Referendum – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Quote

By Roger Cohen
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 15, 2019,   651
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.
Credit
Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock

“A democracy that cannot change its mind is not a democracy. The people may do that when presented with the whole picture after seeing only a partial or distorted one.

It has taken more than 30 months to shift from “Fantasy Brexit” to “Reality Brexit.” The difference, after vitriolic debate that has consumed British politics virtually to the exclusion of all else, is stark.

The first was Britain’s 2016 vote, fueled by lies, to leave the European Union, trumpets blaring. The second, after a crash course in the facts of what membership brings for Britain, came Tuesday in the form of the crushing defeat by a 432-to-202 parliamentary vote of Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for British withdrawal on March 29.

This, of course, was not a vote to remain in the European Union after all. It reflected anger across ideological lines that united Conservative lawmakers who want a complete British break from Europe and representatives of other parties who want to remain in the 28-nation union. Above all, it reflected complete disarray, the incapacity of May or anyone to come up with an acceptable compromise deal to accomplish something so inherently undesirable as to defy prettification.”

via Opinion | Hold a Second Brexit Referendum – The New York Times

Death by Hanging in Tehran – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“So Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian university professor and environmentalist, “commits suicide” in Tehran’s Evin prison two weeks after his arrest. His wife Maryam, summoned last Friday, is shown his body hanging in a cell. He is buried four days later in a village north of the capital, without an independent autopsy and after his family has come under intense Revolutionary Guard pressure to accept the official version of events.

Tell me another. Seyed Emami’s death is an outrage and an embarrassment to the Islamic Republic.

I met him in Iran in 2009, on the eve of a tumultuous presidential election that would lead to massive demonstrations and bloody repression. The theocratic regime that promised freedom in 1979 only to deliver another form of repression stood briefly on a knife-edge. Seyed Emami was a thoughtful, mild-mannered man, a sociologist and patriot with a love of nature. The notion that he would hang himself in a prison where they remove even your shoelaces strikes me as preposterous.

“I still can’t believe this,” his son Ramin Seyed Emami, a musician whose stage name is King Raam, wrote on Instagram.

Since anti-government protests began late last year, mainly in poorer areas that had been strongholds of the regime, Seyed Emami is the third case of a supposed suicide while in custody. In him, several of the phobias of Iranian hard-liners found a focus.

He was a dual national of the kind President Hassan Rouhani, a reformist, is trying to lure back to the country to spur growth. He was an environmentalist, one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, at a time when mismanagement and reckless dam building by the Revolutionary Guard and its front companies have contributed to water shortages. He was a Western-educated Iranian of the Rouhani camp, whose confrontation with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in a particularly delicate phase.”

via Death by Hanging in Tehran – The New York Times

DL: Power to the people. Many good comments as well.

Trump Is Right- This Time- About Iran – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“I have a New Year’s confession: I retweeted President Trump with approval, not something I had expected to do, especially on the subject of Iran. But Trump has been right to get behind the brave Iranian protesters calling for political and economic change.

The tweet in question:

These are the largest popular protests since the Iranian uprising in 2009 against a fraudulent election. I was in an enormous crowd (estimated in the millions) that marched from Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Square to Azadi (Freedom) Square three days after the vote. Fear evaporated in that throng.

I asked a young woman to whom I’d been talking what her name was. “My name is Iran,” she replied. The memory still gives me goose bumps.”

via Trump Is Right, This Time, About Iran – The New York Times

The Roger Cohen piece has some nice moments, but I have to side with his critics, such as the following:

Robert Westwind

Suntree, Florida 6 hours ago

We’re talking about a president who knows nothing about Iran and has no understanding of how his own government works. This is the same guy that saw crowds that didn’t exist at his inauguration event and has recently taken credit for no loss of life on commercial airlines in his first year as president, completely ignoring the fact that the no US air carrier has had a loss of life crash since 2009. Behind this claim, he has not implemented any policy to change air travel safety. HIs tweets and statements about the Russia investigation and how no one in his campaign communicated with Russian operatives ended up with two guilty pleas from those in his campaign orbit and two indictments and the investigation is becoming even deeper than previously expected. The Fusion GPS testimony debunked the claim that the dossier was the impetus for the Russia investigation but the Republican congress doesn’t really want to talk about that. Now Trump tweets the “deep state” is out to get him. His own cabinet appointees. A tweet about Iran is just giving their Mullah’s a reason to claim the US is interfering with their internal politics and the protesters are in bed with the CIA. The US will do nothing to help those protesting in that country. Trump’s tweets are meaningless and are a reflection of his ignorance and flawed view of the world. Nothing more. The guy is an empty suit protected by a complicit Republican congress unwilling to acknowledge his perfidy for their own agenda.

