Speaking Ill of Hugh Hefner – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“No doubt what Hefner offered America somebody else would have offered in his place, and the changes he helped hasten would have come rushing in without him.

But in every way that mattered he made those changes worse, our culture coarser and crueler and more sterile than liberalism or feminism or freedom of speech required. And in every way that mattered his life story proved that we were wrong to listen to him, because at the end of the long slide lay only a degraded, priapic senility, or the desperate gaiety of Prince Prospero’s court with the Red Death at the door.

Now that death has taken him, we should examine our own sins. Liberals should ask why their crusade for freedom and equality found itself with such a captain, and what his legacy says about their cause. Conservatives should ask how their crusade for faith and family and community ended up so Hefnerian itself — with a conservative news network that seems to have been run on Playboy Mansion principles and a conservative party that just elected a playboy as our president.

You can find these questions being asked, but they are counterpoints and minor themes. That this should be the case, that only prudish Christians and spoilsport feminists are willing to say that the man was obviously wicked and destructive, is itself a reminder that the rot Hugh Hefner spread goes very, very deep.”

Well said, Ross Douthat.


The Health Care Cul-de-Sac – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats. If Obamacare repeal is really dead for the year 2017, both left and right have a chance to shake their minds free of the health care debate and ask themselves: What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?

I would suggest that there are two big answers, both of which played crucial roles in getting a carnival showman who promised to Make America Great Again elected president. First, an economic stagnation that we are only just now, eight years into an economic recovery, beginning to escape — a stagnation that has left median incomes roughly flat for almost a generation, encouraged populism on the left and right, and made every kind of polarization that much worse.

Second, a social crisis that the opioid epidemic has thrown into horrifying relief, but that was apparent in other indicators for a while — in the decline of marriage, rising suicide rates, an upward lurch in mortality for poorer whites, a historically low birthrate, a large-scale male abandonment of the work force, a dissolving trend in religious and civic life, a crisis of patriotism, belonging, trust.”

Ross is mostly right. There are bigger issues to address. It is time to moveon.org.

An Elusive Immigration Compromise – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“The last time Gallup asked Americans if they thought immigration to the United States should increase or decrease, 35 percent chose a decrease, 24 percent an increase, and 38 percent preferred the present rate. Support for increasing immigration has been rising for a decade, but it remains relatively low. To the extent that there is a middle-ground position, it is for something like the status quo.

From polling like this you would imagine that recent immigration reform efforts would have worked in that middle space, trying to tweak the mix of new arrivals without increasing the immigration rate. But instead, most recent attempts at a “comprehensive” bill have sought not only amnesty for illegal immigrants, but an increase in low-skilled immigration, above the already brisk post-1960s pace.

Bipartisan bills dramatically at odds with the shape of public opinion are generally bad for both parties. And sure enough, the attempts at immigration reform under George W. Bush and Barack Obama helped give us both a much-reduced Democratic Party and a G.O.P. helmed by Donald Trump.”

A Trump Tower of Absolute Folly – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Donald Trump’s campaign against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in which he is seemingly attempting to insult and humiliate and tweet-shame Sessions into resignation, is an insanely stupid exercise. It is a multitiered tower of political idiocy, a sublime monument to the moronic, a gaudy, gleaming, Ozymandian folly that leaves many of the president’s prior efforts in its shade.

Let us walk through the levels of stupidity one by one. First there is the policy level — generally the lowest, least important in Trumpworld, but still worth exploring.

To the extent that any figure in the Trump administration both embodies “Trumpism” and seems capable of executing its policy ambitions, it is Sessions, who is using his office to strictly enforce immigration laws and pursue an old-school law-and-order agenda.”

Brilliant Ross Douthat, just brilliant.

