When President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced he would install an embassy in the Holy City in December 2017, the foreign policy establishment said bad things would follow.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the move "has the potential to send us backwards to darker times than the one we already are living in." Then-British Prime Minister Theresa May said the move was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."
Former Secretary of State John Kerry warned it would cause "an explosion in the region." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., urged Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital lest the move "spark violence and embolden extremists on both sides of the debate."
The moment shined an unforgiving spotlight on Washington's fecklessness -- really, its comfort with failure that fits within the Beltway's business-as-usual mold versus success reached through unusual channels.
Before Trump, the grown-up thing to do was to give lip service to an embassy in Jerusalem without even pretending to follow through after winning the election, as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did.
Likewise, the Senate passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in June of 2017 -- as it did regularly since 1995 when then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., supported the bill, without delivering a doorknob. Feinstein was one of 90 Senators to vote in favor of the measure in 2017, and still, she opposed the embassy move.
Not a single sitting Democratic senator or member of the House showed up for the historic embassy opening in May 2018 after so many years of voting to move the building.
Last month, the United Arab Emirates normalized relations with Israel. Bahrain followed shortly thereafter. Which country will be next? There's talk of Sudan. At Thursday's daily briefing, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump is "the only president to have overseen the normalization of relations between Israel and two Middle East countries."
In Las Vegas recently, Trump told me that he thought Saudi Arabia would follow "at the right time."
President Barack Obama's Iran deal united Israel and Arab states in opposition to the deal, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies noted. To his credit, Trump saw the opening, won the trust of Gulf leaders and showed the world that the path to peace could be paved without Palestinian leaders, if it came to that.
And Trump did it with his real estate developer son-in-law turned White House senior adviser Jared Kushner to broker "the deal of the century."
Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, admitted in The Washington Post Wednesday, "The developments confounded the predictions of many peace process veterans -- me included."
Otherwise, "it would seem the majority of the peace process community is eager to return to the failed paradigm of the past," Schanzer noted. "They are literally pining to return to failure."
In April, former Vice President Joe Biden said that the embassy move was "short-sighted and frivolous" but that since it was done, he would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. But: "My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state solution alive."
Really? Because that worked so well?
I spoke with former Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., one of four GOP senators who supported the embassy move on paper and attended the event in real life. He predicted it will be in history books 300 years from now and he credited it for the recent peace pacts.
Heller, who lost a reelection bid in 2018, told me, "I was disappointed that Democrats decided to boycott the event." But, he added, "That's just politics in America today for you."
Debra J. Saunders
The first presidential debate probably didn't win many votes for former Vice President Joe Biden, who was vague and unconvincing. I do think, however, the debate may lose President Donald Trump some votes. I may be one of them.
In 2016, I voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson because I saw Democratic Hillary Clinton and Trump as self-destructive chaos agents.
Trump turned out much better than I expected. He is about to put a third highly qualified conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, on the Supreme Court, and he has filled federal courtrooms with qualified judges who won't legislate from the bench.
His decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was followed by the Abraham Accords that aligned the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel.
Trump signed the First Step Act, which brought needed reform to the draconian federal criminal sentencing system, yet supports local law enforcement at a time when beat cops are under siege. Biden wrongly referred to antifa as just an "idea."
Trump's handling of the coronavirus started strong. Rather than try to shut down the country completely early on, Trump tapped key agencies and health officials to craft a plan to slow the spread of the pandemic while bringing the American public on board. His gift for logistics should help produce and distribute a vaccine in record time.
Given a choice between a president who wants the country to remain open for business and a candidate who virtue signals in a mask, I'll take the leader who doesn't want the cure to be worse than disease and trusts Americans to choose their level of risk.
Lately Trump hasn't done so well on COVID. He stopped reminding the public about risks to be avoided. He has said he is willing to override federal regulators if they won't approve a vaccine when he thinks they should. Such rhetoric gives skeptical Americans reason not to trust a vaccine that only works if enough people take it.
Perhaps now that he has contracted the virus, Trump will take it more seriously. While his use of masks and social distancing has improved somewhat over time, and the president was tested daily, his example could serve as a cautionary tale.
I think the Russian probe was an attempt to undermine a duly elected president. I still don't understand why the White House hasn't held an on-camera briefing to expose the outrages associated with the investigation. But I do know why. Trump can't or won't lay out the case systematically and, he won't share the spotlight.
