For me, a guy's face is the most important thing.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Uh-oh. I’m starting to enjoy Donald Trump’s presidency.
I enjoy the rage it inspires in Laura Ingraham. On news that the president had struck a tentative deal with Democrats to help the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for zero funding for his border wall, the radio host and Trump groupie fumed, “On what planet are you living on?”
I enjoy the whiplash it inflicts on Ann Coulter. Within the space of a year, the right-wing literary giant has gone from writing “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” to tweeting, as she did Thursday, “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”
I enjoy the paroxysm of Representative Steve King, the Iowa Dixiecrat who warns that if Trump strikes his immigration deal with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi it will leave the president’s base “blown up, destroyed, irreparable and disillusioned beyond repair.”
I enjoy the self-abasement of Jeff Sessions, who endured private harangues and public humiliation from his boss because the attorney general saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use his office to get tough on illegal immigration.
And then there’s the joy of watching Sean Hannity trying desperately to pin the blame for the president’s border wall betrayal on congressional Republicans.
Who are the “cuckservatives” now?
I use the epithet — “cuck” is short for cuckold — since it’s the one Trump’s most vociferous supporters hurled at mainstream Republicans they accused of caving in to the moral bullying of liberals, especially on the subjects of race and immigration.
But now it’s the president who is doing exactly that, making the case for DACA beneficiaries in terms his base most condemns: as “good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military” and who don’t deserve to be thrown out of the country simply because their parents brought them to the United States as children. It’s the kind of thing Nancy Pelosi — or, worse, John McCain — might say.
Trump’s move toward the Democrats on DACA — just as his earlier move toward them on the debt ceiling — isn’t about pragmatism. It’s not even about the plasticity of his convictions.
It’s about his addiction to betrayal, his contempt for those who bend their knee to him, his disdain for “losers” (especially when they’re on his side) and his desperate need to be admired by those who despise him most simply because they have the wit to see through him. This is a presidency whose defining feature isn’t ideology, much less policy. It’s neurosis.
In other words, there is no “pivot” at work in the presidency, in the mold of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leftward turn during his governorship of California. There’s a mood swing.
That might comfort the Trump true believers who fear their president is abandoning them. It shouldn’t: He feels about as much loyalty toward them and their convictions as he’s felt toward his several wives.
All of this is fun, since it’s always delightful to see blowhards and bigots get their comeuppance at the hands of their idol. The ideologues of the right are left to make do with their jester and his antics. I hope they have a sense of humor about it.
But there’s also a lesson for conservatives who mistook Trump’s bluster for seriousness. Not least among the conservative “Never Trump” objections to the candidate is that he would be a disaster to the Republican Party — not just because his beliefs, such as they were, were anathema to the party’s best traditions, but because at heart he was a destructive opportunist with no core convictions beyond his own immediate advantage.
The president’s newfound good sense on DACA is good news for the country, provided it lasts. Nobody should count on it whipping any sense into those conservatives who fell for him, also known as cucks.
A conservative Christian parent in West Virginia has voiced concern after a middle school teacher showed her class a suicide prevention music video that featured two male high school students in bed together and a sex toy.
Rich Penkoski, who is the father of a 13-year-old student at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown, West Virginia, voiced his outrage with the school's principal Thursday after his daughter told him that her homeroom teacher, Jackie Coffin, showed the the music video in class on Tuesday.
The music video in question is from hip-hop artist Logic's 2017 song, titled "1-800-273-8255," which is also the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The plot of the video follows a gay African-American student as he struggles to gain society's acceptance of his sexual orientation. In one scene, the student visits a male classmate's house and has dinner with the classmate and his parents. The next scene shows the classmate's dad catching his son in bed with the male student.
In another scene, the African-American student opens his gym locker to find a dildo affixed to the inside of the locker door as an anti-gay joke.
Penkoski is most known for his work as one of the leaders of the "Warriors for Christ" online ministry and Facebook page. The Facebook page made headlines and received much backlash earlier this summer when it announced that anyone who posted an LGBT rainbow flag emoji to the Facebook page would be banned by the page's administrators.
Penkoski and other administrators at Warriors for Christ have also launched a new Christian social media alternative to Facebook called SocialCross.org. So far, nearly 10,000 users have joined the new platform.
