Avoidable Resignations in DC, An Unavoidable Resignation in Germany

Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017
Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

Donald Trump has recently lost two more staffers: Rob Porter and David Sorensen. Both have been accused by ex-wifes of domestic abuse.

The reason this is a big story is that the president and his staff have given contradictory statements about what they knew, when they knew it and whether or not Porter in particular deserved the benefit of the doubt.

The specifics are of little political consequence, but the scandal does underscore what a terrible manager Trump is (although we already knew that) and what a terrible effect he has on the people who work for him.

  • David A. Graham argues in The Atlantic that Team Trump doesn’t have a chaos problem. It has a dishonesty problem. “Insofar as the administration is engulfed in chaos, it is a result of its inability to tell the truth.”
  • Conor Friedersdorf writes in the same magazine that Trump has corrupted the conservative movement. “I expect that its moral failures will echo across American politics for years, undermining the right’s ability to credibly advance its best and worst alike.”
  • Ezra Klein blames Trump’s volatility in Vox. “No one knows quite what he will do or say or want, and so staffers spend their days working on deals and plans that they know could be wrecked by a tweet or a late-night phone call or something the president saw on Fox & Friends.” Read more

Brexiteers Without a Plan, Republican Big Spenders and Competitor to NATO

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Politico reports that American businesses are unconvinced by Theresa May’s post-Brexit vision. She has promised to turn the island into a “beacon for technology and innovation,” but a lack of detail about what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be once it leaves the EU is hurting her case.

Janan Ganesh calls on Brexiteers to provide such detail:

Voters are being urged to brave a hard exit that would tug at the seams of the kingdom, disrupt the economic life of the Irish republic and risk some material cost to themselves. The least they should expect in return is an impressionistic picture of Britain’s post-EU economic model from the people who are keenest on the idea. Instead, they have to make do with generalities about sovereignty.

There are two possible explanations:

  1. Twenty months after winning the referendum, Brexiteers still have not through through the consequences of leaving the EU.
  2. They fear the popular reaction to proposals for dramatic liberalization.

Britain is already one of the most lightly-regulated, low-taxed economies in Europe. A post-Brexit backlash to attempts to transform it into Singapore-on-Thames might put the Labour Party back in power. Read more

Unconvinced Germans and Unconservative Republicans

German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 19, 2012
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Brussels, October 19, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are both fending off grassroots rebellions against their decision to form another grand coalition government.

On the right, there is dismay that Angela Merkel gave away the powerful Finance Ministry. Der Spiegel reports that the decision has stirred her erstwhile catatonic party into a potentially revolutionary fury. The liberal Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung can already see the “twilight” of the Merkel era.

On the left, there is disappointment that Martin Schulz broke his word not to team up with Merkel and fear that the party will be punished at the next election. Wolfgang Münchau — prone to exaggeration, but maybe not far off this time — writes that we may be in for a Brexit-style surprise on March 4, when Social Democratic Party members vote on the coalition deal. Read more

In Tribal America, Power Trumps Economics

American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Immediately after Donald Trump’s election in late 2016, Republican voters in the United States changed their mind about the economy. Whereas only 16 percent said the economy was improving under Barack Obama, 49 percent felt that way once Trump had won the election.

Gallup finds the same is true at the state level. Deep-red Montana and Wyoming have switched from least to most optimistic. California, Hawaii, Maryland and Rhode Island — four of the most Democratic states in the country — were among the top states in 2016. Now they rank below average. Read more

Hemisphere Defense or Sea Command: America’s Choice in 1940

Map of a proposed hemispheric defense for the United States from Life magazine, July 8, 1940
Map of a proposed hemispheric defense for the United States from Life magazine, July 8, 1940

On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, George Fielding Eliot reported for Life magazine that the country essentially had three ways to defend itself against an Axis invasion.

He rejected the first option, a purely defensive strategy, out of hand. Protecting just the United States, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Samoa, but not Canada, Greenland, Newfoundland and South America, would allow Germany and Japan to gain footholds in the Americas.

The whole of military history rises up to warn us that this is the inevitable prelude to defeat.

The choice, he argued, was between hemisphere defense and sea command. Read more

Still No Government in Catalonia, Shades of Fascism in the United States

Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017
Oriol Junqueras and Carles Puigdemont, the leaders of the Catalan ruling party, deliver a news conference in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017 (Generalitat de Catalunya/Rubén Moreno)

Catalonia’s independence parties are still struggling to form a government after narrowly defending their majority in the regional legislature in December.

Together for Yes, the largest party, has requested a rules change to allow Carles Puigdemont to be sworn in as president from abroad.

Puigdemont is wanted by Spanish authorities for organizing an independence referendum that had been ruled illegal by the Constitutional Court. He has lived in Belgium for the last three months.

The Republican Left, whose leader, Oriol Junqueras, sits in prison awaiting trial, does not support the effort, fearing it is doomed to fail.

Spain maintains that Puigdemont cannot resume his post so long as he is wanted for crimes against the state. Read more

Nobody Is Happy in Germany, League Calls for Italian Euro Exit

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, March 24, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Nobody in Germany is happy with the deal Angela Merkel struck with the Social Democrats this week.

Politico reports that conservatives are upset she gave the Finance Ministry to the left. The party’s youth wing is openly calling for Merkel’s replacement.

The Financial Times reports that Martin Schulz is testing his Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) unity by joining the new government as foreign minister.

Tilman Pradt argued here the other day that Schulz has wasted away his credibility by reneging on his promise never to serve under Merkel. “Given the fate of its sister parties in Europe,” Pradt wrote, “the SPD should have been aware of the dangers of putting personal ambitions over party politics.” Read more