 

Theresa May’s Weak and Wobbly Outfit – Roger Cohen – NYT

“An inept campaign saw May promising “strong and stable” government so often it became a joke. Britain, on the eve of a momentous negotiation that will define the lives of the youth who never wanted “Brexit,” now has the opposite: weak and wobbly government. This will mean that May has to compromise more; hence a softer departure from the Union, if there’s enough political coherence even for that. Those who cling, as I do, to the faint hope that Brexit will collapse under the weight of its folly have been given a fillip; this is not over.May has been repudiated for her arrogance, but above all for her utter vacuity. Almost single-handedly she revived the Labour Party of the leftist Jeremy Corbyn, who at least appeared to believe in something.”

 

Good piece. I think Brexit was a mistake, based on fake news, and should be put to a second vote.  Here are some good comments:

erik

The Hague 5 hours ago

Meanwhile, the mood on the continent has shifted to disinterest. Continental media have begun discussing closer integration instead.

All eyes are on Emmanuel Macron and his newly won parliamentary majority. If he can reform the French economy, he will have the political capital he needs to persuade the Germans to federalize the Eurozone. This would be huge both for those nations currently in the Eurozone and those on the outside like Poland.

Europeans are also coming to terms with the necessity to coordinate military spending and planning. The EU (minus the UK) is currently the 3rd largest military spender in the world after the US and China but because of poor cooperation, the EU’s collective defense capacity adds up to less than the sum of it parts. This needs to change.

The British seem to think the entire continent is holding its breath waiting for them to make up their minds, but the truth is that Europe is moving on. Because it has to.

Catherine

Liverpool, UK 6 hours ago

52% of the two third who actually voted is not the kind of thumping majority most countries’ constitutions require for a change of this magnitude. Even if the campaign was truthful and balanced, which it most certainly wasn’t. The article put it perfectly “informed by lies, fueled by jingoism, and spearheaded by charlatans”.
And UKIP was never a swing bloc – they were the former extreme right of the Tories, with no policy beyond “taking back sovereignty” that we had never lost, and who blamed the deterioration in public services on immigrants instead of the Tories and the hugely damaging 7 years of austerity they inflicted on our public services. Talked up by a seriously right wing press owned and run by billionaire tax exiles. Now they are irrelevant.
Last week’s result was democracy in action – although many older people, like me, voted Labour, it was the young who saw through the constant propaganda of the Daily Mail and the Murdoch papers and made a real difference, registering and voting in huge numbers to try and get rid of a government that has saddled them with massive debts, a precarious job market and an over-priced housing market. And taken away from them the opportunities and rights we have all taken for granted for the last forty years. Nothing to do with elites.

  • In Reply to John

 

A Case for Jeremy Corbyn – by Roger Cohen – NYT

For a long time I could not bring myself to write about the British election. Trump-coddling, self-important, flip-flopping Theresa May, ensconced at 10 Downing Street without ever being elected prime minister, was going to sweep to her hard-Brexit victory and take the country down her little England rabbit hole.There were more important things to think about, like the end of the American century in 2017, one hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution. A boorish clown named Donald Trump brought down the curtain.”

Bravo. Magnificent. And I thought the trains in England were still nationalized.

Here are the two top comments, to help celebrate this forceful op-ed.

abo

is a trusted commenter Paris 22 hours ago

“Still, Corbyn would not do May’s shameful Trump-love thing.” And that, in the eyes of the British electorate, is a big thumbs up for Mr. Corbyn! Trump is toxic waste pretty much anywhere. It’s got to such a point that soon I’d expect, if the Russians could vote in a free election, they’d vote out Putin because he’s too close to Trump.

Larry Eisenberg

is a trusted commenter Medford, Ma. 22 hours ago

I hope the Brits put Corbyn in,
A pro-Trumpist May is a sin,
An anti-Trump Britain
In these times is fittin’
T’would give Trump a kick in the shin.

A New Yalta and the Revival of Europe – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“. . . . Merkel is the favorite to win the German election in September. A Macron-Merkel duo could be formidable. They will have to deliver in several areas if Europe is to seize this moment. The first is security: the European Union needs effective external borders. The second is fiscal: the euro in the long run can only function with fiscal consolidation. The third is growth: Europe is already stirring from stagnation but needs to create more jobs, and for that Macron’s planned labor-market reforms will be important. The fourth is solidarity: the free ride of countries like Hungary and Poland that benefit from vast European Union financial transfers but flout European values through their growing autocratic tendencies must be stopped. It’s simple: no free money without a free press and an independent judiciary.

Macron and Merkel are both passionate Europeans (as is the Social Democratic contender in Germany, Martin Schulz). Putin’s threats, Trump’s valueless American foreign policy, and Britain’s small-mindedness — alongside an economic recovery that is gathering steam — have created a unique opportunity to rekindle the dream of a federalizing Europe. It could be that 2017 will be the year of Europe.”

Bravo et Salut, Roger Cohen!

Trump’s Gifts to China – by Roger Cohen – NYT

“China has leverage over Kim, but its “strategic patience” with him is infinite. Its priority is the survival of the totalitarian regime as a buffer. The dictator is China’s insurance against a nuclear-armed united Korea at its doorstep. Millions of North Koreans flooding over its border in the event of a regime collapse is the last thing China wants.”