US Opinion and Commentary

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Donald Trump, U.S. President

Posted January 20th, 2017 at 5:14 pm (UTC-4)
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Just as the Constitution proscribes, the peaceful transfer of power from the 44th President of the United States to the 45th took place at 12:00pm January 20, 2017.

In his inaugural address, Donald J. Trump maintained the “Make America Great Again” campaign mantra that helped sweep him into office. And he took the theme of “transfer of power” a step further, saying “we are transferring power from Washington, DC and giving it back to you, the American people.”

He re-emphasized “America first” and promised to follow “two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.”

A new chapter in U.S. history is about to be written.

Israel Between Obama and Trump

Posted December 29th, 2016 at 3:20 pm (UTC-4)
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Acknowledging that United States policy will likely change on January 20, Secretary of State John Kerry nonetheless delivered an emphatic defense of the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policy.

In a speech Wednesday at the State Department, Kerry said the U.S. declined to exercise its veto because it “cannot, in good conscience, do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away,” referring to Israel’s expansion of West Bank settlements and their impact on a “two-state solution.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Kerry’s speech “disappointing” and said “Israel looks forward to working with president-elect (Donald) Trump” to repeal the resolution.

Trump and Netanyahu traded tweets of support ahead of Kerry’s speech, leaving little doubt that a new chapter in U.S. relations with Israel and the Middle East is about to be written.

Christmas in America

Posted December 23rd, 2016 at 1:50 pm (UTC-4)
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Whether you greet people by saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” Americans will observe Christmas in some way or another on Sunday.

The multi-ethnic, multi-religious nature of the United States raised the consciousness of some to try to be more inclusive with their greetings. But the supposedly politically-correct “Happy Holidays” offends some who believe it diminishes Christmas, and those who choose to use it in their well-wishes.

Add to that legal prohibitions on publicly sponsored religious displays and events, and you have ammunition for some to wage a culture war.

Hopefully, the sentiment of peace and joy that Christmas conveys will prevail.

Trump’s Environmental Impact Statement

Posted December 22nd, 2016 at 4:42 pm (UTC-4)
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Three days before Christmas and Santa Claus may be shedding that heavy red overcoat while preparing his yearly trek from the North Pole. Why? It’s said to be just around freezing — some 30 degrees (Celsius) warmer than normal.

The reason? A freakish blast of warmer air, thanks to a powerful El Nino and the impact of man-made greenhouse gases. Scientists warn that unless climate change can be slowed, rare events like this will happen more often.

President-elect Donald Trump’s position on climate change has evolved. In 2012, he tweeted that climate change was “created by and for the Chinese.” Since then, he has been on both sides of the issue. After the election, he admitted there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.

But the resumes of several of Trump’s selections for important administration posts signals the issues of climate change and energy policy may be subjected to the political winds.

Controversy About Trump’s Ambassador to Israel

Posted December 21st, 2016 at 4:44 pm (UTC-4)
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Battle lines are being drawn over Donald Trump’s choice to be Ambassador to Israel.

David Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer who has done work for Trump. Friedman is a vocal opponent to the long-standing U.S. policy of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, insulting American Jews who do support it.

When named last week, Friedman said he looked forward to doing his job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem” instead of Tel Aviv, where the embassy has long stood, pending a negotiated deal about the status of the holy city.

Trump campaigned on promises to change U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere. What will that mean for the nearly 50 year stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians and how the United States deals with other countries in the region?

Aleppo’s Last Gasp

Posted December 15th, 2016 at 5:21 pm (UTC-4)
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Despair. Destruction. Death. Words that have come to describe the Syrian city of Aleppo, epicenter for the Syrian civil war.

Anti-government rebels started taking parts of Aleppo in early 2012, eventually controlling the eastern half of the historic city. With the help of Russian air strikes starting in 2015, forces loyal to President Bashir al-Assad made gains in western Aleppo.

Now, with the evacuation of rebels and civilians in progress under a tenuous ceasefire, those pro-Assad forces on the precipice of controlling the entire city.

Estimates of the death toll in Syria’s civil war run as high as 450,000, including 50,000 children. Almost five million people have fled the country and more than six-and-a-half million are displaced within Syria’s borders.

How has the rest of the world let this happen?

Trump’s Choice for Secretary of State

Posted December 13th, 2016 at 5:27 pm (UTC-4)
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Donald Trump is drawing praise and criticism for his out-of-the-box choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

As the CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, Tillerson has had to make deals with some of the world’s most notorious leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Some of Tillerson’s fiercest critics are Senate Republicans, such as Marco Rubio, who will question Tillerson during his confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee.

Tillerson has his supporters, too. Former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Robert Gates called him a man of “great integrity” with “vast knowledge, experience and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders.”

An Eagle Scout who is still involved in the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson worked his way from bottom to top at ExxonMobile. He’s known no other employer and will be the first to jump from corporate America to top U.S. diplomat with no prior political or government experience.

If he’s confirmed by the Senate

Lessons from Pearl Harbor, 75 Years Later

Posted December 7th, 2016 at 5:11 pm (UTC-4)
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“Remember Pearl Harbor” is a battle cry that resonates a bit less each year. America’s “Greatest Generation” that won World War II is giving way to a millennial generation that witnessed its own “day of infamy.”

Stung by the huge death toll from World War I, many Americans at the time were wary of getting involved in World War II. An “America First” movement that advocated neutrality gained popularity. Japan’s surprise attack left the United States with no option other than to enter the war. Winning catapulted the U.S. into the leadership role it maintains today.

