What a big double bill it was – President Donald Trump taking the world stage for a nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, just as his former fixer-lawyer, Michael Cohen, was appearing before a Congressional committee for a one-man revue about schemes, lies and porn-star payoffs.
Two shows, same theme, wrote Frida Ghitis: a President exposed. “A clear portrait of a morally hollow presidency.”
“Cohen described a man devoid of principles and determined to win in pursuit of money, power and prestige,” Ghitis said. “And, in Hanoi, we saw the risks of having such a man as President.”
She was referring, in part, to Trump’s “shameful” betrayal of an American citizen, Otto Warmbier, when Trump told the world that he accepted the dictator’s word that Kim didn’t know North Korea had fatally tortured Warmbier. “Trump has a well-established affinity for dictators, and he’s known for taking their word over that of his own experts,” she noted, citing his absolutions of Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman.
Dealmaker Trump left Vietnam empty-handed. But Nathan Park insisted it’s Kim Jong Un who should be feeling the pressure now. “Trump and his unconventional approach to diplomacy represented the best chance for North Korea to win any concession from the United States.” And the explosive allegations on Capitol Hill (“an administration beginning to teeter,” wrote Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times) could mean that Kim doesn’t have much time.
Trump might have felt sunnier about things earlier in the week when he tweeted about a Fourth of July bash he was planning at the Lincoln Memorial, featuring an “address by your favorite President, me!” But Dean Obeidallah wondered: “Perhaps, come July 4th, Trump wants the American people to show him the same ‘love’ and ‘great fervor, as Trump put it, that North Koreans have for Kim?!”
Reyna Grande arrived in the U.S. from Mexico speaking not a word of English. On the first day of school, “my 5th-grade teacher pointed to the farthest corner of her classroom and sent me there. She ignored me for the rest of the year.” Grande and her siblings soon became English dominant, rejecting their mother as “a symbol of what we didn’t want to be – a working-class, uneducated, non-English-speaking immigrant.”
Grande later regretted what she did. And it bothered her for years, until she had children of her own and did something about it. Hers is a moving and thought-provoking story. Read it and tell us your own stories of speaking a different language in America.
Ted Turner: Protect this land we love
CNN founder Ted Turner was joyful over Tuesday’s House passage of a sweeping public lands and conservation bill, but added, “there is much left to be done.” “I urge all of us who care about this beautiful country, whether it be because you like to hunt, fish, hike, swim, paddle, watch wildlife, farm, or ranch, to look for those ways that we can connect with each other, and together, protect and steward this land that we all love.”
Elijah Cummings, Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said lawmakers questioning Michael Cohen Wednesday were after the truth, which the witness insisted he was providing about Donald Trump. “He is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat,” said Cohen, who is facing prison time for lying to Congress earlier.
“Liar, liar, pants on fire,” said Arizona Republican, Paul Gosar. For real.
Republicans certainly stuck to their “partisan food fight,” David Axelrod noted. But “listening to Cohen today describe the tasks Trump assigned to him, it occurred to me that lying was an essential demand of the job,” he wrote. “Who do you assign such tasks? A Boy Scout? A nun?”
Republicans have a point, wrote Scott Jennings: “if you lie to Congress once, why are you allowed to come back and try again?” His advice: “Ignore Cohen’s petty personal asides. Ignore the partisan Democrats bloviations. And wait for a reliable narrator — Robert Mueller — to give us the truth.”
Not really, wrote Holman W. Jenkins, in the Wall Street Journal: “the Mueller report will settle nothing.” And when the elite media allows the extent to which the FBI meddled in the 2016 presidential race to surface, he maintained, Trump will get reelected.
If he doesn’t? Cohen struck an ominous note as the hearing ended. He said he feared that if Trump loses re-election, “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” It was a thought that echoed former Obama administration official, Joshua Geltzer, writing for CNN days earlier—and the reason that “four key sets of governmental actors across the United States” should commit now to steps to thwart Trump if he refuses to step down.
More good reads on the hearing:
Andrea Gonzalez-Ramirez, in Refinery 29: The Freshman Congresswomen Did Their Damn Job At Cohen’s Hearing
Michael D’Antonio: I was one of the 500 people Michael Cohen threatened.
Privileged men, poor women
Three powerful men made headlines for sickening reasons last week. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and ex-hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein–were linked to separate sex-trafficking investigations, and rapper R. Kelly was charged with criminal sexual abuse. (Kraft says he is innocent and pleaded not guilty to soliciting prostitution, Epstein got his plea deal in 2008 and R. Kelly denies the allegations.)
