Tag Archives: Ivanka Trump

President-for-Life?

It is certainly a perilous time for our republic when such an obvious hawkish nut job as John Bolton will be missed. It should be clear to everyone that Bolton — the just-fired national security adviser — was right in his dispute with President Donald Trump, whose quixotic attempt to invite the Taliban to Camp David led to Bolton’s dismissal. 

Bolton is no normal bureaucratic infighter, so the nation probably will not have to wait long for him to fulfill his promise to “have my say in due course.” Bolton is a prideful man and no shrinking violet, which means his “say” could be very interesting, especially given that Trump wasted no time before lashing into his former aide. “You know, John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough, he got us into Iraq. That’s tough,” Trump said. For a president who demands absolute loyalty from subordinates, Trump once again showed that loyalty is not a two-way street for him. “He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said of Bolton. 

On the issue of talking to the Taliban, I agree with the aphorism usually attributed to Winston Churchill, “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” (Churchill apparently said something like that in Washington in 1954, but the actual quotation is from Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, uttered in Canberra, Australia, four years later.) But, while talking is better than shooting, the optics of meeting, close to the anniversary of 9/11, at Camp David were, to say the least, terrible. That was obvious to everyone but Trump, but the White House is now a place where there is no one with the authority, the courage, the moral rectitude, or whatever it takes to say, “No, Mr. President, you cannot do that.”

The lack of adults in the room allows Trump to pursue his worst instincts. And, his instincts are the worst, and getting worse and worse. He wants to negotiate with terrorists like the Taliban on home ground. He becomes his own weatherman, tweeting roughly a dozen times that he was right about Hurricane Dorian threatening to hit Alabama and, then, crudely altering an official government map (a crime) in a juvenile attempt at redemption. Business Insider quotes a former White House official, “No one knows what to expect from him anymore.… He’s losing his shit” (Business Insider was more discreet, using dashes for the last three letters).

The suggestion that Trump is getting worse is truly scary, given how bad he was from the start. This is a man who believes countless conspiracy theories (or at least uses them for his own nefarious purposes): President Barack Obama was born outside the United States, Senator Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, climate change is a Chinese hoax, wind farms cause cancer, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered. It does not take much imagination to predict that when Trump loses in 2020 — he trails, by substantial margins, all the leading Democratic contenders in head-to-head matchups and his approval rating is tanking — he will cry “Fraud!” and refuse to vacate the White House. 

Am I trafficking in conspiracies in suggesting Trump would cling to office even if he lost the election? Consider his past actions. In the third debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump said, “I will look at it at the time” when asked if he would accept the results of the balloting. Trump never took back his allegation that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election — his explanation for his losing the popular vote — and he established a commission to look into alleged voter fraud, then shut down the panel when it could find no evidence of fraud (because there was none) while refusing to acknowledge the board’s failure. Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping after the ruling Communist Party cleared the way for Xi to serve indefinitely. “He’s now president for life…. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” he told cheering supporters at a fundraiser. A joke, perhaps, though Trump is not noted for his sense of humor. 

And, if the past is not frightening enough, consider this tweet from Trump on September 10: A picture of a Trump 2024 placard. Interestingly, the sign does not say “Trump-Pence,” leaving open the possibility, I suppose, that in his dreams he dumps Vice President Mike Pence in favor of first daughter Ivanka. Or, it could refer to the beginning of a dynasty: Ivanka, then Don Jr., and so on. In June, though, the putative president-for-life tweeted a video showing Trump placards for 2024, 2028, 2032, and on and on, indefinitely, set to Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” It ends with a picture of Trump behind a placard that reads, “Trump 4EVA.” 

Of more immediate danger is the prospect that Trump will not accept the election results. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 by three million ballots. Current indications are that he will lose in 2020 by even more. While the possibility of a 2020 repeat of 2016 is possible — the Democratic candidate wins the popular vote only to have Trump prevail in the Electoral College — it is becoming more and more likely that Trump will lose, period. Will he leave? Would he spin a conspiracy suggesting the so-called “Deep State,” aided by the “Fake News” media, rigged the election? 

He could, and he may well do so. We live in a world conjured by George Orwell, where in 1984, the masses are told what to think by the Ministry of Truth. For hardcore Trump supporters, the only truth is what their leader tells them is the truth. All the rest is “Fake News,” which bows before the president’s “alternative facts.” Backed by his base of true believers, might Trump, spinning his conspiracies, refuse to leave the White House? Will the newly elected president have to send in the military to remove him physically? Would the military comply? 

If you think I am being unnecessarily worried, remember this: Trump keeps dropping hints.

Posted September 13, 2019

The Don and His Consigliere

“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” That playground taunt, delivered by Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona and accompanied by a poster, was the epitome of the Republican defense of President Donald Trump during the day-long testimony of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee. Admittedly, Trump — who acts like a mob boss — is a tough guy to defend, so it should surprise no one that the Republican strategy was to impugn the bearer of the bad news rather than to counter the substance of Cohen’s remarks.

Chris Christie, a former governor of New Jersey and a Trump defender, noticed the weakness of the GOP ploy. The president, Christie said, must have been “fuming that no one’s defending him.” Christie labeled the lame performance “either a failure of those Republicans on the Hill or a failure of the White House to have a unified strategy with them.” 

In truth, there was not much Republicans could do. Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina tried to defend Trump against Cohen’s accusation of racism by positioning an African American woman — Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump aide and current official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development — over his shoulder as a prop to demonstrate diversity. That piece of theater led to a scuffle later in the hearing when Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, labeled the use of Patton a “racist act.” Meadows bristled at the thought Tlaib was calling him a racist, but she insisted she was talking about the act, not Meadows.

