Hurricanes, nukes and government dysfunction: Welcome to September | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hurricanes, nukes and government dysfunction: Welcome to September

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 9:25 AM

click to enlarge A North Korean ballistic missile at a military parade in 2013. - STEFAN KRASOWSKI VIA WIKIMEDIA
  • Stefan Krasowski via Wikimedia
  • A North Korean ballistic missile at a military parade in 2013.

News out of Arkansas is slow this morning, but the headlines elsewhere are ominous as can be:

*It's hard not to obsess over the escalating situation in North Korea, which the New York Times says may be planning yet another missile test in the coming weeks. The Kim Jong-un government detonated its sixth nuclear device over the weekend, leading the U.S. to call for a shutdown of all fuel imports to the nation. Between the Trump administration's overheated rhetoric and the practical impossibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear program in the current climate, military confrontation is beginning to seem increasingly possible, even as it remains unthinkable.

*As the Texas coast digs itself out from the wreckage of Hurricane Harvey — there have now been 60 confirmed deaths related to the storm — Irma has strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane and is threatening the Caribbean and Florida. A state of emergency has been declared in Florida, though the National Weather Service notes that it's still too early to determine whether Irma will make landfall in the continental U.S.

*Then there's the domestic political situation, which has felt somewhat more distant than usual this past week. With multiple fiscal deadlines looming in September — including the possibility of a sovereign default, if the debt ceiling isn't raised — we're about to see whether Congress in the Trump era can perform even the most routine business of governance. As Jim Newell at Slate writes, the waters ahead are perilous:
At the moment, Hurricane Harvey seems to have taken some of the fire out of certain actors’ desire for brinksmanship. And the need to pass a disaster relief package has provided congressional leaders with some potent tactical options for moving the rest of the agenda through with it. The only thing that could change this sudden détente is … the brief passage of time, when our nation’s fine legislators and president forget about Harvey and decide they want to fight each other to the death again.
Hope everyone's had a lovely three-day weekend.

I’d also like to insert a somewhat heretical editorial comment here: Each of these potential crises are situations in which I have no choice but to want the president to succeed. Trump has made himself so repugnant to Democrats and others on the left that our default mode is one of reflexive opposition. For self-evident reasons, a failure for the Trump administration can seem like a win for the republic. Yet much of the time, that’s still not the case; the fact is that the political interests of the president — whoever he or she may be — and the objective well-being of the country are tied together.

If Trump goes to war with North Korea, the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe might sink his presidency. If the U.S. defaults on its debt and the market crashes, Trump loses his absurd bragging rights over an economic recovery that his predecessor instigated. If Congress can’t pass a decent disaster relief package, the blame will rightly fall on Republicans. But to state the glaringly obvious, none of those are remotely good outcomes. War, recession and the suffering of storm victims aren’t prices worth paying for the downfall of the Trump White House.

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