TRUMP UNCHAINED –er, UNHINGED

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I think I understand why nearly 63 million Americans did so.  They voted against “business as usual,” even if that meant breaking a lot of china.  They voted for a government that they hoped would be more responsive to their needs.  One can argue whether a vote for either of our November 2016 candidates was wise, but now we have a Trump Administration.  What have we let ourselves in for?  Each time I have started to post an entry, discussing some of the latest outlandish statements and outrageous acts, something new has come along.  In just a few short weeks since the inauguration, all (naïve) hope that I had for a more presidential, wiser Donald Trump has been vaporized.  Here is a short litany of recent outrages:

  • Direct personal attacks on a “so-called judge” for ruling against one of the most hastily-put-together executive orders on a momentous issue (a judge who was nominated by the last Republican President and confirmed 99-0). That followed the assertion that another United States District Judge is “a hater” and biased against him in a private lawsuit because Trump is “strong on immigration and the judge is Hispanic-surnamed (a judge who had previously prosecuted Mexican cartel members and was confirmed by a voice vote).
  • Equating Russia’s autocracy with our system since “we have killers, too. You think our country is so innocent?”  Even Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, no fans of the Fourth Estate, never poisoned journalists.  And they at least listened to their intelligence agencies before dissing them in public.
  • Direct, wrongheaded attacks on the media. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s [terrorism] not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.  They have their reasons, and you understand that.”  And, most hypocritically, the accusation that they peddle “fake news.” The hydra-headed media has a lot to answer for, but these accusations are flat wrong, and the failure of the President and his courtiers to refute the media’s surgical dissection of his lies proves it.  Nonetheless, just when one might have thought things could not get any worse, the President went further down the sewer and labeled a huge segment of the press the “enemy of the American people.”
  • And the latest – the incredible charge tweeted out several days ago, on zero evidence, that Barack Obama, that “bad (or sick) guy” wiretapped Trump at Trump Tower.

We had hoped that some of the adults in the Cabinet could mitigate some of the damage.  But apparently even the supposedly levelheaded members of the Cabinet have caught the Trump Disease.  In keeping with Sean Spicer’s decision to ban certain news organizations from a February 24 press briefing, on March 7 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allowed (or directed) the ejection of Andrea Mitchell from a photo-op with the Ukraine Foreign Minister for asking uncomfortable questions.  That is not just shocking; it shows an unprecedented level of cowardice and arrogance by a public official.  And equally shocking is that Bill O’Reilly, jackal-like, claimed that she was “unruly.”  Andrea Mitchell—“unruly”?  Every member of the press should have Andrea Mitchell’s back, but apparently some of them are so blinded by their own political slant, or the desire to curry favor, that they condone, even praise this behavior.

Maybe the last 16 years have been pretty bad – a divided country, an ill-thought-out war, a devastating recession, and the decline of American prestige overseas – but they pale in comparison to what is happening now.  The above events demonstrate that our President is utterly devoid of personal dignity and consumed with self.  Anyone can find a lot of uncomplimentary things to say about the policies of Bush 43 and Barack 44, but these men were, at bottom, decent human beings.  We now are governed by someone of a different ilk entirely … someone whose policy nostrums are truly “stone cold crazy.”  For example,