Friday, September 15, 2017
On Friday, hundreds of people came together at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El for the funeral of Edie Windsor, the “mother of marriage equality” who died on Tuesday at age 88. Windsor sued the United States government when it refused to recognize her marriage to Thea Spyer; her suit ultimately toppled the federal ban on same-sex marriage and paved the way for nationwide marriage equality. Among the luminaries who paid tribute to Windsor was Hillary Clinton, whose beautiful eulogy also functioned as an impassioned call to resist injustice with Windsor’s indomitable positivity and joy.
Clinton began by asking: “Doesn’t it just feel great being here to honor and remember someone who had such a positive, lasting influence on our country and the world?” That might seem like an oddly cheerful start for a eulogy, but Friday’s proceedings had a celebratory air given Windsor’s extraordinary accomplishments and richly lived life. (She remarried last year.) Windsor, Clinton said, “didn’t set out to make history”—but the love she shared with Spyer was “its own quiet revolutionary act.” When Spyer died in 2009 and the government demanded that Windsor pay an immense estate tax, “she knew she had two choices: Accept this painful injustice or fight back. She chose to fight back, all the way to the highest court in the land.”
The day Edie won, much of America cheered with her … with a recognition that a wrong had been righted. Through it all, her strength never wavered. … It is fitting that she will be immortalized in history books in that landmark decision synonymous with equal rights and dignity under the law. But she didn’t stop there. She continued to support the needs and the rights of the LGBT community. She helped change hearts and minds, including mine. And we are forever grateful to her for that.
Then Clinton reached the core of her address: the tension between our desire to improve the world and our despair over its seemingly intractable injustices. Windsor, Clinton pointed out, faced a great many injustices. She took care of Spyer for decades as her multiple sclerosis worsened, and when Spyer died, the government wouldn’t recognize their marriage; instead, it sent her a tax bill that she wouldn’t have had to pay if Spyer had been a man. This blatant cruelty might have made Windsor bitter or resentful toward her country. But, Clinton explained:
How she experienced loss, grief, and injustice made her only more generous, more open-hearted, and more fearless in her fight. She refused to give up on the promise of America. There wasn’t a cynical, defeatist bone in her body. That’s especially important for us to remember now. Through her determination and sheer force of will, she brought us another step closer to that more perfect union. Now, in this moment when so much hard-fought progress is hanging in the balance, it is up to all of us to pick up where she left off.
Clinton’s message, which echoes former President Barack Obama’s tribute issued shortly after Windsor’s death, isn’t exactly subtle. But it is a critical reminder in these exceedingly dark times of the wonderful things that America can accomplish when Americans stand up to prejudice and fear. Windsor fought for equality and achieved it in her lifetime. What will we achieve in ours? The forecast seems dire these days. But in her eulogy, Clinton urges us not to give up hope, not to waste our days with sorrow and helplessness. She closed with a quote from the poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
“Let us continue to be inspired by Edie’s wild and precious life,” Clinton said. “And let us make her proud every day of how we answer that question for ourselves. Thank you, Edie.”
Trump’s decision last week to accept the debt-ceiling deal pushed by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, shocked conservatives [who] floated rumors that they’d target Paul Ryan’s Speakership to help their agenda, . . . . Before this one brief shining moment of “bipartisanship” goes up in smoke, we must relish the sheer delight of watching Trump stiff Ryan and Mitch McConnell in favor of his new besties, “Chuck and Nancy.” It didn’t turn out well for the Vichy collaborators in World War II, and the same fate in one way or another will befall those Republican leaders who abandoned whatever principles they had once Trump occupied their party. History will be merciless to them, but how much fun to watch them reduced to thunderstruck supernumeraries in real time.Still, this instance of victory for congressional Democrats was a one-off. The new coinage that Trump is somehow an “independent,” with its implicit invocation of the Teddy Roosevelts of American history, is a way of dignifying and normalizing erratic behavior that hasn’t changed from the start. It’s the latest iteration of those previous moments when wishful centrist pundits started saying things like “Today Trump became president” simply because he stuck to a teleprompter script when addressing Congress or bombed Syria.
Trump is an “independent” in the same way a toddler is. He jumped at the Democrats’ deal solely on impulse. He remains a drama queen who likes to grab attention any way he can, especially when he thinks he can please a crowd, whether the mobs at his rallies or the press Establishment he claims to loathe but whose approval he has always desperately craved. The most telling aspect of this whole incident was his morning-after phone call to Schumer to express his excitement that he was getting rave reviews not only from Fox but CNN and MSNBC as well.
