Thinking About Things: Politics, Abortion, Guns, the Economy, Foreign Policy and more

John DeQ. Briggs 

I have been on work-enforced absence from writing for The Chesapeake Observer ever since last March.  And along the way, my brain has been overwhelmed by events such that I have been unable to muster many sustained clear thoughts.  Also, too many things are heading in the wrong direction at “warp speed” for me to process them properly.  So here, seeking to emerge from the fog, I present a collection of a short takes on a variety of interconnected topics, without going too deeply into any of them. There is doubtless something here for everybody to disagree with, and perhaps also to agree with. I should add that this was written largely before the Supreme Court’s decisions on abortion and guns, which are very notable and addressed here to a degree. The reversal the constitutional right to abortion is without doubt the most important supreme court decision since Bush v. Gore in 2000 and has already spawned thousands of articles. 

Politics.  The primaries and the polls provide fascinating food for thought, although none of them take into account the recent Supreme Court decisions on guns and abortion and so might change.  On the Republican side, it seems clear that former President Trump still has influence, although a handful of candidates not supported by him have won primary elections.  The Republican Party is obviously fractured, seemingly beyond near-term repair.  Trump seems to own 30% of the party and that large chunk of the party doesn’t seem to care much about discreet or particular policies; they just will follow Trump anywhere.  There are others in the Republican Party who will align themselves with Trump because the alternative (e.g., Biden or the even more progressive elements of the democratic party) seems so unacceptable. In the circumstances, and if Mr. Trump chooses to run in 2024, it might be difficult for any traditional conservative to defeat him in many of the Republican primaries.  Indeed, it is rumored that even a candidate as obviously strong as Ron DeSantis in Florida will not run against Trump if Trump chooses.  On the other hand, a poll last week taken of Hampshire voters gave DeSantis a two point edge over Trump in a head-to-head match-up.  The spread last week was Trump 37%, and DeSantis 39%.  As the New York Times article at the preceding link notes, that is a significant change from October, when a Granite State Poll showed Mr. Trump had support from 43 percent of likely Republican voters; Mr. DeSantis was at 18 percent. 

Many republicans may want to avoid an intra-party fight and keep their powder dry for 2028. This is surprising to me given the revelations of the January 6 Committee. While that committee may lack a certain legitimacy given various manipulations attending its creation, and even presuming its partisan purpose to prevent a blue wave in 2022 or 2024, the objective facts implicating President Trump and a non-trivial number of Republican elected representatives, are disturbing. But Trumps’ base cares not for facts of any sort and so there we are. 

The republican party is also burdened by its own turn to various weird forms of nationalist populism. For example, the new Texas GOP platform calls for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, the repeal of the 16th Amendment (allowing a federal income tax), and the repeal of the Voting Right Act.  As one commentator put it: “The Texas GOP doesn’t want to return to the 1950s. It wants to return to the 19th century.”  Whether DeSantis chooses to run against Trump in the primaries will have an enormous impact on the future of the Republican Party, one way or the other, and could represent a continuation of the status quo or a hinge moment not just for Republicans, but for the country at large.

The Democrats are in a somewhat similar situation.  The Progressives seem to own some 30% or so of the Democratic electorate, although in their case it is Progressive policies that bind them together rather than the cult of a particular personality (Bernie Sanders might be a slight exception to this).  Biden stumbled into the presidency mainly because he was the only non-progressive who had a shot at defeating Trump. Ousting Trump, not being a Progressive, and staying out of sight so Mr. Trump could have the stage to himself (and thus remind centrists why they were frightened of him) were the main pillars of his 2020 campaign. And it all worked. He led wire to wire during the 2020 primary season, although winning only by modest pluralities in several cases.  But then having governed as if he was tied to Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders/Sandy Cortez and the Progressives, his approval rating in the polls has fallen to the lowest level of any President in many decades.   Yet his approval rating among Democrats is surprisingly high (~73%) despite the fact that he seems to suffer from serious infirmities of age wholly apart from the fact that his administration is laced with incompetence and many facets of policy incoherence. 

