Let's turn to foreign affairs to see how we might calm the flood of anxieties over the coming Donald Trump presidency.
It is a harder climb than for domestic policy. Last week, we urged sympathy for Trump's original passions for universal health insurance, women's reproductive rights and national policies to halt catastrophic climate change. That and some vague post-election reassurances are more calming than simply relying on election promises to his party to end health protection for 22 million people and to the carbon industries that he will scrap rules that rein in air and water poisons from burning fossil fuels and to open public lands and fragile waters to drilling and mining. Still more encouraging, last week he stood by his demand that the Republican Congress give him spending authority for a bigger infrastructure stimulus than even the ones it refused Barack Obama before the country attained full employment.
Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women — you still have the power of prayer.
While we're at it, everyone should give up the fantasy that conscience-ridden Trump electors will vote for Hillary Clinton or someone else on Dec. 19 because she will wind up with a popular-vote victory of some 2 million votes—nearly 2 percent—over Trump. Her popular votes will be the third most in history, behind only Obama in 2008 and 2012. Presidential selection doesn't anticipate faithless electors, and shouldn't, although Trump was right that the electoral-college system designed by our slaveholder-protecting founders should give way to popular votes.
Calming the great foreboding over more war, a nuclear holocaust and a revolutionary shifting of alliances is a harder task now that the president-elect has announced his chief adviser and national security team, which brought a cheering and sieg-heiling crowd to Washington on Saturday for a conference near the White House to celebrate a president they view finally as a kindred white nationalist.
To recapitulate, the president's chief adviser will be Steve Bannon, who headed the alt-right fake-news blog Breitbart; his national security adviser will be retired Gen. Michael Flynn, an admirer and paid advocate of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and an old officer whom former Secretary of State Colin Powell called "right-wing nutty," among other aspersions; the head of the Central Intelligence Agency will be Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, an advocate of torture and secret detention who causes George Washington to turn over in his grave every time he speaks.
Before publication, we may know if his secretary of state will hew to more Republican orthodoxy on foreign affairs than those characters.
It is clear that national tranquility now will require all of us to frame a new picture of the world from the one we have known since Hitler's demise or longer — that the chief threat to American and global security is a nationalist and expansionist Russia. We must get used to the idea of Russia, not the European democracies, as our best friend. Won't it be great, Trump asked us repeatedly, if America and Russia are allies? For our collective composure, we will have to do more than get used to it.
The love affair between Trump and Putin, which both trumpeted all year, is real, as they made clear in their post-election phone confab. Trump during the campaign suggested that Putin might be the secret to his Middle East policies and to his vow to conquer ISIS. Putin has been bombing U.S.-backed rebels in Syria and also, from time to time, the jihadists. Putin counts on Trump to lift Obama's global sanctions against Russia, which sank the country into recession, and to help him in other ways.
Minutes after his warm talk with Trump, Putin unleashed land and amphibious bombing and missile attacks on Aleppo, the bloodied center of resistance to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who is about Russia's only ally in the world except North Korea and the unreliable Chinese. Trump had listed Assad, along with Putin and the dead dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, as leaders he admired for their ability to control their countries and crush dissent.
The happiest man abroad the day after the election may have been Assad, whose future as the head of his flattened country now seems more assured than anytime since the U.S.-backed insurgency began in 2011. U.S. support for the Syrian revolt is certain to end, unless shocked congressional Republicans and maybe an orthodox secretary of state can turn the president around.
Behind Putin and Assad, the next happiest may be China's premier. He knows that Trump won't dare start the trade war that he hints at, and now is assured that the Trans Pacific Partnership, which Obama engineered and which would have isolated China throughout the Pacific Rim, is dead. He called over the weekend for the nations to unite in a Pacific free-trade zone controlled, of course, by China instead of America.
We can get used to a world where we, not Russia and China, are isolated and reviled. We will be great again in our own minds, and that could be all that counts.
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