I have been uncharacteristically silent these past 10 months. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I'm afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.
Among the many unintended legacies of President Barack Obama, one has gone largely unnoticed: the emergence of a novel form of resistance to executive overreach, a check-and-balance improvised in reaction to his various presidential power grabs. It's the revolt of the state attorneys general, banding together to sue and curb the executive. And it has outlived Obama.
Trump and the 'Madman Theory' At the heart of Donald Trump's foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team — the heads of State, Homeland Security, the CIA, and most especially Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster — could fit in a Cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.
It's a Watergate-era cliche that the cover-up is always worse than the crime. In the Mike Flynn affair, we have the first recorded instance of a cover-up in the absence of a crime. Being covered up were the Dec. 29 phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. The presumed violation was Flynn negotiating with a foreign adversary while the Obama administration was still in office and, even worse, discussing with Sergey Kislyak the sanctions then being imposed upon Russia (for meddling in the 2016 elections).
There are many people to thank for the coming accession of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the high court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of course, Harry Reid.
Democrats spent the first two decades of the post-Cold War era rather relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today the Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.
The most amusing part of the Trump transition has been watching its effortless confounding of the media, often in fewer than 140 characters. One morning, after a Fox News report on lefty nuttiness at some obscure New England college — a flag-burning that led a more-contemptible-than-usual campus administration to take down the school’s own American flag — Donald Trump tweets that flag burners should go to jail or lose their citizenship.
Twenty-five years ago — December 1991 — communism died, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union disappeared. It was the largest breakup of an empire in modern history and not a shot was fired. It was an event of biblical proportions that my generation thought it would never live to see. As Wordsworth famously rhapsodized (about the French Revolution), “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven!”
One of the more salutary outcomes of the recent election is that Democrats are finally beginning to question the wisdom of basing their fortunes on identity politics. Having counted on the allegiance of African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, unmarried women and the young — and winning the popular vote all but once since 1992 — they were seduced into believing that they could ride this “coalition of the ascendant” into permanent command of the presidency.
Donald Trump won fair and square and, as Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, is owed an open mind and a chance to lead. It is therefore incumbent upon conservatives (like me) who have been highly critical of Trump to think through how to make a success of the coming years of Republican rule.