For the most part, GOP members simply used their time not to poke holes in Cohen’s testimony — which would have been difficult because he provided documentary evidence for many of his charges — but to question his motives or to attack Democrats for holding the hearing in the first place. It seems Republicans on the Oversight Committee have no idea what oversight means, since they refused, when they were in the majority, to hold any substantive hearings to investigate credible charges of Trumpian misdoings.

Gosar of the playground taunts was disowned last November by six siblings, all of whom endorsed his opponent in the 2018 midterm election. “We gotta stand up for our good name,” said David Gosar in a political advertisement on behalf of his brother’s opponent. “This is not who we are.” But, it is who the member of Congress is. Gosar got so excited by his attack on Cohen that he stumbled over his words. Others also demonstrated a fair degree of apoplexy. Meadows looked as if he were about to have a coronary when he tried to nail Cohen for allegedly lying on a committee form about whether the former Trump aide had been paid for services by a foreign government. The dispute demonstrated only that Meadows had not accurately read the question on the form. 

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan expressed outrage that Lanny Davis — a friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton — represented Cohen. Jordan and others repeatedly attacked Cohen as a convicted perjurer. Cohen is going to jail for that crime, and other misdeeds. But, even liars sometimes tell the truth, especially when they have documents to back up their assertions. 

Much time was spent on Cohen as a would-be influence peddler and prospective recipient of lucrative book and movie deals. Numerous Republican members tried to get Cohen to vow he would not profit from his notoriety, which Cohen refused to do. Republicans also tried to portray Cohen as a grasping office seeker disappointed he did not get a job in the White House. All in all, the strategy of attacking Cohen as a dishonest criminal who should not be believed begs an important question: Why did Trump employ such a disreputable person for a decade?

The truth is, of course, that Cohen is much like Trump, who was something of a mentor to the younger man. Apparently, Cohen had easy access to Trump and his family. According to Cohen, he briefed Trump, Don Jr., and Ivanka at least 10 times during the 2016 presidential campaign about the Trump family’s attempt to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. That gives the lie to Trump’s claim of no business dealings with Russia and implicates Ivanka for the first time in that sordid episode. One other family note: Don Jr. might want to inquire as to the veracity of Cohen’s statement that father thought son “had the worst judgement of anyone in the world.”

Cohen produced checks indicating Trump reimbursed his fixer for the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels while Trump was in the White House. Cohen also testified that he was present in July 2016 when Trump took a call on speakerphone from Roger Stone who said, “He had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” According to Cohen, Trump replied, “Wouldn’t that be great.” 

Cohen also offered tantalizing hints of more investigations. When one member of Congress asked about Cohen’s last conversation with his former boss, Cohen declined to give details, saying it is “being investigated right now” by federal prosecutors in New York. As for other instances of possible wrongdoing or crimes by Trump, Cohen repeated, “Again, those are part of the investigation.” Stay tuned!

The former consigliere reaffirmed that Trump operated like a mob boss. Trump never gave explicit instructions to Cohen to do wrong, but Cohen understood the “code.” Like a good Mafia underling, Cohen was not hesitant to threaten those who might stand in Trump’s way. When asked, Cohen said he issued about 500 threats on behalf of Trump (that includes threats of litigation) in his decade of employment. So, Cohen should not have been shocked that Trump used mob language in calling his former aide a “rat.” Nor should anyone have been surprised that on the eve of Cohen’s testimony, Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, who has a history of incendiary comments, tweeted, “Hey @MichaelCohen212 — Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” (The tweet has been deleted, but the gist was repeated on the House floor.)

Cohen’s testimony — and the antics of a fool like Gaetz — demonstrate once again that, as Cohen pointed out, Trump corrupts everyone who comes in contact with him. That may be the greatest tragedy of this sordid presidency.

Posted March 1, 2019

“There Is No Bottom”

There is no bottom…,”  Nicolle Wallace — an MSNBC anchor and former Republican operative — tweeted more than a year ago in reference to President Donald Trump.

Monday night this week, news broke of Ivanka Trump using a private email account for government business. A big story, right? So it seemed. But, in the time of President Donald Trump, it was the biggest story for only a few hours. Other events soon superseded Ivanka Trump’s email story, such as a statement from the president indicating the United States under Trump does not care that a journalist who was a legal resident of this country was murdered brutally on orders of a foreign nation. But, wait, more was to come that Tuesday: A presidential condemnation of a federal judge followed by reports Trump once contemplated prosecuting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey.

Nicolle Wallace is right: There is no bottom in the Trump era. Big and outrageous stories pile up, with each one overwhelming the previous outrage. In normal times — two years ago — a story like the Ivanka Trump’s emails would have dominated the news cycle for days, if not weeks. No more! Now, it was just Monday evening’s prelude to Tuesday’s gob-smacking news.

Where to start? The president’s statement on Saudi Arabia and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi may be the most outrageous event of all because it is an utter betrayal of American values. The United States once stood for decency, democracy, and the rule of law. America often did not live up to its values, and other nations might resent preachy Americans telling them what to do, but, for millions of people living in poverty and oppression, America was a beacon. Now, American policy is for sale to the highest bidder. In his statement, our transactional president declared that it does not matter what heinous crimes Saudi Arabia commits as long as it honors promises to buy billions of dollars of military equipment from the United States. In the Trump era, the message is clear: Those with enough money can get away with murder. 

In his crude statement — punctuated with flourishes of Trumpian exclamation points — the president, once again, indicated his preference for tyrants. As he has with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump willfully disregarded the findings of the U.S. intelligence community to justify his support for a brutal autocrat who ordered the murder of a critic. In this case, the CIA concluded — with “high confidence” — that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. Trump apparently knows better, writing in his statement, “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event.” But, then again, “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”

In true Trumpian fashion, the president self-servingly declared the truth of the matter is irrelevant: “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder.” Wrong again, Mr. President. The truth of the Khashoggi murder is not only knowable, it is known. The CIA possesses audio recordings of the journalist’s murder — which Trump has declined to hear — as well as evidence of phone calls from the killers to close aides of the crown prince.

