Murdoch Turns on Trump — an Inflexion Point?

This story, on CNN, has not gotten nearly enough attention.

Basically, Rupert Murdoch has had it with Trump, with editorials in his papers like the Wall Street Journal, trashing him.  As reported by CNN:

Murdoch’s most prestigious outlet, the Wall Street Journal, ran an eye-popping editorial in its conservative-leaning opinion pages on Tuesday.

Titled “The Trumps and the Truth,” the editorial scolded the president’s family for withholding information about Russia-related meetings and discussions.

It said the political realities of Washington “will destroy Mr. Trump, his family and their business reputation unless they change their strategy toward the Russia probe. They don’t have much more time to do it.”

The editorial also said that “denouncing leaks as ‘fake news’ won’t wash as a counter-strategy beyond the President’s base, as Mr. Trump’s latest 36% approval rating shows.”

It was the latest in a series of eyebrow-raising editorials. Last week Murdoch’s New York tabloid, the New York Post, labeled Donald Trump Jr. an “idiot” and “criminally stupid.”

Here, by way of reminder, is the Guardian’s 1997 story reporting on Murdoch’s endorsement of Blair and Labor in that election.

The Sun tells its readers today to vote Labour, switching sides after more than 20 years of unswerving support for the Tory party.

In a front page article headlined ‘The Sun Backs Blair’, the paper, which has a daily readership of more than 10 million, says Tony Blair should be the next prime minister.

The Labour leader is the ‘breath of fresh air’ that Britain needs, the editorial says. The Tories are ‘tired, divided and rudderless’ and no longer deserve support.

The paper declares: ‘This is the election for the millennium. In six weeks’ time, Britain will vote for a government to take it into the 21st century.

‘The people need a leader with vision, purpose and courage who can inspire them and fire their imaginations. The Sun believes that man is Tony Blair.’

Editor Stuart Higgins said last night: ‘This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We consider Mr Blair has all the qualities of leadership required to take this great country forward. The Tories are tired, divided and need a good rest to regroup.

No prizes for remembering who won that election, after a long Labour drought, or for noticing the current relevance of the phrase “tired, divided and need a good rest to regroup.”

If this is a precursor of where Fox News is going to go, it’s all over for the Donald.



‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’ — You Won’t Have To, But We Do All Have to Think Differently

Politico has a great article, with the self-explanatory title, itself a quote from the French Ambassador to the US – ‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’

Nor can I imagine a US without Europe deeply engaged with us.  (I am coming to be able to understand a Europe without the UK, or rather parts of it, but that is a much simpler matter, more related to Britain’s 150 year decline.)

What North Americans and Europeans have to do is understand that together we are one political  system, although not one nation.  Politics in one of these two mega nations (lumping Canada in with the US for now) are already deeply intertwined, and will get more so.  That is much more the case than any other large countries dyad.

As recent elections have shown, political events in one of the mega-nations trigger and influence those in the other — and not always in fully predictable ways.  Skilled demagogues, well actually all demagogues, will try to use events in one as a source of fear or reactionary possibility in the other, and building a positive “liberal system” vision will always require more nuance and time.

In short, in order to leverage each other, ideas have to flow between the two groupings as easily as capital already does.  We in the US have so much to learn about managing technology to limit the forces of inequality, and our friends in Europe have so much to ,learn about building greater flexibility into their economic system.

In the end, however, we have to learn to think about the impact on the European system of all that we do, and they have to do the same about us.  Think about how Trump’s failure to understand the nuances of this have enhanced European integration, and perhaps even saved Europe from disintegration.  The more Trump embraces Putin, the more the rest of Europe fears him, or rather both of them. I personally will not get tired of these kinds of winning.




Memo to Brits: Get a Constitution — and Fast

The Brits have always been so proud that we (I have dual citizenship) have no constitution.  While there are writings that attempt to capture the custom of centuries, in the end there are no formal rules.

Well, today, Politico has a US focused article that highlights the dangers.  With the heading “Trump writing his own White House rules,” and the subhead “He is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom and how little is based in the law,” the article reports:

President-elect Donald Trump has said he might do away with regular press briefings and daily intelligence reports. He wants to retain private security while receiving secret service protection, even after the inauguration. He is encouraging members of his family to take on formal roles in his administration, testing the limits of anti-nepotism statutes. And he is pushing the limits of ethics laws in trying to keep a stake in his business.

In a series of decisions and comments since his election last month — from small and stylistic preferences to large and looming conflicts — Trump has signaled that he intends to run his White House much like he ran his campaign: with little regard for tradition. And in the process of writing his own rules, he is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom, and how little is based in the law. .  .  .

“If it’s not written down, you can get away with it. That’s the new premise. And that’s pretty staggering,” said Trump biographer Gwenda Blair, author of “The Trumps: Three Generations that Built an Empire.”