We saw that during the first debate Tuesday night. Trump won't prepare a careful case, as he prefers to bluff his way through an argument.
I know that with his elbows-out posture, Trump has achieved things I never could do. But I don't know that he can continue to deliver. As with every tactic, it works until it doesn't. I don't understand how a man who has achieved so much seems to never learn from his mistakes.
When moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacist. Trump answered "Sure, I'm willing to do that".
I've never seen a president less willing to do things he doesn't like, such as listening to an opponent and moderator during a debate. If Trump can't do something that simple, what else won't he do?
So I've decided if Trump's feelings are so important, what about my feelings? Why should I support someone who has nothing but contempt for my belief in civility and behavioral norms? Maybe I could just stay home and pout.
Debra J. Saunders
All of the pages on Joe Biden's campaign website carry a motto that sits -- appropriately -- at the upper-left corner of the page. It says "Battle for the Soul of the Nation."
The site recently added a page that, beneath this ubiquitous motto, presents a statement from Biden urging the Senate not to vote on President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
What is Biden's reasoning? He argues that many Americans are already casting their votes in this year's presidential election.
"Election Day is just weeks away, and millions of Americans are already voting because the stakes in this election could not be higher," says Biden. "They feel the urgency of this choice -- an urgency made all the more acute by what's at stake at the U.S. Supreme Court."
And what does Biden believe Americans believe is at stake at the U.S. Supreme Court?
"They are voting," Biden says, "because they don't want Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for nearly half a century, to be overturned."
Yes, this is a battle for the soul of America.
And Biden -- with his very soul, apparently -- is battling to make sure the Supreme Court continues to hold that killing an unborn child is a constitutional right.
With almost as much consistency as his webpages, Biden's speeches are punctuated with references to the battle for our nation's soul.
On April 29, 2019, four days after he officially announced his presidential campaign, Biden held an event in Pennsylvania. There he declared that the battle for the soul of America was the primary reason he was running.
"There are three basic reasons why I'm running for president of the United States," Biden said. "The first is to restore the soul of the nation. And the second is to rebuild the backbone of the nation. And the third is to unify this nation."
On Aug. 12, 2020, Biden presented his newly named running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as a comrade in arms who would fight alongside him in the battle for America's soul.
"I knew we were in a battle for the soul of the nation," Biden said at an event in Delaware. "That's why I decided to run, and I'm proud now to have Sen. Harris at my side in that battle, because she shares the same intensity I do.
"She is someone who knows what's at stake," said Biden. "The question is for all Americans to answer: Who are we as a nation? What do we stand for? And, most importantly, what do we want to be?"
What issues (other than abortion) had cemented this philosophical bond -- this common understanding of our future -- between Biden and Harris?
On March 13, 2019, Harris signed on as an original Senate co-sponsor of the Equality Act. "The bill," says the official summary posted on the congressional website, "prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity."
In other words, the bill would prohibit preventing a biological male -- who claims he "identifies" as a female -- from using "a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room" that are set aside for biological females.
What about female basketball or track teams?
When the Equality Act came up in the House Judiciary Committee in 2019, Republican Rep. Greg Steube of Florida offered a commonsensical amendment -- that failed.
"An amendment by Mr. Steube," the committee's report explained, "to add a rule of construction providing that nothing in the Act or any amendment made by it may be construed to require a biological female to face competition from a biological male in any sporting event was defeated by a roll-call vote of 10 to 22."
Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the full House approved the Equality Act on May 17, 2019.
Harris instantly applauded. "The Equality Act just passed the House, sending a clear message that discrimination against LGBTQ* people won't be tolerated," she said in a tweet.
"I urge the GOP to bring it to the Senate floor," she added.
The Republican Senate leadership did not.
But what would a President Biden do with this legislation that was pushed through the House by Pelosi and co-sponsored in the Senate by his own vice president?
A page on Biden's website -- that, like all others, declares a "Battle for the Soul of the Nation" -- says: "Biden will make enactment of the Equality Act during his first 100 days as President a top legislative priority."
Would Biden actually require schools to let biological males play on the girls' sports teams and use their restrooms and locker rooms?
If he doesn't, he would be reneging on an explicit campaign promise.
"On his first day in office," says Biden's website, "Biden will reinstate the Obama-Biden guidance revoked by the Trump-Pence Administration, which will restore transgender students' access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity."