What do the accusations have in common? “The systematic exploitation of young girls and women who often are poor, vulnerable, ignored and silenced,” wrote Roxanne Jones. “Each of these cases points to a disturbing story of just how easily justice is denied to certain women in America, and how invisible these women remain – often in their own communities – despite all the high-profile marches and equality movements.”
Raul Reyes wrote that Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, needs to resign: he was the Miami US Attorney who cut the deal–kept hidden from Epstein’s victims– that let Epstein dodge a life sentence. Epstein served just 13 months in the private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. A federal judge recently ruled federal prosecutors broke the law on Acosta’s watch. Acosta’s betrayal is “worthy of bipartisan outrage and should offend every American father and mother,” Reyes wrote.
Bernie Sanders has a problem
CNN’s town hall with Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday night showed him picking up where he left off in 2016, Errol Louis wrote. But his talking points about income inequality, health care, education and corporate greed—are now Democratic boilerplate. “It’s not that Bernie went centrist; instead, the center moved toward him.” Can he persuade voters he’s the best salesman for ideas now copied by others?
And those Democratic ideas—like the Green New Deal and Medicare for all– cost money, wrote libertarian economist Jeffrey Miron and Laura Nicolae. With huge debt levels, “restoring fiscal sanity in the United States requires significant cuts to federal entitlement spending.”
On Friday, Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee became the 13th Democrat to throw a hat in the ring for 2020. Noting the huge Democratic presidential field, along with the 14 candidates who ran in Tuesday’s mayoral election in Chicago and the 17 who vied for public advocate in New York, Jill Filipovic saw encouraging signs of America’s “move away from political apathy”
2019’s jaw-dropping Black History Month
February, a month ordinarily devoted to celebration and reflection on black history, this time delivered a “dizzying national reckoning” on racial reality, wrote historian Peniel Joseph: “Politicians in blackface, a white actor who confessed to murderous racist impulses, a black actor who,” authorities say “faked his own hate crime, films about race touching off a firestorm at the Oscars and white fragility about confronting racism unfolding in real-time in the House of Representatives during the Michael Cohen hearing.”
That last comment referred to Republican Rep. Mark Meadows asking HUD official Lynne Patton to stand behind him during the Cohen hearing to somehow prove that Trump is no racist. Rep. Rashida Tlaib rebuked him for using a black woman as a prop. Meadows’ indignant self-defense, wrote Kashana Cauley in the New York Times, might have been more convincing if not for his repeated comments in 2012 about sending President Obama “back home to Kenya.” Tlaib apologized, but she got it right the first time, Cauley said. (It was left to Rep. Elijah Cummings to calm the waters after the flare up, a rare moment of “civility and grace in Washington,” noted Jen Psaki.)
Oscars’ ‘Green Book’ backlash
A road film about an erudite black pianist and the coarse, big-hearted white man chauffeuring him through the segregated South in the early 1960s beat out the edgier “BlacKKKlansman” and the box-office smash “Black Panther”–and many were not happy, wrote Gene Seymour. “Simply put, a vote for ‘Green Book’ represented relative safety and reassurance, while either ‘Black Panther’ or ‘BlacKKKlansman would have signaled the opposite: a bolder, brasher and more assertive reflection of Hollywood’s changing racial profile.” Upside? Spike Lee won for best adapted screenplay and Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler were the first African Americans to win Academy Awards for costume and production design respectively, both for ‘Black Panther.’ “You want evidence of change? Here’s a hint: It’s not always staring at you from the screen,” wrote Seymour.
Others were less sanguine: “’Green Book’ is the worst best picture Oscar winner since ‘Crash,’” wrote Justin Chang, in the LA Times: “a shopworn ideal of racial reconciliation propped up by a story that unfolds almost entirely from a white protagonist’s incurious perspective.”
Not happy about your job?
Even people who make big bucks can hate their jobs, as Charles Duhigg wrote in a New York Times Magazine piece headlined: “Wealthy, successful and miserable.” That’s not new, wrote Peggy Drexler. So why does it seem worse today? The stakes are higher, as are the expectations. And “an era of self-care and self-empowerment has led many to believe they are entitled to have it all,” she said. What to do? Seek meaning elsewhere: “family time, volunteering. Assign meaning to more than work.”
Don’t miss these:
• Holly Thomas applauds Emma Thompson for pulling out of an animated film after its production company hired John Lasseter—accused of sexual harassment while he was at Pixar–as animation chief.
• Jeffrey Sachs, on the case for the new Medicare for All bill.
• Michael Zeldin and Julian Zelizer, on why America may not get the answers it seeks from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Sign up to get this weekly column as a newsletter.