The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is probably responsible would be a challenge to even the most judicious and thoughtful U.S. president. The U.S.-Saudi relationship is long-standing and important, yet the United States cannot be seen to condone the state-sponsored assassination of a journalist.
Of course, President Trump is far from being that ideal president, as is clear from the embarrassing statement about Khashoggi’s killing he released Tuesday.
Reading more like the transcript of a Twitter thread or a Fox News interview than a considered foreign-policy pronouncement, Trump’s statement opened with his “America First” campaign slogan — followed by an exclamation point — and the likewise exclamation-pointed observation that “The world is a very dangerous place!”
Supporters of Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and even a few non-supporters — are having a good laugh over the report that first daughter/senior advisor Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to transact official business.
On Twitter, John Dean (yes, that John Dean) opined: “Dems should run this to ground given her father thought a very big deal when it involved Hillary. So it’s got to be [a] big deal for Ivanka!” Newsweek in tweeting out its story used the inevitable teaser: “Lock her up?”
The mirth — and bitterness — are understandable. It’s an article of faith among Clinton supporters that the issue of her emails was overblown (including by the “liberal” media). And it’s hard not to chuckle at the irony of improper email traffic ensnaring the daughter of a president who claimed Hillary’s actions were “worse than Watergate.”
It was clear from the start that President Trump didn’t have the legal authority under the Immigration and Naturalization Act to ban asylum requests at any place other than established ports of entry, but the administration went ahead with the order anyway.
In California, businesses that sell products containing known carcinogens must post “clear and reasonable” warnings about the danger of exposure consumers face (remember that brouhaha about coffee?). Look at the side of a can of beer and you find a label warning that “drinking distilled spirits, beer, coolers, wine and other alcoholic beverages may increase cancer risk, and, during pregnancy, can cause birth defects.” Ditto for tobacco products.
But in Washington state, the King County Board of Health (think Seattle) has gone one better about a consumer product with a much more immediate risk of death. It recently ordered all gun vendors in the county to post signs warning of the increased risks of danger from possession of a firearm. The signs read: “Warning: The presence of a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide, homicide, death during domestic violence disputes and unintentional deaths to children, household members and others.”
President Trump has a knack for elevating the people around him. Kind of like LeBron James — except, umm, different.
Take Trump’s ongoing feud with CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta. For the second time this month, the president has turned Acosta into a sympathetic figure, which is remarkable to anyone who has seen Acosta ask a question in front of a live camera.
After a testy exchange during a press conference at the White House on Nov. 7, Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced that Acosta’s security pass to the White House was being suspended. Sanders first accused Acosta of manhandling a female White House intern, then after CNN sued, she said Acosta had hogged the microphone in a disruptive way.
The U.S. government has been after WikiLeaks maestro Julian Assange for eight years, ever since the site published a cache of classified documents it had obtained from U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning. And now we learn, through some sloppy legal paperwork, that Assange has secretly been charged by federal prosecutors.
With what, however, we don’t know. And that’s crucial.
Assange remains ensconced in Ecuador’s embassy in London, so the likelihood of him actually being extradited and prosecuted remain slim for now. But that would change if he wears out his welcome there, as some news outlets have reported he’s doing.
The Trump administration is putting a positive spin on a federal judge’s order that it restore the press credential of CNN’s Jim Acosta. But make no mistake: The temporary restraining order issued on Friday by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly (irony alert: a Trump appointee) is a defeat for the administration.
It should accept that defeat gracefully, and permanently restore Acosta’s “hard pass.”
Kelly’s order is a form of emergency relief, pending further action on the merits of CNN’s lawsuit. That’s why White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders emphasized after the ruling that Acosta’s hard pass is being “temporarily” reinstated.
What a difference (checks calendar) eight days make.
The morning after election day, things looked grim for Orange County Democrats, who had entered the fall election full of hope and enthusiasm. Election night results showed county votes falling largely behind Republicans in the House and statewide races. Although Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach, the most vulnerable of the Republican House incumbents, looked like he was headed for defeat in the coastal 48th District, Republicans were leading in other county-centric House races, and O.C. votes for statewide candidates were falling on the red side of the ledger even as Democrats were winning in the overall count.
“But wait!” activists said. “They’re still counting votes!”
A few days after the 2016 election, I attended the Techonomy tech conference in Half Moon Bay where Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave a rare interview. Reports were swirling at the time about people plying Facebook with fake news items in an effort to boost Donald Trump’s successful campaign, and Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick asked whether Zuckerberg thought the social network had influenced the outcome. The youthful billionaire essentially laughed Kirkpatrick off:
Zuckerberg: "The idea that fake news on FB ... influenced the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea" #techonomy16
We now know just how misguided Zuckerberg was about the uses of his company’s platform. Facebook has spent much of the Trump presidency dealing with revelations not just about fake news, but about foreign meddling in U.S. affairs and the mobilization of hate-fueled mobs around the world.
This week the New York Times triggered another wave of criticism with a lengthy investigation recounting how much effort Facebook put into denying its problems and attacking its critics. Responding to the Times’ tl;dr piece with one of his own, Zuckerberg unleashed a kajillion-word blog post outlining the steps Facebook has been and will be taking to minimize the amount of harmful content its users publish. He also dumped the right-of-center consultants who had defended the company too, umm, aggressively.
It may be that California has temporarily exceeded its capacity for processing tragedy, and grief, after two major fires with horrific damage and death and the mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks country dance bar. But we can’t let ourselves become overwhelmed because, unfortunately, we’re likely to endure repetitions of both.
Devastating wildfires are not one-offs here. They are part of the natural cycle, though our insistence on building communities in places we know will burn overlays the grids of civilization on wild space, adding fuel to the fires and human losses to the natural toll. My colleagues on the editorial board have written eloquently about this, so I’ll leave it alone. But we know what needs to be done to lessen our exposure to the dangers.