In the regular “Direction of Country” polls (Politico, Economist, and Reuters), the administration is looking at 20-26% “wrong direction”  (RealClearPolitics Polls), which suggests disaster for the Democrats in the mid-terms.  The especially astute podcasters to whom I listen (Commentary and CNN’s Harry Enten’s “Margins of Error”) expect a shift in the House of Representatives to decisive Republican control. But even a “red wave” midterm election does not necessarily translate into Republican control of the Senate given the weakness of a number of Republican candidates; the unknown impact of last week’s contentious Supreme Court decisions; the national reaction to the distinctively horrible school shootings of recent months; the broad and deep consensus that “something” must be done to stem the plague of gun violence and death in this country; the related passage of gun control legislation just last week; and the impact if any of the January 6 Committee proceedings. 

My more central observation is that in the Democratic Party there is no one other than Joe Biden at the moment who might represent a non-Progressive alternative for the party.  This mirrors the problem in the Republican Party: the absence of any non-Trump candidate who has demonstrated a willingness to take on Mr. Trump in the primaries should Mr. Trump run.  This could change of course if the Democrats take a walloping in the upcoming November midterms. Gavin Newsome seems to be edging towards positioning himself as a candidate and beginning to pass himself off as somewhat mainstream.  But for the moment, no Democratic centrist seems poised in the wings. 

In this respect, things are probably more interesting in the Democratic party.  In recent days and weeks, there have been quiet whispers and murmurings among Democratic party and media grandees that Mr. Biden should declare after the midterms that he will not seek another term and will abdicate. See Mark Leibovich’s June 16 article in The Atlantic “Why Biden Shouldn’t Run in 2024.”  But the democrats who would like Biden to abdicate might get and regret what they wish for. The idea of a dozen or more Democratic candidates vying for the presidential nomination in 2024 would seem catastrophic for the party, especially given that then candidates would likely be offering up the far left vs. the further left while at the same time all the candidates would have to condemn Kamala Harris, who was brought in to be “in the wings.”  And while she is worthy of condemnation, she was proudly lionized by the party as the first black female nationally elected official. And so, now to trash her inside the party carries multiple risks given the dependence of Democrats in general on heavy black voter support. Then there is the fiasco at the southern border and the complete incoherence of any immigration policy, issues that are becoming divisive now even within the Democratic party and could contribute to the Democrats loss of the Senate, should that in fact occur.  

All things considered, the parties find themselves in a bizarre situation where Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have an odd symbiotic relationship.  As CNN’s Mr. Enten put it: Mr. Trump may be the only candidate that Mr. Biden can beat, while Mr. Biden may be the only candidate that Mr. Trump can beat. The next few months will provide more than normally interesting times for spectators. For partisans it will be nail biting. 

Abortion.  To write anything about abortion in this country today invites opprobrium or even violent reaction from many or all quarters so it is with some hesitancy that I touch this topic.  I will restate what I mentioned above: the elimination of the five decade-long constitutional right to an abortion is the most important Supreme Court decision since Bush v. Gore. The Supreme Court opinions (213 pages in total) can be found here. Every American born in America under the age of 50 has never known a world where a woman’s right to an abortion was not an established and protected right.  The elimination of this right, however constitutionally flawed it may have been at inception, is uniquely unsettling.  To deny this reality is to live on another planet.

In any case, there are important issues at stake, and they certainly transcend Roe v. Wade.  But before venturing further into this minefield, I invite you to have a glance back through the lens of today at my article on these pages from March 3, 2020 about the rise of law and the decline of politics.   While that article had nothing explicitly to do with Roe v. Wade, the article is central to the topic at hand. 

To start with, I have been of the view since 1973 that the constitutional foundation for the decision in Roe was somewhere between weak and nonexistent.  As everybody who has read anything about this knows, I was joined in this view in large measure by none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, among other strong liberals.  So far as I know, no other country in the world has established the right to an abortion as a constitutional right, or as a “fundamental human right” without a legislative enactment by elected officials.  Apart from dictatorships and autocracies (many of which allow abortions under various circumstances), every country that allows abortions has established and regulates those rights pursuant to a democratic legislative process.  And while access to abortion is nominally protected under the European convention on human rights (which has nothing to do with the United States and under which the unborn is not regarded as a “person” directly protected under the European Convention on Human Rights) it has been national legislatures who have implemented laws in conformance with the Convention.  It has not been unelected judges who have imposed abortion rights on societies.

