Sunday, June 30, 2019


The debates between the Democrats were long, repetitive and mostly boring. Too much has been said about about Kamala Harris "performing" and about Joe Biden "under performing". Senators Warren, Booker and Sanders confirmed that they were smart but did not show that they were "dating material". This debate had a traffic jam air. 

The current accelerated American downfall was mostly ignored as if the candidates were dealing with a case of flu, while the patient is actually terminal (Foreign Affairs July/August 2019). The only candidate who made a lasting impression was Pete Buttigieg. His demeanor, his intellectual control were impressive.

Trump's latest bombe surprise with Kim Jong-un was yet again a master stroke, showing the distance he favors between his whims of power and serious diplomacy. He is not interested in the world or , for that matter, in a concert of nations and cultures. He intrudes, breaks and never cleans up. NATO, WTO, TPP are all in need of repair. His attention span being what it is, he prefers the matinee reality show (a genre in which he excels) rather than indulging in policy making (which is alien to his temperament). Nevertheless his few steps on North Korean ground resonate already ! He steals yet gain the show, leaving the Democrats, packed in a bus to nowhere, livid.

American hooliganism is the trademark of this administration. The former soft-power which was envied and copied is no longer.  Under Trump, the base will assemble cars nobody wants, make foodstuffs nobody cares about and merchandise medication nobody can afford. At the same time, Asia is outsmarting America everywhere. In Europe Trump might find in Boris Johnson a fellow wrecker of better manners and uxorious discretion.

Nothing lasts forever, but the United States should beware of four more years if they still have the intention to try reversing a total meltdown. The Democrats play with smart ideas, but they look totally devoid of a strategy, being too busy booby-trapping each other. Some candidates are too old, some are supposed to be too young and the middle ground is as inspiring as a window display of a dry cleaner. JFK and Obama were considered too young then, so is Pete Buttigieg today. Better risk betting on a star rather than losing with recycled scrap. 

America is in free-fall. Large parts of the world might follow suit. Trump America is despised by its reluctant allies. It only scores with its cynical competitors who have found in this pathological persona the accomplice of a lifetime.

Europe finds itself in a non-enviable position. The EU will have to deal with a UK that might well fall apart. Russia has received a free-pass to meddle; Merkel is on the way out; Macron is probably the best choice for safeguarding some form of creative coherence but the Francophobia is stubborn.

Buttigieg is cognizant of the world and of the fatal former  illusion of the end of history. He knows which windows are still open and is all too aware that the innovation comes mostly from the East, while the middle Atlantic is in need of emergency repair. He might be the miracle worker, if not now, then in 2024. He and Macron could be the Castor and Pollux of a renewed alliance. How aged the ideas of the others would look like can dream.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


Le paradoxe veut que les livres dont on parle le plus sont presque toujours ceux que l'on lit le moins. Pourtant ils restent ancres, familiers, presents . Macbeth ou Madame Bovary sont comme des relations proches, mais a longue distance . 

Les reliures sont souvent des caveaux ou Proust, Balzac, Shakespeare et Russes de tout genre restent ensevelis sans autopsie. Flaubert n'a jamais dit " Madame Bovary, c'est moi " ; tout le monde se reclame de" l'etre ou ne pas etre " sans jamais avoir avoir approche Hamlet. 

On peut se  poser la question de savoir si l'addiction a la tablette est encore reversible. Pourquoi le serait-elle ? Au demeurant elle sera bientot rattrapee par un nouveau gadget qui, mine de rien, reinventera la regle du jeu.

On est de toute facon entre dans un nouveau cycle ou l'image est trafiquee et ou l'histoire est amendee. Meme les nouvelles sont desormais manipulees. Les gens ont une faculte d'absorption perverse quasi illimitee. Les humanites d'hier reposent dans un cenotaphe, ou l'on enterre des morts dont on a oublie qu'ils ont vecu.

Certes il y aura toujours Shakespeare. A Stratford les "croyants"  continuent a essayer de pieger l'auteur, en vain. Il beneficie de toute facon d'un bail emphyteotique dans Wikipedia...

