Best columns: The U.S.
Obama’s costly overreach
Eight years after he dazzled America with his political oratory, Barack Obama will leave the Democratic Party in shambles, said John Podhoretz. He was “a political genius” at getting himself elected, but for his party he’s been “an unmitigated disaster.” Since Obama took office in 2009, more than 1,110 Democratic federal and state elected officials have lost their jobs to Republicans. Democrats controlled 62 of the 99 legislative chambers in 2009; now Republicans control 68. Democrats controlled 31 governorships in 2009, and now hold just 17. Obama’s chosen presidential successor lost, and the man he condemned as unfit won. Why? Obama mistook his 2008 victory for an endorsement of a highly progressive agenda, and forced through “too much, too fast, too soon”— including Obamacare, massive bailouts and stimulus spending, new taxes, and heavy business regulation. Obama also gave progressives an arrogant “sense of cultural and moral superiority,” as they disdained “traditional morality as an evil to be overcome” and small-town Americans as bigots. “New social fissures” opened, creating resentments Republicans exploited. Democrats will weep when Obama leaves office, but the truth is that their hero presided over “the collapse of the Democratic Party.”
Climate skeptics in charge
“Of all the reasons to fear a Donald Trump presidency,” said Will Oremus, perhaps the most important is “the irrevocable damage he could wreak on the planet.” Trump’s stance on climate change got “shamefully little attention” during the campaign, but he’s repeatedly said in the past that global warming is “nonsense”—a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hurt U.S. industry. Trump has also promised to defund federal environmental and clean-energy programs and “cancel” U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement endorsed by 190 nations—the world’s best hope to collectively slow greenhouse gas emissions. How much of this was political posturing, and how much does Trump really intend to do? No one knows. But it’s extremely telling that he selected climate-change skeptic Myron Ebell to head the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell opposes environmental regulation and says there’s too much “alarmism” over “a little bit of warming.” During his presidency, Trump will meet little resistance to an anti-environmental policy from a Republican Congress or a conservative Supreme Court, so the damage he could do could be incalculable. A half century from now, future generations may still be paying the price for Trump’s willful ignorance.
The powers Trump now inherits
The Washington Post
“Liberals are understandably panicked” that Donald Trump will assume a presidency with so much unchecked power, said Glenn Greenwald. Not only will the new commander-in-chief have the launch codes to a vast nuclear arsenal, he’ll be able to wage war without congressional authorization, direct drone assassinations all over the world, and oversee “a ubiquitous system of electronic surveillance that can reach most forms of human communication and activity.” But Democrats can only blame themselves. Though he came into office as a critic of George W. Bush’s executive-power abuses, Obama quickly came to embrace the national security state. He conducted hundreds of drone “executions” without trials, expanded warrantless surveillance programs, conducted a war in Libya without congressional authorization, and approved holding some terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial. Democrats went along with these illiberal and even radical policies, “blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office.” Civil libertarians warned that someday “a right-wing authoritarian” would inherit the imperial presidency that Democrats defended out of “partisan loyalty” to Obama. “That day has arrived.”
“We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republi can hands. Let them deal with [Donald Trump]. He is likely to become the most intensely disliked president since Herbert Hoover. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids. We Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.”
Garrison Keillor in The Washington Post
It must be true... I read it in the tabloids
▪ A British company has created the world’s most expensive cat food: a gourmet blend of caviar, line-caught Scottish salmon, hand-caught Norfolk lobster, and Devon crab. A month’s supply costs $950. Pet food firm Green Pantry started making the luxurious kitty chow, called British Banquet, for wealthy customers who wanted to treat “their cats to the finer things in life,” said company co-founder Simon Booth. Pet owners can also share in the gourmet meal, Booth said, because British Banquet is fit for human consumption and tastes “absolutely wonderful.”
▪ George Clooney’s wife, Amal, has told the actor to stop hanging out with his boozy celebrity bros, said RadarOnline.com. The humanitarian lawyer, 38, wants George, 55, to drink less and to eat more healthfully, and “cannot stand” his famously hedonistic friend, 66-year-old actor Bill Murray. Cindy Crawford’s 54-yearold husband, Rande Gerber, who created the Casamigos Tequila brand with George, is also persona non grata. “He’s a terrible influence,” added the source. “Amal just wishes George would get some cleaner-living friends.”
▪ Police in Shenzhen, China, have come up with a novel way to punish drivers who dazzle other motorists with their brights: by forcing them to stare into the full-beam headlights of a police van for a full minute. The naughty drivers are ordered to sit on a stool and recite regulations on headlight use while looking directly at the blinding lights. “My eyes were dazzled,” said one driver after his punishment. “I will never come to Shenzhen again.”