Trump goes further: He actually does the crown prince’s dirty work by citing Saudi sources who called Khashoggi an “enemy of the state” (sound familiar?) and a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed bin Salman made those allegations in a phone call to the White House, but the Saudi regime was so embarrassed when reports of the accusation leaked that it denied the smear. Trump has no such embarrassment!

In a rational world, I would devote this entire blog post to Trump’s outrageous statement on Khashoggi. Actually, that is not true; in a rational world, none of this would have happened. But, this is the world of Donald Trump, and I cannot ignore the other unseemly events of the week. According to The New York Times, Trump told the White House counsel Don McGahn last spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton and Comey. McGahn convinced Trump that he lacked authority to do so and that any attempt could result in impeachment. The incident underscores the extent to which the president believes the Justice Department is a tool he can wield against enemies. It is another indication that Trump views America as a banana republic in which political opponents are prosecuted, and it demonstrates his vindictiveness. Clinton, after all, lost, a result for which Comey arguably is responsible. Comey’s reopening of the investigation into Clinton’s emails mere days before the 2016 election may have tipped enough votes Trump’s way. The extremely narcissistic Trump probably believes a prosecution would obscure Comey’s role in the election. Do not be surprised if Trump raises the issue of prosecuting political opponents again, only now his sounding board in the administration would be the sycophantic acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker.

Finally, though nothing is ever final with Trump, there is the presidential attack on the independent judiciary. Trump referred to ”an Obama judge” after a ruling by a district judge against the administration’s asylum policy. Trump’s attack on the independence of the judiciary brought a quick, stern, and rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.  “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. Trump has attacked the judiciary before: During the 2016 presidential campaign he claimed Judge Gonzalo Curiel had a conflict of interest in overseeing a case against Trump University because the judge is of Mexican heritage. Trump also referred to a “so-called judge” after a jurist ruled against the administration’s Muslim travel ban. The latest presidential attack on the judiciary finally appears to have riled the chief justice, who now finds himself in a public spat with the president. Trump, of course, does not let any criticism go unanswered, so he tweeted, “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.” Advice to Trump: Tread carefully here! The chief justice presides over the Senate trial of impeached presidents.

The outrages multiply with dizzying and sickening speed. Trump continued ranting on Thanksgiving Day about the CIA’s findings on the Khashoggi murder, Clinton and her emails, court decisions with which he disagrees, and other controversial topics in a phone call to troops overseas  and a question-and-answer session with reporters. There seems no end and “no bottom,” as Nicolle Wallace put it. What next? A new Democratic House in January will investigate all this and more, likely making Trump feel more trapped and in danger. He will lash out. The only loser is our democratic institutions, which may never recover.

Oh, yes, as for Ivanka Trump, she defended her use of a personal email account by claiming she did not understand the rules. Really? Ignorant of the rules after her father eviscerated Hillary Clinton during the campaign for doing the same thing? Can Ivanka Trump be that dumb?

No, there is a better explanation: The Trumps, father and daughter (and the elder sons), believe the rules do not apply to them.

Posted November 23, 2018

Trump Blinks

President Donald Trump may not boast about being on the cover of the July 2, 2018 edition of Time (displayed here) showing him towering over the iconic image of a little girl crying as (not seen on the Time cover) an immigration official frisks her mother at the border. Our most narcissistic president has been known to brag about the number of times he has made the front of the magazine, even going so far as to fake a Time cover — dated March 1, 2009 — with his image and the headline “Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” The phony magazine cover was hung in at least five of Trump’s clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. In 2012, Trump tweeted his disgust at not making Time’s list of influential people: “I knew last year that @TIME Magazine lost all credibility when they didn’t include me in their Top 100….” But, four years later, there was this tweet: “Remember, get TIME magazine! I am on the cover.” Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas (vanity of vanities, all is vanity)! 

Perhaps, Trump subscribes to the saying, “All publicity is good, as long as they spell your name right.” He called being named Time’s “Person of the Year” in 2016 “a great honor,” even though the headline read, “Donald Trump: President of the Divided States of America.” So, Trump actually may hang a facsimile in the Oval Office of the latest Time cover. After all, it plays into the narrative of Trump the tough guy.

But, the tough guy blinked. He did not say he was sorry for the inhumane policy of separating families at the border, nor did he admit making a mistake. He simply said, “We are going to have strong — very strong — borders, but we are going to keep families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.” Yet, it took the president almost a week of intense scrutiny and criticism by the press and some public figures to reverse course, acting only — according to sources — after daughter Ivanka told him the images of family separations were terrible. (Memo to Ivanka and her father: The images were not the problem; the policy was.) 

So, the president changed a policy that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted was not a policy. “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period,” Nielsen tweeted. The secretary, however, appeared to be rather ill-informed during this whole, horrible episode. At a press briefing at the White House Monday, Nielsen called “offensive” a suggestion that taking children from their parents was intended as a deterrent to stop unauthorized border crossings. Apparently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not offended, saying only hours later that the policy of separating families purposely sent “a message.”

This administration frequently cannot get its story straight. For days, Trump, Nielsen, Sessions, and everyone else authorized to speak about the policy that was not a policy lied and insisted that the administration’s hands were tied because existing law — enacted by Democrats, the administration claimed falsely — mandated family separation. The president could not use an executive action to change the policy announced a few months ago by the attorney general; only Congress could change the law. As Nielsen said at her White House briefing, “It is the beginning of the unraveling of democracy when the body who makes the laws, instead of changing them, tells the enforcement body not to enforce the law.” Democracy may unravel or, at the very least, fray during this administration, but not because the president signed an executive order overturning the administration’s non-policy separating families.

