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Items filtered by date: Sunday, 11 June 2017
Monday, 12 June 2017 19:22

Breakup of the West?

 
By the time Air Force One started down the runaway at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, to bring President Trump home, the Atlantic had grown markedly wider than it was when he flew to Riyadh.
 
In a Munich beer hall Sunday, Angela Merkel confirmed it. 
 
Europe must begin to look out for itself, she said, "take our fate into our own hands. ... The times in which we could rely fully on others, they are somewhat over." 
 
Merkel's apprehensions are understandable. A divorce could be in the cards. During his visit to NATO in Brussels and the G-7 in Sicily, Trump, with both his words and body language, revealed his thinking on who are friends and who are freeloaders.
 
Long before arriving, Trump had cheered Brexit, the British decision to quit the EU, and shown a preference for nationalist Marine Le Pen in the French election won handily by Emmanuel Macron.
 
But when it comes to leaders, Trump seems to prefer Deke House to student council types. He has hailed Vladimir Putin as a "strong ruler" and "very smart." In Riyadh, Trump declared King Salman a "wise man." He calls China's Xi Jinping "a great guy," and welcomed Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Oval Office: "It is a great honor to have you with us."
 
When Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has imprisoned and killed thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood, came to visit, Trump said, "He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation." 
 
In a phone call, Trump also praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had narcotics dealers gunned down in the streets, for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." 
 
Trump has even found merit in Kim Jong Un, the 33-year-old dictator of North Korea, describing him as a "a pretty smart cookie." 
 
And where Trump was photographed by the Russians grinning broadly with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his confab with Merkel was marked by a seeming reluctance to shake hands.
 
But the disagreements with Europe are deeper than matters of style. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have indicated that in dealing with foreign nations, U.S. support for democratic norms and human rights will now take a back seat to strategic interests.
 
In Riyadh, Trump signaled the Sunni King of Bahrain we will no longer be giving him instructions on how to treat his Shiite majority. We're not "here to lecture," Trump assured the Arab royals. 
 
After the conclave, the king's police killed five and wounded dozens of demonstrators outside the home of a Shiite cleric, and arrested 286 of his supporters.
 
Of greater concern to Trump and Tillerson is the retention of the Persian Gulf naval base of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
 
Trump also tilts toward GOP skepticism of the threat of global warming and is considering pulling out of the Paris climate accord that is the altarpiece of the environmentalist international.
 
In Brussels, Trump praised NATO's decision to back the U.S. war in Afghanistan after 9/11, but did not specifically recommit to Article 5, requiring all NATO nations to treat an attack on one as an attack on all, which our nervous NATO allies had wanted to hear.
 
Instead, they got an earful of pure Trump about how they owed back pay for NATO and that only five NATO nations were meeting their obligation to allocate 2 percent of GDP to defense.
 
Merkel seemed to take this as an implied threat that the U.S commitment to defend Europe from a Russia with one-tenth of NATO-Europe's GDP may be contingent, and may have a time limit on it.
 
Moreover, France, Britain and Germany appear far more solidly committed to the Iran nuclear deal than are Trump and Congress. 
 
A U.S.-NATO collision could come here, and soon.
 
The Iranians have signed on to purchase 100 Airbus aircraft and 80 commercial airliners from Boeing. If the Republicans impose new sanctions on Iran, or scupper the Boeing deal, Europe would have to decide whether to abandon the Airbus sales, or deliver the planes and perhaps take over the Boeing contract. That could bring a crisis.
 
And any U.S. confrontation with Iran, pressed upon us by Saudis, Israelis and Sunni Arabs could find Europeans bailing out wholesale on the next U.S. war in the Middle East.
 
Trump also seems less committed to the sanctions on Russia for its reannexation of Ukraine and support of pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass than does NATO Europe or Congress.
 
From his rough remarks, Trump sees the Europeans as freeloaders on U.S. defense, laggards on their NATO contributions, and mercantilists who craft policies to run endless trade surpluses at our expense, especially the Germans who are "bad, very bad."
 
The European half of Trump's trip should be taken as a fire-bell-in-the-night warning: Shape up, Europe, or you may find yourselves on your own when it comes to the defense of your continent. 
 
For we Americans have had about enough.
 
 
 
Patrick J. Buchanan
Published in Business
Monday, 12 June 2017 19:16

Comey Book Deal?

Publishers are "chompin at the bit" to sign a book deal with Comey

"Jim Comey's story has everything, from White House intrigue to possible corruption and law breaking. His explosive story makes 'West Wing' and 'House of Cards' on a par with Mister Rogers," an acquisition editor for a major New York publishing house told The Daily Mail.

"When his proposal hits my desk, I've already been authorized to offer $10 million."

A movie-TV agent also told the publication that he knows of a "top-drawer producer who's already talking to stars to cast the Comey role."

"He has to be tall, good-looking and a Jimmy Stewart-John Wayne-hero type. I was mesmerized when I spent the whole day watching Comey testify," the agent said. "Comey could expect a movie deal tied into the book worth many millions of dollars more, tens of millions."

Published in National

John Avlon: Washington’s Warning to Future Generations

 

STREAMED LIVE ON THE WEB Wednesday, June 21 at 12 p.m.

 

John Avlon, editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast, discusses the first president’s momentous and prescient farewell address to the nation and how the address could help reunite America through the lessons rooted in Washington’s experience as described in his new book, Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future GenerationsMichael Gerhardt, scholar-in-residence at the National Constitution Center, moderates.

