• In Trump’s America, who are the inmates and who’s running the asylum?

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     The inmates have taken over the lunatic asylum. That’s how it seems these days

    The inmates: President Trump, the Congressional Democrats, and the media with its unrelenting anti-Trump drumbeat.

    The asylum is America.

    President Trump’s persona has invited attacks, directed more at his person than at his policies (though they have taken a lot of incoming fire, too). The only US president who suffered more public vitriol was Abraham Lincoln. Not that I’m comparing them . . .

    Amid the controversy, it’s worth remembering that President Trump has made important, substantive initiatives such as replacing Obamacare, tax reform, budget constraints, and infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately, his many blunders have obscured achievements and stymied his initiatives.

    The Presidency Really Matters for a Healthy American Democracy

    The presidency, its attributes and code of conduct, is the foundation for a continuing healthy democracy. The criteria are a modicum of dignity, exercise of sound judgment, and personal stability.

    A bit of eccentricity is acceptable, but not bizarre tweeting, paranoia, and a pattern of verbal inconsistency. Those unforced errors invite legitimate criticism that morphs into vitriol. Is America having a nervous breakdown?

    Trump’s recent trip to the Mideast, the NATO and G7 summits, and papal meetings were successful—some more than others, of course. But they provide evidence that his presidency can survive and succeed.

    But will it? Running the country is not a one-person project. The Trump inner-circle is composed of competent patriots-masochists who seek to serve a bizarre boss.

    Good Donald, Bad Donald

    We are in the fifth month of a 48-month term of office. There is a good president Donald and a bad, juvenile Donald. The underlying distraction is the bad Donald. That’s the president’s persona, not matters of state.

    What are the sources of curative leverage? What can restrain the bad Donald and coax out the effective leader?

    The Republican members of Congress have the political muscle to confront the president. So do the president’s immediate family counselors. In another time, with another president, the media might help. Today, that’s a long-shot, at best. First, they would have to return to their primary professional responsibilities: objective reporting and fact-based commentary.

    Another untapped resource for US domestic and global stability and achievement is Democrat and Republican “switch-hitters” who could create an over-arching strategy for the president and Congress.

     Donald Trump has developed his unique persona for the past seventy years. It is highly unlikely he will change. At the very least, he needs a massive ego massage, perhaps one administered with that Big Stick Teddy Roosevelt talked about.

    Or maybe we could ask him, “Mr. President, why not think of America and your responsibilities as President as another potentially successful Trump Tower project?”

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    Richard Friedman was chair of the National Strategy Forum/Chicago. He has served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Counselor to the American Bar Association Committee on National Security.

     

     

  • NATO Summit Underscores Durable Alliance. The US Should Do Nothing to Undermine It

    Guest Author: Arthur Cyr

    Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of After the Cold War.” (Palgrave Macmillan and NYU Press).

    [Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. Readers are invited to respond, both here and on social media. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.]

     The NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 has received relatively little attention, thanks to the crowded schedule of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe.

     The diplomatic whirlwind commenced with the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. Leaders from 55 nations addressed the threat of terrorism. The NATO summit is followed immediately by a meeting of the G7, comprised of the world’s principal industrial nations, in Taormina Italy. Since World War II, economic collaboration has been consciously employed as a counter to militarism.

     The brief Brussels meeting contained heavy symbolism. Remnants of the Berlin Wall, and World Trade Center destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, were dedicated. Traditional United States complaints that European allies should spend more on defense are rightly overshadowed by the momentous events these symbols represent. European military aircraft under NATO were patrolling the skies over North American quickly after 9/11.

     The terrorist attack in Manchester in the United Kingdom underscores the continued importance of military cooperation, and doubtless muted the sorts of disagreements which can become public when allied nations gather.

     Indirectly, the attacks draw attention to Britain’s important historic and current roles in transatlantic alliance. Winston Churchill’s World War II government worked assiduously to court American public and leadership opinion.

    Britain steadily fostered cross-Atlantic military cooperation as the Cold War developed. Britain’s Foreign Secretary after World War II, Ernest Bevin, kept the far left of his Labour Party at bay. He was effective in dealing with European leaders in forging the European Coal and Steel Community and forming NATO, key building blocs of modern Europe and the trans-Atlantic relationship with America.

    ◆ In a time of uncertainty, NATO continues to provide promising transatlantic cooperation. The U.S. should do nothing to undermine this.

    The opinions in this post are those of the guest author, Arthur I. Cyr . He and ZipDialog welcome your response here or on social media. Prof. Cyr can also be reached at [email protected]

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, May 5

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

    No punning pictures of mayo in kitchen sinks for the “Cinco de Mayo.”