None of this amounts to a broader opening for congressional Democrats. The deal’s sole accomplishments were to (temporarily) prevent the government from defaulting or shutting down and make a first installment on Hurricane Harvey relief. That this can be greeted by anyone as any kind of breakthrough in governance shows just how low the bar has become for achievement by this Congress and this White House. Yet a Vichy Republican in the House, Peter King of Long Island, declared, “I think this could be a new day for the Republican Party” and a “gateway” to “bipartisan progress.” You have to ask, what gateway drug is he on to spew such nonsense? The Republican majority of which he is a card-carrying member shows no signs of delivering on health care, tax reform, infrastructure, or anything else. All it’s done is kept the lights on in the Capitol for another three months.
But let us cherish the high farce of this moment while we can. Gail Collins at the Times has written some quite amusing columns in which she tries to determine who is the worst member of the Trump cabinet. God knows the competition is stiff, from Ben Carson to Betsy DeVos to Tom Price and Ryan Zinke. (What does it say that Rick Perry can’t even make the short list?)
Of course Bannon talks to Trump regularly — the proof is that the dissembling White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, so pointedly denied it after the 60 Minutes broadcast. And he will certainly be as much of a political bomb thrower as he’s always been.
Get out the popcorn.It’s somewhat astonishing, as others have pointed out, that in a long interview Charlie Rose never asked Bannon about his collaboration with Mercer. Their plan to spend Mercer’s money in 2018 to challenge sitting Republican senators whom they see as disloyal to Trump, like Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, may create serious political havoc for the GOP. And when Bannon promises a “civil war” within the Republican Party over the fate of the Dreamers next year, he has both the media means (in Breitbart) and Mercer’s cash to fan the flames of anti-immigrant xenophobia and make that war as bloody as possible. However much power Bannon does or does not have in the White House, we can be certain that his sway over this president vastly exceeds that of Ryan and McConnell — and maybe even Chuck and Nancy.
NEW HAMPSHIRE is a small state whose biggest residential college and university campuses are dominated by out-of-state students — tens of thousands of them. Under New Hampshire law, they are entitled to vote in state elections, an unremarkable and widely known fact that easily explains why several thousand ballots were cast there last November by voters who registered on Election Day using out-of-state driver’s licenses.
Yet to Kris Kobach, the de facto head of President Trump’s commission on voting integrity, those votes are somehow “proof” that an invading horde of out-of-staters took advantage of the Granite State’s same-day registration law to cast “fraudulent votes.” In fact, there’s no evidence of that.
The real fraud is Mr. Kobach himself, Kansas’s Republican secretary of state and a gubernatorial candidate, who will torture any truth, distort any data and fudge any fact in service to his long-standing goal of suppressing votes, specifically those likely to favor Democrats. Having established himself in his home state as a propagandist, he is now peddling his claptrap on the national stage.
His method is to cite real numbers, then draw risible and extravagantly sinister conclusions from them.
In the case of the Granite State, he cites official figures from last fall’s elections, when 6,540 voters registered to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day. Of those voters, more than 80 percent, or 5,313, had neither been issued a New Hampshire license nor registered a car in the state 10 months later.
Aha, says Mr. Kobach, writing at Breitbart, the right-wing website, “now there’s proof” of fraud: “It seems that they never were bona fide residents of the State.”
In fact, when New Hampshire Public Radio examined the data earlier this year, it found that more than two-thirds of 5,900 day-of-election registrants who had out-of-state driver’s licenses lived in college towns, indicating most were students voting perfectly legally.
[O]n Tuesday Mr. Kobach attempted to defend his baseless claim at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Under fire for his tendentious claims, which he used to cast doubt on the narrow victories in New Hampshire of Hillary Clinton and now-Sen. Maggie Hassan, both Democrats, he said: “Until further research is done, we will never know the answer regarding the legitimacy of this particular election.”
That’s Mr. Kobach at his most insidious, using innuendo, but never actual evidence, to impugn and subvert American democracy.
Soon after his election, Donald Trump announced he would appoint Jeff Sessions as attorney general, sending a wave of panic through the world of activism around legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Sessions is an old-line drug warrior who opposes all state-level efforts to liberalize marijuana laws, and it was widely feared he would reverse Obama-era Department of Justice policies recommending that federal authorities not interfere with states that legalize marijuana.
