The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates. What is going on?
So what if, in his speech last week to NATO, Donald Trump didn't explicitly reaffirm the provision that an attack on one is an attack on all?
The quixotic American pursuit of Middle East peace is a perennial. It invariably fails, yet every administration feels compelled to give it a try. The Trump administration is no different.
The pleasant surprise of the First 100 Days is over. The action was hectic, heated, often confused, but well within the bounds of normalcy. Policy (e.g., health care) was being hashed out, a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, foreign policy challenges (e.g. North Korea) addressed.
It was implausible that FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017 for actions committed in July 2016 -- the rationale contained in the memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
With near unanimity, my never-Trump friends confess a sense of relief. It could have been worse. They thought it would be worse. A deep apprehension still endures but the international order remains intact, the republic still stands, and no "enemy of the people" has (yet) been arrested.
The world is agog at Donald Trump's head-snapping foreign policy reversal. He runs on a platform of America First. He renounces the role of world policeman. He excoriates parasitic foreigners that (I paraphrase) suck dry our precious bodily fluids -- and these are allies! On April 4, Trump declared: "I don't want to be the president of the world. I'm the president of the United States. And from now on, it's going to be America First."
For euphemism, dissimulation and outright hypocrisy, there is nothing quite as entertaining as the periodic Senate dust-ups over Supreme Court appointments and the filibuster. The arguments for and against the filibuster are so well-known to both parties as to be practically memorized. Both nonetheless argue their case with great shows of passion and conviction. Then shamelessly switch sides -- and scripts -- depending on the ideology of the nominee.
Under the dark gray cloud, amid the general gloom, allow me to offer a ray of sunshine. The last two months have brought a pleasant surprise: Turns out the much feared, much predicted withering of our democratic institutions has been grossly exaggerated. The system lives.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, but for governments it's not that easy. Once something is given -- say, health insurance coverage to 20 million Americans -- you take it away at your peril. This is true for any government benefit, but especially for health care. There's a reason not one Western democracy with some system of national health care has ever abolished it.