charles krauthammer – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Mon, 11 Dec 2017 21:21:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s worst week was a strong one for American democracy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/04/charles-krauthammer-trumps-worst-week-was-a-strong-one-for-american-democracy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/04/charles-krauthammer-trumps-worst-week-was-a-strong-one-for-american-democracy/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1235337 A future trivia question and historical footnote, the spectacular 10-day flameout of Anthony Scaramucci qualifies as the most entertaining episode yet of the ongoing reality show that is the Trump presidency. (Working title: “The Pompadours of 1600 Pennsylvania.”) But even as the cocksure sycophant’s gobsmacking spectacle stole the show, something of real importance took place a bit lower on the radar.

At five separate junctures, the sinews of our democracy held against the careening recklessness of this presidency. Consequently, Donald Trump’s worst week proved a particularly fine hour for American democracy:

 The military says no to Trump on the transgender ban.

Well, not directly – that’s insubordination – but with rather elegant circumspection. The president tweeted out a total ban on transgender people serving in the military. It came practically out of nowhere. The military brass, not consulted, was not amused. Defense Secretary James Mattis, in the middle of a six-month review of the issue, was reportedly appalled.

What was done? Nothing. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs simply declared that a tweet is not an order. Until he receives a formal command and develops new guidelines, the tweet will be ignored.

In other words, the military told the commander in chief to go jump in a lake. Generally speaking, this is not a healthy state of affairs in a nation of civilian control. It does carry a whiff of insubordination. But under a president so uniquely impulsive and chronically irrational, a certain vigilance, even prickliness, on the part of the military is to be welcomed.

The brass framed their inaction as a matter of procedure. But the refusal carried with it a reminder of institutional prerogatives. In this case, the military offered resistance to mere whimsy. Next time, it could be resistance to unlawfulness.

The Senate saves Sessions.

Trump’s relentless public humiliation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions was clearly intended to get him to resign. He didn’t, in part because of increasing support from Congress. Sessions’ former colleagues came out strongly in his defense, and some openly criticized the president’s shabby treatment of his first and most fervent senatorial supporter.

Indeed, Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned Trump not to fire Sessions because he wouldn’t get another attorney general – the committee’s entire 2017 schedule was set and there would be no hearings to approve a new AG. That was a finger to the eye of the president. Every once in a while, the Senate seems to remember that it is a co-equal branch.

Senate Republicans reject the Obamacare repeal.

The causes here are multiple, most having nothing to do with Trump. Republicans are deeply divided on the proper role of government in health care. This division is compounded by the sea change in public opinion as, over seven years, Obamacare has become part of the fabric of American medicine, and health care has come to be seen as a right rather than a commodity.

Nonetheless, the stunning Senate rejection of repeal was also a pointed rejection of Trump’s health care hectoring. And a show of senatorial disdain for Trump craving a personal legislative “win” on an issue about whose policy choices he knew nothing and cared less.

The Boy Scouts protest.

In a rebuke not as earthshaking but still telling, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts found it necessary to apologize for the president’s speech last week to their quadrennial jamboree. The speech was wildly inappropriate, at once whining, self-referential, partisan and political.

How do you blow a speech to Boy Scouts? No merit badge for the big guy.

The police chiefs chide.

In an address to law enforcement officials, Trump gave a wink and a nod to cops roughing up suspects. Several police chiefs subsequently reprimanded Trump for encouraging police brutality – a mild form, perhaps, but brutality still.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was all a joke. Nonsense. It was an ugly sentiment, expressed coyly enough to be waved away as humor but with the thuggish undertone of a man who, heckled at a campaign rally, once said approvingly that in the old days “guys like that” would “be carried out on a stretcher.”

Whatever your substantive position on the various issues outlined above, we should all be grateful that from the generals to the Scouts, from the senators to the cops, the institutions of both political and civil society are holding up well.

Trump is a systemic stress test. The results are good, thus far.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: As Trump taunts Sessions, first crack appears in president’s base of support http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/28/charles-krauthammer-as-trump-taunts-sessions-first-crack-appears-in-presidents-base-of-support/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/28/charles-krauthammer-as-trump-taunts-sessions-first-crack-appears-in-presidents-base-of-support/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1232198 Transparency, thy name is Trump, Donald Trump. No filter, no governor, no editor lies between his impulses and his public actions. He tweets, therefore he is.

Ronald Reagan was so self-contained and impenetrable that his official biographer was practically driven mad trying to figure him out. Donald Trump is the polar opposite.

Never more so than during his ongoing war on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Trump has been privately blaming Sessions for the Russia cloud. But rather than calling him in to either work it out or demand his resignation, Trump has engaged in a series of deliberate public humiliations.

Day by day, he taunts Sessions, attacking him for everything from not firing the acting FBI director (which Trump could do himself in an instant) to not pursuing criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.

What makes the spectacle so excruciating is that the wounded Sessions plods on, refusing the obvious invitation to resign his dream job, the capstone of his career.

Trump relishes such a cat-and-mouse game and, by playing it so openly, reveals a deeply repellent vindictiveness in the service of a pathological need to display dominance.

Dominance is his game. Doesn’t matter if you backed him, as did Chris Christie, cast out months ago. Or if you opposed him, as did Mitt Romney, before whom Trump ostentatiously dangled the State Department, only to snatch it away, leaving Romney looking the foolish supplicant.

Yet the Sessions affair is more than just a study in character. It carries political implications. It has caused the first crack in Trump’s base. Not yet a split, mind you. The base is simply too solid for that. But amid his 35 percent to 40 percent core support, some are peeling off, both in Congress and in the pro-Trump commentariat.

The issue is less characterological than philosophical. As Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard put it, Sessions was the original Trumpist – before Trump.

Sessions championed hard-line trade, law enforcement and immigration policy long before Trump rode these ideas to the White House.

For many conservatives, Sessions’ early endorsement of Trump served as an ideological touchstone. And Sessions has remained stalwart in carrying out Trumpist policies at the Justice Department. That Trump could, out of personal pique, treat him so rudely now suggests to those conservatives how cynically expedient was Trump’s adoption of Sessions’ ideas in the first place.

But beyond character and beyond ideology lies the most appalling aspect of the Sessions affair – reviving the idea of prosecuting Clinton.

In the 2016 campaign, there was nothing more disturbing than crowds chanting “Lock her up,” often encouraged by Trump and his surrogates. After the election, however, Trump reconsidered, saying he would not pursue Clinton who “went through a lot and suffered greatly.”

Now under siege, Trump has jettisoned magnanimity. Maybe she should be locked up after all, he says.

This is pure misdirection. Even if every charge against Clinton were true and she got 20 years in the clink, it would change not one iota of the truth – or falsity – of the charges of collusion being made against the Trump campaign.

Moreover, in America we don’t lock up political adversaries. They do that in Turkey. They do it (and worse) in Russia. Part of American greatness is that we don’t criminalize our politics.

Last week, Trump spoke at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. Ford was no giant. Nor did he leave a great policy legacy. But he is justly revered for his decency and honor. His great gesture was pardoning Richard Nixon, an act for which he was excoriated at the time and which cost him the 1976 election.

It was an act of political self-sacrifice, done for precisely the right reason. Nixon might indeed have committed crimes. But the spectacle of an ex-president on trial and perhaps even in jail was something Ford would not allow the country to go through.

In doing so, he vindicated the very purpose of the presidential pardon. On its face, it’s perverse. It allows one person to overturn equal justice. But the Founders understood that there are times, rare but vital, when social peace and national reconciliation require contravening ordinary justice. Ulysses S. Grant amnestied (technically: paroled) Confederate soldiers and officers at Appomattox, even allowing them to keep a horse for the planting.

In Trump World, the better angels are not in evidence.

To be sure, Trump is indeed examining the pardon power. For himself and his cronies.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Let the parents take little Charlie Gard where they wish http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/21/charles-krauthammer-let-the-parents-take-little-charlie-gard-where-they-wish/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/21/charles-krauthammer-let-the-parents-take-little-charlie-gard-where-they-wish/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1228802 One cannot imagine a more wrenching moral dilemma than the case of little Charlie Gard. He is a beautiful 11-month-old boy with an incurable genetic disease. It depletes his cells’ energy-producing structures (the mitochondria), thereby progressively ravaging his organs. He cannot hear, he cannot see, he can barely open his eyes. He cannot swallow, he cannot move, he cannot breathe on his own. He suffers from severe epilepsy and his brain is seriously damaged. Doctors aren’t even sure whether he can feel pain.

For months he’s been at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. His doctors have recommended removing him from life support.

His parents are deeply opposed. They have repeatedly petitioned the courts to allow them to take Charlie for experimental treatment in the United States.

The courts have denied the parents’ petition. They concluded that the proposed treatment has no chance of saving the child and would do nothing but inflict upon him further suffering.

They did, however, allow the American specialist to come to London to examine Charlie. He is giving his findings to the court. A final ruling is expected on July 25.

The Telegraph of London reports that Charlie’s doctors remain unconvinced by the American researcher. Indeed, the weight of the evidence appears to support the doctors and the courts. Charlie’s genetic variant is different and far more devastating than the ones in which nucleoside bypass therapy has shown some improvement. There aren’t even animal models for treating Charlie’s condition. It’s extremely unlikely that treatment can even reach Charlie’s brain cells, let alone reverse the existing damage.

What to do? There is only one real question. What’s best for Charlie? But because he can’t speak for himself, we resort to a second question: Who is to speak for him?

The most heartrending situation occurs when these two questions yield opposing answers. Charlie’s is such a case.

Let me explain.

In my view, two truths must guide any decision: (1) The parents must be sovereign, but (2) the parents are sometimes wrong.

I believe that in this case the parents are wrong, and the doctors and judges are right. Charlie’s suffering is literally unimaginable and we are simply prolonging it. This is a life of no light, no sound, no motion, only moments of physical suffering (seizures? intubation?) to punctuate the darkness. His doctors understandably believe that allowing a natural death is the most merciful thing they can do for Charlie.

As for miracle cures, I share the court’s skepticism. They always arise in such cases, and invariably prove to be cruel deceptions.

And yet. Despite all these considerations, I would nevertheless let the parents take their boy where they wish.

The sovereignty of loved ones must be the overriding principle that guides all such decisions. We have no other way. The irreducible truth is that these conundrums have no definitive answer. We thus necessarily fall back on family, or to put it more sentimentally, on love.

What is best for the child? The best guide is a loving parent. A parent’s motive is the most pure.

This rule is not invariable, of course. Which is why the state seizes control when parents are demonstrably injurious, even if unintentionally so, as in the case of those who, for some religious imperative, would deny their child treatment for a curable disease.

But there’s a reason why, despite these exceptions, all societies grant parents sovereignty over their children until they reach maturity. Parents are simply more likely than anyone else to act in the best interest of the child.

Not always, of course. Loved ones don’t always act for the purest of motives.

Heirs, for example, may not be the best guide as to when to pull the plug on an elderly relative with a modest fortune.

But then again, states can have ulterior motives, too. In countries where taxpayers bear the burden of expensive treatments, the state has an inherent incentive (of which Britain’s National Health Service has produced notorious cases) to deny treatment for reasons of economy rather than mercy.

Nonetheless, as a general rule, we trust in the impartiality of the courts – and the loving imperative of the parent.

And if they clash? What then? If it were me, I would detach the tubes and cradle the child until death. But it’s not me. It’s not the NHS. And it’s not the European Court of Human Rights.

It’s a father and a mother and their desperate love for a child. They must prevail. Let them go.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trumpites should know that bungled collusion is still collusion http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/14/charles-krauthammer-trumpites-should-know-that-bungled-collusion-is-still-collusion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/14/charles-krauthammer-trumpites-should-know-that-bungled-collusion-is-still-collusion/#respond Fri, 14 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1225695 The Russia scandal has entered a new phase, and there’s no going back.

For six months, the White House claimed that this scandal was nothing more than innuendo about Trump campaign collusion with Russia in meddling in the 2016 election. Innuendo for which no concrete evidence had been produced.

Yes, there were several meetings with Russian officials, some only belatedly disclosed. But that is circumstantial evidence at best. Meetings tell you nothing unless you know what happened in them. We didn’t. Some of these were casual encounters in large groups, like the famous July 2016 Kislyak-Sessions exchange of pleasantries at the Republican National Convention. Big deal.

I was puzzled. Lots of cover-up, but where was the crime? Not even a third-rate burglary. For six months, smoke without fire. Yes, President Trump himself was acting very defensively, as if he were hiding something. But no one ever produced the something.

My view was: Collusion? I just don’t see it. But I’m open to empirical evidence. Show me.

The evidence is now shown. This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself. A British go-between writes that there’s a Russian government effort to help Trump Sr. win the election, and as part of that effort he proposes a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” possessing damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Moreover, the Kremlin is willing to share troves of incriminating documents from the Crown Prosecutor. (Error: Britain has a Crown Prosecutor. Russia has a State Prosecutor.)

Donald Jr. emails back. “I love it.” Fatal words.

Once you’ve said “I’m in,” it makes no difference that the meeting was a bust, that the intermediary brought no such goods. What matters is what Donald Jr. thought going into the meeting, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who were copied on the correspondence, invited to the meeting, and attended.

“It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame,” Donald Jr. told Sean Hannity. A shame? On the contrary, a stroke of luck. Had the lawyer real stuff to deliver, Donald Jr. and the others would be in far deeper legal trouble. It turned out to be incompetent collusion, amateur collusion, comically failed collusion. That does not erase the fact that three top Trump campaign officials were ready to play.

It may turn out that they did later collaborate more fruitfully. We don’t know. But even if nothing else is found, the evidence is damning.

It’s rather pathetic to hear Trump apologists protesting that it’s no big deal because we Americans are always intervening in other people’s elections, and they in ours. You don’t have to go back to the ’40s and ’50s when the CIA intervened in France and Italy to keep the communists from coming to power. What about the Obama administration’s blatant interference to try to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest Israeli election? One might even add the work of groups supported by the U.S. during Russian parliamentary elections – the very origin of Vladimir Putin’s deep animus toward Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, whom he accuses of having orchestrated the opposition.

This defense is pathetic for two reasons.

First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for six months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say: Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.

What’s left of your credibility when you make such a casual about-face?

Second, no, not everyone does it. It’s one thing to be open to opposition research dug up in Indiana. But not dirt from Russia, a hostile foreign power that has repeatedly invaded its neighbors (Georgia, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine), that buzzes our planes and ships in international waters, that opposes our every move and objective around the globe. Just last week, the Kremlin killed additional U.N. sanctions we were looking to impose on North Korea for its ICBM test.

There is no statute against helping a foreign hostile power meddle in an American election. What Donald Jr. – and Kushner and Manafort – did may not be criminal. But it is not merely stupid. It is also deeply wrong, a fundamental violation of any code of civic honor.

I leave it to the lawyers to adjudicate the legalities of unconsummated collusion. But you don’t need a lawyer to see that the Trump defense – collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election – is now officially dead.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: We’re running out of time to stop a nuclear North Korea http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/07/charles-krauthammer-were-running-out-of-time-to-stop-a-nuclear-north-korea/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/07/07/charles-krauthammer-were-running-out-of-time-to-stop-a-nuclear-north-korea/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1222222 Across 25 years and five administrations, we have kicked the North Korean can down the road. We are now out of road.

On July 4, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile apparently capable of hitting the United States. As yet, only Alaska. Soon, every American city.

Moreover, Pyongyang claims to have already fitted miniaturized nuclear warheads on intermediate range missiles. Soon, on ICBMs.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s initial reaction to this game changer was not encouraging. “Global action is required to stop a global threat,” he declared.

This, in diplo-speak, is a cry for (multilateral) help. Alas, there will be none. Because, while this is indeed a global threat, there is no such thing as global interests. There are individual national interests and they diverge. In this case, radically.

Take Russia and China. If there’s to be external pressure on North Korea, it would come from them. Will it? On Tuesday, they issued a joint statement proposing a deal: North Korea freezes nuclear and missile testing in return for America abandoning large-scale joint exercises with South Korea.

This is a total nonstarter. The exercises have been the backbone of the U.S.-South Korea alliance for half a century. Abandonment would signal the end of an enduring relationship that stabilizes the region and guarantees South Korean independence. In exchange for what?

A testing freeze? The offer doesn’t even pretend to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program, which has to be our minimal objective. Moreover, we’ve negotiated multiple freezes over the years with Pyongyang. It has violated every one.

That Russia and China would, amid a burning crisis, propose such a dead-on-arrival proposal demonstrates that their real interest is not denuclearization. Their real interest is cutting America down to size by breaking our South Korean alliance and weakening our influence in the Pacific Rim.

These are going to be our partners in solving the crisis?

And yet, relying on China’s good graces appeared to be Donald Trump’s first resort for solving North Korea. Until he declared two weeks ago (by tweet, of course) that China had failed. “At least I know China tried!” he added.

They did? Trump himself tweeted out Wednesday that Chinese trade with North Korea increased by almost 40 percent in the first quarter, forcing him to acknowledge that the Chinese haven’t been helping.

Indeed not. The latest North Korean missile is menacing not just because of its 4,000-mile range, but also because it is road mobile. And the transporter comes from China.

In the calculus of nuclear deterrence, mobility guarantees inviolability. (The enemy cannot find, and therefore cannot pre-empt, a mobile missile.) It’s a huge step forward for Pyongyang. Supplied by Beijing.

How many times must we be taught that Beijing does not share our view of denuclearizing North Korea? It prefers a divided peninsula, i.e., sustaining its client state as a guarantee against a unified Korea (possibly nuclear) allied with the West and sitting on its border.

Nukes ensure regime survival. That’s why the Kims have so single-mindedly pursued them. The lessons are clear. Saddam Hussein, no nukes: hanged. Moammar Gadhafi, gave up his nuclear program: killed by his own people. The Kim dynasty, possessing an arsenal of 10 to 16 bombs: untouched, soon untouchable.

What are our choices? Trump has threatened that if China doesn’t help, we’ll have to go it alone. If so, the choice is binary: acquiescence or war.

War is almost unthinkable, given the proximity of the Demilitarized Zone to the 10 million people of Seoul. A mere conventional war would be devastating. And could rapidly go nuclear.

Acquiescence is not unthinkable. After all, we did it when China went nuclear under Mao Zedong, whose regime promptly went insane under the Cultural Revolution.

The hope for a third alternative, getting China to do the dirty work, is mostly wishful thinking. There’s talk of sanctioning other Chinese banks. Will that really change China’s strategic thinking? Bourgeois democracies believe that economics supersedes geostrategy. Maybe for us. But for dictatorships? Rarely.

If we want to decisively alter the strategic balance, we could return U.S. tactical nukes (withdrawn in 1991) to South Korea. Or we could encourage Japan to build a nuclear deterrent of its own. Nothing would get more quick attention from the Chinese. They would face a radically new strategic dilemma: Is preserving North Korea worth a nuclear Japan?

We do have powerful alternatives. But each is dangerous and highly unpredictable. Which is why the most likely ultimate outcome, by far, is acquiescence.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: If you’re not always going to win, why even play the game? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/30/charles-krauthammer-if-youre-not-always-going-to-win-why-even-play-the-game/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/30/charles-krauthammer-if-youre-not-always-going-to-win-why-even-play-the-game/#respond Fri, 30 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1218923 In mathematics, when you’re convinced of some eternal truth but can’t quite prove it, you offer it as a hypothesis (with a portentous capital H) and invite the world, future generations if need be, to prove you right or wrong. Often, a cash prize is attached.

In that spirit, but without the cash, I offer the Krauthammer Conjecture: In sports, the pleasure of winning is less than the pain of losing. By any Benthamite pleasure-pain calculation, the sum is less than zero. A net negative of suffering. Which makes you wonder why anybody plays at all.

Winning is great. You get to hoot and holler, hoist the trophy, shower in champagne, ride the open parade car and boycott the White House victory ceremony (choose your cause).

But, as most who have engaged in competitive sports know, there’s nothing to match the amplitude of emotion brought by losing. When the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the 2015 NBA Finals to Golden State, LeBron James sat motionless in the locker room, staring straight ahead, still wearing his game jersey, for 45 minutes after the final buzzer.

Here was a guy immensely wealthy, widely admired, at the peak of his powers – yet stricken, inconsolable. So it was for Ralph Branca, who gave up Bobby Thomson’s shot heard ’round the world in 1951. So too for Royals shortstop Freddie Patek, a (literal) picture of dejection sitting alone in the dugout with his head down after his team lost the 1977 pennant to the New York Yankees.

In 1986, the “Today Show” commemorated the 30th anniversary of Don Larsen pitching the only perfect game in World Series history. They invited Larsen and his battery mate, Yogi Berra. And Dale Mitchell, the man who made the last out. Mitchell was not amused. “I ain’t flying 2,000 miles to talk about striking out,” he fumed. And anyway, the called third strike was high and outside. It had been 30 years and Mitchell was still mad. (Justly so. Even the Yankee fielders acknowledged that the final pitch was outside the strike zone.)

For every moment of triumph, there is an unequal and opposite feeling of despair. Take that iconic photograph of Muhammad Ali standing triumphantly over the prostrate, semiconscious wreckage of Sonny Liston. Great photo. Now think of Liston. Do the pleasure-pain calculus.

And we are talking here about professional athletes – not even the legions of Little Leaguers, freshly eliminated from the playoffs, sobbing and sniffling their way home, assuaged only by gallons of Baskin-Robbins.

Any parent can attest to the Krauthammer Conjecture. What surprises is how often it applies to battle-hardened professionals making millions.

I don’t feel sorry for them. They can drown their sorrows in the Olympic-sized infinity pool that graces their Florida estate. (No state income tax.) I am merely fascinated that, despite their other substantial compensations, some of them really do care. Most interestingly, often the very best.

Max Scherzer, ace pitcher for the Washington Nationals, makes $30 million a year. On the mound, forget the money. His will to win is scary. Every time he registers a strikeout, he stalks off the mound, circling, head down, as if he’s just brought down a mastodon.

On June 6, tiring as he approached victory, he began growling – yes, like a hungry tiger – at Chase Utley as he came to the plate. “It was beautiful,” was the headline of the blog entry by The Washington Post’s Scott Allen.

When Scherzer gets like that, managers are actually afraid to go out and tell him he’s done. He goes Mad Max. In one such instance last year, as Scherzer labored, manager Dusty Baker came out to the mound. Scherzer glared.

“He asked me how I was feeling,” Scherzer recounted, “and I said I still feel strong … I still got one more hitter in me.”

Asked Baker, demanding visual confirmation: “Which eye should I look at?”

Scherzer, who famously has one blue and one brown eye, shot back: “Look in the (expletive) brown eye!”

“That’s the pitching one,” he jokingly told reporters after the game.

Baker left him in.

After losing her first ever UFC match, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey confessed that she was in the corner of the medical room, “literally sitting there thinking about killing myself. In that exact second, I’m like, ‘I’m nothing.'” It doesn’t get lower than that.

