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

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...

Census Director’s Resignation Could Affect Control of Congress After 2020

John H. Thompson, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, just resigned amid a funding fight over the 2020 Census.

Since it comes at the same time that the president fired the director of the FBI, why should anyone care about the resignation of just another Washington “bean counter?"

This bean counter, whose name is likely unfamiliar to the vast majority of Americans, is actually one of the most important people in determining whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress. The census has a significant impact on political representation and how federal money is distributed. Moreover, how hard the director fights for more funding helps determine the accuracy of the census.

As someone who has spent decades deeply involved in surveys, I understand the importance of ensuring an accurate count of the population. Without it, every fact about this nation’s population – from the percent of women giving birth to the percent of elderly people dying – is suspect.

Why we have a census

The primary source of United States demographic data is the population census, which is done in the spring of all years that are evenly divisible by 10.

The U.S. Constitution provides the legal basis for conducting...