That -- in addition to promoting abortion -- is that another way Biden plans to battle for the soul of our nation.
World Wrestling Entertainment fans have a new sport. It's called presidential debate, and they should be sure to catch the next one.
President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered no new ideas or insights into policy, but they had fun bludgeoning each other with personal insults. Everyone expected such behavior from Trump, but Biden played along by calling Trump a "racist" who uses "racist dog whistles." Trump is a "clown." Biden said "will you shut up, man," after Trump suggested Biden would lose the far left for trying to sound moderate on socialized health care.
For Biden's fans and foes alike, this debate was a test. They wondered if the 78-year-old candidate, appearing confused routinely while speaking extemporaneously in recent months, could get through 90 minutes without an embarrassing blunder. He did just fine, possibly putting the "mentally fit for office" question to rest for a while.
Biden came across as a man trying to be more Trump than Trump, and Trump came across as Trump. The president tried to cast Biden as stupid after Biden used the word "smart."
"Smart?" Trump quipped. "Don't ever use the word smart with me. There is nothing smart about you, Joe."
Trump berated Biden for graduating near the bottom of his class. He said Biden could not remember which college he attended, a reference to Biden's claim this weekend he got his start the historically Black Delaware State University. The university reports Biden never enrolled at the school, but he has spoken there several times.
And on and on it went, with the American public learning nothing new about either man. It became a contest of who could deliver a better personal jab.
Biden blamed Trump for the pandemic and accused him of wanting to take free health care from millions of Americans. Trump accused Biden of trying to take private health insurance from millions of Americans. Yawn, we've heard it all before.
The closest thing to a WWE Ironclaw Slam maneuver came when the men discussed law and order. Trump enumerated some of his endorsements from law-enforcement organizations, then put Biden in a lurch.
"Name one (law enforcement) group that came out and supported you," Trump demanded. "Go ahead, we have time. Name one. There aren't any."
Looking mildly befuddled, Biden had no answer.
Moderator Chris Wallace moved the awkward moment along quickly, asking Biden if he had called on the Democratic mayor of Portland, Ore., or Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to seek help from the National Guard in quelling violent protests.
"I don't hold public office now," Biden said.
It was a problematic answer, given that Biden had declared "I am the Democratic Party" earlier in the debate. One might expect a man who is one-in-the-same as the party to lead Democratic politicians in solving big problems.
Another almost substantive and telling moment during the made-for-TV brawl fest came when discussing the environment. Biden scored points with a base that supports him by condemning Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. Biden pledged to rejoin the agreement upon taking office. Another yawn-we've-already-heard-that moment.
Trump fired back by telling Biden the Green New Deal would cripple the country economically, ruining air travel, harming the military and costing the economy some $100 trillion.
"The Green New Deal is not my plan," Biden said in reply.
That somehow led to Trump accusing Biden of calling the military "stupid bastards." Then, as from out of the blue, a Reverse Frakensteiner move had Biden back on the ropes defending the Green New Deal.
"The Green New Deal will pay for itself as we move forward," Biden said, sounding like a man who planned to implement the plan.
Puzzled by that statement, from a candidate who distanced himself from the plan just moments prior, Wallace jumped in to save Joe.
"Do you support the Green New Deal?" Wallace demanded.
"No, I don't support the Green New Deal," Biden said. That was weird because he just finished explaining how the deal would help resolve "global warming" and pay for itself. We're left to wonder whether Biden will or will not give us a Green New Deal.
That was as close to a moment of substantive insight as this debate offered. The rest was an artful display of pre-planned Headlock Drivers and common body slams.
Given the near-complete lack of meaningful and insightful discussion, Biden could have won the night by appearing as the seasoned, respectful, civilized and erudite statesman. He made no such attempt, appearing instead like a man who chose to take on Trump by acting like Trump. Conversely, Trump could have won the debate by appearing like a man who can play with respect for the rules. Instead, he routinely interrupted Wallace. Even worse for his cause, Trump interrupted Biden during answers in which the candidate might otherwise have found himself lost in a lengthy train of thought.
The debate was fun to watch, for those who like manufactured and meaningless conflict. It offered nothing more and should have no role in moving the needle among the small demographic of undecided voters who will determine this election. If they watched, they must be as confused and dismayed about this election as they were the day before. But that's the world of TV wrestling. Win or lose, it's all just a show.