News media are not “enemies of the people”

I ask you: do I look like an enemy of the people?  Given my 30+ years in journalism (including Boston Phoenix, WGBH-TV, WCVB-TV) and nearly a decade more as a blogger, Donald Trump would probably say yes. Journalism is certainly in my DNA. Which is why I’m so proud of what my local newspaper is doing. The Boston Globe is urging a national response to the President’s war against the free press, calling for editorials Thursday from press outlets across the political spectrum to decry the attacks. Right or left, those editorial boards know the importance of press freedom to a flourishing democracy.

More than a few of Thursday’s editorials will probably mention Thomas Jefferson, famous for saying, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”   Yes, even though I cringe when the press is sloppy and sharply criticize when it is occasionally malign. Without the free flow of information and a vigorous marketplace of ideas, we cannot have an informed electorate and a sustainable democracy.

Sadly, our Bully-In-Chief keeps dismissing the media as “fake, fake disgusting news,” referring, of course, to anything that challenges his alternate reality or the 4,229 lies that Trump has told from the beginning of his administration to August 1, as documented by the Washington Post.  What’s even more disturbing than the name calling is how the President is increasingly inciting his rally audiences to violence against the press.

Thankfully, we haven’t yet reached the point where journalists are being imprisoned or sentenced to death as they are in Iran, Mexico, Russia and Turkey (the leading jailer of journalists).  But, as with most Trump obsessions, with this increase of attacks on the news media, can the slippery slope be far off?

The journalists I know are hard-working and mission-driven. They certainly aren’t in it for the money or, for that matter, job security. They’re willing to do the tedious work of chasing down facts, scouring documents, making uncomfortable phone calls and sometimes coming up empty-handed, double and triple checking, all to get the story the public has a right to know.  Whether it’s a community paper identifying political payoffs to local officials awarding street paving contracts or a national outlet exposing wrong-doing at the highest levels of government, it is the print and electronic media who are our representatives holding powerful institutions and individuals accountable.

Do they make mistakes? Too often.  Do they overreach? Sometimes. Do they occasionally mix news and opinion?  The firewall isn’t as clear as it used to be or should be. But, as an editorial in The Guardian pointed out after the killing of five journalists in the Annapolis, MD Capital Gazette, the “real enmity lies not between the press and the people, but the free press (and people) and the powerful.”

Our job, as consumers of news, has become more complicated at a time when social media (sadly, the main source of news for most people) have been expropriated by non-journalists who traffic in made-up stories and falsehoods. Think Pizzagate, the made-up story of Hillary Clinton running a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza parlor.  Probably started by a Russian disinformation operative, advanced by self-serving far-right conspiracy promoters like Breitbart and Alex Jones, retweeted by gullible Hillary haters and eventually picked up by mainstream media, this totally fake story shows how important it is that we all work to sort the wheat from the chaff. But we can’t do it without the serious work of the mainstream news media.

We need to read multiple sources, and we need to be vigilant. And, whether you support or despise the President, please know that on this issue he is dead wrong. The media are not the enemy. They are one of our best friends and must continue to be free to do their job so we can have the information to do ours.

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Summer reading part two: non-fiction

The following are suggestions from when I wasn’t fleeing the daily news into real fiction, as noted in my previous blog.

I Was Told to Come Alone: My Journey behind the Lines of Jihad,  a memoir by Washington Post national security reporter Souad Mekhennet, takes us into dangerous territory to places she was uniquely qualified to explore.  The daughter of Muslim immigrants in Germany, Mekhennet was the first to identify the masked ISIS fighter in beheading videos known as Jihadi John, and the book reveals the extreme jeopardy into which she placed herself to get the story. Fluent in English, French, German and Arabic, the daughter of a Sunni father and Shiite mother, Mekhennet works to blend in in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa in her effort to understand the background and motivation of those who do evil things in the name of her religion.

The Sacred Willow by Mai Elliott is a memoir about four generations of a Vietnamese family, including its early status at the mandarin level of society, through decades of wars with the French, the Viet Minh, the Viet Cong and the Americans and on to the diaspora, family loyalties being the continuous thread.  Though I reveled in the book on our return from Vietnam, it is not necessary to have traveled there to enjoy this journey of one extended family through a nation’s tumultuous history.

