The yawning gap between the world as it exists and the world as President Trump sees it was on vivid display Wednesday. A few minutes after noon, reporters in the White House were being ushered out of a Cabinet meeting they had been allowed to witness. One called out a question: “Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”
We are smashing heat records again this summer. We hear this so much now that there’s a risk we will start ignoring it before the key message sinks in: Global warming is here, and it’s starting to cook us. Not just the planet – us. Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States, and the toll (estimates range up to 1,300 deaths per year) will rise steeply in the coming decades. Even if we halt climate change as quickly as possible – as we certainly should, to avoid beyond-catastrophic harms – the heat will still get a lot more uncomfortable, and a lot deadlier, before it levels off.
Defining a foreign policy theory that might merit the title of “doctrine” is difficult in the Trump administration, which is dismissive of reflection, consistency and precedent. But in practice, it is the replacement of national pride with personal vanity. Any diplomatic outcome – no matter how useless or harmful – is claimed by President Trump as a victory. Any complications are pinned on the “stupidity” of previous presidents. Trump’s negotiating style is a panting desire for the appearance of accomplishment, making him the easiest mark of modern presidential history.
Cartoon for July 17.
For barbecuing. For selling bottled water.
Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court, is a bad choice for most Americans. His political, legal and judicial career is littered with activist ideological opinions out of step with the American majority and established law. His views on executive power related to legal issues alone are enough to reject his nomination.
What can we expect of Brett Kavanaugh if he’s confirmed as Justice Anthony Kennedy’s successor on the Supreme Court? Kavanaugh’s record and background show he will be a fair, impartial and principled justice – and that’s precisely what our nation needs.
In January 2006, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the confirmation of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. At a break, then-Sen. Joe Biden came up to me and said it was all an exercise in Kabuki theater. He said everyone in the room knew that Alito was going to be a very conservative justice. He said the Republicans were pretending that he was open-minded and had no ideology, while the Democrats were trying to ask questions to trip Alito up and he was too smart for that. I think we are likely to see another exercise in Kabuki theater with the Brett Kavanaugh hearings unless the senators exercise their power and insist that the judge answer questions about his views on crucial constitutional issues. A myth has developed that nominees should be able to refuse to answer such inquiries. Neil M. Gorsuch, for example, refused even to express his views on Brown v. Board of Education.
The text messages that begin arriving on June 28 end my ordinary life. “Where does your husband work?” “What’s happening in Annapolis?” “Have you seen the news?” My husband, John McNamara, is a reporter for the Capital Gazette. I am at my office, a government agency just outside Washington, D.C. I Google. Then I close my laptop and run toward the parking lot.
They stuck with Donald Trump when he was heard, on video, boasting about sexually assaulting women. They stuck with him still when he acknowledged paying hush money to a porn actress who alleged an affair. But this last week, congressional Republicans, determined to discredit the investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, hauled in FBI agent Peter Strzok and sought to humiliate him over anti-Trump texts he exchanged with his mistress, FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense. “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement. Sorry, Trump is right. The real embarrassment is that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, spends just 1.24 percent of its gross domestic product on defense – in the bottom half of NATO allies. (The U.S. spends 3.5 percent of GDP on its military.) A study by McKinsey & Co. notes that about 60 percent of Germany’s Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and about 80 percent of its Sea Lynx helicopters are unusable. According to Deutsche Welle, a German parliamentary investigation found that “at the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the air force’s 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs,” and “a Defense Ministry paper revealed German soldiers did not have enough protective vests, winter clothing or tents to adequately take part in a major NATO mission.” Not enough tents?
