Tuesday, May 29, 2018

ROSEANNE

Roseanne is supposed to be to all things Trump, just like Camelot was to the Kennedy flock. The JFK nostalgia still has its adepts. The Trump hordes got in the ABC sitcom their own Niebelungen. They could forget their guns and bibles and get high on the reflection of their own mediocre lives.

Roseanne left for an instant her "imitation of life" lines and went rogue, choosing to pick on Valerie Jarret (President Obama's confidante) of all people, in some out-of-the- blue heinous, racist rant. She is supposedly to play the part of a typical Trump voter, dealing with the stress and the problems from the "forgotten white American". The clich├ęs in her script, which the critics found excellent, must not have been enough for this diva of Tupperware. Apparently she could not resist delving deeper into her unbecoming self. Her "verbal Waterloo" is already becoming an other troubling subtitle for the Trump label. 

She still has one advantage over Trump.  She foregoes lies and speak from the "heart".

Monday, May 28, 2018

THE KOREAN FARCE

The fanfare around Trump's impulsive, improvised, yoyo moves regarding the Singapore meeting is now becoming a Jerry Lewis farce, the hallmark of the Trump syndicate.

North Korea already got what it wanted:  a ticket to "normal".  South Korea feels "played", Japan and China cannot believe their eyes or ears. Trump's administration looks, yet again, like a ship of fools.

It is no longer relevant if the June 12 meeting takes place or not.  If it does, Kim Jong-un might get Trump's Macron treatment or, to the contrary, some birdcage tantrum. The president will have both his megaphone ready and his lies in reserve.  He cares solely for primetime TV anyway, not for any real, articulate strategic outcome.

This summit is already another episode for Saturday Night Live.  Indeed, we live in the post-truth nightmare. Trump's MAGA now has an offspring--MANKA (make North Korea great again)--and one obsession:  the Russian probe. The latter is already normalized, the former is ominous.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

TRUMP : THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

By now we all are familiar with Trump's lies and bluff. His disregard for facts, truth, history or diplomacy is embarrassing. Worse, his vice-president (Pence, "the pious"), his secretary of State (Pompeo, "the Benghazi prosecutor") and his NSC advisor (John Bolton, "the WMD illusionist") obviously bungled the whole Singapore summit preparation.

Their topsy-turvy approach, wherein the end was heralded instead of the beginning, created yet again the chaos which is this president's hallmark. Snubbing preparatory, exploratory talks, Trump ends up alienating everybody. One does not dare to imagine what passes on in the minds of the South Korean, Chinese and Japanese leaders. The clumsy, inappropriate choice of noise over content is hard to swallow.  Seldom has a major power ("great" is no longer the chosen term) acted as reckless in this most delicate talk about talks. True the policies regarding trade, climate, Iran, Cuba, NAFTA, NATO, TPP and the EU set the tone! Only Russia, Trump's kingmaker, is spared (almost).

For one who is familiar with Asian ways and protocol the disbelief is difficult to overcome. Not that the rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington is out of the question but the loss of face returns Trump to his real dimension, that of a salesman in damaged ware and botched opportunities.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

MEGHAN MARKLE

The British royals are great performers. With their crazy My Fair Lady hats, their pomp and their antics, they remain relevant against all odds, and dwarf other royals and cousins into irrelevance.

In marrying Prince Harry, Megan Markle has achieved the unthinkable. In these dark Trump years, where America has hit rock bottom, she made all things American seductive again. This event resonates because it says a lot about race, gender, empathy which are under attack in America since January 2017. This commoner is an uncommon game-changer. That Her Majesty entered, late in her reign, in this probably new unfamiliar acceleration of change is proof of her mettle and class.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

ISRAEL MORTGAGES ITS SOUL

Israel is a story of vindication, success and transformation. The world was awestruck, seeing the desert bloom and the start-ups multiply. The arguable beginnings were overshadowed by the later achievements. The Golda Meir/Sadat historical meeting was as much about Realpolitik as it was a recognition of the need to find answers for reciprocal legitimate grievances or aspirations. Few countries were as respected as Israel was then.

The further solution for a Palestinian homeland looked in the making. Palestinians should be granted a continuous land after corrections of borders and a dismantling of a number of Jewish settlements. Jerusalem should receive a special status, compatible with the historical claims of both parties. The two state solution would also address economic, military, water, security issues and find ways to compensate those Palestinians who lost all after the creation of the Jewish state.

The situation today looks totally hopeless. After the passing of the historical leaders in Israel and a Palestinian Authority in free-fall, the tensions multiply, fed by regional instabilities and by the curse of the Trump/Netanyahu lethal partnership. To be critical of the American president does not make one anti-American (quite the contrary). To be critical of the Israeli P.M. does not make one anti-Israel.  In our current post-truth times, Trump and Netanyahu are the chosen spokesmen for the new alternative reality. They share a selfish view of their interests and are not interested in participating in a new world architecture that is so badly needed. They sacrifice the existential for sake of the parochial. Therefore, they give up on larger ambitions and only live for prime-time slots in social media.

