Sometimes the Noise is also the Signal.
Trump’s extraordinary tweet on Monday about his “great and unmatched wisdom” and his willingness to “totally destroy and obliterate” another country’s economy was made to be parodied, but it was also a glimpse into the soul of a megalomaniac. Who talks this way? What kind of a man publicly preens and boasts and serenades himself in such a masturbatory way? And what unprecedented dangers does humanity face when such a creature controls thousands of nuclear weapons?
Apart from the inanity of such tweets, Trump is also wreaking havoc in one policy arena after the next. On the global stage, he continues to zigzag erratically with no long-term strategy. Whether or not one agrees with the US presence in Syria, the way in which Trump cut the Kurds loose this week and gave the green light for an invasion to Turkey’s Erdogan was thoroughly dishonorable and short-sighted. As the old saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies? Why would anyone want to help the United States, if this is their poisoned reward?
As for the UK, nominally America’s closest ally: Despite the pleas of Boris Johnson’s government to let justice runs its course, Trump’s administration this week spirited the wife of a US diplomat out of the country after she ran over and killed a teenager. In a press conference on Wednesday, photographers caught a glimpse of the president’s Cliff’sNotes, in which he was advised to say that the woman would not be returning to the UK to face charges. Trump then compounded the damage by flippantly saying, “It happens,” in reference to reports that the woman was driving on the wrong side of the road when the accident occurred.
Domestically, the administration is trying to resurrect the stupidest of War on Drugs–era proposals. The latest: It published in the >Federal Register plans to allow states to require drug tests for all those applying for unemployment benefits after being laid off from industries that require employee drug tests, and to deny benefits to anyone whose test comes back positive. It’s a huge reversal of pragmatic Obama-era rules, and will serve mostly as a giant boon to the drug-testing industry.
On the good-news front, California continues to dance to its own tune. After decades of expensive and futile tough-on-crime, prison-expanding policies, the Golden State is now steering a different course. Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two dozen criminal justice reform bills this week, ranging from providing more protections to juvenile defendants to eliminating co-pays that prisoners must pay for doctor visits to letting nonviolent offenders sit on juries after their sentences are completed. The governor also signed one of the country’s most comprehensive renter protection measures, as well as bills intended to channel billions of dollars into fighting the state’s vast homelessness crisis. And he put his signature to a raft of laws designed to make it easier for people to register to vote and to protect the integrity of the state’s election system.
Stay tuned—I’ll be returning to California’s policy shifts in subsequent columns. These are all critical Signals in a rapidly changing political environment.