As the senior writer at the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C., I acquired an intimate knowledge of the principle that you never blame the victim of a crime. Despite the occasional rulings of rogue judges and the bizarre utterances of lawmakers and candidates emboldened by what they hear on talk radio or see on cable TV, it’s pretty much accepted in public discourse that a woman is not to blame for her rape because her skirt was too short or she had too much to drink. A homeowner is not to blame for a theft because an alarm hadn’t been installed. A robbery victim isn’t to blame because the street was dark. The perpetrator is fully held to account for these crimes, not the victim. The news media have reported on the administration’s plans to build tent cities on military bases to house 100,000 detained migrants. Others, fleeing violence at home, have followed established procedures to request asylum but have been arrested and summarily deported instead. President Trump has publicly called these people “animals,” saying, in effect, that they are subhuman. His comment reeks of misplaced blame.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that destruction is the end game of President Donald Trump’s trade war and his increasing belligerence to core U.S. allies such as Canada and Germany: “The best hypothesis is that trade war and destruction of alliances aren’t means to an end – they are ends in themselves. Trump isn’t trying to fix the system, he wants to destroy it, and supposed wrongdoing by others is just an excuse” – July 11 tweet
Even before President Trump announced his nomination Monday of federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill departing Justice Anthony Kennedy’s slot on the Supreme Court, the foul scent of anti-Catholicism began seeping into public commentary. In particular, an article Monday morning that quickly earned ire in the choir came from Daily Beast writer (and Yale Law-educated) Jay Michaelson. While declaring that he didn’t want to engage in anti-papist conspiracies, Michaelson nevertheless proceeded to suggest that an effort is fueled by dark money to name federal judges who “reflect rigid, conservative dogma.” His subject was Leonard Leo, the executive vice president (albeit currently on leave) of the Federalist Society, which has worked closely with the president in creating a list of possible nominees. The well-respected Leo is painted by Michaelson as a sinister, outside secret force pushing Catholics to fill the bench.
In the annals of screwball commentary about media conspiracies, the Washington Examiner’s chief congressional correspondent Susan Ferrechio distinguished herself. She was speaking with host Howard Kurtz on the Fox News program “Media Buzz” on just how former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt found himself without a job. “It was instigated by a desire to take him down because of something that he was doing. He was trying to take apart the Obama-era EPA regulations and he accomplished a lot of that,” said Ferrechio, who didn’t contest the solidity of the investigative reporting on Pruitt. “And I think that fueled the investigatory desires of journalists to try to take him down and outside groups to try to – and people within the EPA to try to take him out for that very reason. He made himself a very easy target. But he would not have been the same level of target if he had a different job within the administration.” Consider what’s being alleged here: that the U.S. news media, which is regarded by President Trump and his allies in the government as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” maintains enough credibility within the administration that it can decide on an agenda and jam it through an unwilling and resistant White House. Never has the power of the Fourth Estate been so exalted.
As President Donald Trump zeroes in on his nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, abortion has returned to the forefront of a national debate, and to a degree not seen since the 1980s. The topic never completely goes away, and Americans remain deeply divided on the subject. But abortion’s overall ranking as an issue of importance, compared with others, has risen and fallen over the years. It is resurrected now because Trump’s choice to replace Kennedy could conceivably tilt the court dramatically to the right, and progressives are making the prospect of overturning Roe v. Wade their rallying cry to oppose Trump’s pick.
The reasons why patriotic Americans should worry about the president’s two upcoming summits – with NATO leaders and then with Vladimir Putin – were on full view last week. The day after July 4 – a celebration of the Founding Fathers’ rejection of despots – Trump again praised Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Scorning critics’ concerns about the Putin summit, Trump proclaimed at a Montana rally: “Those critics say ‘President Putin is KGB.’ You know what? Putin’s fine.”
“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.” – Ronald Reagan Now I know how the Gipper felt.
The familiar litany of now-former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s abuse of office is long, bizarre and shameful. But much more damaging were Pruitt’s policies. President Donald Trump’s tweeted praise for the “outstanding job” done by Pruitt was wildly wrong. Trump probably believes that because Pruitt has been doing Trump’s bidding in subverting the EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. One policy after another meant to rein in the excesses of industrial pollution has been targeted and steamrolled to pave the way for corporate capture of the agency. Pruitt’s legally dubious policy rollbacks, if they survive court battles, will put people’s health in danger.
Free speech won; decency lost. This has become such a common observation that it hardly merits a headline. But in a Wisconsin Supreme Court case resolved Friday, the plaintiff was that rarest of victors these days: a conservative professor defending his freedom of speech rights against a university.
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