Said Vince Lombardi: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” To which I add – conjecture – yes, but losing is worse.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: At stake in the Mideast is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/charles-krauthammer-at-stake-in-the-mideast-is-consolidation-of-the-shiite-crescent/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/23/charles-krauthammer-at-stake-in-the-mideast-is-consolidation-of-the-shiite-crescent/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1215676 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?

It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centered in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next.

It’s Europe in 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors – the Soviet Union and the Western democracies – to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

So it is today in Syria. Everyone knows that the Islamic State is finished. Not that it will disappear as an ideology, insurgency and source of continuing terrorism both in the region and the West. But it will disappear as an independent, organized, territorial entity in the heart of the Middle East.

It is being squeezed out of existence. Its hold on Mosul, its last major redoubt in Iraq, is nearly gone. Raqqa, its stronghold in Syria and de facto capital, is next.

When it falls – it is already surrounded on three sides – the caliphate dies.

Much of the fighting today is about who inherits. Take the Syrian jet the U.S. shot down. It had been attacking a pro-Western Kurdish and Arab force (the Syrian Democratic Forces) not far from Islamic State territory.

Why? Because the Bashar Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, having gained the upper hand on the non-jihadist rebels in the Syrian heartland (most notably in Aleppo), feels secure enough to set its sights on eastern Syria. If it hopes to restore its authority over the whole country, it will need to control Raqqa and surrounding Islamic State areas. But the forces near Raqqa are pro-Western and anti-regime. Hence the Syrian fighter-bomber attack.

Hence the U.S. shoot-down. We are protecting our friends. Hence the Russian threats to now target U.S. planes. The Russians are protecting their friends.

On the same day as the shoot-down, Iran launched six surface-to-surface missiles into Syrian territory controlled by the Islamic State.

Why? Ostensibly to punish the jihadists for terrorist attacks two weeks ago inside Iran.

Perhaps. But one obvious objective was to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Arabs the considerable reach of both Iran’s arms and territorial ambitions.

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries – Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.)

Taken together, they comprise a vast arc – the Shiite Crescent – stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.

If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years.

This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

Arrayed on the other side of the great Muslim civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan – with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action.

At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent.

It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs).

Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.

The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too.

The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the Tomahawk attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down.

A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply. Perhaps we might squeeze one in amid the national obsession with every James Comey memo-to-self?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: President Trump hands Putin a victory with his speech to NATO http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/01/charles-krauthammer-president-trump-hands-putin-a-victory-with-his-speech-to-nato/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/06/01/charles-krauthammer-president-trump-hands-putin-a-victory-with-his-speech-to-nato/#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1205017 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?

What’s the big deal? Didn’t he affirm a general commitment to NATO during his visit? Hadn’t he earlier sent his vice president and secretaries of state and defense to pledge allegiance to Article 5?

And anyway, who believes that the United States would really go to war with Russia – and risk nuclear annihilation – over Estonia?

Ah, but that’s precisely the point. It is because deterrence is so delicate, so problematic, so literally unbelievable that it is not to be trifled with. And why for an American president to gratuitously undermine what little credibility deterrence already has, by ostentatiously refusing to recommit to Article 5, is so shocking.

Deterrence is inherently a barely believable bluff. Even at the height of the Cold War, when highly resolute presidents, such as Eisenhower and Kennedy, threatened Russia with “massive retaliation” (i.e., all-out nuclear war), would we really have sacrificed New York for Berlin?

No one knew for sure. Not Eisenhower, not Kennedy, not the Soviets, not anyone. Yet that very uncertainty was enough to stay the hand of any aggressor and keep the peace of the world for 70 years.

Deterrence does not depend on 100 percent certainty that the other guy will go to war if you cross a red line. Given the stakes, merely a chance of that happening can be enough. For 70 years, it was enough.

Leaders therefore do everything they can to bolster it. Install tripwires, for example. During the Cold War, we stationed troops in Germany to face the massive tank armies of Soviet Russia. Today we have 28,000 troops in South Korea, 12,000 near the demilitarized zone.

Why? Not to repel invasion. They couldn’t. They’re not strong enough. To put it very coldly, they’re there to die. They’re a deliberate message to the enemy that if you invade our ally, you will have to kill a lot of Americans first. Which will galvanize us into full-scale war against you.

Tripwires are risky, dangerous and cynical. Yet we resort to them because parchment promises are problematic and tripwires imply automaticity. We do what we can to strengthen deterrence.

Rhetorically as well. Which is why presidents from Truman on have regularly and powerfully reaffirmed our deterrent pledge to NATO. Until Trump.

His omission was all the more damaging because of his personal history. This is a man chronically disdainful of NATO. He campaigned on its obsolescence. His inaugural address denounced American allies as cunning parasites living off American wealth and generosity.

One of Trump’s top outside advisers, Newt Gingrich, says that “Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg,” as if Russian designs on the Baltic states are not at all unreasonable.

Moreover, Trump devoted much of that same speech, the highlight of his first presidential trip to NATO, to berating the allies for not paying their fair share. Nothing particularly wrong with that, or new – half a century ago, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield was so offended by NATO free riding that he called for major reductions of U.S. troops in Europe.

That’s an American perennial. But if you’re going to berate, at least reassure as well. Especially given rising Russian threats and aggression. Especially given that Trump’s speech was teed up precisely for such reassurance.

An administration official had spread the word that he would use the speech to endorse Article 5. And it was delivered at a ceremony honoring the first and only invocation of Article 5 – ironically enough, by the allies in support of America after 9/11.

And yet Trump deliberately, defiantly refused to simply say it: “America will always honor its commitment under Article 5.”

It’s not that, had Trump said the magic words, everyone would have 100 percent confidence we would strike back if Russia were to infiltrate little green men into Estonia, as it did in Crimea. But Trump’s refusal to utter those words does lower whatever probability Vladimir Putin might attach to America responding with any seriousness to Russian aggression against a NATO ally.

Angela Merkel said Sunday (without mentioning his name) that after Trump’s visit it is clear that Europe can no longer rely on others.

It’s not that yesterday Europe could fully rely – and today it cannot rely at all. It’s simply that the American deterrent has been weakened. And deterrence weakened is an invitation to instability, miscalculation, provocation and worse.

And for what?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Any peace in the Middle East must start in Saudi Arabia http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/26/charles-krauthammer-any-peace-in-the-middle-east-must-start-in-saudi-arabia/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/26/charles-krauthammer-any-peace-in-the-middle-east-must-start-in-saudi-arabia/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1202012 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.

It will fail as well. To be sure, no great harm has, as yet, come from President Trump’s enthusiasm for what would be “the ultimate deal.” It will, however, distract and detract from remarkable progress being made elsewhere in the Middle East.

That progress began with Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia, the first of his presidency – an unmistakable declaration of a radical reorientation of U.S. policy in the region. Message: The appeasement of Iran is over.

Barack Obama’s tilt toward Iran in the great Muslim civil war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arabs led by Saudi Arabia was his reach for Nixon-to-China glory. It ended ignominiously.

The idea that the nuclear deal would make Iran more moderate has proved spectacularly wrong, as demonstrated by its defiant ballistic missile launches, its indispensable support for the genocidal Assad regime in Syria, its backing of the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, its worldwide support for terrorism, its relentless anti-Americanism and commitment to the annihilation of Israel.

These aggressions were supposed to abate. They didn’t. On the contrary, the cash payments and the lifting of economic sanctions – Tehran’s reward for the nuclear deal – have only given its geopolitical thrusts more power and reach.

The reversal has now begun. The first act was Trump’s Riyadh address to about 50 Muslim states (the overwhelming majority of them Sunni) signaling a wide Islamic alliance committed to resisting Iran and willing to cast its lot with the American side.

That was objective No. 1. The other was to turn the Sunni powers against Sunni terrorism.

The Islamic State is Sunni. Al-Qaida is Sunni. Fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. And the spread of Saudi-funded madrassas around the world has for decades inculcated a poisonous Wahhabism that has fueled Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states publicly declaring war on their bastard terrorist child is significant.

As is their pledge not to tolerate any semiofficial support or private donations. And their opening during the summit of an anti-terrorism center in Riyadh.

After eight years of U.S. policy hovering between neglect and betrayal, the Sunni Arabs are relieved to have America back. A salutary side effect is the possibility of a detente with Israel.

That would suggest an outside-in approach to Arab-Israeli peace: a rapprochement between the Sunni state and Israel (the outside) would put pressure on the Palestinians to come to terms (the inside). It’s a long-shot strategy but it’s better than all the others. Unfortunately, Trump muddied the waters a bit in Israel by at times reverting to the opposite strategy – the inside-out – by saying that an Israeli-Palestinian deal would “begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East.”

That is well-worn nonsense. Imagine if Israel disappeared tomorrow in an earthquake. Does that end the civil war in Syria? The instability in Iraq? The fighting in Yemen? Does it change anything of consequence amid the intra-Arab chaos? Of course not.

And apart from being delusional, the inside-out strategy is at present impossible. Palestinian leadership is both hopelessly weak and irredeemably rejectionist. Until it is prepared to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state – which it has never done in the 100 years since the Balfour Declaration committed Britain to a Jewish homeland in Palestine – there will be no peace.

It may come one day. But not now. Which is why making the Israel-Palestinian issue central, rather than peripheral, to the epic Sunni-Shiite war shaking the Middle East today is a serious tactical mistake. It subjects any now-possible reconciliation between Israel and the Arab states to a Palestinian veto.

Ironically, the Iranian threat that grew under Obama offers a unique opportunity for U.S.-Arab and even Israeli-Arab cooperation. Over time, such cooperation could gradually acclimate Arab peoples to a nonbelligerent stance toward Israel. Which might in turn help persuade the Palestinians to make some concessions before their fellow Arabs finally tire of the Palestinians’ century of rejectionism.

Perhaps that will require a peace process of sorts. No great harm, as long as we remember that any such Israeli-Palestinian talks are for show – until conditions are one day ripe for peace.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: No guardrails of our democracy can contain the chaos of Donald Trump http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/no-guardrails-of-our-democracy-can-contain-the-chaos-of-donald-trump/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/19/no-guardrails-of-our-democracy-can-contain-the-chaos-of-donald-trump/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1198340 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.

Donald Trump’s character – volatile, impulsive, often self-destructive – had not changed since the campaign. But it seemed as if the guardrails of our democracy – Congress, the courts, the states, the media, the Cabinet – were keeping things within bounds.

Then came the last 10 days. The country is now caught in the internal maelstrom that is the mind of Donald Trump. We are in the realm of the id. Chaos reigns. No guardrails can hold.

Normal activity disappears. North Korea’s launch of an alarming new missile and a problematic visit from the president of Turkey (locus of our most complicated and tortured allied relationship) barely evoke notice. Nothing can escape the black hole of a three-part presidential meltdown.

 First, the firing of James Comey. Trump, consumed by the perceived threat of the Russia probe to his legitimacy, executes a mindlessly impulsive dismissal of the FBI director. He then surrounds it with a bodyguard of lies – attributing the dismissal to a Justice Department recommendation – which his staff goes out and parrots. Only to be undermined and humiliated when the boss contradicts them within 48 hours.

Result? Layers of falsehoods giving the impression of an elaborate cover-up – in the absence of a crime. At least Nixon was trying to quash a third-rate burglary and associated felonies. Here we don’t even have a body, let alone a smoking gun. Trump insists there’s no there there, but acts as if the there is everywhere.

 Second, Trump’s divulging classified information to the Russians. A stupid, needless mistake. But despite the media hysteria, hardly an irreparable national security calamity.

The Israelis, whose asset might have been jeopardized, are no doubt upset, but the notion that this will cause a great rupture to their (and others’) intelligence relationship with the U.S. is nonsense. These kinds of things happen all the time. When the Obama administration spilled secrets of the anti-Iranian Stuxnet virus or blew the cover of a double agent in Yemen, there was none of the garment-rending that followed Trump’s disclosure.

Once again, however, the cover-up far exceeded the crime. Trump had three top officials come out and declare the disclosure story false. The next morning, Trump tweeted he was entirely within his rights to reveal what he revealed, thereby verifying the truth of the story. His national security adviser H.R. McMaster floundered his way through a news conference, trying to reconcile his initial denial with Trump’s subsequent contradiction. It was a sorry sight.

 Is it any wonder, therefore, that when the third crisis hit Tuesday night – the Comey memo claiming that Trump tried to get him to call off the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn – Republicans hid under their beds rather than come out to defend the president? The White House hurriedly issued a statement denying the story. The statement was unsigned. You want your name on a statement that your boss could peremptorily contradict? Republicans are beginning to panic. One sign is the notion now circulating that, perhaps to fend off ultimate impeachment, Trump be dumped by way of the 25th Amendment.

That’s the post-Kennedy assassination measure that provides for removing an incapacitated president on the decision of the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet.

This is the worst idea since Leno at 10 p.m. It perverts the very intent of the amendment. It was meant for a stroke, not stupidity; for Alzheimer’s, not narcissism. Otherwise, what it authorizes is a coup – willful overthrow by the leader’s own closest associates.

Moreover, this would be seen by millions as an establishment usurpation to get rid of a disruptive outsider. It would be the most destabilizing event in American political history – the gratuitous overthrow of an essential constant in American politics, namely the fixedness of the presidential term (save for high crimes and misdemeanors).

Trump’s behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It’s been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may. But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: With both Republicans and Democrats angry, Trump had to let Comey go http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/12/with-both-republicans-and-democrats-angry-trump-had-to-let-comey-go/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/12/with-both-republicans-and-democrats-angry-trump-had-to-let-comey-go/#respond Fri, 12 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1194810 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.

It was implausible that Comey was fired by Donald Trump for having been too tough on Hillary Clinton, as when, at that July news conference, he publicly recited her various email misdeeds despite recommending against prosecution.

It was implausible that Trump fired Comey for, among other things, reopening the Clinton investigation 11 days before the election, something that at the time Trump praised as a sign of Comey’s “guts” that had “brought back his reputation.”

It was implausible that Trump, a man notorious for being swayed by close and loyal personal advisers, fired Comey on the recommendation of a sub-Cabinet official whom Trump hardly knew and who’d been on the job all of two weeks.

It was implausible that Trump found Rosenstein’s arguments so urgently persuasive that he acted immediately – so precipitously, in fact, that Comey learned of his own firing from TVs that happened to be playing behind him.

These implausibilities were obvious within seconds of Comey’s firing and the administration’s immediate attempt to pin it all on the Rosenstein memo. That was pure spin. So why in reality did Trump fire Comey?

Admittedly, Comey had to go. The cliche is that if you’ve infuriated both sides, it means you must be doing something right. Sometimes, however, it means you must be doing everything wrong.

Over the last year, Comey has been repeatedly wrong. Not, in my view, out of malice or partisanship (although his self-righteousness about his own probity does occasionally grate). He was in an unprecedented situation with unpalatable choices. Never in American presidential history had a major party nominated a candidate under official FBI investigation. (Turns out the Trump campaign was under investigation as well.) Which makes the normal injunction that FBI directors not interfere in elections facile and impossible to follow. Any course of action – disclosure or silence, commission or omission – carried unavoidable electoral consequences.

Comey had to make up the rules as he went along. He did. That was not his downfall. His downfall was making up contradictory, illogical rules, such as the July 5 non-indictment indictment of Clinton.

A series of these – and Comey became anathema to both Democrats and Republicans. Clinton blamed her loss on two people. One of them was Comey.

And there’s the puzzle. There was ample bipartisan sentiment for letting Comey go. And there was ample time from Election Day on to do so. A simple talk, a gold watch, a friendly farewell, a Comey resignation to allow the new president to pick the new director. No fanfare, no rancor.

True, this became more difficult after March 20, when Comey revealed that the FBI was investigating the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. Difficult but not impossible. For example, just last week Comey had committed an egregious factual error about the Huma Abedin emails that the FBI had to abjectly walk back in a written memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here was an opportunity for a graceful exit: Comey regrets the mistake and notes that some of the difficult decisions he had previously made necessarily cost him the confidence of various parties. Time for a clean slate. Add the usual boilerplate about not wanting to be a distraction at such a crucial time. Awkward perhaps, but still dignified and amicable.

Instead we got this – a political ax murder, brutal even by Washington standards. (Or even Roman standards. Where was the vein-opening knife and the warm bath?) No final meeting, no letter of resignation, no presidential thanks, no cordial parting. Instead, a blindsided Comey ends up in a live-streamed O.J. Bronco ride, bolting from Los Angeles to be flown, defrocked, back to Washington.

Why? Trump had become increasingly agitated with the Russia-election investigation and Comey’s public part in it. If Trump thought this would kill the inquiry and the story, or perhaps even just derail it somewhat, he’s made the blunder of the decade. Whacking Comey has brought more critical attention to the Russia story than anything imaginable. It won’t stop the FBI investigation.

And the confirmation hearings for a successor will become a nationally televised forum for collusion allegations, which up till now have remained a scandal in search of a crime.

So why did he do it? Now we know: The king asked whether no one would rid him of this troublesome priest, and got so impatient he did it himself.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: President Trump is somewhat normalized, but still scary http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/05/president-trump-is-somewhat-normalized-but-still-scary/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/05/05/president-trump-is-somewhat-normalized-but-still-scary/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1191248 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.

Admittedly, this is a low bar. And this is not to deny the insanity, incoherence and sheer weirdness emanating daily from the White House, with which we’ve all come up with our own coping technique. Here’s mine: I simply view President Trump as the Wizard of Oz.

Loud and bombastic. A charlatan. Nothing behind the screen – other than the institutional chaos that defines his White House and the psychic chaos that governs his ever-changing mind. What to do? Ignore what’s behind the curtain. Deal with what comes out in front: the policy, the actions.

And so far they hang together enough – Neil Gorsuch, Keystone XL, NATO reassurances, Syria strike, Cabinet appointments – that one can begin to talk plausibly about the normalization of this presidency.

Hence the relief. But there are limitations to the Wizard of Oz approach. Some things do extrude from behind the curtain that are hard to ignore. And here I am not counting the gratuitous idiocies that can, despite their entertainment value, be safely ignored – for example, Trump’s puzzlement as to why the Civil War was not avoided and how Andrew Jackson, who’d been dead 16 years, was so upset by its outbreak.

These are embarrassments, but they don’t materially affect the course of his presidency or of the country. Some weirdnesses, however, do.

Such as, Trump’s late-April pronouncements on South Korea. Being less entertaining, they were vastly underreported. Here’s the context:

Trump is orchestrating a worldwide campaign to pressure North Korea on its nukes and missiles. He dispatches (finally) the USS Carl Vinson strike group to Korean waters and raises the possibility of a “major, major conflict” with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, we are working furiously to complete a THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea to intercept North Korean rockets.

At which point, out of the blue, Trump tells Reuters that Seoul will have to pay for the THAAD system. And by the way, that 5-year-old U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement is a disaster and needs to be torn up.

Now, South Korea is in the middle of a highly charged presidential campaign. The pro-American president was recently impeached and is now under indictment. The opposition party is ahead. It is wary of the U.S., accommodating to North Korea and highly negative about installing that THAAD system on its soil.

We had agreed with Seoul that they would provide the land and the infrastructure, and we would pay the $1 billion cost. Without warning, Trump reneges on the deal, saying South Korea will have to foot the bill. This stirs anti-American feeling and gives opposition candidate Moon Jae-in the perfect campaign issue.

What is it with this president insisting that other people pay for things we want? And for what? In a $4 trillion budget, $1 billion is a rounding error.

So self-defeating was the idea that within three days, national security adviser H.R. McMaster had to walk it all back, assuring the South Koreans that we would honor our agreement and send no $1 billion invoice.

But the damage was done. Moon’s campaign feasted. The pro-American party was thrown on its heels. And the very future of THAAD – and a continued united front against Pyongyang under a likely Moon administration – is in doubt.

As for the trade deal, the installation of THAAD has so angered China that it has already initiated an economic squeeze on South Korea. To which Trump would add a trade rupture with the United States.

The South Korean blunder reinforces lingering fears about Trump. Especially because it was an unforced error. What happens in an externally caused crisis? Then, there is no hiding, no guardrails, no cushioning. It’s the wisdom and understanding of one man versus whatever the world has thrown up against us. However normalized this presidency may be day to day, in such a moment all bets are off.

What happens when the red phone rings at 3 in the morning? I’d say: Let it ring. Let the wizard sleep. Forward the call to Defense Secretary Mattis.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: The populist wave has crested, but it’s a pause, not a retreat http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/28/charles-krauthammer-the-populist-wave-has-crested-but-its-a-pause-not-a-retreat/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/28/charles-krauthammer-the-populist-wave-has-crested-but-its-a-pause-not-a-retreat/#respond Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187839 Yesterday’s conventional wisdom: A wave of insurgent populism is sweeping the West, threatening its foundational institutions – the European Union, the Western alliance, even liberal democracy itself.

Today’s conventional wisdom (post-first-round French presidential election): The populist wave has crested, soon to abate.

Chances are that both verdicts are wrong. The anti-establishment sentiment that gave us Brexit, then Donald Trump, then seemed poised to give us Marine Le Pen, has indeed plateaued. But although she will likely be defeated in the second round, victory by the leading centrist, Emmanuel Macron, would hardly constitute an establishment triumph.

Macron barely edged out a Cro-Magnon communist (Jean-Luc Melenchon), a blood-and-soil nationalist (Le Pen) and a center-right candidate brought low by charges of nepotism and corruption (Francois Fillon). And the ruling Socialist candidate came in fifth, garnering a pathetic 6 percent of the vote.

On the other hand, the populists can hardly be encouraged by what has followed Brexit and Trump: Dutch elections, where the nationalist Geert Wilders faded toward the end and came nowhere near power; Austrian elections, where another nationalist challenge was turned back; and upcoming German elections, where polls indicate that the far-right nationalists are at barely 10 percent and slipping. And, of course, France.

In retrospect, the populist panic may have been overblown. Regarding Brexit, for example, the shock exaggerated its meaning. Because it was so unexpected, it became a sensation. But in the longer view, Britain has always been deeply ambivalent about Europe, going back at least to Henry VIII and his break with Rome. In the intervening 500 years, Britain has generally seen itself as less a part of Europe than an offshore island.

The true historical anomaly was Britain’s EU membership with all the attendant transfer of sovereignty from Westminster to Brussels. Brexit was a rather brutal return to the extra-European norm, but the norm it is.

The other notable populist victory, the triumph of Trump, has also turned out to be less than meets the eye. He certainly ran as a populist and won as a populist but, a mere 100 days in, he is governing as a traditionalist.

