Sunday, November 27, 2016


Every Christmas sees the return of Tony Bennett.  Every Republican major event is equally marked by the usual beatification of President Ronald Reagan, the GOP's nonchalant Fred Astaire.  Since the Donald Trump election, we've gotten closer to sainthood. The Gipper approves Donald's ways from heaven.  No wonder, since the candelabra president-elect shares many threats with the holy one.

He also has a liking for a foreign leader/antecedent/model, who he will try to cozy-up to while oblivious to the fact that he might be used. Mrs.Thatcher used Reagan as Putin would recycle Trump.  The former is equally "xeno-ignorant" and historically clueless.  He might "proliferate", whereas Ronnie almost sunk America's nuclear arsenal in Reykjavik. He brags about the support he receives from the Rust Belt voters in ways not unlike Reagan's "proximity" to the Readers' Digest American.  Both specialize in a cynical tap-dance around issues. Reagan chose to ignore, as long as he could, the genocidal ravage of AIDS.   He was reckless in foreign affairs (Iran/Contra, Beirut barrack bombings, Grenada invasion). Trump might be more dangerous if propelled by the need to make news rather than common sense.

Trump will be shielded by applause from a clique, as much as Reagan was protected by Michael Deaver, the First Lady and her astrologer.  Since the upper tier is occupied, the other floors are bloodied by a civil war.  Under Reagan, his chief of staff Donald Regan lost the war to Nancy; secretaries of state and defense were often at loggerheads, not to mention Alexander Haig's coup, after the attempt on the President's life. In Casa Trump the noise regarding who will be secretary of state risks killing the credibility of the anointed one, ante facto.  And one could go on...

Seldom has one seen a more unprofessional display of decorum and content.  The family penthouse Medusa floors are already too small for Trump & Co.  The "collaterals" have only the elevators and chutes to hang on.  The business "occasionals" come and go amidst the crowd of candidates who never know if they are summoned for humiliation or for the "goodies."  The first lot of chosen ones already sends tremors through the spines of the more enlightened observers.

Existential empathy will be in short supply at the court of this Henry VIII made in the USA. There is already an Anna Boleyn in the choice of Nikki Halley as ambassador to the UN.  The Alt-Right is seeking an investigation into her supposed infidelity!  Speaking of a happy crowd! Trump does not need to hire a Brutus. He is to be found (in plural) among the many ugly personae who rummage through the upper floors of Trump Tower.   His choice!

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Fidel Castro has left the scene. He must have realized that he stood alone now.  He was the symbol of an idea which had its moments of glory, empathy and bluff.  Even when he was wrong he was never "small."  Contrary to past and current "imitators", he struck a chord with his base and avoided the trappings of opportunism. Still, his human rights record is a stain on his more romantic saga.

I remember how when in Mexico he did not have to walk, the street carried him.  Unlike others, he will not be forgotten.  After all, the Cuban mouse tricked the American tomcat !

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Trump, president-elect, is seen by many as very different from Trump the candidate.  The argument could be made for quite the contrary.  True, he has made a U-turn on certain issues (climate change, further inquiry in Secretary Clinton's emails, water-boarding ) but he has made sure to leave an option for reconsideration open. There are more ambiguities than what strikes the eye.

More fundamentally, the familiar behavior remains the same. He craves attention and this presidency could be a marathon against the media which might get tired, obliged to cover the changing patterns, moods of this ballistic personality.  Despite obvious tensions in the transition team, the president-elect controls the news cycle on his terms. His late hour Tweets would fit Lady Macbeth!  He also gives the impression to be totally devoid of doubt regarding his decisions or appointments, made on the spot without the usual endless vetting. This pattern might be dangerous and could lead to remakes of President Reagan's Reykjavik moment which almost gave George Shultz a heart attack. Given his "penchant" for deals, the future meetings with leaders of the Putin, Xi Jinping mode will have to be closely watched and monitored.