  • Making Steve Bannon a regular at National Security Council briefings, in place of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. For once I agree with Susan Rice on something  — that really is “stone cold crazy.”  We can apparently credit Bannon and another of his cohort for the wildly under-thought-out travel ban on citizens of seven countries – including persons who already held visas and were returning to family and homes already in the U.S., along with many persons who served alongside our military personnel in the Mideast, often at risk to their own lives and safety.  Now we have a new, revised ban that may pass legal muster, but is completely ineffectual and wrongheaded.
  • Completely dismissing the Trans-Pacific Pact on trade, which would be our best and simplest vehicle for isolating China and binding other Asian countries to our economy and our society. If you want to make America great again, you don’t abandon TPP and create a vacuum to be filled by a rising hegemonist. And it’s ridiculous to bash China for its alleged unfair currency devaluation when China has actually been propping up its currency, not devaluing it.
  • Maintaining the fiction that Mexico should and will pay for an ineffective “wall” and demanding that NAFTA be “renegotiated.” It apparently has never occurred to this real estate mogul (who has employed undocumented workers) that the best way to minimize illegal immigration is to strengthen the economies of Latin American countries so their people do not experience the desperation that impels them to walk thousands of miles to enter the United States. As best one can tell from U.S. Government figures, Texas alone has an $8 billion trade surplus with Mexico.  (Governor Abbott, are you listening?)  Put another way, Mexico is not Rosie O’Donnell.  It is our neighbor.
  • And, if you want to counteract Russian savagery, you don’t cozy up to them by dissing your own country, whose sins are not even a teaspoon compared to the ocean of government-sponsored Russian criminality against its own citizens.  Not to mention Russian support for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s torturer-in chief.  Trump’s inexplicable behavior towards Russia does just one thing:  it persuades many of us that the Russians really do have something on him.

The list of Trump’s deliberate and dangerous wrongheadedness is already too long for my blog. Others who do this for a living have exposed it with far more eloquence than I can summon in a week or even a month.  In an era of grave dangers, from overseas powers and groups who are utterly hostile to an open, democratic and free society, we need a President who understands and appreciates what we have.  Unfortunately, we don’t, so we are in for a long, excruciating ride.

So, what can we do?

First, we can continue to stay engaged in public affairs.  That doesn’t necessarily mean protests.  It requires much more than marching on occasion, including – most important – voting at every opportunity, whether in primaries, general elections, school bond elections, referenda (and how many of today’s protestors did not even vote in the last election?).   With turnout at a 20-year low (roughly 55% after three cycles of at least 60%), we all have to participate, and we have to encourage everyone around us to do the same.

Second, we can turn to our own communities.  We can live the best lives we can, treat each other with decency, be passionate about our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families, but also show compassion and charity toward others.  By providing these shining examples, sorely lacking in this Administration, we can hope that the American people decide to once again aspire to be a “city on a hill” and figure out by 2020 how to reverse the evil that has befallen us.

OOPS! (Revised) Unsolicited Advice for the President-elect

This is for the President-elect I did not expect.  My advice is only a little different from what I posted last week for the other candidate (whom I thought would prevail).  However, what’s good for the country is good for the country, regardless of who walks into the White House next January 20:

Dear President-elect Trump:

It’s Wednesday.  Half the country is hailing your victory, but the other half is scared.  Here’s what I recommend to hearten your supporters and (slowly) assuage the fears of many of the rest.

Call Mitch McConnell.  Tell him you are too busy to worry about legislation on the right wing’s social agenda, but you’ll give him “safe” conservatives for the Supreme Court, and assure him that you won’t drive the coal industry out of business.  While you’re at it, ask him to help figure out what tweaks and revisions can be made to TPP that will allow you to gracefully reverse your absurd opposition to it (maybe some executive orders?), then ramrod its passage through the Senate with McConnell’s help, and you can both claim victory.

Call Paul Ryan.  Keep calling until he answers.  Tell him you want to make a deal.  Maybe many deals.  Find out what he really wants on the budget/tax front (we know that will be a combination of entitlement cuts and certain tax reforms), and let him make the case to you that those items will stimulate job growth (he’s right — they will).  The Senate Democrats will have the capability to filibuster anything coming out of the House, so add a dollop of some more taxes on people making over $500,000.  Both of you will need to show some backbone and make the case for this compromise to the country, over the heads of the leftwing cranks (read:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and rightwing crazies (too many to name) in both Houses of Congress.

Call Chuck Schumer.  Repeat to him what you said about TPP to McConnell.  Also, tell him (sweetly—see below) that the country is yours, and if he is unnecessarily obstructive, you will bury him.

While you’re at it, promise both Ryan and McConnell that you’ll support under cover of darkness any ideas they have for encasing Ted Cruz in carbonite for at least the next 20 years.  Tell Ted that he can wait 8 years, anyway.

