Tear Down These Tariffs

Ports of Los Angeles

Now she knows how I feel. In a statement posted to her campaign website, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts laments that the Obama administration has kept secret the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—TPP for short—the decade-in-the-making free trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries that will soon be put to a vote in Congress. “If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it,” she writes in bolded text, “then that agreement should not become law of the United States.”

Benghazi, Bergdahl, and the Bomb


President Obama strode to the lectern in the Rose Garden Thursday to announce a “historic” agreement between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The preliminary deal made in Lausanne, Switzerland, the president said, “cuts off every pathway Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” I hope he’s right.

James Baker’s Zombie Foreign Policy

James Baker J Street Facebook

Jeb Bush is cleaning up a mess he helped create. It’s a distraction from what he’d rather be doing, which is building an “aura of inevitability” around his soon-to-be presidential campaign. He’s spent the past week distancing himself from the speech that one of his foreign policy advisers, former secretary of State James Baker, delivered to the annual meeting of J Street, the liberal fringe group that pushes tough policies against Israel.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Women

The Hobson-Lucases / AP

The critic James Wolcott is peeved. “Mitt Romney’s fateful decision this January not to pursue the presidency for a third futile time deprives those of us in the bleachers of a rare-ish opportunity to watch a representative of the 1 percent in plastic action,” he writes in Vanity Fair’s April “special issue” on “the age of money.” There are few chances, Wolcott avers, to observe in public a member of the financial and social caste that rules America. “It is not often we get to study how a scion moves, behaves, and simulates reflective thought under changeable conditions.”

Everything’s a Problem!

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Note: A few weeks ago, the backlash against the Oscars—the scourging of Patricia Arquette for her post-Oscars speech in favor of pay equality, the wailing over Graham Moore’s failure to be gay while considering suicide as a teen, and so much more—broke my brain. I started seeing problems. Problems were everywhere. So many problems! Too many to recount here, in fact. So I set up a tumblr! I’ll still continue writing this post once a week or so here. But if you want to keep on things that are problematic—such as The Dress and Back to the Future and White Dudes Trying to Write—then you should keep your eye on EverythingsAProblem.tumblr.com.

The “white savior trope” is one of the most confounding elements of modern cinema. It takes many forms—Kevin Costner trying to save a black child from being raised by inferior black guardians, Kevin Costner teaching a team of Hispanic kids how to run, Kevin Costner educating American Indians about how to defend themselves, etc.—but the idea is always the same. An enlightened, amazing white person sees something wrong with a minority and tries to fix said minority.

This is, needless to say, very problematic.

Home for Purim

Rembrandt's 'Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther'

The Book of Esther has had a good week. It is, at the moment of writing, the Jewish holiday of Purim, an account for which the biblical Esther provides. Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews from a plot against them fomented by a faction of the ancient Persian Empire—which under current circumstances makes it an appropriate text for Benjamin Netanyahu to name-check, something he did speaking to Congress on Tuesday.

I Don’t Love Spock


I loved Spock,” said President Obama, reacting to the death of actor Leonard Nimoy. Why? Because Spock reminds him of himself. The galaxy’s most famous Vulcan, the president wrote, was “Cool, logical, big-eared, and level headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.” Just like you know whom.

The president is not the only writer who has drawn comparisons between himself and Spock. I am also a Star Trek fan, but I admit I was somewhat confused by my rather apathetic reaction to Nimoy’s death. And as I thought more about the president’s statement, I realized he identifies with the very aspects of the Spock character that most annoy me. I don’t love Spock at all.

Why Bibi’s Speech Matters

Benjamin Netanyahu

The emerging nuclear deal with Iran is indefensible. The White House knows it. That is why President Obama does not want to subject an agreement to congressional approval, why critics of the deal are dismissed as warmongers, and why the president, his secretary of state, and his national security adviser have spent several weeks demonizing the prime minister of Israel for having the temerity to accept an invitation by the U.S. Congress to deliver a speech on a subject of existential import for his small country. These tactics distract public attention. They turn a subject of enormous significance to American foreign policy into a petty personal drama. They prevent us from discussing what America is about to give away.

The Bill, Hillary, Chelsea and His Royal Highness King Salman of Saudi Arabia Clinton Foundation


The Wall Street Journal reported this past week that the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has quietly dropped its ban on foreign contributions and is accepting donations from the governments of “the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany, and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.” The Journal’s conclusion: Since 2001 “the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments.”