Citizens of London by Lynne Olson has been on my list for a few years, and I finally got to read it in conjunction with a class at Brandeis.  It is a spell-binding account of three Americans living in London prior to the United States entering World War II: CBS luminary Edward R. Murrow, whose broadcasts during the blitz help sway American opinion on the need to defend our British allies. John Gill Winant, American Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. Averill Harriman sent to oversee the Lend Lease program. All three were close to Winston Churchill, politically advancing the cause of war against Hitler, and all three were intimates of Churchill’s daughters and daughter-in-law. It’s a story about politics and passion, international intrigue and amazing courage. It’s living, breathing history at its finest.

Dark Money by Jane Mayer Should be must reading for students of history and anyone else who cares about the political influence of the rich and powerful. The focus is largely Charles and David Koch, super wealthy oilmen who decided systematically to support anti-government libertarians at every level of government.  They’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars for candidates and lobbyists but also very quietly invest millions of dollars in college programs to promote a conservative agenda.  You can see their success reflected in the Trump administration’s rollback of regulations on energy and the environment, leaving a nearly unfettered fossil fuel industry. Mayer also delves into the background of billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family (fortune from Amway) spending on conservative causes and makes passing reference to the way George Soros uses his fortune to benefit liberal causes. Mayer spent five years writing the book, which, at a minimum, reinforces the need to reverse the impact of the Citizens United decision.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder will someday make a great edge-of-your-seat movie. As Browder explains in this memoir, his grandfather was head of the Communist Party in the United States and ran for President on that ticket. Bill Browder went in the opposite direction, got his degree at Stanford and, after the demise of the Soviet Union, built the biggest hedge fund in Russia. You can’t function at that level of finance and power without coming up against Vladimir Putin. When Browder wouldn’t play ball with Putin and his cronies, they trumped up tax evasion charges against him amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.  Browder, then living in London, hired attorney Sergei Magnitsky to represent him. Putin had Magnitsky imprisoned and tortured, leading to his death in prison. Browder lobbied Congress tirelessly to pass sanctions against Russia, the resulting legislation called the Magnitskty Act. Sound familiar? Putin is still bristling under the sanctions imposed, a subject apparently discussed frequently with the Trumps. Browder’s book offers an inside look at the brutal ways of Vladimir Putin and his cronies.

Family of Secrets by Russ Baker is easily dismissed as yet another imagining by a conspiracy theorist. It sees major events of the 20th and early 21st century as driven by dark forces, especially the nexus among financiers, oilmen, and spies. Everything from the Kennedy assassination to Watergate and beyond is presented as the result off a plot to pursue the goals of these three interest groups. The book is very well researched, and, if you succeed in plowing through it, there are fascinating connections among key players in multiple generations of the Bush family cutting across the banking, oil and spook worlds. The Bush family’s old school ties at Andover, Harvard and Yale are also analyzed, including how Yale’s Skull and Bones Society was a hot recruitment space for the CIA. The book has been called reckless and paranoid, but it does leave the reader with unanswered questions about historic events and a general sense of unease about who is pulling the levers of power.

Let me know what you’d recommend. I welcome your comments in the section below. To be alerted when a new blog is posted, click on “Follow’ in the lower right portion of your screen.

 

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Summer reading part one: escape into fiction

Every year at this time I share books that that may interest my readers.  What I have discovered in year two of the Trump administration is how I often have I sought escape into fiction, though it is fiction with a political edge.