Yet, while I have long felt that the constitutional foundation for Roe was weak or nonexistent, I have also felt that the outcome in the case (the trimester structure) made considerable sense and would have made perfect sense if it represented an outcome brought about by a democratic legislative process.  While the first, second, and third trimester rules of Roe were long ago overtaken by our Supreme Court’s current “undue burden” analysis, the trimester-driven regime is what most legislatures around the world have embraced.  Most of the European countries provide an unlimited right to abortion during the first 15 weeks, followed by varying limited forms of the right during the second, or even the third, trimester.

Our federal legislature, populated by politicians who have always shown little desire to take votes that would offend a large swath of the electorate, has had 50 years to codify the original architecture of Roe but has failed to do so. Indeed, little effort has been made to do so.  Thus, everything has devolved to the states, a majority of which allow abortion under many circumstances, with the extreme example of New York, which arguably allows post-birth abortion, if infanticide can be so described.  At the other end of the spectrum there is Texas, which has sought to criminalize anyone even just assisting in the procurement of an abortion by a Texas resident. While likley not enforceable, it places two of our most populous states at frighteningly distant poles on the abortion question.  

Lost in the noise, as the article at the preceding link indicates, the overwhelming majority of abortions in this country take place during the first eight weeks of pregnancy.  Putting aside, if one can, religious and moral issues, in my view the only proper way for abortion rights to be mediated in this country is through a federal or state legislative process, not a judicial process.  The role of the Supreme Court in intercepting the political trend towards abortion rights in the states guaranteed the succeeding five decades of irresolvable political friction, much of which would have been muted if the Congress acted legislatively or had the majority of the states embraced limited abortion rights as they have mostly done. Wholly apart from tearing the social fabric of the country, maybe even irreparably, the abortion issue, more than any other in memory, has politicized and damaged the institutional integrity of the judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular in scores of ways large and small. The Supreme Court especially has been almost forced into a quasi-legislative role, more by executive and legislative actions and inactions than by the Court itself. 

Furthermore, it is probably no overstatement to observe that the 1973 Roe decision itself was a hinge moment in American society.  The case was decided during the Vietnam war; during a time of social upheaval; and during a time when broad swaths of society (generally encouraged by the Democratic party) championed sexual freedom and sexual liberation.  Even if not immediately, the decision slowly crystallized things politically.  It brought about the departure of substantial numbers of Catholics, Southern Baptists, other religious groups,  and many blue-collar workers (union and nonunion) from the Democratic party, which had long housed them.  This massive political realignment was largely complete by 1980, and it brought about the landslide election of Ronald Reagan and the establishment of a strong center-right coalition that has proved quite durable, despite its drift to Trumpism.   

Certainly, in hindsight, Roe v. Wade marked the beginning of the serious culture wars, which had been gathering, and which have escalated and continue to this day.  I cannot help but think that a decade or so from now people will look back on the return of abortion to democratically elected officials as a refreshment of democracy and a limitation on judicial autocracy, but that view is perhaps naïve.  Activists on both sides of the abortion question tend to be maximalists: abortion should be always legal or never legal.  Public debate lacks meaningful nuance or patient reasoning.  On the other hand, for 50 years, federal politicians could say whatever they wanted to about abortion without there being any consequence at all because the judiciary had taken all the heat and would continue to do so.   Now, federal and state elected officials will have to vote and those votes will actually create law (or not) through a democratic legislative process.  Activists will do what activists should do: lobby legislatures instead of courts.  Absent superseding federal legislation, there will be a majority of states where abortion is readily available and there will be a minority of states where abortion is strictly limited or unavailable.  It cannot be all bad to have these sorts of highly charged political questions decided in a political arena through a process involving elected representatives.

I cannot touch the abortion subject without mentioning the particular horror of watching abortion rights groups terrorizing the homes of Supreme Court Justices who favored the repeal of Roe.  These groups have also terrorized various Catholic churches and cathedrals as well as others.  And there has been an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the life of a Supreme Court Justice at his home because of his judicial views on abortion.  The indifference of the Democratic leadership to these circumstances, indeed the encouragement of this illegal activity by senior democratic officials (CNN video hereJonathon Turley article here) is shocking and demonstrates vividly the depth of the political predicament in this country.  Even in the last two days, once responsible people (including Sen. Elizabeth Warren) have shouted out that the Supreme Court “set a torch” to its last shred of legitimacy and should now be “packed.” See here.   Rep. Cortez has called for the abolition of the Supreme Court. 

