Opinion | Can Biden Fix What Trump Broke? – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

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Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

“PARIS — If Joe Biden moves to the White House in January, he will find across the Atlantic a very different landscape from the one he left as vice president. In turn ignored, lectured or brutalized by President Trump, who has enjoyed playing on their divisions, Europeans are now learning to navigate alone in a world ever more dangerous for them, while managing an awkward relationship with America.

At stake for many of them in this presidential election is quite simple: If Mr. Trump wins a second term, they fear, he will be tempted to double down on his unilateralist agenda. NATO, already described as “brain-dead” by President Emmanuel Macron of France, could just as well die for good. Alternatively, it is hoped, a Biden administration would re-engage America in the multilateral system it created 75 years ago. And Europe, with its newfound assertiveness, could be a more valuable player.

For Europe, the election comes at a time of particular danger. The European Union’s neighborhood is “engulfed in flames,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told The Financial Times last week.

From the Eastern Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea, from a Britain consumed by Brexit to a defiant Russia, not to mention the Balkans, Libya or the sub-Saharan countries of West Africa, the union is surrounded by crises. What is new for its leaders is the need to confront them not as “the West,” but on their own, with a mostly passive United States administration looking elsewhere.”

Opinion | American Catastrophe Through German Eyes – By Roger Cohen – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Noah Berger/Associated Press

“PARIS — No people has found the American lurch toward authoritarianism under President Trump more alarming than the Germans. For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the “American catastrophe.”

recent cover of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrays Trump in the Oval Office holding a lighted match, with a country ablaze visible through his window. The headline: “Der Feuerteufel,” or, literally, “the Fire Devil.”

Credit…Der Spiegel

Germans have a particular relationship to fire. The Reichstag fire of 1933 enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that had brought them to power. Hitler’s murderous fantasies could now become reality. War, Auschwitz and the German catastrophe followed.

I have known many thoughtful German diplomats over the years, including Michael Steiner, who labored to stop the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to the United States. It always seemed to me that their particular passion for freedom, democracy and openness stemmed from the knowledge of how easily these are lost.

Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University and the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, wrote to me this week:

“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”

Steinberg continued, “The basic comparison involves racism as a political strategy: a racist imaginary of a pure homeland, with cities demonized as places of decadence.”

Trump provokes outrage in a cascade designed to blunt alarm. He deadens reactions through volume and repetition. But something about the recent use of unmarked cars and camouflage-clad federal agents without clear identifying insignia detaining protesters shattered any inclination to shrug.

From the deployment of those federal units in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where protesters have been demanding racial justice and police accountability, it’s not a huge leap to the use of paramilitaries (like the German Freikorps in the 1920s) to buttress a “Law and Order” campaign. The Freikorps battled communists. Today, Trump claims to battle “anarchists,” “terrorists” and violent leftists. It’s the leitmotif of his quest for a second term.    . . . “

Opinion | Why Can’t Trump’s America Be Like Italy? – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Another wonderful week. I cope with the joys and sorrows of this Covid/Recession/BlackLivesMatter era by reading and writing about it, focused on the New York Times. Often what speaks to my heart, has helped unmuddle my brain.

Just going back to last Friday, Paul Krugman wrote, Why Can’t Trumps America Be Like Italy.

It is so rude it is delicious. It ends,

“. . . In particular, tens of millions of workers are about to lose crucial unemployment benefits, and Republicans haven’t even settled on a bad response. On Wednesday Senate Republicans floated the idea of reducing supplemental benefits from $600 a week to just $100, which would spell disaster for many families.

For someone like Trump, all this must be humiliating — or would be if anyone dared tell him about it. After three and a half years of Making America Great Again, we’ve become a pathetic figure on the world stage, a cautionary tale about pride going before a fall.

These days Americans can only envy Italy’s success in weathering the coronavirus, its rapid return to a kind of normalcy that is a distant dream in a nation that used to congratulate itself for its can-do culture. Italy is often referred to as “the sick man of Europe”; what does that make us?”

Opinion | Donald Trump, Joe Biden and the Vote of the Irish – By Shawn McCreesh – The New York Times

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Mr. McCreesh is an editorial assistant for the Opinion section.

Credit…Lucas Jackson/Reuters

“In 2016, my vantage point on the donnybrook between Donald and Hillary was an Irish bar in Queens, where I was a bartender a few nights a week. It was a cash-only joint that sometimes stayed open until 7 a.m. and sold discounted cigarettes driven up from Virginia, the sort of place where you could make $800 under the table but you also might get a bottle or a chair thrown at you. This was where I watched the presidential debates and noticed something interesting. Half the patrons were Irish immigrants who considered Mr. Trump a real “eejit,” but the other half, the Irish Americans, thought he was just grand.

