Best columns: The U.S.
The GOP’s populist divide
The Republican Party has a crippling “identity crisis,” said Rich Lowry. Religious extremist Roy Moore’s triumph over Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama’s Republican primary reveals a party “locked in mortal combat” with itself. Moore, twice removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for insisting that the Bible trumps the Constitution, won a smashing victory over Strange because many conservatives are furious at the party establishment, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They blame him for failing to repeal Obamacare or deliver other legislative victories. But electing Moore won’t get them any closer to realizing their goals. Moore, a culture warrior, has “a knack for the theatrical, polarizing cause” but is ill-informed and “unlikely to make legislating his priority.” President Trump backed Strange over the Trumpian Moore on the advice of his aides, but probably won’t let that mistake happen again. So expect more Roy Moores to win primaries against mainstream Republicans. That will be a nightmare for the establishment, which has no idea how to integrate Trumpist populism into the traditional Republican agenda. Republicans are now torn “between an establishment that is ineffectual and unimaginative and a populist wing that is ineffectual and inflamed.”
Why Tillerson should resign
For the good of the country, not to mention his own dignity, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “has to quit,” said Eliot Cohen. President Trump belittled Tillerson’s efforts at diplomacy with North Korea this week, tweeting that he was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with Kim Jong Un. No other secretary of state has ever been “undercut in such a public, dismissive way.” Trump has signaled to the world that Tillerson does not speak for the administration—only for a small, embattled coterie of aides in a gutted State Department. What message does this send? By mocking Tillerson’s diplomacy, Trump has indicated North Korea will be attacked if it doesn’t cease its rapid development of nuclear weapons that could reach our shores. If Trump is bluffing, he will have shown other countries that “he is a blowhard tapping out empty threats on Twitter.” Tillerson has reportedly called Trump “a moron,” but like other spineless aides Trump has humiliated, he stays on in vain hopes of tempering this erratic president’s impulses. One of Trump’s lieutenants must finally stand up to him, or we will be left with “a government administered by moral weaklings and lickspittles.”
Gorsuch may outdo Scalia
The New Yorker
Neil Gorsuch is turning out to be the justice “his sponsors had hoped and his opponents had feared” he’d be, said Jeffrey Toobin. The conservative whom President Trump nominated to fill Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat has already left no doubt where he will line up on nearly every legal debate. Gorsuch last week chose to give a speech before the Fund for American Studies, a conservative advocacy group, at Trump International Hotel in Washington— which is the focus of several pending lawsuits that may wind up before the Supreme Court. He then traveled to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hometown of Louisville, to give another speech that many saw as a “victory lap.” McConnell, of course, made Gorsuch’s nomination to the high court possible by blocking President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland. In his first 15 cases on the court, Gorsuch joined Clarence Thomas—“ the most right-wing justice”— every time. He also reportedly irked his senior colleagues by dominating oral arguments, and by expressing “ill-disguised contempt” for liberal justices in his opinions. Conservatives wanted a new Scalia, and in Gorsuch, they have that true ideological warrior.