Fareed Zakaria (born January 20, 1964) is an American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post.  He has been a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time.

Zakaria was born in Mumbai, India, to a Konkani Muslim family, His father, was  associated with the Indian National Congress and an Islamic theologian. His mother, Fatima Zakaria, she was for a time the editor of the Sunday Times of India.

Zakaria attended the Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai.He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University in 1986, President of the Yale Political Union, Editor in chief of the Yale Political Monthly, a Member of the Scroll and Key society, aMember of the Party of the Right. 

Doctor of philosophy in government from Harvard University in 1993, Studied under Samuel P. Huntington, Stanley Hoffmann, as well as international relations theorist Robert Keohane.

Became the managing editor of Foreign Affairs in 1992, at the age of 28. He served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University, He was named editor of Newsweek International In August 2010 he moved to Time to serve as editor at-large and columnist. He writes a weekly column for The Washington Post, Contributing editor for the Atlantic Media group, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic. 

Zakaria is the author of : From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role. The Future of Freedom The Post-American World and in 2011 an updated and expanded edition of The Post-American World (“Release 2.0") was published.  In Defense of a Liberal Education (Norton, 2015).   The United States and the Making of the Modern World (Basic Books) with James F. Hoge Jr. His last two books have both been New York Times bestsellers and have been translated into more than 25 languages.   
He was a news analyst with ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, He hosted the weekly TV news show, Foreign Exchange, His weekly show, Fareed Zakaria GPS (Global Public Square), premiered on CNN in June 2008. It airs twice weekly in the United States and four times weekly on CNN International, reaching over 200 million homes. It celebrated its 8th anniversary on June 5, 2016, as announced on the weekly foreign affairs show on CNN.  In 2013 he became one of the producers for the HBO series Vice, for which he serves as a consultant.  Zakaria, a member of the Berggruen Institute, additionally features as an interlocutor for the annual Berggruen Prize.


Thursday, Mar. 1, 2018 -    Amid the flurry of news about Hope Hicks and Jared Kushner and this week’s Trump reality show on guns, it would be easy to miss what’s happening in China.  But it is huge and consequential. China is making the most significant change to its political system in 35 years.  What impact will this have on China and the world?   That’s the question that every policymaker, business executive and investor should be asking.

Deng Xiaoping is generally remembered as the man who began China’s economic reforms. But perhaps more important were his political reforms. He took a system that had been utterly dominated by one man, Mao Zedong, and institutionalized it. Perhaps the single most significant transformation was in 1982, when the Chinese Communist Party wrote into the country’s constitution that its president and vice president could serve no more than two consecutive terms. 

This made China unique: a dictatorship with term limits. In most authoritarian regimes, the ruler accumulates power and over the years becomes more arrogant, corrupt and unaccountable. This wasn’t possible in the Chinese system, which limited any individual’s power and focused instead on the collective, the party.China’s unique model also produced an economic miracle. The country has had three decades of merit-based selection and promotion within the Communist Party, wise long-range planning and smart pro-growth economic policies. Since 1978, China’s gross domestic product has grown at an astounding average annual rate of almost 10 percent, which the World Bank calls “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.”

For decades, China seemed to be getting more institutionalized. Deng had ruled as a supreme leader, wielding power more from behind the scenes than from any offices he held. His successor, Jiang Zemin, held all the key posts when he was in power. After his two terms as president, he continued to lead the Central Military Commission for two more years and even after that remained influential informally. When Jiang’s successor, Hu Jintao, finished his two terms as president, he simultaneously relinquished the top military position and lost nearly all power at once. But that trend has now been turned on its head. If term limits are abolished, which is now almost certain, Xi Jinping could stay China’s president, general secretary of the Communist Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission for the rest of his life. And he is just 64.

Xi has been a strong leader for China. He has tackled two of the nation’s most pressing problems, the corruption within the Communist Party and the pollution caused by China’s fast growth. These efforts have been very popular within the country at large. He has not, however, tackled other crucial challenges for China: long-stalled economic reforms and reduction of its rising debt levels. Xi’s supporters argue that his consolidation of power will now allow him to take these difficult steps and begin the next stage of reforms.

The real challenge for China, however, is not about Xi’s economic policies. He has been reluctant to pursue tough, unpopular measures, but so are most governments everywhere, democratic or dictatorial. (Has the United States done anything about its rapidly rising debt?) The real danger is that China is eliminating perhaps the central restraint in a system that provides staggering amounts of power to the country’s leaders. What will that do, over time, to the ambitions and appetites of leaders? “Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton famously wrote in 1887, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Perhaps China will avoid this tendency, but it has been widespread throughout history.