In July, Sessions made his first tentative move toward cracking down on states that legalize pot, sending a letter to Washington state officials in which he expressed skepticism about marijuana legalization, repeatedly singling out the fear that such laws would lead to more pot smoking among minors.
If Sessions is legitimately concerned about high school kids and that’s not just a front for promoting laws that are disproportionately enforced on black people, then he probably shouldn’t worry so much. A new study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the effects of liberalizing marijuana laws on the behavioral outcomes of minors are . . . well, nothing. At least nothing of significance. “Notably, many of the outcomes predicted by critics of liberalizations, such as increases in youth drug use and youth criminal behavior, have failed to materialize in the wake of marijuana liberalizations,” the report reads.
In fact, the researchers found the opposite: Marijuana liberalization was associated with “reduced marijuana, alcohol, and other drug use; reduced desirability of consuming these substances; and reduced access to these substances on school property.”
Marijuana legalization or decriminalization apparently doesn’t do much to change young people’s behavior. Getting arrested for possessing or selling marijuana, however, can have a massive impact on a person’s life.
“Arrests prohibit individuals from fully participating in society, inhibiting their ability to get a job, get a loan, go to college, or even have a place to live,” Kassandra Frederique, the New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance, argued in a recent study of New York City’s marijuana arrest rates.
This life disruption, in turn, helps reinforce serious racial disparities in our society. Black and white people smoke marijuana at the same rate, but black people are almost four times as likely to be arrested for it. Even after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted policies that reduced marijuana arrest rates in the city, black and Latino people made up 85 percent of marijuana arrests, despite being only about half the population.
Criminalizing marijuana does little or nothing to reduce crime or improve youth outcomes, but it is highly effective at increasing racial disparities, criminalizing young people of color and derailing career opportunities for young Latinos and African-Americans. Sessions is widely perceived as hostile to civil rights and full equality for people of color, so it’s entirely possible that his interest in escalating marijuana crackdowns is not as innocent as he claims.
If Jeff Sessions does begin to roll back decades of progress on marijuana reform, he’s fighting against the political tide: A survey conducted earlier this year found that 57 percent of Americans believed pot should be legal (although only 40 percent of Republicans held that view). Furthermore, Sessions is pursuing this crusade for no good reason. There is simply no evidence that marijuana liberalization leads to bad outcomes for younger people, while the evidence that being arrested for marijuana causes bad outcomes is overwhelming. Of course, if Jeff Sessions is actively trying to send more people of color to prison on minor drug offenses and damage their future prospects, maybe he knows exactly what he’s doing.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
|Click image to enlarge|
With the Supreme Court set to consider the case of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, it might seem as though religious-based discrimination remains a highly contentious issue across the country. But a new poll suggests that only one group is actively pushing to use “religious freedom” to justify discrimination: white evangelical Protestants.
According to the latest numbers from the Public Religious Research Institute (PRRI), 53 percent of Americans oppose allowing wedding vendors to refuse to serve same-sex couples, with only 41 percent in support.
While white Americans are fairly evenly divided on the question, 61 percent of black Americans and 68 percent of Hispanic Americans stand opposed.
White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group with a majority that supports the idea. Americans of every other religious affiliation overwhelmingly reject the notion that religious beliefs justify wedding vendors’ discrimination.
These findings contradict the message conservatives are trying to send to the Supreme Court. For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with a variety of other Catholic organizations, recently filed an amicus brief siding with Phillips. But as was the case when the USCCB was one of the leading national opponents of marriage, it doesn’t actually speak on behalf of what American Catholics themselves believe.
PRRI’s findings when it didn’t limit the question to wedding vendors were even more telling. A larger majority overall opposed religious refusals, and black and Hispanic respondents were far more likely to oppose allowing small businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers because of their religious beliefs.
If the Supreme Court is convinced to side with Phillips and other anti-gay vendors, it will do so in stark contrast to the American public’s views on these issues and will effectively impose one set of religious beliefs on everybody else.
When Congress has to pass a joint resolution condemning white supremacy and plunk it on the desk of the “president” — in an effort to force him to sign it and daring him not to — you know that we as a country are beyond the pale.