The images — and the stories — from the border were heart-rending, and enough Americans said “enough,” forcing the tough guy to take notice. Also, forcing Trump’s hand was the collapse of the administration’s rationalizations for the policy, beginning with blaming Democrats for a law requiring family separation to justifying the policy because it was God’s law. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. The attorney general surely knows that the Bible can be cited on many sides of many issues (there are many biblical injunctions to treat strangers kindly), and he should have been careful about referencing a passage used by pro-slavery apologists before the Civil War to deter abolitionists agitating against slavery.

There may be a glimmer of good news in all this. Even some Republicans — most of whom have been blindly and mutely following Trump — found the egregiousness of tearing kids from their families a bridge too far. Even so, two polls released this week revealed that a majority of Republicans (58 percent in a CNN poll and 55 percent in one by Quinnipiac) supported family separation. While that is down from the 80 to 90 percent support Trump normally pulls among Republicans, it is enough to scare GOP candidates for reelection into unquestioningly supporting the cult of Trump.

But — and here is the good news — the Republican Party is shrinking. According to an analysis of recent poll numbers, the number of Americans who identify as Republican has gone down from 32.7 percent in 2016 to 28.6 percent today. In the short run that helps the president since a smaller GOP means a party of only Trumpistas who will back the cult against any primary challenges from moderates. In the long run, however, a smaller Republican Party means the nomination of ever-more radical ultra-rightists who cannot win general elections.

It also remains to be seen whether the president’s about-face on immigration policy — his blinking — tarnishes his image as a tough guy. The evening of the day he signed the executive order on immigration policy, Trump promised a rally of enthusiastic supporters the continuation of a “tough” immigration policy, saying, “We’re going to keep winning.” A significant portion of his appeal to Trumpistas is that purported toughness — never apologizing, never backing down, and always hitting back, harder. This time, however, he did back down, and it took the image of a little girl crying — and all the other images and sounds of the horrors at the border — to force him to blink.

Posted June 22, 2018

An Outrageous Spectacle in Jerusalem

Two things jarred in Monday’s celebration of the transfer of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. First, the guest list was filled with Americans who may be friends of Israel in the short run, but are not long-term friends of Jews. Second, President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the mission gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a victory on an issue previous American administrations believed belonged in final status talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The fallout from shifting the embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem, revered as holy by the three Abrahamic religions, was predictable: Scores of Palestinians dead and thousands more wounded in demonstrations on the border between Gaza and Israel, just fifty miles from the celebration.

Outrageous is the only word for the spectacle of evangelical pastors Robert Jeffress and John Hagee offering the opening and closing prayers at the Jerusalem festivities. Jeffress, who heads a megachurch in Dallas, drips with bigotry: “Islam is wrong. It is a heresy form the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell,” he told the Trinity Broadcasting Network in 2010. And, for good measure, he added: “Judaism — you can’t be saved being a Jew.” Hagee, a televangelist and leader of a San Antonio megachurch, believes the Holocaust was part of God’s plan. According to Hagee, “God allowed” the Holocaust to occur because “God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them back to the land of Israel.”

Moving the embassy served Trump’s political purposes. It shored up support of conservative American Jews — some of whom, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, are big Republican donors — and evangelical Christians, a large part of the Trumpian base. It also fits in with Trump’s undoing of all-things-Obama, since President Barack Obama, like his predecessors, Republican and Democratic, refused to move the embassy to Jerusalem. And, the move consolidated the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews in America and Israel and Zionist evangelicals who, while no friends of Jews, believe the return of Jews to Israel is a precondition for the Second Coming, after which Jews who do not convert will, as Pastor Jeffress believes, burn forever. 

Cynical it is, and the current alliance reminds me of Jews who cooperated with the Nazis in hope of mitigating the horror of the Holocaust. Chaim Mordechai Rumkowski was the Elder of Lodz, so designated by the Germans as he headed the Lodz Jewish Council following the occupation of Poland. He organized a ghetto government, and, when the Nazis began “to resettle” Jews, he performed the selections. Rumkowski died in Auschwitz, perhaps beaten to death by Sonderkommandos, Jews forced to dispose of corpses. Rumkowski’s fate befell other Jews who headed Judenraete (sg., Judenrat), Jewish councils chosen to implement Nazi policies.

I do not mean to suggest that Jeffress and Hagee are akin to Nazis or that Jews who ally with them are the equivalent of Chaim Rumkowski. But, Christian evangelicals have their particular agenda, which includes support for the state of Israel but does not preclude a theology of exclusion with anti-Semitic overtones. Jews, both in the United States and Israel, need to be careful with whom they ally.

Even more serious than the guest list at Monday’s celebration was the diplomatic fallout — and violence on the Israeli-Gaza border — from opening the new American Embassy. “Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” the president said last December when he began the process of relocating the embassy. “This is nothing more or less than the recognition of reality.”  Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital isolates the United States on one of the world’s thorniest diplomatic issues. Most Arab and European governments condemned Trump’s announcement last year. 

Trump’s recognition (and moving the embassy to Jerusalem is symbolic acknowledgement of the new American position) fulfills a campaign promise, but it overturns decades of American policy. The international community considers East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a Palestinian nation, Israeli-occupied territory. The Israelis — especially right-wing Israelis like Netanyahu — consider undivided Jerusalem the capital of Israel. The eventual status of the Holy City was left under the 1993 Oslo peace accords for final status negotiations, since the disposition of the city is one of the stickiest issues dividing Israelis and Palestinians. In 2000, negotiations between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barack and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat nearly succeeded in dividing the city between the two sides, but eventually failed over disagreements about who would control the maze of tunnels beneath the Old City in East Jerusalem.