China under Xi has also become more ambitious internationally. It is now the world’s second-largest economy, the third-largest funder of the United Nations and the supplier of more peacekeepers than the other four permanent Security Council members combined. The country has been bulking up its military while devoting significant resources to far-flung cultural arms such as the Confucius Institute. It has announced loans and investment spending — the Belt and Road Initiative — that will be about 10 times the size of the Marshall Plan, by some estimates. It is determined to lead the world in fields such as solar and wind power, electric cars and artificial intelligence.

Chinese scholars say China is entering a new era with a new system. After the Communist Party took power in 1949, it had roughly 30 years of Mao’s rule. That was followed by roughly 30 years of Deng and his system. It is now clear that we are in the third era, which might be 30 years of Xi. Is anybody in Washington paying attention?

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 -  A few weeks ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit published the 10th edition of its Democracy Index, a comprehensive ranking of nations that looks at 60 measures in five categories, ranging from electoral process to civil liberties. For the second consecutive year, the United States failed to make the top bracket of “full democracy” and was grouped in the second one, “flawed democracy.”

It would be easy to focus on the state of American democracy under President Trump, but the more worrying aspect is that the United States’ slide is part of a global trend. In this year’s report, scores dropped for more than half the world’s countries. What Stanford University professor Larry Diamond described 10 years ago as a “democratic recession” shows no sign of ending. The nature of this recession is perhaps best seen by looking at the state of the free press worldwide.

Take Kenya, until very recently considered a hopeful story of democratic progress. Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta instructed the country’s main television stations not to cover an opposition event, and when they refused, he took them off the air. The government then ignored a court order that the stations be allowed to resume broadcasting.

Kenya’s violations of press freedom are trivial compared with those of Turkey, which is now the world’s foremost jailer of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Let me underscore that fact. The government that has imprisoned more journalists than any other country is democratically elected. It used to target the media in ways that at least had the veneer of the rule of law, such as issuing a massive tax fine against a critical organization. But that changed after the unsuccessful coup attempt in 2016. One year later, a United Nations report found that at least 177 news outlets had simply been shut down.

It might be possible to brush these stories aside as the inevitable backtracking of developing societies. But what then to make of the turn of events in Hungary and Poland, two countries that wholeheartedly embraced democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union? In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s administration has used a series of clever tactics to muzzle the free press. The government has effectively taken over public broadcasting, exerting pressure on outlets and installing party loyalists in key positions. It has showered friendly media with advertising money and drastically cut advertising spending in critical platforms. After Orban’s government starves, harasses and intimidates independent media, friendly oligarchs buy out the media companies, thus ensuring favorable coverage. Many of these same tactics are now being employed in Poland, which has been a poster child for its stellar political and economic reforms since the fall of communism.

Even in long-established democracies such as Israel and India, we are witnessing systematic efforts to shrink the space and power of independent media that is critical of the government. In Israel, the criminal allegations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which he denies, include his dealings with press barons to ensure favorable coverage. In addition, Netanyahu’s efforts to keep public broadcasting weak have earned him condemnation even from right-wing politicians. In India, Narendra Modi’s government has launched a highly questionable fraud and money laundering case against NDTV, a powerful and persistent critic of some of its policies. Recently, a journalist who exposed an embarrassing vulnerability in a government database was referred to the police rather than hailed as a whistleblower.

More than 20 years ago, in an essay in Foreign Affairs, I warned that the distinctive problem facing the world was “illiberal democracy” — elected governments that systematically abused their power and restricted freedoms. I subsequently worried that America could head down this path. Most people dismissed the danger because American democracy, they said, was robust, with strong institutions that could weather any storm. Press freedom, after all, is guaranteed under the First Amendment. But consider Poland and Hungary, which not only have strong institutions of their own but also exist within the embrace of rule-based European Union institutions that have explicit constitutional protections for freedom of the press.

In just one year in office, Trump has already done damage. Besides denigrating critical media outlets and lauding friendly ones, he has threatened to strengthen libel laws, strip network licenses and tax the owner of a particular newspaper. His administration has blocked the merger of a news organization he considers biased, while facilitating the merger of an organization with more favorable coverage.

“An institution,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Institutions are collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings. If leaders attack, denigrate and abuse them, they will be weakened, and this, in turn, will weaken the character and quality of democracy. The American system is stronger than most, but it is not immune to these forces of democratic decay.

This column is adapted from Fareed Zakaria's Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California at Los Angeles.



Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 - There’s a lot to be optimistic about today. In almost every part of the world, economies are growing and war, poverty and disease are receding. But then there is the Middle East.

Syria remains a collapsed country; more than 5 million of its people have already fled. Yemen is now the site of the world’s worst famine, and the war there seems unlikely to end anytime soon. Iraq, barely recovered from its own civil war and battle with the Islamic State, estimates it needs about $100 billion for reconstruction — money it does not have. And the danger of greater conflict in the region seems ever-present. We are now seeing fighting between Turkey and American proxies, and fire exchanged between Israel and Syria. Recently, U.S. airstrikes killed perhaps dozens of Russian mercenaries in Syria, a worrisome escalation for the former Cold War adversaries.

In dealing with the volatile situation, the Trump administration seems largely disengaged. Its strategy, if it can be called that, has been to double down on its anti-Iran stance — subcontracting foreign policy to Israel and Saudi Arabia. But recent events make plain that it is not working.

In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, the Middle East scholar Vali Nasr urges a fundamental rethinking of Washington’s Iran policy. The administration is acting on the assumption that instability in the Middle East is the result of a rising Iran seeking to spread its ideology. Iran is often described in the corridors of Washington as “more interested in being a cause than a country.”

Nasr points out that this premise is wrong. Today’s instability in the Middle East did not originate with Tehran’s ambition. It was the result of the 2003 United States-led invasion of Iraq, which overturned the balance of power between Arab states and Iran by dislodging Saddam Hussein and allowing chaos to spread. Iran pursued its national interests intensely, seeking influence in its neighborhood. It did not try to spread Islamist fundamentalism; in fact, it has been at the forefront of the fight against Sunni terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.

Iran’s strategy has been remarkably successful because Iran ventures into places where it has strong local allies (Iraq, Syria, Yemen), is willing to put in troops and militias, and plays a long game. Its adversaries, by and large, do not have these advantages. The United States and Israel — outsiders in the Arab world — mostly fight from the skies. But air dominance has its limitations in terms of shaping political realities on the ground. It is highly significant, Nasr explained to me, that Syria — which is backed by Iran and Russia — was able to down an Israeli fighter jet. “It’s the first time in 30 years that an Israeli military strike has been met with a response. It underscores how difficult it will be to dislodge Iran and Russia from Syria.”

Meanwhile, Turkey has been taking increasingly bold actions in northern Syria against American-backed Kurdish forces. This raises the possibility that, at some point, Turkey and the United States — NATO allies — might find themselves firing on each other.

Where are the Arab countries in this geopolitical game? “The most striking reality about the power struggle in the Middle East these days,” Nasr said, “is the absence of the Arabs. Look at the recent fighting. It is all non-Arab powers — Iranians, Turks, Russians, Israelis and Americans — engaged in combat operations to determine who will shape the Arab world.”

At this point, far from being a revolutionary power, Iran is trying to ratify the status quo, largely because it has won. Its presence in Iraq and Syria is now entrenched. Its Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, has survived and is consolidating power over a rump Syria. Saudi Arabia’s efforts to fight Iranian influence in Yemen, Lebanon and Qatar have so far failed. Qatar is now closer to Iran and Turkey, and rifts within the Arab world continue to deepen.

For its part, Russia — having aligned itself with Iran while still maintaining close ties with Israel — has emerged as the kind of outside balancer that the United States once was. “Russia . . . has become the only power broker in the Middle East that everyone talks to,” Nasr wrote in Foreign Affairs. This is not because Russia is powerful, but because it has been shrewd.

Since 1973, when Henry Kissinger essentially expelled the Russians from the Middle East, the United States has been the preeminent outside power. It is losing that role through a combination of weariness, disengagement and a stubborn refusal to accept the realities on the ground. A different approach — engaging with Iran and working with Turkey and Russia — might return the United States to its unique place in the region and help create a more stable balance of power in what remains the world’s most volatile hot spot.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018 - As the world’s attention turns briefly away from President Trump and toward the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, it’s worth focusing not just on the sports but also on this year’s host country. South Korea is, in some senses, the most successful nation in the world, and its success provides some crucial lessons.

First, the economics. South Korea is in a league of its own. In his 2012 book “Breakout Nations,” Ruchir Sharma observed that only two economies had grown at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent for five decades in a row: South Korea and Taiwan. Sharma noted that South Korea’s trajectory was perhaps even more impressive because, unlike Taiwan — which is still rooted in low-cost manufacturing and assembly — South Korea has been able to move into the post-industrial economy with ease, entering industries such as consumer electronics, biotech and robotics. Seoul is also an entertainment powerhouse, providing much of the most popular television shows and music for East Asia. Sharma awarded it the “gold medal” among breakout nations.