It’s Wednesday evening. Get a good night’s sleep.  Then call Bob Gates and Colin Powell and find out who they think would make a good Secretary of Defense.  Call Condi Rice and ask the same question about State.  Call John McCain and Lindsey Graham and invite them to make Cabinet suggestions.  You may or may not take their advice, but could it really hurt to ask?

Call Philip Zelikow and tell him he must accept the post of National Security Adviser.  He’s up to it.

Announce that you will appoint a blue-ribbon  commission (at least one-third Democrats) to “save” Social Security.  Make sure the commission members know that they must (a) raise the retirement age for non-disabled persons by at least one month per year for the next 36 years, (b) advocate means-testing benefits, and (c) ensure that the COLAs are honest, not manipulated in either direction.  That will give you cover — and it makes sense.

I take you at your word that you want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Appoint a similar blue-ribbon commission for this task, too.  After 7 or 8 years in opposition, surely some Republicans have a few good ideas beyond selling insurance across state lines.  And find some rational Democrats and healthcare experts to appoint to the commission. I realize they will probably issue a scathing minority report, but let’s get all the ideas on the table.

Freeze civilian Government hiring. ‘Nuff said.

Expand the military by 1,000,000 personnel.  This was the stimulus package I advocated waaaayyy back in 2009 when President Obama took office.  Such a program would have had, and will still have, immense benefits: (a) decreasing the ranks of the unemployed, particularly 18- to 25-year-olds, (b) providing discipline in work habits and training in technical skills to those same young persons who most need it, so they ultimately become net contributors and taxpayers in the civilian economy, (c) providing medical care to the same group –- a better alternative than the ACA with its stratospheric deductibles and co-pays — while training them in healthy habits that will ultimately bend the cost curve, and (d) letting Putin and the Iranians and North Koreans know that, while you may be willing to sit down and talk with them, there’s a new sheriff in town.  This will hearten our fearful allies.

Make a speech before Thanksgiving that explicitly supports Israel and a two-state solution, and insist that the Arab world and Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, on pain of isolation.  We don’t need their oil the way we used to.

Don’t call Putin until you have already spoken with Merkel, May, and Pena Nieto.  Please.

It’s time to heal.  When dealing with your political adversaries, try to act like Bush 41, or Ronald Reagan — not like Dick Cheney or your new BFF’s Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani.  Act like Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter (most of the time), not like Harry Reid or Elizabeth Warren.  This will be a hard lesson for you, and old habits die hard.  But you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  And enforce rigorously the same level of civility among your courtiers, advisers, and other minions.   Believe me, if you can do it (and with your iron will you should be able to do it), you’ll be glad you did.

Oh, yes.  Tell Jason Chaffetz to back off.  He should investigate fraud and waste, not Benghazi or the email server.  You won.  Isn’t that enough?

The preceding is unpaid advice, but I think it’s worth something.  I really want you to be successful.

Sincerely,

Lee Kaplan

Unsolicited Advice for the President-elect

On the off-chance that she survives all of her self-inflicted wounds and emerges in a week as our President-elect, I offer the following unsolicited advice to our next President:

Dear President-elect Clinton:

It’s 8 a.m. Wednesday.  Call Paul Ryan.  Keep calling until he answers.  Tell him you want to make a deal.  Maybe many deals.  Tell him that the social issues are off the table, but you want to know what he really wants on the budget/tax front (we know that will be a combination of entitlement cuts and certain tax reforms), and let him make the case to you that those items will stimulate job growth (he’s right — they will).  Trade that for some more taxes on people making over $500,000.  Both of you will need to show some backbone and make the case for this compromise to the country, over the heads of the leftwing cranks (read:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and rightwing crazies (too many to name) in both Houses of Congress.