When Donald Trump’s fraudulent voter-fraud commission openly entertains the loony and unworkable idea of further winnowing the voter rolls by forcing potential voters to undergo the federal background check used for gun buyers, you know that this administration is trying every way it can to ax voter access and re-establish Jim Crow poll tests.
When Robert Mueller is circling this White House like a hawk preparing to descend on a chicken coop, you know that the stench of corruption emanating from this administration reaches to the heavens.
Indeed, on Tuesday, Axios reported this intriguing line:
“Republicans close to the White House say every sign by Mueller — from his hiring of Mafia and money-laundering experts to his aggressive pursuit of witnesses and evidence — is that he’s going for the kill.”
I often hear from Trump enthusiasts and accommodators that at some point resistance must submit, that the time for outrage is term-limited, that at a point, complete opposition registers as unfair and unpatriotic.
This always settles on me in a most unsettling way. How is it, precisely, that right becomes less right and wrong less wrong simply by the passage of time and the weariness of repetition? How is it that morality wavers and weakens, accommodates and acquiesces?
It seems to me the oddest of asks: Surrender what you know to be a principled position because “moving on” and “moderation” are the instruments that polite society uses to browbeat the radical insisting on righteous restoration. I see no value or honor in this retreat.
[E]very day that I wake and recall that a bigoted, sexist, intolerant, transphobic scoundrel is president, my stomach turns and my skin crawls.
We are now talking about an administration that is attempting to dramatically reshape the demographics of the eligible electorate, in particular striking at groups who overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates and overwhelmingly voted against Trump.
We are talking about the basic concept of whether our government, and by extension our country, advances unity or division, love or hate.
We are talking about an assault on our democracy by a hostile foreign power, the contours and scope of that assault coming into greater clarity every passing day.
It is crystal clear what Russia’s motive was: to get Trump elected. As CNN reported this week, Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, said on a Sunday political show that to achieve world dominance, “the U.S. overextended themselves.” He went on to say that the intelligence services slept “while Russia elected a new U.S. president.”
How can any of us, if we are true patriots, be expected to simply calm down and suck it up when the Russians are bragging that the “president” of this country isn’t ours but theirs?
None of this is normal or right, and Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, in my opinion, has become one of the most dangerous men in America because he is endeavoring to make the abominable look acceptable. No, thanks, sir, I prefer my disasters not to wear a disguise.
Good people of good conscience are seeking to do what Trump only gave lip service to, and in his way bastardized. We, patriots, will not stop resisting this destruction. It is we who will Make America Great Again by trying to limit the damage Trump can do to us until he feels the reckoning of the damage he has done to himself.
|Jack Phillips - the face of a bigot demanding special rights|
SHOULD A Colorado baker have the right to turn away a gay couple seeking a custom wedding cake if he disapproves of their upcoming marriage? According to the Justice Department, the answer is yes.
The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments over the conduct of this unwilling baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Though the federal government isn’t a party to the case, the Justice Department has made a point of weighing in on the side of Jack Phillips, the “cake artist” whose religious opposition to same-sex marriage led him to refuse to design a cake for a gay couple.
The Justice Department’s legal brief has — rightly — faced criticism from civil rights groups appalled by the government’s argument that Mr. Phillips’s religious beliefs grant him a constitutional right to discriminate against gay customers, despite a Colorado public-accommodations law prohibiting unequal treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. Indeed, the brief is a dispiriting signal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s priorities. The government went out of its way to side with Mr. Phillips, but it has been quiet on any number of other significant cases before the Supreme Court this term.
Masterpiece Cakeshop isn’t really a religious-freedom case at all — though Mr. Phillips’s attorneys do point to their client’s constitutional rights on that front. Because Colorado lacks legislation raising the standard for state infringement on religious belief — unlike many states and the federal government — Mr. Phillips is left with what’s likely a losing argument.
That’s why both Mr. Phillips and the Justice Department focus on the baker’s freedom of expression, arguing that crafting a cake for a same-sex wedding would force Mr. Phillips to celebrate a ceremony of which he disapproves.
The Justice Department’s effort to craft a narrow exception to public-accommodations law risks blowing a hole through the fabric of that law entirely. Mr. Phillips is providing a service to his customers for pay. While he does so, he should be subject to anti-discrimination laws like every other business is.
