Wolff’s Week in Review

by Andrew Wolff

Hey y’all. Welcome to my column. Each week, I’ll bring you all the news and opinions worth reading over the last seven days, and write a bit about my reactions to what’s happening in Washington, at the winter white house and around the world.


This week at Dartmouth:

The town of Hanover voted against Article 9 during Tuesday’s election. So ends a long and expensive saga for SAE and AD, who spent the last several weeks corralling support from students to vote in favor of the amendment. Much like those running SAE’s campaign, I won’t delve into the details of Article 9 or what it would mean for fraternities on campus. (Full disclosure: I am a member of a different greek organization whose house is college-owned, so the vote did not affect me at all.) Instead, I’ll offer some unsolicited campaign advice: “Preserving our neighborhoods” was a threat to Hanover’s residents, not a compelling slogan – shocker that they didn’t rush to your defense.

A take from Emma Marsano ’18 on the failings of political discourse on college campuses as exemplified by the debate a few weeks ago between the college democrats and college republicans. I like the idea of elevating our political discourse beyond the bickering in Washington and putting national issues into a context college students will care about. However, I worry this call to intelligent discourse is a bit misplaced. The “Great Debate” was alway going to be an exercise in high school parliamentary debate and tribal cheerleading. You show me a proud Democrat or Republican in 2017 who understands the nuance or reason of the opposition and I’ll show you the lighter side of Steve Bannon in the White House.

In the news:

In case you hadn’t heard, Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey this week. The White House claims this decision has nothing to do with Comey’s investigation of Trump associates ties to Russia and/or Russian meddling in the campaign. Instead, he said Comey was canned for mishandling the Clinton investigation.  Yea, you heard that right liberals, after all you guys wanted this guy fired in October after he may or may not have gotten us all into this mess. Trump really didn’t make a strong case for himself after pointing specifically to the Russia investigation in his termination letter to Comey. Comey’s firing has drawn comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre, when Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor (a great primer on Watergate). The original story from the White House was that Trump fired Comey at Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein (Deputy AG)’s request, but we now know that the truth is way worse. Trump has had a vendetta against Comey ever since he refused to give him a dictator-style loyalty pledge in Trump’s early days in office. Further reads on Comey firing:

Philip Geraldi at American Conservative

Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight

Andrew Rudalevige at Washington Post

Haven’t you heard? Donald Trump has a secret plan to fight ISIS. Well actually, this plan is public … and four months old. In Trump’s second week in office, Sec. Mattis delivered a comprehensive plan to the president on ways to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The plan did not include torture or carpet bombing, but it did require him to make decisions, so he naturally lost interest pretty quickly in favor of implementing Jeff Session’s and Steve Bannon’s agendas. Maybe he does want to make a decision, but can’t find the courage to walk down the stairs by himself to the situation room to give the orders. Or perhaps he is just waiting for Putin to tell him how to handle everything.

Earlier this week, Jared Kushner’s sister held a conference in China, where she pitched wealthy businessmen on investing in Kushner buildings in NYC in exchange for visas to live in the United States. Her event caused a firestorm after reporters leaked pictures of the event showing slides with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner as key players in this business deal (the reporters were promptly removed by security). This is government graft at its finest. If Republicans cared, this corruption (along with about a million other instances where Trump’s business connections were being used to garner political and economic favor) would make Albert Bacon Fall look like a saint and probably end a presidency… I won’t hold my breath for them to grow spines though. Making matters worse, this incident highlight ways in which Trump can use press-restrictions in other countries to suppress journalism at home and continue to operate his businesses internationally. BTW, Kushner opened her pitch by talking about her grandparents immigrating to the USA as refugees and how she understands the desire for rich people to come to the US just as her ancestors did… Ha.

