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 | How to Dislodge the Brute in the White House – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Chuck Hardwick outside his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

“Chuck Hardwick, lifelong Republican, former Pfizer executive, now retired in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not without misgivings. He’d met him in the 1980s and noted a “consuming ego.” Still, elections are about choices, and he disliked the “scheming” Clintons. He was mad at the media for first mocking Trump during the primaries and then turning on him as nominee.

Three years later, Hardwick, 78, whose political career included a stint as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, is unsure how he will vote in November 2020. Trump confounds him. He admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China “stealing its way to prosperity,” his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition.

“But if I was on a board that had hired Trump as C.E.O.,” Hardwick tells me, “I’d have to say to him: ‘You’ve got good traits but you can’t manage people. You’re fired.’”

“. . .  For Hardwick, Elizabeth Warren is not a choice. He likes her American story, her humble beginnings, her quick mind, but thinks she’s too far left on economic policy for the country to accept.

That’s probably right. When you want to make the United States more like Europe, you always run the risk of destroying what makes America unique: its hustle and unrelenting creative churn. America was born in contradistinction to Europe not as an extension of it. That identity is nonnegotiable.

Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who has made active preparations to enter the Democratic primary, gives Hardwick a serious option to reject Trump. “I like him — no-nonsense, stable, clear-thinking, data-driven, he would do a good job and keep the economy moving. He looks better to me every day.” Anyone else? “I would not rule out voting for Biden.” “

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 |  – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen

Opinion Columnist

President Trump and other world leaders looking on as Queen Elizabeth II arrived for a D-Day commemorative event in Portsmouth, England, on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“PARIS — How small he is! Small in spirit, in valor, in dignity, in statecraft, this American president who knows nothing of history and cares still less and now bestrides Europe with his family in tow like some tin-pot dictator with a terrified entourage.

To have Donald Trump — the bone-spur evader of the Vietnam draft, the coddler of autocrats, the would-be destroyer of the European Union, the pay-up-now denigrator of NATO, the apologist for the white supremacists of Charlottesville — commemorate the boys from Kansas City and St. Paul who gave their lives for freedom is to understand the word impostor. You can’t make a sculpture from rotten wood.

It’s worth saying again. If Europe is whole and free and at peace, it’s because of NATO and the European Union; it’s because the United States became a European power after World War II; it’s because America’s word was a solemn pledge; it’s because that word cemented alliances that were not zero-sum games but the foundation for stability and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of this, Trump understands nothing. Therefore he cannot comprehend the sacrifice at Omaha Beach 75 years ago. He cannot see that the postwar trans-Atlantic achievement — undergirded by the institutions and alliances he tramples upon with such crass truculence — was in fact the vindication of those young men who gave everything.”

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