Here is a top comment I found interesting>


Connecticut 6 hours ago

I’m a board-certified psychiatrist who has worked extensively in the forensic arena. I have evaluated many people for age-related mental compromise. I have watched videos of Trump from years ago (interviewed by Chris Matthews and many others) and watched and listened to him over the last few years. It’s clear to me that Trump’s cognition and judgment have progressively declined, and his utterances are those of a compromised individual. Your article amply demonstrates Trump’s lack of logic, poor judgment (defined as the ability to foresee the consequences of one’s actions), and his poor impulse control. His immature and mindless blather is filled with moment-to-moment contradictions and semantic mantras of repetition (“Believe me” or “beautiful”) indicating an inability to think and speak coherently. While he has not had a major “stroke” I am certain he has not-so-subtle indications of vascular compromise that would show up on brain scans. Aside from his severe personality defects, he is cognitively and emotionally compromised by virtue of organic brain changes, and the 25th Amendment would be an appropriate remedy.

A Conspiracy of Dunces – by Ross Douthat – NYT


“Here is a good rule of thumb for dealing with Donald Trump: Everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt eventually regrets it.This was true of clients and contractors and creditors throughout his business career. It was true of the sycophants and opportunists before whom he dangled cabinet appointments during the campaign and then, oh, never mind. It has been true of his cabinet members and spokesmen, whose attempts to defend and explain their boss’s conduct are gleefully undercut by the boss himself. And it should be true — for the sake of their souls, I sincerely hope it’s true — of the Republican leaders whose reputations for probity and principle he has stomped all over since winning their party’s nomination.

And now it’s true of me.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT Pending Approval

Atta boy, Ross Douthat. As my father liked to say to me, “You’re not at dumb as you look.”

Donald Trump Does Not Surprise – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Of course there might be such a conspiracy, which is why the F.B.I. investigation must proceed — and even if it only exposes shady business ties it’s entirely worth pursuing. But given what we know about Trump’s personality, what’s in the public record, and what’s been leaked by forces with reasons to despise him, Occam’s razor still suggests that shadiness is all we’ll find, and that Trump is lashing out childishly not out of guilt but because that’s simply what he does — whether the target is Ted Cruz’s family or Judge Curiel, the Khan family or now Comey.

Childish behavior can still lead to abuses of power, of which the Comey firing will not be the last. But liberals need to accept that the strongest case for removing Trump from office is likely to remain a 25th Amendment case: not high crimes and misdemeanors, not collusion with the Russians, but a basic mental unfitness for the office that manifests itself in made-for-TV crises and self-inflicted wounds.

And since a 25th Amendment solution would require Republican leaders, beginning with Mike Pence, to not only go along with his removal but take the lead in instigating it, it’s about as realistic as was the idea that those same leaders would somehow intervene against Trump at the Republican convention. Pence, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell — these men made their peace with Trump’s unfitness long ago. It will take more than further proof of that unfitness to make them move against him now.

This week reminded us why Donald Trump should not be the president of the United States. But if you wish to remove him, think on 2020. The rest, for now, is noise.”

David Souter Killed the Filibuster – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“…..Now imagine a counterfactual without this epic blunder. Had Souter simply voted like a typical Republican appointee — not in lock step with Antonin Scalia, but as an institutionalist, incrementalist conservative, in line with the current chief justice, John Roberts — then it’s likely that Roe v. Wade would have been mostly overturned in the 1990s, returning much of abortion law to the states, and that the gay rights movement would have subsequently advanced through referendums and legislation rather than a sweeping constitutionalization of cultural debate.

This, in turn, would have dramatically lowered the stakes of judicial politics for many Republican voters, making an untimely event like Scalia’s death less of a crisis moment, a response like the Garland pocket veto less of a necessity and the candidacy of Donald Trump something more easily rejected.”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT
Thank you Ross Douthat for a brilliant piece of writing. The top commentators think you are a fool and a knave, but they couldn’t be more off course. Your basic premise is sound as rock. If Roe V Wade had been overturned, long ago, and returned to the States, the growing civil war over supreme court nominations probably not have happened with the same intensity.
I first read this analysis in the op-ed pages of the New Haven Register, when they ran a column 10 or 15 years ago by a conservative writer from some state like Colorado. The point has only made more sense over time.

If the pro and con abortion wars had been forced to be fought state by state, the pro abortion side would have slowly won, but there would have been no dramatic turn by the anti-abortion group to the Republicans, with an intense focus on changing the Supreme court to correct this perceived, ultimate wrong. You hit a nerve, when you point out that many Republicans were so concerned now over the importance of the supreme court, that they held their noses and voted for Donald Trump. The irony is enough to make a grown person cry.

