* “A republic, if you can keep it.”–That’s Ben Franklin’s famous take on what had resulted from the Constitutional Convention. It’s telling how that cautionary comment continues to resonate.
* Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: It still seems like Trump is meeting up with his handler. No one else in the room but translators. This will be prominent in somebody’s memoir.
* When Trump sat down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he was doing what he should have been doing–talking to the other side. But no one of sound reasoning could have disagreed that the blatant lack of preparation downgraded the summit to an exercise in world-stage narcissism and geopolitical negligence.
After the summit, Trump rhetorically high-fived himself over having been the catalyst for North Korea “no longer (being) a nuclear threat.” Now the North Korean Foreign Ministry is telling that world that “The attitude and demands from the U.S. side during the high-level talks were nothing short of deeply regrettable.” And this just in: Satellite surveillance appears to show NK expanding its nuclear capabilities.
Bottom line: There isn’t even a common definition of “denuclearization,” let alone its “phases.”
It’s what happens when there are no extensive, low-level talks to build the framework for an agreement with substance that two leaders can ceremonially sign off on. It hardly helps that Trump is also under-briefed and largely unread. No, high-stakes international summitry isn’t the same as a handshake deal with a leverage-challenged, Queens sub-contractor.
* Trump, as we’ve been noting too often, has the sinister wherewithal to normalize–whether it’s authoritarians, such as Putin and Kim, or racists, such as American Nazis in Charlottesville.
* When it comes to states’ rights, some things are more appropriate than others. A state income tax or building codes, for example, are well within state purview. Alas, abortion and states’ rights are also contextually joined. But existential issues, such as women’s rights and abortion, shouldn’t be as discretionary as crossing state borders to play the lottery.
* So much of the focus on former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was over his chicanery. Understandable, but in the scheme of things these were ethical blips in an Administration stocked with ethical blipsters. Pruitt’s legacy, alas, is that he was a true “enemy of the people” in his anti-environment, anti-science, anti Paris climate agreement agenda. That matters more than self-aggrandizement. So does leaving his right-hand man, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, as next up to continue the dismantling of the EPA.
* Trump’s nomination of federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has predictably prompted ideological speculation about abortion and gay rights.
But if he’s confirmed, Kavanaugh will likely be dealing with another high-profile, galvanizing issue first. It’s one that would highlight Kavanaugh’s (expansive) take on executive power and limits on presidential investigations. In short, how would Kavanaugh rule in Trump v. Mueller? Chances are, that matters a helluva lot more to Trump than Roe v. Wade.
* When the Senate confirmed Bill Clinton’s nomination of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court in 1993, the vote was 96-3. That’s not a misprint. Nor is it a political era we’ll likely see again.
* Of all the ally push-back at Trump, none, ironically, has been as blunt as that of Emmanuel Macron, the French president. “We won’t talk at all with a country if it is with a gun to our heads,” said Macron. So much for that budding bromance.
* “I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump. I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president.” That was Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, last year.
“I put family and country first. … I don’t agree with those who demonize or vilify the FBI.” That was Michael Cohen last month.
* American presidents have occasionally been received overseas with demonstrations of dissent by our trade-and-treaty partners. Happens in any relationship. They’re usually measured, and they come and go with the geopolitical dynamics of the times.
But this is different. Visiting Americans are advised to keep a low profile. And a high-profile part of London’s “reception” for Donald Trump will be a prominently-positioned, giant orange balloon of Trump depicted as a baby in a diaper. It’s part of massive “Stop Trump” protests organized by activist groups and trade unions. “This is a man who lacks the capacity for moral shame,” explained the Trump-balloon creator Leo Murray. “Liberal outrage just makes him smirk harder.”
*According to the always blunt Republican pundit Pat Buchanan, “some painful truths” about the current state of the Republican Party need re-stating. To wit, the GOP of the Bushes and Bob Dole and John McCain is history. “Unlike the Bourbons after the Revolution and the Terror, after Napoleon and the Empire, no restoration is in the cards. It is over.” Sobering, if not nostalgic.
* Relationships in the age of Trump: They are impacted. As in families, friends, neighbors and co-workers. When it comes to families, neighbors and co-workers, you take one for the familial team and one for sheer self-interest because of proximity and inherent awkwardness.
When it comes to “friends,” however, this is different. This is about values and respect. Without respect, there is no friendship. That’s where you draw the line: Good bye. Line-drawing can be as brutal as it is shocking. But these are the times that bring out the worst in too many of us, including those we thought we knew.