 

A book sale and signing of Washington’s Farewell with John Avlon will follow the program.

This program is free for Members, $5 for Teachers & students, and $8 for Non-Members. Registration is recommended for all programs. Guests can call 215-409-6700 or click here to reserve tickets.

 

If you are interested in covering either of these programs or need additional information, please feel free to contact Merissa V.Blum, contact info below. The programs will also be streamed live at constitutioncenter.org/live.

 

Merissa V. Blum

Communications Manager

National Constitution Center
T: 215-409-6645 C: 215-370-0387

Published in National

 

What Happened to Congress?

 

Monday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m. National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

 

In the last decade, public approval for Congress hit an all-time low. Whether by executive overreach or internal dysfunction, Congress appears to have given up some of its power. Josh Chafetz, author of Congress’s ConstitutionCarl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for The New York TimesDavid Mayhew, author of The Imprint of Congress, discuss why and what, if anything, Congress can do to take its power back. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, moderates.

 

A book sale of Congress’s Constitution: Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers (Chafetz) and The Imprint of Congress (Mayhew) will follow the program.

Admission is free for 1787 Society Members, $10 for Members, teachers & students, and $18 for Non-Members. Registration is recommended for all programs. Guests can call 215-409-6700 or click here to reserve tickets.

 

 

 

Published in Politics
Monday, 12 June 2017 14:35

Time to Govern

 
On Nov. 9, 2016, in the stunned afterglow of Republicans taking the White House and holding both chambers of Congress, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor put it plainly:
 
"It is now time for Republicans to govern," he said on CNBC. "There'll be no excuses now. And I think the number one focus will be repeal and replacement of Obamacare. I think that's where they'll go first."
 
Cantor was right, and it's a reminder Republicans need to hear today, as they return from recess with the first six months of the Trump presidency almost over.
 
Members of the GOP majorities need to realize that they have a job to do right now. Contrary to what many politicians seem to believe, that job is not, first and foremost, to get re-elected. Under President Barack Obama, Republican leaders had an effective formula for that. They would hold message votes, pass bills such as the repeal of Obamacare that had no chance of becoming law, avoid forcing members to take difficult votes, and suppress dissent and display unity by curtailing the committee process and the tradition of floor amendments.
 
That won't work anymore. There is now no easy formula for Republicans to win elections. The job of Republicans, now that voters have handed them control of the federal government, is to govern effectively.
 
Specifically, they must repeal Obamacare and make sure that its replacement is reasonable, responsible and workable. Then voters will support it. Second, Republicans need to reform the complex, distorting federal tax code, for both individuals and corporations, rekindling economic growth and, again, winning voter support.
 
Neither of these tasks will be easy. Both will, indeed, be very difficult, and will meet fierce opposition. But important jobs are often hard, and the nation sent the current crop of lawmakers to Capitol Hill to do this one.
 
The promise to repeal Obamacare is the central pillar of Republican control of government. Its passage in 2010 guaranteed the GOP takeover of the House. Republicans lost in 2012 when they nominated Mitt Romney, who had created Obamacare's predecessor in Massachusetts. Running on Obamacare repeal won the Senate in 2014. Trump won the White House in 2016 promising grandiosely to repeal the bill on his first day on the job.
 
Rushing repeal and replacement was never a good idea, and the American Health Care Act's failure in March highlighted that. It raised doubts around the country about whether Republicans were capable of governing. Most of Washington blamed that failure on intransigent conservatives in the Freedom Caucus. That charge stuck because in the Obama days, the Freedom Caucus felt free to be the loyal opposition to the loyal opposition, the out-of-power caucus within the out-of-power party.
 
But then in May, the Freedom Caucus negotiated, cut deals, compromised and, in the end, voted "yes." It started to try to govern rather than simply oppose. Conservatives weren't the only ones to adapt. The Tuesday Group of centrists splintered, and enough of them got behind the bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan also changed his ways and fostered a more collaborative, not merely consultative, legislating process.
 
There's still a long distance to cover before Republicans can be said to be governing. The healthcare bill needs to pass the Senate, pass the House again and become law.
 
Republicans need to do tax reform, and as a practical matter, they need to get it down before election season heats up next year.
 
On both of these efforts there will be dozens of competing interests.
 
First, there's K Street and the donor base. Industry lobbyists generally oppose Republicans' repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Special interests trying to protect their credits and loopholes have successfully fought off tax reform for years. Passing the bills they need to pass will require, at some point, telling lobbyists to buzz off and telling the donors they don't call the shots.
 
Second, there's political pressure on vulnerable incumbents. Liberal activists are dialing up the heat, and many Republicans are terrified of losing if they vote for something unpopular. But Obamacare is crumbling and needs to be replaced. Likewise, our tax system needs to be reformed. Statesmanship requires taking unpopular stances. So, lawmakers, screw up your courage and get it done.
 
In any event, Republicans worried that an unpopular vote will cost them their seats need to realize that there is no safe harbor anymore. Failure to govern will also cost Republicans their majority. Their choice is between being thrown out of power for incompetence, or heading into the 2018 midterm elections having demonstrated ability and resolve.
 
Coming up with a tax bill and a healthcare bill that can pass both chambers will be very difficult. Passing them will be risky. Governing isn't easy, but for Republicans today, it's their job.
 
 
 
Byron York
Published in National

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