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

What We Know About Trump's 'Tapes' Tease

It’s the biggest mystery in Washington—or the biggest tease.

Is there a taping system at the White House, did it catch the conversations between President Trump and his ex-FBI director, James Comey, and if the answers to those questions are yes, will the president make the tapes public?

The Secret Service added one small piece to the puzzle on Monday when it told the Wall Street Journal that if there are tapes, it doesn’t have them. That is significant because the Secret Service handled the White House recording systems for previous presidents, including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The agency’s response, provided to the Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request, still allows for the possibility that another government entity—or perhaps Trump’s team itself—is managing a recording system. It was the president who launched this whole guessing game exactly one month ago with a tweet warning that Comey “better hope there are no ‘tapes’” before he starts “leaking to the press.” The ousted FBI chief ignored the threat, and in fact, he told the Senate intelligence committee last week that Trump’s tweet about tapes prompted him to give his now-famous...

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...