Wednesday, February 1, 2017


President Trump has picked Judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee. The choice is a good one. Finally a nominee who looks in theory "fit for the job", although one might have preferred a more openminded personality, closer to the bench than to the letter of the Constitution. Nevertheless the intellectual credentials of this nominee look impressive. True, he is a conservative but, after all, a bona fide conservative should not be rejected as long as his or her views have roots in coherent legal and moral beliefs. One should hope that the hearings will be of the more cerebral class which should be expected when two schools of constitutional jurisprudence and precedent are under scrutiny.

The Democrats should be well advised to abstain from repeating the indefensible antics of the Republicans who refused to give President Obama's equally gifted and ideally prepared nominee even the shadow of a courtesy. Past sins have long shadows but sometimes one's legitimate scorn has to make place for enlightened consideration.

The Trump style does not lead to some form of accepted give- and-take, unfortunately. His attacks on individuals and the media continue. The abrasive style en vogue in his Praetorian inner circle is frankly alarming. The Bannon/Flynn arsonists also responsible for the misguided temporary selective Muslim ban and the Iran warning, dominate.

The voices heard in EU circles are, understandably, shrill. Disbelief rules but one should beware of unattended consequences. The new president has no particular liking for things European. The gulf which has been created between former partners better be monitored and addressed, before it becomes too wide. The barrage of words out of Brussels is not helpful. Bruised sensibilities on both sides need to be cured before they get out of hand.

The new US administration is already being tested by Iran and Russia. It can be expected that North Korea and China will follow suit. Since the former nexus of alliances and of semi- orderly world management are questioned, the negotiating table is already in danger of being too small to accommodate all the new players who are elbowing their way in since America is perceived to be in retreat. President Trump remains basically a non- sentimental persona, hooked on short-cut deals. He might very well consider a Yalta type of arrangement with Putin over the heads of Western Europeans. Likewise he could cast the dice in Asia and the Middle East without having read or consulted the relevant players or antecedents. Restraint will be difficult to achieve but the growing anti-Trump gut reaction cannot be allowed to morph into anti-American rhetoric.

Europe could be the big loser in all this.  Brexit on the west and the Baltics and Ukraine in the east weigh on the EU's ability to navigate its map for the future.  Its former liberal-realist soft- power added value starts to look less convincing or desirable. The known American federalist savoir faire  has fallen victim to Europe's self-esteem deficit and to the populist oil spill at home. Only Germany is regaining (for now) an historic claim to being Russia's only equal interlocutor in Europe, albeit unwillingly almost, given bad memories. The decline of the Western model is growing. China is slowly taking over the contemporary narrative which was a US monopoly. It is following a binary course--hard- and growing soft-power--while others look on: Europe forgettable, Russia hardly bearable and America clinging to its West Coast like to a life belt.

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