The Obamacare replacement proposals are traditional small-government fixes. His tax reform is a follow-on to Reagan’s from 1986. His Supreme Court pick is a straight-laced, constitutional conservative out of central casting. And his more notable executive orders read as a wish list of traditional, business-oriented conservatism, from regulatory reform to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

I happen to support all of these moves, but they don’t qualify as insurrectionist populism. The one exception may be trade policy. As of now, however, it remains ad hoc and idiosyncratic. Trump has made gestures and threats to those cunning Mexicans, Chinese and now Canadians. But it’s not yet clear if he is serious about, say, withdrawing from NAFTA or just engaging in a series of opening negotiating gambits.

The softwood timber dispute with Canada is hardly new. It dates back 35 years. Every intervening administration has contested the terms of trade in various forums. A full-scale trade war with our leading trading partner would indeed break new ground. Anything short of that, however, is the art of the deal.

The normalization of Trump is one indicator that there may be less to the populist insurrection than imagined. The key, however, is Europe, where the stakes are infinitely higher. There the issue is the future of the nation state itself, as centuries of sovereignty dissolve within an expanding superstate. It influences every aspect of daily life – from the ethnic makeup of neighborhoods to the currency that changes hands at the grocery.

The news from France, where Macron is openly, indeed ostentatiously, pro-European (his campaign headquarters flies the EU flag) is that France is not quite prepared to give up on the great experiment. But the Europeanist elites had better not imagine this to be an enduring verdict. The populist revolt was a reaction to their reckless and anti-democratic push for even greater integration. The task today is to address the sources of Europe’s economic stagnation and social alienation rather than blindly pursue the very drive that led to this precarious moment.

If the populist threat turns out to have frightened the existing powers out of their arrogant complacency, it should be deemed a success. But make no mistake: The French election wasn’t a victory for the status quo. It was a reprieve. For now, the populist wave is not in retreat. It’s on pause.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: U.S. still has cards to play in North Korean crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/united-states-still-has-cards-to-play-in-north-korean-crisis/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/united-states-still-has-cards-to-play-in-north-korean-crisis/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184773 The crisis with North Korea may appear trumped up. It’s not.

Given that Pyongyang has had nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for more than a decade, why the panic now? Because North Korea is headed for a nuclear breakout. The regime has openly declared that it is racing to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States – and thus destroy an American city at a Kim Jong Un push of a button.

The North Koreans are not bluffing. They’ve made significant progress with solid-fuel rockets, which are more quickly deployable and thus more easily hidden and less subject to detection and pre-emption.

At the same time, Pyongyang has been steadily adding to its supply of nuclear weapons. Today it has an estimated 10 to 16. By 2020, it could very well have 100. (For context: The British are thought to have about 200.)

Hence the crisis. We simply cannot concede to Kim Jong Un the capacity to annihilate American cities.

Some will argue for deterrence. If it held off the Russians and the Chinese for all these years, why not the North Koreans? First, because deterrence, even with a rational adversary like the old Soviet Union, is never a sure thing. We came pretty close to nuclear war in October 1962.

And second, because North Korea’s regime is bizarre in the extreme, a hermit kingdom run by a weird, utterly ruthless and highly erratic god-king. You can’t count on Caligula. The regime is savage and cult-like; its people, robotic. Karen Elliott House once noted that while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a prison, North Korea was an ant colony.

Ant colonies do not have good checks and balances.

If not deterrence, then prevention. But how? The best hope is for China to exercise its influence and induce North Korea to give up its programs.

For years, the Chinese made gestures, but never did anything remotely decisive. They have their reasons. It’s not just that they fear a massive influx of refugees if the Kim regime disintegrates.

It’s also that Pyongyang is a perpetual thorn in the side of the Americans, whereas regime collapse brings South Korea (and thus America) right up to the Yalu River.

So why would the Chinese do our bidding now?

For a variety of reasons.

 They don’t mind tension but they don’t want war. And the risk of war is rising. They know that the ICBM threat is totally unacceptable to the Americans. And that the current administration appears particularly committed to enforcing this undeclared red line.

 Chinese interests are being significantly damaged by the erection of regional missile defenses to counteract North Korea’s nukes. South Korea is racing to install a THAAD anti-missile system. Japan may follow. THAAD’s mission is to track and shoot down incoming rockets from North Korea but, like any missile shield, it necessarily reduces the power and penetration of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

 For China to do nothing risks the return of the American tactical nukes in South Korea, withdrawn in 1991.

 If the crisis deepens, the possibility arises of South Korea and, most importantly, Japan going nuclear themselves. The latter is the ultimate Chinese nightmare.

These are major cards America can play. Our objective should be clear. At a minimum, a testing freeze. At the maximum, regime change.

Because Beijing has such a strong interest in the current regime, we could sweeten the latter offer by abjuring Korean reunification. This would not be Germany, where the communist state was absorbed into the West. We would accept an independent, but Finlandized, North.

During the Cold War, Finland was, by agreement, independent but always pro-Russian in foreign policy. Here we would guarantee that a new North Korea would be independent but always oriented toward China. For example, the new regime would forswear ever joining any hostile alliance.

There are deals to be made. They may have to be underpinned by demonstrations of American resolve.

A pre-emptive attack on North Korea’s nuclear facilities and missile sites would be too dangerous, as it would almost surely precipitate an invasion of South Korea with untold millions of casualties. We might, however, try to shoot down a North Korean missile in mid-flight to demonstrate both our capacity to defend ourselves and the futility of a North Korean missile force that can be neutralized technologically.

The Korea crisis is real and growing. But we are not helpless. We have choices. We have assets. It’s time to deploy them.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Gorsuch case brings karma, precedent and the nuclear option http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/gorsuch-case-brings-karma-precedent-and-the-nuclear-option/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/gorsuch-case-brings-karma-precedent-and-the-nuclear-option/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1178084 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.

Everyone appeals to high principle, when everyone knows these fights are about raw power. When Democrat Harry Reid had the majority in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, he abolished the filibuster in 2013 for sub-Supreme Court judicial appointments in order to pack three liberal judges onto the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bad karma, bad precedent, he was warned. Republicans would one day be in charge. That day is here and Republicans have just stopped a Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch by extending the Reid Rule to the Supreme Court.

To be sure, there are reasoned arguments to be offered on both sides of the filibuster question. It is true that the need for a supermajority does encourage compromise and coalition building. But given the contemporary state of hyperpolarization – the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats of 40 years ago are long gone – the supermajority requirement today merely guarantees inaction, which, in turn, amplifies the current popular disgust with politics in general and Congress in particular. In my view, that makes paring back the vastly overused filibuster, on balance, a good thing.

Moreover, killing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations (the so-called nuclear option) yields two gratifications: It allows a superb young conservative jurist to ascend to the seat once held by Antonin Scalia. And it constitutes condign punishment for the reckless arrogance of Reid and his erstwhile Democratic majority.

A major reason these fights over Supreme Court nominations have become so bitter and unseemly is the stakes – the political stakes. The Supreme Court has become more than ever a superlegislature. From abortion to gay marriage, it has appropriated to itself the final word. It rules – and the normal democratic impulses, expressed through the elected branches, are henceforth stifled. Why have we had almost half a century of massive street demonstrations over abortion? Because the ballot box is not available. The court has spoken, and the question is supposedly settled for all time.

This transfer of legislative authority has suited American liberalism rather well. When you command the allegiance of 20 to 25 percent of the population (as measured by Gallup), you know that whatever control you will have of the elected branches will be fleeting (2009-2010, for example). So how do you turn the political order in your direction? Capture the courts.

They are what banks were to Willie Sutton. They are where you go for the right political outcomes. Note how practically every argument at the Gorsuch hearings was about political outcomes. Where would he come out on abortion? Gay marriage? The Democrats pretended this was about principle, e.g., the sanctity of precedent. But everyone knows which precedents they selectively cherish: Roe v. Wade and, more recently, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Liberalism does not want to admit that the court has become its last reliable instrument for achieving its political objectives. So liberals have created a great philosophical superstructure to justify their freewheeling, freestyle constitutional interpretation. They present themselves as defenders of a “living Constitution” under which the role of the court is to reflect the evolving norms of society. With its finger on the pulse of the people, the court turns contemporary culture into constitutional law.

But this is nonsense. In a democracy, what better embodiment of evolving norms can there be than elected representatives? By what logic are the norms of a vast and variegated people better reflected in nine appointed lawyers produced by exactly three law schools?

If anything, the purpose of a constitutional court such as ours is to enforce old norms that have preserved both our vitality and our liberty for 230 years. How? By providing a rugged reliable frame within which the political churnings of each generation take place.

The Gorsuch nomination is a bitter setback to the liberal project of using the courts to ratchet leftward the law and society. However, Gorsuch’s appointment simply preserves the court’s ideological balance of power. Wait for the next nomination. Having gratuitously forfeited the filibuster, Democrats will be facing the loss of the court for a generation.

Condign punishment indeed.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: America may be on the road to single-payer health care http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/charles-krauthammer-america-may-be-on-the-road-to-single-payer-health-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/charles-krauthammer-america-may-be-on-the-road-to-single-payer-health-care/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1174824 Repeal-and-replace is not quite dead. It has been declared so, but what that means is that, for now, the president has (apparently) washed his hands of it and the House Republicans appear unable to reconcile their differences.

Neither condition needs to be permanent. There are ideological differences between the various Republican factions, but what’s overlooked is the role that procedure played in producing the deadlock. And procedure can easily be changed.

The House leadership crafted a bill that would meet the delicate requirements of “reconciliation” in order to create a (more achievable) threshold of 51 rather than 60 votes in the Senate. But this meant that some of the more attractive, market-oriented reforms had to be left out, relegated to a future measure (a so-called phase-three bill) that might never actually arrive.

Yet the more stripped-down proposal died, anyway. So why not go for the gold next time? Pass a bill that incorporates phase-three reforms and send it on to the Senate.

September might be the time for resurrecting repeal-and-replace. That’s when insurers recalibrate premiums for the coming year, precipitating our annual bout of Obamacare sticker shock. By then, even more insurers will be dropping out of the exchanges, further reducing choice and service. These should help dissipate the pre-emptive nostalgia for Obamacare that emerged during the current debate.

At which point, the House leadership should present a repeal-and-replace that includes phase-three provisions such as tort reform and permitting the buying of insurance across state lines, both of which would significantly lower costs.

Even more significant would be stripping out the heavy-handed Obamacare coverage mandate that dictates what specific medical benefits must be included in every insurance policy in the country, regardless of the purchaser’s desires or needs.

Best to mandate nothing. Let the customer decide. A 60-year-old couple doesn’t need maternity coverage. Why should they be forced to pay for it? And I don’t know about you, but I don’t need lactation services.

This would satisfy the House Freedom Caucus’ correct insistence on dismantling Obamacare’s stifling regulatory straitjacket – without scaring off moderates who should understand that no one is being denied “essential health benefits.” Rather, no one is being required to buy what the Jonathan Grubers of the world have decided everyone must have.

It is true that even if this revised repeal-and-replace passes the House, it might die by filibuster in the Senate. In which case, let Senate Democrats explain themselves and suffer the consequences. Perhaps, however, such a bill might engender debate and revision – and come back to the House for an old-fashioned House-Senate conference and a possible compromise. This in and of itself would constitute major progress.

That’s procedure. It’s fixable. But there is an ideological consideration that could ultimately determine the fate of any Obamacare replacement. Obamacare may turn out to be unworkable, indeed doomed, but it is having a profound effect on the zeitgeist: It is universalizing the idea of universal coverage. Acceptance of its major premise – that no one be denied health care – is more widespread than ever. Even House Speaker Paul Ryan avers that “our goal is to give every American access to quality, affordable health care,” making universality an essential premise of his own reform. And look at how sensitive and defensive Republicans have been about the possibility of people losing coverage in any Obamacare repeal.

A broad national consensus is developing that health care is indeed a right. This is historically new. And it carries immense implications for the future. It suggests that we may be heading inexorably to a government-run, single-payer system. It’s what Barack Obama once admitted he would have preferred but didn’t think the country was ready for. It may be ready now.

As Obamacare continues to unravel, it won’t take much for Democrats to abandon that Rube Goldberg wreckage and go for the simplicity and the universality of Medicare-for-all. Republicans will have one last chance to try to convince the country to remain with a market-based system, preferably one encompassing all the provisions that, for procedural reasons, had been left out of their latest proposal.

Don’t be surprised, however, if, in the end, single-payer wins out. Indeed, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if Donald Trump, reading the zeitgeist, pulls the greatest 180 since Disraeli dished the Whigs in 1867 (by radically expanding the franchise) and joins the single-payer side.

Talk about disruption? About kicking over the furniture? That would be an American Krakatoa.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: In Trumpian era, American democracy is not so decadent, after all http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/charles-krauthammer-in-trumpian-era-american-democracy-is-not-so-decadent-after-all/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/24/charles-krauthammer-in-trumpian-era-american-democracy-is-not-so-decadent-after-all/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1171680 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.

Let me explain. Donald Trump’s triumph last year was based on a frontal attack on the Washington “establishment,” that all-powerful, all-seeing, supremely cynical, bipartisan “cartel” (as Ted Cruz would have it) that allegedly runs everything. Yet the establishment proved to be Potemkin empty. In 2016, it folded pitifully, surrendering with barely a fight to a lightweight outsider.

At which point, fear of the vaunted behemoth turned to contempt for its now-exposed lassitude and decadence. Compounding the confusion were Trump’s intimations of authoritarianism. He declared, “I alone can fix it” and “I am your voice,” the classic tropes of the demagogue. He unabashedly expressed admiration for strongmen (most notably, Vladimir Putin).

Trump had just cut through the grandees like a hot knife through butter. Who would now prevent him from trampling, caudillo-like, over a Washington grown weak and decadent? A Washington, moreover, that had declined markedly in public esteem, as confidence in our traditional institutions – from the political parties to Congress – fell to new lows.

The strongman cometh, it was feared. Who and what would stop him?

Two months into the Trumpian era, we have our answer. Our checks and balances have turned out to be quite vibrant. Consider:

n The courts: Trump rolls out not one but two immigration bans, and is stopped dead in his tracks by the courts. However you feel about the merits of the policy itself (in my view, execrable and useless but legal) or the merits of the constitutional reasoning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (embarrassingly weak, transparently political), the fact remains: The president proposed and the courts disposed.

Trump’s pushback? A plaintive tweet or two complaining about the judges – that his own Supreme Court nominee denounced (if obliquely) as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

n The states: Federalism lives. The first immigration challenge to Trump was brought by the attorneys general of two states (Washington and Minnesota) picking up on a trend begun during the Barack Obama years when state attorneys general banded together to kill his immigration overreach and the more egregious trespasses of his Environmental Protection Agency.

And beyond working through the courts, state governors – Republicans, no less – have been exerting pressure on members of Congress to oppose a Republican president’s signature health care reform. Institutional exigency still trumps party loyalty.

n Congress: The Republican-controlled Congress (House and Senate) is putting up epic resistance to a Republican administration’s health care reform. True, that’s because of ideological and tactical disagreements rather than any particular desire to hem in Trump. But it does demonstrate that Congress is no rubber stamp.

And its independence extends beyond the perennially divisive health care conundrums. Trump’s budget, for example, was instantly declared dead on arrival in Congress, as it almost invariably is regardless of which party is in power.

n The media: Trump is right. It is the opposition party. Indeed, furiously so, often indulging in appalling overkill. It’s sometimes embarrassing to read the front pages of the major newspapers, festooned as they are with anti-Trump editorializing masquerading as news.

Nonetheless, if you take the view from 30,000 feet, better this than a press acquiescing on bended knee, where it spent most of the Obama years in a slavish Pravda-like thrall. Every democracy needs an opposition press. We damn well have one now.

Taken together – and suspending judgment on which side is right on any particular issue – it is deeply encouraging that the sinews of institutional resistance to a potentially threatening executive remain quite resilient.

Madison’s genius was to understand that the best bulwark against tyranny was not virtue – virtue helps, but should never be relied upon – but ambition counteracting ambition, faction counteracting faction.

You see it even in the confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s supremely qualified and measured Supreme Court nominee. He’s a slam dunk, yet some factions have scraped together a campaign to block him. Their ads are plaintive and pathetic. Yet I find them warmly reassuring. What a country – where even the vacuous have a voice.

The anti-Trump opposition flatters itself as “the resistance.” As if this is Vichy France. It’s not. It’s 21st-century America. And the good news is that the checks and balances are working just fine.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: For those trying to replace Obamacare, all options lead to trouble http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/charles-krauthammer-for-those-trying-to-replace-obamacare-all-options-lead-to-trouble/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/17/charles-krauthammer-for-those-trying-to-replace-obamacare-all-options-lead-to-trouble/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1168436 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.

The genius of the left is to keep enlarging the entitlement state by creating new giveaways that are politically impossible to repeal. For 20 years, Republicans railed against the New Deal. Yet when they came back into office in 1953, Eisenhower didn’t just keep Social Security, he expanded it.

People hated Obamacare for its high-handedness, incompetence and cost. At the same time, its crafters took great care to create new beneficiaries and new expectations. Which makes repeal very complicated.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that, under Paul Ryan’s Obamacare replacement bill, 24 million will lose insurance within 10 years, 14 million after the first year.

Granted, the number is highly suspect. CBO projects 18 million will be covered by the Obamacare exchanges in 2018. But the number today is about 10 million. That means the CBO estimate of those losing coverage is already about 8 million too high.

Nonetheless, there will be losers. And their stories will be plastered wall to wall across the media as sure as night follows day.

That scares Republican moderates. And yet the main resistance to Ryan comes from conservative members complaining that the bill is not ideologically pure enough. They mock it as Obamacare Lite.

For example, Ryan wants to ease the pain by phasing out Medicaid expansion through 2020. The conservative Republican Study Committee wants it done next year. This is crazy. For the sake of two years’ savings, why would you risk a political crash landing?

Moreover, the idea that you can eradicate Obamacare root and branch is fanciful. For all its catastrophic flaws, Obamacare changed expectations. Does any Republican propose returning to a time when you can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition?

It’s not just Donald Trump who ran on retaining this new, yes, entitlement. Everyone did. But it’s very problematic. If people know that they can sign up for insurance after they get sick, the very idea of insurance is undermined. People won’t sign up when healthy and the insurance companies will go broke.

So what do you do? Obamacare imposed a monetary fine if you didn’t sign up, for which the Ryan bill substitutes another mechanism, less heavy-handed but still government-mandated.

The purists who insist upon entirely escaping the heavy hand of government are dreaming. The best you can hope for is to make it less intrusive and more rational, as in the Ryan plan’s block-granting of Medicaid.

Or instituting a more realistic age-rating system. Sixty-year-olds use six times as much health care as 20-year-olds, yet Obamacare decreed, entirely arbitrarily, that the former could be charged insurance premiums no more than three times that of the latter. The Republican bill changes the ratio from 3-to-1 to 5-to-1.

Premiums better reflecting risk constitute a major restoration of rationality. (It’s how life insurance works.) Under Obamacare, the young were unwilling to be swindled and refused to sign up. Without their support, the whole system is thus headed into a death spiral of looming insolvency.

Rationality, however, has a price. The CBO has already predicted a massive increase in premiums for 60-year-olds. That’s the headline.

There is no free lunch. Republican hard-liners must accept that Americans have become accustomed to some new health care benefits, just as moderates have to brace themselves for stories about the inevitable losers in any reform.

That’s the political price for fulfilling the seven-year promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Unless, of course, you go the full Machiavelli and throw it all back on the Democrats. How? Republicans could forget about meeting the arcane requirements of “reconciliation” legislation (which requires only 51 votes in the Senate) and send the Senate a replacement bill loaded up with everything conservative – including tort reform and insurance competition across state lines. That would require 60 Senate votes. Let the Democrats filibuster it to death – and take the blame when repeal-and-replace fails, Obamacare carries on and then collapses under its own weight.

Upside: You reap the backlash. Downside: You have to live with your conscience.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Washington conspiracy games distract from far more serious issues http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/10/charles-krauthammer-washington-conspiracy-games-distract-from-far-more-serious-issues/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/10/charles-krauthammer-washington-conspiracy-games-distract-from-far-more-serious-issues/#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1165096 When he was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz was once asked about the CIA’s disavowal of involvement in a mysterious recent bombing in Lebanon. Replied Shultz: “If the CIA denies something, it’s denied.”

Has there ever been a more dry, more wry, more ironic verdict on the world of espionage? Within it, there is admission and denial, smoke and mirrors, impenetrable fog and deliberate obfuscation. Truth? Ask the next guy.

Which is why my default view of espionage is to never believe anyone because everyone is trained in deception. This is not a value judgment; it’s a job description.

We learn, for example, from Tuesday’s spectacular WikiLeaks dump that among the CIA’s various and nefarious cybertools is the capacity to simulate intrusion by a foreign power, the equivalent of planting phony fingerprints on a smoking gun.

Who are you going to believe now? I can assure you that some enterprising Trumpite will use this revelation to claim that the whole story line pointing to Russian interference in the U.S. election was a fabrication. And who was behind that? There is no end to this hall of mirrors. My rule, therefore, is: Stay away.

Hard to do with Washington caught up in one of its periodic conspiracy frenzies. Actually, two. One, anti-Donald Trump, is that he and his campaign colluded with Russian intelligence. The other, anti-Barack Obama-CIA-“deep state,” is that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower to ensnare candidate Trump.

The odd thing is that, as of today, there is no evidence for either charge. That won’t, of course, stop the launch of multiple all-consuming investigations.

(1) Collusion:

James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, who has been deeply and publicly at odds with Trump, unequivocally states that he has seen zero evidence of any Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Nor has anyone else.

The contrary suspicion arises because it’s hard to explain why Michael Flynn falsely denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador and why Jeff Sessions falsely denied having any contacts at all. That suggests concealment. But there was nothing inherently inappropriate with either behavior. So why conceal?

Suspicion, nonetheless, is far short of assertion – and a fairly thin basis for a major investigation, let alone for a special prosecutor. To prosecute what, exactly?

(2) Wiretap:

The other storyline is simply fantastical. Congressional Republicans have uniformly run away from Trump’s Obama-wiretap accusation. Clapper denies it. FBI Director James Comey denies it. Not a single member of Trump’s own administration is willing to say it’s true.

Loopier still is to demand that Congress find the truth when the president could just pick up the phone and instruct the FBI, CIA and director of national intelligence to declare on the record whether this ever occurred. And if there really was an October 2016 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order to wiretap Trump, the president could unilaterally declassify the information yesterday.

The bugging story is less plausible than a zombie invasion. Nevertheless, one could spin a milder – and more plausible – scenario of executive abuse. It goes like this:

The intelligence agencies are allowed to listen in on foreigners. But if any Americans are swept up in the conversation, their part of it is supposed to be redacted or concealed to protect their identity. According to The New York Times, however, the Obama administration appears to have gone out of its way to make sure that information picked up about Trump associates’ contacts with Russians was as widely disseminated as possible.

