Category Archives: International news

What has happened to those ‘mainstream Republicans’?

As I watch congressional Republicans and other GOP members around the country seek to defend Donald Trump against the impeachable offenses that have been alleged against him, I am struck by a curious notion.

What in the world has happened to supposed adherents to a political philosophy/ideology that seems so terribly at odds with what has become the centerpiece of the impeachment effort against the president?

Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for a “favor, though.” He wanted Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, before getting a White House meeting. He also held up military assistance appropriated by Congress for Ukraine to use against Russian-backed aggressors in Ukraine.

The Ukrainians are our allies. The Russians are not. And yet, Trump sought to pursue a posture that would benefit the Russians. What in the world … ? Moreover, by seeking dirt on a potential foe from a foreign government, the president of the United States is seeking another government to help him win another election.

Mainstream Republicans used to take great umbrage at any sort of softening of U.S. policy regarding the Russians and their ideological forebears, the communists who formed the Soviet Union after World War I. These days, we have an ostensibly Republican president currying favor with and kowtowing to Russian strongmen and oligarchs. Indeed, the Ukrainian initiative — the withholding of arms to fight Russian-backed rebels — looks for all the world to be yet another example of Trump licking the jackboots of the Russian thugs who run that once-great superpower.

All the while, Republicans in the House and Senate do or say virtually nothing that the president can interpret as stern criticism of this hideous policy. They remain complicit in the president’s violation of the oath he took to defend and protect the Constitution. They look and sound ready to stand by their man even as he continues the hijacking of their once-great political party, twisting and turning into something unrecognizable from the days when the GOP stood for national strength and resolve against an enemy of this nation.

I’ve said repeatedly that Donald Trump has disgraced the nation with his conduct. So, too, have his political allies who once stood strongly in favor of the very values that the president is flouting.

Trump vs. NATO colleagues: Oh, the irony of it all

Donald Trump continues to exhibit an astonishing lack of self-awareness. Indeed, the irony of his sudden bolting from an international meeting with military allies reveals that point.

There he was at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in London. He trashed French President Emmanuel Macron, called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” and then became the subject of a hot-mic exchange among NATO leaders who were poking fun at the president.

He left the NATO conference and jetted back to the United States.

What is astonishing in the extreme is that Trump seemed to get mad at the leaders’ laughing at his expense. He has no awareness of the kind of treatment he has leveled on his political foes and, indeed, even at his allies.

He has tossed out insults and epithets at will. He hangs goofy nicknames on those with whom he disagrees. He dishes out innuendo as rapidly as a blackjack dealer.

So he gets chided by his colleagues at a NATO meeting and then flies out of there? What gives with this guy?

He vowed while campaigning for the presidency to get rid of the laughingstock label he said was being hung on the United States. Well, maybe he has done that … by giving other world leaders reason to laugh at him.

‘We’re the laughingstock of the world’

One of the many campaign mantras that Donald Trump would recite repeatedly on his way to winning the presidency in 2016 was that the United States had become “a laughingstock.”

He would bellow from campaign podiums that “We are the laughingstock of the world.” The crowds loved it. He would vow to make the world “respect” this country.

How is it working out? Not so good, I would say, were you to seek my opinion.

Trump’s recent carnival act while attending the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in London offers a case in point. The president decided he wouldn’t tolerate the snickers and whispered jokes among fellow heads of state at the NATO conference.

So, he bolted. He came home early after canceling a press conference.

Mr. President, the world is laughing now, out loud, in public, in front of us. Donald Trump has turned us into the laughingstock he accused us of being while running for the only public office he ever has sought.

So very sad.

G7 going to meet at Camp David after all … imagine that

How about that? Donald Trump once sought to bring the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations to his glitzy resort in south Florida, only to run into a firestorm of criticism from those who accused him of seeking to profit personally from the presidency.

He withdrew the suggestion that the G7 summit occur at Doral Country Club.

So, where did he agree to play host to the summit? Camp David, Md., where presidents have taken foreign leaders for decades.

It’s a publicly owned place in the Catoctin Mountains near Washington, D.C. It’s known to possess a sort of quaint elegance quality. There’s plenty of room for the heads of these nations and their staffs to stay. Camp David has plenty of meeting-room space. Heads of state and government can get away to confer privately if they wish.

So, why didn’t the president settle on Camp David in the first place? He instead decided to make an issue out of being the host for the annual summit of the world’s wealthiest nations. Remember how he said that Doral was the best place in the entire United States to host this event? Of course it was a ludicrous assertion.