Trump is a hurricane. He will not change. He is in love with himself and the narcissism will only grow after the inauguration. He is more entertainer-in-chief than commander-in-chief. He realizes that he can manipulate his base. He knows, too, that the media and the "elites"--begrudgingly--cannot ignore him.  History seems irrelevant to him. The short term is all there is.  I doubt that he will feel the spell of living in the White House in Jefferson's shadow, so to speak. He might be more concerned with the plumbing. The world will have to live with this unusual man. This is going to be a difficult time for Europe which is confronted with a populist wave and disenchantment with existing norms. Putin can count on the rise of a Fifth column in the EU which might further disenfranchise hitherto accepted rules of law. The former Atlantic Charter idea is being overtaken by self-serving conduct patterns. Europe risks exchanging ambition for accommodation.

President Trump might get lost in some big bargain without the Wilsonian vision. History, for those still interested, teaches us that instantaneous moves (Napoleon and Alexander I and Prussia, Hitler and Stalin) only gain time for one of the parties involved without regard for long- term or moral imperatives.  In French they might say:  qui va etre le didon de la farce?, after all, it is Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016


Already the legend is catching up with the President before he leaves office.  Forgotten and forgiven are his often Hamlet-like mindset, his over-intellectualizing and his distance.
Michelle Obama likewise entered with him into what is becoming a saga of a partnership uniquely equal and supportive.  Compared with the current awful, mostly outrageous transition, the previous eight years look like an exercise in style and graciousness. While there is certainly room for legitimate critical revisiting of the Obama years, it is impossible to find the slightest sign of the pugilistic postures that are for now the trademark of the changes both in personnel and tone under the president-elect.

Rightly, everybody outside of the Trump machine, maintains a wait-and-see attitude. Nevertheless, the choices already made and the style (modus operandi) give ample reason for nervous assessment.   A lot is being said of Trump's predilection for making "deals". The latter indicates that agreements can be considered between "equal options". However we find ourselves in a world wherein unequal realities collide--as in WWII , the Cold War, the fight against terrorism, the unilateral disrespect for borders or for the pacta sunt servanda--and wherein deals become unrealistic if not immoral. The Western "Atlantic" world is still one of shared values and accepted rules of engagement between states who try to live under the rule of law. This concept was never taken hostage by "obscure" incoherent ideologies as might be the case today. It is too early to judge what the role of the extremes might be under a Trump administration but the entree of Breitbart into the White House is an ominous sign.  Steve Bannon & Co. are not known for their skills with nuance and fair-play. They have an agenda and are not prone to compromise.

America's allies are worried and the fear exists that this Right Wing oil spill might also engulf Europe, shaking systems and beliefs.  The Trump administration will have to come up early on with clear answers regarding Article 5 of NATO, trade, globalization, non-proliferation, climate change, all issues of major importance which rest on agreed beliefs which should never be reduced to parts of a deal. There looms a major danger in all this insofar as a conservative bigoted mindset might reverse existing priorities. Perverse idelogy could marginalize strategy and partnership.  If the art of the deal is nothing more than for the president-elect to see Dr. Kissinger and Nigel Farage on the same day, something is rotten in Trump Tower. Two extremes are not always each other's opposites.  President Obama struck a most statesman-like posture in Germany. The form and the content of his message were each other's complement. Enjoy the class act when it still has a short lifetime. 

Monday, November 14, 2016


This outstanding, yet familiar PBS anchor has left us.  In these too dark frustrating times, she reminds us of all what still can be professional, unselfish and positive in American media.
Viewers were looking forward to seeing her because she never attempted to invade one's space. Even while questioning a presidential contender she was able to come up with topics which were pertinent without ever being double-barreled.  Her private "persona" never took over either, not because there was too little to convey, but because there might have been too much!

Friday, November 11, 2016


With every day that passes, the enormity of the new situation in the US becomes clearer. The class of Secretary Clinton (who won the popular vote ) grows in the minds of all, when compared with the crass of the president-elect's entourage.