Something didn’t compute. Weren’t the Clintons universally beloved by all with Irish blood? (See “Derry Girls” on Netflix for a sample of the rock star treatment they got after Bill brought peace to Northern Ireland.) It was puzzling to watch the barflies buzz about Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric — a drawbridge mentality from a crowd whose lineage had been met with “Irish Need Not Apply” signs. The craic in the Queens shebeen turned out to be a sudsy microcosm: The green vote has never been more red.

“All those Irish were Democrats for literally hundreds of years,” said James F. McKay III, the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the largest Irish Catholic organization in the country. “But what is the old saying? When they got the wrinkles out of the belly, they became Republicans.”

No doubt. My own grandfather, one of 12 children raised in a two-bedroom house in County Armagh, sailed to Philadelphia, and cheered when John F. Kennedy became president. Sixty-six years later, some of my grandfather’s children and his brother voted for Donald Trump.”

Opinion |  How to Make the Coronavirus Pandemic Even Worse – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Having a pandemic is really bad. Having a pandemic and a civil war together is really, really bad. Welcome to Donald Trump’s America 2020.

If you feel dizzy from watching Trump signal left — issuing guidelines for how states should properly emerge from pandemic lockdowns — while turning right — urging people to liberate their states from lockdowns, ignore his own guidelines and even dispute the value of testing — you’re not alone.

Since Trump’s pronouncements are simultaneously convoluted, contradictory and dishonest, here’s my guess at what he is saying:

“The Greatest Generation preserved American liberty and capitalism by taking Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day — in the face of a barrage of Nazi shelling that could and did kill many of them. I am calling on our generation to preserve American liberty and capitalism today by going shopping in the malls of Omaha, Nebraska, in the face of a coronavirus pandemic that will likely only kill 1 percent of you, if you do get infected. So be brave — get back to work and take back your old life.”

Yes, if you total up all of Trump’s recent words and deeds, he is saying to the American people: between the two basic models for dealing with the pandemic in the world — China’s rigorous top-down, test, track, trace and quarantine model — while waiting for a vaccine to provide herd immunity — and Sweden’s more bottom up, protect-the-most-vulnerable-and-let-the-rest-get-back-to-work-and-get-the-infection-and-develop-natural-herd-immunity model, your president has decided for Sweden’s approach.

He just hasn’t told the country or his coronavirus task force or maybe even himself.

But this is the only conclusion you can draw from all the ways Trump has backed off from his own government guidelines and backed up his end-the-lockdown followers, who, like most of the country, have grown both weary of the guidelines and desperate to get back to work and paychecks.

But, in keeping with my D-Day analogy, Trump has basically decided to dispatch Americans into this battle against this coronavirus without the equivalent of maps, armor, helmets, guns or any coordinated strategy to minimize their casualty count. He’s also dispatching them without national leadership — so it’s every platoon, or state, for themselves, maximizing the chances of virus spread between people who want to go shopping and those who still want to shelter in place.

He’s also dispatching them without a national plan to protect the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly, and without setting the example that everyone should wear face masks and practice social distancing whenever they are at work or in a public setting. Finally, he’s dispatching them without a plan of retreat if way too many vulnerable people are infected and harmed as we take to the malls of Omaha and beyond.”

David Lindsay: Great op-ed, and comments. One of my favorite comments:

bill
sunny isles beach, fl
Times Pick

There could have been federal leadership if our federal leader did his job. It could have been good for him too. If Trump had taken the impending arrival of a pandemic seriously, he could have looked like a hero, instead of a snake looking for a hole to hide in while he blames everyone…I mean everyone…for our disaster but himself. ] Meanwhile Trump is still not doing his job regarding the pandemic. We still don’t have a national strategy for testing sufficient numbers so that we can identify the disease spreaders, isolate them, treat them, and track who they might have spread the disease to. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. It takes a functional, grown-up president to oversee and coordinate it. It’s a tragedy that we don’t have one. I’ve never been a great fan of Andrew Cuomo, but contrast how effectively he’s handling the New York pandemic compared to Trump. It’s appalling. Trump has got to go…the sooner the better.

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Opinion | McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Thibault Savary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“President Trump thunders that Democrats are trying to drag America toward “socialism,” Vice President Mike Pence warns that Democrats aim to “impose socialism on the American people,” and even some Democrats warn against becoming, as one put it, “[expletive] Denmark.”

So, before the coronavirus pandemic, I crept behind [expletive] Danish lines to explore: How scary is Denmark? How horrifying would it be if the United States took a step or two in the direction of Denmark? Would America lose its edge, productivity and innovation, or would it gain well-being, fairness and happiness?

So, here, grab a Danish, and we’ll chat about how a [expletive] progressive country performs under stress. The pandemic interrupted my reporting, but I’d be safer if I still were in Denmark: It has had almost twice as much testing per capita as the United States and fewer than half as many deaths per capita.