Under Obama, did the agencies deliberately abuse the right to listen in on foreigners as a way to listen in, improperly, on Americans? If they did, we will find out. But for now, all of this is mere conjuring. There is no evidence for either the collusion or the wiretap charge. We are headed down a rabbit hole. An enormous amount of heat and energy will be expended, ending roughly where we started.

What a waste. There is a major national agenda waiting to be debated and enacted. And there is trouble beyond the cozy confines of the capital that needs to be confronted. Self-created crisis can leave us distracted, spent and unprepared when the real thing hits.

It’s unquiet out there. North Korea keeps testing missiles as practice for attacking U.S. bases in Japan. Meanwhile, we are scrambling to install an antimissile shield in South Korea as early as next month. Fuses are burning. When the detonations begin, we’d better not be in the rabbit hole.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: State attorneys general band together to lead revolution http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/03/state-attorneys-general-band-together-to-lead-revolution/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/03/state-attorneys-general-band-together-to-lead-revolution/#respond Fri, 03 Mar 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1161752 Among the many unintended legacies of Barack Obama, one has gone largely unnoticed: the emergence of a novel form of resistance to executive overreach, a check-and-balance improvised in reaction to his various presidential power grabs.

It’s the revolt of the state attorneys general, banding together to sue and curb the executive. And it has outlived Obama. Normally one would expect Congress to be the instrument of resistance to presidential trespass. But Congress has been supine. The Democrats in particular, approving of Obama’s policy preferences, allowed him free rein over Congress’ constitutional prerogatives.

Into that vacuum stepped the states. Florida and 12 others filed suit against Obamacare the day it was signed. They were later joined by 13 others, making their challenge the first in which a majority of states banded together to try to stop anything.

They did not always succeed, but they succeeded a lot. They got Obamacare’s forced Medicaid expansion struck down, though Obamacare as a whole was upheld. Later, a majority of states secured stays for two egregious EPA measures. One had given the feds sovereignty over the generation and distribution of electricity (the Clean Power Plan), the other over practically every ditch and pond in America (the Waters of the United States rule). Their most notable success was blocking Obama’s executive order that essentially would have legalized 4 million illegal immigrants. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said. Not your job, said the courts.

Democrats noticed. And now with a Republican in the White House, they’ve adopted the technique. Having lost control of Congress, they realize that one way to curb presidential power is to go through the states. They just did on Trump’s immigration ban. Taking advantage of the courts’ increased willingness to grant “standing” to the states, Washington state and Minnesota got a district court to issue an injunction against Trump’s executive order and got it upheld by the 9th Circuit. Where the ban died.

A singular victory. Democratic-run states will be emboldened to join together in opposing Trump administration measures issuing from both the agency rulings (especially EPA and the Department of Education) and presidential executive orders.

Is this a good thing? Regardless of your party or policy preferences, you must admit we are witnessing a remarkable phenomenon: the organic response of a constitutional system in which the traditional barriers to overreach have atrophied and a new check-and-balance emerges almost ex nihilo.

Congress has allowed itself to become an increasingly subordinate branch. Look at how reluctant Congress has been to even consider a new authorization for the use of force abroad, an area in which, constitutionally, it should be dominant. Look at today’s Republican Congress, having had years to prepare to govern, now appearing so tentative, almost paralyzed. “Many Republican members,” the Washington Post reports, “are eager for Trump to provide clear marching orders.” The president orders, Congress marches – that is not how the Founders drew it up.

Hence the state attorneys general rise to check the president and his functionaries. This is good. Not because it necessarily produces the best policy outcomes. It often doesn’t.

Not because judicial grants of standing are always correct. The 9th Circuit, in effect, granted Minnesota and Washington standing to represent the due process rights of Yemeni nationals who’ve never set foot in the United States – an imaginary harm to states that presupposes imaginary rights for Yemenis.

And not because it’s necessarily good for the judicial system to acquire, through this process, yet more power. This really should be adjudicated by the elected branches. Problem is: Congress has abdicated.

Nonetheless, the revolt of the AGs is to be celebrated. It is a reassuring sign of the creativity and suppleness of the American Constitution, of its amphibian capacity to grow a new limb when an old one atrophies.

This is, of course, not the first time the states have asserted themselves against federal power. There was Fort Sumter, 1861, when the instruments employed were rather more blunt than the multistate lawsuit. All the more reason to celebrate this modern device.

I’m sure conservatives won’t like many of the outcomes over the next four years, just as many liberals deeply disapproved of the Obama-blocking outcomes of the recent past.

The point, however, is not outcome but process. Remarkably, we have spontaneously developed a new one – to counter executive willfulness. There’s a reason that after two and a half centuries the French are on their Fifth Republic and we are still on our first.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s grown-ups help the world deal with his bouts of loopiness http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/24/charles-krauthammer-trumps-grown-ups-help-the-world-deal-with-his-bouts-of-loopiness/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/24/charles-krauthammer-trumps-grown-ups-help-the-world-deal-with-his-bouts-of-loopiness/#respond Fri, 24 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1158299 At the heart of Donald Trump’s foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945.

Practically every member of the team – the heads of the CIA and the State and Homeland Security departments, and most especially Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster – could fit in a Cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.

The commander in chief, on the other hand, is quite the opposite – inexperienced, untraditional, unbounded. His pronouncements on everything from the “one China” policy to the two-state (Arab-Israeli) solution, from NATO obsolescence to the ravages of free trade, continue to confound and, as we say today, disrupt.

The obvious question is: Can this arrangement possibly work? The answer thus far, surprisingly, is: perhaps.

The sample size is tiny, but take, for example, the German excursion. Trump dispatched his grown-ups – Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – to various international confabs in Germany to reassure allies with the usual pieties about America’s commitment to European security. They did drop a few hints to Trump’s loud complaints about allied parasitism, in particular shirking their share of the defense burden.

Within days, Germany announced a 20,000-man expansion of its military. Smaller European countries are likely to take note of the new setup. It’s classic good-cop, bad-cop: The secretaries represent foreign policy continuity but their boss preaches America First. Message: Shape up.

John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggests that the push-pull effect might work on foes as well as friends. Last Saturday, China announced a cutoff of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of 2017.

Constituting more than one-third of all North Korean exports, this is a major blow to its economy.

True, part of the reason could be Chinese ire at the brazen assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother, who had been under Chinese protection. Nonetheless, the boycott was declared just days after a provocative North Korean missile launch – and shortly into the term of a new American president who has shown that he can be erratic and quite disdainful of Chinese sensibilities.

His wavering on the “one China” policy took Beijing by surprise.

Trump also strongly denounced Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and conducted an ostentatious love-in with Japan’s prime minister, something guaranteed to rankle the Chinese. Beijing’s boycott of Pyongyang is many things, among them a nod to Washington.

This suggests that the peculiar and discordant makeup of the U.S. national security team – traditionalist lieutenants, disruptive boss – might reproduce the old Nixonian “Madman Theory.” That’s when adversaries tread carefully because they suspect the U.S. president of being unpredictable, occasionally reckless and potentially crazy dangerous. Henry Kissinger, with Nixon’s collaboration, tried more than once to exploit this perception to pressure adversaries.

Trump’s people have already shown a delicate touch in dealing with his bouts of loopiness. Trump has gone on for years about how we should have taken Iraq’s oil for ourselves. Sunday in Baghdad, Mattis wryly backed off, telling his hosts that “All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future.”

Yet sometimes an off-center comment can have its uses. Take Trump’s casual dismissal of a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. The next day, U.S. policy was brought back in line by his own U.N. ambassador. But this diversion might prove salutary. It’s a message to the Palestinians that their decades of rejectionism may not continue to pay off with an inexorable march toward statehood

To be sure, a two-track, two-policy, two-reality foreign policy is risky, unsettling and has the potential to go totally off the rails.

This is not how you would draw it up in advance. It’s unstable and confusing. But the experience of the first month suggests that, with prudence and luck, it can yield the occasional benefit – that the combination of radical rhetoric and conventional policy may induce better behavior both in friend and foe.

Alas, there is also a worst-case scenario. It needs no elaboration.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Even if Flynn’s talks are not a crime, the cover-up is baffling http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/krauthammer-even-if-flynns-talks-are-not-a-crime-the-cover-up-is-baffling/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/17/krauthammer-even-if-flynns-talks-are-not-a-crime-the-cover-up-is-baffling/#respond Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1154768 It’s a Watergate-era cliche that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. In the Mike Flynn affair, we have the first recorded instance of a cover-up in the absence of a crime.

Being covered up were the Dec. 29 phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. The presumed violation was Flynn negotiating with a foreign adversary while the Obama administration was still in office and, even worse, discussing with Sergey Kislyak the sanctions then being imposed upon Russia (for meddling in the 2016 elections).

What’s wrong with that? It is risible to invoke the Logan Act, passed during the John Adams administration, under which not a single American has been prosecuted in the intervening 218 years. It prohibits private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. Flynn was hardly a private citizen. As Donald Trump’s publicly designated incoming national security adviser, it was perfectly reasonable for him to be talking to foreign actors in preparation for assuming office within the month.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT?

Worst case: He was telling Kislyak that the Trump administration might lift sanctions and therefore, comrade, no need for a spiral of retaliations. How different is this from Barack Obama telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, on an inadvertently open mic, during his 2012 re-election campaign, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”

Flynn would have been giving the Russians useful information that might well have contributed to Russia’s decision not to retaliate.

I’m no Russophile. But again: What’s wrong with that? Turns out, the Trump administration has not lifted those sanctions. It’s all a tempest in an empty teapot.

The accusations of misbehavior by Flynn carry a subliminal echo of a long-standing charge against Richard Nixon that he interfered in the Paris peace talks in October 1968 to prevent his Democratic opponent from claiming a major foreign policy success on the eve of the presidential election.

WHERE’S THE HARM?

But that kind of alleged diplomatic freelancing would have prolonged a war in which Americans were dying daily. The Flynn conversation was nothing remotely of the sort. Where’s the harm?

The harm was not the calls but Flynn’s lying about them. And most especially lying to the vice president, who then went out and told the world Flynn had never discussed sanctions. You can’t leave your vice president undercut and exposed. Flynn had to go.

Up to this point, the story makes sense. Except for one thing: Why the cover-up if there is no crime?

Why lie about talking about sanctions? It’s inexplicable. Did Flynn want to head off lines of inquiry about other contacts with Russians that might not have been so innocent? Massive new leaks suggest numerous contacts during the campaign between

Trump associates and Russian officials, some of whom were intelligence agents. Up till now, however, reports The New York Times, there is “no evidence” of any Trump campaign collusion or cooperation with Russian hacking and other interference in the U.S. election.

Thus far. Which is why there will be investigations. Speculation ranges from the wildly malevolent to the rather loopily innocent.

At one end of the spectrum is the scenario wherein these campaign officials – including perhaps Flynn, perhaps even Trump – are compromised because of tainted business or political activities known to the Russians, to whom they are now captive.

A fevered conspiracy in my view, but there are non-certifiable people who consider it possible.

At the benign end of the spectrum is that the easily flattered Trump imagines himself the great dealmaker who overnight becomes a great statesman by charming Vladimir Putin into a Nixon-to-China grand bargain – we jointly call off the new Cold War, join forces to destroy the Islamic State and reach a new accommodation for Europe that relieves us of some of the burden of parasitic allies.

SO WHY LIE?

To me, the idea is nuts, a narcissistic fantasy grounded in neither strategy nor history. But that doesn’t mean Trump might not imagine it – after all, he maintains that if we had only stayed in Iraq to steal its oil, we wouldn’t have the Islamic State.

And if this has indeed been his thinking about Russia, it would make sense to surround himself with advisers who had extensive dealings there.

I believe neither of these scenarios, but I’m hard put to come up with alternatives. The puzzle remains.

Why did Flynn lie? Until we answer that, the case of the cover-up in search of a crime remains unsolved.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Harry Reid cleared the way for President Trump’s nominees http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/03/charles-krauthammer-harry-reid-cleared-the-way-for-president-trumps-nominees/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/02/03/charles-krauthammer-harry-reid-cleared-the-way-for-president-trumps-nominees/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1147692 There are many people to thank for the coming accession of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the high court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of course, Harry Reid.

God bless Harry Reid. It’s because of him that Gorsuch is guaranteed elevation to the court. In 2013, as then-Senate majority leader, Reid blew up the joint. He abolished the filibuster for federal appointments both executive (such as Cabinet) and judicial, for all district and circuit court judgeships (excluding only the Supreme Court). Thus unencumbered, the Democratic-controlled Senate packed the lower courts with Obama nominees.

Reid was warned that the day would come when Republicans would be in the majority and would exploit the new rules to equal and opposite effect. That day is here.

The result is striking. Trump’s Cabinet appointments are essentially unstoppable because Republicans need only 51 votes and they have 52. They have no need to reach 60, the number required to overcome a filibuster. Democrats are powerless to stop anyone on their own.

And equally powerless to stop Gorsuch. But isn’t the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees still standing? Yes, but if the Democrats dare try it, everyone knows that Majority Leader McConnell will do exactly what Reid did and invoke the nuclear option – filibuster abolition – for the Supreme Court, too.

Reid never fully appreciated the magnitude of his crime against the Senate. As I wrote at the time, the offense was not abolishing the filibuster – you can argue that issue either way – but that he did it by simple majority. In a serious body, a serious rule change requires a serious supermajority. (Amending the U.S. Constitution, for example, requires two-thirds of both houses plus three-quarters of all the states.) Otherwise you have rendered the place lawless.

If in any given session you can summon up the day’s majority to change the institution’s fundamental rules, there are no rules.

McConnell can at any moment finish Reid’s work by extending the filibuster abolition to the Supreme Court. But he hasn’t. He has neither invoked the nuclear option nor even threatened to. And he’s been asked often enough. His simple and unwavering response is that Gorsuch will be confirmed. Translation: If necessary, he will drop the big one.

It’s obvious that he prefers not to. No one wants to again devalue and destabilize the Senate by changing a major norm by simple majority vote. But Reid set the precedent.

Note that the issue is not the filibuster itself. There’s nothing sacred about it. Its routine use is a modern development – with effects both contradictory and unpredictable.

The need for 60 votes can contribute to moderation and compromise because to achieve a supermajority you need to get a buy-in from at least some of the opposition. On the other hand, in a hyper-partisan atmosphere (like today’s), a 60-vote threshold can ensure that everything gets stopped.

Filibuster abolition is good for conservatives today. It will be good for liberals tomorrow when they have regained power. There’s no great principle at stake, though as a practical matter, in this era of widespread frustration with congressional gridlock, the new norm may be salutary.

What is not salutary is the Reid precedent of changing the old norm using something so transient and capricious as the majority of the day. As I argued in 2015, eventually the two parties will need to work out a permanent arrangement under which major rule changes will require a supermajority (say, of two-thirds) to ensure substantial bipartisan support.

There are conflicting schools of thought as to whether even such a grand bargain could not itself be overturned by some future Congress – by simple majority led by the next Harry Reid.

Nonetheless, even a problematic entente is better than the free-for-all that governs today.

The operative word, however, is “eventually.” Such an agreement is for the future. Not yet, not today. Republicans are no fools.

They are not about to forfeit the advantage bequeathed to them by Harry Reid’s shortsighted willfulness. They will zealously retain the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees through the current Republican tenure of Congress and the presidency.

After which, they should be ready to parlay and press the reset button. But only then. As the young Augustine famously beseeched the Lord, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.”

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s inaugural address abdicates America’s role as global leader http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/27/trumps-inaugural-address-abdicates-americas-role-as-global-leader/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/27/trumps-inaugural-address-abdicates-americas-role-as-global-leader/#respond Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1144100 The flurry of bold executive orders and of highly provocative Cabinet nominations (such as a secretary of education who actually believes in school choice) has been encouraging to conservative skeptics of Donald Trump. But it shouldn’t erase the troubling memory of one major element of Trump’s inaugural address.

The foreign policy section has received far less attention than so revolutionary a declaration deserved. It radically redefined the American national interest as understood since World War II.

Trump outlined a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. As in: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. And most provocatively this: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.”

JFK’s inaugural address pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty. Note that Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe (and no reference to liberty). They’re all out to use, exploit and surpass us.

No more, declared Trump: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

Imagine how this resonates abroad. “America First” was the name of the organization led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II – right through the Battle of Britain – to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich.

Not that Trump was consciously imitating Lindbergh. I doubt he was even aware of the reference. He just liked the phrase. But I can assure you that in London and in every world capital, they are aware of the antecedent and the intimations of a new American isolationism. Trump gave them good reason to think so, going on to note “the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” America included.

Some claim that putting America first is a reassertion of American exceptionalism. On the contrary, it is the antithesis. It makes America no different from all the other countries that define themselves by a particularist blood-and-soil nationalism.

What made America exceptional, unique in the world, was defining its own national interest beyond its narrow economic and security needs to encompass the safety and prosperity of a vast array of allies. A free world marked by open trade and mutual defense was President Truman’s vision, shared by every president since.

Until now.

Some have argued that Trump is just dangling a bargaining chip to negotiate better terms of trade or alliance. Or that Trump’s views are so changeable and unstable – telling European newspapers two weeks ago that NATO is obsolete and then saying “NATO is very important to me” – that this is just another unmoored entry on a ledger of confusion.

But both claims are demonstrably wrong. An inaugural address is no off-the-cuff riff. These words are the product of at least three weeks of deliberate crafting for an address that Trump said would express his philosophy. Moreover, to remove any ambiguity, Trump prefaced his “America first” proclamation with: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.”

Trump’s vision misunderstands the logic underlying the far larger, far-reaching view of Truman. The Marshall Plan sure took wealth away from the American middle class and distributed it abroad. But for a reason. Altruism, in part. But mostly to stabilize Western Europe as a bulwark against an existential global enemy.

We carried many free riders throughout the Cold War. The burden was heavy. But this was not a mindless act of charity; it was an exercise in enlightened self-interest. After all, it was indeed better to subsidize foreign armies – German, South Korean, Turkish and dozens of others – and have them stand with us, rather than stationing even more American troops everywhere around the world at greater risk of both blood and treasure.

We are embarking upon insularity and smallness. Nor is this just theory. Trump’s long-promised but nonetheless abrupt withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the momentous first fruit of his foreign policy doctrine. Last year the prime minister of Singapore told John McCain that if we pulled out of TPP “you’ll be finished in Asia.” He knows the region.

For 70 years, we sustained an international system of open commerce and democratic alliances that has enabled America and the West to grow and thrive. Global leadership is what made America great. We abandon it at our peril.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Obama reveals his true self during his final days in office http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/krauthammer-obama-reveals-his-true-self-during-his-final-days-in-office/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/krauthammer-obama-reveals-his-true-self-during-his-final-days-in-office/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1140404 Barack Obama did not go out quietly. His unquiet final acts were, in part, overshadowed by a successor who refused to come in quietly and, in part, by Obama’s own endless, sentimental farewell tour. But there was nothing nostalgic or sentimental about Obama’s last acts. Two of them were simply shocking.

Perhaps we should have known. At the 2015 White House correspondents dinner, he joked about whether he had a bucket list: “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”

Turns out, he wasn’t kidding. Commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, one of the great traitors of our time, is finger-in-the-eye willfulness. Obama took 28 years off the sentence of a soldier who stole and then released through WikiLeaks almost half a million military reports plus another quarter-million State Department documents.

The cables were embarrassing; the military secrets were almost certainly deadly. They jeopardized the lives not just of American soldiers on two active fronts – Iraq and Afghanistan – but of locals who were, at great peril, secretly aiding and abetting us. After Manning’s documents release, the Taliban “went on a killing spree” (according to intelligence sources quoted by Fox News) of those who fit the description of individuals working with the United States.

Moreover, we will be involved in many shadowy conflicts throughout the world. Locals will have to choose between us or our enemies. Would you choose a side that is so forgiving of a leaker who betrays her country – and you?

Even the word “leaker” is misleading. Leak makes it sound like a piece of information a whistleblower gives Woodward and Bernstein to expose misdeeds in high office. This was nothing of the sort. It was the indiscriminate dumping of a mountain of national security secrets certain to bring harm to American troops, allies and interests.

Obama considered Manning’s 35-year sentence excessive. On the contrary. It was lenient. Manning could have been – and in previous ages, might well have been – hanged for such treason. Now she walks after seven years.

What makes this commutation so spectacularly in-your-face is its hypocrisy. Here is a president who spent weeks banging the drums over the harm inflicted by WikiLeaks with its release of stolen materials and emails during the election campaign. He demanded a report immediately. He imposed sanctions on Russia. He preened about the sanctity of the American political process.

Over what? What exactly was released? A campaign chairman’s private emails and Democratic National Committee chatter, i.e. campaign gossip, backbiting, indiscretions and cynicism. The usual stuff, embarrassing but not dangerous. No national security secrets, no classified material, no exposure of anyone to harm, just to ridicule and opprobrium.

The other last-minute Obama bombshell occurred four weeks earlier when, for the first time in nearly a half-century, the United States abandoned Israel on a crucial Security Council resolution, allowing the passage of a condemnation that will plague both Israel and its citizens for years to come. After eight years of reassurance, Obama seized the chance – free of political accountability for himself and his potential Democratic successor – to do permanent damage to Israel. (The U.S. has no power to reverse the Security Council resolution.)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. who went on to be a great Democratic senator, once argued passionately that in the anti-American, anti-democratic swamp of the U.N., America should act unwaveringly in opposition and never give in to the jackals. Obama joined the jackals.

Why? To curry favor with the international left? After all, Obama leaves office as a relatively young man of 55. His next chapter could very well be as a leader on the international stage, perhaps at the U.N. (secretary-general?) or some transnational (ostensibly) human rights organization. What better demonstration of bona fides than a gratuitous attack on Israel? Or the about-face on Manning and WikiLeaks? Or the freeing of a still unrepentant Puerto Rican terrorist, Oscar Lopez Rivera, also pulled off with three days remaining in his presidency.

A more likely explanation, however, is that these are acts not of calculation but of authenticity. This is Obama being Obama. He leaves office as he came in: a man of the left, but possessing the intelligence and discipline to suppress his more radical instincts. As of Nov. 9, 2016, suppression was no longer necessary.

We’ve just gotten a glimpse of his real self. From now on, we shall see much more of it.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: U.S. faces tough strategic decision as North Korea threat grows http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/charles-krauthammer-u-s-faces-tough-strategic-decision-as-north-korea-threat-grows/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/charles-krauthammer-u-s-faces-tough-strategic-decision-as-north-korea-threat-grows/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1133579 You can kick the can down the road, but when Kim Jong Un announces, as he did last Sunday, that “we have reached the final stage in preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic rocket,” you are reaching the end of that road.

Since the early 1990s, we have offered every kind of inducement to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Pyongyang managed to extort money, food, oil and commercial nuclear reactors in exchange. But it was all a swindle. North Korea was never going to give up its nukes because it sees them as the ultimate guarantee of regime survival.

