“. . . Bret: The minimum wage hike is a terrible idea. It makes it more difficult for small businesses, like restaurants, to hire younger or unskilled workers. It encourages large franchises to move toward increased automation. The economy already got trillions of dollars in stimulus last year, most recently a $900 billion bill passed at the end of December. Shouldn’t the economy digest that meal before we move on to the next course? Otherwise we’re going to end up like Marcello Mastroianni in “La Grande Bouffe,” if you happen to recall that particular epic.”
“Bret Stephens: Gail, given what’s happened in the past two weeks, Martin Luther King Jr. Day feels particularly meaningful this year. It seems as if the country is just holding its breath, waiting for the next Capitol Hill mob to descend, somewhere, somehow, on something or someone.
Is this 1968 all over again, or do you feel any sense of optimism?
Gail: Well Bret, I was actually around in 1968 — politically speaking.
Bret: Ah, but do you actually remember it?
Gail: There were certainly a lot of … distractions, what with a cultural revolution around every corner. And a terrible string of assassinations — after King, I can remember when Robert Kennedy was killed in June, feeling like nobody was safe from crazy people and right-wing racists.
Bret: Now it’s like déjà vu all over again. Donald Trump spent five years stoking the paranoia and loathing of his crowds, and now it has been unleashed. We’ll be living with it for years.”
“When all the facts come out about the treasonous attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired by President Trump, impeaching him three times won’t feel sufficient. Consider this Washington Post headline from Monday: “Video Shows Capitol Mob Dragging Police Officer Down Stairs. One Rioter Beat the Officer With a Pole Flying the U.S. Flag.”
That said, while I want Trump out — and I don’t mind his being silenced at such a tense time — I’m not sure I want him permanently off Twitter and Facebook. There’s important work that I need Trump to perform in his post-presidency, and I need him to have proper megaphones to do it. It’s to blow apart this Republican Party.
My No. 1 wish for America today is for this Republican Party to fracture, splitting off the principled Republicans from the unprincipled Republicans and Trump cultists. That would be a blessing for America for two reasons.
First, because it could actually end the gridlock in Congress and enable us to do some big things on infrastructure, education and health care that would help ALL Americans — not the least those in Trump’s camp, who are there precisely because they feel ignored, humiliated and left behind.”
“It turns out there was a coordinated attack on the 2020 election after all. It began several years ago and accelerated in the last several months. Now that Election Day has passed, it has launched into overdrive.
Its weapons are baseless insinuation and evidence-free charges, deployed solely to sow chaos and undermine the results of a free and fair election — one that produced a clear winner and an even clearer loser.
But the most dangerous attackers of American democracy aren’t the Russians or the Chinese. They are the leaders of the Republican Party.
In the face of a commanding national triumph by President-elect Joe Biden — not just an Electoral College victory but a popular-vote margin that is approaching five million — President Trump and top Republicans are behaving like spoiled children refusing to let go of their toys.
“Many of my oldest friends are voting for President Trump on Tuesday.
They’re supporting Trump despite the arguments my pundit colleagues and I have been making — or perhaps because of them. My pro-Trump friends and readers complain that the mainstream media are biased against Trump, and thus they tune us out for being unfair and piling on.
“The picture painted by the media is a caricature of the person,” said my high school buddy Dave Richardson, who voted for Trump warily in 2016 but is supporting him enthusiastically this time.
The conundrum for those of us trying to change minds is that the more urgently we shout, the less we’re heard. “We’re not stupid, gullible sheep,” one reader, Frank J., complained. “Be fair and balanced in your reporting and it would have more power.”
Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times
My childhood friend Mary Mayor likewise supported Trump and is turned off by coverage that she regards as hostile. “I’ve never known a president who has gone through so much scrutiny, overlooking all the positives he has done,” she told me.
I understand why people like Mary voted for Trump. The loss of well-paying jobs devastated places like my hometown, Yamhill, Ore. Mary spent seven years homeless, lost four relatives to suicide, and herself once put a gun to her own head, before she pulled herself together with the help of a local church. Trump talked about bringing jobs back and helping ordinary workers — so she voted for the first time in her life, for Trump.
“We hoped Trump would help boost the economy and jobs,” my old friend Jani Sitton said, explaining her vote for Trump in 2016.