The achievement is all the more impressive when you consider where it started. Half a century ago, South Korea was one of the poorest countries on the planet, and nobody would have predicted that it would conjure up an economic miracle. In 1960, its per capita gross domestic product was $158, slightly less than Ghana’s. Today it is more than $27,000 — almost 20 times that of Ghana. But poverty only begins to describe South Korea’s woes as it emerged from the Korean War. The country had no natural resources, no geographic advantages, a largely illiterate population and an infrastructure that had been battered during the war. It faced the menace of North Korea, then staunchly supported by the world’s other superpower, the Soviet Union, and China, which had sent millions of soldiers to defeat it in the Korean War.

In addition to its economic boom, however, South Korea has also undergone a political transformation. It spent its first decades under repressive dictatorships. By the 1980s, that system began to crack as the Korean people demanded change. The transition to liberal democracy was rocky, as it is everywhere, but South Korea pulled it off. In fact, South Korea has had more genuine alternations in political power than Japan, which remains essentially a one-party democracy. Moreover, in recent years, South Korea has held accountable both its elected president and the owners of its largest company, impressive actions even when compared to more established democracies in the West.

Achievement is about not just where you are but where you came from, the distance traveled. And by that definition, surely South Korea is the most successful country in the world.

People might be inclined to conclude from all this that Koreans are simply innately talented. In fact, the case of South Korea disproves this notion. Just across the 38th parallel live millions of North Koreans, ethnically indistinguishable from their neighbors to the south. Yet North Korea is a disaster, one of the world’s least successful economies and most repressive political systems. South Korea’s success is about having the right kind of policies, which the World Bank once concluded were a basic support for markets and trade as well as a large investment in education and infrastructure.

I would add one other major factor to explain South Korea’s success: the United States. It shielded and supported South Korea from its infancy, when it was a basket-case economy and a fragile country threatened by its neighbors. Americans went to war to defend this small nation, halfway across the world, and has maintained its defense commitment and troop presence there for six decades. Washington lavished financial resources on it as well. According to a South Korean think tank, the United States poured $60 billion in aid and loans into South Korea from 1946 to 1978, close to the amount it spent on the entire continent of Africa during the same period.

Americans on both sides of the aisle are weary of engaging with the world, dubious about maintaining troops in foreign countries and convinced that foreign aid is a waste of money. Over the next few weeks, as they watch the glittering games in PyeongChang, they might want to think about how far South Korea has come — and take some small pride in having helped it get there.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 - President Trump’s State of the Union speech mostly ignored the world outside the United States. He made a few tough statements on the Iran deal and Guantanamo and described (accurately) the evil nature of the North Korean regime, but he said very little about his foreign policy. 

This masks a more dangerous reality. The Trump administration has in fact, either accidentally or by design, laid out aggressive markers in three parts of the world — three red lines — without any serious strategy as to what happens when they are crossed.

The first is in North Korea. Trump and his top officials have asserted that the era of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. They have ruled out any prospect of accepting North Korea as a nuclear state and think that traditional deterrence will not work. The president has specifically promised that North Korea would never be able to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States. Meanwhile, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says Pyongyang is “a handful of months” away from having this capability.

So what happens when that red line is crossed? What would be the American response? Victor Cha, a seasoned expert who was expected to be the nominee for ambassador to South Korea, told the administration that there really is no limited military option, not even a small strike that would “bloody” the nose of the North Korean regime. For this frank analysis, he was promptly dropped from consideration for the ambassadorship.

Cha simply raised the fundamental problem with the Trump administration’s approach. It has outlined maximalist goals without any sense of how to achieve them. In response to North Korea’s new capabilities, would Trump really rain down “fire and fury” and “totally destroy North Korea”?

Trump has done something similar with Iran. He has announced that he will withdraw from the nuclear deal if Congress and the European allies don’t fix it. The Europeans have made clear that they don’t think the pact needs fixing and that it is working well. In about three months, we will reach D-Day, when Trump has promised to unilaterally withdraw if he can’t get a tougher deal.

Were Trump to unilaterally abrogate the accord, the Iranians have several options. They could pull out themselves and ramp up their nuclear program, which would mean the Trump administration would have to deal with another North Korea, this time in the Middle East. Or Iran could simply sideline the United States, keep adhering to the deal and do business with the rest of the world. Most likely, Tehran would make the United States pay by using its considerable influence to destabilize Iraq, which is entering a tumultuous election season.

