Doug Jones victory just Step One

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It was a lot easier getting up this morning knowing the headline out of Alabama read: first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in a quarter of a century from the state known as “the Heart of Dixie.”  Was there finally a candidate so loathsome that voter interest in integrity prevailed over tribal instinct, country over party? Perhaps. But it is sobering to reflect that 80 percent of Alabama’s registered voters either stayed home or voted for Roy Moore.

If Roy Moore had just been anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-choice, anti-woman, and a raving racist, he likely would still have been elected. But his total package, a pending Senate investigation if he won, his becoming a poster child for the GOP in 2018 and the adverse economic impact of firms deciding not to relocate to Alabama motivated the 49.9 percent of Jones voters, and another 1.69 percent, presumably anti-Moore Republicans, write-ins.

There are many lessons from the race  (African-American turnout, millennial engagement, moderate Republicans turning their backs on Moore to write in other candidates), a well organized get-out-the-vote effort in bluish counties, the dignity of Doug Jones, his decision not to nationalize the campaign, even to the point of keeping out national endorsers until last weekend.

There is still a racial divide, with blacks being overwhelmingly for Jones, and Moore’s support being predominantly among whites. A plurality of voters believed Moore’s accusers, but many voted for Moore anyway. Moore won among white women, leading by almost 50 points white women without college degrees and by 25 points white women with college college degrees. Jones got 56 percent of the overall women’s vote and doubled what Obama had received. Hillary carried white women with college degrees, but Jones did not.

For all of Evangelicals’ talk about morality, white Evangelicals went for Moore 80-19.  I guess they’re more concerned about the rights of the unborn than the safety of a 14-year-old girl preyed upon by a Bible-thumping sexual assaulter.

Jones’ margin of victory was so slim that millennials and Republican moderates, writing in other candidates or voting Democratic, might claim credit for the victory. But there would have been no victory without the dramatic turnout of African-Americans, especially women.  What was particularly instructive on election night was the observation of that great philosopher and Alabama native Charles Barkley that the Democrats mustn’t take for granted the support of African-Americans and poor whites.  In other words: (note to Hillary apologists) cut out the identity politics; stop slicing and dicing the demographics; and make clear you intend to deliver for everyone on health care, infrastructure, jobs and economic justice. We all have a stake in those issues.

Democrats now believe they can take back the Senate in 2018 and are looking at Tennessee, where Bob Corker is retiring. They’re also looking at Arizona and Nevada, even Texas for heaven’s sake. Long shots? You bet. This is a time for cautious optimism but also for hard work. Keeping the races local. Selecting candidates like Doug Jones who are attuned to local values. Paying attention to the ground game, including GOTV efforts. Taking no one for granted. Making clear what they stand for.

While we’re rejoicing now, remember how close Doug Jones came to losing. And despite Jones’ assertion that there’s more than unites us than divides us, it’s not clear that Alabama will lead the way to a more peaceful union. But it certainly feels good when people of all persuasions seem, if even temporarily, to speak up for common courtesy and decency.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

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Sexual transgressors: the beat goes on

Dr. Seuss asked the right question: “Could this go on all day and night? It could you know, and it just might.” Every day, another high-visibility man named as having behaved inappropriately toward women. Every day, another sexual creep forced out of a position of power. Every day, another media revelation pulling back the curtain on how women, especially younger or more vulnerable, have been forced to accept unwanted advances for fear of losing their jobs. Now, except for the man in the White House and, perhaps, the Senate candidate from Alabama, sexual transgressors are paying the price.

When the story originally broke about Al Franken’s loutish behavior, it seemed to be a one-off and at a much different place on the predator spectrum than, say,  convincingly alleged pedophile Roy Moore. It seemed reasonable to await the results of an ethics committee investigation and perhaps even to let the voters of Minnesota decide. But it became clear Franken’s was part of a larger pattern, not an isolated incident. Wherever he is on the sexual harassment spectrum,  Franken, who had victimized women, has become a political victim of the times, one of three members of Congress to forced to resign this week alone. In this zero tolerance environment, we mustn’t forget that the real victims were those women whom he had harassed and who, until now, feared coming forward. That’s why, this week, Time Magazine named as Person of the Year the silence breakers.

