Wounded Russian soldiers – some on crutches – used in ‘meat wave’ attacks

The Telegraph

Wounded Russian soldiers – some on crutches – used in ‘meat wave’ attacks

Verity Bowman – July 14, 2024

Russia is sending injured soldiers back to the front lines to fight
Russia is sending injured soldiers back to the front lines and is using Ukraine PoWs as human shields

Injured Russian soldiers are being sent back into the line of fire in “meat wave” assaults.

The Ukrainian army has reported capturing Russians already suffering from their wounds sustained in previous attacks.

They had been given minimal medical attention before being sent back to fight.

The tactics show an apparent disregard for foot soldiers as commanders throw thousands of men into the front lines in a slow and grinding summer offensive.

Some Russians have been captured re-entering the battlefield on crutches.

Other injured troops have recorded videos pleading with their superiors for proper treatment as they receive orders to return to battle.

One soldier captured by Ukraine was said to be driving an armoured vehicle with bloodied rags over an injured eye.

The meat assault units are often made up of foot soldiers, released prisoners and the maimed.

Many are simply protecting the next wave of soldiers behind as part of a tactic to distract and overwhelm Ukraine, and make incremental territorial gains.

British military intelligence believes that Russian ranks have been depleted by as many as 70,000 personnel over the last two months – an alarming rate that shows no signs of slowing.

Ukrainian soldiers told The Telegraph that it is “normal practice” to see injured men staggering as they fight, and that Ukrainian prisoners of war are being used by Russia as human shields.

‘We don’t have the strength’

Meanwhile, Russian soldiers have been recorded pleading with their superiors, the military prosecutors office, and even Vladimir Putin, for their lives.

“Why would they send wounded and exhausted people into battle? It’s the same as sending people to their deaths,” said two soldiers of the 1009th regiment in a video shared on social media.

“The commander says that tomorrow we must go and storm this building again.

“But how can we do this if we are in pain, wounded, and simply don’t have the strength?”

The pair, who lent against a tree with visible wounds to their faces, said the only medical treatment they received for shrapnel wounds was from their own first aid kit as they hid in the forest.

Another video clip showed a group of the injured, a number of whom were walking on crutches, pleading desperately with their superiors, stressing that this was their final opportunity to make their case.

They told the camera: “Hear us, please, hear us, hear us. This is our last chance. We have no more options.”

The latest death toll figures of Russian soldiers is equivalent to an average of above 1,000 a day amid the escalating intensity of battle on the newly opened front in Kharkiv, and fighting elsewhere in east and north-east Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defence said on Friday.

“Although this new approach has increased the pressure on the front line, an effective Ukrainian defence and a lack of Russian training reduces Russia’s ability to exploit any tactical successes, despite attempting to stretch the front line further,” the MoD added.

Hunter (his call sign), a Ukrainian junior soldier, said that there are “frequent cases” of Russian soldiers “simply left in positions to die”.

“This is a common situation when wounded Russian soldiers are captured. According to them, they were left to their fate without food and water to die by their own comrades,” he said.

Hunter reported seeing Ukrainian PoWs being pushed to walk ahead of advancing Russian soldiers, forced into the cruel role of human shields.

Yuriy, a machine gunner, confirmed Hunter’s reports, telling The Telegraph: “Of course, I have seen PoWs, this is outrageous and tearing us apart from the inside, such an attitude towards prisoners of war is unacceptable and prohibited by conventions.”

In the Donetsk region, a Russian soldier was captured by Ukraine with his leg rotting from a shrapnel wound.

“He was not evacuated for some reason. Later in Dnipro, our medics had to amputate this leg for him so he can survive,” Vlad, a member of the Kraken Regiment volunteer unit, told The Telegraph.

Vlad reported that the Russians they captured revealed their commander, known by the call sign Ryba, had ordered that no one would be evacuated until they had secured the territory around the Kupyansk silicate plant in the Kharkiv region.

Kupyansk, a strategic rail hub, was seized by Russia in early 2022, retaken by Ukraine seven months later and missile and artillery strikes continue to hit the area.

The river through Kupyansk could offer a natural defence against future Russian advances.

A soldier who chose to remain anonymous said: “We carried a wounded Russian to our side for many kilometres to save his life as he was left alone to die.”