Waking Lions by Israeli writer Ayelet Gundar-Goshen is a thriller about a neuro-surgeon who, having done a double shift at his hospital, lets off steam by driving his SUV at high speeds on a dessert road very late at night. He hits a man and, having ascertained that death is inevitable (his brain is split like a cantelope), gets back in his car and takes off.  The wife of the victim, an Eritrean illegal, finds the doctor’s wallet, goes to his home and extorts him.  She demands that he provide medical care in an abandoned garage to other illegals, Which he does night after night.  Tension mounts because the doctor’s wife, a police investigator, is in charge of the case. This a compelling narrative and psychological exploration, replete with ambiguities. A really good read.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is broadly modeled after Sophocles’ Antigone, in its battle of a sister against the government to bring home Her brother.  Isma, a hijab-clad Muslim, is a Londoner of Pakistani origin whose father was a jihadist.  The book opens with her being interrogated en route from the U.K. to Amherst College, where she’ll be studying. Her brother Parvaiz, whom Isma has helped raise, is lured by ISIS cause, changes his mind and is trapped in Raqqa. Parvaiz’ twin sister Aneeka falls in love with the son of the British home secretary, also a Pakistani, whose help she will need in getting Parvaiz back to London.  It’s all about loyalty, love, grief and radicalism.  The narrative is hard to put down, and the writing is riveting.

Behold the Dreamers, a first novel by Imbolo Mbue, shows with nuance and occasional humor how we are all migrants, travelling from one place to another.  The protagonist, Jende, came from the Cameroons to America and, to help his family, learns how to work and “make it” in America, if necessary gaming the system to get ahead.  His boss, Clark,  came from nowhere in America (his forebears were immigrants) to  be a powerful CEO in New York’s financial world.  He has his own problems, and the weaving of the tales of their families is a compelling narrative.

In Exit West, author Mohsin Hamid deals with some of the same migrant/refugee issues but in a war-torn setting.  Critically acclaimed as on of the best books of 2017, Exit West doesn’t quite succeed for me, possibly because Hamid seems to reach in a kind of magical realism.  As refugees (and lovers) Saeed and Nadia flee from one country to another, trying to make a life for themselves, moving from what could be Syria to Greece, somehow showing up in London and then, surprisingly in California. The take-away is a sense of the unease that comes from displacement, but the book’s fabulous turn was perplexing.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng is set in 1977 in small-town Ohio, where the teenage daughter of a biracial couple (Chinese, Caucasian) goes missing and turns up dead.  It’s a who-dunnit with exploration of race, family and class tensions and deconstruction of the relationship between the family and the town.  Another really good read.

If you like family sagas, I’d recommend Pachinko by Min Jun Lee, covering four generations of a Korean family, starting in Japanese-occupied Korea and then in Japan itself. The book takes its name from the gambling establishments where Koreans could earn a good living  though excluded by discrimination from more mainstream occupations.  Against the backdrop of sweeping historic changes, class and ethnic tensions, Pachinko’s success rests with the family narrative, and it’s a darn good yarn.

If you haven’t yet read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, it’s a charming story of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov,  a Russian aristocrat living at the grand Hotel Metropol in 1922 when he was arrested for writing a poem and sentenced to house arrest.  He ends up going from being a much respected guest to being a waiter, his living quarters shifted from a fine suite to a small garret.  All of this he accepts with grace and refinement. The world passes through the Metropol, and Rostov creates his own world of culture, proper etiquette, as he networks with colorful figures who cross his path.  The book starts slowly but ends up having a great deal to say about human dignity and survival.

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is a tale of girlhood friendship, told by teenaged Julia and set against the backdrop of an abandoned mental hospital, where she and friend
Cassie would hang out.  It is a well written and compelling narrative with themes of dysfunctional families, attempted suicide and plenty of peer pressure. Not a Nobel Prize winner but a good summer read.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is also engrossing , the story of the medical experiments carried out on women prisoners at the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Poland.  Two of the characters were real: Nazi surgeon And war criminal  Herta Oberheuser, who carried out the experiments to further her career, and Caroline Ferriday, a New York socialite who did non-profit work for French orphans until, after the war, she learned of the Polish experiments and turned her attention to helping the Ravensbruck victims, bringing many to the United States for physical and mental rehabilitation.  Other principal characters in Lilac Girls are fictional, composites based on the victims of this notorious and brutal scheme.  The characters are unevenly developed, but that doesn’t stop Lilac Girls from being enjoyable.

