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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

James Comey's 'Shock and Awe' Testimony

Imagine that two years ago, you sequestered a jury of 12 Americans, kept them in a news-free zone, and brought them today to hear former FBI Director James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Chances are that all of them—no matter what their political beliefs—would be stunned and outraged.

From the perspective of one of these Americans, Comey dropped bombshell after bombshell: The Russians are mucking around in American democratic elections, trying to change how we think, how we act, how we vote—and they will be back. The attorney general cannot be trusted to ensure impartial enforcement of the law. The president fired the FBI director and then lied about why he did it. Yet by the time Comey said these things in an open hearing, all of it was old news. It should have been more shocking than it was, but on some level, Americans were used to it. 

Some historical context here is important. Only one FBI Director has ever been fired since J. Edgar Hoover took the job back in 1924: William Sessions, who was sacked by President Bill Clinton in 1993 after the Justice Department's own Office of Professional Responsibility found...

The End of America’s Global Leadership?

American presidents in recent decades have spent a great deal of time proclaiming U.S. leadership of the global system. The decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement undermines much of what they have said. For any student of global politics, it represents a watershed moment when it comes to debating America’s role in the world.

Becoming a global leader

In practice, global leadership can take two forms.

The first version confers leadership because a country is the most powerful. It has the strongest military, the biggest economy, the most innovative technology. But beyond that, a global leader has to be willing to cast aside its own short-term interests in favor of a longer-term outlook. This isn’t altruism. It is seeing beyond the horizon, what psychologists define as “enlightened self-interest.”

Sometimes a dominant power must endure costs to achieve a collective benefit. American behavior since 1945 has often fitted that description, from supporting NATO to setting up international institutions like the World Bank or funding others like the United Nations. It is why Americans describe themselves, in the words of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, as “the world’s indispensable nation.”

The second version confers leadership...

Analysis: Trump’s Zero-Sum View of The World is Most Dangerous When Applied to Climate Change

President Donald Trump, who fancies himself a master negotiator, walked into the White House itching to improve what he sees as a series of dismal deals struck by his predecessors.

He’s already tried to apply the zero-sum negotiating tactics he honed in the New York real-estate world to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and more generally, to the US’s international relations with a variety of countries.

That combative approach has already frayed relations with some of the US’s closest allies, but Trump’s latest example of deal-making bravado threatens to inflict the most damage yet. On June 1, Trump announced his intentions to renege on the Paris climate accord in a feisty speech delivered in the White House rose garden. The US, he said, was getting short-changed by the agreement, which he claims will bring devastation to American companies and workers. He also vowed to renegotiate the deal on better terms, if possible. (Several legal experts, as well as signatory countries France, Germany, and Italy, believe the US will not be able to renegotiate if it leaves the agreement.)

“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

‘Covfefe’: A Typo? A Conspiracy? A Metaphor for America?

“What is ‘covfefe’?”

That was the voice of a White House reporter, on Wednesday afternoon, asking a question of White House press secretary Sean Spicer on behalf of herself and many confused Americans. Her question was practical and philosophical and full of frustration: What, truly, is “covfefe”? Was it the word “coverage,” autocorrected? An errant Starbucks order? An English verb of Old Norse origin, meaning “to back out of the Paris climate accord”? A coded—pardon me, a covded—message from the Illuminati, its true meaning known only to Robert Langdon and/or the innards of a Jeffersonian codex? 

Yeah, it was probably a typo. That is the simplest answer, the Occam’s razor answer. When the president sent a tweet out to his 31 million followers late on Tuesday evening—“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” the message read in its entirety—the posting seemed the result of that most common of internet snafus: sending a thing out before the thing is ready to be sent. The president, very likely, was writing something about his negative press coverage, and mistakenly hit a wrong button, and then mistakenly hit “Tweet.” Thumbus interruptuswho among us, etc.

Trump seemed to admit...

As Mueller Takes Over Trump Probe, GOP Leaders Hold Their Fire

Rep. Mike Simpson was a dent­al stu­dent in the early 1970s when Pres­id­ent Nix­on’s ad­min­is­tra­tion spiraled in­to chaos, so he can un­der­stand twice over why get­ting Re­pub­lic­ans to com­ment on re­ports of im­pro­pri­ety by Pres­id­ent Trump can be like pulling teeth.

“Politi­cians like me were stand­ing around say­ing, ‘Hey, Nix­on’s OK; he didn’t do any­thing,’” Simpson said of the Wa­ter­gate era. “Then the next day something else hap­pens and pretty soon you’ve got an ava­lanche of stuff.”

Be­fore Wed­nes­day’s De­part­ment of Justice an­nounce­ment that former FBI Dir­ect­or Robert Mueller had been named spe­cial coun­sel to handle the in­vest­ig­a­tion of Trump’s al­leged ties to Rus­sia, Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers on Cap­it­ol Hill had re­acted meekly to the pre­vi­ous bomb­shell re­port—that Trump had asked then-FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey to stand down on in­vest­ig...