Moving the embassy sends the message that the American government no longer pretends to neutrality in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and it ceases to be an honest broker. Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — even though the United States is careful not to call it Israel’s undivided capital — removes a contentious issue from the negotiations. Israel now has less incentive to agree to negotiate peace with the Palestinians, and the Palestinians, in turn, have less to offer in talks.  

The Israelis are grateful. The mayor of Jerusalem has announced that a square near the new embassy will be renamed “the United States Square in honor of President Donald Trump.” Trump is happy. His name is etched in big letters on the plaque on the embassy’s wall, as seen here beside a smiling Ivanka Trump, who attended the ceremonies Monday with her husband, Jared Kushner. The Palestinians, however, are unhappy. They are left to protest their outrage and die under a hail of Israeli bullets.

Posted May 18, 2018

 

Sex and Taxes

 

Ivanka Trump on accused sexual predator Roy Moore: “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

It is not known if Satan would welcome Moore, but Republican leaders in the Senate soon may have to decide whether they will admit a man accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl when he was in his thirties. Moore is locked in a close race for the Alabama Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the Bible-thumping, holier-than-thou Moore has picked up the support of some prominent Republicans, including Ivanka’s father and the governor Moore’s state, who is a woman.

The calculation is as simple as it is astounding in its shamelessness: A sexual predator is worth a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. As President Donald Trump tweeted: “The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY.” The capital letters indicate the importance of the tax issue for a president desperate for a “win” before his first year in office ends. So, too bad about Leigh Corfman, the woman who accuses Moore of groping her when was a young teenager.

Besides, as the president told reporters last week, Moore’s alleged misdeeds occurred a long time ago: “I do have to say, 40 years is a long time.” Besides, Trump opined, “He says it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him, also…. He totally denies it.” Well, not totally. In addition to the accusation of molesting Corfman, a number of women have said Moore dated them or tried to date them when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties. Moore creepily told conservative TV hack Sean Hannity, “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.”

As for the molester-in-chief, he boasted on the “Access Hollywood” tape, “When you’re a star, [women] let you do it. You can do anything…. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.” Though the voice on the tape is clearly Trump’s, the president — who lies about almost everything — now says the tape is not authentic, a strange claim since in October 2016 then-candidate Trump acknowledged that the voice was his and apologized, pledging “to be a better man tomorrow.” Tomorrow, evidently, has come and gone.

Perhaps, Trump’s latest claim that he did not say what he clearly said explains his willingness to attack Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken, who was caught, in a picture, mockingly groping the breasts of a woman with whom he was on an entertainment tour. (He has been accused of other indiscretions.) “The Al Frankenstien [sic] picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” Trump tweeted (spelling mistake in the original). White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a similar explanation for Trump’s criticism of Franken, “I think in one case specifically, Senator Franken has admitted wrongdoing, and the president hasn’t,” Sanders said. I think that’s a very clear distinction.” A “clear distinction?” Remember, Trump admits on tape to groping women without their permission, and, besides, is not an apology a tacit admission of wrongdoing?

Ultimately, for Sanders and for Roy Moore’s defenders, politics washes away all sins. “I think that this was covered pretty extensively during the campaign,” Sanders said. “The American people, I think, spoke very loud and clear when they elected this president.” Well, actually, that is not quite true. Three-million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, so the bar of public opinion is a little skewed against the president. But, ignoring that little fact (and when have facts ever stopped a true Trumpista?), Sanders point is clear: Trump won, so forget about his peccadillos.

Politics is the governing principle when it comes to powerful men behaving badly.  Franken, as a Democrat, deserves to be castigated, even though he has admitted his indiscretions, while Trump, who admitted much, but now denies all, is given a pass. As for Moore, well, there is that tax bill, after all.

Electing Moore might get the bill passed, but it may also represent a shortsighted, pyrrhic victory. Trump’s support of Moore places him against many in his party who do not want to have to defend, when they run for reelection, their toleration of an accused child molester. Moore’s victory would give Democrats a potent weapon in 2018. On the other hand, his defeat would narrow the GOP’s already slim margin in the Senate, jeopardizing the tax bill (unless Republicans get it passed quickly).

Some Republicans have reached a shameful conclusion: It is better to elect an alleged sexual molester than risk putting a Democrat in the Senate who might vote against a tax cut for the wealthy. It is a bargain many on the president’s team declined to make originally. Just a few weeks ago, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said, “There’s no Senate seat more important than the issue of child pedophilia.” But, that was then. Now, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, who originally said “no Senate seat is worth more than a child,” now says, “We want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”

And, I wager that few thought sex and taxes would ever appear in the same sentence, much less the same title. There must be a special place in hell for those willing to bargain one for the other.

Posted November 28, 2017

“E Pluribus Unum”

There are two visions of America: One encapsulated by the slogan e pluribus unum, out of many, one, and the other an image of a tribal America, with each tribe going its own way and competing for primacy. We thought that in the 21st century the battle between the two visions had been fought and won. Yes, there would always be outliers who reject a multicultural and diverse America (viz., Dylann Roof, the shooter in the Charleston church in 2015), but the nation has been, or so we thought, committed to the vision captured by e pluribus unum.

Until this week, that is. This week, the President of the United States made perfectly clear which vision of America he shares. And, he made it perfectly clear which tribe he favors. As for the rest of America, people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants of all stripes, and all people of good will who reject a tribal America, well, Donald Trump does not want to be our president.

