Quotes: On Juncker and the Right Time to Retire

“The atmosphere in Brussels has become, of late, reminiscent of the late Brezhnev era. We have a political system run by a bureaucratic apparatus which — just like the former USSR — serves to conceal important evidence. Especially when it comes to the health of its supreme leader, Jean-Claude Juncker.”

From the article Jean-Claude drunker – What’s ailing the President of the European Commission? by Jean Quatremer at the London Spectator.

Helsinki

The site of the Trump/Putin summit is a compact, handsome, livable low-rise town of around 600,000. Click these photos to enlarge them.

President Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg is a little less than 400 kilometers up the road. The high speed Allegro train connects Helsinki with St. Petersburg in three and a half hours, four times a day.

Mr. Putin must feel – almost – at home. The lay of the land, the lakes and forests, is the same in Finland as where the Russian president grew up. Here is Mr. Putin with Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish president, on a boat tour when we saw them last summer. Saimaa, the name of the ship, is also the name of the lake:

There are many more photos from lovely Finland here, at EarthPhotos.com.

Quotes: Our Leadership, Our Peril

No good shall come of this,

“an instance of the president of the United States offering an incentive to dismantle an organsation of America’s allies, against stated US government policy”

– From Trump is trying to destabilize the European Union in the Washington Post. It describes “a private meeting at the White House in late April, (in which) Trump was discussing trade with French President Emmanuel Macron.”

An individual American leader unilaterally dismantling alliances is not normal, and Mr. Trump’s inclination flies in the face of virtually all opinion among policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic. The Trump/Macron meeting was followed by an acrimonious summit in early June with the leaders of the big western economies and Japan, after which the American president tweeted ad hominem attacks aimed at his Canadian host, calling Justin Trudeau “very dishonest and weak.” His tweets came as Mr. Trump flew to his summit with the North Korean dictator.

Next comes the NATO summit, in which

“European and some American officials say they dread the same pattern — a noisy, divisive NATO summit, damaging deterrence, followed by a chummy meeting with a dictator, in this case Mr. Putin, whose long-term goals are to destabilize the European Union, undermine NATO and restore Russian influence over Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and the Balkans.””

Even senior American officials said they had no clarity on Mr. Trump’s intentions for this meeting. They have told senior European officials that a lot will depend on Mr. Trump’s mood as he arrives and what is being highlighted on his favorite American news media outlets such as Fox News.”

– From As Summit Nears, NATO Allies As Summit Nears, NATO Allies Have One Main Worry: Trump in the New York Times, emphasis mine.

This, too, is not even approximately normal and shows an American leader apparently intent on dismantling the structure of the North Atlantic’s backbone postwar alliance against the advice of just about every serving American and NATO official.

Then there is this:

“Mr. Trump’s past comments suggest that he thinks that there is some NATO treasury to which members owe dues, and that allies are behind on their payments.”

– From the same article. If this statement is true it reveals an elected American president in no way prepared to engage intellectually with his allies – or adversaries.

And a headline today:

U.S. assessing cost of keeping troops in Germany as Trump battles with Europe

•••••

Meanwhile on the home front: in The Collapse of the Never-Trump Conservatives, the Trumpist American Spectator argues that

“With the installation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and a yet-to-be-named reliable replacement for the unreliable Anthony Kennedy, Donald Trump will have confirmed himself as the most consequential conservative president of the modern era….”

This on the strength of Mr. Trump simultaneously holding office and breathing, because his party served up his first Supreme Court appointee for him to choose on taking office and his second came because of a retirement.

I’m afraid Mr. Trump’spresidency is indeed consequential, not because he is conservative, for he demonstratively has no core ideology, but for nothing more than his luck of the Supreme Court draw.

But of course there’s more. Last quote:

Vladimir Putin looked Trump in the eye and lied to him. We negotiate with Russia at our peril

This is the headline from an article written last summer by current National Security Advisor John R. Bolton. The article appeared in the conservative London Telegraph and was reprinted by the business-friendly American think tank the American Enterprise Institute. Yet there was Bolton on Wednesday in Moscow announcing the Trump/Putin Helsinki summit “in hopes of soothing U.S.-Russia tensions.”

This is the same John R. Bolton who made The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First in the Republican house organ, the Wall Street Journal. But that was back in February, when Mr. Bolton was just an interested observer.