Franken  was quite correct to note the irony of his resigning while Donald Trump stays in the White House.  That said, his Wednesday speech on the floor of the Senate reflected how, notwithstanding his positive impact on policy matters important to women, he still doesn’t get how his personal behavior deeply injured the women he targeted.  His speech was in the tradition of “If I’ve offended anyone, I’m sorry.”  If?? If???

The Washington Post invited suggestions from thought leaders in various sectors, from airlines, to media, politics, Wall Street, domestic workers, religious institutions. Laws need to be changed, facilitating accountability. Many companies, skittish about what they may have overlooked, are trying to figure out what needs to be done. (One suggestion is a  corporate reporting responsibility on sexual harassment that would be analogous to the Sarbanes-Oxley bill requiring companies to report to the SEC on procedures to protect investors. I can hear the groans about government regulation from here.)

Every sector needs strategies to minimize abuses of power in the workplace, defining what constitutes sexual harassment, stipulating behavior that falls short of criminal but is clearly unacceptable, providing safe havens for lodging complaints, and imposing scalable penalties for those who step over the line. Admittedly, this will be harder to achieve at the lower rungs of the economic ladder, with hotel and restaurant workers and the least empowered among us. But this deserves no less attention.

There’s a lot to think about.  Is there a difference between a co-worker making an unwanted pass and a colleague making a seemingly identical gesture where the recipient welcomes it?  In developing new rules, we need greater clarity in defining what is permissible and what is not.

The only long-term solution to abuse of power in the workplace is changing the balance of power, making sure more women make it into the C-suites, the halls of Congress, boards of companies,  and other decision-making positions. Progress has been glacial. The Boston Club, this region’s largest organization of senior women executives and professionals (full disclosure: I once sat on its board) has, for 15 years tracked the number of women directors and executive officers at the state’s top 100 companies. While the percentage of women directors has nearly doubled in that time, it is still just 19.5 percent.  Forty-seven percent of the top 100 MA public companies have no women executive officers.

Without enough women at the top, women who can help shape the rules, women who can field complaints, some men will continue to see the world as their locker room. The #MeToo movement has given a sense of the magnitude of the problem. But we may not yet be at an inflection point, where offenders can expect swift punishment  when they’re outed. Those without a shame gene are still unmoved.

We also would do well to understand that not all offenders have transgressed equally. We must ensure that punishments are nuanced and fit the individual cases. We all have an interest in making clear the rules of the road and what happens when you cross the median strip.

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Senate President Rosenberg should step down

Massachusetts’ Senate President is in trouble. The Boston Globe reports on four unnamed men subjected to sexual harassment by Bryon Hefner, the husband of Senate President Stan Rosenberg. MassLive reports this morning on a possible fifth case.  Three of the alleged victims said Hefner grabbed their genitals while making clear that he could influence the outcome of their business before the Massachusetts Senate because he is married to Rosenberg.

Some of these assaults reportedly happened while Rosenberg was close by. Consider one profoundly disturbing image of Hefner groping an advocate in the back seat of a Prius in which Rosenberg was riding in the passenger seat.  Another incident apparently occurred in the apartment Hefner shared with the Senate President, who was out of town at the time. In the wake of the recent Globe story, Rosenberg, 68, obviously stricken, said he was unaware of these behaviors by Hefner, 30.  It does  strain credulity.

But, Mr. Rosenberg, let’s say we give you the benefit of the doubt.  It is still the old story of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  Your relationship with Hefner, 30, has been an issue since 2014, when you were about to assume the presidency of the state senate. To counter Hefner’s claims of influence on the flow of Senate work and on the outcome of important legislative matters, you promised a firewall between your professional and personal lives. (The Globe reports having seen email messages documenting that Hefner has asserted involvement in legislative issues.) You failed to keep that promise.

In the current political environment, you also promised a zero tolerance policy toward abuse of power through sexual harassment in the Senate.  You have failed on that promise as well. Which is why you should relinquish your presidency.

Whether Rosenberg, an accomplished legislator and leader,  knew about Hefner’s behavior and stayed mum or didn’t know but  should have is largely irrelevant.  Both alternatives are pathetic. Today, the Democratic caucus is expected to call for an investigation of the allegations. That investigation can’t possibly have credibility if Rosenberg is in charge, especially because none of the victims is apparently willing to go public because of fear of retaliation as long as he wields the gavel.