It is a measure of how seriously this is all taken that discussions of overall permanant changes and how to minimize them are already on the table.

“It will expose how well other institutions function when one of them is operating outside the normal framework,” said attorney Robert Bauer, who served as White House counsel to President Obama. “If you have a president who is going to push hard against standing limits and expectations, are other institutions, like the Congress, going to step into the breach? Are they going to take on a more muscular role than they otherwise would?”   .  .  .  .

As the Trump transition figures out the biggest hurdle of all — how to separate Trump from his business interests at home and abroad — experts said the next best thing to following any legal requirements will be catastrophizing the consequences Trump risks opening himself up to if he does not divest and place his assets in a blind trust.

Wow, “catastrophizing.”  In other words, maximizing the overall consequences.

For the US, this highlights we are already in a very high stakes time, at least at large as during Nixon’s reign, but surely much larger, since operating on so many fronts.

For the UK, or indeed its fragmented parts if that is what is happening, the message is “write it down now, in enforceable form, with an enforcement mechanism.”  If not, regret will be in order.

The Politically Legitimate Path to Reverse Brexit

Many seem to feel that Brexit is somehow irreversible because “the people have spoken.”

While the UK, of course, has no written constitution, making this all much more complicated, there actually is a clear constitutional and legitimate path to reverse Brexit.

If a party were to campaign on a promise to hold a second referendum on Brexit, and that party were to win the next election, and conduct a referendum, then there would be no doubt about the legitimacy of the process and result.

I would even go further and say that were a party to campaign on a promise to only enter a coalition if its partners promised to conduct such a referendum, and that party’s votes were needed to form a coalition, then the result would be nearly as legitimate.

The problem is that neither of the remaining “national” parties is sufficiently united to run such a campaign.  The Liberal Democrats could, but they have such little credibility after the coalition debacle that their path would be uphill.  The Tories are here out of the question, which leaves Labor. Only two paths here, either the willingness to take the risk of losing a major slice of their supporters in return for the hope that they would pick up the liberals who defected to the conservatives last election, or Labor splits, and one wing links with the Liberals to form a clearly EU party.

I suspect that the last option is the most practical.

There is a point about timing.  Really that is in the control of the Government.  If whoever the new PM starts post-Art. 50 negotiations soon, then things might be well advanced by the time of the election, and a firm stance from the EU would raise to costs of secession for England and the UK.  If the election were to happen before the negotiations, a lot of uncertainty might be avoided.

In any event, time is needed for  the pro-Europe group to solidify for this campaign.

P.S.  One plank in the platform would be allowing folks like me who have been away from the UK for a long time to vote, because we might lose our right to live and work in the EU.  The failure to do so is one the factors tending to de-legitimate the prior result.



I Went to School with Twits Like Blair and Cameron

I went to an English so called “public school” in the 60’s.

The behavior of first Blair and now Cameron comes as no surprise to me.  At the risk of seeming judgemental, I knew lots of these kids, and believe me, they all run to type.  (Not to say that all the kids at that school were like that, indeed no.)

These kids were (and remain) entitled, utterly self-confident, with a belief in their right and obligation to reshape the world.  This came from class, from socialization, and from arrogance.  (This is not the arrogance that defends against uncertainty which many of us might be accused of being guilty of, but rather the real, necessarily un-examined, thing.)

These kids really believed (and believe today) that their privileged education was some kind of earned reward.  To the extent that it might really be a reward to their ancestors, that was just as, perhaps even more, fine.

Moreover, that education prepared them to rule the world, again not so much as a matter of technique, but of utter self-confidence.

John LeCare, in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, perhaps got it best when he had Connie Sachs, the forced-out British intelligence research head (quote reconstructed from memory) say, with more sympathy than I can muster, even now:

“Poor dears, born to rule the waves, and now with a voice that hardly caries across the water.”

Its no surprise that being Bush’s poodle might have some appeal.  Nor that one might grossly misjudge ones ability to manage a referendum process.

The Brexit/Chilicot Juztaposition

Hard to ignore.

Two weeks ago, the Brits tell the world they can do better without Europe.

Today we learn, or rather relearn, that the Iraq invasion decision made in the face of European opposition, was indeed Britain’s arguably worst ever foreign policy mistake.

Some have described the Iraq decision as merely the worst since Suez.  That decision, was made, 60 years ago, with European complicity, and against American opposition.

Hmm.  Maybe these decisions need to be unanimous.  What a thought.


A Chilling Coincidence

Today we have lunch with a man who was telling us his memories, from being ten years old, of Krystalllnacht.

This afternoon, I saw this photo and article in the Guardian, showing how the Brexit referendum has authorized not just racism, but violent racism.  Headline:

‘A frenzy of hatred’: how to understand Brexit racism

Please look at the photo.  Looks just like Krystallnacht.