Best columns: The U.S.
What Trump must sacrifice
The Wall Street Journal
If President-elect Donald Trump has been reluctant to give up his business ties, blame “the habits of a lifetime,” said Peggy Noonan. For the past 50 years, the real estate mogul “has devoted all his professional energies to money, profit, the deal.” Those three motivations have totally governed his mind, and he has brought up his children to absorb the Trump family ethos. Yet now, for the first time in his life, padding the bottom line is not his job. In order to avoid massive conflicts of interest, he needs to “put personal profit motives behind him.” He has suggested he will take himself out of the business operations of his 500 or so companies. We don’t yet know whether that means handing over control to his children or divesting completely. But it’s hard to see how any decision other than liquidating his stakes and putting those proceeds in a blind trust would allow Trump to “avoid endless accusations that he is enriching himself as president.” That route will be difficult for a businessman whose life has been a constant race to make the next buck, but Trump needs to fundamentally alter his mindset. He shocked his critics by winning. “He should shock them now with rectitude.”
The Dems need new blood
The Washington Post
It’s time for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and her septuagenarian deputies to step aside, said Dana Milbank. If Democrats ever hope to recover from the Trump debacle and regain control of Congress, they desperately need an infusion of young talent. Pelosi, minority whip Steny Hoyer, and No. 3 House Democrat Jim Clyburn are talented and accomplished public servants, but they’re all in their late 70s—their combined ages “would date back to 1787, the year George Washington presided over the signing of the Constitution.” Their governing style— “passionately ideological and unyielding”—is emblematic of their generation, and it has given us “cultural warfare and dysfunction.” That’s why Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s long-shot challenge for the minority leader post this week was such a welcome development. Ryan, a 43-year-old former high school quarterback, “drinks at the Open Hearth bar on Steel Street in Youngstown” with blue-collar Democrats who feel abandoned by a party led by coastal elites. Ryan understands that many of these voters flipped to Trump not because they agreed with his racial politics, but because they liked his economic populism and “wanted to say ‘Go screw yourself’ to the establishment.” Ryan may have lost his challenge, but it’s not too late for the Democratic establishment to start listening.
Putin’s final push on Aleppo
Vladimir Putin believes he’s found the perfect moment to batter the Syrian city of Aleppo into submission, said Tom Rogan. Syrian government forces, backed by weeks of brutal Russian airstrikes, “are close to seizing the entirety” of the rebel-held city. For the various opposition forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the loss of Aleppo will be devastating, both strategically and for morale. But that’s not why Russia and its allies “have waited until now for their final push” on the long-besieged city. Putin clearly senses that President Obama has given up on Syria. “Putin therefore feels empowered to do his worst while Obama remains in office.” At the same time, the Russian president knows that U.S. foreign policy under a Trump presidency is a wild card. Trump may appear sympathetic to Moscow now, but once he learns more about what Russia is actually doing in Syria— “for example, not targeting ISIS”—his approach could shift quickly. That’s why Putin hopes to crush Aleppo “now rather than later.” He’s clearly gambling that, come Inauguration Day in Washington, “images of bloodied Syrians will be an afterthought in Western minds.”
“Donald Trump will be the first president in 150 years who does not have a pet. Martin Van Buren had tiger cubs, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt had bears, and Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hippopotamus. In recent decades, presidents have stuck to cats and dogs, and these furry first friends have served to soften the executive’s image and garnered positive White House news coverage. But even if Trump sees no need for an image boost, it may help him to have a friendly animal around. Animals can simultaneously boost self-esteem and keep ego in check. So, Mr. President-elect: For your own good, and the good of the nation, please get a puppy.”
Lauren Wright in The Washington Post