Important policy matters are also before the Senate, from health care to criminal justice reform and more. The mere appearance that the promised firewall has been breached undermines crucial public confidence in an important government institution with significant influence on our lives.

As a general rule, we shouldn’t hold individuals responsible for their spouses’ transgressions, and it doesn’t seem  that Rosenberg should required to leave the Senate. But Hefner’s behavior goes to the heart of Stan Rosenberg’s leadership role. This is clearly a personal tragedy for Rosenberg, and our hearts go out to him in this moment of loss and humiliation. But something larger is at stake, and the integrity of the Massachusetts Senate demands that Rosenberg relinquish his presidency immediately.

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Profiles in (Dis)courage

Kudos not to Republican Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. All heroes of last summer’s vote barring repeal of Obamacare, all seemingly concerned about normative Senate procedures, all at least minimally sensitive to protecting against societal inequities, all caved early this morning to the first step in a GOP strategy to undo The Great Society and The New Deal by voting for the abominable tax bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and  Republican colleagues had opposed the 2009 economy-saving $787 billion stimulus plan because it would have increased the federal debt.  After Trump’s election, he vowed that any tax cut would have to be revenue neutral.  Today, the rush to pass anything that could be called a tax cut regardless of long-term damage to the economy, turns a harsh spotlight on his hypocrisy. We didn’t expect him to do otherwise but thought there might be three Republican Senators who could block him. Only fiscal hawk Tennessee Senator Bob Corker stayed true to his principles, recognizing by  his vote that the bill, regardless of scoring method, will never ever pay for itself.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who had been heralded for his speech decrying Trumpism, sacrificed his conservative principles and voted for a bill that will, if passed in its current form, would consecrate plutocratic Trumpism, line the President’s  pockets and add at least $1 trillion to the national debt.

Middle class tax cuts will be puny at best, compared to what will be enjoyed by corporations and the wealthy. And individual cuts expire in 2025, while the corporate cuts will be permanent.  And, make no mistake about it, should the Republicans retain control, they will move in the out years to reduce the deficit by cutting the social safety net– including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security–,  essential to  the economically pressed devotees of the President.

Senate passage was a grab bag of goodies for conservative donors who had threatened to cut off campaign donations  to Republicans opposing these sweeping changes. Those donors also won on other aspects of  their agenda, including opening up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, politicizing church pulpits, and stifling college education.  In eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate for insurance coverage, (the Heritage Foundation-inspired basis for Romneycare, which became the model for Obamacare), they opened the door for free riders. And guess who’s going to pay for them when they get sick and have to go to emergency departments?  As some 13 million healthy individuals opt out of buying health insurance, premiums will become more expensive for those remaining, another cost of the tax bill.

The wheeling and dealing in the wee hours of the morning was unseemly. John McCain’s failure to follow up on his own impassioned plea in July for rational discourse and traditional Senate protocols, including bipartisanship, will stain his legacy.   Usually thoughtful moderate   Collins supposedly signed on after getting Mitch McConnell’s commitment to allow the deductibility of up to $10,000 in state and local taxes.  Flake didn’t even get that. His fig leaf for cowardice was a toothless promise by McConnell to give him a seat at the table in DACA negotiations.

It’s hard to imagine how the supporters of this bill can justify their votes with straight faces. Their lack of candor is exceeded only by Trump’s outright lies about how worried his accountants are and how he will be hurt by the bill’s passage. A hundred pinocchios for him! Shame on the press for being distracted by the sex abuse stories of the day instead of challenging key Senators on outrageous provisions and Trump’s mendacity. (Prime example: Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.)

If whatever emerges from the conference committee does pass, it will take Democrats regaining control of both House and Senate to undo the damage.  In the meantime, when will Trump’s base wake up to how he used them and lied to them? Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

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Cutting taxes for rich isn’t tax reform

Let me get this right. A so-called tax “reform” bill that could screw up our economy, hurt millions of middle class families and is opposed by a strong majority of the American people is being rushed through the Republican-controlled Congress without serious deliberation simply because fat cat Republican donors have warned legislators that  their campaign donations will dry up unless they pass a bill before Christmas providing windfall tax benefits to them, their top-of-the-heap brethren, and our grifter President.  President Trump, eager to sign anything, is treating as suckers all who voted for him believing his populist economic message. They may not wake up until it’s too late.

