Trump debate doesn’t take a holiday
(CNN)Americans across the land gathered with family, friends and football. They ate together, reflected on their good fortune and tried to put politics aside for a day.
And then the President picked up the phone.
It was a Thanksgiving Skype session with service members overseas. “A nice gesture, but turned bad on so many levels,” tweeted retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling.
Trump called the troops heroes and thanked them for their service — and then moved on to himself. He took credit for the economy (“We are the hot nation of the world”) and trashed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as a “thorn in our side.” He hijacked the holiday comments of an Air Force general in Afghanistan to talk about the border wall, and told a Coast Guard lieutenant in Bahrain that “we have been taken advantage of for many years by bad trade deals.”
John Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral, was not having it. “Let me be blunt,” he wrote. The US military “is not a voting bloc. It’s not a MAGA rally crowd. It’s not a plaything, and it’s most certainly not an arm of the Republican Party.” The President said he would soon visit troops in a war zone. Skip it, Kirby said, if you can’t leave out the politics.
(On the other hand, Kirby wrote in an earlier Thanksgiving essay, arguing across a holiday table — or even across our political landscape — is something we’ve done since before America was America. Partisan argument can lead to progress, he wrote—just don’t make it personal.)
Thanksgiving is the story of a ‘migrant caravan’
By their own accounts, Pilgrims from Europe seeking religious freedom and a better life — and landing in America in 1620 — made it through that first year only with the help of the native Pokanoket people. Then they all shared a harvest meal. The Pilgrims’ modern counterparts are the ragtag migrant “caravan” fleeing Central America for the United States, wrote Jay Parini. But these desperate pilgrims have been mischaracterized as invaders — “hokum of the first order,” he says. America needs to be “that one place in the world where all people fleeing injustice and poverty and violence will … be given a warm welcome.”
Good story, wrote Christine Nobiss, but from a Native American perspective, there’s a bit more. Thanksgiving is “third in a line of problematic holidays of the fall season.” “The real story,” she wrote in Bustle, “is one where settler vigilantes unyieldingly pushed themselves into Native American homelands, and forced an uneasy gathering upon the locals.” Let’s celebrate “Truthsgiving” instead of the whitewashed version, she said.
A dark-matter hurricane is headed our way
“The Earth is caught directly in the crosshairs of a cosmic hurricane,” wrote physicist Don Lincoln, a swarm of nearly 100 stars and dark matter “aimed directly at our stellar neighborhood, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
Don’t worry, Lincoln said, this is wondrous news, courtesy of the Gaia satellite, which identified this star stream — the wayward remnants of a dwarf galaxy that collided with our very own Milky Way. Because dwarf galaxies have a lot of dark matter, and dark matter is “one of the great unanswered mysteries of modern physics,” this trail of stars may offer a new chance for research and a greater understanding of the cosmos. Lincoln says, “I’m excited.”
President v. Chief Justice
President Trump was at Mar-a-Lago for a six-day getaway but stayed in touch on Twitter, issuing Thanksgiving greetings, self-congratulations and jabs at political foes. His targets included a new one, Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts had taken the unusual step of chiding Trump after the President blamed a ruling against the administration’s asylum policy on an “Obama judge.” “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts told the Associated Press. “The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
“The president of the United States and the chief justice of the United States are battling over the very essence of our democracy,” observed Loyola Law professor Jessica Levinson, for NBCNews. “Let that sink in.” At bottom, she said, Trump doesn’t recognize the difference between a conservative judicial philosophy and politics. His judicial appointments are aimed at producing rulings that benefit Republicans. “From here, it is just a hop, skip and a jump to a constitutional crisis,” she says.
‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!’
“Amid all of Prince bin Salman’s failures, perhaps his most important foreign policy achievement has been the bamboozling of Trump,” wrote Aaron David Miller.
The President came out with a statement Tuesday declaring his support for Saudi Arabia, making clear that the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi would not be an issue. “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump wrote. Miller warned that Saudi Arabia is no ally, just a strategic partner, whose value to America the President greatly exaggerates, while ignoring the savage downside. “And yet looked at from another perspective, the United States now has leverage over Saudi Arabia” on Yemen, Qatar and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though it’s unlikely Trump will use it, Miller says.
The President’s blind eye drew a scathing rebuke from Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Post. “Trump is doing his best to help the Saudi regime get away with the murder of a U.S. resident and one of the Arab world’s most prominent writers,” she wrote. “It is time for Congress to act and impose consequences for Saudi Arabia’s dangerous behavior.”
Trump says he doesn’t want to even listen to the audio evidence of the killing that Turkish officials turned over to the United States, wrote Michael D’Antonio. “Our fragile-flower President,” he said, “seems to be in denial about what his brutal pals are willing to do.”
Distasteful, yes, but Trump is “clear-eyed and right,” insisted Michael Doran and Tony Badran in The New York Times. He “understands the centrality of Riyadh in the effort to counter a rising Iran and he is rightly unwilling to allow the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to imperil that strategy.”
What he needs is an experienced set of hands to direct the US-Saudi relationship, not his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, noted Peter Bergen. He may finally be getting one: the highly regarded retired four-star Army Gen. John Abizaid, nominated for the currently empty ambassadorship to Saudi Arabia, and someone who could provide “adult supervision” to the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Bergen said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also, encouragingly, begun to tap other talented officials for key roles in the region.
Meanwhile, Mohammed bin Salman is on a global rehab tour, wrote CNN’s Nic Robertson, and heading for the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where he must convince global elites that he can lead. “Right now, the kingdom and its close Gulf allies are balancing the chaos that a challenge to bin Salman rule could bring with the belief that he can bring change.”
You too, Ivanka?
Trump has never stopped excoriating Hillary Clinton over emails, observed Jill Filipovic, ever since he rolled out the “Crooked Hillary” taunt during the presidential campaign. How ironic that his daughter, and senior adviser, Ivanka also used her personal email for government business. Ignorance is no excuse — and not believable, said Filipovic. Newly empowered House Democrats must hold “Crooked Ivanka” accountable.
In fact, they have legitimate and urgent cause to investigate many aspects of a “presidency run amok,” argued Julian Zelizer. Some may warn of political backlash; ignore this, he says. “Now is not the time for Congress to walk away from the oversight function that keeps our democracy intact.”
The sex scandal that changed everything
“If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored,” presidential candidate Gary Hart said in 1987, when asked about rumors of his infidelity. And so the Miami Herald did, ending Hart’s run, leaving him “largely frozen out of public life” and launching a new era of political reporting that made candidates’ private lives fair game, wrote Doug Wilson, who was his deputy campaign manager. A new movie starring Hugh Jackman gets it right, Wilson said — and finally extends humanity to the woman Hart was linked to, Donna Rice. Hart’s downfall brought “chaos and heartbreak” for the “hundreds of young men and women” who believed in him, Wilson said. “He inspired a belief that citizens can be involved and make a difference.”
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