Next, call Mitch McConnell, but if he doesn’t answer, just leave a voicemail.  Tell him the train has left the station on the right wing’s social agenda, but if he’ll confirm Merrick Garland, maybe you will hold off on appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court, and even wait until your second term to drive the coal industry out of business.  While you’re at it, figure out what tweaks and revisions can be made to TPP that will allow you to gracefully reverse your absurd pre-nomination opposition to it, ramrod its passage through the Senate with McConnell’s help, and you can both claim victory.   Also, tell McConnell (sweetly—see below) that if he thinks he can make you a one-term President, he’s welcome to try.

See, there is something you can do with each of these guys. I promise you, Americans are yearning for bipartisanship.  If you succeed in injecting just a little of that back into public life, you will be the beneficiary.

While you’re at it, promise both Ryan and McConnell that you’ll support under cover of darkness any ideas they have for encasing Ted Cruz in carbonite for at least the next 20 (uh, make that 200) years.

It’s Wednesday afternoon.  Tell the First Gentleman-elect that he can give all the speeches he wants – for free.  And only for free.  After all, isn’t a household net worth of over $100 MM enough already?  You and Bill need to find someone — not Sidney Blumenthal or John Podesta — to take steps to fold all the Clinton “foundations,” “global initiatives,” and “charities” into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or at least turn them over to Melinda to run.  Maybe she’ll give Chelsea a job.  After all, your real daughter appears to be the only one in those outfits with a conscience.  The rest of the hangers-on, sycophants, courtiers, and FOB’s can go out and get real jobs.

When I hear “Abedin/Mills,” I think “Haldeman/Ehrlichman.” And we know how that turned out. Thank Huma and Cheryl for their past service and don’t take their phone calls, emails or texts – and don’t make or send any to this duo, either, and under no circumstances allow them anywhere near the White House.  Really.

Call Bob Gates  and Colin Powell and find out who they think would make a good Secretary of Defense.  Consider James Webb for the job.  Call Condi Rice and ask the same question about State.

Call Philip Zelikow and tell him he must accept the post of National Security Adviser.  He’s up to it.

Announce that you will appoint a blue ribbon (at least one-third Republican) commission to revise Social Security.  Make sure the commission members know that they must (a) raise the retirement age by at least one month per year for the next 36 years, (b) advocate means-testing benefits, and (c) ensure that the COLAs are honest, not manipulated in either direction.

Announce that you will appoint the gaggle of defeated GOP Senators (they’ll all be moderates) to “fix” the ACA.  Put it on their backs, and let’s see what they come up with.

Freeze civilian Government hiring. ‘Nuff said.

Expand the military by 1,000,000 personnel.  This was the stimulus package I advocated waaaayyy back in 2009 when President Obama took office.  Such a program would have had, and will still have, immense benefits: (a) decreasing the ranks of the unemployed, particularly 18- to 25-year-olds, (b) providing discipline in work habits and training in technical skills to those same young persons who most need it, so they ultimately become net contributors and taxpayers in the civilian economy, (c) providing medical care to the same group –- a better alternative than Obamacare with its stratospheric deductibles and co-pays — while training them in healthy habits that will ultimately bend the cost curve, and (d) letting Putin and the Iranians know that there’s a new sheriff in town, while heartening our fearful allies, and moving the fence-sitters in our direction.

Make a speech before Thanksgiving that explicitly supports Israel and a two-state solution, and insist that the Arab world and Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, on pain of isolation.  We don’t need their oil the way we used to.

It’s time to heal.  When dealing with your political adversaries, try to act like Bush 41, or Ronald Reagan — not like Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, or Rudy Giuliani.  Act like Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter (most of the time), not like Harry Reid or Elizabeth Warren.  This will be a hard lesson for you, and old habits die hard.  But you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  And enforce rigorously the same level of civility among your courtiers, advisers, and other minions.   Believe me, if you can do it (and with your iron will you should be able to do it), you’ll be glad you did.

The preceding is unpaid advice, but I think it’s worth a lot more than some of the advice you’ve gotten so far.  I really want you to be successful, even legendary.