Speaker Paul Ryan boasted how the bill was designed to provide bigger paychecks for all hardworking taxpayers, but never held hearings to support his claim.  House members got just 20 minutes to review the over 600-page bill before voting.

Years ago, political scientist Murray Edelman warned that, when political rhetoric extols the public interest to be served, the fix was usually already in for private interests. And so it is here. It’s not tax “reform,” which, if revenue neutral, could be laudable. It’s a special-interest giveaway to the uber-wealthy that will harm the economy.

Remember how Trump railed against the so-called carried interest rule that has hedge fund managers paying just 20 percent?  Repeal of that somehow didn’t make it into either House or Senate bill. But don’t fret for hedge fund managers. They would be like other  privately owned businesses, “pass –through” corporations where profits pass through to the owners . Today, profits that exceed $418,400 are taxed at the top personal rate of 39.6%.  Under the GOP plan, that would drop to a 25% corporate rate, saving Trump and his cronies multi millions.

The so-called middle class tax cuts are either small and temporary or immediately non-existent for some who itemize. About 13 million middle and upper middle class families will be hurt.  Massachusetts (and other blue state, high tax) taxpayers will be hard hit by the elimination of the deductability of state and local taxes.  By 2027, the regressive model bites harder, with all earning less than $75,000 facing increases.

The principal beneficiaries, who will get about 80% of the cuts, are corporations, businesses and wealthy families Their windfall provisions, including the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and the Estate Tax, will be permanent.

The AMT was designed to prevent the wealthy from exploiting tax code loopholes.  We don’t know what Trump’s current tax situation is, but the partial disclosure of his 2005 returns indicate he paid an effective rate of 25% (about $38 million on more than a $150 million income). Without the AMT, his tax rate would have been only 3.5%, a windfall of over $32 million. So much for the President’s lies about how much the pending tax changes would hurt him.  And that’s before considering now his family benefits from elimination of the estate tax. And, by the way, the Tax Foundation warns that the Senate version changing real estate depreciation rules will benefit only a few real estate billionaires and cost the Treasury billions.

The simple fact is a tax cut now is not what the country needs. The 1981 Reagan tax cut was passed because of a weak investment climate. The 1986 tax reform was bipartisan and revenue neutral, designed to simplify the code, not provide a cash windfall to the top one percent. Neither scenario applies today.

CEOs even told Trump’s National Economic Council head Gary Cohn that, if their corporate tax rates were lowered, they wouldn’t invest more. Corporate cash reserves are high; borrowing costs are still low and, if CEOs want to invest, they can do so with little trouble. Plus, there is scant evidence that lower rates and more cash would mean larger salaries for their workers. If this passes, the trade deficit will balloon, the opposite of what the President claims he wants. It will likely spur inflation and, eventually, budget cuts and a tax hike to cover the shortfall.

Fiscal conservative, Walter Jones from North Carolina. dissented because the trillions the bill would add to the national debt would mean borrowing from adversaries like China, adding a $12,000 burden on every American household.  As Jones said, “If this had been a Democratic bill, we wouldn’t even be voting on it.”

Attention now shifts to the Senate, where Republicans tucked in repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate.  which will raise health care premiums, deter some 13 million from getting coverage, and add to pressures later to cut Medicare and Medicaid. It’s included as a gimmick to get the bill passsed without any bipartisan support.

If Democrats hold firm, three Republican votes will be needed to block this monstrosity. Might Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, no longer needing to face primary challengers, join Jones in standing for conservative principles and oppose swelling the federal debt?Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who announced his opposition because the bill isn’t harsh enough,  will probably fold once he cuts his deal. Maine Senator Susan Collins is one of the few Republicans who admits publicly what’s really at stake, but  Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski probably won’t join her again. John McCain, celebrated for standing up for the “regular order” on the ACA repeal, has another opportunity to stand tall for fundamental Senate norms and sway a few colleagues here. But will he?