Shall we believe Mr. Bolton’s previous lifetime of work was all just posturing to ingratiate the bellicose American right? That now, since March, Mr. Bolton understands the need to overriding need to have tea and photo-ops with dictators?

What is it with power?

Sufficient Integrity

If I say it is so, best you believe it.

CS&W is mostly about travel. Life-fulfilling, experiential, aspirational stuff, usually. Most of the time it’s about the world outside the United States, and many readers live outside this country.

There is no reason people outside the US should follow our country’s daily internal politics, but I think you should know that just now it’s a bit of a fraught moment. The other day, President Trump said this about the North Korean leader:

“He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head,” Trump told Fox News Channel. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Modest note to the president: We are not your people.

Later, this from Mr. Trump:

“I’m kidding,” he said. Admonishing the journalist, the president added, “You don’t understand sarcasm.”

•••••

Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic,

It is (a) flaw in the American system that it relies on the presumption that the chief executive will be a person of sufficient integrity not to abuse that tension for personal gain.”

He’s talking about the

“inherent tension in America’s constitutional system in that the attorney general, the head of the Justice Department, is also a Cabinet official answerable to the president.”

In defense of the American system, it took 200+ years to throw up our reigning rascal.

•••••

We Americans define ourselves in many ways. Diversity is our country’s robust strength. We are conservatives, liberals, citizens, grandparents, parents, children, patriots, military veterans, immigrants, activists, protesters, bread-winners and retirees, political supporters and opponents.

But I am hard-pressed to imagine anyone who would consider himself a subject of the president in the way North Koreans are to their leader, and in the way that the American president described us “sarcastically”  to his house organ.

•••••

Diminished respect for the rule of law and general thuggishness in this country chime with the lived experience of Europeans this 2018. To Poland (Law and Justice), Hungary (Jobbik), Austria (Freedom Party), Italy (the League), Finland (the Finns), the French Front Nationale, Germany (The AfD), Greece (Golden Dawn), England (UKIP), this summer we may add USA (Republican).

The retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said his own party is acting like a “cult” in kowtowing to the president. The ruling party’s leadership though, astride the trough and damned well intent on retaining wallowing rights, won’t hear of it.

•••••

From far away we Americans read about the rise of European nationalism as a clinical, academic thing, a phenomenon unrelated to our purported world dominion, our whole reigning former unipolar, indispensable nation thing.

You poor uncomprehending Europeans systematically mishandle your refugees, among them the ones that come via Libya, a now lawless land we were happy to lead from behind to help you destroy. Not our problem now.

We float above petty squabbles like that whole Libyan lead from behind thing. We mightily beat back the challenges of invading hordes of impoverished brown people on our southern border seeking a better life. An agency of our government called ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been systematically and as a matter of policy separating would-be immigrant parents and children at the US/Mexican border. Many of these people are fleeing some of the most violent, lawless countries in the world.

In a country avowedly proud of the separation of church and state, here is America’s senior law enforcement officer, Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week:

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Sessions said. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.”

Later, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summed up the same idea: “It is very biblical to enforce the law.”

We are fast coming off our deteriorating and underfunded national rails. Most alarmingly, it looks like this comes with at least the tacit support of at least a large minority of Americans.

Eh.

•••••

Meanwhile in Turkey

Reserve a little thought space for the upcoming Turkish elections. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are coming in nine days time, and by most accounts President Erdogan finds himself in a tightening race. An article in Bloomberg titled Why Erdogan’s Election Has Gone From Shoo-In to Nail-Biter writes about

“the prospect Erdogan wouldn’t work with a hung parliament and instead call an election do-over if the results were not to his liking.”

The president said Monday that

“he expects the next presidential and parliamentary elections to end in the first round, with little possibility of a second one.”

But a Reuters poll just out today shows Ergodan

“falling short of a first-round victory … with his support dipping 1.6 points in one week…. The poll also showed his ruling AK Party was forecast to lose its parliamentary majority in the June 24 vote.”

So, we may expect an excess of media riches on Sunday, 24 June: England vs. Panama, Japan vs. Senegal and Poland vs. Colombia in the World Cup, and Erdogan versus a more-than-usually-united opposition in the Turkish Election Sweepstakes.

Here it Comes

Pyongyang via Wikimedia

Air Force One bears down on Singapore at this hour. Time for us to bone up on learning this stuff. Betcha more than he has.