The North Koreans believe nukes confer inviolability. Saddam Hussein was invaded and deposed before he could acquire them. Kim won’t let that happen to him. That’s why Thae Yong Ho, a recent high-level defector, insisted that “as long as Kim Jong Un is in power, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, even if it’s offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion in rewards.”

Meanwhile, they have advanced. They’ve already exploded a handful of nuclear bombs. And they’ve twice successfully launched satellites, which means they have the ICBM essentials. If they can miniaturize their weapons to fit on top of the rocket and control re-entry, they’ll be able to push a button in Pyongyang and wipe out an American city. What to do? The options are stark:

• Pre-emptive attack on its missile launching facilities. Doable but reckless. It is the option most likely to trigger an actual war. The North Koreans enjoy both conventional superiority and proximity: a vast army poised at the Demilitarized Zone only 30 miles from Seoul. Americans are not going to fight another land war in Asia.

• Shoot down the test ICBM, as advocated by The Wall Street Journal. Assuming we can. Democrats have done their best to abort or slow down anti-missile defenses since Ronald Reagan proposed them in the early 1980s. Even so, we should be able to intercept a single, relatively primitive ICBM of the sort North Korea might be capable of.

Though such a shoot-down would occur nowhere near North Korean soil, it could still very well provoke a military response. Which is why the new administration should issue a clear warning that if such a test missile is launched, we will bring it down. Barack Obama is gone. Such a red line could be a powerful deterrent.

• Return tactical U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea. They were withdrawn in 1991 by George H.W. Bush in the waning days of the Cold War. Gorbachev’s Soviet Union responded in kind. A good idea in general, but not on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang had railed constantly against their presence, but they did act as a deterrent to any contemplated North Korean aggression. Which might make them a useful bargaining chip.

• Economic leverage on China, upon which Pyongyang depends for its survival. Donald Trump seems to suggest using trade to pressure China to get North Korea to desist. The problem is that China has shown no evidence of being willing to yield a priceless strategic asset – a wholly dependent client state that acts as a permanent thorn and distraction to U.S. power in the Pacific Rim – because of mere economic pressure.

• Strategic leverage on China. We’ve been begging China for decades to halt the North Korean nuclear program. Beijing plays along with sanctions and offers occasional expressions of dismay. Nothing more. There’s one way guaranteed to get its attention. Declare that we would no longer oppose Japan acquiring a nuclear deterrent.

This is a radical step that goes against our general policy of nonproliferation. But the point is to halt proliferation to the infinitely more dangerous regime in North Korea. China is the key. The Chinese have many nightmares, none worse than a nuclear-armed Japan.

The principal strategic challenge facing the United States is the rise of revisionist powers – Russia, China and Iran – striving to expel American influence from their regions. In comparison, the Korean problem is minor, an idiosyncratic relic of the Cold War. North Korea should be a strategic afterthought, like Cuba. And it would be if not for its nukes.

That’s a big if. A wholly unpredictable, highly erratic and often irrational regime is acquiring the capacity to destroy an American city by missile. That’s an urgent problem.

North Korea may be just an unexploded ordnance of a long-concluded Cold War. But we cannot keep assuming it will never go off.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: U.N. vote on Israel is Obama’s most shameful legacy moment http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/charles-krauthammer-u-n-vote-on-israel-is-obamas-most-shameful-legacy-moment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/charles-krauthammer-u-n-vote-on-israel-is-obamas-most-shameful-legacy-moment/#respond Fri, 30 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1130606 “When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”

– Barack Obama, AIPAC conference, March 4, 2012

The audience – overwhelmingly Jewish, passionately pro-Israel and supremely gullible – applauded wildly. Four years later – his last election behind him, with a month to go in office and with no need to fool Jew or gentile again – Obama took the measure of Israel’s back and slid a knife into it.

People don’t quite understand the damage done to Israel by the U.S. abstention that permitted passage of a Security Council resolution condemning Israel over settlements. The administration pretends this is nothing but a restatement of long-standing U.S. opposition to settlements.

Nonsense. For the last 35 years, every administration, including a re-election-seeking Obama himself in 2011, has protected Israel with the U.S. veto because such a Security Council resolution gives immense legal ammunition to every boycotter, anti-Semite and zealous European prosecutor to penalize and punish Israelis.

An ordinary Israeli who lives or works in the Old City of Jerusalem becomes an international pariah, a potential outlaw. To say nothing of the soldiers of Israel’s citizen army. “Every pilot and every officer and every soldier,” said a confidant of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, “we are waiting for him at The Hague.” I.e., the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, the resolution undermines the very foundation of a half-century of American Middle East policy. What becomes of “land for peace” if the territories Israel was to have traded for peace are, in advance, declared to be Palestinian land to which Israel has no claim?

The peace parameters enunciated so ostentatiously by Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday are nearly identical to the Clinton parameters that Yasser Arafat was offered and rejected in 2000 and that Abbas was offered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. Abbas, too, walked away.

Kerry mentioned none of this because it undermines his blame-Israel narrative. Yet Palestinian rejectionism works. The Security Council just declared the territories legally Palestinian – without the Palestinians having to concede anything, let alone peace.

The administration claims a kind of passive innocence on the text of the resolution, as if it had come upon it at the last moment. We are to believe that the ostensible sponsors – New Zealand, Senegal, Malaysia and a Venezuela that cannot provide its own people with toilet paper, let alone food – spent months sweating the details of Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.

This is a deception. Everyone knows that remote outposts are not the issue. Under any peace, they will be swept away. Even the right-wing Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in one of these West Bank Settlements, has said publicly that “I even agree to vacate my settlement if there really will be a two-state solution.” Where’s the obstacle to peace?

A second category of settlement is the close-in blocs that border 1967 Israel. Here, too, we know in advance how these will be disposed of: They’ll become Israeli territory and, in exchange, Israel will swap over some of its land to a Palestinian state. Where’s the obstacle to peace here?

It’s the third category of “settlement” that Security Council resolution 2334 explicitly condemns: East Jerusalem. This is not just scandalous; it’s absurd. America acquiesces to a declaration that, as a matter of international law, the Jewish state has no claim on the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, indeed the entire Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. They belong to Palestine.

The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in all of Judaism. That it should be declared foreign to the Jewish people is as if the Security Council declared Mecca and Medina to be territory to which Islam has no claim. Such is the Orwellian universe Israel inhabits.

At the very least, Obama should have insisted that any reference to East Jerusalem be dropped from the resolution or face a U.S. veto. Why did he not? It’s incomprehensible – except as a parting shot of personal revenge on Benjamin Netanyahu. Or perhaps as a revelation of a deep-seated antipathy to Israel that simply awaited a safe political interval for public expression.

Another legacy moment for Barack Obama. And his most shameful.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/charles-krauthammer-u-n-vote-on-israel-is-obamas-most-shameful-legacy-moment/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/09/APTOPIX-Obama_Semp.jpgPresident Barack Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry, meets with veterans and Gold Star Mothers to discuss the Iran Nuclear deal, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Fri, 30 Dec 2016 15:46:52 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: The fall of Aleppo is a fitting end to Obama’s foreign policy decisions http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/krauthammer-the-fall-of-aleppo-is-a-fitting-end-to-obamas-foreign-policy-decisions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/krauthammer-the-fall-of-aleppo-is-a-fitting-end-to-obamas-foreign-policy-decisions/#respond Fri, 23 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1127752 The fall of Aleppo just weeks before Barack Obama leaves office is a fitting stamp on his Middle East policy of retreat and withdrawal. The pitiable pictures from the devastated city showed the true cost of Obama’s abdication. For which he seems to have few regrets, however. In his end-of-year news conference, Obama defended U.S. inaction with his familiar false choice: it was either stand aside or order a massive Iraq-style ground invasion.

This is a transparent fiction designed to stifle debate. Five years ago, the popular uprising was ascendant. What kept a rough equilibrium was regime control of the skies. At that point, the U.S., at little risk and cost, could have declared Syria a no-fly zone, much as it did Iraqi Kurdistan for a dozen years after the Gulf War of 1991.

The U.S. could easily have destroyed the regime’s planes and helicopters on the ground and so cratered its airfields as to make them unusable. That would have altered the strategic equation for the rest of the war.

And would have deterred the Russians from injecting their own air force – they would have had to challenge ours for air superiority. Facing no U.S. deterrent, Russia stepped in and decisively altered the balance, pounding the rebels in Aleppo to oblivion. The Russians were particularly adept at hitting hospitals and other civilian targets, leaving the rebels with the choice between annihilation and surrender. They surrendered.

Obama has never appreciated that the role of a superpower in a local conflict is not necessarily to intervene on the ground, but to deter a rival global power from stepping in and altering the course of the war. That’s what we did during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Moscow threatened to send troops to support Egypt and President Nixon countered by raising America’s nuclear alert status to Defcon 3. Russia stood down.

Less dramatically, American threats of retaliation are what kept West Germany, South Korea and Taiwan free and independent through half a century of Cold War.

It’s called deterrence. Yet Obama never had the credibility to deter anything or anyone. In the end, the world’s greatest power was reduced to bitter speeches at the U.N. “Are you truly incapable of shame?” thundered U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power at the butchers of Aleppo. As if we don’t know the answer. Indeed the shame is on us for terminal naivete, sending our secretary of state chasing the Russians to negotiate one humiliating pretend cease-fire after another.

Even now, however, the Syria debate is not encouraging. The tone is anguished and emotional, portrayed exclusively in moral terms. Much less appreciated is the cold strategic cost.

Assad was never a friend. But today he’s not even a free agent. He’s been effectively restored to his throne, but as the puppet of Iran and Russia. Syria is now a platform, a forward base, from which both these revisionist regimes can project power in the region. Iran will use Syria to advance its drive to dominate the Arab Middle East. Russia will use its bases to bully the Sunni Arab states, and to shut out American influence.

It’s already happening. The foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey convened in Moscow this week to begin settling the fate of Syria. Notice who wasn’t there. For the first time in four decades, the United States, the once dominant power in the region, is an irrelevance.

With Aleppo gone and the rebels scattered, we have a long road ahead to rebuild the influence squandered over the last eight years. President-elect Donald Trump is talking about creating safe zones. He should tread carefully. It does no good to try to do now what we should have done five years ago. Conditions are much worse. Russia and Iran rule. Maintaining the safety of safe zones will be expensive and dangerous. It will require extensive ground deployments and it risks military confrontation with Russia.

And why? Guilty conscience is not a good reason. Interventions that are purely humanitarian – from Somalia to Libya – tend to end badly. We may proclaim a “responsibility to protect,” but when no American interests are at stake, the engagement becomes impossible to sustain. At the first losses, we go home.

In Aleppo, the damage is done, the city destroyed, the inhabitants ethnically cleansed. For us, there is no post-facto option. If we are to regain the honor lost in Aleppo, it will have to be on a very different battlefield.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: From Democrats, self-righteousness over Trump’s Cabinet nominations http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/16/krauthammer-from-democrats-self-righteousness-over-trumps-cabinet-nominations/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/16/krauthammer-from-democrats-self-righteousness-over-trumps-cabinet-nominations/#respond Fri, 16 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1124324 Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.

Hypocrisy aside, it is true that, as head of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson made major deals with Russia, received Russia’s Order of Friendship and opposed U.S. sanctions. That’s troubling but not necessarily disqualifying. At the time, after all, Tillerson was acting as an agent of Exxon Mobil, whose interest it is to extract oil and make money.

These interests do not necessarily overlap with those of the United States. The relevant question is whether and how Tillerson distinguishes between the two and whether as agent of the United States he would adopt a tougher Russia policy than he did as agent of Exxon Mobil.

We don’t know. We shall soon find out. That’s what confirmation hearings are for.

The left has been in equally high dudgeon that other Cabinet picks appear not to share the mission of the agency that they have been nominated to head. The horror! As if these agency missions are somehow divinely ordained. Why, they aren’t even constitutionally ordained. The Department of Education, for example, was created by President Carter in 1979 as a payoff to the teachers’ unions for their political support.

Now, teachers are wonderful. But teachers’ unions are there to protect benefits and privileges, not necessarily to improve schooling. Which is why they zealously defend tenure, protect their public-school monopoly and oppose school choice.

Conservatives have the odd view that the purpose of schooling – and therefore of the Department of Education – is to provide students with the best possible education. Hence Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, a longtime and passionate proponent of school choice, under whom the department will no longer be an arm of the teachers’ unions.

She is also less likely to allow the department’s Office for Civil Rights to continue appropriating to itself the role of arbiter of social justice, micromanaging everything from campus sexual mores to the proper bathroom assignment for transgender students. If the mission of this department has been to dictate policy best left to the states and localities, it’s about time the mission was changed.

The most incendiary nomination by far, however, is Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney general of Oklahoma, he has joined or led a series of lawsuits to curtail EPA power. And has been upheld more than once by the courts.

Pruitt has been deemed unfit to serve because he fails liberalism’s modern-day religious test: belief in anthropogenic climate change. They would love to turn his confirmation hearing into a Scopes monkey trial. Republicans should decline the invitation. It doesn’t matter whether the man believes the moon is made of green cheese. The challenges to EPA actions are based not on meteorology or theology, but on the Constitution. The issue is that the EPA has egregiously exceeded its authority and acted as a rogue agency. Pruitt’s is the most important nomination because it is a direct attack on the insidious growth of the administrative state.

We have reached the point where EPA bureaucrats interpret the Waters of the United States rule – meant to protect American waterways – to mean that when a hard rain leaves behind a pond on your property, the feds may take over and tell you what you can and cannot do with it. (The final rule excluded puddles – magnanimity from the Leviathan.)

On a larger scale, Obama’s Clean Power Plan essentially federalizes power generation and regulation, not coincidentally killing coal along the way. This is the administration’s end run around Congress’ rejection of Obama’s proposed 2009-2010 cap-and-trade legislation. And that was a Democratic Congress, mind you.

Pruitt’s nomination is a dramatic test of the proposition that agencies administer the law, they don’t create it. That the legislative power resides exclusively with Congress and not with a metastasizing administrative bureaucracy.

For some, this reassertion of basic constitutionalism seems extreme. If so, the Obama administration has only itself to blame. Such are the wages of eight years of liberal overreach. Some legislation, like Obamacare, will be repealed. Some executive orders will be canceled. But most important will be the bonfire of the agencies. We may soon be secure not just in our puddles but our ponds.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trump is mesmerizing the media with tweets about pretty small stuff http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/charles-kratuhammer-trump-is-mesmerizing-the-media-with-tweets-about-pretty-small-stuff/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/charles-kratuhammer-trump-is-mesmerizing-the-media-with-tweets-about-pretty-small-stuff/#respond Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121106 The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college – a flag burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the school’s own American flag – Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should go to jail or lose their citizenship.

An epidemic of constitutional chin tugging and civil libertarian hair pulling immediately breaks out. By the time the media have exhausted their outrage over the looming abolition of free speech, judicial supremacy and affordable kale, Trump has moved on. The tempest had a shorter half-life than the one provoked in August 2015 by a Trump foray into birthright citizenship.

Trump so thoroughly owns the political stage today that the word Clinton seems positively quaint and Barack Obama, who happens to be president of the United States, is totally irrelevant. Obama gave a major national security address on Tuesday. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son got more attention.

Trump has mesmerized the national media not just with his elaborate Cabinet-selection production, by now Broadway-ready. But with a cluster of equally theatrical personal interventions that by traditional standards seem distinctly unpresidential.

It’s a matter of size. They seem small for a president. Preventing the shutdown of a Carrier factory in Indiana. Announcing, in a contextless 45-second surprise statement, a major Japanese investment in the United States. Calling for cancellation of the new Air Force One to be built by Boeing.

Pretty small stuff. It has the feel of a Cabinet undersecretary haggling with a contractor or a state governor drumming up business on a Central Asian trade mission. Or of candidate Trump selling Trump steaks and Trump wine in that bizarre victory speech after the Michigan primary.

The Carrier coup was meant to demonstrate the kind of concern for the working man that gave Trump the Rust Belt victories that carried him to the presidency. The Japanese SoftBank announcement was a down payment on his promise to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” (A slightly dubious claim: After all, how instrumental was Trump to that investment? Surely a financial commitment of that magnitude would have been planned long before Election Day.) And Boeing was an ostentatious declaration that he would be the zealous guardian of government spending that you would expect from a crusading outsider.

What appears as random Trumpian impulsiveness has a logic to it. It’s a continuation of the campaign. Trump is acutely sensitive to his legitimacy problem, as he showed in his tweet claiming to have actually won the popular vote, despite trailing significantly in the official count. The mini-interventions are working but there’s a risk for Trump in so personalizing his coming presidency. It’s a technique borrowed from Third World strongmen who specialize in demonstrating their personal connection to the ordinary citizen. In a genuine democracy, however, the endurance of any political support depends on the larger success of the country. And that doesn’t come from Carrier-size fixes. It comes from policy – policy that fundamentally changes the structures and alters the trajectory of the nation.

“I alone can fix it,” Trump ringingly declared in his convention speech. Indeed, alone he can do Carrier and SoftBank and Boeing. But ultimately he must deliver on tax reform, health care, economic growth and nationwide job creation. That requires Congress.

The 115th is Republican and ready to push through the legislation that gives life to the promises. On his part, Trump needs to avoid needless conflict. The Republican leadership has already signaled strong opposition on some issues, such as tariffs for job exporters. Nonetheless, there is enough common ground between Trump and his congressional majority to have an enormously productive 2017. The challenge will be to stay within the bounds of the Republican consensus.

Trump will continue to tweet and the media will continue take the bait. Highly entertaining but it is a sideshow. Congress is where the fate of the Trump presidency will be decided.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: After a mere 25 years, the triumph of the West is already over http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/02/charles-krauthammer-after-a-mere-25-years-the-triumph-of-the-west-is-already-over/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/02/charles-krauthammer-after-a-mere-25-years-the-triumph-of-the-west-is-already-over/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1117635 Twenty-five years ago – December 1991 – communism died, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disappeared. It was the largest breakup of an empire in modern history and not a shot was fired. It was an event of biblical proportions that my generation thought it would never live to see. As Wordsworth famously rhapsodized (about the French Revolution), “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven!”

That dawn marked the ultimate triumph of the liberal democratic idea. It promised an era of Western dominance led by a pre-eminent America, the world’s last remaining superpower.

And so it was for a decade as the community of democracies expanded, first into Eastern Europe and former Soviet colonies. The U.S. was so dominant that when, on Dec. 31, 1999, it gave up one of the most prized geostrategic assets on the globe – the Panama Canal – no one even noticed.

That era is over. The autocracies are back and rising; democracy is on the defensive; the U.S. is in retreat. Look no further than Aleppo. A Western-backed resistance to a local tyrant – he backed by a resurgent Russia, an expanding Iran and an array of proxy Shiite militias – is on the brink of annihilation. Russia drops bombs; America issues statements.

What better symbol for the end of that heady liberal-democratic historical moment. The West is turning inward and going home, leaving the field to the rising authoritarians – Russia, China and Iran. In France, the conservative party’s newly nominated presidential contender is fashionably conservative and populist and soft on Vladimir Putin. As are several of the newer Eastern Europe democracies – Hungary, Bulgaria, even Poland – themselves showing authoritarian tendencies.

And even as Europe tires of the sanctions imposed on Russia for its rape of Ukraine, President Obama’s much-touted “isolation” of Russia has ignominiously dissolved, as our secretary of state repeatedly goes cap in hand to Russia to beg for mercy in Syria.

The European Union, the largest democratic club on earth, could itself soon break up as Brexit-like movements spread through the continent. At the same time, its members dash with unseemly haste to reopen economic ties with a tyrannical and aggressive Iran.

As for China, the other great challenger to the post-Cold War order, the administration’s “pivot” has turned into an abject failure. The Philippines has openly defected to the Chinese side.

Malaysia then followed. And the rest of our Asian allies are beginning to hedge their bets. When the president of China addressed the Pacific Rim countries in Peru last month, he suggested that China was prepared to pick up the pieces of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now abandoned by both political parties in the United States.

The West’s retreat began with Obama, who reacted to (perceived) post-9/11 overreach by abandoning Iraq, offering appeasement (“reset”) to Russia and accommodating Iran.

In 2009, he refused even rhetorical support to the popular revolt against the rule of the ayatollahs. Donald Trump wants to continue the pullback, though for entirely different reasons. Obama ordered retreat because he’s always felt the U.S. was not good enough for the world, too flawed to have earned the moral right to be the world hegemon.

Trump would follow suit, disdaining allies and avoiding conflict, because the world is not good enough for us – undeserving, ungrateful, parasitic foreigners living safely under our protection and off our sacrifices. Time to look after our own American interests.

Trump’s is not a new argument. As the Cold War was ending in 1990, Jeane Kirkpatrick, the quintessential neoconservative, argued that we should now become “a normal country in a normal time.”

It was time to give up the 20th-century burden of maintaining world order and of making superhuman exertions on behalf of universal values. Two generations of fighting fascism and communism were quite enough. Had we not earned a restful retirement?

At the time, I argued that we had earned it indeed, but a cruel history would not allow us to enjoy it. Repose presupposes a fantasy world in which stability is self-sustaining without the United States. It is not. We would incur not respite but chaos.

A quarter-century later, we face the same temptation, but this time under more challenging circumstances. Worldwide jihadism has been added to the fight, and we enjoy nothing like the dominance we exercised over conventional adversaries during our 1990s holiday from history.

We may choose repose, but we won’t get it.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: How segmented politics left Clinton’s campaign resting in pieces http://www.pressherald.com/2016/11/25/charles-krauthammer-how-segmented-politic-left-clintons-campaign-resting-in-pieces/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/11/25/charles-krauthammer-how-segmented-politic-left-clintons-campaign-resting-in-pieces/#comments Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1114485 One of the more salutary outcomes of the recent election is that Democrats are finally beginning to question the wisdom of basing their fortunes on identity politics. Having counted on the allegiance of African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, unmarried women and the young – and winning the popular vote all but once since 1992 – they were seduced into believing that they could ride this “coalition of the ascendant” into permanent command of the presidency.

They’re reconsidering now not because identity politics balkanizes society, creates state-chosen favored groups and fosters communal strife. They’re reconsidering because it’s not working.

Democrats read the 2008 and 2012 election results as a harbinger of the future. Then came 2016. They now realize that the huge turnout of their constituencies was attributable to Barack Obama, a uniquely gifted campaigner whose aura is not transferable.

And why assume that identity politics creates permanent allegiances? Take the Hispanic vote. Both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump won less than 30 percent, but in 2004 George W. Bush won 44 percent. Why assume that the Republican Party cannot be competitive again?

As these groups evolve socioeconomically, their political allegiances can easily change. This is particularly true for the phenomenally successful Asian-American community. There is no reason the more entrepreneurial party, the GOP, should continue to lose this vote by more than 2-to-1.