The utter disrespect for law and important institutions among the abortion rights advocates is mirrored in a material way by the total disrespect for law and institutions on the part of the January 6 insurrectionists.  When the grievances of interest groups are reduced to insurrection, intimidation of supreme court justices, attempted assassination of one of them, and the abolition one on branch of government, the country is in a very bad place.  The echoes of the summer of 2020 are strong.  And when the Justice Department and the administration condemn only one of these groups but not the other, things cannot be expected to get better anytime soon whatever might happen in the midterm elections. Indeed, much is being written about the permanency of the wide divisions in this country, especially by the left-leaning media. Robert Brownstein’s article in The Atlantic, entitled “America is Growing Apart, Possibly for Good,” is illustrative of the genre.  And while Brownstein wrongly blames only the right for the circumstances, his conclusion, and many of the stated reasons for it, sound chillingly correct. His views, minus the “blame the right” ingredient, are echoed in this piece from the Wall Street Journal of a few days ago entitled Could this be an Antebellum Age?

Guns.  When I was 11 or 12 years old, my uncle gave me a single bolt action 22 caliber rifle.  We lived 14 miles to the west of Boston in Concord, Massachusetts.  In the mid-1950s, my younger brother and I could walk up and down the street carrying this weapon and stopping from time to time to shoot at coke bottles, coke cans, beer cans, or any other appealing glass or metal targets that might have been visible from the side of the road.  From time to time, a police car would come by.  The officer would stop, ask us how we were doing, and we would show him our plinking skills, such as they were.   He would perhaps watch or take a shot or two himself as a form of education, and then give us a smile and move on.   Today of course our parents would be arrested for negligent parenting, and we would be sent to some kind of reeducation camp for a weekend more.

I served in the military in the 1960s and received excellent firearms training.  I have long enjoyed shooting for sport, mostly trap or skeet.  I have never been an avid hunter but have several friends who are. I own shotguns, rifles, and pistols. There are supposedly some 400 million guns in this country now.  Controlling the use of these guns is more than difficult as a practical matter.  I live in Maryland.  Maryland has one of the strictest gun laws in the country.  Yet Baltimore suffers from horrific gun violence driven almost entirely by the illegal drug trade.  The school shootings and mass murders that horrify us on the front pages are a rounding error on the national gun death statistics. See Pew research materials. In general, the possession of pistols in Maryland is legal only when I am on my own property and when one is traveling to and from a place where the use of that pistol is proper and lawful. Nonresidents cannot purchase guns in Maryland.  Maryland residents must have a special permit to purchase a pistol.  Purchasing a pistol requires a background check, fingerprinting, and taking a prescribed test from a licensed instructor.  Large magazines cannot be purchased in Maryland.  Long guns are more lightly regulated to accommodate hunters (of mostly deer, geese, and ducks).  Maryland does not issue concealed carry permits to any regular citizen.    

The Maryland law and those of a dozen or so other states will have to change to come into compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision of last week (the entire set of opinions is here).  That decision essentially eliminates the ability and authority of unelected bureaucrats to decide who is allowed and who is not allowed to have a permit to bear arms outside ethe home.  The decision makes the right to bear arms a “real” right alongside the right to free speech, religious freedom, and assembly.  This is not necessarily a good thing for all communities or on the highway, where road rage murders will probably occur in noticeable numbers. It is unclear how much room is left for states to regulate weaponry, but probably quite a bit.

In all events, given last week’s Supreme Court decision, the United Sates will be an even more noticeable outlier among all the countries of the world in its allowance of the proliferation of weaponry, and in its failure to regulate them.  In my view, something significant must be done about gun deaths in this country given the reality that millions of people might soon be walking around carrying guns in much greater numbers than is the case today. And it can be done without doing violence to the Second Amendment.  If we were serious, which plainly we are not (as I have written before the United States has in recent decades ceased to be a serious country), we could have a federal statute, for example, that requires guns to be registered, much as cars are registered, and that requires individuals to be licensed to own guns.  Licenses could be issued for certain types of guns as they are for cars, motorcycles, and different classes of trucks. Magazines could be regulated (as they are in some but not all states). The impediments to these two approaches are very political.  Such things will not happen in my lifetime. 

