Don’t Force Catalans to Choose Between Independence and the Status Quo

Sign demanding a vote for Catalan independence in Girona, Spain, September 22, 2014
Sign demanding a vote for Catalan independence in Girona, Spain, September 22, 2014 (Keith Roper)

Last night I wrote that time is running out to avoid a constitutional crisis in Spain. The Catalans are determined to hold an independence referendum in October; the central government in Madrid is determined to prevent one.

This seems to be a case of an unstoppable force meeting an unmovable object, but there may still be a way out. Read more

Trump Is Right (For Once): The Debt Ceiling Must Go

A worker does maintenance on top of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington DC, September 8, 2014
A worker does maintenance on top of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington DC, September 8, 2014 (Architect of the Capitol)

Finally a good idea from Donald Trump.

The Washington Post reports that the American president has agreed with the leader of the Democratic opposition in the Senate, Charles Schumer, to find a way to abolish the debt ceiling.

When asked by a reporter, Trump said “there are lots of good reasons” for eliminating the measure.

Trump’s own Republicans, who have often used the debt ceiling as leverage to negotiate spending cuts, are appalled. Read more

Macron a Failure Already?

French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a news conference in Brussels, June 23 (Facebook)

Chris Bickerton makes a strong argument in The New York Times: Emmanuel Macron is on track to become yet another failed French president.

Bickerton, who teaches European politics at Cambridge University, knows France well. But here I think he misses the mark. Read more

Democrats Should Look to the Middle, Not to the Left

Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016
Hillary Clinton supporters listen to a speech in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

Since last year’s presidential election, the American left has been calling on Democrats to adopt a program of economic populism in order to lure back working-class voters.

This would be a mistake.

A lurch to the left may not bring back working-class whites but would disappoint middle-class voters who have been joining the Democratic Party in far greater numbers. Read more

Canceling South Korean Trade Deal Would Be a Mistake

South Korean president Moon Jae-in attends a military ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, June 28
South Korean president Moon Jae-in attends a military ceremony in Quantico, Virginia, June 28 (USMC/Rachel Ghadiali)

Various American media report this weekend that President Donald Trump is thinking of canceling a trade agreement with South Korea.

This may be bluster: an attempt to force the South Koreans to make concessions. It’s the way Trump “negotiates”.

But if he makes good on this threat, it would be another self-inflicted wound for American commerce and a setback for America’s strategy in East Asia. Read more

Catalan Nationalists Are Not Campaigning “On Backs of the Dead”

A Catalan woman takes part in a demonstration against terrorism in Barcelona, Spain, August 26
A Catalan woman takes part in a demonstration against terrorism in Barcelona, Spain, August 26 (Adolfo Lujan)

Ramón Pérez-Maura has a blistering op-ed in Politico, where he takes the Catalan independence movement to task for “campaigning on the backs of the dead” of the recent terrorist attacks.

This is ludicrous. Read more

“For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law.”

The "Yankee caudillo" Donald Trump
The “Yankee caudillo” Donald Trump (The Washington Post)

Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”

The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.

David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.

Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more