    Yesterday, no comments on “May the Fourth be with you”

    You’re welcome.

     A Comment on Health Care: Repeal and Replace, Relief and Regrets 

    ZipDialog will feature specific elements of the Repeal-and-Replace bill over the next weeks. For now, though, I want to comment on the overall concept.

    • Obama’s achievement. It is easy to see the mammoth problems with the Affordable Care Act. The ACA did not meet the basic promises Obama made to pass it (you can keep your doctor and your existing insurance), is financially unsustainable, and is now melting down. But that wreck should not obscure what Pres. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid achieved. After the ACA passed, most Americans came to believe that they have a right to healthcare and to the insurance policies needed to pay for it.  That right extends to the poor and to people with costly pre-conditions. It is politically perilous to remove that very costly new right/entitlement. Except for the Freedom Caucus, even fiscally-conservative Republicans are unwilling to risk it. That’s what the fight among conservatives is about.
    • Democrats are perfectly happy with the mess created by Obamacare and would be even if Clinton were president. (Well, I should say the ones who remain in office. Many were defeated because they voted for it.) If Hillary was president, the current mess would probably lead to single-payer. The D’s would certainly press for it. With Trump, it leads to a bipartisan lock-in for a vast new entitlement, which will be there forever, in some form or other. Since the hybrid public/private arrangement the Republicans are trying to fashion may not work, the Dems could end up with single payer anyway. If it new bill does not pass, they will certainly pin the failure on the Republicans, and so will many voters. If the bill passes and some people have to pay more or get less coverage, the D’s will blame the R’s, and so will some voters. In a country as angry and divided as America today, it is much easier to be the party out-of-power, as R’s are learning.
    • False comparisons. The Democrats and mainstream media will favor comparisons between any new Republican bill and the current ACA promises. The problem is that these are comparisons between a hypothetical Republican plan and an nonexistent Obamacare future. The current ACA is simply not sustainable. To say that “2 million people will lose benefit X or Y” is to assume that they would retain it under Obamacare. But that plan is falling of its own weight, so those people would lose the benefit anyway.
    • The falseness of the comparisons probably does not matter to most voters. If they were promised their preexisting conditions were covered, then they will hold Trump and the Republicans accountable for covering them–and paying for it.

    ◆ This political no-win situation is why the NYT headline reads: G.O.P. Cheers a Big Victory. But Has It Stirred a ‘Hornet’s Nest’? 

    Comment: Yes, but failing to act would have stirred it, too. The big questions now are

    • Whether the R’s can pass anything that gets signed into law?
    • Whether too many people are disappointed? and
    • Whether the program is financially sustainable?

     North Korea accuses US and South Korea of plotting to kill Kim Jong Un  (New York Times)

    Says it was a vast, $20,000 plot. That’s right, $20k.

     Trump to make first foreign trip: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Vatican before visiting NATO headquarters and G7 meeting  (CBS)

    Comment: In Saudi Arabia, he will try to erase the region’s fears over their abandonment by Obama and his tilt toward Iran. That’s crucial. The NATO meeting will presumably mix his reaffirmation of the alliance with his complaints about free-riding.

    We don’t know what he plans for Israel and how much it will involve Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The broader goal, as Trump said on Friday, is to build a “coalition of friends.” That coalition will be directed against Iran and Islamic terrorism. (It should be noted that Trump still uses the term “Islamic terrorism” but far less often.)

     Trump fires the White House “chief usher,” hired under Obama but usually considered non-political. The job involves supervising all White House “personal” staff

    The Washington Post says she was the first woman and features her picture, showing she is African-American. They have a historian quoted saying how unusual the firing is.

    Comment: It is only speculation, but here’s my guess about the motivation: the Trump people are concerned that Obama hirelings are leaking. They already know insider leaks are a problem, so they are putting in somebody they want to do the hiring and firing.

    UPDATE: The person let know, we find out, was a Hillary loyalist. Trump wants a loyalist of his own. That’s what the Daily Mail reports.

     George Will writes a very strong column, basically saying Trump is a no-nothing idiot  (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

    It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about Donald Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. –George Will

    Comment: Whatever you think of Will’s judgment here, it is important to note that his opinion represents an important view among traditional conservatives–and not just Democrats. Part of it, I think, is about Trump’s anti-intellectual, populist style. Part of it is because Trump has never been a part of the conservative movement, a movement with deep intellectual traditions that George Will knows well and respects immensely. Part of it is because of traditionalists’ never-ending revulsion at the nouveau riche and their gold-plated faucets. They wish the arrivistes would depart, and quickly.  Note that these objections are different from those of centrists and progressives.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Thanks to Philip Hummer for the George Will column