It is 70 years since the defeat of history’s most evil regime, and the president of the United States cannot distinguish between neo-Nazis and counter-protestors. More than 150 years since the end of the Civil War, and President Trump sees a moral equivalence between the Ku Klux Klan and its opponents. It goes on: The president places those who warred on the United States — Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson — on the same moral plane as those who built this great nation — George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Yes, Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders. Washington does not get points for freeing his slaves in his will, something Jefferson could not bring himself to do. But, Washington’s courage and leadership as both the commanding general of the Continental Army and first president of the new nation and Jefferson’s inspired words in the Declaration of Independence — “all men are created equal” — built a free and independent United States. There is no confusion as to which side Washington and Jefferson would have endorsed last weekend in the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville.

e pluribus unum to put on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782. The 13-letter motto (not so coincidentally, one letter for each original state) was used by an important English magazine as its motto, and the phrase appears in the works of authors with whom the founders were familiar: Virgil, St. Augustine, and Cicero. As a metaphor, the motto has a dual meeting: The fashioning of a nation out of 13 original colonies and the creating of a cohesive society out of many disparate parts.

It is the latter meaning that resonates today and that the words of the president undermine. Apparently, Trump does not find the actions of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klanners, and other white supremacists and anti-Semites chilling. I suppose he has not viewed the frightening 20-minute video compiled by VICE News Tonight which inter-splices interviews with white nationalist leaders with scenes of protestors marching and shouting “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil” (a 19th century German term  — Blut und Bloden — blood, suggesting a racially defined body tied to body, an area of land. The Nazis appropriated the term.).

Trump’s image of America must be resisted. It is way past time for people of conscience to act. Anyone who continues to work for the president risks a permanent stain on his or her reputation. Chief of Staff John Kelly, I am looking at you. I am also looking at you, Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation and wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who Trump has maligned. The entire cabinet should follow the lead of corporate America and refuse to cooperate with a racist president who sees no moral difference between neo-Nazis and those who oppose them.

A personal note: As a Jew I cannot fathom how Gary Cohn, the White House’s chief economic adviser and a Jew, can continue to associate with Trump. Is a tax package all that important? And, what do Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump think these days?

As for the Republican Party: Sorry, but it is not sufficient to tweet that you are against racism. That gets you no shout-outs. You must specifically name the racists — in this case, the president. McConnell issued a statement, “There are no good Nazis.” But, he did not mention the president. Neither did Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who said, “There can be no moral ambiguity,” without identifying who was morally ambiguous. The two former President Bushes issued a statement condemning racial hatred, but also neglected to mention the chief culprit.

The future of the Republican Party rests on how Republican leaders and the rank-and-file, for that matter, respond to Trump’s outrageous statements of the past week. As David Holt, a Republican state senator in Oklahoma who is running for mayor of Oklahoma City put it, “If I tried to sell young people, in general, but, specifically, minority groups on the Republican Party today, I’d expect them to laugh me out of the room. How can you not be concerned when the country’s demographics are shifting away from where the Republican Party seems to be shifting now?”

But, there is something more important at stake, Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, than the future of the Republican Party. It is the future of the country. A good place for Republican leaders to start reclaiming that future is by supporting a resolution of censure against the president introduced in the House by three Democratic members. Every Republican should sign on to this resolution.

As an editorial in The Washington Post said, the president’s inability to identify the swastika as evil made Tuesday — the day Trump undid his condemnation of neo-Nazis and Klansmen of the previous day — “a great day for… racists everywhere. The president of the United States all but declared that he has their backs.” Now, it is up to the rest of us to reject a president who defies the best traditions of our great country. And, it should begin with the president’s cabinet and top advisers and our representatives in Washington. E pluribus unum.

Posted August 18, 2017

 

Get Me a Sandwich Board: The End Is Near

The Trump administration is in its death throes. It is not a question of when the end will come, but how soon.

John Kelly, the retired Marine general and new White House chief of staff, will impose a degree of order and discipline in the unruly West Wing. Kelly will not tolerate the chaos that existed under his predecessor, former Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, who was chosen as a sop to the GOP establishment. But, Kelly will soon learn — if he does not already know it — that the problem at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not just the staff but the commander-in-chief.

President Donald Trump cannot be controlled. He is addicted to Twitter (and cable news, but that is another matter), and as long as he sets policy by tweet (re: transgender ban in the military), Kelly will not succeed in creating an orderly chain of command nor will he be able to set up a system where protocol is followed. Trump will not stop attacking both natural allies and political enemies alike, and his angry tweets will continue to undermine staff morale. He may be unhappy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, but as two people close to the president told Maggie Haberman of The New York Times, Trump torments Sessions because, as president, “He can.” Kelly will find most of his time occupied cleaning up the messes created by his boss.

Kelly presides over a West Wing riddled with incompetence. The brief tenure of Anthony Scaramucci — a communications director who did not know the off-the-record rules — indicates that Kelly is exerting control, for now. The influential relatives of the president are in over their heads. Ivanka Trump has been far from a moderating influence on her father, and as for her husband, Jared Kushner, who has been appointed head of practically everything, it has become apparent that he knows little about most things. Kushner and his wife, for example, pushed for hiring Scaramuci as communications director and recommended the president fire James Comey, the former FBI director. For a young man, Kushner has a very poor memory, as evidenced by repeatedly revising his security clearance forms.

Kelly will find himself working for an increasingly isolated president. The most significant development of Trump’s last, terrible week was not the individual disasters — the pushback from Republicans over bullying Sessions, the failure of the Republican healthcare law, the political speech to the Boy Scouts, the rebuff by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the antagonizing of law enforcement officials — but the sum of all that friendly fire. Trump’s allies and constituents discovered that they could rebuke the president and get away with it. Last week proved what had been apparent to many: The emperor has no clothes.

Congressional Republicans now know they can criticize the president with impunity. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina warned the president not to fire Sessions nor go after special counsel Robert Mueller. Graham said he would introduce legislation to protect Mueller and warned that any attempt to fire the investigator “could be the beginning of the end” of the Trump presidency. Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, a normally reliable conservative Republican from Iowa, announced that he would not convene hearings to consider a replacement for attorney general.

