Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dear Leader

My upcoming newspaper column:
Having left our alliances in shambles to an extent Vladimir Putin daren’t have hoped for, Donald Trump returned from his world tour to the plaudits of his supporters; proving yet again that nothing will shake their adulation, ever. Literally a laughing stock among European leaders after he left, Trump’s arrogant know-nothingism only increased devotion amongst the devoted. Who needs Europe? Since when is Russia an enemy? Why care about human rights? Or climate change? Or that several hundred thousand German cars are built yearly in America?  
NATO’s workings continue to flummox Trump, who still asserts member nations owe us money. Whereas it’s true many spend less on defense than agreed, no one “owes” money to anyone. Undoubtedly he’s been told this, often. (It took Angela Merkel, leader of the free world, eleven tries to instill transient understanding of how the EU works.) One assumes, then, the falsehood is addressed to his base at home, whose intelligence Trump must hold high in disregard  
And what if those countries were to increase their military spending? If Greece added fifty thousand troops would we decrease our forces by that amount? If Germany built another airbase, would we close one of ours over there? What, in other words, is his point? Disunity, maybe? Trump, who can’t stop praising murderous despots, procaciously insulted our allies, while refusing clear commitment to Article Five, under which every NATO country joined in support of us after 9/11. How high were the fives in the Kremlin?  
In the Middle East, none of our past attempts at peacemaking have succeeded, so trying a new approach makes sense. Trump’s choice, after receiving lavish flattery, is to stop pressuring Saudi Arabia on human rights, and to resume treating Iran exclusively as an outlaw nation, rejecting efforts to bring them around. Remarkably, about the same time as Trump’s trip (choose your meaning), Saudi courts upheld sentencing a nineteen-year-old woman who’d been gang-raped to two-hundred lashes and six months in jail; while in Iran, their moderate president was reelected overwhelmingly over a hard-liner, in a record turnout. 
Of course, “moderate” in Iran is still pretty hardcore. But the fact is, subsequent to President Obama’s softening of sanctions there have been undeniable signs of westernization in Iran, especially among its young people. Barack Obama saw reaching out to that generation as a way forward; Dr. Krauthammer, in last week’s column here, referred to it as “Obama’s tilt toward Iran.” This doctor sees it not as “tilt” but long-term strategy. To look tough, right now, Trump is abandoning those younger Iranians, in whom resides the potential for rejoining the world. Many reasonable people like the Trumpian approach; others consider it simplistic and counterproductive. As with all things political, time will tell.  
Returning home, it took only moments for Trump to resume attacking the press and characterizing real news as fake. Like the rest of his flock, he cheered the election of that Montanan who beat up a reporter. (Even Fox “news” reporters who were there agreed the reporter hadn’t overstepped. And if he had, you’d think a person seeking public office might possess a modicum of self-control.) Good for him, they cheered. You’re next, CNN, someone warned. Out a newspaper’s windows, someone shot.  
To Trump and his enablers, any articles lacking the fawning apologetics he gets from “Fox and Friends,” Sean Hannity, et al, are fake, by definition and without questioning. The indispensable dependence of viable democracy on tough, adversarial investigative journalism is and will forever be lost on them. (As is the importance of the ACLU, even when it defends hate speech, as it did in Skokie, Illinois years ago and just now in Portland. Sadly, not all liberals get that, either.)  
Our greatest source of fakery, distraction, and obfuscation is the Gold House itself. Following the negative reactions from Europe, it produced a stupefying press release claiming, among other things: “President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy… He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people… and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor…” 
 North Korean schools teach that Kim Jong Un was driving at three, has written fifteen-hundred books, and plays golf at thirty-eight under par. 
Probably just coincidence. 

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