Moreover, the legitimation of identity politics by the Democrats has finally come back to bite them. Trump managed to read, then mobilize, the white working class, and to endow it with political self-consciousness. What he voiced on their behalf was the unspoken complaint of decades: Why not us?

For all the embrace of identity politics at home, abroad Obama has preached the opposite. Here is a man telling a black audience in September that he would “consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy” if they don’t turn out for the Democratic candidate in November. Yet on his valedictory tour abroad just nine weeks later, he lectures anyone who will listen on the sins of parochialism. His urgent message for the nations of the world, including his own, is to eschew “tribalism” in the name of a common universalism.

This doctrine of global consciousness found its photographic expression just two weeks ago. There was parka-bundled John Kerry on a visit to the Antarctic, to which he had dropped in to make a point about global warming. Three days later, Vladimir Putin, thinking tribally, renewed the savage bombing of Aleppo and then moved nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad to remind Europeans of the perils of defying the regional strongman.

Putin is quite prepared to leave the Antarctic ice sheets to Kerry while he sets his sights on Eastern Europe and the Levant. Our allies, meanwhile, remain amazed that Obama still believes the kinds of things he said in his maiden U.N. address about the obsolescence of power politics and national domination – and acts accordingly as if his brave new world of shared universal values had already arrived.

Seven months ago, Obama went to Britain to urge them – with characteristic unsuccess – to remain in Europe. Now he returns to Europe to urge everyone to resist the siren song of “a crude sort of nationalism, or ethnic identity, or tribalism.”

This is rather ironic, given that what was meant as a swipe at both European and Trumpian ethno-nationalism is a fairly good description of the Democratic Party’s domestic strategy of identity politics.

To be sure, ethnic appeal has been part of American politics forever. But the Hillary Clinton campaign was its reductio ad absurdum: all segmented group appeal, no message. Even Bernie Sanders is urging that “we go beyond identity politics” if Democrats are ever to appeal again to the working class.

As for foreign policy, there has always been and always should be an element of transcendent mission to American actions. But its reductio ad absurdum was the Obama doctrine of self-sacrificial subordination of U.S. interests to universal values. That doctrine is finished. The results, from Ukraine to Aleppo to the South China Sea, are simply too stark.

For the Democrats, the road back – from tribalism at home and universalism abroad – beckons.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Now is the time for Republicans to show they can deliver http://www.pressherald.com/2016/11/11/charles-krauthammer-now-is-the-time-for-republicans-to-show-they-can-deliver/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/11/11/charles-krauthammer-now-is-the-time-for-republicans-to-show-they-can-deliver/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1108091 Donald Trump won fair and square and, as Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, is owed an open mind and a chance to lead. It is therefore incumbent upon conservatives (like me) who have been highly critical of Trump to think through how to make a success of the coming years of Republican rule.

It begins by recognizing Trump’s remarkable political instincts. As Paul Ryan noted in his morning-after olive-branch news conference, Trump heard “a voice out in this country that no one else heard.” Trump spoke to and for a working class squeezed and ruined by rapid technological and economic transformation.

One of the principal tasks for the now-dominant Republican Party is to craft a governing agenda that actually alters their lives and prospects. In the end, it was this constituency of those left behind by the new globalized digital economy that delivered the presidency to Trump.

Nonetheless, this election was not just about the social/economic divide. It was also about the ideological divide between left and right. The most overlooked factor in the election is the continuing deep and widespread dissatisfaction with Obamaism.

It tends to be overlooked because President Obama remains personally popular (56 percent in the latest Gallup). As a charismatic campaigner, whenever his name is on the ballot, he wins. But when it’s not – 2010, 2014, now 2016 – the Democrats get shellacked.

The reason is no mystery. The problem was never with Obama himself, but with his policies. Before each of those losing elections, Obama would campaign saying that his name wasn’t on the ballot but his policies – and now his legacy – were. The voters made clear what they thought of his policies and legacy.

Simply put, from the beginning of his presidency, Obama overreached ideologically, most spectacularly with his signature legislative achievement – Obamacare. The spike in Obamacare premiums and deductibles just two weeks before Tuesday’s election proved a particularly damaging reminder of what Obamaism had wrought.

Hence the other principal task for the now-dominant Republican Party: Undo Obamaism. Begin with canceling Obama’s executive orders on everything from immigration to climate change. Then overturn his more elaborate legislative adventures into overweening liberalism, starting, of course, with Obamacare.

The promise of a Trump presidency is that, if it can successfully work with a Republican Congress, it could turn Obamaism into a historical parenthesis. Republicans would then have a chance to enact the Reaganite agenda that has been incubating while in exile from the White House.

For years, Washington gridlock has been attributed to Republican obstructionism. On the contrary, serious legislation, such as Medicare reform passed by the Republican House, was either strangled in the Senate by Democratic leader Harry Reid or died by veto on Obama’s desk.

Beyond the undoing, there’s now the prospect of doing. Serious border enforcement, including a wall, for example. That’s not only a good in itself; it would offer leverage in a grand bargain that would include eventual legalization of resident illegal immigrants, an idea supported (according to the exit polls) by more than seven in 10 voters.

Another given is a reshaping of the currently rudderless Supreme Court with the nomination of a conservative justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.

During the campaign, Trump’s populism often clashed with traditional Reaganism. The key to Republican success is to try to achieve an accommodation, if not a fusion.

Two agendas: one ideological, one socioeconomic. They both need to be addressed. Onto the Reaganite core of smaller government and strict constitutionalism must be added a serious concern for the grievances of the constituency that animated the Trump insurgency, the long-suffering, long-neglected working class.

If Reaganite conservatives want to head off wrongheaded solutions – such as massive tariffs, mercantilist economics and trade wars – they must be prepared to accept measures such as federal wage subsidies and targeted restraints on trade. This involves giving up a measure of economic efficiency. But the purpose is to achieve a measure of social peace and restore dignity and security to a stressed and sliding working class. Some might even call it compassionate conservatism.

The key to success for a Trump presidency is for the Reaganite and populist elements in the party to be willing to advance each other’s goals even at the cost of ideological purity.

This will require far-reaching negotiations between a Trump White House and a GOP Congress. The Republicans have gained control of all the political branches. They have the means to deliver. They now have to show that they can.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Is President Obama preparing a final shot at Israel? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/28/is-president-obama-preparing-a-final-shot-at-israel/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/28/is-president-obama-preparing-a-final-shot-at-israel/#comments Fri, 28 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1100985 Last week, the U.N.’s premier cultural agency, UNESCO, approved a resolution viciously condemning Israel (referred to as “the Occupying Power”) for various alleged trespasses and violations of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Except that the resolution never uses that term for Judaism’s holiest shrine. It refers to and treats it as an exclusively Muslim site, a deliberate attempt to eradicate its connection – let alone its centrality – to the Jewish people and Jewish history.

This Orwellian absurdity is an insult not just to Judaism but to Christianity. It makes a mockery of the Gospels, which chronicle the story of a Galilean Jew whose life and ministry unfolded throughout the Holy Land, most especially in Jerusalem and the Temple. If this is nothing but a Muslim site, what happens to the very foundation of Christianity, which occurred 600 years before Islam even came into being?

This UNESCO resolution is merely the surreal extreme of the worldwide campaign to delegitimize Israel. It features the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), now growing on Western university campuses and some mainline Protestant churches. And it extends even into some precincts of the Democratic Party.

Bernie Sanders tried to introduce into the Democratic Party platform a plank more unfavorable to Israel. He failed, but a couple of Clinton campaign consultants questioned (in emails revealed by WikiLeaks) why she should be mentioning Israel in her speeches.

And what to make of the White House’s correction to a news release about last month’s funeral of Shimon Peres? The original release identified the location as “Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, Israel.” The correction crossed out the country identifier – “Israel.”

Well, where else is Jerusalem? Sri Lanka? Moreover, Mount Herzl isn’t even in disputed East Jerusalem. It’s in West Jerusalem, within the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel. If that’s not Israel, what is?

But such cowardly gestures are mere pinpricks compared to the damage Israel faces in the final days of the Obama presidency. As John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently wrote (in Foreign Policy), there have been indications for months that President Obama might go to the U.N. and unveil his own final status parameters of a two-state solution. These would then be enshrined in a new Security Council resolution that could officially recognize a Palestinian state on the territory Israel came into possession of during the 1967 Six-Day War.

There is a reason such a move has been resisted by eight previous U.S. administrations: It overthrows the central premise of Middle East peacemaking – land for peace. Under which the Palestinians get their state after negotiations in which the parties agree on recognized boundaries, exchange mutual recognition and declare a permanent end to the conflict.

Land for peace would be replaced by land for nothing. Endorsing in advance a Palestinian state and what would essentially be a full Israeli withdrawal removes the Palestinian incentive to negotiate and strips Israel of territorial bargaining chips of the kind it used, for example, to achieve peace with Egypt.

The result would be not just perpetual war but incalculable damage to Israel. Consider but one example: the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, destroyed and ethnically cleansed of Jews by its Arab conquerors in the war of 1948-1949. It was rebuilt by Israel after 1967. It would now be open to the absurd judicial charge that the Jewish state’s possession of the Jewish Quarter constitutes a criminal occupation of another country.

Before the election, Obama dare not attempt this final legacy item, to go along with the Iran deal and the Castro conciliation, for fear of damaging Hillary Clinton. His last opportunity comes after Election Day. The one person who might deter him, Hannah points out, is Clinton herself, by committing Obama to do nothing before he leaves office that would tie her hands should she become president.

Clinton’s supporters who care about Israel and about peace need to urge her to do that now. It will soon be too late. Soon Obama will be free to deliver a devastating parting shot to Israel and to the prime minister he detests.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: WikiLeaks disclosures about Clinton a warm gun but still non-smoking http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/21/krauthammer-wikileaks-disclosures-about-clinton-a-warm-gun-but-still-non-smoking/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/21/krauthammer-wikileaks-disclosures-about-clinton-a-warm-gun-but-still-non-smoking/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1097570 The case against Hillary Clinton could have been written before the recent WikiLeaks and FBI disclosures. But these documents do provide hard textual backup.

The most sensational disclosure was the proposed deal between the State Department and the FBI in which the FBI would declassify a Hillary Clinton email and State would give the FBI more slots in overseas stations. What made it sensational was the rare appearance in an official account of the phrase “quid pro quo,” which is the currently agreed-upon dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable corruption.

This is nonetheless an odd choice for most egregious offense. First, it occurred several layers removed from the campaign and from Clinton. It involved a career State Department official (he occupied the same position under Condoleezza Rice) covering not just for Clinton but for his own department.

Second, it’s not clear which side originally offered the bargain. Third, nothing tangible was supposed to exchange hands. There was no proposed personal enrichment which tends to be our standard for punishable misconduct.

And finally, it never actually happened. The FBI turned down the declassification request.

In sum, a warm gun but nonsmoking. Indeed, if the phrase “quid pro quo” hadn’t appeared, it would have received little attention. Moreover, it obscures the real scandal – the bottomless cynicism of the campaign and of the candidate.

Among dozens of examples, the Qatari gambit. Qatar, one of the worst actors in the Middle East (having financially supported the Islamic State, for example), offered $1 million as a “birthday” gift to Bill Clinton in return for five minutes of his time. Who offers – who takes – $200,000 a minute? We don’t know the “quid” here, but it’s got to be big.

In the final debate, Clinton ran and hid when asked about pay-for-play at the Clinton Foundation. And for good reason. The emails reveal how foundation donors were first in line for favors and contracts.

The soullessness of this campaign – all ambition and entitlement – emerges almost poignantly in the emails, especially when aides keep asking what the campaign is about. In one largely overlooked passage, she complains that her speechwriters have not given her any overall theme or rationale. Isn’t that the candidate’s job?

It’s that emptiness at the core that makes every policy and position negotiable and politically calculable. Hence the embarrassing about-face on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after the popular winds swung decisively against free trade.

So too with financial regulation, as in Dodd-Frank. As she told a Goldman Sachs gathering, after the financial collapse there was “a need to do something because, for political reasons … you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Giving the appearance that something had to be done. That’s not why Elizabeth Warren supported Dodd-Frank. Which is the difference between a conviction politician like Warren and a calculating machine like Clinton.

Of course, we knew all this. But we hadn’t seen it so clearly laid out. Illicit and illegal as is WikiLeaks, it is the camera in the sausage factory. And what it reveals is surpassingly unpretty.

I didn’t need the Wiki files to oppose Hillary Clinton. As a conservative, I have long disagreed with her worldview and the policies that flow from it. As for character, I have watched her long enough to find her deeply flawed, to the point of unfitness.

Against any of a dozen possible GOP candidates, voting for her opponent would be a no-brainer. Against Donald Trump, however, it’s a dilemma. I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. But, as I’ve explained in these columns, I could never vote for Donald Trump.

The only question is whose name I’m going to write in. With Albert Schweitzer doubly unavailable (noncitizen, dead), I’m down to Paul Ryan or Ben Sasse. Two weeks to decide.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s ‘lock her up’ campaign is an affront to democratic decency http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/14/trumps-lock-her-up-campaign-is-an-affront-to-democratic-decency/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/14/trumps-lock-her-up-campaign-is-an-affront-to-democratic-decency/#comments Fri, 14 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1094400 The second presidential debate – bloody, muddy and raucous – was just enough to save Donald Trump’s campaign from extinction, but not enough to restore his chances of winning, barring an act of God or of Putin.

That Trump crashed because of a sex-talk tape is odd. It should have been a surprise to no one. His views on women have been on open display for years. And he’d offered a dazzling array of other reasons for disqualification: habitual mendacity, pathological narcissism, profound ignorance and an astonishing dearth of basic human empathy.

To which list Trump added in the second debate, and it had nothing to do with sex. It was his threat, if elected, to put Hillary Clinton in jail.

After appointing a special prosecutor, of course. The niceties must be observed. First, a fair trial, then a proper hanging. The day after the debate at a rally in Pennsylvania, Trump responded to chants of “lock her up,” with “Lock her up is right.” Two days later, he told a rally in Lakeland, Florida, “She has to go to jail.”

Such incendiary talk is an affront to elementary democratic decency and a breach of the boundaries of American political discourse. In democracies, the electoral process is a subtle and elaborate substitute for combat, the age-old way of settling struggles for power. But that sublimation only works if there is mutual agreement to accept both the legitimacy of the result (which Trump keeps undermining with charges that the very process is “rigged”).

The prize for the winner is temporary accession to limited political power, not the satisfaction of vendettas. Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and a cavalcade of two-bit caudillos lock up their opponents. American leaders don’t.

One doesn’t even talk like this. It takes decades, centuries, to develop ingrained norms of political restraint and self-control. But they can be undone in short order by a demagogue feeding a vengeful populism.

This is not to say that the investigation into the Clinton emails was not itself compromised by politics. FBI director James Comey’s recommendation not to pursue charges was both troubling and puzzling. And Barack Obama very improperly tilted the scales by interjecting, while the investigation was still underway, that Clinton’s emails had not endangered national security.

But the answer is not to start a new process whose outcome is preordained. Conservatives have relentlessly, and correctly, criticized this administration for abusing its power and suborning the civil administration (e.g., the IRS). Is the Republican response to do the same?

Wasn’t presidential overreach one of the major charges against Obama by the anti-establishment Republican candidates? Wasn’t the animating spirit of the entire tea party movement the restoration of constitutional limits and restraints?

In America, we don’t persecute political opponents. Which is why we retroactively honor Gerald Ford for his pardon of Richard Nixon, for which, at the time, Ford was widely reviled. It ultimately cost him the presidency. Nixon might well have been convicted. But Ford understood that jailing a president for actions carried out in the context of his official duties would threaten the very civil nature of democratic governance.

What makes Trump’s promise to lock her up all the more alarming is that it’s not an isolated incident. This is not the first time he’s insinuated using the powers of the presidency against political enemies. He has threatened Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, for using the newspaper “as a tool for political power against me and other people. … We can’t let him get away with it.” Trump has gone after others with equal subtlety. “I hear,” he tweeted, “the Rickets [sic] family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

He also promises to “open up” libel laws to permit easier prosecution of those who attack him unfairly. Has he ever conceded any attack on him to be fair?

This election is not just about placing the nuclear codes in Trump’s hands.

It’s also about handing him the instruments of civilian coercion, such as the IRS, the FBI, the FCC, the SEC. Think of what he could do to enforce the “fairness” he demands. Imagine giving over the vast power of the modern state to a man who says in advance that he will punish his critics and jail his opponent.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: In normal election year, Obama’s legacy would be siphoning off support for his party http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/07/charles-krauthammer-in-normal-election-year-obamas-legacy-would-be-siphoning-off-support-for-his-party/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/10/07/charles-krauthammer-in-normal-election-year-obamas-legacy-would-be-siphoning-off-support-for-his-party/#comments Fri, 07 Oct 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1090279 Only amid the most bizarre, most tawdry, most addictive election campaign in memory could the real story of 2016 be so effectively obliterated, namely, that with just four months left in the Obama presidency, its two central pillars are collapsing before our eyes: domestically, its radical reform of American health care, aka Obamacare; and abroad, its radical reorientation of American foreign policy – disengagement marked by diplomacy and multilateralism.

OBAMACARE

On Monday, Bill Clinton called it “the craziest thing in the world.” And he was only talking about one crazy aspect of it – the impact on the consumer. Clinton pointed out that small business and hardworking employees (“out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week”) are “getting whacked … their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”

This, as the program’s entire economic foundation is crumbling. More than half its nonprofit “co-ops” have gone bankrupt. Major health insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare, having lost millions of dollars, are withdrawing from the exchanges. In one-third of the United States, exchanges will have only one insurance provider. Premiums and deductibles are exploding. Even The New York Times blares “Ailing Obama Health Care Act May Have to Change to Survive.”

Young people, refusing to pay disproportionately to subsidize older and sicker patients, are not signing up. As the risk pool becomes increasingly unbalanced, the death spiral accelerates. And the only way to save the system is with massive infusions of tax money.

What to do? The Democrats will eventually push to junk Obamacare for a full-fledged, government-run, single-payer system. Republicans will seek to junk it for a more market-based pre-Obamacare-like alternative. Either way, the singular domestic achievement of this presidency dies.

THE OBAMA DOCTRINE

The president’s vision was to move away from a world where stability and “the success of liberty” (JFK, inaugural address) were anchored by American power and move toward a world ruled by universal norms, mutual obligation, international law and multilateral institutions. No more cowboy adventures, no more unilateralism, no more Guantanamo. We would ascend to the higher moral plane of diplomacy. Clean hands, clear conscience, “smart power.”

This blessed vision has just died a terrible death in Aleppo. Its unraveling was predicted and predictable, though it took fully two terms to unfold. This policy of pristine – and preening – disengagement from the grubby imperatives of realpolitik yielded Crimea, the South China Sea, the rise of the Islamic State, the return of Iran. And now the horror and the shame of Aleppo.

After endless concessions to Russian demands meant to protect and preserve the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad, last month we finally capitulated to a deal in which we essentially joined Russia in that objective. But such is Vladimir Putin’s contempt for our president that he wouldn’t stop there.

He blatantly violated his own cease-fire with an air campaign of such spectacular savagery – targeting hospitals, water pumping stations and a humanitarian aid convoy – that even Barack Obama and John Kerry could no longer deny that Putin is seeking not compromise but conquest. And is prepared to kill everyone in rebel-held Aleppo to achieve it. Obama, left with no options – and astonishingly, having prepared none – looks on.

At the outset of the war, we could have bombed Assad’s airfields and destroyed his aircraft, eliminating the regime’s major strategic advantage – control of the air.

Five years later, we can’t. Russia is there. Putin has just installed S-300 antiaircraft missiles near Tartus. Yet, none of the rebels have any air assets. This is a warning and deterrent to the only power that could do something – the United States.

Obama did nothing before. He will surely do nothing now. For Americans, the shame is palpable. Russia’s annexation of Crimea may be an abstraction, but that stunned injured little boy in Aleppo is not.

“What is Aleppo?” Gary Johnson famously asked. Answer: The burial ground of the Obama fantasy of benign disengagement.

What’s left of the Obama legacy? Even Democrats are running away from Obamacare. And who will defend his foreign policy of lofty speech and cynical abdication?

In 2014, Obama said, “Make no mistake: (My) policies are on the ballot.” Democrats were crushed in that midterm election.

This time around, Obama says, “My legacy’s on the ballot.” If the 2016 campaign hadn’t turned into a referendum on character – a battle fully personalized and ad hominem – the collapse of the Obama legacy would indeed be right now on the ballot. And his party would be 20 points behind.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Presidential campaign sinks to somewhere between zany and insane http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/30/krauthammer-presidential-campaign-sinks-to-somewhere-between-zany-and-insane/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/30/krauthammer-presidential-campaign-sinks-to-somewhere-between-zany-and-insane/#comments Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1082370 And now, less than six weeks from the election, what is the main event of the day? A fight between the Republican presidential nominee and a former Miss Universe, whom he had 20 years ago called “Miss Piggy” and other choice pejoratives.

Just a few weeks earlier, we were seized by a transient hysteria over a minor Hillary Clinton lung infection hyped to near-mortal status. The latest curiosity is Donald Trump’s 37 sniffles during the first presidential debate. (People count this sort of thing.) Dr. Howard Dean has suggested a possible cocaine addiction.

In a man who doesn’t even drink coffee? This campaign is sinking to somewhere between zany and totally insane. Is there a bottom?

Take the most striking – and overlooked – moment of Trump’s Republican convention speech. He actually promised that under him, “the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon – and I mean very soon – come to an end.”

Not “be reduced.” End.

Humanity has been at this since, oh, Hammurabi. But the audience didn’t laugh. It applauded.

Nor was this mere spur-of-the-moment hyperbole. Trump was reading from a teleprompter. As he was a few weeks earlier when he told a conference in North Dakota, “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing. I will give you everything.”

Everything, mind you. “I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years.” No laughter recorded.

In launching his African-American outreach at a speech in Charlotte, Trump cataloged the horrors that he believes define black life in America today. Then promised: “I will fix it.”

How primitive have our politics become? Fix what? Family structure? Social inheritance? Self-destructive habits? How? He doesn’t say. He’ll will it. Trust him, as he likes to say.

After 15 months, the suspension of disbelief has become so ubiquitous that we hardly notice anymore. We are operating in an alternate universe where the geometry is non-Euclidean, facts don’t matter, history and logic have disappeared.

Going into the first debate, Trump was in a virtual tie for the lead. The bar for him was set almost comically low. He had merely to (1) suffer no major meltdown and (2) produce just a few moments of coherence.

He cleared the bar. In the first half-hour, he established the entire premise of his campaign. Things are bad and she’s been around for 30 years. You like bad? Stick with her. You want change? I’m your man.