Three GOP senators mustered the conviction to defy the president on the long promised repeal of Obamacare. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — the latter the butt of a ham-handed attempt to cower her into voting for the so-called “skinny” repeal — earlier announced their opposition, but the bill was sunk by the defection of John McCain. I have no doubt McCain sincerely believed the bill was awful policy and worse politics, but I also have no doubt that McCain enjoyed handing a defeat to the man who said of the Arizona Republican during the presidential campaign, “He’s no war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Many commented that McCain gave the GOP healthcare bill the thumbs-down. I suspect he was extending a different digit in another direction toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

At least until January 2019, Republicans are in charge of Trump’s fate. Their majorities in the House and Senate control the president’s agenda (provided GOP leaders can even rally their caucuses), not to mention possibly consider impeachment as revelations of wrongdoing mount. Congressional Republicans have become more emboldened in opposing Trump as his support diminishes with constituencies normally in the president’s corner. The military, for example, was caught off guard by the tweet announcing the transgender policy shift, and General Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs, said there would be “no modification” of current policy until the Pentagon receives an order through normal channels. Chief Scout executive Michael Surbaugh posted a message online apologizing for “the political rhetoric” of the president at the Boy Scout jamboree. And, heads of police departments from New York City to Los Angeles criticized Trump’s urging police officers not to be “too nice” when transporting suspects. A defense attorney indicated that he might use video of the president’s remarks in court to bolster a civil case of a suspect who sues a police department over brutality.

Things will only get worse for the president. Little of the GOP agenda is likely to be enacted, and Republicans will grow bolder in opposing Trump as institutional allies — military, Boy Scouts, the police, and who knows who else — regularly are offended by Trump. So far, Trump has maintained his popularity with the base, but with little to show for his time in office, how long will the base stick with the president?

Yes, the end is near. Get me a sandwich board!

Posted August 1, 2017

 

Made in Russia

President Donald Trump never has been able to keep his mouth shut. And, the more he talks, the more he implicates himself in the burgeoning Russia scandal.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump’s often effusive praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin — “He’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said in 2015, comparing Barack Obama unfavorably to Putin — stoked concern that Trump’s campaign was somehow in cahoots with Russia and its meddling in the presidential election. As president, Trump undermined his own narrative regarding the firing of FBI Director James Comey. First, the White House — absurdly — claimed the dismissal came because Comey mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton. Then, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of “this Russia thing.”

Now, comes Trump’s rambling, bizarre interview with The New York Times (reading Trump’s account of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia will make your head spin) in which Trump revealed self-incriminating information. “[Attorney General Jeff] Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else…. It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.” The subtext is clear: Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation is unfair because it undermined the president’s intention to use Sessions as protection from the Russia investigation. Trump’s comments also humiliate a trusted member of his administration (who, in true lapdog fashion, says he will remain on the job), suggesting, once again, that for the president loyalty is a one-way street and reinforcing the perception that Trump sees the attorney general as his personal lawyer.

Trump’s remarks convey his complete misunderstanding of the ethical and legal proprieties of public service and are further proof of his unfitness for the office of president. Trump views the FBI and Justice Department as his personal representatives whose job is to shield him from prying eyes. Comey refused to perform that function, so he was fired. Sessions’ recusal removed him as a protector of the president. Now, in The Times interview, comes the president’s warning that special counsel Robert Mueller would cross a red line if his Russia investigation involved Trump’s finances. Hard on the heels of Trump’s comments on Mueller comes a report by Bloomberg that the special counsel is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses. Bloomberg says FBI investigators are looking into Russian purchases of apartments in Trump properties, the sale of a Trump mansion in Florida to a Russian oligarch, and the financial arrangements of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Trump’s involvement in a controversial development with Russian associates in New York’s SoHo area also is being scrutinized.

“Follow the money,” Deep Throat famously told Bob Woodward during Watergate. In his interview with The Times, Trump denied financial ties to Russia. “I don’t make money from Russia…. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].” The president’s denial must have been news to Donald Trump, Jr., who told a real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

Recent hints suggest that Junior’s, not Senior’s, understanding of the Trump Organization’s connection to Russia is on the money, so to speak. Take Junior’s famous meeting last year with those Russians claiming to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The revelation of the identity of the eighth attendee at that meeting — Ike Kaveladze — opens a window into Trump’s involvement with Russian interests. Kaveladze was the subject a few years ago of an inquiry into an enormous money-laundering scheme on behalf of suspicious Russians involving bank accounts in Delaware. Kaveladze attended the meeting with Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort as  a representative of the Agalarov family, who are Trump business associates. Trump and Aras Agalarov once discussed building a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The money trail Mueller is investigating includes examining Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, which recently landed in legal trouble for laundering money for Russian entities. Trump borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from Deutsche Bank after American banks refused to lend him money because of the bankruptcies of a number of his New Jersey casinos in the 1990s. Kushner also borrowed heavily from Deutsche Bank, and Manafort, the third Trump surrogate at the infamous meeting with the Russian lawyer, reportedly once owed pro-Russia interests $17 million. All of this is circumstantial evidence, to be sure. But, there is a lot of it, and there is the continued refusal of Trump to release his tax returns, which would show whether he had financial dealings in Russia and/or with Russians.

Trump’s actions concerning Russia continue to raise questions. Less than a week after meeting with Putin, Trump ended the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate rebels battling Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s brutal dictator. The success of the program is questionable, but Putin has long called for it to end. As one American official said, “This is a momentous decision. Putin won in Syria.”