Two years after Obergefell, cases such as Masterpiece Cakeshop have been relatively unsuccessful and few and far between — a sign of a nation moving forward. The Supreme Court should now resist the Justice Department’s effort to turn back the clock.
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Donald Trump was right. He inherited a mess. In January 2017, American foreign policy was, if not in crisis, in big trouble. Strong forces were putting stress on the old global political order: the rise of China to a power with more than half the productive capacity of the United States (and defense spending to match); the partial recovery of a resentful Russia under a skilled and thuggish autocrat; the discrediting of Western elites by the financial crash of 2008, followed by roiling populist waves, of which Trump himself was part; a turbulent Middle East; economic dislocations worldwide.These circumstances would have caused severe headaches for a competent and sophisticated successor. Instead, the United States got a president who had unnervingly promised a wall on the southern border (paid for by Mexico), the dismantlement of long-standing trade deals with both competitors and partners, a closer relationship with Vladimir Putin, and a ban on Muslims coming into the United States.
Some of these and Trump’s other wild pronouncements were quietly walked back or put on hold after his inauguration; one defense of Trump is that his deeds are less alarming than his words. But diplomacy is about words, and many of Trump’s words are profoundly toxic.
Trump seems incapable of restraining himself from insulting foreign leaders. His slogan “America First” harks back to the isolationists of 1940, and foreign leaders know it. He can read speeches written for him by others, as he did in Warsaw on July 6, but he cannot himself articulate a worldview that goes beyond a teenager’s bluster. He lays out his resentments, insecurities, and obsessions on Twitter for all to see, opening up a gold mine to foreign governments seeking to understand and manipulate the American president.
Foreign governments have adapted. They flatter Trump outrageously. Their emissaries stay at his hotels and offer the Trump Organization abundant concessions (39 trademarks approved by China alone since Trump took office, including one for an escort service). They take him to military parades; they talk tough-guy-to-tough-guy; they show him the kind of deference that only someone without a center can crave. And so he flip-flops: Paris was no longer “so, so out of control, so dangerous” once he’d had dinner in the Eiffel Tower; Xi Jinping, during an April visit to Mar-a-Lago, went from being the leader of a parasitic country intent on ripping off American workers to being “a gentleman” who “wants to do the right thing.” (By July, Trump was back to bashing China, for doing “NOTHING” to help us.)
In short, foreign leaders may consider Trump alarming, but they do not consider him serious. They may think they can use him, but they know they cannot rely on him. They look at his plans to slash the State Department’s ranks and its budget—the latter by about 30 percent—and draw conclusions about his interest in traditional diplomacy. And so, already, they have begun to reshape alliances and reconfigure the networks that make up the global economy, bypassing the United States and diminishing its standing. In January, at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Xi made a case for Chinese global leadership that was startlingly well received by the rich and powerful officials, businesspeople, and experts in attendance. In March, Canada formally joined a Chinese-led regional development bank that the Obama administration had opposed as an instrument of broadened Chinese influence; Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France were among the founding members. In July, Japan and Europe agreed on a free-trade deal as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump had unceremoniously discarded.
In almost every region of the world, the administration has already left a mark, by blunder, inattention, miscomprehension, or willfulness. Trump’s first official visit abroad began in Saudi Arabia—a bizarre choice, when compared with established democratic allies—where he and his senior advisers offered unreserved praise for a kingdom that has close relations with the United States but has also been the heartland of Islamist fanaticism since well before 9/11. The president full-throatedly took its side in a dispute with Qatar, apparently ignorant of the vast American air base in the latter country.
The administration obsesses about defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and yet intends to sharply reduce the kinds of advice and support that are needed to rebuild the areas devastated by war in those same countries—support that might help prevent a future recurrence of Islamist fanaticism. The president, entranced by the chimera of an Israeli–Palestinian peace, has put his inexperienced and overburdened son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in charge of a process headed nowhere. Either ignorant or contemptuous of the deep-seated maladies that have long afflicted the Arab world, Trump embraces authoritarians like Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (“Love your shoes”) and seems to dismiss the larger problems of governance posed by the crises within Middle Eastern societies as internal issues irrelevant to the United States. A freedom agenda, in either its original Bush or subsequent Obama form, is dead.
