The Biggest Loser?

It might not be who you think (though he certainly has the worst loser title locked up for what I hope is forever).

In an especially perceptive FT column, Ed Luce wonders just what it might look like for the new administration to put the U.S. back at the head of the table of global democracies. Four or five years on, democracy ain’t what it used to be. No matter how powerful the urge to turn back the clock to the status quo ante, it’s now definitively post — and the status quo has changed in a lot of countries. If we convene the world’s democracies now, who would be invited or not, and why?

But the killer line — which Luce doesn’t explore as fully as I wish he would — is this:

Whatever else can be said about Mr Trump’s foreign policy, he did not start new wars (though there are still 60 days to go). When historians look back on America’s early 21st century politics, my hunch is they will say [George W.] Bush did more harm to global democracy than Mr Trump. [emphasis added]

This was the first campaign in almost two decades that didn’t center on 9/11 and the forever wars. But those — and the methods by which they’re fought — are now firmly bipartisan.

Trump’s style shocked a lot of people — so much so that I’ve heard a lot of nostalgia for the Shrub years. But, even if we don’t count Bush v. Gore, too many Americans still don’t appreciate how much damage the Bush/Cheney years did. As I once read, the world spent centuries trying to outlaw torture, mercenaries, assassination, and wars of aggression — only for the leader of the free world, at the height of the Pax Americana, to bring all of them back at once and with gusto.

If you’re still poring over the election results, wondering who we’ve become and how we got that way, it’s worth recalling Powell’s UN testimony, the Abu Ghraib photos, and Obama’s drone-strike (and deportation) policies.


Lagniappe: in the NYT, Mark Leibovich writes a “memo from Washington” with a sub-head that truly says it all: “President Trump and his lawyers are engaged in a spectacle that would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous, and if the stakes weren’t so high.”

Stay un-melted, my friends.