Put it this way: More than 35,000 Americans have already died in part because the United States could not manage the pandemic as deftly as Denmark.

Denmark lowered new infections so successfully that last month it reopened elementary schools and day care centers as well as barber shops and physical therapy centers. Malls and shops will be allowed to reopen on Monday, and restaurants and cafes a week later.

Moreover, Danes kept their jobs. The trauma of massive numbers of people losing jobs and health insurance, of long lines at food banks — that is the American experience, but it’s not what’s happening in Denmark. America’s unemployment rate last month was 14.7 percent, but Denmark’s is hovering in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent.”

Relying on Science and Politics, Merkel Offers a Cautious Virus Re-entry Plan – The New York Times

“BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday set in motion a plan for Germany to begin lifting social and economic restrictions in place because of the coronavirus, even as she warned that the road ahead would look less like a return to normal than a way to live with a pandemic that has overturned ordinary life.

The chancellor, a physicist by training, was typically restrained and focused on the science as she announced the government’s cautious step-by-step plan, for which she had won the agreement of regional leaders in Germany’s diffuse federal system.

Shorn of any bravado, her announcement seemed again to make Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, a de facto leader on the Continent and something of an example for Western nations looking to navigate the tricky course of rebooting economic activity and fighting the virus.

Her approach stood in stark contrast to the fraught political divisions in the United States, where state authorities have often been at odds with President Trump, who has made forceful but erratic predictions about the virus.”

Trump Has ‘Done Damage That the Soviets Would Have Dreamt Of,’ Former German Foreign Minister Says – Newsweek.com

“Former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and other European officials have lashed out at President Donald Trump and his divisive leadership on the international stage, alleging he has threatened an alliance that took many decades to build.

“He has done damage that the Soviets would have dreamt of,” Gabriel told The Washington Post in a story published on Monday. “We can’t live with Trump,” he warned, before adding: “And we can’t live without the United States.”

Gabriel said that in the beginning, European leaders believed Trump’s unorthodox and aggressive style was just a campaign strategy that would change once he entered the White House. “But he changed the position of the presidency,” Gabriel, who also served as the vice chancellor of Germany from 2013 until last year, told The Post. “I find it shocking that, in such a short time, he has managed to rip apart a relationship that has taken decades to build.”

Source: Trump Has ‘Done Damage That the Soviets Would Have Dreamt Of,’ Former German Foreign Minister Says

 ‘Politics of Hate’ Takes a Toll in Germany Well Beyond Immigrants – By Katrin Bennhold and Melissa Eddy – The New York Times

“COLOGNE, Germany — The last time Henriette Reker ran for mayor, she was nearly killed.

Ms. Reker was handing out flowers to voters at a bustling market in Cologne in 2015, when a man took a rose with one hand and rammed a kitchen knife into her throat with the other. He wanted to punish her for her pro-refugee stance.

Five years later, Ms. Reker is running again. But she is an exception. Since she recovered from a coma to find herself elected, far-right death threats have become an everyday reality, not just for her but for an increasing number of local officials across Germany.

The acrimony is felt in town halls and village streets, where mayors now find themselves the targets of threats and intimidation. The effect has been chilling.

Some have stopped speaking out. Many have quit, tried to arm themselves or taken on police protection. The risks have mounted to such an extent that some German towns are unable to field candidates for leadership at all.”

David Lindsay: This is shockingly bad news about Germany.  The rise of the the extreme right there, and the violence and killings, seem to be an unexpected reaction to Merkel’s accepting over a million refugees in 2015, without the support of many Germans who felt threatened or betrayed.

Opinion | France’s Challenge in Africa – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

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Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Michele Cattani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“PARIS — This is a war that escapes most radar screens. The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.

That is the somber warning that the chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen. François Lecointre, delivered on Nov. 27, a day after his troops suffered 13 casualties in a helicopter crash in Mali during combat operations. “We will never achieve final victory,” he told the public radio station France Inter. “Avoiding the worst must provide sufficient satisfaction for a soldier. Today, thanks to our constant action, we are ensuring that the worst is avoided.”

Welcome to the unforgiving, thankless fight against jihadis in the Sahel, an African region south of the Sahara as large as Europe, where 4,500 French troops were deployed in January 2013 to prevent the capital of Mali, Bamako, from falling to Al Qaeda. It is now the epicenter of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist-led insurgency. Two weeks ago, the French government decided to send 600 extra troops to the Sahel. Hardly a surge, but a clear sign that “avoiding the worst” is proving more and more difficult.

Bamako was saved, but since then Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. After killing more than 4,000 people last year and displacing more than a million, these groups are now threatening four coastal West African countries south of Burkina Faso, a state that, as the International Crisis Group warned recently, may provide “a perfect launching pad” for operations in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.”