Opinion: Of Shakespearean Lessons and Art That Makes Us Think

When Barack Obama burst onto the national stage and consciousness with his eloquent speech of unity at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, listeners delighted at its deliberate thoughtfulness — the flip side of the George W. Bush “everyman” style. (And yes, that the polished orator was the child raised without a father and the other had a lineage of political privilege was part of the irony and appeal of the shiny, new package.)

President Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, was, as everyone knows, the opposite of all that — a man of immediate reaction and few, sometimes incoherent and contradictory words, often strung together in 140 characters or less. Those who favored this new style eventually read the former’s quality of reflection as indecision, and compared President Obama, often unfavorably, to “Hamlet.”

All references to William Shakespeare are by design, as we again seem to be debating the relevance of the long-dead playwright, courtesy of a Public Theater production of his “Julius Caesar.”

Donald Trump — the Affirmative Action President and His Enablers

House Speaker Paul Ryan offered the excuse “He’s just new to this” for Donald Trump after former FBI chief James Comey’s testimony that the president has done and said things that were inappropriate, even if they don’t turn out to be illegal. It sounded like something you would say in defense of a toddler who dives face-first into the birthday cake because he hasn’t yet learned what a fork is for.

President Trump is that guy — and it’s a guy 99 percent of the time — who doesn’t bother to read the book but tries to bluff his way through the oral report. Sometimes that guy is funny. When he is in a position to weaken long-held European alliances, jeopardize troops on a base in the Middle East or shred America’s safety net as well as ethical guidelines set by the founders in the U.S. Constitution, no one should be laughing. A “gentleman’s C” won’t cut it when so much is at stake.

 

Opinion: What Exactly Do Republicans Believe in Besides Trump?

When my parents were good Republicans — my mother a party activist, in fact — the label meant something entirely different than it does today.

It was the party of Lincoln, imagine that, and the GOP tolerated differences with a tent that was indeed big. You could be pro-civil rights and fiscally conservative, a working-class African-American family in Maryland, then, as now, a mostly blue state, and there was someone such as Republican Sen. Charles Mathias. With his streak of independence and loyalty to principle, he could represent you, your party and even those who didn’t vote for him.

But what does the GOP stand for in 2017? The answer, of course, is President Donald Trump, a man who changes positions and then contradicts himself.

Opinion: African-American Women Call Out the Democratic National Committee

We crave the hard-to-get while ignoring the one who has stuck with us through thick and thin. In a letter to the DNC chair, a group of black women — activists, community leaders and elected officials — has accused the Democratic Party of falling into that too-often-true cliche. Who can blame them?

Shades of “Moby-Dick” in the narrative that took hold after the party’s 2016 losses, with white working-class males replacing the elusive white whale of Melville’s imagination. Will the results for the Democrats be just as tragic as Captain Ahab’s if the party doubles down on that strategy for election cycles to come?

 

Opinion: Democrats May Be Too Optimistic About 2018 Gains

The redrawn congressional districts in North Carolina turned out to be too racially driven for a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives — with Justice Clarence Thomas siding with the majority.

Who’d have thought it?

But the fact that it’s arguably a toss-up, in some judges’ reasoning, how much the Republicans in the state legislature used race or pure partisan advantage while doing their dirty work highlights how difficult it will be for Democrats to retake the majority in the House — Trumpian scandals and a proposed budget that hurts many in the GOP base notwithstanding.

Opinion: Trump Policies on Voting and Criminal Justice Quietly Move Country Backward

While the Trump administration is in a state of perpetual turmoil, some of its promised policies are proceeding as planned. Support from a Republican Congress is softening with each cringe-worthy headline about slips, leaks and feuds; still, its members, mindful of the president’s loyal base, are proceeding with caution.

And when you step back from the chaos, don’t expect to see any progress on other issues — such as voting rights and criminal justice reform — that once promised a bit of bipartisan cooperation.

 

Opinion: Trump’s Reruns — ‘Slippery Ethics, Harsh Pronouncements and Shiny Gilt’

Is everyone exhausted yet?

The one thing America could count on was that Trump, as promised, would put on a surprising show. But not even four months into the Trump presidency, the one surprise is how depressingly familiar the playbook has become. The hopes and dreams that candidate Trump promised to fulfill? Hold off on those.

 

Opinion: It’s Huge — Few Presidents Have Praised Authoritarians as Much as Trump

So what does a criminal look like, exactly? On the campaign trail, Donald Trump featured the moving stories of the grieving relatives of those who had been killed by criminals who were in the U.S. illegally. In a promise kept, the Department of Homeland Security has introduced the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, housed within Immigration and Customs Enforcement. DHS Secretary John Kelly said: “They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place — because the people who victimized them often times should never have been in the country.”

Opinion: The Obama Effect — Pros and Cons for Republicans and Democrats

Barack Obama, the charismatic former president, can cause a scene just by walking into a coffee shop, as the rapturous crowds in usually blase New York City demonstrated at one of his cameos. So as he gently re-entered the public and policy eye this week, it’s no surprise that he could throw both Democrats and Republicans off balance — though of course for very different reasons.

 

Opinion: Weighing the Costs of War and Diplomacy

John F. Kelly is getting a lot of criticism these days, and that’s understandable. As leader of the Department of Homeland Security, the retired Marine general now has to be more sensitive to the politics of any given situation.

So when he publicly said critics of his agency’s policies — whether they come from Congress, civil rights groups or the public — should “shut up,” he came off as what he once was, a military man giving orders. When the administration, Kelly’s department in particular, is challenged on its travel bans and inconsistent immigration enforcement, Kelly could do more listening and learning

But as America’s foreign policy and national security efforts become increasingly muscular and aggressive, there is some comfort in his presence among the rest of the men — and they are mostly men — advising President Trump and the members of Congress with power to approve or restrict military action and to balance the money spent on military and diplomatic efforts. Kelly is a member of that club no one wants to belong to — he lost his son in action — and he has another child in service.