The third arena where the White House has talked and acted tough without any follow-up strategy is Pakistan. The administration has publicly branded that country a terrorist haven and suspended military aid on those grounds. This is an entirely understandable impulse, because the Pakistani military has been supporting terrorists and militants who operate in Afghanistan, even against U.S. troops, and then withdraw to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. As then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen noted in 2011, one of these terrorist groups “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.”

But being right is not the same as being smart. Most experts predicted that Pakistan would respond to the U.S. action in two ways: First, by pursuing closer relations with China, which can easily replace the aid. Second, the Pakistani military would ratchet up the violence in Afghanistan, demonstrating that it has the capacity to destabilize the pro-American government in Kabul, throw the country into chaos and tie down the U.S. forces that are now in their 17th year of war. And that’s what has happened. China immediately voiced support for Pakistan after the American announcement. And in the past two weeks, Afghanistan has suffered a spate of horrific terrorist attacks.

Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize-winning scholar of strategy, once remarked that two things are very expensive in international affairs: threats when they fail, and promises when they succeed. So, he implied, be very careful about making either one. Trump seemed to understand this when his predecessor made a threat toward Syria in 2013, and Trump tweeted: “Red line statement was a disaster for President Obama.” Well, he has just drawn three red lines of his own, and each of them is likely to be crossed.



Thursday December 29,  2017 - Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in economics for reshaping our understanding of human motivation, once said: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” That’s as true for nations as for individuals. Countries have always oriented themselves within a larger international story. But what is today’s global story?

For decades, the great overarching narrative was the Cold War. Almost every nation acted or reacted in the context of that ideological, political and military struggle. Then came 1989 and the collapse of communism. For the next 20 years or so, the opening up of the world — globalization — became the dominant thread, as countries jostled to become hot new markets and Western democratic capitalism seemed inevitable, undergirded by U.S. power and prestige. The attacks of 9/11 dealt a sharp blow to this benign narrative and, for a while, Islamist terrorism seemed to be steering the course of history. But terrorism has proved too weak and limited a force to be the big global story.

So what is it now? I would argue that the largest trend today is the decline of American influence. Not the decline of American power — the country remains economically and militarily in a league of its own — but a decline of its desire and capacity to use that power to shape the world. The current administration seems intent on dismantling the United States’ great achievements — as it is doing with the World Trade Organization — or to simply be uninterested in setting the global agenda. Donald Trump will be the first president in nearly a century to end his first year in office without having held a state dinner for a foreign head of state.

And this erosion of U.S. global leadership is already causing other countries to adjust.

This month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that, “The most important changes affecting our Western world and, indeed, the world as a whole” stem from “the United States’ current withdrawal under Trump from its role as a reliable guarantor of Western-influenced multilateralism.” That shift, he noted, “is accelerating the transformation of the global order . . . and the risk of trade wars, arms races and armed conflicts is increasing.”

For Europe, Gabriel argued, the situation is almost existential. Since the end of World War II, he said, “Europe had been an American project in the United States’ clearly understood interests. However, the current US administration now perceives Europe in a very distanced way, regarding previous partners as competitors and sometimes even as at the very least economic opponents.” He urged Europe to take its fate into its own hands and decouple itself from US foreign policy.

Consider also the speech in June by Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, in which she thanked the United States for its seven-decade-long stewardship of the international system and strongly implied that, under the Trump administration, American leadership of that system had reached its end.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the 19th Communist Party Congress in October that reflected his recognition of these new realities. “China’s international standing has risen as never before,” he noted, and the nation is “blazing a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernization.” Xi announced “a new era . . . that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” In previous speeches, he suggested boldly that China would become the new guarantor of the global trading order.

This, then, is the global story of our times. The creator, upholder and enforcer of the existing international system is withdrawing into self-centered isolation. The other great supporter and advocate of the open, rule-based world, Europe, has not been able to act assertively on the world stage with any clear vision or purpose and remains obsessed with the fate of its own continental project. Filling the power vacuum, a host of smaller, illiberal powers — Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia — are surging forward in their respective regions. But only China truly has the wherewithal and strategic prowess to potentially shape the next chapter of the story of our age.

A decade ago, I described a “post-American world,” brought on not by the decline of the United States, but by the “rise of the rest.” That world is indeed coming to fruition because other countries are prospering, but the changes are being dramatically accelerated by the Trump administration’s foolish and self-defeating decision to abdicate the United States’ global influence — something that has taken more than 70 years to build. As the president might tweet, “Sad!”


By Ruth Marcus,  Deputy Editorial Page Editor  - Here, for me at least, is the comforting paradox of the age of Trump: I have never respected a president less, nor loved my country more.