Yesterday, President Obama received Trump in the White House. The meeting went as such ritually-scripted events do, well. We will never know what was going on in the minds of both parties (Trump was nervous).  It remains ironic that the "unfit one" had to sit next to the person he had accused, for years, of not being born American.  Now, the "losers" have to confront the shallowness of the future president. The "winners" have to come to terms with the obnoxious paradoxes of this accidental  narcissistic avatar in their midst. 

The fear is real. The"used" (mostly) men around and with Trump have a vindictive, reactionary agenda.  His campaign manager is to women what a Nazi is to the Jews. The lack of culture and grace, the absence of real empathy with the "white blue-collar forgotten men in the rust belt" are almost farcical. Given that many achievements of President Obama might be shelved, voters will feel cheated and will have their day of reckoning.  One should feel frightened, imagining President Trump dealing with world leaders of whom he is not aware and regarding issues of which he is not at all cognizant.  This tabula rasa is an open invitation to allow miscalculation, improvisation and impulsive behavior to rule. His Twitter "persona" is already back with a vengeance.

How did it come to this?  Secretary Clinton's "high road" was obviously too principled and abstract for some. American voters do seldom go for philosophical argument. The frustration of many in the US and in Europe is real and raw.  Brexit is not a local phenomenon, it is a structural trans-border wave of discontent for reasons both real or imagined. This situation is an open door which lets in the manipulative mindset of a cynical few. The Far Right was able to play on the hurt feelings of the "deplorables" in the gun, pro-life, often bigoted segments of society. This tactic was widely used in the '30s-Germany, and today in countries as diverse as Russia, Poland, Turkey and China.

Trump risks having a zero honeymoon.  He even might become the victim of his backroom cronies as soon as he is made to believe that no one but him is taking over the commands. It will be ironic that the great demagogue might perish from the same cause--being manipulated--as the one he inflicted on his voters. 

There is grief in the land, there is disbelief.  When seen in time and space, the Trump phenomenon will be viewed as a costly, traumatic mistake.  Democracy can be tricky but in the end, it always recovers!   The hangover remains painful, nevertheless.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The unthinkable has happened. Secretary Clinton lost. President Obama was rebuked. Donald Trump won by a landslide.  Few saw it coming.  Most comments, including mine, have been overhauled by this Hokusai-style political tsunami.

The angry old men around the nominee will have carte blanche to undo all Obama strove for: the Affordable Care Act, climate change, trade, the Iran deal, non-proliferation, the opening to Cuba and one could go on. Worse is that the Supreme Court will receive a death sentence: it will be degraded to become another political lobby.

How we arrived here will be the topic of books, debates, articles. Lots of people feel shell- shocked, including myself. We are in for four years of possible tectonic changes. Trump's rather low-key acceptance speech should not lead to a sobered resignation of the opposite camp. The former often irresponsible talk became the ice-breaker which left the electoral map of the Democrat it in tatters.

The depth of the American malaise was actually well understood by Trump early on, when he lauded Brexit. He has given the United States a Brexit-Plus. The analogy is clear, a choice between socio-cultural retrenchment or a model of openness and free-trade. Hence, one finds America split between part of the East and the West Coasts and the fly-over middle which becomes a "No-go /Do Not Enter" land. Rural stands against urban, secular stands against evangelical.

One must try to remain composed, but not at the cost of personal integrity. The choice was clear between professionalism, knowledge of world affairs and, on the other side, gross talk and a total disregard for political creativity. Trump's America would fit well in the neighborhood of Poland and Hungary. The coming changes at the top in France and Germany might as well follow this new nefarious American way. 

This election is also an existential affront to President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Both have been insulted in ways not seen since Germany in the late thirties.

In her emotional concession speech Mrs.Clinton, who won a majority of votes, proved yet again her mettle, class and endurance. Her leaving the political scene feels like morning.  Her words were heart-breaking.   I bet that lots of Trump voters feel remorse now.

