Best columns: The U.S.
The man who saved the Oscars
Stephanie Merry and Lindsey Bever
America has a new “folk hero,” said Stephanie Merry and Lindsey Bever. He’s La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz, who had just given an acceptance speech for Best Picture at this week’s Academy Awards when chaos engulfed the stage, as people began realizing that the wrong envelope had been opened, and that Moonlight had actually won. As presenter Warren Beatty, host Jimmy Kimmel, and officials from the PwC accounting firm stood frozen in panic and confusion, Horowitz was the “one person willing to take charge and explain.” He said, “There’s a mistake,” held up the card from the right envelope so everyone could see it, and announced: “Moonlight. Best Picture.” He then called the Moonlight team up to the stage to collect its award, saying he was “thrilled” to hand the Oscar to them. Later, Moonlight director Barry Jenkins called Horowitz “so gracious,” adding, “I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that.” In one sense, what Horowitz did “wasn’t exactly revolutionary.” In an awkward and painful moment, he simply told the truth. But in a time when “truth has been hard to come by,” Horowitz reminded us how important honesty— and character—really are.
Not acting like a Putin stooge
Walter Russell Mead
Sorry, liberals, but Donald Trump “isn’t sounding like a Russian mole,” said Walter Russell Mead. Predictably, the president’s recent remarks about expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal sent the press into a panic— one that ignored how Trump undermined the narrative that he’s some sort of Manchurian candidate. If he were “safely in Vladimir Putin’s pocket,” he wouldn’t be proposing starting an arms race with Russia. After all, “Putin’s ramshackle Russia is no more capable of matching an American nuclear buildup than Brezhnev’s sclerotic Soviet Union.” Indeed, Trump’s plans to boost military spending, ramp up domestic shale gas and oil production, and get tough with Kremlin ally Iran could herald “four years of hell” for Moscow. It’s always possible that Trump really does have business ties to Russian oligarchs, or that Putin really does hold “powerful blackmail material on Trump.” But unless Trump actually shifts U.S. policy in ways that benefit Russia, that’s all just so much fevered speculation. So far, Trump’s stated policies are “precisely the opposite” of what a Kremlin stooge would do. You know what would be a tip-off that Trump really does do Putin’s bidding? “His foreign policy will start looking much more like Barack Obama’s.”
Trump’s broken love affair
The New York Times
Donald Trump only pretends to hate the media, said Maureen Dowd. In truth, the president “could not live without the press. It is his crack.” More than anyone else in public life, Trump is totally obsessed with how he is portrayed on TV, newspapers, and magazines. His Trump Tower office “was plastered with framed magazine covers reflecting his face back at him like an infinity mirror.” For years, Trump began his day by reading stories his assistants printed out about his favorite subject: himself. Going back to the early days of his business career in the 1980s, Trump has been a shameless self-promoter, feeding stories about his real estate deals and sexual exploits to New York City tabloids. Sometimes Trump even called reporters pretending to be public relations agents named “John Barron” and “John Miller,” as he planted gossip items about famous women chasing him. But now that he’s president and the stories are so much more important, he’s finding that journalists are much harder to control. Infuriated, he’s sputtering about “fake news,” banning news organizations from press conferences, and branding the press “the enemy of the people.” Can this toxic relationship be saved? “Probably not.”