This sentiment may startle.  It may rankle, even. It comes in a week that witnessed the passage of the worst domestic policy legislation of my lifetime, followed by the now ritual but always repulsive lauding of President Trump. 
First by the Cabinet courtiers summoned for that purpose; next by Republican lawmakers willing to lay it on just as thick — even more nauseating, because they know better than the servile flattery of their words and because they occupy, theoretically anyway, a coequal branch. 

And this patriotic burst comes disconcertingly in a year that has seen the public display of the racist, xenophobic worst that America has to offer. These ugly impulses existed long before Donald Trump’s pursuit of the presidency and will, sadly, outlast him. 

But candidate Trump diligently tilled the soil in which this hatred flourishes and, more appallingly, President Trump tolerated its deadly consequences in Charlottesville. “Very fine people on both sides,” indeed. Trump’s own secretary of state, when asked whether those comments represented American values, was moved to say, “The president speaks for himself.” How true, in every sense of that sentence. 

Has there been a more embarrassing year for the United States? Thinking Americans cringe at what foreign countries and their leaders make of us and our president, with his reckless upending of international agreements, his bigoted and poorly executed travel ban, his unashamed ignorance, his reckless tweets, his endless susceptibility to flattery. 

Moral Americans — and the Alabama Senate results suggest there remains, pardon the phrase, a moral majority — recoil at the president’s support for a candidate credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old, at his incessant lies, at his (and his family’s) unabashed willingness to use government service as just another pocket-lining opportunity. This litany is made all the more disgusting by the complicity of so many members of his party. 

And yet, I am thankful for Trump in this sense: He has unleashed my inner patriot. I love my country, for all its flaws and for all its flawed leader.  It is worth the fighting for. I knew this, always, on an intellectual level. The Trump presidency has made me feel it, viscerally and passionately. The ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and implemented through the careful structures and capacious phrases of the Constitution do not merely compel our respect. In the Trump era, they require our passionate defense. 

Once we took for granted, as a given of American democracy, such fundamental values as freedom of the press, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary. Now we have a president who veers between failure to understand their importance and deliberate efforts to undermine them. 

He is similarly heedless of the qualities that have always made America great, most notably its willingness not only to enshrine these values at home but also to play a leadership role in nurturing them abroad. Trump’s America is bristlingly insular and driven by zero-sum selfishness. Mine is welcoming, idealistic and generous — a shining city, not a walled fortress. 

Those of us on the more liberal side of the political spectrum have too often and too easily ceded the mantle of patriot to conservatives. Indeed, there can be an off-putting, chest-thumping aspect to traditional, bumper-sticker patriotism: “My country, right or wrong.” “America, love it or leave it.”

George Washington, in his farewell address, advised fellow citizens to “guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.” It is hard not to recall that admonition when listening to Trump’s faux-patriotic posturing against kneeling NFL players and his demand that they show “total respect for our national anthem, for our flag, for our country.” 

Real patriotism would be to recognize, as the Supreme Court did three decades ago in overturning a criminal conviction for burning the American flag, that “we do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.” 

Real patriotism would be not to denounce the “Russia hoax” but to insist that Congress — and for that matter, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — get to the bottom of what happened in the 2016 election and, even more imperative, that the United States strengthen its defenses to prevent future meddling. 

That is the patriotism Trump has awoken, in me and so many others. Because our fundamental fight is not against Trump. It is for America.



Eugene Harold Robinson  (born March 12, 1954) is a liberal American newspaper columnist and an associate editor of The Washington Post. His columns are syndicated to 262 newspapers by The Washington Post Writers Group.
He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and currently serves as chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board. Robinson also serves, opposite Nicolle Wallace, as NBC News and MSNBC’s chief political analyst during political coverage. Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a board member of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

We have a president who neither understands nor respects the basic norms of American democracy. Make no mistake: Donald Trump is a true aberration. There is no figure like him in US history, for which we should be thankful.  Trump’s inexperience is unique; he is the only president never to have served in government or the military. 

This weakness is exponentially compounded by his ignorance of both policy and process, his lack of curiosity, his inability to focus and his tremendous insecurity. He refuses to acknowledge his shortcomings, let alone come to terms with them; and he desperately craves the kind of sycophantic adulation that George Washington, a genuine hero, pointedly rejected.

Trump is a # FakeHero. He strings along his supporters with promises he has no idea how to keep. Like many a would-be strongman before him, he defines himself politically by the fights he picks; he erects straw men — faceless “elites,” cable television hosts, Muslims, Mexicans, nonexistent individuals or groups waging an imaginary “war on Christmas” — because authoritarians always need enemies. Yet his ego is a delicate hothouse flower, threatened by the slightest puff of criticism. 