The Gaza situation is dramatic. Hamas is an unreliable steward of the Palestinian cause (Mahmoud Abbas has lost his credibility as well) but both Israel and Egypt act like jailers of people who feel locked up and deprived of hope. It can be understood that the psychological gap between the" haves" and the "have nots" is creating structural problems that might well become irreversible, given the current frustrations. The timing for the US Embassy move to Jerusalem arrived at the worst possible moment. The attendees at the inaugural spectacle looked and acted like representatives of a detestable pseudo-religious "sect".  The whole show was shameful.

There is a blueprint, known by all, for finding a solution for Jerusalem's final status. Yesterday's show might well have been its undertaker.



Monday, May 14, 2018

OBAMA DELENDUM EST

The American foreign policy today has one Leitmotiv:  dismantle all that the Obama administration did or stood for. For sure, the sum of the past is not a win/win story. The many inroads into diplomacy and management inside were not always successful. Nevertheless, America was mostly a reliable partner outside and became a better model for enlightened democracy inside. Serious thought went into acting about measures and initiatives, which were often successful, sometimes failures, never without some form of upstream reasoning, open to debate.

The current agenda is only based on envy or sheer spite. The orientation of decision-making does not follow any logic or conviction. In this "America First" casserole one can find almost anything or predict any outcome, since everything is measured by reversal from the Obama administration. Science, multilateralism, aid, rule of law, independence of the Judiciary are all rolled back, not in the name of alternative merits but in the era of overall post-truth. Under Trump the lie is the rule. He started as a birther, continued as a liar and rules as a semi- despot.

The America First policy is part populist but it is also perverse, insofar as this retreat from many theaters happens without any form of clean up. In all places the toxic after-mess piles up. The many U-turns on climate, TPP, Iran deal, trade, Cuba, Middle East and internal norms regarding environment, education, justice, are causing serious damage. It is ironical, by the way, that the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem coincides with the commemoration of the Nakba (catastrophe) when the Palestinians mourn the creation of the state of Israel. The deaths on the separation line between Gaza and Israel speak to the conscience everywhere. It is a cruel hardship to believe that your land has been taken away from you without appeal.  It is dramatic when you are deprived of your humanity. Now the White House sticks to its distortions, continuing to lie about the Iran deal and to sing the praises of a North Korean leader who presides over a robotic Pavlovian nightmare.

Soon the presidential elections in Mexico might lead to the victory of AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador). Trump's policies create such a disgust in Latin America that the unwelcome outcomes there are becoming the rule. If a new elected president (Maduro lite) were to reverse the modus vivendi which was achieved between the insensitive American "bear" and the hypersensitive Mexican "porcupine" (in the words of former US Ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow), the consequences might be serious. It is also ironic to hear the child-friendly bla bla of the First Lady, while Latin American children are forcefully separated from their parents at the southern border. Humanity, decency (the McCain comment for which the White House never apologizes), science, pluralism are thrown away. The former "shining city on the hill" becomes just like Hungary's twin city on the Potomac.

If the Korean "affair" were to be blessed with a Nobel prize, the former should go to the South Korean president, who made the rapprochement possible through a personal diplomatic initiative which was two years in the making, from the time he ran for president on. Trump is only besotted with the "now" if it allows him a prime time slot on Fox News ("the state in the state") and the praise of the usual minions. One runs for cover rather than having to imagine how denuclearization talks might proceed under the tutelage of this current mafia.

Let us imagine how third parties might really assess Don Trump's entourage of the corrupt and the Russophiles, the cheaters and the Europhobes?! We were warned after the president's inaugural address that we were entering unchartered vocabulary and behavior. We did not know it would arrive with such a speed. It is to be hoped that the Europeans will remain firm before the groundwater they stand on is polluted with the compliments of Scott Pruitt's EPA.

It is to be assumed that the Kushners and other members of the Trump syndicate who participate in the Jerusalem cheers were provided masks and earplugs so that they are not unduly disturbed by the Gaza trouble ("only Hamas is to blame": the White House).

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

TRUMP AND IRAN : COLLISION OVER COLLUSION, RESERVED FOR RUSSIA.

President Trump announced America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. After a number of waivers and timelines, US sanctions will be resumed. His presentation was the usual mix of lies, petty settling of scores and signals to the "base". He referred to Netanyahu's recent TV performance wherein the former spoke out against the deal, referring to data more than a decade old.  Speaking of buddies in arms and lies!