In Europe, the administration has picked a fight with the Continent’s most important democratic state, Germany (“Bad, very bad”). Trump is sufficiently despised in Great Britain, America’s most enduring ally, that he will reportedly defer a trip there until his press improves (it will not). Paralyzed by scandal and internal division, the administration has no coherent Russia policy: no plan for getting Moscow back out of the Middle East; no counter to Russian political subversion in Europe or the United States; no response to reports of new Russian meddling in Afghanistan.
To accommodate a president fixated on economic deals, an anxious Japan has pledged investments that would result in American jobs. A prickly Australia, whose prime minister Trump snarled at during their first courtesy phone call, has edged further from its traditional alliance with America—an alliance that has been the cornerstone of its security since World War II.
On issues that are truly global in scope, Trump has abdicated leadership and the moral high ground. The United States has managed to isolate itself on the topic of climate change, by the tone of its pronouncements no less than by its precipitous exit from the Paris Agreement. As for human rights, the president has taken only cursory notice of the two arrests of the Russian dissident Alexei Navalny or the death of the Chinese Nobel Prize winner and prisoner of conscience Liu Xiaobo. Trump did not object after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security detail beat American protesters on American soil, in Washington, D.C. In April, he reportedly told Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who has used death squads to deal with offenders of local narcotics laws, that he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
Matters will not improve. Trump will not learn, will not moderate, will not settle into normal patterns of behavior. And for all the rot that is visible in America’s standing and ability to influence global affairs, more is spreading beneath the surface.
To a degree rarely appreciated outside Washington, it is virtually impossible to conduct an effective foreign policy without political appointees at the assistant-secretary rank who share a president’s conceptions and will implement his agenda. As of mid-August, the administration had yet to even nominate a new undersecretary of state for political affairs; assistant secretaries for Near Eastern, East Asian and Pacific, or Western Hemisphere Affairs; or ambassadors to Germany, India, or Saudi Arabia. At lower levels, the State Department is being actively thinned out—2,300 jobs are slated for elimination—and is losing experience by the week as disaffected professionals quietly leave.
Add to this fractured foundation the erratic behavior of the president himself, who will be less and less likely to accede to (or even hear) contrary advice as he passes more time in the Oval Office. Septuagenarian tycoons do not change fundamental qualities of their personalities: They are who they are. Nor is someone who has spent a career in charge of a small, family-run corporation without shareholders likely to pay much attention to external views.
Mattis and Tillerson have, by all accounts, raged at a White House obsessed with loyalty, which fired a junior staffer for unflattering retweets more than a year old and had trouble attracting first-tier or independent-minded experts to begin with. At some point these advisers will either give up in frustration or simply be replaced by more-pliable individuals.
Trump unrestrained is of course a frightening prospect. His instincts are not reliable—if they were, he and his campaign would have kept their distance from Russian operatives. A man who has presided over failed casinos, a collapsed airline, and a sham university is not someone who knows when to step back from the brink. . . . . In a fit of temper or in the grip of spectacular misjudgment—possibly influenced by what he’s just seen on TV—he could stumble into or launch an uncontrollable war.
Trump is, and is likely to be to the end, volatile, truculent, and impulsive. When he does face a crisis, whether or not it is of his own making, he will discover just how weak his hand is, because no one—friends or enemies, the American public or foreign leaders—will take anything that he promises or threatens at face value.
This dangerous and dispiriting chapter in American history will end, in eight years or four—or perhaps in two or even one, if Trump is impeached or removed under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. But what will follow? Will the United States recover within a few years, as it did from the disgrace of Richard Nixon’s resignation and the fecklessness of Jimmy Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis? Alas, that is unlikely. Even barring cataclysmic events, we will be living with the consequences of Trump’s tenure as chief executive and commander in chief for decades. Damage will continue to appear long after he departs the scene.
Establishments exist for a reason, and, within limits, they are good things. Despite what populists think, foreign policy is not, in fact, safely handed over to teams of ideologues or adventurous amateurs.
Veterans of Trump’s administration will include some patriots who knowingly took a reputational hit to save the country from calamity—plus a large collection of mediocrities, cynics, and trimmers willing to equivocate about American values and interests, and indeed about their own beliefs. Many of them even now can say, as the old Soviet joke had it, “I have my personal opinions, but I assure you that I don’t agree with them.”
