Of MAGA And McCain

* “Make America Great Again” is more than a strategically self-serving, populist meme. It’s also a legitimate challenge.

Here’s a sobering revelation: The International Monetary Fund, not to be confused with a “fake news” partisan, projects that the United States will account for only 13.7 percent of global economic output by 2023. That’s not far away: either Donald Trump’s penultimate lame-duck year or the third year of the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Administration. For comparison, the U.S. accounted for approximately 50 percent of global output at the end of World War II. By 1985, that figure was 22.5 percent. Today it’s 15 percent.

Arguably, a retreat from global commitments, including base-pandering protectionism and a culture of international unreliability, won’t help. At all.

* Alas, John McCain’s days are sadly numbered as the 81-year-old senator struggles against brain cancer and the aggressive treatment it necessitates. We know his family–with his inimitable input–is already making funeral-service plans for Washington’s National Cathedral. To wit: George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been invited to give eulogies. Donald Trump did not make the cut. Mike Pence will represent the White House.

Bush and Obama, with whom McCain had a few high-profile disagreements, symbolize respect and reconciliation. Trump embodies everything McCain distains about polarizing political partisanship and international disloyalty.

* Speaking of McCain, it’s too bad his legacy of reconciliation and aisle-crossing hasn’t gone unfettered. That legacy, unfortunately, also includes the political sell-out that put Sarah Palin on his 2008 presidential ticket. It wasn’t just an expedient, feminist-insulting, long-shot gambit to win the presidency in a given year. It also enabled the Trump presidency. It proved what can happen when you normalize the unconscionably unprepared and vain  as viable enough to be on a presidential ticket. Candidate Palin presaged President Trump.

Sorry about that, senator, but I’m sorrier for America.

* Between now and the summit hook-up between Trump and Kim Jong Un, there will be no lack of media speculation about what Kim, in particular, really has in mind. Is this really the Korean Peninsula game-changer it appears to be? Will that armistice morph into a peace treaty?

Frankly, it’s encouraging that Kim cares so much about symbolism and optics as we saw with his Olympic overtures and historic handshake and border two-step with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. And this just in: North Korea has readjusted its time zone to match South Korea’s and dismantled those gigantic loudspeakers that used to spew propaganda across the DMZ.

The signs are more than manifest that this is now, and the Cold War was then. But for media that speculates and overanalyzes for a living, there’s still the ultimate sign that Kim is serious about wanting back into the civilized world. If he shows up for his Trump summit looking like he’s worked in a salad, sports a CEO haircut and no longer dresses in Mao pajamas, he’ll signal that he’s really ready for the world stage with a message that will resonate credibility,

* Many in America’s media, political parties and military establishment have been looking askance at the rumored possibility that Kim might part with his nukes if the U.S. agrees to sign that peace treaty and pledges not to attack the North. Some historical perspective: Less than a decade after the 1953 Korean armistice, the U.S. was faced with an existential showdown with the Soviet Union over nuclear missiles in Cuba. A key component for defusing the global threat was President John F. Kennedy’s pledge not to invade Cuba. Sure, it was a concession but to common sense and common cause. Nobody wanted Armageddon.

Such a pledge should still be on the table. It speaks incongruous volumes that we would need to even debate–or defend it.

* It’s hard to take a pathological liar at his word, but let’s cut Trump some non-witch-hunting, sincerity slack when he said during the campaign that “The mob takes the Fifth Amendment. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Let’s assume he meant it. Let’s then assume, Rudy Giuliani equivocations notwithstanding, that Trump will not plead the Fifth against self-incrimination in the Russia investigation, because, truth be told, he has nothing to hide.

* Two recent, instant-classic headlines:

>MSNBC’s Hardball: “The Trump & Rudy Show.”

>”Vanity Fair” magazine: “Trump Assures Reporters He’ll Make Giuliani a Better Liar.”

* These are indeed, unprecedented, stormy political times. Imagine, we live in an era where a porn actress can credibly sue for defamation.

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