It can’t get more elemental than that. At one point, Clinton laughed and ridiculed Trump for trying to blame her for everything that’s ever happened. In fact, that’s exactly what he did. With some success.

By conventional measures – poise, logic, command of the facts – she won the debate handily. But when it comes to moving the needle, conventional measures don’t apply this year. What might, however, move the needle is not the debate itself but the time bomb Trump left behind.

His great weakness is his vanity. He is temperamentally incapable of allowing any attack on his person to go unavenged. He is particularly sensitive on the subject of his wealth. So central to his self-image is his business acumen that in the debate he couldn’t resist the temptation to tout his cleverness on taxes. To an audience of 86 million, he appeared to concede that he didn’t pay any. “That makes me smart,” he smugly interjected.

Big mistake. The next day, Clinton offered the obvious retort: “If not paying taxes makes him smart, what does that make all the rest of us?” Meanwhile, Trump has been going around telling Rust Belt workers, on whom his Electoral College strategy hinges and who might still believe that billionaires do have some obligation to pay taxes, that “I am your voice.”

When gaffes like this are committed, the candidate either doubles down (you might say that if you can legally pay nothing, why not, given how corrupt the tax code is) or simply denies he ever said anything of the sort. Indeed, one of the more remarkable features of this campaign is how brazenly candidates deny having said things that have been captured on tape, such as Clinton denying she ever said the Trans-Pacific Partnership was the gold standard of trade deals.

The only thing more amazing is how easily they get away with it.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/30/krauthammer-presidential-campaign-sinks-to-somewhere-between-zany-and-insane/feed/ 5 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/09/1076364_541625-campaign-debate-299a.jpgHillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off Monday in the first presidential debate.Fri, 30 Sep 2016 14:18:58 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Hillary sharpens, Trump softens – she’s falling as he’s rising http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/16/charles-krauthammer-hillary-sharpens-trump-softens-shes-falling-as-hes-rising/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/16/charles-krauthammer-hillary-sharpens-trump-softens-shes-falling-as-hes-rising/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1061128 If you are the status quo candidate in a change election in which the national mood is sour and two-thirds of the electorate think the country is on the wrong track, what do you do?

Attack. Relentlessly. Paint your opponent as extremist, volatile, clueless, unfit, dangerous. Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s latest national ad, featuring major Republican politicians echoing that indictment of Donald Trump, ends thus: “Unfit. Dangerous. Even for Republicans.”

That was the theme of Clinton’s famous open “alt-right” speech and of much of her $100 million worth of ads.

Problem is, it’s not working.

Over the last month, Trump’s new team, led by Kellyanne Conway, has worked single-mindedly to blunt that line of attack on the theory that if he can just cross the threshold of acceptability, he wins. In an act of brazen rebranding, they set out to endow him with stature and empathy.

Stature was acquired in Mexico, whose president inexplicably gave Trump the opportunity to stand on the world stage with a national leader and more than hold his own. It’s the same stature booster Sen. Barack Obama pulled off when he stood with the French president at a news conference in Paris in 2008.

That was Part 1: Trump the statesman. Part 2: The kinder, gentler Trump.

Nervy. Can you really repackage the boasting, bullying, bombastic, insulting, insensitive Trump into a mellow and caring version? With two months to go? In a digital age in which every past outrage is preserved on imperishable video?

Turns out, yes. How? Deflect and deny – and pretend it never happened. Where are they now – the birtherism, the deportation force, the scorn for teleprompters, the mocking of candidates who take outside money? Down the memory hole.

You need only the sensory overload of an age of numbingly ephemeral social media. In this surreal election season, there is no past.

Clinton ads keep showing actual Trump sound bites meant to shock. Yet her numbers are dropping, his rising.

How? Trump never goes on the defensive. He merely creates new Trumps. Hence:

 The African-American blitz. It’s a new pose and the novelty shows. Trump is not very familiar with the language. He occasionally slips, for example, into referring to “the blacks.” And his argument that African-Americans inhabit a living hell and therefore have nothing to lose by voting for him hovers between condescension and insult.

But, as every living commentator has noted, the foray into African-American precincts was not aimed at winning black votes but at countering Trump’s general image as the bigoted candidate of white people.

Result? A curious dynamic in which Clinton keeps upping the accusatory ante just as Trump keeps softening his tone – until she goes way over the top, landing in a basket of deplorables, a phrase that will haunt her until Election Day. (Politics 101: Never attack the voter.)

 The immigration wobble. A week of nonstop word salad about illegal immigration left everyone confused about what Trump really believes. Genius. The only message to emerge from the rhetorical fog is that he is done talking about deportation and/or legalization. The discussion is off the table until years down the road.

Case closed. Toxic issue detoxified.

Again, that’s not going to win him the Hispanic vote. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to soften his image in the Philadelphia suburbs, pundit shorthand for white college-educated women that Republicans have to win (and where Trump trails Romney 2012 by 10 points). Which brings us to:

• The blockbuster child care proposal. Unveiled Tuesday, it is Big Government at its biggest: tax deductions, tax rebates (i.e., cash), and a federal mandate of six weeks of paid maternity leave. The biggest entitlement since, well, Obamacare.

But wait. Didn’t Trump’s acolytes assure us that he spoke for those betrayed by the elitist Republican establishment that’s refused to stand up to Obama’s overweening mandates, Big Government profligacy and budget-busting entitlements?

No matter. That was yesterday. There is no past. Nor a future – at least for Ivanka-care. It would never get through the Republican House.

Nor is it meant to. It is meant to signal what George H.W. Bush once memorably read off a cue card. “Message: I care.”

And where do you think Trump gave this dish-the-Whigs cradle-to-college entitlement speech? Why, the Philadelphia suburbs!

Can’t get more transparent than that. Or shameless. Or brilliant.

And it’s working.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: China snubs President Obama and gets away with it, of course http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/09/charles-krauthammer-china-snubs-president-obama-and-gets-away-with-it-of-course/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/09/charles-krauthammer-china-snubs-president-obama-and-gets-away-with-it-of-course/#comments Fri, 09 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1050271 The president of the United States lands with all the majesty of Air Force One, waiting to exit the front door and stride down the rolling staircase to the red-carpeted tarmac. Except that there is no rolling staircase. He is forced to exit through the rear of the plane.

This happened Saturday at Hangzhou airport. Yes, in China. If the Chinese didn’t invent diplomatic protocol, they surely are its most experienced practitioners. They’ve been at it for 4,000 years. In a land so exquisitely sensitive to protocol, rolling staircases don’t just disappear at arrival ceremonies. Indeed, not one of the other G-20 world leaders was left stranded on his plane upon arrival.

Did President Xi Jinping directly order airport personnel and diplomatic functionaries to deny Barack Obama a proper welcome? Who knows? But the message, whether intentional or not, wasn’t very subtle. The authorities expressed no regret, no remorse and certainly no apology. On the contrary, they scolded the press for even reporting the snub.

No surprise. China’s ostentatious rudeness was perfectly reflective of the world’s general disdain for President Obama and his high-minded lectures about global norms and demands that others live up to their “international obligations.”

Foreign leaders have reciprocated by taking this administration down a notch, knowing they pay no price. In May 2013, Vladimir Putin reportedly kept the U.S. secretary of state cooling his heels for three hours outside his office before deigning to receive him.

Even as Obama was hailing the nuclear deal with Iran as a great breakthrough, the ayatollah vowed “no change” in his policy, which remained diametrically opposed to the “U.S. arrogant system.” The mullahs followed by openly conducting illegal ballistic missile tests – calculating, correctly, that Obama would do nothing.

And when Iran took prisoner 10 American sailors in the Persian Gulf, made them kneel and aired the video, what was the U.S. response? Upon their release, John Kerry publicly thanked Iran for its good conduct.

Why should Xi treat Obama with any greater deference? Beijing illegally expands into the South China Sea, meeting only the most perfunctory pushback from the U.S. Obama told CNN that he warned Xi to desist or “there will be consequences.” Is there a threat less credible?

Putin annexes Crimea and Obama crows about the isolation he has imposed on Russia. Look around. Moscow has become Grand Central Station for Middle East leaders seeking outside help in their various conflicts. As for Ukraine, both the French president and the German chancellor have hastened to Moscow to plead with Putin to make peace. Some isolation.

Iran regularly harasses our vessels in the Persian Gulf. Russian fighters buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Baltic Sea. And just Wednesday, a Russian fighter flew within 10 feet of an American military jet. The price they paid? Being admonished that such provocations are unsafe and unprofessional. An OSHA citation is more ominous.

Now the latest. At the G-20, Obama said he spoke to Putin about cyberwarfare, amid revelations that Russian hackers have been interfering in our political campaigns. We are more technologically advanced, both offensively and defensively, in this arena than any of our adversaries, Obama said, but we really don’t want another Cold War-style arms race.

Instead, we must all adhere to norms of international behavior.

It makes you want to weep. This KGB thug adhering to norms? He invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, bombs hospitals in Aleppo – and we expect him to observe cyber-code etiquette? Rather than exploit our technological lead – with countermeasures and deterrent threats – to ensure our own cyber safety?

We’re back to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down a U.S. code-breaking operation after it gave him decoded Japanese telegrams. His famous explanation? “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

Well, comrade, Putin is no gentleman. And he’s reading our mail.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Trump’s immigration policy finally retreats to more rational ground http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/02/charles-krauthammer-trumps-immigration-policy-finally-retreats-to-more-rational-ground/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/02/charles-krauthammer-trumps-immigration-policy-finally-retreats-to-more-rational-ground/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1040547 The one great service of Donald Trump’s extended peregrinations on immigration policy is to have demonstrated how, in the end, there’s only one place to go.

You can rail for a year about the weak-kneed and stupid politicians who have opened our borders to the wretched refuse of Mexico. You can promise to round them up – the refuse, that is, not the politicians (they’re next) – and deport them. And that may win you a plurality of Republican primary votes.

But eventually you have to let it go. For all his incendiary language and clanging contradictions, Trump did exactly that in Phoenix on Wednesday. His “deportation task force” will be hunting … criminal aliens. Isn’t that the enforcement priority of President Obama, heretofore excoriated as the ultimate immigration patsy?

And what happens to the noncriminal illegal immigrants? On that, Trump punted. Their “appropriate disposition” will be considered “in several years when we have … ended illegal immigration for good.” Everyone knows what that means: One way or another, they will be allowed to stay.

Trump’s retreat points the way to the only serious solution: enforcement plus legalization. The required enforcement measures are well known – from a national E-Verify system that makes it just about impossible to work if you are here illegally, to intensified border patrol and high-tech tracking.

The one provision that, thanks to Trump, gets the most attention is a border wall. It’s hard to understand the opposition. It’s the most venerable and reliable way to keep people out. The triple fence outside San Diego led to a 90 percent reduction in infiltration. Israel’s border fence with the West Bank has produced a similar decline in terror attacks into Israel.

The main objection is symbolic. Walls, we are told, denote prisons. But only if they are built to keep people in, not if they are for keeping outsiders out. City walls, going back to Jericho, are there for protection. Even holier-than-thou Europeans have conceded the point as one country after another – Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Austria, Greece, Spain, Norway – has started building border fences to stem the tide of Middle Eastern refugees.

The other part of the immigration bargain is legalization. What do you do with the 11 million already here? In theory, you could do nothing. The problem ultimately solves itself as the generation of the desert – those who crossed the border originally – is eventually replaced by its U.S.-born children, who are automatically legal and landed.

But formal legalization is a political necessity. It gets buy-in from Democrats who for whatever reason – self-styled humanitarianism or bare-knuckled partisanship – have no interest in real border enforcement. Legalization is the quid pro quo. If they want to bring the immigrants “out of the shadows,” they must endorse serious enforcement.

Such a grand bargain could and would command a vast national consensus. The American public will accept today’s illegal immigrants if it is convinced that this will be the last such cohort.

This was the premise of the 1986 Reagan amnesty. It legalized almost 3 million immigrants. Because it never enforced the border, however, three has become 11.

And that’s why the Gang of Eight failed. They too got the sequencing wrong. The left insisted on legalization first. The Gang’s Republicans ultimately acquiesced because they figured, correctly, this was the best deal they could get in an era of Democratic control.

The problem is that legalization is essentially irreversible and would have gone into effect on Day One. Enforcement was a mere promise.

Hence the emerging Republican consensus, now that Trump has abandoned mass deportation: a heavy and detailed concentration on enforcement, leaving the question of what happens to those already here either unspoken (Trump on Wednesday) or to be treated “case by case” (Trump last week).

The Trump detour into – and retreat from – deportation has proved salutary. Even the blustering tough guy had to dismiss it with “we’re not looking to hurt people.”

The ultimate national consensus, however, lies one step farther down the road. Why leave legalization for some future discussion? Get it done. Once the river of illegal immigration has been demonstrably and securely reduced to a trickle, the country will readily exercise its natural magnanimity and legalize.

So why not agree now? Say it and sign it. To get, you have to give. That’s the art of the deal, is it not?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/09/02/charles-krauthammer-trumps-immigration-policy-finally-retreats-to-more-rational-ground/feed/ 6 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/09/1041129_Campaign-2016-Trump.JPEG-3.jpgDonald Trump spent days floating a series of possible changes on his immigration policy and even met with the president of Mexico. But when it came to his much anticipated speech in Phoenix, it was a vintage and nationalist Trump.Fri, 02 Sep 2016 13:38:14 +0000
Charles Krauthammer: Our high standard for bribery is Hillary Clinton’s only saving grace http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/charles-krauthammer-our-high-standard-for-bribery-is-hillary-clintons-only-saving-grace/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/26/charles-krauthammer-our-high-standard-for-bribery-is-hillary-clintons-only-saving-grace/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1030058 Bernie Sanders never understood the epic quality of the Clinton scandals. In his first debate, he famously dismissed the email issue, it being beneath the dignity of a great revolutionary to deal in things so tawdry and straightforward.

The central problem with Hillary Clinton’s emails was not the classified material. It wasn’t the headline-making charge by the FBI director of her extreme carelessness in handling it.

That’s a serious offense, to be sure, and could very well have been grounds for indictment. And it did damage her politically, exposing her sense of above-the-law entitlement and – in her dodges and prevarications – demonstrating her arm’s-length relationship with the truth.

But the real question wasn’t classification but: Why did she have a private server in the first place? She obviously lied about the purpose. It was concealment, not convenience. What exactly was she hiding?

Was this merely the prudent paranoia of someone who habitually walks the line of legality? After all, if she controls the server, she controls the evidence, and can destroy it – as she did 30,000 emails – at will.

But destroy what? She set up the system before even taking office. It’s clear what she wanted to protect from scrutiny: Clinton Foundation business.

The foundation is a massive family enterprise disguised as a charity, an opaque mechanism for sucking money from the rich and the tyrannous to be channeled to Clinton Inc. Its purpose is to maintain the Clintons’ lifestyle (offices, travel, accommodations, etc.), secure profitable connections, produce favorable publicity and reliably employ a vast entourage of retainers, ready to serve today and at the coming Clinton Restoration.

Now we learn how the whole machine operated. Two weeks ago, emails began dribbling out showing foundation officials contacting State Department counterparts to ask favors for foundation “friends.” Say, a meeting with the State Department’s “substance person” on Lebanon for one particularly generous Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire.

Low-level stuff, said the Clinton defenders. No involvement of the secretary herself. Until – drip, drip – the next batch revealed foundation requests for face time with the secretary herself. Such as one from the crown prince of Bahrain.

To be sure, Bahrain, home of the Fifth Fleet, is an important Persian Gulf ally. Its crown prince shouldn’t have to go through a foundation – to which his government donated at least $50,000 – to get to the secretary. The fact that he did is telling.

Now, a further drip: The Associated Press found that over half the private interests who were granted phone or personal contact with Secretary Clinton – 85 of 154 – were donors to the foundation. Total contributions? As much as $156 million.

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

This is the very last line of defense. Yes, it’s obvious that access and influence were sold. But no one has demonstrated definitively that the donors received something tangible of value – a pipeline, a permit, a waiver, a favorable regulatory ruling – in exchange.

It’s hard to believe the Clinton folks would be stupid enough to commit something so blatant to writing. Nonetheless, there might be an email allusion to some such conversation. With thousands more emails to come, who knows what lies beneath.

On the face of it, it’s rather odd that a visible quid pro quo is the bright line for malfeasance. Anything short of that – the country is awash with political money that buys access – is deemed acceptable. As Donald Trump says of his own donation-giving days, “when I need something from them … I call them, they are there for me.” This is considered unremarkable.

It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like Rod Blagojevich, you go to prison. (He got 14 years.)

Yet we’re hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards or invitations to state dinners.

The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered – not just for the Clintons, for everyone – acceptable corruption. It’s a sorry standard. And right now, it is Hillary Clinton’s saving grace.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: United States pays the price of powerlessness in the Middle East http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/19/charles-krauthammer-united-states-pays-the-price-of-powerlessness-in-the-middle-east/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/19/charles-krauthammer-united-states-pays-the-price-of-powerlessness-in-the-middle-east/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1020467 This week Russian bombers flew out of Iranian air bases to attack rebel positions in Syria. The State Department pretended not to be surprised. It should be. It should be alarmed. Iran’s intensely nationalistic revolutionary regime had never permitted foreign forces to operate from its soil. Until now.

The reordering of the Middle East is proceeding apace. Where for 40 years the U.S.-Egypt alliance anchored the region, a Russia-Iran combination is now dictating events. That’s what you get after eight years of U.S. retrenchment and withdrawal. Consider:

n Iran: The nuclear deal was supposed to begin a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Instead, it has solidified a strategic-military alliance between Moscow and Tehran. With the lifting of sanctions and the normalizing of Iran’s international relations, Russia rushed in with major deals, including the shipment of S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Russian use of Iranian bases now marks a new level of cooperation and joint power projection.

n Iraq: These bombing runs cross Iraqi airspace. Before President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, that could not have happened. The resulting vacuum has not only created a corridor for Russian bombing, it has gradually allowed a hard-won post-Saddam Iraq to slip into Iran’s orbit. According to a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, there are 100,000 Shiite militia fighters operating inside Iraq, 80 percent of them Iranian-backed.

n Syria: When Russia dramatically intervened last year, establishing air bases and launching a savage bombing campaign, Obama did nothing. Indeed, he smugly predicted that Vladimir Putin had entered a quagmire. Some quagmire. Bashar Assad’s regime is not only saved. It encircled Aleppo and has seized the upper hand in the civil war. Meanwhile, our hapless secretary of state is trying to sue for peace, offering to share intelligence and legitimize Russian intervention if only Putin will promise to conquer gently.

Consider what Putin has achieved. Dealt a weak hand – a rump Russian state, shorn of empire and saddled with a backward economy and a rusting military – he has restored Russia to great power status.

In Europe, Putin has unilaterally redrawn the map. His annexation of Crimea will not be reversed. The Europeans are eager to throw off the few sanctions they grudgingly imposed on Russia. And the rape of eastern Ukraine continues.

Ten thousand have already died and now Putin is threatening even more open warfare. Under the absurd pretext of Ukrainian terrorism in Crimea, Putin has threatened retaliation, massed troops in eight locations on the Ukrainian border, ordered Black Sea naval exercises and moved advanced anti-aircraft batteries into Crimea, giving Moscow control over much of Ukrainian airspace.

And why shouldn’t he? He’s pushing on an open door. Obama still refuses to send Ukraine even defensive weapons. The administration’s response to these provocations? Urging “both sides” to exercise restraint. Both sides, mind you.

And in a gratuitous flaunting of its newly expanded reach, Russia will be conducting joint naval exercises with China in the South China Sea, in obvious support of Beijing’s territorial claims and illegal military bases.

Yet the president shows little concern. He simply doesn’t care. In part because his priorities are domestic. In part because he thinks we lack clean hands and thus the moral standing to continue to play international arbiter.

And in part because he’s convinced that in the long run it doesn’t matter. Fluctuations in great power relations are inherently ephemeral. For a man who sees a moral arc in the universe bending inexorably toward justice, calculations of raw realpolitik are primitive, obsolete, the obsession of small minds.

Obama made all this perfectly clear in speeches at the U.N., in Cairo and here at home in his first year in office. Two terms later, we see the result. Ukraine dismembered. Eastern Europe on edge. Syria a charnel house. Iran subsuming Iraq. Russia and Iran on the march across the entire northern Middle East.

The major revisionist powers – China, Russia and Iran – know what they want: power, territory, tribute. And they’re going after it. Barack Obama takes Ecclesiastes’ view that these are vanities, nothing but vanities.

In the kingdom of heaven, no doubt. Here on earth, however – Aleppo to Donetsk, Estonia to the Spratly Islands – it matters greatly.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Just can’t wait to get the Olympics off my chess http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/12/charles-krauthammer-just-cant-wait-to-get-the-olympics-off-my-chess/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/12/charles-krauthammer-just-cant-wait-to-get-the-olympics-off-my-chess/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1010816 You may be thrilled by the feats of Katie Ledecky, mesmerized by the grace of the women gymnasts, startled by Rio spectators mocking U.S. soccer star Hope Solo with chants of “Zika! Zika!” (the first recorded instance, noted one wit, of a stadium rocking to the invocation of a virus). Allow me, however, to interrupt the prepackaged, heart-tugging, tape-delayed Olympic coverage to bring you the real sporting news of the year.

It has just been announced that on Nov. 11 in New York City, the World Chess Championship will begin.

You scoff, of course. For years, I’ve had to put up with amused puzzlement at my taste in entertainment. (Old joke: How do you do the wave at a chess match? With your eyebrows.) But I remain undaunted.

True, chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be. In 1984, when challenger Garry Kasparov forced that championship match into 17 draws in a row – each about five hours of unbearable, unrelenting concentration – world champion Anatoly Karpov was so physically and mentally drained (he lost 22 pounds) that the Kremlin pressured the World Chess Federation to stop the match, thereby saving Soviet-favorite Karpov from forfeiting the title to the brash, free-thinking, half-Jewish Kasparov.

My first tournament – the 2002 Atlantic Open, a weekend of all-day pressure so intense that I left in a near-catatonic Karpovian state – was also my last. I have stuck to casual five-minute “blitz” chess ever since. My winnings – a $150 check that remains framed and forever uncashed – hang as a reminder never to do that again.

And while chess’ governing body cannot match the International Olympic Committee for corruption, the World Chess Federation more than makes up for that in weirdness. Its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former president of Russia’s republic of Kalmykia, is not only a reliable Moscow toady (sanctioned by the Treasury Department in November 2015), but also a nutcase who insists he’s been abducted by aliens. They wore yellow suits.

So why am I so excited about the upcoming match in New York? Who goes to a chess game anyway?

I do. Twice, in fact, in the early 1990s when the championship was also played in New York (the 1995 match on the observation deck of the World Trade Center). I drove from Washington both times with a couple of friends, to the consternation of the rest of our acquaintances, who thought we were certifiable.

