Surely This Is Rock Bottom for Republicans?

The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014
The United States Capitol in Washington DC at night, September 18, 2014 (Thomas Hawk)

I thought Republicans hit rock bottom when they elected a president with neither knowledge of nor interest in world affairs, a man who confessed to groping women, mocked a war hero despite himself dodging the Vietnam draft and who disparaged all Mexican immigrants as murders and rapists — but clearly I was wrong.

In Alabama, they have nominated for the Senate a man who was removed as the state’s chief justice for refusing to recognize the supremacy of the law over his own religious beliefs, who perpetuated the racist lie that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States, who believes homosexuality should be illegal, that Muslims can’t serve in government and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were God’s punishment for America’s heathen ways.

And that’s not even the worst about Roy Moore. Read more

Trump Accepts Putin’s Denials of Election Interference

American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6
American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America’s spy agencies are unanimous in their assessment that Russia tried to sabotage the 2016 election. Yet Donald Trump puts more faith in the word of Vladimir Putin.

“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that’,” Trump told reporters after meeting with the Russian president on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam, “and I really believe that, when he tells me that, he means it.”

Asked if he accepts Putin’s denials, Trump said, “I can’t stand there and argue with him,” adding he would rather discuss international issues, such as the war in Syria or the nuclear crisis in Korea.

“If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing,” he argued.

Trump’s Gutting of the Foreign Service Alarms Diplomats

American president Donald Trump waves at a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, February 17
American president Donald Trump waves at a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, February 17 (North Charleston/Ryan Johnson)

Barbara Stephenson, the president of the Foreign Service Association of the United States, is ringing the alarm bell.

In a column titled “Time to Ask Why,” the former dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School wonders why the current administration seems determined to gut the diplomatic agency.

“The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events,” she writes. Read more

British Reject Plan to Keep Northern Ireland in Customs Union, Single Market

The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009
The Ulster Banner flies over Londonderry in Northern Ireland, August 17, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Britain is fighting an EU proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc’s customs union and single market in order to avoid closing the border with the rest of the island.

“We will leave the EU in 2019 as one United Kingdom,” James Brokenshire, Theresa May’s Northern Ireland secretary, has said.

He argued on Monday it would be “impossible” for the province to remain half in EU when the rest of the country exits. Read more

Crown Prince Breaks Saudi Monarchy’s Two Pacts

Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the defense minister and crown prince of Saudi Arabia
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the defense minister and crown prince of Saudi Arabia (AP/Hassan Ammar)

Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle writes in The American Interest that by putting members of the royal family under house arrest, giving women the right to drive and removing the arrest power from the Islamic religious police, Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud has broken the two pacts that have held the monarchy together for more than half a century:

  1. The consensus of family elders that has kept factions in rough balance with each other and kept most contentions from public view.
  2. The duumvirate between the Al Saud and the Al Wahhab, the temporal and religious halves of the whole Saudi enterprise going back to the eighteenth century. Read more

Conservatives Pay the Price for Putting Party Before Country

Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Theresa May of the United Kingdom inspect an honor guard in Ottawa, September 18
Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada and Theresa May of the United Kingdom inspect an honor guard in Ottawa, September 18 (The Prime Minister’s Office)

Britain’s Conservatives are paying the price for putting party before country.

Theresa May, the prime minister, only elevated Boris Johnson and Priti Patel to the cabinet last year because she felt she needed to appease the pro-Brexit wing of her party.

Both had supported an exit from the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

Both have now done harm to British diplomacy and possibly put a British citizen in danger. Read more

Takeaways from Democratic Victories in Virginia

Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Virginia, speaks with voters
Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for the governorship of Virginia, speaks with voters (Northam for Governor)

Democrats who are wary of toning down their identity politics can take heart from Tuesday’s election results in Virginia.

Ed Gillespie, formerly a center-right Republican who adopted the race-baiting tactics of Donald Trump, lost to middle-of-the-road — not Bernie Sanders-style populist — Democrat Ralph Northam with 45 to 54 percent support.

Bob Marshall, the author of the state’s failed “bathroom bill”, was defeated by Danica Roem, the first openly transgender state senator elected in American history.

Preliminary analysis suggests Gillespie failed to boost Republican turnout in the sort of left-behind places that threw their support behind Trump in 2016 and lost votes in affluent suburbs that have increasingly leaned Democratic. Read more