Amid Maximum Fanfare, Trump Meets Putin

Like “Elements Mingling In The Same Test Tube For The First Time”

That’s how the New York Times describes the get-together between the two world leaders. The two first caught up for an early meet-and-greet handshake, in which Trump also appears to pat Putin on the back. (The Telegraph makes much of the body language from this early exchange.) No specific topics or goals have been mentioned by either side. The only thing mentioned, in fact (as Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did), is that there is “no specific agenda.”

Trump/Putin meet against the backdrop of the G20 gathering of world leaders in Germany. So far, most of the coverage of the massive event that’s not focusing on that sub-meeting, is focusing on violent actions by more than 10,000 protestors on the outskirts of the Hamburg meeting site, leaving dozens of police officers with minor injuries, and creating an atmosphere of danger on the perimeter of the event. Without being flippant about it, Bloomberg suggests that turbulent prelude accurately sets the tone for what it predicts will be a rough-and-tumble meeting. Keep an eye not only on Trump/Putin, but also Trump/Merkel, and Trump/Xi.

Trump’s usual early morning Tweets were both uncharacteristically subdued (though by that we don’t mean dignified,) and characteristically off-topic. In one he simply vows to “represent our country well and fight for its interests”  (but then gets in a dig at “Fake News Media.”) In another he says “there is much to discuss” in meetings today with Putin and other world leaders. In another he slams Hillary Clinton’s campaign saying “Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!” Really? That’s all they got to talk about there? Everybody?

Prior to the event, Trump did reaffirm U.S. commitment to NATO, something he pointedly did not do on his first European visit.

Senators Get Reflective On Health Care

With a few days off, and the President out of town, some thinking on how to move ahead started bubbling to the surface.

Perhaps most significantly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling attendees at a luncheon in his home state of Kentucky, if Republicans can’t muster 50 votes, they might have to include Democrats and pass less dramatic health care reform that shores up Obamacare, instead of getting rid of it. “No action is not an alternative”, McConnell said. (Although President Trump recently Tweeted he might be in favor of just that: letting “Ocare” die and figuring out some replacement later.)

Kansas’ Jerry Moran, the only Republican Senator brave enough to hold at Town Hall meeting during the 4th of July break, went so far as to advocate bipartisanism as the preferred course of action right now.

At the same time Utah Senator Mike Lee said he wouldn’t support anything that didn’t include Ted Cruz’ plan to allow insurance companies to sell non-compliant plans (which wouldn’t cover things like pre-existing conditions and regular health checks,) alongside compliant ones. But even he was faced with protests to the Senate plan at home.

And Republican Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, was unusually candid when asked to explain why Republicans have failed so far in their efforts to pass a health care bill. “I didn’t expect Trump to win” he stated, and neither did most of his colleagues. As a result, he explained, Republicans weren’t ready with pre-negotiated replacement plan.

US Can’t Get China, Russia To Condemn North Korea At The UN

This would seem like a slam dunk, wouldn’t it? North Korea launches what appears to be an ICBM, representing a vast acceleration of its nuclear program. The U.S. wants a resolution condemning it, perhaps leading to stronger North Korean sanctions. But according to Bloomberg, it’s not going to get it, because of opposition from China and Russia. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley pushed back saying, “There are countries that are allowing, even encouraging, trade with North Korea in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Such countries would also like to continue their trade arrangements with the United States. That’s not going to happen.”

Recent Nuclear Power Plant Hacking Also Appears To Be Work Of Russians

Both The New York Times and Bloomberg are independently supporting this finding, at least to some degree. Hackers working for a foreign government recently penetrated security at a dozen or so U.S. nuclear plants. Bloomberg says Russia is the “chief suspect.” The Times says the attacks are similar to earlier ones firmly tied to Russia, but it’s too early to say for sure this time around. They also say the objective of the hackers is unclear, since they didn’t really do anything except poke around, at least so far.

The way the hackers got in is surprisingly simple and obvious: they applied for jobs in the plants. When their resumes were downloaded and opened, malicious software was released.

Quick Follow-Up To Our Story About Bipartisan Backlash Against Release of Personal Data To Trump’s Election Commission

The Brennan Center for Justice assembled brief profiles of all the members of Trump’s committee, and (perhaps not surprisingly,) almost every single one has been involved in voter suppression in one way or another.

Editorial: Don’t Fret About Western Civilization

We live in a big city. So every time we go out onto the street, there’s a chance we will be mugged or even shot. Perhaps by an immigrant or someone of a different race. So we could say our daily interactions with humans we don’t know is a threat to civil society and more fundamentally, our existence. We wouldn’t technically be wrong. We would be delusional.

And I guess we could say, inviting contact with strangers who could possibly do us bodily harm questions our will to survive. And again, we wouldn’t be technically wrong. We’d just be lunatics.

Just like if we really thought Obama’s America was a scene of wild “carnage.”

So when the President indelibly asks:  “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive?” We can answer that with no hesitation. Yes. Without a doubt. We do.

But to us, that involves going out into the street more, not less. And engaging with people of different races and religions more, not less. That way we start becoming friends, or if not, gain some level of understanding about why we can’t.

Shutting ourselves off to entire groups of people (many of them in dire need of help) ends up being a much bigger threat. Viewing entire groups of people as enemies (including everybody that didn’t vote for us), is a much bigger threat. Because those are threats to Democracy.

For that reason we should not take Trump’s most radical speech to date lightly, nor dismiss it as “just something else Trump shot his mouth off about.” Trump followed up the speech with this Tweet:

We believe Western civilization is doing just fine, unless you fear change. Because it is changing, and it is full of opportunity. For instance, we just had our first black President in the U.S.; the U.K. and Germany have female leaders. And that’s just for starters. Western civilization is doing better than ever, maybe. Unless you see opportunities as perils. Trump’s Poland speech proves there are people of positions of power in the White House who view the world through an extreme xenophobic and agoraphobic lens.

What can we do?

• Push back. Show through our actions that “Western civilization” is, in fact, made stronger by forging new ties and putting down new roots. Democracy must be at the center of this (something Trump hasn’t addressed directly, but seems to care less and less about.)

• Expose the White House’s distortion of reality as having little to do with “Western civilization” really, and more to do with an unchangeable and therefore fading bunch of privileged people just trying to cling to power for as long as they possibly can, by shutting out people who are not like them for as long as they possibly can.

How do we accomplish this?

• Love Thy Neighbor. That’s it.