They didn’t understand that we don’t actually sit and watch the game. Instead, we go to the grandmaster room where the greatest chess minds in the world crowd around a few drop-down demonstration boards, trading furious in-game commentary on the boneheadedness of the latest move and the cosmic brilliance of their own proposed nine-move counterattack.

My friends and I were barely hanging on trying to follow the dazzling riffs flung about by the immortals around us. Not to denigrate the elegance of the balance beam or the beauty of the pole vault, but that experience was (as we used to say when the world was young) mind-blowing.

Twenty-one years is a long time to wait to have your mind blown again. But there’s a more mundane reason for making the trip this time: a compelling storyline with a touch of the Cold War tension that made the 1972 Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky match such an international sensation.

The reigning world champion is Magnus Carlsen, a 25-year-old Norwegian who, unlike Fischer, is quite normal. He sports a winning personality and such good looks that he does commercials for a European clothing line.

His challenger is the classic Russian heavy, Sergey Karjakin, who (reports The New York Times) is a fan of both Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Crimea and who knocked off two brilliant Americans to get to the title fight.

Not exactly U.S.-USSR 1972. But Norway-Russia 2016 does have its charms, given Putin’s threats and intrusions into the Baltics and Scandinavia. Go Oslo!

I do concede that since Fischer-Spassky, chess has lost much of its mystique. The fall can be dated to May 11, 1997, when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Kasparov, widely considered the greatest human ever to play the game.

Today we don’t even bother with the man-machine contest. No human can beat the best software. The ultimate world series is between computer programs. And machines don’t sweat.

Or strive, suffer or exult. Humans do.

So I’ll join the fun and cheer the Olympians. It’ll help pass the time until the main event Nov. 11.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: What’s inside Trump’s mind? An infantile craving for approval and praise http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/05/charles-krauthammer-whats-inside-trumps-mind-an-infantile-craving-for-approval-and-praise/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/05/charles-krauthammer-whats-inside-trumps-mind-an-infantile-craving-for-approval-and-praise/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=999925 Donald Trump, the man who defied every political rule and prevailed to win his party’s nomination, last week took on perhaps the most sacred political rule of all: Never attack a Gold Star family. Not just because it alienates a vital constituency, but because it reveals a shocking absence of elementary decency and of natural empathy for the most profound of human sorrows – parental grief.

Why did Trump do it? It wasn’t a mistake. It was a revelation. It’s that he can’t help himself. His governing rule in life is to strike back when attacked, disrespected or even slighted. To understand Trump, you have to grasp the General Theory: He judges every action, every pronouncement, every person by a single criterion – whether or not it/he is “nice” to Trump.

Vladimir Putin called him brilliant (in fact, he didn’t, but that’s another matter) and a bromance is born. A “Mexican” judge rules against Trump, which makes him a bad person governed by prejudiced racial instincts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan criticizes Trump’s attack on the Gold Star mother – so Trump mocks Ryan and praises his primary opponent. On what grounds? That the opponent is an experienced legislator? Is a tested leader?

Not at all. He’s “a big fan of what I’m saying, big fan,” attests Trump.

You’re a fan of his, he’s a fan of yours. And vice versa. Treat him “unfairly” and you will pay. House speaker, Gold Star mother, it matters not.

Of course we all try to protect our own dignity and command respect. But Trump’s hypersensitivity and unedited, untempered Pavlovian responses are, shall we say, unusual in both ferocity and predictability.

This is beyond narcissism. I used to think Trump was an 11-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value – indeed exists – only insofar as it sustains and inflates him.

Most politicians seek approval. But Trump lives for the adoration. He doesn’t even try to hide it, boasting incessantly about his crowds, his standing ovations, his TV ratings, his poll numbers, his primary victories. The latter are most prized because they offer empirical evidence of how loved and admired he is.

Prized also because, in our politics, success is self-validating. A candidacy that started out as a joke, as a self-aggrandizing exercise in xenophobia, struck a chord in a certain constituency and took off. The joke was on those who believed that he was not a serious man and therefore would not be taken seriously. They – myself emphatically included – were wrong.

Winning – in ratings, polls and primaries – validated him. Which brought further validation in the form of endorsements from respected and popular Republicans. Chris Christie was first to cross the Rubicon. Ben Carson then offered his blessings, such as they are. Newt Gingrich came aboard to provide intellectual ballast.

Although tepid, the endorsements by Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were further milestones in the normalization of Trump.

But this may all now be jeopardized by the Gold Star gaffe. (Remember: A gaffe in Washington is when a politician inadvertently reveals the truth, especially about himself.) It has put a severe strain on the patched-over relationship between the candidate and both Republican leadership and Republican regulars.

Trump’s greatest success – normalizing the abnormal – is beginning to dissipate. When a Pulitzer Prize-winning liberal columnist (Eugene Robinson) and a major conservative foreign policy thinker and former speechwriter for George Shultz under Ronald Reagan (Robert Kagan) simultaneously question Trump’s psychological stability, indeed sanity, there’s something going on (as Trump would say).

The dynamic of this election is obvious. As in 1980, the status quo candidate for a failed administration is running against an outsider. The stay-the-course candidate plays his/her only available card – charging that the outsider is dangerously out of the mainstream and temperamentally unfit to command the nation.

In 1980, Reagan had to do just one thing: pass the threshold test for acceptability. He won that election because he did, especially in the debate with Jimmy Carter in which Reagan showed himself to be genial, self-assured and, above all, nonthreatening. You may not like all his policies, but you could safely entrust the nation to him.

Trump badly needs to pass that threshold. If character is destiny, he won’t.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Democratic nominee looking more and more like small change http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/29/charles-krauthammer-democratic-nominee-looking-more-and-more-like-small-change/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/29/charles-krauthammer-democratic-nominee-looking-more-and-more-like-small-change/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=989954 ‘The best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life.” So said Bill Clinton in making the case for his wife at the Democratic National Convention. Considering that Bernie Sanders ran as the author of a political revolution and Donald Trump as the man who would “kick over the table” (to quote Newt Gingrich) in Washington, “change-maker” does not exactly make the heart race.

Which is the fundamental problem with the Clinton campaign. What precisely is it about? Why is she running?

Like most dynastic candidates (most famously Ted Kennedy in 1979), she really doesn’t know. She seeks the office because, well, it’s the next – the final – step on the ladder.

Her campaign’s premise is that we’re doing OK but we can do better. There are holes to patch in the nanny-state safety net. She’s the one to do it.

It amounts to Sanders lite. Or the Bush slogan: “Jeb can fix it.” We know where that went.

The one man who could have created a plausible Hillaryism was Bill Clinton. Rather than do that – the way in Cleveland, Gingrich shaped Trump’s various barstool eruptions into a semi-coherent program of national populism – Bill gave a long chronological account of a passionate liberal’s social activism. It was an attempt, I suppose, to humanize her.

Well, yes. Perhaps, after all, somewhere in there is a real person. But what a waste of Bill’s talents.

He grandly concluded: “The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on Earth we have always been about tomorrow.” Is there a rhetorical device more banal?

Trump’s acceptance speech was roundly criticized for offering a dark, dystopian vision of America. For all of its exaggeration, however, it reflected well the view from Fishtown, the fictional white working-class town created statistically by social scientist Charles Murray in his 2012 study “Coming Apart.” It chronicled the economic, social and spiritual disintegration of those left behind by globalization and economic transformation. Trump’s capture of the resultant feelings of anxiety and abandonment explains why he enjoys an astonishing 39-point advantage over Clinton among whites without a college degree.

His solution is to beat up on foreigners for “stealing” our jobs. But while trade is a factor in the loss of manufacturing jobs, more important, by far, is the emergence of an information economy in which education, knowledge and various kinds of literacy are the coin of the realm. For all the factory jobs lost to Third World competitors, far more are lost to robots.

Hard to run against higher productivity. Easier to run against cunning foreigners.

In either case, Clinton has found no counter. If she has a theme, it’s about expanding opportunity, shattering ceilings. But the universe of discriminated-against minorities – so vast 50 years ago – is rapidly shrinking. When the civil rights issue of the day is bathroom choice for transgender Americans, a flummoxed Fishtown understandably asks, “What about us?” Telling coal miners she was going to close their mines and kill their jobs only reinforced white working-class alienation from Clinton.

As for the chaos abroad, the Democrats are in denial. The first night in Philadelphia, there were 61 speeches. Not one mentioned the Islamic State or even terrorism. Later references were few, far between and highly defensive. After all, what can the Democrats say? Clinton’s calling card is experience. Yet as secretary of state she left a trail of policy failures from Libya to Syria, from the Russian reset to the Iraqi withdrawal to the rise of the Islamic State.

Clinton had a strong second half of the convention as the Sanders revolt faded and President Obama endorsed her with one of the finer speeches of his career. Yet Trump’s convention bounce of up to 10 points has given him a slight lead in the polls. She badly needs one of her own.

She still enjoys the Democrats’ built-in Electoral College advantage. But she remains highly vulnerable to both outside events and internal revelations. Another major terror attack, another email drop – and everything changes.

In this crazy election year, there are no straight-line projections. As Clinton leaves Philadelphia, her lifelong drive for the ultimate prize is perilously close to a coin flip.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Ted Cruz delivers longest suicide note in American political history http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/22/ted-cruz-delivers-longest-suicide-note-in-american-political-history/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/22/ted-cruz-delivers-longest-suicide-note-in-american-political-history/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=980404 The main purpose of the modern political convention is to produce four days of televised propaganda. The subsidiary function, now that nominees are invariably chosen in advance, is structural: Unify the party before the final battle. In Cleveland, the Republicans achieved not unity, but only a rough facsimile.

The internal opposition consisted of two factions. The more flamboyant was led by Ted Cruz. Its first operation – an undermanned, underplanned, mini-rebellion over convention rules – was ruthlessly steamrolled on Day One. Its other operation was Cruz’s Wednesday night convention speech in which, against all expectation, he refused to endorse Donald Trump.

It’s one thing to do this off-site. It’s another thing to do it as a guest at a celebration of the man you are rebuking.

Cruz left the stage to a cascade of boos, having delivered the longest suicide note in American political history. If Cruz fancied himself following Ronald Reagan in 1976, the runner-up who overshadowed the party nominee in a rousing convention speech that propelled him four years later to the nomination, he might reflect on the fact that Reagan endorsed Gerald Ford.

Cruz’s rebellion would have a stronger claim to conscience had he not obsequiously accommodated himself to Trump during the first six months of the campaign. Cruz reinforced that impression of political calculation when, addressing the Texas delegation Thursday morning, he said that “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.” That he should feel so is not surprising. What is surprising is that he said this publicly, thus further undermining his claim to acting on high principle.

The other faction of the anti-Trump opposition was far more subtle. These are the leaders of the party’s congressional wing who’ve offered public allegiance to Trump while remaining privately unreconciled. You could feel the reluctance of these latter-day Marranos in the speeches of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

McConnell’s pitch, as always, was practical and direct. We’ve got things to achieve in the Senate. Obama won’t sign. Clinton won’t sign. Trump will.

Very specific, very instrumental. Trump will be our enabler, an instrument of the governing (or if you prefer, establishment) wing of the party. This is mostly fantasy and rationalization, of course. And good manners by a party leader obliged to maintain a common front. The problem is that Trump will not allow himself to be the instrument of anyone else’s agenda.

Ryan was a bit more philosophical. He presented the reformicon agenda, dubbed the Better Way, for which he too needs a Republican in the White House.

Moreover, in defending his conservative philosophy, he noted that at its heart lies “respect and empathy” for “all neighbors and countrymen” because “everyone is equal, everyone has a place” and “no one is written off.” Not exactly Trump’s Manichaean universe of winners and losers, natives and foreigners (including judges born and bred in Indiana).

The loyalist (i.e., Trumpian) case had its own stars. It was most brilliantly presented by the ever-fluent Newt Gingrich, the best natural orator in either party, whose presentation of Trumpism had a coherence and economy of which Trump is incapable.

Vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence gave an affecting, self-deprecating address that managed to bridge his traditional conservatism with Trump’s insurgent populism. He managed to make the merger look smooth, even natural.

Rudy Giuliani gave the most energetic loyalist address, a rousing law-and-order manifesto, albeit at an excitement level that surely alarmed his cardiologist.

And Chris Christie’s prosecutorial indictment of Hillary Clinton for crimes of competence and character was doing just fine until he went to the audience after each charge for a call-and-response of “guilty or not guilty.” The frenzied response was a reminder as to why trials are conducted in a courtroom and not a coliseum.

On a cheerier note, there were the charming preambles at the roll call vote, where each state vies to out-boast the other. Connecticut declared itself home to “Pez, nuclear submarines and … WWE.” God bless the United States.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Credit NATO for not letting its guard down against an aggressive Putin http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/15/charles-krauthammer-credit-nato-for-not-letting-its-guard-down-against-an-aggressive-putin/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/15/charles-krauthammer-credit-nato-for-not-letting-its-guard-down-against-an-aggressive-putin/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=970726 ‘The most significant reinforcement of our collective defense any time since the Cold War,” President Obama called it. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but it was still an achievement: Last week’s NATO summit in Warsaw ordered the deployment of troops to Eastern Europe, the alliance’s most serious response yet to Russia’s aggression and provocations on its western frontier.

The post-Ukraine economic sanctions have been weak; the declamatory denunciations, a mere embarrassment. They’ve only encouraged further reckless Russian behavior – the buzzing of U.S. ships, intrusions into European waters, threats to the Baltic States.

NATO will now deploy four battalions to front-line states. In Estonia, they’ll be led by Britain; in Lithuania, by Germany; in Latvia, by Canada; in Poland, by the United States. Not enough, and not permanently based, but nonetheless significant.

In the unlikely event of a Russian invasion of any of those territories, these troops are to act as a tripwire, triggering a full-scale war with NATO. It’s the kind of coldblooded deterrent that kept the peace in Europe during the Cold War and keeps it now along the DMZ in Korea.

In the more likely event of a “little green men” takeover attempt in, say, Estonia (about 25 percent ethnically Russian), the sort of disguised slow-motion invasion that Vladimir Putin pulled off in Crimea, the NATO deployments might be enough to thwart the aggression and call in reinforcements.

The message to Putin is clear: Yes, you’ve taken parts of Georgia and Ukraine. But they’re not NATO. That territory is sacred – or so we say.

This is a welcome development for the Balts, who are wondering whether they really did achieve irreversible independence when the West won the Cold War. Their apprehension is grounded in NATO’s flaccid response to Putin’s aggressive revanchism, particularly in Ukraine.

And what are the East Europeans to think when they hear the presumptive presidential nominee of the party of Reagan speaking dismissively of NATO and suggesting a possible American exit?

The NATO action takes on even greater significance because of the timing: just two weeks after Brexit. Britain’s withdrawal threatens the future of the other major pillar of Western integration and solidarity, the European Union. NATO shows that it is holding fast and that the vital instrument of Western cohesion and joint action will henceforth be almost entirely trans-Atlantic – meaning, under American leadership.

Putin was Brexit’s big winner. Any fracturing of the Western alliance presents opportunities to play one member against another. He can only be disappointed to see NATO step in.

After the humiliating collapse of Obama’s Russian “reset,” instilling backbone in NATO and resisting Putin are significant strategic achievements. It leaves a marker for Obama’s successor, reassures the East Europeans and will make Putin think twice about repeating Ukraine in the Baltics.

However, the Western order remains challenged by China and Iran. Their provocations proceed unabated. Indeed, the next test for the United States is China’s denunciation of the decision handed down Tuesday by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague – a blistering rejection of China’s territorial claims and military buildup in the South China Sea.

Without U.S. action, however, The Hague’s verdict is a dead letter. The Pacific Rim nations are anxious to see whether we will actually do something.

Regarding Iran, we certainly won’t. Our abject appeasement continues, from ignoring Tehran’s serial violations of the nuclear deal (the latest: intensified efforts to obtain illegal nuclear technology in Germany) to the administration facilitating the sale of about 100 Boeing jetliners to a regime that routinely uses civilian aircraft for military transport (particularly in Syria).

The troop deployments to Eastern Europe are a good first step in pushing back against the rising revisionist powers. But a first step, however welcome, 7½ years into a presidency, is a melancholy reminder of what might have been.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: FBI director didn’t want to upend the presidential election http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/08/charles-krauthammer-fbi-director-didnt-want-to-upend-the-presidential-election/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/08/charles-krauthammer-fbi-director-didnt-want-to-upend-the-presidential-election/#comments Fri, 08 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=960053 Why did he do it? FBI Director James Comey spent 14 minutes laying out an unassailable case for prosecuting Hillary Clinton for the mishandling of classified material. Then at literally the last minute, he recommended against prosecution.

This is baffling. Under the statute – 18 U.S.C. section 793(f) – it’s a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or “through gross negligence.” The evidence, as outlined by Comey, is overwhelming.

Clinton either sent or received 110 emails in 52 chains containing material that was classified at the time. Eight of these chains contained information that was top secret. A few of the classified emails were so marked, contrary to Clinton’s assertion that there were none.

These were stored on a home server that was even less secure than a normal Gmail account. Her communications were quite possibly compromised by hostile powers, thus jeopardizing American national security.

“An unclassified system was no place for that conversation,” Comey said of the classified emails. In plainer, more direct language: It is imprudent, improper and indeed illegal to be conducting such business on an unsecured private server.

Comey summed up Clinton’s behavior as “extremely careless.” How is that not gross negligence? Yet Comey let her off the hook, citing lack of intent. But negligence doesn’t require intent. Compromising national secrets is such a grave offense that it requires either intent or negligence.

Lack of intent is, therefore, no defense. But one can question that claim as well. Yes, it is safe to assume that there was no malicious intent to injure the nation. But Clinton clearly intended to set up an unsecured private server. She clearly intended to send those classified emails. She clearly received warnings from her own department about the dangers of using a private email account.

She meant to do what she did. And she did it. Intentionally.

That’s two grounds for prosecution, one requiring no intent whatsoever. Yet Comey claims that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Nor has one ever been brought.

Not so. Just last year, the Justice Department successfully prosecuted naval reservist Bryan Nishimura, who improperly downloaded classified material to his personal, unclassified electronic devices.

The government admitted there was no evidence that Nishimura intended to distribute the material to others. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to two years of probation, fined and forever prohibited from seeking a security clearance, effectively killing any chance of working in national security.

So why not Hillary Clinton? The usual answer is that the Clintons are treated by a different standard. They are too well connected, too well protected to be treated like everybody else.

Alternatively, the explanation is that Comey gave in to implicit political pressure, the desire to please those in power. Plausible, but given Comey’s reputation for probity and given that he holds a 10-year appointment, I’d suggest a third line of reasoning.

When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that he thought the issue too momentous – and the implications for the country too large – to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially after Bush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.

I’d suggest that Comey’s thinking was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee, he might well have made a different recommendation.

Prosecuting under current circumstances would have upended an already yearlong presidential selection process. In my view, Comey didn’t want to be remembered as the man who irreversibly altered the course of U.S. political history.

I admit I’m giving Comey the benefit of the doubt. But the best way I can reconcile his reputation for integrity with the grating illogic of his Clinton decision is by presuming that he didn’t want to make history.

I don’t endorse his decision. (Nor did I Roberts’.) But I think I understand it.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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Charles Krauthammer: Casualties of Brexit may include the United Kingdom itself http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/01/charles-krauthammer-casualties-of-brexit-may-include-the-united-kingdom-itself/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/07/01/charles-krauthammer-casualties-of-brexit-may-include-the-united-kingdom-itself/#comments Fri, 01 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=950537 Given their arrogance, pomposity and habitual absurdities, it is hard not to feel a certain satisfaction with the comeuppance that Brexit has delivered to the unaccountable European Union bureaucrats in Brussels.

Nonetheless, we would do well to refrain from condescension. Unity is not easy. What began in 1951 as a six-member European Coal and Steel Community was grounded in a larger conception of a united Europe born from the ashes of World War II. Seven decades into the postwar era, Britain wants out and the EU is facing an existential crisis.

Yet where were we Americans seven decades into our great experiment in continental confederation, our “more perfect union” contracted under the Constitution of 1787? At Fort Sumter.

The failure of our federal idea gave us civil war and 600,000 dead. And we had the advantage of a common language, common heritage and common memory of heroic revolutionary struggle against a common (British) foe. Europe had none of this. The European project tries to forge the union of dozens of disparate peoples, ethnicities, languages and cultures, amid the searing memories of the two most destructive wars in history fought among and against each other.

The result is the EU, a great idea badly executed. The founding motive was obvious and noble: to reconcile the combatants of World War II, most especially France and Germany, and create conditions that would ensure there could be no repetition. Onto that was appended the more utopian vision of a continental superstate that would once and for all transcend parochial nationalism.

That vision blew up with Brexit on June 23. But we mustn’t underestimate the significance, and improbability, of the project’s more narrow, but still singular, achievement – peace. It has given Europe the most extended period of internal tranquility since the Roman Empire. (In conjunction, of course, with NATO, which provided Europe with its American umbrella against external threat.)

Not only is there no armed conflict among European states. The very idea is inconceivable. This on a continent where war had been the norm for a millennium.

Give the EU its due. It has championed and advanced a transnational idea that has helped curb the nationalist excesses that culminated in two world wars.

Advanced not quite enough, however. Certainly not enough to support its often dismissive treatment of residual nationalisms and their democratic expressions. Despite numerous objections by referendum and parliament, which it routinely either ignored or circumvented, the EU continued its relentless drive for more centralization, more regulation and thus more power for its unelected self.

Such high-handed overriding of popular sentiment could go on only so long. Until June 23, 2016, to be precise.

To be sure, popular sentiment was rather narrowly divided. The most prominent disparity in the British vote was generational. The young, having grown up in the new Europe, are more comfortable with its cosmopolitanism and have come to expect open borders, open commerce and open movement of people. They voted overwhelmingly – by 3 to 1 – to remain. Leave was mainly the position of an older generation no longer willing to tolerate European assaults on British autonomy and sovereignty.

Understandably so. Here is Britain, inventor of the liberal idea and home to the mother of parliaments, being instructed by a bunch of Brussels bureaucrats on everything from the proper size of pomegranates to the human rights of terrorists.

Widely mentioned, and resented, was the immigration directive to admit other EU citizens near automatically. But what pushed the leave side over the top was less policy than primacy. Who runs Britain? Amazingly, about half the laws and regulations that govern British life today come not from Westminster but from Brussels.

Brexit was an assertion of national sovereignty and an attempt, in one fell swoop, to recover it.

There is much to admire in that impulse. But among its casualties may be not just the European project (other exit referendums are already being proposed) but possibly the United Kingdom itself. The Scots are already talking about another vote for independence. And Northern Ireland, which voted to remain in the EU, might well seek to unite with the Republic.

Talk about a great idea executed badly. In seeking a newly sovereign United Kingdom, the Brits might well find themselves having produced a little England.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

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