The cynic in me wonders if cultivating media attention on the important sexual abuse issue is part of a GOP smokescreen designed to distract public scrutiny of the tax bills’ winners and losers. The lack of coverage of the tax cut issue will have consequences.

I have a dream that some senators from Trump states whose voters realize the impact on their families will mobilize. Too many hard-pressed  working class Trump voters are still drinking the Koolaid, and whatever he claims to be in their name is fine with them. His populist promises be damned, the tax bill is ill-timed, wrong-headed and damaging to the economy. If people don’t act now, it will pass.

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RoyMooreDonaldTrumpHarveyWeinsteinAlFrankenKevinSpaceyMarkHalperinRogerAilesLouisCK,Etc

Yecch!  Al Franken was a boor. A jerk. A pig.  A sexual assaulter. Not like serial offenders Roy Moore, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, but on the sexually offensive spectrum nonetheless. In 2006, on a USO tour, a photographer took his picture mugging for the camera and appearing to grope the breasts of entertainer Leeann Tweeden, wearing a flak vest, sound asleep, on a plane leaving Afghanistan. The picture was shared. You could give Franken the benefit of the doubt that the photo was a frat boy prank or a lousy joke, but he doesn’t deserve a pass.

Prior to the incident, Franken had insisted on practicing a kiss in a skit rehearsal. He allegedly put his hand at the back of Tweeden’s head, “mashed his lips” against hers and “aggressively stuck his tongue” in her mouth. She pushed him off, warned him never to do it again and headed for the bathroom “to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth” as fast as possible.  She felt “disgusted and violated.” Because she was violated. Unlike others, Franken has apologized for his behavior, which occurred before he became a Senator, and he asked for an Ethics Committee probe.  Response to his transgression should be carefully calibrated. All sexual misconduct is not equal.  Tweeden herself has accepted his apology.

There is no equivalency  between Al Franken and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who, while in his thirties and an assistant district attorney, regularly trolled a mall and picked up teenagers, including one who was just 14 years old, to exploit them sexually.  Eventually, the mall barred the creep from its premises. And there’s no equivalency with Donald Trump who boasted  about committing worse sexually abusive behavior than that for which Franken apologized.

We’ve known for a long time that sexual assault and harassment cut across lines of party, profession, class, race, ethnicity and more.  The sexual-harasser-in-chief (accused by 16 women of inappropriate sexual behavior) this week predictably tweeted against Franken and ignored the litany of Moore’s transgressions. In 2016, Trump supporters, notably Republican women, gave him a free pass. We don’t know how Alabama will judge Roy Moore December 12.

Times have changed somewhat in the past year.  Since Harvey Weinstein’s fall,  it has become a bit safer to come out of hiding for high visibility women who have been assaulted. For generations, they could not easily confront their violators for fear of reprisal, victim blaming and public humiliation. Gains are more tenuous for the waitresses, secretaries, chamber maids and retail clerks subjected to sexual misconduct.

Consider what happened to Anita Hill when she testified before Congress about now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Or the disbelief and shaming that greeted the women who made credible accusations about President Bill Clinton, many emanating from incidents when he was governor of Arkansas.

Those targets of Bill Clinton’s sexual appetites couldn’t bring him down, but his own behavior with intern Monica Lewinsky – and his lying under oath about it – nearly did. Back then, however, Democrats circled the wagons around Clinton, including, shamefully, prominent feminists like Gloria Steinem. They tsk-tsk’d, then rejected calls that he step down from the Presidency.  Democrats in Congress voted against impeachment. Many who supported Clinton’s policy agenda looked the other way. With 20-20 hindsight, Clinton probably should have stepped down, with Vice President Al Gore replacing him.  That would have been right morally. And, as it turned out,  Clinton’s program ground to a halt because of the time and energy diverted to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Preparedness for 9/11 may have been one of the costs.

Today, from Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill, indeed worldwide,  there is a pattern of powerful officials,  aides and lobbyists taking advantage of women. Washington remains a cesspool of predatory behavior, and, with a morally bankrupt Trump in the White House, fighting off sexual assault lawsuits, change will not come easily.