Many gun rights people view the main point of the right is to protect oneself and the citizenry from governmental intrusion on personal rights, indeed from dictatorship. Such people say things like: if every Russian had a gun in 1917, the Bolsheviks never could have taken over Russia.  Put simply, a main objection to these kinds of regulations is that many gun owners do not want any governmental agency or unit to know how many guns they have, what kinds of guns they have, where they might be located, and so forth.  While this reaction may show a healthy mistrust of government, in this area we have seen enough schoolchildren killed, Presidents assassinated, and innocent bystanders killed or wounded that something is needed that is more than symbolic. Something serious. Unregistered guns could be confiscated, and their owners fined. Unlicensed users could be fined.  

I am mindful that many of the mass school shootings have been perpetrated by young teenage boys with serious mental problems.  But the red flag laws have not worked and will not work. I have little confidence that the bipartisan federal legislation just signed into law will make much difference. Families and friends seem reluctant to blow the whistle on troubled sons and neighbors before the fact of a mass shooting.  The decades long trend of increased individual rights for mentally deficient people, which can properly be blamed for the streets of our major cities being littered with mentally disturbed homeless people and their detritus and feces, is not something that can be addressed easily or quickly.  Families and authorities can no longer send mentally disturbed children to institutions run by the State, and the states no longer have the resources (or the legal authority at the moment) to operate such facilities anyway.  The chickens of good but not thought through intentions have come home to roost. While the registration of guns and the licensing of gun owners is not now politically realistic, I predict it will be in the lifetime of today’s young people. 

Final point on this.  It is annoying to hear gun opponents blaming the gun industry and more broadly “the gun lobby.”  The gun lobby is actually the citizenry of the United States.  The views of citizens on gun ownership and regulation are complex, but interesting.  The article found at this link is especially interesting for those looking for granular details. At the risk of great overgeneralization, Americans are broadly OK with gun ownership rights and they are broadly OK with tight regulation. Part of the calculus is based on all the recent “peaceful violence” from the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. No person at risk of being a victim of violence, whether urban, suburban, or rural, wants to (or can) depend on law enforcement any longer. Self-help is the only other alternative. Our elected officials have neither the wisdom nor the courage to tackle the gun problems head-on other than to appeal to their respective political bases.  

The Economy.  So, here we are in the first week of summer.  My non-real estate portfolio is off around 30% and I am in no way confused about who to blame.  As I have observed before, I join former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who served under both Bush and Obama) in my belief that Mr. Biden has never been on the right side of any foreign policy issued in his entire life.  I’m not sure that that statement is completely true with respect to his domestic economic policy views, but it is certainly true for the entirety of his brief but disastrous presidential administration.  His main domestic economic fiascoes can probably be summed up in just a few words: stimulus payments and oil & gas. 

Biden’s trillions of dollars in stimulus payments put massive amounts cash in the hands of individuals and the economy with unintended but predictable consequences.  The first consequence: people felt that nonwork was more rewarding than work.  This led to sustained ongoing personnel shortages, especially in retail and food service industries. It also created a situation where employers had to pay above market rates to tease people back into the work force.  In sum, the supply side was constrained.  The influx of trillions of dollars into the economy (thus among other things discouraging work) also otherwise exacerbated supply-chain issues, with the result that many more dollars were chasing fewer and fewer available goods.  Thus began the inflationary spiral.   Not only was this predictable, but it was also in fact predicted, particularly by former Harvard President Larry Summers, an advisor to the Obama administration.  What began as a blatant vote-buying exercise backfired spectacularly, injuring not just those whom the administration intended to benefit, but everybody else as well.  While perhaps a minor factor, it is worth mentioning that the Biden administration has officially favored unionized companies over nonunionized companies in all government procurement decisions, the us making 85% of the potential government contractors ineligible to bid on and win Government contracts. This further greatly increases the cost of procurement but satisfies the union vote.  This is just another form of “crony capitalism,” a form of small “c” corruption that in truth mirrors the tendencies of the Republicans but favoring different constituencies.

