Lately, I can’t shake the image of a young man on a battlefield in France or the South Pacific. It’s 1944. He’s dying – one more incremental death amid the worst carnage the world has ever seen. What if I told you that experts’ estimates of the death toll in World War II range from 50 million to 85 million? Would you skim right by, or would you pause to consider what hellish conditions would create a margin of error of 35 million lives? Nearly the entire population of California – gone, or never there to begin with. As Erich Maria Remarque wrote in his novel “The Black Obelisk,” “one dead man is death – and two million are only a statistic.”And 50 million, or 85 million, is a chillingly vague statistic indeed.
And I say that as someone who worked to defeat him: I was a foreign policy adviser to John McCain in 2008 and to Mitt Romney in 2012. I criticized Obama’s “lead from behind” foreign policy that resulted in a premature pullout from Iraq and a failure to stop the slaughter in Syria. I thought he was too weak on Iran and too tough on Israel. I feared that Obamacare would be too costly. I fumed that he was too professorial and too indecisive. I was left cold by his arrogance and his cult of personality. Now I would take Obama back in a nanosecond. His presidency appears to be a lost golden age when reason and morality reigned. All of his faults, real as they were, fade into insignificance compared with the crippling defects of his successor. And his strengths – seriousness, dignity, intellect, probity, dedication to ideals larger than self – shine all the more clearly in retrospect.
Setting aside the issue of whether the president is wittingly advancing the interests of a hostile power – a qualification that is only imaginable in the Trump era – what is happening to the direction of American foreign policy? I’m on record saying that the collection of impulses, deceptions, assertions, retractions, revisions and compromises that constitute Trump’s foreign policy record are difficult to gather into a consistent doctrine. But we do know what doctrines Trump has set out to destroy.
American firms cheering for protectionism in the form of tariffs on their foreign competitors should be careful what they wish for. As they say, “What goes around comes around.” Case in point: the American washer and dryer manufacturer Whirlpool Corp. Last January, the Trump administration imposed a penalty on Americans who buy foreign-made washers. The administration argued that the need to protect our domestic washer makers from competition required the imposition, for a period of three years, of a 20 percent duty on the first 1.2 million imported washing machines each year and a 50 percent duty on quantities above that threshold. Whirlpool loved the idea of getting a leg up on two of its most fierce competitors and increasingly consumer darlings, South Korean Samsung Electronics Co. and LG Electronics Inc. Why bother trying to produce goods that your consumers want to buy when Uncle Sam can make your competitors’ stuff artificially more expensive?
Our Founding Fathers were not willing to resolve the moral problem of slavery. This led to the Civil War and decades of virulent incivility and violence that is still with us today. Now we are facing a similar problem.
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.
As the current administration attempts to extinguish advances made under the Affordable Care Act, current emphasis is on removing those advances that maintained medical coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
It is so sad when our country cannot talk to each other when we disagree without yelling profanity or referring to folks as being racist or Nazis, especially when you choose a political party you're content with.