Obviously the agreement which took years to negotiate in Muscat, New York, Geneva and Vienna was, like other similar exercises, a difficult and an often unpleasant affair. The outcome also suffered  from many unanswered question marks. Besides, it is never easy to come to terms with a partner like Iran, suffering from the original sin, stuck in some existential denial of Israel's right to exist. Therefore it was decided to define the negotiation into strict parameters and to avoid other important competing issues. All parties agreed to limit themselves to convergent choices. Russia and China played the game with France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the EU versus Iran. John Kerry and Javad Zarif were able to establish a sort of dialogue particulier wherein, no doubt, all issues were discussed. Under a Clinton administration this fragile reconnaissance might have been continued.

In diplomacy there is such a thing as a cornerstone, Grotius' preposition that Pacta sunt servanda  (Agreements need to be respected). Trump chose to burn the house rather than to bring the fire under control. He alienated the United States from the other parties to the agreement and chose yet again to portray this Trump America as a nefarious, uneducated, nasty player. While he is busy chastising Iran for every type of sin under the sun, he speaks about Korea with measure, avoiding any reference to regime change (so dear to John Bolton), human rights, rule of law, or freedom of the press (not a popular theme in this White House).

Trump violated most norms. He could have managed the same outcome with consideration of agreed rules. He could have taken into consideration the constructive alternatives suggested by allies. He might have suggested a larger arc of non- proliferation for the region as a whole (Israel included). He should have recognized the imaginative skills of the Obama administration which, instead, he only wants to throw under the bus.

It is too early to foresee a follow up. There is time, after all, and there is no need for Armageddon, nor for Pollyanna. The EU needs to open this diplomatic window before the Chinese or/and the Russians steal the next chapter. One thing is sure, Montesquieu's Les lettres persanes were not on Trump's reading list. Pompeo in State, Bolton in the NSC are the perfect spokespersons for this president's "prose". Verse is for the future. Oscar Wilde said it so well:  "We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."

Thursday, May 3, 2018

TRUMP AND BARNUM.

Geese are force-fed for their post mortem "foie gras". Americans are subjected hourly to "Trump gras". The president occupies every nook, directly with his tweets or outbursts, indirectly with a pathological activism in all realms: foreign policy, lies, self-congratulation, fake news and the "pursuit of alternative narratives".  He leaves both fans and enemies exhausted. He does not hesitate to come up with the most outlandish utterance to stay in the limelight. His base, which is addicted anyway, never has enough and forgives him, as long as he plays the "god-with-him" card.  In this he has, in the vice-president and wife, the perfect American complacent couple from hell which exists in between Tupperware and the Bible.

This might sound exaggerated but, let there be no mistake, this "formula" might even be a winning one if no lethal mistake is made by this undisciplined president or by one of his Praetorian lawyers or confidants. Until now the faux pas or the blatant lies have passed every litmus test, be it at a cost, but the cumulative weight of Trump's current and past sins start to take a toll. His spokesperson is no longer able to map the minefield wherein she has to operate. His cabinet, too, looks like an assembly line of crooks. Now that Trump has got Giuliani out of the mothballs, the mutual bragging might reach a breaking point. The political Ozone layer suffers now from a double indemnity scenario. Nevertheless the president will be on his Barnum best in his meeting with Kim jong-Un and for the expected burial of the Iran deal. Foreign leaders should be aware of the danger of getting too close to him. They tend to consider his undetermined savoir faire as a weakness, while he is a master in undermining them by sheer bluff, histrionics and body language. There is the Stockholm syndrome--there is also the Munich syndrome (not that different).

The Democrats are making big inroads in the red states now. The Republicans fear the worst. Lots are leaving Congress and the "stayers" cling to Trump like a person drowning clings to his lifebelt. They are hostage too of a Southern strategy which helps gaining the upper hand in the electoral college and neuters the outcome of the elections.  The president is a cynical player, less preoccupied with the chances of his party than with himself. The Democrats might score in the half-term elections but if Trump survives the inquests, the proven lies, the affairs, the collusion and the disgust of many, he will be again a formidable candidate who will target his opponents with every nuclear option available. For now, there is no Democratic shadow cabinet, or leader of the opposition. Taken individually the Democrats are the clear alternative, but they need to find a figurehead for these times, who can bridge the many factional divides in the party.

The world can only watch while this saga plays out.Trump America is too busy demolishing the many former bridges with the world,  in so alienating allies and being blind to the rise of others. China's transit routes and aid projects are becoming the vectors of a new winning soft-power. India follows suit. America morphed into the unloved giant. This downgrading started to gain traction under G.W. Bush, was halted under Clinton and Obama and is in free fall under Trump. The political science literature which is currently making the best seller list reads like a condolence. When initiatives are considered for the principal purpose of deflection, it becomes normal that they are taken away from diplomats and specialists and are downgraded to the turf of amateurs who can avoid liability. This "show for the show" will only get more crazy. 

It is easy to reduce the current American travails to some politico-Picaresque aberration. In fact, the structural changes that are being made by stealth will be difficult to undo. The role of the presidency is also being rewritten by this White House in superseding terms. There is no other precedent than the Weimar times...which abode nothing to be commended for.