Last but not least, this summer I reread The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, told in his voice as a child.  The book imagines that, instead of FDR’s winning a third term in 1940, airline hero and Nazi apologist Charles Lindbergh wins the Republican nomination for President on an “America First” platform and is elected in November.  A tsunami of nativism sweeps the country and, with it, an increase in anti-Semitism. Some Jews successfully assimilate and are coopted by the right-wing government.  Others, derided as “ghetto Jews,” are relocated to the heartland of the country to be “Americanized.“  There’s just enough mixture of fact and fiction to make the reader break out in a cold sweat in today’s political context.

Let me know what you’d recommend. I welcome your comments in the section below. To be alerted when a new blog is posted, click on “Follow’ in the lower right portion of your screen.

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Elizabeth Warren: tribune for the downtrodden or capitalist to the bones?

“I’m a capitalist to my bones,” Senator Elizabeth Warren this week told a New England Council audience of business leaders, adding, “We have to make markets strong so everyone can do better.”

Addressing an arcane and often dry subject, she made an impassioned pitch that good bankruptcy laws are essential to well-functioning markets. She was intent on showing she could meet the needs of big business as well as those of what she usually describes as the “hammered” middle class.

Did she pull it off?  That depends on which constituency you identify with. One banking lobbyist told me, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good political rant.” He particularly noted the absence from her speech of any mention of the vast regulatory changes imposed on banks by the Dodd-Frank law.  Still,  the general thrust of her presentation was most compelling.

Warren is one of the nation’s leading experts on bankruptcy law, and stressed that bankruptcy has far-reaching implications even if it isn’t your own business that’s going under.  All markets have winners and losers, and bankruptcy law is about protecting losers.  She opposes bailouts, especially those with no strings attached.  A lot of big banks, she said, believe in free markets – but not for themselves.

The goal should be preserving  money to protect creditors, resolving disputes affecting all constituencies at the same time. That means owners, investors, creditors, employees, pensioners,  buyers, sellers. Division of assets should be as fair as possible. Those who take the risks and reap the benefits of success should also pay the price of failure. And,  finally, Warren wants an end to gaming the system by forum shopping, seeking judges in Delaware and the Southern District of New York. To that end, Warren is joining forces with former Enron-scarred Texas General and now Republican Senator John Cornyn to require such cases to be heard by the closest jurisdiction.

On a range of related issues, Warren has stood up to the banks, credit card companies, and student loan companies, the big guys with armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Warren’s expertise in financial areas combined with her passion for the underdog makes her a considerable force, which is why the Republicans love to use a caricature of her to spur donations to the GOP.  Donald Trump loves to beat up on her, calling her goofy and deriding her claim to Native American ancestry from her Oklahoma family.  While she rests in the Bernie Sanders wing of the party and has passionate enthusiasts who hope she’ll run for President in 2020, it’s hard to see at this time how this former Harvard professor from the 02138 zip code could garner wide support in the red state swath of the heartland, which tends to vote against their own economic interests.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before, and Warren would certainly bring vigorous and informed debate to a presidential race… if  the electorate had an appetite for substance over slogans.

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Legitimate questions on recreational pot?

Massachusetts voters voted in 2016 to allow the growing and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes, and last week the state’s Cannabis Control Commission issued its first permit for a retail outlet.  The doors are not yet open because the dispensary still faces another level of inspections and background checks.  Statewide implementation was initially delayed so the legislature could fine-tune the law.  And many local communities, even those whose voters approved the referendum, have put moratoria on implementation. (Some 200 communities have issued outright bans.) Certainly, it’s better to do it right than rush it a few months and make mistakes. But NIMBY cities and towns who voted for the referendum yet bar or repeatedly delay retail sales should not be entitled to share in the state’s marijuana tax revenues.

The argument for legalizing pot was to be able to regulate for quality, eliminate the black market, and reap all sorts of tax revenues for both the state and local communities.  That part makes sense, but it has to be done the right way. It’s not just a matter of providing state approval of purveyors and setting up shop.  Labs must be licensed to test the product for purity and potency. No testing labs have yet been approved.  Growing fields require separate licenses, the first of which got a provisional license just last week.  Attorney General Maura Healey, an opponent of the referendum, last month approved further local extensions until June 2019.