Then we have oil & gas.  On Day One of the Biden administration, the President declared war on the oil and gas industry.  This was a total capitulation to the Green and Progressive wings of the Democratic Party, which substantially overlap, if not completely.  The idea was to force the reduction of American production of carbon-based fuels so as to force everybody into “cleaner” fuels.  This is not only disastrous as a matter of domestic economic policy, it also ceded massive power back to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Venezuela, not to mention Russia.  More on this below under foreign policy.  By discouraging investment in oil, gas, shale, and any other technology did not relate to “clean energy,” the administration upended the supply side markets, the demand-side markets, and indeed entire industries and all who had invested in them.  When oil prices began to shoot up (which was long before Russia invaded Ukraine), the administration paid little or no attention.  After Russia invaded Ukraine, the administration blamed high oil prices on “Putin’s war.”  Convenient, yet wrong.  And the President has since had the effrontery to blame high oil and gas prices on the oil and gas industries and their CEO’s. Oil industry CEOs, in a somewhat unusual move, have pushed back at the administration’s blame game..   

“It’s the economy stupid” said the sign President Clinton kept near his desk. Biden should get his own and keep it at hand. He has earned his poll ratings and deserves them.  

Foreign Policy.  Few observers have reached any conclusion other than that, in general, the Biden administration’s foreign policy has been an unfocused mess.  That said, there are those who give Biden credit for pulling together NATO in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Frankly, I give Biden little or no credit on this score, but I do not intend to resolve that debate if there is one and so will let it pass for now.   The big blunders involve Afghanistan; China; Russia; the Middle East in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular. Smaller blunders are probably everywhere. 

It is unclear that the country has a policy with regard to China beyond “strategic ambiguity,” an elastic term that covers all manner of incoherence but seems not to include actual deterrence. At a live press conference is Asia, Biden did say that we would go to war with China to protect the Independence of Taiwan.  That statement was almost instantaneously “corrected” by the White House.  Statement by Biden, correction by the administration has not been a bug in this administration but rather a feature, and a feature that has led many here and outside the country to conclude that the administration is simply incoherent and incompetent. 

The administration has demonized Saudi Arabia at almost exactly the wrong moment in time.  The assassination of Mr. Khashoggi continues to dominate the administration’s policies toward Saudi Arabia, which is unfortunate.  However horrible that assassination, it should not be the pivot point around which Middle East policy turns.  The biggest threat to Middle Eastern peace and security is Iran.  The principal enemies of Iran are Saudi Arabia and Israel.  That reality has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel together.  The simultaneous demonization of Saudi Arabia and the administration’s sucking up to Iran to make a nuclear deal at any cost seems not only shortsighted, but despicable in terms of protecting legitimate American interests.  Even more strange has been the US reliance on Russia as its only intermediary and protector with respect to its Iran negotiations.  Luckily, the Kerry mission to Iran seems bound to fail on its own, because the Iranians are not going to agree to anything.  Meanwhile, the President now plans to visit Saudi Arabia begging for more oil, while at the same time begging for more oil from Iran and Venezuela. It is all very embarrassing. 

Then there is Ukraine.  From the beginning, the Biden administration has been advising Russia in considerable detail what it will not do.  This has been both tactically and strategically insane.  The fecklessness of President Biden has led Putin to characterize the United States as a “weak and declining power.” Conversely, the administration has never made clear what it will do.  What it has done is probably too little too late, if one supports the proposition that the US should be helping Ukraine to win the war, rather than merely survive in some section of the country.  One must acknowledge that there is a strong view in the country shared by many on the left and many on the right, that we should not be involved at all in the war between Russia and Ukraine; that the invasion is the fault of the U.S. and NATO for expanding recklessly too far eastward towards the Russian border; and that we should use our precious resources for domestic purposes.  It is not my purpose here to take sides on that issue, other than to note that the Biden administration has itself seemed in various circumstances to be on both sides of that issue. Meanwhile, supposedly informed people are also convinced that (1) Russia will “win” the war (see Foreign Policy article here), and (1) Russia will “lose” the war (see Washington Post piece here). 

Finally, while the media seem to have flushed this down the media memory hole, it was the administration’s fiasco in Afghanistan, about which I wrote much back on September 11, that has motivated foreign enemies to be convinced of the absence of any American will or purpose internationally.  The world is a dangerous place, and most everything done or not done by the current administration has made it more so.  I do not mean that to be as partisan as it might sound since I have little confidence that the Republicans had or have in mind a foreign policy that would be much more coherent, or that from Afghanistan to Ukraine the Republicans would have done much different (although I am sure they would not have vowed to defenestrate the oil and gas industry and then take affirmative steps to do just that).