Memo to the President on Saudi Arabia

he comes from the poorest wing of the ruling family; his father was only governor of Riyadh and was known for being uncorrupted. As a result, M.B.S. grew up with a lot of resentment and disdain for his lazy cousins, who got obscenely rich, along with the big merchants close to them. His anti-corruption campaign was meant to stem the tide of graft, but it also had elements of revenge, and a power and money grab.

.. At the same time, we need to tell M.B.S.: You can be an effective king, with real legitimacy, or you can buy yachts, chateaus and Leonardo da Vincis like your cousins — but you can’t do both. He has to understand he’s becoming an important figure on the world stage, and he needs to cultivate the same reputation his father has — clean, modest, conciliatory.

.. On the management side, M.B.S.’s team is too small and contains a couple of minister-bullies close to him who are in way over their heads, and who bring out his worst instincts and offer terrible advice — some of which led to his failed overreaches in Yemen, Lebanon and Qatar. And while M.B.S. is a creative reformer, he has a fierce temper. Most of his ministers are afraid to challenge him or give him the candid, caring advice he needs.

.. Rex Tillerson is not respected in Riyadh, we have no permanent assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and no ambassador. Are you nuts? You need to appoint a James Baker or Dave Petraeus as your special envoy to the Arab Gulf who can help M.B.S. defuse Yemen, end the feuds with neighbors, and focus all his energies on building a Saudi Arabia that is thriving at home and admired by its neighbors. That’s the best bulwark against Iranian expansion.

.. If M.B.S. chases Iran everywhere, Tehran will sap all his strength; it will be death by a thousand cuts. We need to be in his ear regularly with someone he respects, and not just leave him to “the boys’ club” — your son-in-law or other young testosterone-fueled Sunni Arab princes in the Gulf.

.. it is more vital than ever that we continue to model the rule of law, respect for institutions, tolerance and pluralism. A special U.S. envoy to Saudi Arabia is necessary now, but keeping America a special example is even more important.

Trump and Kelly deserve each other

Trump’s first definition, in the person of Reince Priebus, was as an executive who preferred to surround himself with toadies constitutionally incapable of standing up to him and prepared to pay the price of slathering him with praise. The most vivid illustration came during Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting, in June, when Priebus gushed, “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.”

Just as Priebus revealed Trump’s insatiable desire for stroking, Kelly illustrated his unsettling attraction to strongmen.

.. The problem, as it turned out, was that Kelly not only reinforced some of Trump’s worst instincts — he displayed them himself. Where Trump resisted condemning white separatists protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville last summer, Kelly followed a few months later with a paean to Lee as “an honorable man” and asserting that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”

.. Kelly seems to share Trump’s inclination to escalate and allergy to apology. After Kelly attacked Florida Democrat Rep. Frederica S. Wilson as an “empty barrel” and a video showed that he had misrepresented her comments, Kelly vowed he would “never” apologize.

.. He cared more about keeping one of the few capable people inside the West Wing at his side than about having an accused abuser on the staff.
.. When the Porter story broke, Kelly’s response was classic, Trumpian bravado: to urge Porter to fight on and issue a statement praising him as “a man of true integrity and honor.”

Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican

evangelicalism, a transdenominational effort to faithfully represent Christ in word and deed, shaped my life and outlook, helping me to interpret the world.

.. Some of the most impressive moral movements in American politics — the efforts to abolish slavery and to end segregation and the struggle to protect unborn life — have been informed by Christianity

.. Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups.

.. I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical — despite its rich history of proclaiming the “good news” of Christ to a broken world — has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.

.. “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one.

.. the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.”

.. the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures.

.. Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

  • Both have been credibly accused of being sexual predators, sometimes admitting to bizarre behavior in their own words.
  • Both have spun wild conspiracy theories, including the lie that Barack Obama was not born in America.
  • Both have slandered the United States and lavished praise on Vladimir Putin, with Mr. Moore declaring that America today could be considered “the focus of evil in the modern world” and stating, in response to Mr. Putin’s anti-gay measures in Russia: “Well, maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”
  • Both have been involved with shady business dealings.
  • Both have intentionally divided America along racial and religious lines.
  • Both relish appealing to people’s worst instincts.
  • Both create bitterness and acrimony in a nation desperately in need of grace and a healing touch.

.. Rather than Republicans and people of faith checking his most unappealing sides, the president is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.

.. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers.

 

Donald Trump is not well

This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked.

.. The president’s unhealthy obsession with “Morning Joe” does not serve the best interests of either his mental state or the country he runs. Despite his constant claims that he no longer watches the show, the president’s closest advisers tell us otherwise.

.. It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children.

.. We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.