He has decided to welcome the G7 nations to a perfectly fine location. Camp David already has seen plenty of newsworthy events during its time as the official presidential retreat. Let there be more news to be made when the G7 nations’ leaders gather next year.

Trump makes a hash of another NATO gathering

Well now, that didn’t go too well.

Donald Trump was one of several heads of state and government attending a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Then he decided he had enough of the treatment he was getting from his fellow world leaders gathered in London. So he left early, canceling an anticipated press conference.

Oh, my.

He started out by having a testy press availability with French President Emanuel Macron, who snapped back at Trump’s assertion that many Islamic State fighters come from France.

He called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced.”

Trump said France needs NATO more than the United States and chided the French for not paying more for their defense against potential enemies in Europe.

Other world leaders were heard on a “hot microphone” poking fun at the U.S. president … which I guess was too much for Trump to handle.

He left the meeting early and headed for home.

Goodness, gracious.

Is this how the president of the United States represents us on the world stage? Must we tolerate this kind of petulance? Must this nation be held up as an international laughingstock only because its president doesn’t know how to behave and act like the head of state of the world’s most indispensable nation?

He talks about impeachment constantly during his press sessions. He blasts House Speaker Nancy Pelosi openly while he’s overseas. Trump ridicules the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, hurling a variety of epithets at the man who is performing his constitutionally prescribed duties.

So, another foreign visit has gone badly.

Get to work, Mr. President, on whatever it is you do.

U.S. is shamefully MIA at climate change conference

ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images

They’re convening an international conference on climate change.

As my dear late Mom would say, I’ll give you three guesses on which nation is missing from that conference … but the first two guesses don’t count.

That’s right. The United States of America ain’t there.

We should be. Why? Well, let’s see. We’re the most industrialized nation on Earth. We are the world leader in scientific research. Our factories pour out tons of carbon emissions into the air annually. We occupy the bulliest of pulpits of any nation the planet.

But we’re not there because the president of the United States, Donald John Trump, calls climate change a “hoax.” Trump yanked the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, saying it would be too burdensome on U.S. businesses. The accord carries the names of virtually every country on the planet … except the U.S. of A.

This is how the president intends to “make America great again” or “keep America great.” He wants to isolate the nation from a world made “smaller” in a proverbial sense by modern technology.

The United States made great strides in weaning ourselves of dependence on foreign-produced fossil fuels largely through development of alternate energy resources and, yes, more production of oil and natural gas. Trump wants to develop more “clean coal” and wants to drill for even more petroleum-based products. How is that going to stem the warming of the planet and the changing of its climate? Short answer: It won’t.

We are shaming ourselves by failing to attend the conference that seeks to find remedies to what has become established as an existential threat to every nation on Earth.

As the world’s pre-eminent economic power, we need to be heard and we need to listen to what our Earthly neighbors are telling us.

Hoping for an actual breakthrough with Taliban

(Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP) 

Oh, my … I do hope for an actual peace treaty with the Taliban.

Such an agreement could end the longest war in U.S. history, the one that began in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attack on this country.

Donald Trump ventured to Afghanistan for Thanksgiving, broke bread with the troops and then announced to the world that peace talks with the Taliban had resumed. Remember, though, that he broke these talks off after an attack by Taliban fighters that killed an American serviceman.

What was so appalling at that moment was that Trump was going to bring the Taliban to Camp David while the nation was commemorating the 9/11 attack. Bad call, Mr. President.

So, now the talks are back on, as the president has said.

I want the war to end. I grew weary long ago of hearing of our men and women dying in combat. I am going to hope for the best here.

One word of caution: We are negotiating with a cunning, hideous, gruesome bunch of monsters. The Taliban are among the worst of the worst that humankind can produce. I worry that they cannot be trusted as far we can throw any of them.

If these talks produce an actual agreement and if it means an end to the nation’s longest war, then count me in.

Let us be wary, though, of the monstrous cabal with whom we are dealing.

Stupa offers grisly reminder of why we should give thanks

Take a good look at the structure you see here. It’s called a stupa. This one is at a place called Choeung Ek, which is just outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I’ve visited this place twice, in 1989 and again in 2004. I have written a blog post already about a remarkable Thanksgiving dinner some colleagues and I enjoyed in Vietnam in 1989. We had just visited Cambodia and returned to Vietnam to continue our journey through Southeast Asia.

I want to explain what this stupa is and what it contains.