Democrats reel and half of America looks into the abyss. Women and minorities should feel especially diminished.  This has been a "long night".  Strange days will follow!

Sunday, November 6, 2016


America votes Tuesday. In my opinion, Secretary Clinton will win, albeit with a smaller margin than originally expected.  The Democrats might fall short of wining a majority in the Senate.
The House will remain Republican.  
American democracy would be on life-support under a Trump presidency. One can already foresee how the smear campaign will be waged against a Clinton administration. The hate which has overshadowed the rules of democratic debate is nothing compared to the hit-and-run tactics of tomorrow. 

Despite an orchestrated barrage--almost a coup--Hillary Clinton would be the first woman to accede to the highest office in the United States. This would be a historic event on all accounts. She is too savvy to consider for one moment that the opposite camp would accept the outcome. From day one hell would brake loose. This is no longer a royal battle between Democrats and Republicans. The GOP, as one knows it from the Bush/Romney days, no longer exists. The party has been hijacked by ultra-right Neanderthals and it will have to confront the enemy within. One must still hope that there are enough bona fide Republicans left to save the party from a hostile take-over.  

President Hillary Clinton will have support from Western Europeans and from progressives in America and around the world. She would owe her victory to her resilience and intelligence, but without the support of President Obama and the First Lady, of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, she might not have broken the glass-ceiling once and for all.

The right will try anything--nefarious and pseudo-legal--to undermine her.  Russia, WikiLeaks and the demented clique around Trump will stage a permanent Kristallnacht after November 8.
Recent events indicate that there is a real active, motivated anti-Clinton force in all the layers of power. This ominous development is basically anti-American but it has metastasized by now and must be reckoned with.

A Clinton victory will feel good at the moment but count on the Trump voters to try to plan the road to the scaffold after !

Thursday, November 3, 2016


The US presidential elections are about more than the sum of the contenders.  In this cycle of discontent, full of "sound and fury", serious issues are being overtaken by leaks, innuendos and trivia.  In reality, what is at stake is the future of America in the short-term. Seldom has there been such a frankly alarming moment of choice.

The United States are beleaguered both at home and in the world.  While multiple choices abroad are still in reach, the polarization inside will be much harder to reverse when not remedied. The two candidates are flawed. One is unfit, the other can appear ambiguous. One is structurally flawed in all aspects, the other carries the tension between a public persona and a private "no trespassing" zone of comfort.

There have always been debates between one or the other school of thought: federal power versus the states, and constitutional freedom of choice versus measures rooted in a set of moral and religious values and in political calculus.  The voters now must make up their minds: either they risk derailing the core democratic values, or they reinvest in a complex  more secular paradigm. Both choices are equally perilous insofar as one or the other will have to confront a backlash, with unforeseeable consequences. The losers on either side will certainly feel too frustrated to cooperate and too hurt to let their defeat play out in a gallant way.

The pathological real estate autocrat is irreversibly tainted by his embrace of unsavory characters and by murky business deals, while the reformer appears often not to be able to shelve once and for ever ambiguities of her own making.  The choice has become an existential one. Issues take a back seat while the fabric of the American society receives, rightly so, full attention.  
It would furthermore be ironic if Trump, elected, would be more welcome in Moscow than in Western European countries where he is a pariah. The bluff, the diplomatic ignorance, the nuclear largesse, the Tweet life-span of his attention range might fit the profile of a casino mogul but they make him unqualified for the function he foolishly aspires to. 

Another danger is that Trump is a willing hostage of the Breitbart "Alt Right" which wants to erase all that President Obama stands for. The ultra right has found in this Manchurian candidate the right tool to arrive at defined objectives he does not even care to understand, as long as his ego is taken care of.

At the end only Secretary Clinton fits the profile required for becoming the next Commander in chief / President, but if she wins she better prepare for an ugly aftermath. Her opponents will  stop at nothing, even on the back of America's ethos, reputation, rule of law and civil liberties.