Sincerely,

Lee Kaplan

A Four-letter Word

I’ve been looking for a word.  A word to describe Donald Trump.  No word encapsulates the Republican GOP nominee perfectly, but this one about sums it up:  he’s a lout.  Not since Joe McCarthy have we seen a personage on the national scene that so aptly fills, even overflows, that little four-letter word.*

Trump stands alone.  From insulting Megan Kelly (and bringing her to heel), Trump took all the wrong lessons.  In the month since he cleared the field, Trump has managed to double down, or even triple down, on his efforts to alienate huge voter blocs.  It is a commonplace that GOP candidates cannot afford to lose the women’s vote by more than 10 percentage points.  In 2000 George W. Bush eked out a win because, although he was 11 points behind Gore among women, the results were exactly reversed among men–and the Electoral College overcame his losing the national vote.  In 2004 Bush narrowed the gap significantly (48% to 51% for Gore with women voters) and won handily.  Barack Obama crushed McCain and Romney by 13 and 11 percentage points, respectively, in that demographic and cruised to victories.  It’s pretty obvious that women, who are over half the voting public, are a critical group.  So what has Trump done to entice, or at least hold some of them in a race  where his opponent almost certainly will be the first female presidential nominee of a major party?  Uh, nothing.  He keeps calling Hillary Clinton “shrill” – just the kind of borderline sexist comment guaranteed to grate like fingernails on the chalkboard for independent voters—male and female alike.  Why do that?  If it’s calculated, he is a lout.  If it comes naturally to him, he’s still a lout.   Earlier Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton didn’t have the stamina or strength to serve – which has enough unpleasant overtones anyway (not to mention being demonstrably untrue).  But “shrill”? There are plenty of substantive issues where Hillary Clinton is vulnerable, not to mention character issues.  But this?

And now, despite the staring-you-in-the-face facts that Republicans must make inroads in the Hispanic vote for a GOP nominee to have a chance of overcoming the electoral math, Trump continues to assert that a judge with a Hispanic surname is a biased “Mexican”.  And he piles on by claiming that any Muslim is also disqualified from presiding over his many lawsuits.

In Trump’s world, being questioned about his business ethics is sacrilege, and anyone doing so (or merely presiding evenhandedly over one of his lawsuits) must be a sleaze, or a Mexican, or a Muslim, or maybe all three.

Wow.

Even if we give The Lout a pass on the recent rally where he referred to a member of the audience as “my African American,”  Wow again.

Who in the GOP will step up and not merely condemn Trump’s statements, but also affirmatively refuse to endorse this man?     Well, Lindsey Graham, for one.  After Trump’s riff on Judge Curiel’s presumed ancestry-based bias, Senator Graham said, “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy.”  And “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it.”  And, “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Paul Ryan, are you listening?

The Freak Show

November 2016 should be a “no-way-the-Republicans-can-lose” Presidential election.  The country is in a sour mood and senses, rightly, that things have gone awry.  Our President is snubbed at airports all over the world (and it’s cold comfort that the “snubbers” are people “on the wrong side of history”), our best friends the Brits take offense at being lectured and threatened if they don’t vote “the right way” on the EU, true U.S. employment is still millions of jobs below pre-2008 levels, and many of the new jobs pay less than the jobs previously lost.  From ISIS to insurance premiums, Americans feel threatened, anxious and unhappy. That is tailor-made for the opposition party to capture the Presidency.   But it’s highly likely that the next President will be a Democrat, and more specifically, an ethically-challenged, been-on-the-national-scene-too-long, finger-to-the-wind, Nixonian-persona Democrat.  The Republicans really have no one to blame but themselves.  How has this happened?

 

Any Republican with a pulse and an IQ above 85 understands that the GOP must frame this election around just two issues:  jobs and national security.  The Democrats are vulnerable (and should be mortally wounded) on both issues.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s 1980 rhetorical checklist:  “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago?”  Here we are, nine presidential election cycles later, and the Gipper’s questions should be the Republicans’ talking points.  But they (or at least the ones energized enough to vote in GOP primaries) apparently have all been bonked on the head and suffer from collective amnesia.