She’s taking a lot of flack for it, and certainly continued extensions shouldn’t become a de facto ban. While you could argue this extension is not dramatically unreasonable, it still takes implementation three years away from the passage of the referendum. Cannabis Control Commission chair Steve Hoffman, who opposed the referendum but whose professionalism as chairman seems beyond question, reportedly said he doesn’t “see the logic” in the delay until June 2019. But there are legitimate considerations to be addressed now.

The major challenge for cities and towns is reshaping their zoning regulations. If they approve retail sales, what should be the allowable limit on stores in a particular community? How far away must a retail outlet be from school zones and residential neighborhoods?  from day care centers and parks? Would they have to allow pot cafes? What is the projected impact on neighborhood traffic?

There are other unanswered questions, from reliably determining when a driver is marijuana-impaired to defining rights of employers doing drug testing.  Is it legal to fire someone who tests positive for a legal substance and whose on-the-job performance isn’t compromised?

What is also unclear is what the impact will be on medical marijuana dispensaries if they expand into recreational products.  Their current standards for patient privacy and counseling as well as security and cleanliness shouldn’t be sacrificed in expanding their offerings.

We’re in uncharted territory here, and, to mix a metaphor,  the genie should come out of the bottle only when all i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed.

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Civility and indignation can go together

Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her Lexington, Virginia restaurant , declaring it a moral issue.  Wilkinson said her request was in the name of upholding “certain standards, like honesty, compassion and cooperation.” Some of her gay employees had objected to Sanders’ defense of Donald Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military. At what point do we want to go down the road to denying service based on political beliefs?

Vocal critics of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen jeered her out of a Mexican restaurant. And Congresswoman Maxine Waters has called on Trump critics to push back aggressively on administration officials wherever they are encountered, be it restaurants, super markets or other daily activities.  All these actions may feel good temporarily, but does taking a moral stance really require screaming and hurling gross epithets?

What is helped when Robert DeNiro at the Golden Globe awards starts his presentation with “F___ Trump?” or when Samantha Bee calls Melania Trump a “feckless c___?”  Satisfying as  these displays may be at some dark level, especially for people fed up with the immorality of the Trump administration, I cling to the idea that when Trump goes low, it is still better to respond by going high.

I don’t agree with Globe writer Renee Graham’s assertion in today’s paper that “civility is a buzzy word for the ultimate goal: submission.” Not so, as long as you have plans for alternative action.  Graham said “civility didn’t end slavery, defeat the Nazis, or get the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts passed.”   But those examples, along with ending the Vietnam War, required not just outrage but painstaking organizing, and that’s what people should be doing today.

Our focus simply must be on the mid-term elections, backing candidates outside our blue bubble who have a chance of regaining control of Congress and supporting activities to register voters and get them to the polls.

I’m not saying that civility should take precedence over justice and morality. But righteous rage and indignation should translate into concrete action rather than give “the other side” yet another reason to divert the debate we should be having and dismiss the legitimacy of our views.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is the principal force driving incivility to the lowest possible levels at dizzying rates. He is a self-referential moral degenerate, a racist and a bigot who plays to the darkest aspects of the American spirit, gleefully feeding the true believers who are the core of his base.  He has destroyed the moral authority of his office and our stature in the world.  Even more disturbing are his enablers, the craven Republicans who have allowed him to remake the GOP in his own image and who refuse to speak out against him, impede his dystopian agenda or halt his shredding of normative behavior that has historically permitted conservatives and liberals to negotiate compromise.

I don’t embrace Huckabee Sanders, who has lied to the American people every day that she has spoken in defense of her boss and his inhumane and short-sighted policies. These are times that call for dramatic response, but the Maxine Waters version of supermarket and restaurant confrontation is bound to be counterproductive.  Instead, check in with organizing groups like indivisible.org or support the Parkland kids.

Find candidates willing to put themselves on the line and run for office in red states. Donate to courageous candidates like Major M.J. Hegar, a combat pilot and Purple Heart recipient running in Texas’ 31st district, who describes herself as an “ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding Texas Democrat” and is also a mom.  She is willing to break down doors to “leave [our children] a world in which they can breathe clean air, love whomever they want, choose what God they believe in, and safely express who they are.”