The Founders, mindful of their own faults, ultimately designed a system to contain a rogue president. They limited his elective term to four years, gave checking and balancing powers to the legislative and judicial branches, and designed impeachment as a last-ditch remedy.  The Trump presidency compels all of us to be mindful of our constitutional duties.

Congress must assert its powers of oversight. One reason the signers of the Declaration gathered in Philadelphia to pledge “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” to the cause of independence was that they saw the mingling of royal power and British commercial interests as corrupt. We now have a president whose far-flung business empire — which he has refused to divest, and which his family still operates — presents myriad potential conflicts of interest. Trump has deepened the swamp, not drained it; and Congress has a duty to sort through the muck.

Congress must also let Trump know, in no uncertain terms, that any attempt to impede or disrupt special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election meddling will have the gravest consequences. Trump should be told that firing Mueller would automatically be considered grounds for impeachment.


Republicans handed their presidential nomination to a know-nothing billionaire bully, Donald Trump — the worst nominee in modern times. How did Republicans get to be so stupid?

Of course, “stupid” is subjective. But by most standards, Republicans fit the bill. In September, Public Policy Polling found that “66% of [Donald] Trump’s supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim... 61% think Obama was not born in the United States.” The same poll found that 54 percent of all Republicans believed the President to be a Muslim. (In September Donald Trump suggested Obama is a Muslim.)

In 2013, Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal warned the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.” Jindal said Republican candidates should “stop insulting the intelligence of voters... with offensive and bizarre statements.” However, Jindal didn’t listen to his own advice; on May 10th, Jindal endorsed Donald Trump. Stupid is as stupid does.

It wasn’t always like this. Fifty years ago, Republicans seemed wrongheaded but intelligent. What has happened to the Grand Old Party? Its transition to the stupid party had four stages:

1. Republicans adopted an anti-intellectual strategy. Political historians have noted the long-term political consequences of Richard Nixon’s southern strategy which peeled Southern white voters — particularly evangelical Christians — away from the Democratic Party. What hasn’t received as much attention is the fact that southern evangelicals are not intellectual: they believe in the literal true of the Bible; for that reason, they believe the universe was created in seven days and decry evolution and science. 

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Henry Olsen observed the GOP southern strategy caused the “dumbing down of conservatism.” “Evangelicals have long shied away from engagement with the less-devout world... as a group they tend to lack intellectual curiosity and rigor.” 

In September, writing in the Daily Beast Ana Marie Cox observed, “Trump won a huge slice of the GOP base because of their prideful ignorance, which to voters signifies not just a rejection of the establishment or elites but a release from the hard work of having to think.”

Now the Republican President Donald Trump, who is also an anti-intellectual. 

2. Republicans accepted racism. When the GOP adopted the southern strategy, they tacitly accepted racism. With Trump this racism has come out in the open.   Writing in Psychology Today, David Niose linked anti-intellectualism and racism:

Critically thinking individuals recognize racism as wrong and undesirable, even if they aren’t yet able to eliminate every morsel of bias from their own psyches or from social institutions. An anti-intellectual society, however, will have large swaths of people who are motivated by fear, susceptible to tribalism and simplistic explanations, incapable of emotional maturity, and prone to violent solutions.

Ana Marie Cox commented on the state of today’s Republican Party: “You can’t spend 40 years tacitly making racists feel welcome in your party and expect the intellectual atmosphere not to suffer, or for that anti-intellectualism to stay bounded with race.”

In 2015, Donald Trump brought racism out of the GOP closet. He damned “political correctness” and brought his hate-filled bigotry into mainstream political discourse.

3.Republicans enabled hate. Writing in Mother Jones, David Corn observed that starting with Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign, GOP politicians and their cohorts in the conservative media launched a campaign of hatred towards President Obama (and scorched-earth obstructionism of his agenda): “It’s been a long run of Republicans accepting, encouraging, and exploiting uncivil discourse, anti-Obama hatred, and right-wing anger.” 

The New York Times observed that Donald Trump feeds into this hatred by encouraging violence at his rallies.

Writing in The Weekly Standard, Henry Olsen observed that over the past two decades Republicans have created “an alternative conservative media universe... [that] led to a conservative ghetto where well-meaning conservatives can live without ever coming into contact with people who disagree with them.”

