That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
Archive of Articles in the "American Society" Category
I thought I'd take a little break from politics today to address some scientific news. Astronomers recently announced (with much fanfare) that they had identified a planetary system with seven possible Earthlike planets orbiting it. This, inevitably, gave rise to claims such as "[it] could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth." That's a pretty superlative statement, but we'll ignore it for now (hey, even scientists like to create media buzz, right?). Because in all the stories I read about the discovery, there was a significant lack of some necessary context. Namely, the sheer distances involved.
There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don't attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement -- instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.
The two formerly-individual holidays celebrating Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday have been merged into a single federal holiday -- a holiday which, while intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, has now become somewhat "genericized" (in name, at least) into a celebration of all our presidents. But what about the forgotten presidents? [Or, to be scrupulously accurate, "presidents"?]
Since it is Presidents' Day (or whatever else you call today, apostrophized or not), I thought I'd take it easy on our current president, and take a break from the regular ridicule I've been heaping upon him since he was sworn in. Today's supposed to be a noble holiday, after all, so I thought I'd make an extra effort at evenhandedness, and take a look back through history at some of the rocky starts various American presidents have had on the job.
Before we begin, two quick notes. That subtitle above isn't ours, but when we heard what CNN's Brian Stelter called the hot mess we saw yesterday, we had to agree it was the perfect description. Stress conference indeed! Secondly, our opening metaphor to describe our own personal reaction is going to need a rather roundabout explanation, just to warn everyone in advance.
It hasn't even been four weeks yet, and the first top aide to President Donald Trump has been forced to resign. This must be some kind of historical record, folks. The exit of Michael Flynn was no real surprise -- he's been relieved of high-level duties before, for what would be described on an elementary school report card as: "does not play well with others." But the speed of his departure and the fact that he was the first out the door was a bit surprising, since Flynn has been loyal to Trump for some time now, and Trump values such loyalty above all else.
Donald Trump just got thumped by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There's no denying it. Even Kellyanne Conway can't spin her way out of this one. Three judges unanimously wrote a 29-page opinion explaining why Trump needed to be thumped. This means he can't even whine that it was a "partisan" decision, since these judges were appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents. Even more satisfying is the fact that even if the temporary restraining order which blocked implementation of Trump's Muslim ban is appealed to the Supreme Court, a 4-4 tie vote would just reconfirm the thumping the Ninth Circuit just gave Trump. We certainly hope this turns out to be just the first in a long line of setbacks the court system deals out to Trump, on a regular and continuing basis.
Jeff Sessions is now America's attorney general, in charge of the Justice Department. This turn of events strikes fear in the hearts of many Americans, for numerous reasons, due to his own political history. On many of these issues we're all just going to have to wait and see whether Sessions turns out to be as bad as feared, but there is one big issue which could simply be taken away from his purview altogether, if Congress acts soon. Today, a Republican congressman from California introduced a bill to do just that.
I had fully intended to write another column postulating that our president and a few of his advisors are nothing short of blithering idiots (you know, the usual thing), but then I got hooked into the modern world of technology and instead sat through the entire hour-long oral arguments hearing in Washington v. Trump, which turned out to be fascinating. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals helpfully live-streamed the audio of a conference call where the lawyers from the Trump administration and the state of Washington made their case to a three-judge panel, on the merits of the temporary restraining order that a district judge in Washington issued that shut down President Trump's executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States. So any citizen could, in effect, sit in the courtroom and hear the cases made. I have to admit a certain level of wonky awe that this is the world we live in -- where such things are not just possible, but are now routine.