Make America Singapore – by Ross Douthat – NYT

Inconvenient News Worldwide

“Is there an existing health insurance system that vindicates this boast? Yes, in a sense: There is Singapore, whose health care system is the marvel of the wealthy world. Singaporeans pay for much of their own care out of their own pockets, and their major insurance program is designed to cover long-term illnesses and prolonged hospitalizations, not routine care. The combination has produced genuinely extraordinary results: The island state has excellent health outcomes while spending, as of 2014, just 5 percent of G.D.P. on health care. (By comparison, a typical Western European country that year spent around 10 percent; the United States spent 17 percent.)”

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Can This Presidency Be Saved? – Ross Douthat – NYT

“So there is no necessary reason why he could not wake up tomorrow and decide to show a broad deference to Rex Tillerson and James Mattis on foreign policy, while letting Jeff Sessions and James Kelly between them hash out an immigration enforcement agenda. There will be time to reshape the world order if his approval ratings ever edge back over 45 percent; for now, he could shelve plans for big-league disruptions and Nixon-to-China strokes of genius and simply take crises as they come.

Which in turn would free him — and, yes, Steve Bannon, too — to pick a few policy themes and hammer them. And not the hardest policies, either: Let Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell figure out how to get an Obamacare replacement through Congress and tell Tom Price to prop the system up if they can’t. From the White House, the message should be simple, boring, popular.

We want a big infrastructure bill. A middle-class tax cut. Corporate tax reform.”

Well done Ross Douthat. Good luck with these good ideas.

Here is the leading comment at the NYT:

Kevin Rothstein

is a trusted commenter Somewhere East of the GWB 1 day ago

“Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

1) Bannon is a fascist.

2) The Cabinet is a sick joke.

3) Tax cuts will not pay for themselves.

4) Trump’s idea of “infrastructure” is corporate, crony, privatizing of the commons and is odds with Republican deficit hawks.

5) The only real cure for the ACA is single payer.

6) Good, well-paying, jobs, require either a college degree or vocational education; therefore, making college more affordable to the middle class will do wonders for the health and well-being of our youth, not to mention easing the debt burden on parents.

7) A report in this paper regarding the rapid crack in the Antarctic ice makes all of the above moot if we continue to deny the effects of man-made global climate change and not dedicate a significant percentage of our resources to renewable energy.”

How Populism Stumbles – Ross Douthat – NYT

“Populisms vary, but their genesis is generally the same. Some set of ideas commands public support but lacks purchase in elite policy debates. Then a combination of elite failure and popular pressure makes that tension ripe for exploitation, and some new figure or movement emerges, promising to follow the will of the people and override the ruling class.”

This column is OK, but the comments are better. Especially:


is a trusted commenter Verona NJ 6 hours ago

“Trump’s campaign was based on fear, ignorance and the power of prevarication….the ancient art of lying and frightening people for a living.

These are the lifetime chances of causes of death for Americans:

Heart disease or cancer : 1 in 7

Stroke: 1 in 31

Suicide: 1 in 98

Motor vehicle accident: 1 in 113

Walking: 1 in 672

Drowning: 1 in 1,183

Choking on food: 1 in 3,409

Biking: 1 in 4,337

Animal attack/accident: 1 in 30,167

Terrorism: 1 in 45,808

Tornado: 1 in 60,000

Dog attack: 1 in 114,634

Lightning: 1 in 174,443

Refugee terrorist: 1 in 46 million

Illegal immigrant: 1 in 138 million


Compared to the threat posed by refugee terrorists — which Trump’s fear-based executive order is specifically designed to curtail — the typical American is:

6 times more likely to die from a shark attack

29 times more likely to die from a regional asteroid strike

260 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning

4,700 times more likely to die in an airplane or spaceship accident

407,000 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle incident

6.9 million times more likely to die from cancer or heart disease

Trump traffics in fear and lies to soothe his malignant narcissistic need for power and greed.

Donald Trump is the anti-FDR.

“The only thing we have is fear (and loathing)”: Donald Trump 2017………(a Stephen Bannon fear and paranoia exploitation production).”