Republicans in the House voted last week for the American Healthcare Act (AHCA or Wealthcare for my fellow members of the Resistance). This bill, to use Trump’s words, is a total disaster. In case you are not our president and actually want to know what this bill will do: 24 million people will lose health insurance (including millions in state’s Trump won). The bill cuts Medicaid funding which will cause states to roll back expansion of coverage to millions of low-income Americans. It allows states to place people with pre-existing conditions (such as being a woman or having depression) into expensive high-risk pools where coverage is limited for certain periods of time to keep down costs. Luckily, the bill is probably DOA in the Senate. Unluckily, Mitch McConnell is one evil tortoise, and he has made it clear that the Senate will draft a bill that, while horrible, will have enough votes to pass both chambers. “Republicans will surely lose their jobs,” you cucks might say, but Seth Gasket at Vox explains why passing this nonsense is probably still favorable for most of the GOP.

Speaking of Kushners, Ivanka Trump as liberal savior is perhaps the least accurate narrative to come out of the Trump presidency. We have no evidence that she influenced policy in the White House, nor can we say, given her terrible history with denying her employees paid family leave, that she even holds liberal values. All we know is she exploits working women as a marketing strategy and has no problem involving herself simultaneously in her father’s business and his running of the country.

Two important elections took place this week: 

France proved once again they are a superior to Americans and Britons by electing centrist and figurative momma’s boy Emmanual Macron to be their next President. He defeated ex- and future-Nazi Marine Le Pen by a margin of 30 points (another big miss by polls – but we’ll take the L). A few days before the election, Macron suffered a suspiciously soviet email leaking scandal a la Clinton in 2016. Luckily, France doesn’t have  a Fox-News-turned-state-media outlet, so no one ended up caring about how he likes his risotto cooked.

South Korea held special elections this week to determine who would replace ousted President Park Geun-hye, and liberal Moon Jae-in won a decisive victory over his conservative adversary. South Korea has been ruled consistently by the conservative party since its birth, so this election marks a big shift for their politics. And it likely means more confrontations with Big Brother Trump as Moon Jae-in has vowed to ease relations with North Korea and work towards unity goals with the authoritarian regime. This so-called Sunshine policy is a major fissure for US-South Korean relations, through which the US has leveraged sanctions against North Korea for years and built up its sphere of influence in Asia. The shifting political winds along with a small but growing private economy in North Korea means that American policy in the region is going to be totally upended over the next decade. 


This week in opinion:

Bret Stephens set off a twitter firestorm last week when he questioned the certainty of climate change in his first NYT column. His piece is pretty vapid. It is a classic example of climate change politicization and denialism. Highlighting the inherent uncertainty of science is one of the right’s favorite cliches (along with preserving the sanctity of marriage and trickle-down economics). But it is total BS. Science is uncertain by its very nature, but highlighting consensus on issues (like climate change), when it exists, is far more effective at convincing people climate change is real than telling them scientists are uncertain. Stephen’s article caused a few people to cancel their NYT subscriptions, which actually ends up hurting real climate change journalists way more than Stephens himself. Others called for him to be removed from the NYT columnist page. Truth is that Bret Stephens is wrong. Not just on climate change, but on basically everything he writes about. But he is a relatively rational voice in an irrational conservative world, and he deserves a place in the NYT columnist staff.

 Are we living in a world where celebrities and personalities are the most viable candidates for president? God I hope not. Trolls and WWE enthusiasts would love Dwayne Johnson’s presidency almost as much as… well trolls and WWE enthusiasts love the Donald’s, but for god sake we need some serious adults to run this country again in four years. And please not Amy Klobuchar.

Rex Tillerson has some management issues at State. It’s almost like running a company is way different from running the diplomatic arm of the US government. Dan Drezner offers some management advice for the inexperienced ex-Exxon executive. A spokesman for Tillerson actually said they wanted to boil the ocean before hiring staff… somewhere in the distance Victor Chang sheds a tear (if you don’t get that joke… you are better off).


In human interest: 

A satisfying explanation of why MBTI personality types are total BS