There are many reasons to be appalled by President Trump, including his disregard for constitutional norms and decent behavior. But watching this unlikeliest of presidents strut on the treacherous stage of international politics is different from following the daily domestic chaos that is the Trump administration. Hearing him bully and brag, boast and bluster, threaten and lie, one feels a kind of dizziness, a sensation that underneath the throbbing pulse of routine scandal lies the potential for much worse.
It is worth remembering that this frightening state of affairs stems from two main forces: (i) the desire of evangelical Christians to secure special rights and the ability to inflict their toxic beliefs on the nation as a whole, and (ii) the desire of racists to regain their sense of white privilege and the freedom to openly discriminate against others. All of us may end up paying dearly for the foul motivations of these noxious elements of American society.
Edith Windsor, the gay-rights activist whose landmark case led the Supreme Court to grant same-sex married couples federal recognition for the first time and rights to a host of federal benefits that until then only married heterosexuals had enjoyed, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 88.Four decades after the Stonewall Inn uprising fueled the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in America, Ms. Windsor, the widow of a woman with whom she had lived much of her life, became the lead plaintiff in what is widely regarded as the second most important Supreme Court ruling in the national battle over same-sex marriage rights.
The Windsor decision, handed down in 2013, was limited to 13 states and the District of Columbia. But in a more expansive ruling in 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges and three related cases, the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry anywhere in the nation, with all the protections and privileges of heterosexual couples. Its historic significance was likened to that of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which decriminalized gay sex in the United States.
Ms. Windsor had originally gone to court simply to obtain a tax refund. But for thousands struggling for gender equality, the stakes went far beyond tax advantages available to married heterosexuals, including Social Security, health care and veterans’ benefits; protection in immigration and bankruptcy cases; and keeping a home after a spouse had died.
Like countless others, Ms. Windsor had been snared by the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which barred same-sex married couples from federal recognition as “spouses,” effectively excluding them from the many federal benefits available to married heterosexuals. (Those benefits numbered 1,138, according to a count by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s fiscal watchdog agency.)
After living together for 40 years, Ms. Windsor and Thea Spyer, a psychologist, were legally married in Canada in 2007. Dr. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited her estate. But the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption from federal estate taxes available to married heterosexuals, and she had to pay taxes of $363,053.
She sued, claiming that the law, by recognizing only marriages between a man and a woman, unconstitutionally singled out same-sex marriage partners for “differential treatment.”
Affirming two lower court rulings, the Supreme Court, in the United States v. Windsor, overturned the law in a 5-4 ruling. It cited the Fifth Amendment guarantee that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
By striking down the act’s definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, the Supreme Court invalidated the entire law and for the first time granted same-sex marriage partners the recognition and benefits accorded married heterosexuals.
But there was a catch. The decision did not say if there was a constitutional right to same-sex unions, and it left in place laws in 37 states that banned such marriages. As a practical matter, that meant the benefits would not extend to couples in states that did not allow same-sex unions, but only to those in 13 states and the District of Columbia, all of which recognized them.
She became a national celebrity, a gay-rights matriarch, a grand marshal of New York City’s L.G.B.T. Pride March and a runner-up to Pope Francis for Time magazine’s person of the year in 2013.
On Tuesday, Mr. Obama said in a statement, “I had the privilege to speak with Edie a few days ago, and to tell her one more time what a difference she made to this country we love.”
“Because people like Edie stood up,” he added, “my administration stopped defending the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in the courts.” He said the day of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling was “a great day for America — a victory for human decency, equality, freedom and justice.”
In 1993, when New York City began a domestic partnership registry to extend housing, health insurance and other benefits to gays, lesbians and unmarried heterosexuals, Ms. Windsor and Dr. Spyer were among the first to sign up.
And marriage was still their hope in 2002, when Dr. Spyer had a heart attack, and in 2007, when doctors said she had only a year to live. With time running out, they traveled to Toronto with six friends and were married in a ceremony conducted by Canada’s first openly gay judge. It was later recognized as a valid marriage by New York State.
“Married is a magic word,” Ms. Windsor told a rally outside City Hall in New York a few days before Dr. Spyer, a quadriplegic, died on Feb. 5, 2009. “And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.”
Same-sex marriage became valid in New York State in 2011, too late for Ms. Windsor and Dr. Spyer. But Ms. Windsor’s 2013 Supreme Court victory was followed by an avalanche of lawsuits attacking same-sex marriage bans in jurisdictions where they remained. And on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a constitutional guarantee all over the land.