Speaking of meeting with Putin, Trump acknowledged in The Times interview that he and Putin had a second meeting at the recent G-20 summit, an unscheduled one-on-one at a dinner. Some reports indicate the meeting lasted over an hour, but Trump said it was 15 minutes of “pleasantries” and a brief discussion about adoptions. When Russian officials raise adoptions, they are talking about sanctions, as the two are inextricably linked. Adoptions was also the pretext for Junior’s meeting with the Russian lawyer. One wonders whether “adoption” is code for discussions of Russian demands of Trump family members.

This is “Made in America” week for the Trump White House. Trump and his family pushing buy American is, of course, laughable, given that his properties are adorned with foreign-made goods and clothing sold by daughter Ivanka’s company is manufactured overseas. Now, there is further reason to wonder whether Trump’s presidency was made in Russia, rather than America.

A Tale of Two Pictures

Two pictures from the recently concluded meeting in Hamburg, Germany, of the world’s leading economic powers tell a dispiriting story about the Trump administration.

Picture A shows President Donald Trump sitting alone, awaiting the arrival of the other leaders at the G-20 summit. No aides confer with him, and no other president, prime minister, or monarch attempts to pigeon hole the leader of the world’s largest economy. The picture serves as a metaphor for the role of the United States in the age of Trump. Instead of “Making America Great Again,” President Trump’s tenure threatens to leave America isolated on the world stage and ultimately rendered pitiful.

Picture B shows Ivanka Trump substituting for her father at a session on “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health.” The president’s daughter is seated between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping. A Russian official tweeted the photograph, and it immediately went viral, with many complaining about nepotism and the elevation of “an unelected, unqualified, unprepared New York socialite.” Of course, her father only meets the first criterion on that list: He was elected. As for qualified and prepared, the bar is set extraordinarily low in the current administration.

The two pictures are connected thematically: Donald Trump runs the government as if it were a subsidiary of the Trump Organization, a family-owned business in which non-family members play limited roles and advice and decisions are the province of Trump and his children. So, it is no surprise that Ivanka Trump substituted for her father. It is also no surprise that Trump was left alone before a meeting. He notoriously has a limited attention span and no patience for briefings. It would have been futile for aides to try to brief him on the upcoming meeting, and useless for foreign leaders to try to get his attention as he knows little of the workings of the U.S. government and anything he says or promises is often contradicted minutes later.

It was, of course, nice that Trump took his daughter to work, but it was a violation of protocol for her to pinch hit for him at a meeting of world leaders. Presidents often step out of meetings, but their replacement is typically a government minister.  For such a meeting, the secretary of state often sits in, or, given the subject matter of the meeting in question, perhaps the assistant secretary of state for Africa. It is not common for children to take the president’s chair. The White House suggested that Ivanka’s role was justified since she has an interest in the subject matter of the meeting. “Ivanka was sitting in the back and then briefly joined the main table when the president had to step out, and the president of the World Bank started talking as the topic involved areas such as African development,” said a senior Trump administration official. Left unsaid was the possibility that the presidential eyes might have glazed over if forced to listen to a discussion of “African development.”

Trump defended Ivanka’s role. “I asked Ivanka to hold seat, Very standard. Angela M agrees!” Trump tweeted. Actually, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the meeting’s host, merely said, “The delegations themselves decide” who takes part in meetings. But, some Americans questioned the decision. Michael McFaul, United States ambassador to Russia under President Obama, tweeted “This is strange. Very strange.” Former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon also chimed in on Twitter: “I’m sure Republicans would have taken it in stride if Chelsea Clinton was deputized to perform head of state duties.”

The policies of the Trump administration are even more troubling than its in-your-face nepotism, for the Trumpian world-view threatens to undermine the role of the United States in global affairs and revive America’s pre-World War II isolationism. Under Donald Trump, America has become estranged from its closest allies and suspicious of multilateral engagement.  “Our world has never been so divided,” French President Emmanuel Macron said as the G-20 talks concluded. “Centrifugal forces have never been so powerful.”

Macron was being polite. It is not a question of division among the nations of the G-20, but rather the United States pitted against the other members. Macron said the leaders found common ground on only one topic: The fight against terrorism. But, on other subjects, most notably climate change and trade, the United States was the odd man out. Trump’s denial of climate change and his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords led to disharmony in Hamburg. Merkel did not hide her disappointment with the American position. “Wherever there is no consensus that can be achieved, disagreement has to be made clear,” Merkel said at the end of the summit. “Unfortunately — and I deplore this — the United States of America left the climate agreement.” But, she added, “I am gratified to note that the other 19 members of the G-20 feel the Paris agreement is irreversible.”

The division on trade was not quite as stark, but still worrisome. The Trump administration believes there is a glut of steel on the world market, and it has threatened to restrict steel imports, risking the start of a global trade war. The United States singles out China, alleging it subsidizes its steel industry, which leads to lower prices and threatens American jobs. For the moment, the United States agreed to hold off imposing punitive tariffs on imported steel.

All of this suggests an emerging U.S. nationalism under Trump, which jeopardizes global cooperation. In his speech in Poland before the G-20 summit, Trump engaged in gloomy, backward-looking rhetoric. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he said. He posited a clash of civilizations between implied Islamic fanaticism and the West. This kind of rhetoric does not sit well with America’s European allies. “I will not concede anything in the direction of those who are pushing against multilateralism,” Macron said, without directly referring to Trump. “We need better coordination, more coordination. We need those organizations that were created out of the Second World War. Otherwise, we will be moving back toward narrow-minded nationalism.”

No wonder Donald Trump sat alone at the summit. His isolationist policies and his nationalist rhetoric are at odds with the very purpose of organizations such as the G-20, created so that the world’s leading economic powers multilaterally can work on common problems.

Trump alone — backed by his family, as evidenced by two pictures from the G-20.

Posted July 11, 2017