The challenge for opponents of Trump like myself is that our denunciations of the president sometimes backfire and help him, just as polls suggest that impeachment increased support for him (Gallup shows him with his highest presidential approval numbers after being impeached). As Jani said: “The condescension from very loud and aggressive Trump critics has contributed big time toward conservatives feeling sympathy for him.”
So in my last column before Election Day, let me explain as respectfully as I can why I’m so worked up about this election.
It’s partly because I believe that Trump is a charlatan who preys on my friends who trust him. Trump’s own sister has said he is a liar with “no principles,” and his former chief of staff Gen. John Kelly reportedly referred to him as “the most flawed person” he has known.
So if I’m passionate, it’s because I feel he has exploited my friends and then betrayed them with his policies.
How can a president be called “pro-life” when he has presided over the deaths of more than 225,000 Americans from Covid-19 and still doesn’t have a strategy to fight it? Trump is also working to take away health insurance from my friends: Already, the number of Americans with health insurance has dropped by 5.2 million since Trump took office, and he is trying to completely overturn the Affordable Care Act right after the election.
I’m a great believer in community, in the idea that what makes countries strong is “social capital” — the web of relationships, beliefs, trust, decency and identity that make a society work. Trump has taken this social fabric and acted as the Great Unraveler.
He replaces accepted facts with lies, baseless accusations, support for QAnon and even a conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama had SEAL Team 6 killed instead of Osama bin Laden. In both supporters and opponents, Trump nurtures hate. He is what Proverbs 6:19 calls “a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
Trump has been a corrosive acid on America’s social capital. He has cost us trust. He has dissolved our connectivity.
I understand now why kindergarten teachers sometimes want to remove a loudmouth bully who disrupts the class and leaves it dysfunctional. That is what Trump has done to our democracy.
For much of my career, I’ve written about national security, from Afghanistan to North Korea, China to Iran. But great nations more often rot from within than suffer defeat from outside, and Trump is exacerbating longstanding divisions and weaknesses in this country.
So to those who think I suffer from “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” let me explain — with respect, but also urgency — that my intensity arises because I see Trump as not just a phony but also a threat. He has left the United States a more turbulent and divided nation, one close to war with itself.
Today the greatest threat I perceive to America’s national security isn’t from Qaeda terrorists, Russian cyberattacks or Chinese missiles. As I see it, it’s from Trump’s re-election.
This is when conversations with friends become awkward. I may think that Trump bamboozled my pals, and they may think I’m manipulated by leftist propaganda, but we all have agency — and we each think the other is using that agency to endanger a country we all love.
I doubt I’ll change many minds. But the only thing I can do is reach out in a good-faith effort to undecided voters.
Sometimes it works. Jani, a committed Christian, has worried about Democrats and abortion. But this time she will vote for Biden because she’s appalled at Trump’s policies toward migrants, Black Lives Matter and health care, and because “God cares about oppression, justice, the voiceless.”
As Jani goes, so, I hope, will the nation.”
“Thousands of Americans would be alive today if President Trump had spent more time listening to the World Health Organization instead of trying to destroy it.
Trump’s announcement that he will halt American funding for the W.H.O. just as the world is facing a raging pandemic is a dangerous attempt to find a scapegoat for his own failings. It is like taking away a fire department’s trucks in the middle of a blaze.
Many Americans know nothing about the W.H.O., but its worldwide budget (of which the United States pays about one-fifth) is less than that of some American hospital centers. Yet it is charged with fighting Ebola and polio, saving children’s lives and keeping the world safe from pandemics like this one.
Trump says that he is cutting the funds while his administration reviews the W.H.O.’s handling of the coronavirus. His own pandemic preparedness plan, which he characteristically has failed to implement, called for building support for the W.H.O. — because it’s a critical player to keep Americans safe.”
“If America’s worst enemies had spent years designing a plan to erode our greatest strengths, they could not have done better than what some of our fellow citizens are doing to the country every day for short-term financial or political gain.
Prominent figures in government, politics and commerce are behaving in ways that are so destructive of the core institutions and norms that underpin our democracy, one can only assume that they take the country’s stability as a given — that they can abuse and stress it all they want and it won’t break.
They are wrong. We can break America, and right now we’re on our way there. Not in the Cold War, not during Vietnam, not during Watergate did I ever fear more for my country.
