How U.S. presidents missed the Russia threat — until it was much, much too late

I feel like we sort of choked.” That’s how one former administration official recently described President Barack Obama’s failure to react to intelligence reports on Kremlin attempts to influence the U.S. election. Plenty of other people — including, with extraordinary cynicism, President Trump — have also asked why more wasn’t done. Continue reading “How U.S. presidents missed the Russia threat — until it was much, much too late”

The Grenfell Tower disaster gives Britain’s ‘bonfire of regulations’ a whole new meaning

  • LONDON

“Regulation” is a boring word with unpleasant connotations, especially in Britain. Schools, offices and governments have regulations. British students, employees and businesses seek to get around regulations. Regulations are thought to cost money, time and effort, preventing people from engaging in more productive activity. One of the most important arguments against the European Union in Britain during the Brexit referendum campaign last year was that the E.U. is widely believed to be a source of time-wasting regulations. Continue reading “The Grenfell Tower disaster gives Britain’s ‘bonfire of regulations’ a whole new meaning”

Everyone said Old Europe was dying. Sure doesn’t look like it now.

The contrast could not be more stark. Theresa May, the British prime minister, presides over a hung Parliament and a divided country. Donald Trump, the American president, rules alongside a Congress almost too paralyzed to legislate. In both countries, far-left and far-right movements and ideas have more adherents than ever; political debate is angry, hate-filled — and violent. Gunmen have now shot at U.S. lawmakers on the left and right; in Britain last year, an MP was murdered. Continue reading “Everyone said Old Europe was dying. Sure doesn’t look like it now.”

How Trump helped defeat Theresa May

President Trump has told British Prime Minister Theresa May he will cancel his state visit to Britain,the Guardian reported today, supposedly on the grounds that there will be mass protests. But while some official disappointment may be expressed, behind the scenes there will be no sorrow in Downing Street. Although I don’t want to exaggerate the U.S. president’s importance in last Thursday’s snap election in Britain — the main issues were domestic — this was a very hard-fought contest. Had a few hundred votes gone the other way in a handful of constituencies, May’s Conservatives might still have their parliamentary majority. And there is a serious argument that, on the margins, Trump helped swing the electorate against the Tories — in three ways. Continue reading “How Trump helped defeat Theresa May”

Theresa May and the revenge of the Remainers

Theresa May had a plan: Steal the policies of Britain’s “far right” — the U.K. Independence Party — and then steal their voters, too. Since she took office about a year ago, the formerly moderate British prime minister attacked foreigners, jeered at the European Union and held Donald Trump’s hand. In April, she called an early general election, confident that UKIP voters would now endorse her “hard Brexit” and her watered-down English Tory populism. Continue reading “Theresa May and the revenge of the Remainers”

Politics is a joke, and that might be what’s keeping us sane

I admit: I laughed more than once. By the time I saw President Trump’s half-written, abruptly abandoned tweet — “Despite the negative press covfefe” — on Wednesday morning, Central European Time, it had been up for several hours. The #covfefe hashtag was already trending; Twitter was heaving with jokes. My personal favorites were the mock serious “Media elites make fun of #covfefe instead of trying to understand it” and the simple “it’s a cry for helfe.” The thing somehow stopped being funny by the afternoon, though there was a moment of ironic drama when the president’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, tried to suggest that “covfefe” was not a typo: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” Was that a joke, too? Unclear. Continue reading “Politics is a joke, and that might be what’s keeping us sane”

Theresa May won’t get a landslide. Beyond that, the British election is hard to predict.

We are days away from the British parliamentary elections on Thursday. I’m not going to predict the result, but it’s already clear that the British prime minister will not get the landslide she wanted. The same polls that showed a huge majority for Theresa May two months ago have narrowed. Some foresee, if not an outright Labor victory, then at least a hung Parliament. Even if she wins, her position is tarnished. Support that seemed solid has vanished. Why? Continue reading “Theresa May won’t get a landslide. Beyond that, the British election is hard to predict.”

For the U.S.-European alliance, everything has changed

Just returned from Europe. Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!
Donald Trump, Sunday morning

For more than four months, the White House has confirmed no European ambassadors, filled no high-level diplomatic jobs and given no indication that it ever will. Occasional envoys, the vice president and defense secretary among them, have floated across the Atlantic, carrying messages of general reassurance. They have reconfirmed America’s commitment to NATO, spoken of old ties and old alliances, hinted and winked that nothing has changed. Continue reading “For the U.S.-European alliance, everything has changed”

There is no one right way to react to terror. There is a wrong way.

There is no correct reaction to terrorism. The cruelty, fanaticism and madness of a man who explodes a powerful bomb in a crowd of young girls inspires all kinds of feelings: horror, anger, sadness, fear, revulsion. None of those emotions is more “right” than any of the others. None of the language that people use to express them can usefully be judged. Some people cried after news of the attack in Manchester, England. Others swore and cursed. Both responses are understandable. Continue reading “There is no one right way to react to terror. There is a wrong way.”