75 years later, it’s worthwhile to consider the lessons from Pearl Harbor and assess what still applies after what many consider to be a paradigm changing election.

‘General’ Concerns About Trump’s National Security Team

Posted December 6th, 2016 at 1:28 pm (UTC-4)
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As President-elect Donald Trump’s list for secretary of state grows, so do questions about others in his national security team. Specifically, the number of generals Trump is surrounding himself with.

Trump has named two retired generals to his team: Michael Flynn as national security adviser and James Mattis as defense secretary. Two other retired generals and a retired admiral are being considered for national security team positions.

The specific issue is Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in March 2013. U.S. law requires seven years of separation from active duty for any secretary of defense. For Mattis to be appointed, Congress would need to waive the requirement.

The U.S. Constitution empowers the President of the United states with the duties of Commander-in-Chief, ensuring civilian control of the military and the government. How might the presence of top military brass in the cabinet room impact the Trump administration?

Recounting the Election

Posted November 30th, 2016 at 5:55 pm (UTC-4)
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Recounts of votes cast three weeks ago in the U.S. election are set to begin. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein has raised more than six million dollars to fund the effort in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

While most experts believe the recount will not change the bottom-line result of the election, Stein says the recount effort is to show “how untrustworthy the U.S. election system is.”

While they are examining the election results, Hillary Clinton’s campaign decided against calling for a recount on its own. But it is participating in the Green Party’s effort “to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”

On Twitter, President-elect Donald Trump called the Green Party’s recount effort a “scam” in order to raise money. And he also claimed that millions of people voted illegally — an allegation that no one has been able to prove.

How all this impacts the American public’s confidence in the election process is yet to be seen.

Castro’s Legacy

Posted November 28th, 2016 at 4:33 pm (UTC-4)
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Fidel Castro’s death at age 90 Friday was a moment for millions of Cuban Americans to both celebrate and mourn. Celebrate because the brutal dictator they and their families fled from had finally died; mourn family members who could not wait out Castro’s life in hopes of returning to their homeland.

Whether it was cozying up to the Soviet Union, backing Angolan leftists or exporting his revolution to Venezuela and other Latin American countries, Castro influenced United States policy for more than 60 years. The economic embargo imposed by President John Kennedy in 1962 is still in place today. Cuban migrants get preferential treatment if they make it to the United States.

President Barack Obama visited Cuba earlier this year, marking the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President-elect Donald Trump warns that could be reversed if Cuba doesn’t make progress on human rights and release political prisoners and fugitives from U.S. law.

Although Castro transferred power to his brother Raúl in 2006, Fidel was still a larger-than-life influence. Now that his life is over, how will generations of Cubans who knew no other leader go forward?

Democrats’ Dilemma

Posted November 21st, 2016 at 3:29 pm (UTC-4)
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10 days from now, on November 30, Democrats in the House of Representatives will decide on a leader.

Nancy Pelosi from California has been the Democrats’ leader for the past 14 years. She is the first woman to be leader of either party in Congress and the first woman Speaker of the House.

Challenging Pelosi is Tim Ryan from Ohio. He began serving in Congress the same year Pelosi was elected party leader (2003). He represents counties in Ohio that had been reliably Democratic until Trump won them in 2016. Ryan says the Democrats will experience more election disappointment without a change of leadership.

What can Democrats do to reverse their fortunes? And how can they do it during the presidency of Donald Trump?

Japan’s Shinzo Abe First to Call on Donald Trump

Posted November 17th, 2016 at 4:38 pm (UTC-4)
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Donald Trump’s first meeting as president-elect with a head of state will be closely scrutinized for both style and substance.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the initiative to be the first to meet with Trump for practical reasons. During the election campaign, Trump criticized Japan for its trade practices and for how much it was paying the U.S. for its defense. Abe wants to understand the level of Trump’s commitment to defend Japan. He wants to, in his words, “build trust” with incoming U.S. president and highlight the importance of strong relations between the countries.

Trump needs to get used to seeing Abe. New rules will allow Abe to run for a third term, which means he will likely lead Japan throughout Trump’s first term. How the two leaders get along will speak volumes about how Trump deals with fellow world leaders — and how they might deal with him.

U.S. Foreign Policy Under Donald Trump

Posted November 16th, 2016 at 4:10 pm (UTC-4)
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Before handing the keys to the White House to Donald Trump, Barack Obama is taking a final, presidential lap around the world.

Obama started his three country trip in the birthplace of democracy, Greece. Then it’s on to Berlin to thank Chancellor Angela Merkel for her support during his term. The pair will also meet with the leaders of Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain. Afterward, Obama flies to Peru for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

In each stop, American allies, and perhaps some foes, will seek reassurance from Obama about the future under a Trump presidency.

With names like former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley floated as possible choices for Trump’s Secretary of State, there is no shortage of foreign policy speculation and suggestions.

Trump Triumphant

Posted November 9th, 2016 at 5:08 pm (UTC-4)
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At 6:21 am Eastern Standard Time on November 9, 2016, the sun cast its first light on the United States atop Maine’s Cadillac Mountain, and a new day began in America with Donald Trump as it’s next president.

Pollsters, pundits and political junkies are left trying to explain how they so badly missed seeing the strength of Trump’s support. So far, Hillary Clinton has a slight lead in the overall popular vote, but she was unable to attract enough votes in the usually reliable Democratic strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to win the Electoral College.

Americans spoke loudly Tuesday in favor of change. They gave Republicans control of the White House, Congress and the opportunity to stack the Supreme Court with like-minded justices. Expectations are high. Can Trump and his political party meet those expectations? And what kind of change will we see?