Hunter confirmed that many units – including the poorly-trained, lightly-equipped “Storm-Z” assault troopers – are “prohibited” from leaving their positions.

‘Storm fighters, they’re just meat’

Storm-Z is a series of penal military units for convicts – including murderers – established by Russia by April 6, 2023, renamed Storm-V later that year.

Illia Yevlash, the spokesman for the Khortytsia operational-strategic group, claimed in February that Russian commanders were using human wave tactics involving Storm-Z and Storm-V.

“Storm fighters, they’re just meat,” said one regular soldier from army unit number 40318.

“If such units retreat, they can be destroyed by their barrier units,” said Hunter.

“The Russian armed forces mobilise people with serious illnesses such as tuberculosis or HIV, and such ‘soldiers’ are treated differently.”

Use of suicidal human wave attacks does not appear to have reduced despite high-profile changes at the top of the Russian defence ministry.

Many Ukrainian soldiers who spoke to The Telegraph revealed they hesitate to save Russians because of their unwavering resolve to continue fighting even after being captured.

Yuriy explained that some injured soldiers wanted to surrender quickly, but that he had seen others “shoot to the last”, even attempting to detonate grenades when they were given medical aid.

The high Russian attrition rate comes as Ukraine also struggles to find enough soldiers to make any significant breakthroughs.

The much-anticipated Russian summer offensive appears to have largely fizzled out, with both sides once again locked in fighting along rigid front lines dividing Ukraine roughly from north to south.

The West finally allowed Ukraine to strike back at Russia — and it seems to be working

CNN

The West finally allowed Ukraine to strike back at Russia — and it seems to be working

Ivana Kottasová, CNN – July 13, 2024

Ukrainian forces are striking Russia-occupied Crimea

Bankir and his men have been trying to fight off Russian attacks along the Ukrainian front lines for more than two years. But it’s only now that they are finally able to strike where it hurts: Inside Russia’s own territory.

The newly granted permission by the United States and other allies to use Western weapons to strike inside Russia has had a huge impact, Bankir said. “We have destroyed targets inside Russia, which allowed for several successful counteroffensives. The Russian military can no longer feel impunity and security,” the senior officer in Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) told CNN. For security reasons, he asked to be identified by his call sign only.

After many months on the back foot because of ammunition and manpower shortages, Kyiv is finally able to take full advantage of Western military aid that started to flow into the country last month, after months of delays.

Soldiers on the front lines say the deliveries are beginning to make a difference – especially since they can now use the arsenal to strike across the border.

“We can see the impact of the aid every day. Artillery, longer-range multiple launch rocket systems with various types of ammunition and submunitions… it’s affecting the overall battlefield picture,” Ivan, an officer with the 148th artillery brigade, told CNN. He also asked for his full name not to be published for security reasons.

“We are deploying the most effective weapons systems in the areas where the Russians are trying to break through the defensive lines and there has been a significant slowdown in the Russian advance,” he added.

While Kyiv hasn’t managed to reclaim large swathes of territory, it has successfully averted what could have been a disaster: The occupation of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.

Ukrainian servicemen of the 148th Separate Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces, prepare to fire a M777 howitzer near a front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 1, 2024. - Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
Ukrainian servicemen of the 148th Separate Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces, prepare to fire a M777 howitzer near a front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 1, 2024. – Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
‘Tragic moment’

Part of the northern Kharkiv region, including the cities of Izium, Kupiansk, and Balakliia, fell into Russian hands soon after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The occupation was brutal. When the area was liberated in the fall of 2022, Ukrainian troops found evidence of what they say were war crimes committed by Russian forces, including multiple mass graves and torture chambers.

In May this year, Russia launched another cross-border attack on the region, trying to exploit Ukraine’s ammunition shortages before the expected arrival of the first Western weapons.

The consequences were deadly. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that at least 174 civilians were killed and 690 were injured in Ukraine in May, the highest number of civilian casualties in a year.

More than half of the civilian casualties were in Kharkiv – even though the region encompasses a relatively small area compared to the whole country.