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


President Obama was spotted in Provence and Italy. It confirms he has "taste".

Nevertheless...America today needs consoling and reassuring. Nobody is better suited than the former president to reach out. Unfortunately he appears to be out of reach lately, while the country finds itself in a collective meltdown. He alone is suited to convey the message that the current American occultation can be rolled back.

In the absence of a leader of the opposition, Americans need at least to hope that their choice is more than just a raffle between the same old candidates and pretenders who might be ahead of their time.

People in search of reassurance might feel lost, seeing the former president in a too-gilded distance, while the country is in free-fall. They want their stolen emotions returned--the image of Aylan Kurdi, drowned in the Mediterranean, was traumatizing. Now we come face to face with the deaths of Oscar and Valeria in the Rio Grande, next door.   Help us out!


New York City can feel crass, hopelessly divided between race  and location. It also can be exhilarating, creative, fun. Sometimes it gives in to its better angels, as during the 9/11 tragedy or for the MeToo movement. This week, 50 years after Stonewall, the city looks ready to own its gay "Selma moment". Many bridges were crossed in 50 years, but many remain blocked all over America.

Grievances and indignation do not need to pile up. They are  also separated by their upstream history and diverse gravity. They might eventually come together historically, but such occurrences are the exception.

Gay Pride has become a shared, consensual event. In Manhattan today, the town appears to have been taken over by "rainbow fever." The LGBTQ community co-owns many levels and niches of society in NYC. The visibility has become a given, the often economic and creative cloud a political "entry pass". Fortunately, maturity also comes with a sense of  contemporary civility and inclusion. Yesterday's extravaganza warfare is no longer needed to get attention. Nor should it be deprecated. It is "history". Today is an other story, which appeals to a variety of participants...less colorful but rooted in a "past Bonfires age.

There is a need for another "rainbow" which appeals to all persons and all genders. A large coalition is coming together, in opposition to the populist, bigoted agenda of Trump & Co.. After World War II Americans flocked to Paris, where intellectual and sexual freedom ruled the streets. Today many of yesterday's European avenues risk being closed. Every person who searches for freedom had better start closer to home now, reclaiming the rights that could be stolen in plain view. The agenda of Gay Pride needs to be revisited. It must go further than just the "close abroad".  Climate, social engineering, health care, immigration, gun control, require a mobilization of all. AIDS is partially cured at the scandalous price of thousands of lives, lost in misery and ostracism. Should one push the repeat button and give the scorched-earth policies of the populist mafiosi another lethal free reign? There is a time when legitimate separate grievances and agendas must merge. Stonewall remains relevant but the delta of demands must reclaim a "shared" riverbed. It is time to forego the costume once and for ever and go for the mind and soul. 

"Gradualism"is no virtue here.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


Before taking the escalator and the USA down, Trump was a fixture in local tabloids and on a TV reality show. His persona veered between that of a playboy for Page Six and a louche boss who had to contend with the seedy side of Atlantic City (there is no other).

Arriving at the White House like a mad croupier, he must have asked himself how to continue on his path to diplomatic jeopardy. He could have gathered seasoned diplomats around him and gone for a retreat at Monticello. Instead he chose to visit the home of Andrew Jackson. Besides that empty gesture (he knew nothing of his unloved predecessor other than what Steve Bannon had suggested to him for a photo-op), that most uncharismatic president now has his portrait in the president's Oval Office (which now looks like some executive Hilton suite).

After two years of turmoil, Trump's "thinking" has become clear. Everything is entertainment, is done for bluff, noise, repetitive added value.  His Saudi visit was a remake of Aladdin, his North Korea idyll followed in the steps of A Star is Born, Europe is a never-ending Who's Afraid of..., China is a sequel to Pearl Buck: The 'Rare' Earth.  Israel--with Bibi and all the Trumps--is The Trapp Family 5, Iran is Bond without Ursula...and one can go on.

To take Trump seriously is to confuse sequel and consequence. The former is for the "base", the latter is for the "concerned". In a derelict landscape of allies snubbed, values overturned and given words broken Godzilla roams alone, driven by the sole need to stick to prime time. The more serious-minded beasts talk among themselves meanwhile, out of view.