Congress doesn’t apply to itself laws it writes for others.  Its procedures for handling sexual abuse charges are designed to protect members. Complaint  filing is discouraged by rules that  impose unfair hurdles, requiring a woman (or a male victim) first to have counselling for 30 days followed by 30 days of mediation with the accused. You have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, banning your talking to a therapist or friend. Outrageously, any settlement reached is paid for by the taxpayers, with millions of dollars already paid out.

Criminal sexual behavior in Congress is legendary.  Staffers maintain a creep list. Women staffers are advised about Congressmen with whom they should not be alone in an elevator. Senator Susan Collins knew to keep her distance from Strom Thurmond. Senator Claire McCaskill recalled being abused as an intern.

California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier was assaulted when she was a staffer and  is cosponsoring a bill with a  handful of Senators and Representatives to try to address the problem. The new proposal would include training for both staffers and members of Congress, provide zero-tolerance, ban non-disclosure agreements and publicly-funded settlements. Optimally, the rules and culture will be changed, and there’ll be no more excuses for “boys-will-be-boys” behavior.

For many of these incidents, the statute of limitations has run out. There will be no  justice from a court of law. But punishment  will come in different forms. Harvey Weinstein has lost his company and still may face civil suits and criminal charges.    Kevin Spacey has been dropped by Netflix, and House of Cards is over.  Corporate executives have been forced out.  Clinton’s inexcusable behavior resulted in his becoming only the second President in our history to be impeached. His story holds a lesson for us still. We can’t go back in time to punish miscreants, but we can rewrite history to tell the full story.

Franken’s behavior has already compromised his usefulness in the fight against the GOP tax package and his effectiveness in party fundraising. Moore’s history has diminished his standing in the polls.  For Franken and Moore, it’s their voters who should decide.

There are differences among all these cases. For now, Franken’s seems to have been a one-off, offensive and unacceptable episode, disappointing but not necessarily career disabling. Massachusetts Congressmen Gerry Studds and Barney Frank were censured and reprimanded respectively for sexual transgressions, while serving  in Congress,  far worse than Franken’s, and they went on to have distinguished careers.  But the underlying message is clear. Victims no longer have to remain silent, humiliated, degraded, violated or injured. There can be strength in numbers. It will take both men and women to change the culture.

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Trump’s Asia trip a failed opportunity

Just because Donald Trump didn’t vomit on the Japanese Prime Minister the way George H. W. Bush did in 1992, didn’t make the President’s 12- day Asia trip a resounding success.

Announcing  billion dollar business deals negotiated prior to the trip, still only memoranda of understanding  with hard details to follow, doesn’t rise to the level of “incredible achievements.”

Knowing our President’s susceptibility to pomp and flattery, the “Master of the Deal” got rolled by leader after leader. I doubt that Japan, Vietnam and other countries are going to jump at new bilateral trade pacts with the US that will detract from their growing regional relationships, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, from which the US pulled away, ceding Pacific economic leadership to China.

Trump’s set speeches were more reheated campaign bluster and hollow rhetoric than serious programmatic recommendations. I never expected this American President  would raise, even slightly, the banner of human rights as did his predecessors. But, stupidly, the Trump Administration’s concept of realpolitik has concluded that military and economic alliances are distinct, instead of being two sides of American national security.

Trump was also played by Putin. He accepted the former KGB leader’s  disavowal of meddling in the 2016 election, trashing yet again American intelligence reports that confirmed the meddling and urging softening of sanctions as an inducement to getting Russian cooperation  on North Korea and Syria. Sadly, Trump passed up an opportunity to have any serious negotiation with the Russian president.

The President’s lavishing praise on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, with his bloody record of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the guise of solving the drug menace, was downright disgusting.

His expectation that China could or would wave its magic wand to solve the North Korean nuclear problem is arrant magical thinking, demonstrating a wanton ignorance of Chinese reality.

Trump’s only clear success was supplicating Chinese President Xi Jinping to release three UCLA basketball players from punishment for their shoplifting spree and then complaining about the black students’ lack of effusive thanks for his intercession.

Regrettably, this trip may be a historic inflection point in Chinese- American relations, remembered for the United States retreat from strategically wise engagement and its  turning over the baton of world leadership.

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