This moment “is like Wall Street before the financial crisis, when everyone just took for granted that the system was forever stable,” remarked Gautam Mukunda, research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter.” “
“. . . And, finally, there’s the internet barons who for too long ignored the weaponization of social media, which is turning our free press into a house of mirrors, where citizens can no longer cognitively discern fact from fiction and make informed judgments essential for democracy.
I watch it all and wonder: “Are you really doing that? Do you all go home at night to some offshore island where the long-term damage you’re doing to America doesn’t matter?”
Here is my question to the NYT, and the two top comments, which I recommended.
Zuckerberg has a lot of social problems for a guy who runs a social network. You would think he’d have a special sensitivity to the obvious human horrors of propaganda that we all know helped destroy European society eighty years ago. You would think that his education and rarified, privileged status might endow him with a sliver of humanity, wisdom and goodwill toward others, but instead he appears to be just a run-of-the-mill greedy corporate soul who has trouble seeing the destruction he and his Frankenstein invention have wrought on society. Most people don’t read much…most people don’t research much….most people aren’t great critical thinkers….many people are easily duped…most people aren’t well-informed…and these folks love Facebook and their minds are easily hijacked by professional gaslighters, liars and propagandists; Facebook allows these folks to be specifically targeted and manipulated into the twilight zone thanks to Facebook’s human-privacy-organ-harvesting business model. FOX News and Hate Radio also deserve credit for whipping up voters into a rabid, irrational state of fear and loathing as well; Rupert Murdoch is one of the worst things to happen to America. Murdoch, Zuckerberg and all the other gaslighting Robber Barons are long overdue for a heavy dose of reality and government regulation to keep the public safe from Grand Old Propaganda, a known hazard to human civilization. Time to regulate Facebook and bring back the Fairness Doctrine.
I’m just as frightened as you, Tom Friedman, maybe even longer than you–I saw the signs of Trumps power abuses starting with the inauguration accounting issues. In addition to Zuckerberg, Graham, and Trump smashing the country to smithereens, you should have mentioned Bill Barr. He’s put least 5 nails in the coffin of American democracy by conducting a criminal investigation of FBI and CIA individuals who were so alarmed by intelligence intercepts of members of the Trump campaign that they reacted as any good security experts do: investigate. If that isn’t Putin territory Barr is taking us to, I don’t know what is. He’s weaponizing the DOJ to appease Trump’s lust for vengeance. Trump gets away with everything because he’s enabled. He’s getting plenty of help as he brings us all down.
“You can be a taxpayer or you can be a citizen. If you’re a taxpayer your role in the country is defined by your economic and legal status. Your primary identity is individual. You’re perfectly within your rights to do everything you legally can to look after your self-interest.Within this logic, it’s perfectly fine for Donald Trump to have potentially paid no income taxes, even over a long period of time. As Trump and his allies have said, he would have broken no law. He would have taken advantage of the deductions just the way the rest of us take advantage of the mortgage deduction or any other; it’s just that he had more deductions to draw upon.
As Trump and his advisers have argued, it is normal practice in our society to pay as little in taxes as possible. There are vast industries to help people do this. There is no wrong here.The problem with the taxpayer mentality is that you end up serving your individual interest short term but soiling the nest you need to be happy in over the long term.A healthy nation isn’t just an atomized mass of individual economic and legal units. A nation is a web of giving and getting. You give to your job, and your employer gives to you. You give to your neighborhood, and your neighborhood gives to you. You give to your government, and your government gives to you.”
Bravo David Brooks. You truly have a way with words. Like my father used to say, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” But, fyi, I am an ardent environmentalist. You seem oblivious to climate change and “The 6th Extinction.” There is a good book, by Elizabeth Kolbert, for you to write a column on. Also, those of us who adore Hillary Clinton, do so, because she is a warm softy on community and charity, as well a being a brilliant female leader, and a hard headed champion of the underrepresented, whether they are children, or elephants.
Why do so many of your class think Hillary Clinton is a witch? If she is a witch, she is like Lily Potter in the Harry Potter series, or “the Witch of Blackbird Pond.” Part of being a good citizen in my family, was supporting civil rights, and human rights, and animal rights, and allowing that even strong women should be allowed to thrive.
David Lindsay Jr.