Our Ambivalent Commander-in-Chief

It has been fascinating to read reaction to President Obama’s counter-terrorism speech last week. Some commentators–including me—perceived no real change in a tough-on-terror policy inherited from the Bush administration. Others thought it was a sign of retreat and even defeat. In truth there is plenty of cause to support both viewpoints.

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Our Ambivalent Commander-in-Chief

Must-Reads from Magazine

Qatar and the Columbia Journalism Review

A conflict of interest.

Should Al Jazeera–the broadcast organ of Qatar’s pro-Muslim Brotherhood regime–be required to register as a foreign agent in the United States? Alexandra Ellerbeck and Avi Asher-Schapiro of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists think the answer is no, and they have a long essay in the Columbia Journalism Review laying out their case.

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Making a Monster Stronger

Gifts we cannot take back.

New York Times reporter Alex Burns seemed to approve of the “intellectual honesty” on display Monday night when Barack Obama’s former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, defended President Donald Trump’s diplomatic engagement with North Korea as hard-nosed realism. “We’ve had diplomatic relations with plenty of brutal dictators when it has seemed to suit our interests,” Burns recalled Clapper saying. Advocates of this approach to foreign affairs want to believe their Olympian posture amounts to the absence of undue judgment, but it’s more like the absence of critical thought. On that score, both Donald Trump and Barack Obama share many similarities. Kim Jong-un is not just one dictator among many, and the Democratic Republic of Korea is not just another country.

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The Limits of Trolling

How Trump undoes Trump's agenda.

The Bad Donald Trump—the one who ran a campaign fueled by insult and conspiracy theories and misplaced animosity against American alliances—never went away. He was always there. The man is who he is. But various forces had conspired of late to keep him at bay: a good-to-great economy, improving poll numbers, and, presumably, the thankless efforts of his senior staff. Then the Bad Donald came roaring back over the G-7 weekend.

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Trump Helps Obama’s Team Recognize How Disastrous Their Policies Were

Ulterior motives.

Those in Barack Obama’s orbit were fond of commandeering the title of his second book, Audacity of Hope, and applying it to just about everything the president or his administration did. Obama delivers a speech extolling the benefits of modernity? “Audacity.” Obama wears a tan suit to a press conference? “Audacity.” Obama defies his party’s extremes while achieving some incremental legislative successes? “Audacity.” The former president’s admirers have appropriated the word’s positive connotations—daring, fearless, spunky, transgressive self-assuredness—but the word has an alternate definition that is equally apt but rarely applied to Obama or his courtiers. That’s a shame, too, because the impertinence the former administration’s leading lights often display sure is audacious.

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PODCAST: Trade Boors

Podcast: Trump, trade, and temerity.

Donald Trump heads to Singapore for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fresh off a pretty contentious summit with the G-7 nations in which conflicts over trade policy blew up into a full-scale war of insults between the American and Canadian governments. What does this mean for the Atlantic alliance and the North Korean summit? Also, the attacks on Trump at the Tony Awards over the weekend leads to a discussion of the value of civility.

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