Since 1874 an elephant has been the Republican symbol. A better symbol for the current Republican Party would be the mushroom: voters who are kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

4. The Republican rank-and-file separated from the Washington elite and embraced anarchy. The candidacy of Donald Trump is a logical outcome of the Tea-Party movement that first decried the Washington establishment and then bemoaned the failure of Republican congressional leadership to keep promises made during the 2012 and 2014 elections (abolish Obamacare; reduce the size of government; etc.). 

The GOP rank-and-file embraced Trump because he is an outsider — someone with no government experience — who embraces the core Republican values: anti-intellectualism, racism, nativism, and sexism. They love Trump because he is opposed to political correctness and tells them it is okay to be white.

First came the stupid party. And then came Donald Trump.



The key difference between the liar and the bullshit artist is that the liar has at least some regard for the truth.                           LAURIE PENNY  A brilliant writer.

There is a certain kind of stupid mistake that only smart people make, and that is to assume that a sober set of facts can step into the ring with an easy, comforting lie and win. We have entered a new moment in public and political conversation, a moment which many pundits have dubbed the “post truth” age. I prefer to think of it as the age of bullshit.

What is bullshit, and how is it different from lies? According to the American philosopher Harry G Frankfurt  the key difference between the liar and the bullshit artist is that the liar has at least some regard for the truth. The liar has a clear idea of what the reality of a situation is, and wants their audience to believe the opposite. 

The bullshit artist doesn’t care about truth at all — they have renounced citizenship of what the Bush administration infamously called “the reality-based community.” The liar wishes to conceal the truth. The bullshit artist, by contrast, wants to destroy the entire concept of truth, not to deceive but to confuse, confound and control. 

This is what people mean when they refer to our political moment as a “post truth” age. It is not quite the same as lies, though lying may well be involved. “Post-truth” is closer to bullshit.   It’s the “Hall of Mirrors” strategy perfected in Putin’s Russia, where an explosion of fake news and cultured online trolling bolsters the regime not simply by pumping out pro-Kremlin propaganda, but by making it impossible for citizens to entirely trust anything they read or hear. 

This leaves them vulnerable to latching on to the ideas that simply feel as if they ought to be true, with no regard for objective fact, which has been devalued, along with the very concept of expertise and learning, across the world.

Bullshit is not simply a set of fibs, but an entire register of speaking. Bullshit is the language of business, which is increasingly the language of politics, but in business everyone knows the game. Everyone sitting around a boardroom table knows that everyone else is playing a game, trying to get away with as much as possible, and that makes the game fair, in its way. In politics, people don’t know they're playing, and if you're involved in a game you don't know you're playing, chances are you're the ball. 

The very word “bullshit” is uncomfortable. It’s crass, nasty and awkwardly American, all of which is appropriate. It also suggests an artlessness, a malodorous dumping of useless principle, but as Frankfurt points out, just because it’s bullshit doesn’t mean it’s not thought through. 

On the contrary: what makes some bullshit artists so successful, from salespeople and PR merchants to demagogues and doomsday cult leaders, is their ability to shape their rhetoric exactly to the outer edge of what is socially acceptable, and then reshape it as that edge moves further right. Hopkins has learned her lesson, but it’s not the one she was supposed to learn. Bullshit artists are trolls gone pro, and are infinitely more dangerous than your average racist.

Bullshit artists are far more threatening than true believers, because they are more adaptable. They will say whatever is necessary to win whatever it is they want, be it power, cash, attention or all three. They also have far less to lose. A high-stakes liar might risk everything if he or she is found out, but the bullshit artist simply moves on to the next sticky idea that floats through the howling moral vacuum behind their eyes. 

Donald Trump is a bullshit artist.  These people are the faces of the age of bullshit, an age that defies any charge of hypocrisy, because the con is open and shameless. That’s why Trump can win a referendum by appealing to the “ordinary working man” and congratulate himself with a glitzy reception at the Ritz. 

The thing about bullshit, as the term itself suggests, is that it's grotesque, and a little embarrassing. There's a certain hygiene to lies, in part because they're far harder to get away with. Bullshit, however, is a contaminant.  It sticks to everything, suffusing culture with a paranoid miasma of ill health. There is less shame in being taken in by an outright lie. 

Bullshit is hard to parse, but we must all get better at sniffing it out. The last, best trick in the bullshit artist’s reeking pocket is projection: to declare that the whole system is bankrupt, that they are simply making a rotten living in a rotten world. This would be the moment to echo the wisdom of children, who are uniquely difficult to con, who can sniff weaponised insincerity across a crowded playground. In the age of bullshit and rotten politics, it is often the case that he who smelt it, dealt it.

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