 

Jobs

Even now, after almost five years of anemic “recovery,” our true employment rate (not the phony, manipulated unemployment rate) is probably about 73 percent, versus around 75 percent in pre-Great Recession 2007.  Put it another way, we are at least 2 or 3 million jobs lighter than we should be, given the increase in the size of the work force during that time. And the jobs mix is tilted towards lower-paying, less-secure positions.  No matter how much they may try to blame others, neither the Obama Administration, nor its surrogates, nor MSNBC can put much lipstick on this pig.  But other than vague promises, the GOP debates and talking points have touched on jobs only tangentially, having opted instead for an anti-immigration, anti-trade free-for-all and a discussion of small hands and transgender bathroom predators.

 

A strong jobs economy affects almost every aspect of national life:  it means more taxes paid to help decrease the deficit and the appalling national debt; it helps pay for the “entitlements” that many Americans now regard as their birthright; it finances a strong military so that we are more credible overseas, and most important, it contributes to a sense of well-being among American families.  By contrast, our on-again, off-again 7-year “recovery” is angst-inducing.

 

National Security

It is a commonplace that these are troubled times in the world.  However arguable the merits of the Obama/Kerry initiatives in Iran and Cuba, it is beyond dispute that our relationships with traditional allies are frayed.  When Joe Biden discusses the Administration’s “overwhelming frustration” with Israel (read: Prime Minister Netanyahu), and claims that Israeli settlements and land seizures are “moving Israel in the wrong direction,” when the Saudi king greets two-bit Gulf rulers but not the U.S. President at the airport, and when we tell Canada that its natural resources are too dirty to move through the U.S., things aren’t going well.  And when China builds airbases on hitherto-barren reefs, and Russia is unmoved by sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, and sending its pilots to do barrel rolls around U.S. military planes (not to mention being rightly perceived as having displaced the U.S. as the influential player in Syria), Americans are uneasy.  Further, our halting, incremental response to ISIS, which the President unfortunately once called a Jayvee team (a quote he tried to walk back), does not jibe with Americans’ view of what the United States should be able to accomplish.  Our unease is truly justified – the overseas situation is baaaad.  But what has been the GOP response?  Suggestions of carpet-bombing ISIS (Cruz’s non-starter when ISIS is billeted with local populations) and admiration for Putin (Trump’s “he’s just a strong leader” approach) are worse than boneheaded.  The official Ted Cruz response to terror seems to be to forbid all immigration by  “Syrian Muslims” – without any explanation for how one can tell the Syrian Christians from Syrian Muslims.   And the official Donald Trump response to terror is – gee, who can tell?

 

So what ARE they talking about?

As it turns out, the two GOP frontrunners’ main contribution to the national security debate seems to be anti-immigrant talk.  The Republicans’ descent from former California Governor Pete Wilson (who first made this a GOP issue and just emerged from the dustbin of history to endorse Cruz) through strident drumbeaters such as former Rep. Tom Tancredo and current Rep. Steve King to the current Republican contestants virtually guarantees that the Hispanic vote will tilt heavily Democratic.  The odds are overwhelming that in November the Republican nominee will be someone who has so alienated Hispanics that the Democrats will get at least 65 percent of their vote, which could alone be decisive in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.  That’s a huge chunk of electoral votes (68), and the Republicans lost all of those states but Arizona (11 votes) the last time around.   And, in the meantime, Ted Cruz is railing against letting any Muslim immigrants into this country, because the FBI cannot vet them all. Logically, that means banning all immigration.  After all, Ted, how can you tell if they are Muslims?  What if they claim to be Christians—but they’re lying?

 

What about domestic initiatives?  Apparently the Republicans have also forgotten that at least half of the electorate is female and that a large majority has had enough of the anti-abortion activists.  Maybe these women don’t like abortion, and cannot imagine ever being in the position of wanting, let alone undergoing an abortion, but they don’t particularly think that legislators should be that involved in ruling their bodies.  How is it that the Republicans believe in laissez-faire capitalism (including letting unwanted babies receive little or no social services once they are born) but simultaneously resist letting women choose on this most intimate of decisions?  Does anyone doubt that this position alone dooms Donald Trump and probably Ted Cruz as well in the general election?

