Best columns: The U.S.
How to help Bannon’s cause
The American Prospect
“Will the far left play into Steve Bannon’s hands?” asked Robert Kuttner. Bannon, the far-right nationalist and former Trump administration senior adviser, recently said in an interview that the more Democrats focus on “race and identity,” the more they fuel a white backlash that helps his cause. This brings us to the issue of Christopher Columbus, and whether statues to the explorer should, like Confederate monuments, be pulled off their pedestals. Some activists argue that Columbus “did not discover America, he invaded it,” triggering the genocide of indigenous peoples. Good luck selling that sentiment: “Unless we all want to ‘return’ to Europe or wherever our ancestors came from, America is our home.” But last week, some far-left kooks took a sledgehammer to a Columbus statue in Baltimore; other activists are clamoring to take down statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington because these Founding Fathers owned slaves. Now, taking down statues to Confederate generals—whose sole claim to fame is fighting a war to maintain slavery—is a just and worthy cause. But there’s a “bright line” between Confederates and the flawed men whose ideals helped create this nation. Equating the two will only serve “raw meat” to Bannon and others who exploit white resentment.
A special-interest presidency
The Boston Globe
French leader Georges Clemenceau famously observed, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” But as President Trump escalates the 16-year conflict in Afghanistan, he’s doing precisely that, said Jeffrey Sachs. Candidate Trump opposed extending the Afghanistan War, arguing that it made no sense to sacrifice more American blood and treasure to prolong an unwinnable conflict. Now the commander in chief is acceding to his “three father-figure generals”—White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and Defense Secretary James Mattis. Doing “what generals do,” this war cabinet came up with “a can-do promise of a military path to American victory”—a victory that has eluded us for 16 years. Trump’s Afghanistan policy mirrors what he’s done across his administration: given narrow interest groups control of policy and institutions. The Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department are being staffed with “lobbyists of big coal, oil, and gas companies.” Trump’s economic team is dominated by former Goldman Sachs executives. Throughout, “the general interest is subordinated to the special interests.” Trump isn’t draining the swamp. “He’s turning it into a Trump resort” and charging admission.
The heartland’s hatred of the media
For most conservatives, said Rich Lowry, “the media has become what the Soviet Union was during the Cold War—a common, unifying adversary of overwhelming importance.” Donald Trump remains popular among Republicans largely because he’s “a righteous, unyielding warrior” against the primary enemy, which is not ISIS or the Taliban, but CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. “The Right’s hostility toward the media is long-standing,” and has deepened as the cultural divide between “the heartland” and the coasts has grown more pronounced. With his showman’s sense of what excites an audience, Trump made scorn of the media a centerpiece of his long-shot 2016 campaign, and “rode his mutual enmity with the media to the White House.” Many Republicans are willing to overlook the “indefensible things” Trump says as long as he stands up to the mob of “braying reporters” from New York and Washington. Trump’s constant attacks on them only lead to more negative coverage—perpetuating the cycle. This president may struggle to fulfill his campaign promises, but what counts most for his supporters is that he has “the right enemy.” ■