It is temple that is full of human skulls. They were dug out of the ground, excavated from mass graves around the structure. The men, women and children who were buried there were victims of one of the 20th century’s most hideous regimes, the Khmer Rouge terrorists who ran Cambodia from 1975 to 1978. Their leader, Pol Pot, wanted to purge his country of citizens who were educated, who presented any sort of threat to the regime’s power.

All told, it is estimated that Pol Pot killed about 2 million Cambodians in one of the century’s worst cases of genocide. The country is littered with mass graves similar to the one next to the stupa.

We spoke during that 1989 tour of Cambodia with survivors of that terror. One young woman told me then that if Pol Pot were to come back and threaten her country, “We all will become soldiers” who would fight the Khmer Rouge to the death.

The Khmer Rouge didn’t come back. Vietnamese armed forces invaded the country in 1978 and exposed the horror to the world. The authorities were able eventually to hunt down Pol Pot. They captured him and imprisoned him; he died while awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.

The killing fields have been set aside as permanent memorials to the sacrifice endured by brave people of Cambodia. I want to show you this stupa to illustrate just one more time why our Thanksgiving in Vietnam was so special to us.

It filled me 30 years ago with a sense of gratitude I likely would not have felt had I not laid eyes on this stupa and peered at the skulls stacked from floor to ceiling inside it.

Yes, the holiday is a time to reflect. I choose to reflect as well on the tragedy that so recently befell a far-off land and pray — no matter how unlikely — for an end to this level of inhumanity.

When you lay eye on the evidence of such horror and hear the testimony of those who lived through it … and enjoy a meal served to commemorate your nation’s Thanksgiving holiday, you certainly understand why you have so much for which you give thanks.

The Russians did it … dammit!

Republicans who have circled the wagons around Donald J. Trump keep repeating yet another lie about Russia and the goons who attacked our election in 2016.

I am about to scream at the top of the lungs!

They keep trying to implicate Ukraine as at minimum a co-conspirator in the attack on our electoral system that aimed to help elect Donald Trump.

Wait a second!

The CIA has said the Russians, all by themselves, did it. The Director of National Intelligence said the same thing. So has the FBI. And the National Security Agency. Same for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Russians did it! The Russians are fomenting the Ukraine lie and the GOP — led by Donald Trump — is parroting the rhetoric being spit out by the Russian propaganda machine.

I cannot stand listening to this lie. When will the leadership of the once-Grand Old Party listen to the truth?

A Thanksgiving to remember for the ages

I cherish the memories of many Thanksgiving holidays over the years. I will do so again this year. Our sons, our daughter-in-law and our granddaughter will join us for dinner. We will laugh and enjoy fellowship that only families can enjoy.

However, the most unique Thanksgiving of my life will be in the back of my mind. It occurred 30 years ago today. I was traveling in a faraway land, away from my wife and my sons. As I look back on it, I realize more clearly than ever the symbolism that Thanksgiving had in that time, in that place.

I was traveling through Southeast Asia with a group of editorial writers and editors. We traveled there to examine the issues of the day and to take a firsthand look at the ravages that war had brought to that region. We started our tour in Thailand. Then we flew to Vietnam, which to many of the Vietnam War veterans among our group filled us with another sort of emotion.

Then we flew to Cambodia, which in 1989 was a shattered hulk of a country. The Vietnamese occupiers who invaded the country in 1978 had just vacated. They left behind a nation in ruins brought to it by the horrifying Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot.

We departed Cambodia by bus caravan back to Saigon. It would take us all day to get from Phnom Penh to the city now known officially as Ho Chi Minh City; except that the civilians still call it Saigon.

After a harrowing trip that included crossing the Mekong River on a rickety raft that served as a “ferry,” we arrived in Saigon. We checked in to the Majestic Hotel. Then we went to dinner as a group, tired but ready to enjoy some good chow and each other’s company.

Our Vietnamese hosts knew that it was Thanksgiving Day, a uniquely American holiday. They went out of their way to make us feel “at home.” They served us a wonderful meal in the dining room of roast duck, mashed potatoes, peas and apple pie.

Was it the most scrumptious meal I’ve ever eaten? Not even close. One of my friends among the journalists gathered there called the main course “road kill duck.” But, our hosts’ hearts were clearly geared toward showing us some supreme hospitality. They succeeded far beyond measure.

As I look back on that Thanksgiving dinner three decades later, I realize now how thankful I was at the time — and I am today — at the bounty we enjoy in this country. Furthermore, as I recall the lingering misery we encountered in Cambodia, I am reminded of just how grateful we must remain in this country, where we hope we never experience what those brave and glorious people had to endure.

That dinner gave me a special understanding of what this holiday means to all of us. May we never take what we have for granted.