 

What else are the Republicans talking about?  Mythical assaults in public restrooms!  Is there some reliable statistic showing that transgendered people (news flash:  they are people) are more likely to assault young girls than oversexed heterosexual frat boys—or that they are more dangerous to young boys than high school gym coaches (and future Congressmen)?  And, just when we thought the debate had already descended below the lowest bar anyone could imagine, out comes Trump citing as gospel a National Enquirer story linking Rafael Cruz to Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

It’s a freak show.  Cruz or Trump, Trump or Cruz…they’re gonna lose, and based on their issue-free, bottom-dwelling campaigns, they deserve to lose.

The Best and the Brightest?

I digress from political and economic issues to one that may seem more parochial, but speaks volumes about the absurd extent to which college administrators at elite schools refuse to accept that students can — and should — grow during their college years and at least begin to find their own way.  One wonders whether students in China, Russia or India are patronized and demeaned to this extent … and what it bodes for our future.

A brief history:  Approximately 10 years ago, the previous Princeton administration under President Shirley Tilghman embarked on a plan to balkanize the already-intimate University community (there are just about 5,300 undergraduates) into residential colleges.  The University spent tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars creating these residential colleges in order to combat purported student isolation and improve the Princeton experience.   Although the University asserts that these residential colleges “are the center of residential life and offer an array of academic and social programs that enhance the undergraduate experience,” apparently utopia has not yet been achieved.  The recent Princeton Alumni Weekly reported on the findings of a blue-ribbon task force appointed to improve on the existing model.  The 25-page Report of the Task Force on the Residential College Model  (with elegant prose, numerous bullet points, and three appendices) represents Princeton’s backhanded admission that things haven’t changed much and that there is still much work to do. (You can find it online at http://www.princeton.edu/strategicplan/files/Task-Force-Report-on-the-Residential-College-Model.pdf.  I recommend a cup of really strong coffee first.)  To quote from the report:  “The Task Force on the Residential College Model embraced the University’s commitment to provide its students with a vibrant residential experience that advances learning, enables interaction and meaningful engagement, and supports both personal growth and community development. The task force further intends its recommendations to realize a vision in which the residential colleges truly feel like home to our students. They should provide a place where they feel welcome and accepted, and where they come together to learn from their diverse experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds, and challenge and inspire one another.”

Yes, that’s a direct quote. And it’s sad.  Princeton has accepted students whom it rightly believes are brilliant, inquisitive, intellectually curious, and open to diverse and interesting experiences, but has also concluded that they lack the capacity to create or obtain those experiences without additional University intervention.  The message of the task force is that 500-person residential colleges are still too large for students to feel at home, the students are just not up to the task of meeting and making friends, and that the University must arrange, manage, and even order appropriate student interaction. 

Here’s a news flash – young adults who are continuously massaged and managed so that they never experience occasional uncertainty, confusion, discomfort and even isolation between the age of 18 and 22 are not getting value for their education, let alone preparation for “the real world.”  But the University appears dead set on making sure that is the new social order.

May I suggest a cheaper, promising alternative to the next expensive initiative?.  Hire a motivational speaker with comedic chops to deliver during the first week of school a message to all incoming students (Jimmy Fallon or Seth Myers might do it gratis, as this gig will supply material for multiple monologues, or perhaps Princeton has at least one or two charismatic faculty who are already on salary):  “Hey, newbies!  We let you into this beautiful, idyllic place because you are brilliant, inquisitive, intellectually curious, have a lot to offer to others, and are open to learning from them, too!  So go out and do it.  Don’t just learn in classes.  Walk around the campus with your head up, and (gulp) make eye contact! Make new friends!  Sit down with new people in the dining hall and ask questions! Invite people to your room for late-night arguments!”

If 21st century Ivy Leaguers with 2300+ SAT scores can’t do this on their own, then should anyone do it for them?