This American summer risks being most unpleasant because the one who sets the tone and the agenda is only driven by his own scent. America and the world have become special effects for his own adornment.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


The past foreign policy of the United States can be resumed in a pursuit for order. American leadership was uneven, imposed  or ambivalent, moralistic or cynical, but never questioned--that is--until now. The Westphalian system has fallen out of grace. The obsession regarding the menace of an entente between Moscow and Beijing, which had to be avoided at any price, looks almost parochial in the mindset of the current administration. The traditional modern diplomatic vernacular, starting with Stanley Hoffmann and defined by Dr. Henry Kissinger, is no longer. 

It is certainly not necessary to cling to the past, given that under the veneer of often brilliant abstractions, colossal blunders were made. On the other hand the world doesn't deserve to be hit by the brutality of the Trump meteorite. Not only is the "Never the USA against 2" buried under the Putin/ Xi Jinping bromance, but the intermediaries--alliances and multilateral organizations--which were created to monitor or avoid major dislocations are being mothballed. Hence, tensions flare up with no alarm bells around which might otherwise have controled the spread of the damage. Disruption becomes the new normal.

Unfortunately, the consequences of the American "chaos theory" are creating new imbalances which only multiply populism and favor a visceral, anti-intellectual behavior. The Trump presidency is the ultimate party-crasher, disdaining experience and history. It is undermining America's role in the world because it has neither script nor story and ends up aggravating the negatives. One can only be unorthodox as long as one has the savoir-faire to do so.

It is becoming clear that the Americans start to wake up to their sudden isolation in the world. Trump is blamed and is also suspected of creating artificial distractions just to deflect from his pathological behavior. He might overplay his bluff but we are not there yet. He has proven to be a ruthless carpet-bomber.

The Democrats often appear too timid, messy and pusillanimous.  Pete Buttigieg (too controlled?) is probably the smartest candidate, with Kamala Harris (too pugnacious?) . Both look more like comets who enlighten the sky, compared to the meteorite who risks crashing down over their head.

Trump will stop at nothing. He will attempt to steal the elections again through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the census machine. There are no Republicans left. The party is his. If needed, he will likewise storm the international scene to create the surprise du chef .  If the cook is Trump, skip dinner !

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Le deces de ce grand Ministre d'Etat me rend triste.

Je l'ai rencontre plusieurs fois dans mes anciennes fonctions. C'etait un plaisir de pouvoir recevoir une personnalite politique belge qui avait autant d'aisance sociale et intellectuelle. Au demerant sa femme etait a la hauteur d'une complicite en partage, extraordinaire. Ces dernieres annees il a du faire face a la rumeur et a l'accusation. Il a choisi d'affronter  cette "maree basse" avec stoicisme.

Armand De Decker appartenait a une classe en voie de disparition, cultivee, ironique, genereuse.

La Belgique se vide ! Rien que pour le plaisir de le voir  presider l'auguste assemblee de jadis, il eut fallu garder le Senat.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


Trump finally got the state visit to the United Kingdom he craved. The British P.M., on her political deathbed, stood by her previous promise of pomp and pageantry. 

While Trump made an uneven effort of self-control, he could not help looking like the nouveau riche he always is. The crass will always trump the class. That is his destiny. Even when scripted, he cannot hide being lost in a vernacular when it is not his own, devoid of insults and Trumpian neologisms.

Faux pas there were a few, ignored thanks to the nonchalance which is the trademark of the Royals.

All the Trump children, with the exception of Melania's offspring, were there, forming a human shield around the "godfather", dressed up in Barnum's coattails.

The zingers were muted both ways.

In France, Trump found some pebbles on Omaha Beach to throw at Nancy Pelosi who seems to be appearing in his nightmares as some other devil wearing Prada. Few paid attention but the "end of the affair" between Trump and President Macron was for all to see.

In The King and I, the governess ended up taking the lead. In this The Queen and I, the invested ruler took the measure of the deceiver. 

In France the president found some peebles on Omaha beach to throw atn