There are others worth seeking out and supporting.  It’s not naive to think that channeling our rage into political activism will be more productive than restaurant face-offs or schoolyard fist fights.

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Trump a candidate for Nobel Appease Prize?

Remember Lucy pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown was about to kick it? Imagine if Charlie Brown,  instead of being dejected,  ran around the field with his arms stretched high shouting  that he had just kicked the winning field goal.  North Korea’s nuclear threat is gone!! We can now all sleep easily. Mission accomplished!!  Peace in our time!!  That’s Donald Trump’s message  in the wake of the Singapore summit, notwithstanding  The Washington Post’s masterful  compilation of  all the president’s recent fabulist claims.

After months of bellicose rhetoric that frightened the world, it clearly is better that the two mercurial leaders gather to talk genially about creating more peaceful relations. For that we – and millions of Koreans—should be grateful.  One can also appreciate that, in the summit run-up, three hostages were released without facing the fate of Oscar Warmbeir.  But carefully choreographed events aside, the unmistakable message —including the vague wording of the closing statement–  is that Kim got most everything he wanted  and the Master of the Deal got snookered bigly.

That’s the same Trump who excoriated Obama for the Iran nuclear agreement, which included specific verifiable measures, because Obama and his negotiators – unlike Trump- didn’t gleefully prattle on about trusting their Persian adversary. When Ronald Reagan dealt with the Russians, he admonished, “trust but verify.”  None of that applied here.

Prior to the Singapore summit, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would insist upon a North Korean commitment to “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” But photo op-hungry Trump was satisfied with a gauzy undefined commitment toward “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, without any “verifiable” or “irreversible” measures. Nothing about North Korea freezing plutonium and uranium programs, destroying intercontinental ballistic missiles, allowing inspectors to return to nuclear sites, nothing about North Korea making a full declaration of its nuclear program, nothing about a timetable, verification, nor even any clear pledge to permanently halt testing of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

Kim merely “reaffirmed” the same commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that North Korea has repeatedly made since 1992, notably in the US-North Korea declarations from 1993 and 2005, both of which were breached.

To make matters worse, Trump, apparently without consulting South Korean and Japanese allies, offered troop reductions and a freeze in military exercises—which—sounding like a North Korean propagandist– he disparagingly called  “war games” “expensive” and “provocative”  These concessions long sought by Kim and his Chinese benefactors yielded nothing of substance in return. Surely any negotiator worth the title would have extracted more.

Meanwhile Kim got the international recognition he and other North Korean leaders have long craved. His nation’s flags standing beside Old Glory in equal number, he was elevated to the same stage, with identical pomp and circumstance and interacted with the so-called leader of the free world as a nuclear power peer. More international rock star than Hermit Kingdom pariah butcher, he took selfies in Sheldon Adelson’s Marina Bay Sands Hotel with the Singaporean foreign minister. Kim’s only conciliatory gesture was politely telling Trump in English. “Nice to meet you Mr. President,” while Trump, often tongue tied in his own language, responded lamely with a grin and a thumbs up.  Yecchh!

Sorely disappointed were any who thought Trump should raise human rights concerns or at least not appear to legitimize on the world stage Kim’s forced labor gulags, mass executions, planned starvation, and other atrocities. Though it seemed impossible for our moron-in-chief to make matters worse, he then appeared on Fox and dismissed North Korea’s and Kim Jong Un’s human rights violations, saying,  “Hey, he’s a tough guy… a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator.” When pressed further, Trump responded: “Yeah, but so have other people done some really bad things. I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

Trump could have used the summit to extract a confidence-building gesture to provide United Nations access to his forced labor camps, which could have boosted the credibility of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize. Instead, our president just found another authoritarian leader to admire.

At best, the Singapore  accord is an opportunity to continue discussions building on a declaration  lacking in timetables  or specific steps to verify amorphous commitments. Complete denuclearization may never  be achievable, but constraining the North Korean threat is a worthwhile goal.  But this task will be made harder if, as Trump naively boasts, our national stance is that the North Korean nuclear threat is now passe.’ American pressure to tighten sanctions decreases and  pressure from other countries—notably China– to  loosen sanctions increases.  It is way too soon to put up the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

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