International security expert Oleksiy Melnyk, a former Ukrainian defense official and the co-director of foreign relations and international security programs at the Razumkov Center in Kyiv, told CNN that the re-occupation of previously liberated areas north of Kharkiv was a “tragic moment” for Ukraine.

But it also marked a major turning point.

“It triggered a change in the position of our Western partners, it encouraged them to, at least partially, remove the restrictions on the use of the Western weapons,” he said.

Fearing an escalation, the US and other Western allies had long prohibited Kyiv from using their weapons to strike inside Russia, restricting their use to Ukrainian areas under Russian occupation.

That has allowed Russia to use the border areas as safe staging grounds for offensives and missile attacks.

“(Russia) knew that Ukraine did not have the capacity to strike these targets on the Russian territory,” Melnyk said.

“If the decision (to provide aid) wasn’t made, if we lost American support and military assistance, that would have been a game changer.”

But the possibility of Russian re-occupation of parts of Kharkiv region convinced some of Ukraine’s key allies, including the US, to lift the restrictions. This allowed Kyiv to hit and destroy or severely damage key targets inside Russia.

According to Ukrainian defense authorities, these included a regiment command post in Belgorod region, an ammunition depot in Voronezh, a drone facility and an airfield in Krasnodar, communication centers in Bryansk and several naval sites in occupied Crimea.

The arrival of long-range ATACMS missile systems was a particular game-changer, Melnyk said. While Ukraine was previously able to strike targets inside Russia using Ukraine-made drones, ATACMS make these strikes far more efficient.

“Speed matters,” Melnyk explained. “With drone strikes, Russians have hours to react, because they can detect Ukrainian drones early. Russian pilots can have a coffee and a cigarette before jumping into the cockpit and taking off to take it down. With the ATACMS, it’s a matter of minutes,” he said.

Konrad Muzyka, an independent defense analyst and the director of Rochan Consulting who has recently returned from eastern Ukraine, said Russia is also no longer able to target Kharkiv region with S-300 and S-400 missile systems.

“Ukraine started conducting HIMARS strikes on targets in the Belgorod region and forced the Russians to push their S-300 system with which they were striking Kharkiv much further away, so now Kharkiv is beyond their range of Russian S-300 systems,” he said.

While Russia switched to aerial glide bombs – guided munitions with pop-up wings dropped by fighter jets from a distance of some 60-70 kilometers – out of range of Ukraine’s air defenses, the elimination of the S-300 threat has provided at least some relief to Kharkiv.

People gather following the collapse of a section of a multi-story apartment block in the city of Belgorod, Russia, on May 12, 2024. - Reuters
People gather following the collapse of a section of a multi-story apartment block in the city of Belgorod, Russia, on May 12, 2024. – Reuters

Weapons without men, men without strategy?

But while the new weapons are making some difference, Ukraine is long way off being able to push Russian forces off its territory.

Another officer with the 148th separate artillery brigade who goes by call sign Senator told CNN that there is still a lot more that Ukraine needs.

“It isn’t enough to turn the tide at the front. Enough to hold the enemy back, yes, but not enough to change the situation dramatically,” he said.

“The enemy is now exhausted but not destroyed,” he said, pointing to the fact that Russia still has complete air superiority over Ukraine.

Kyiv is now pinning its hopes on the deliveries of F-16 fighter jets which should start soon – the first Ukrainian pilots were set to complete their training in the US this summer.

But Muzyka said it is far from certain the jets will bring a massive change to Ukraine’s fortunes.

“The F-16s are combat aircraft from 1980s and 1990s and their capabilities are worse than the most modern Russian combat aircraft,” he said, adding that the newest Russian jets would likely prevail in an air battle with the F-16.

However, Ukraine can still use the F-16 to deny Russia control over the skies – and push away Russian aircraft delivering bombs.

Yet the new weapons are just part of the puzzle.

“If it had not been for the supplemental package, Ukrainians would be in a much worse situation right now, but at the same time, the current situation is not only the result of a lack of actions by the US Congress, it’s also the result of the decisions that were made and were not made in Kyiv, especially when it comes to mobilization,” Muzyka said.

“The decision to introduce a wider mobilization was probably as important, if not more important, and it came too late,” he said. The new mobilization law, which requires all men between 18 and 60 to register with Ukraine’s military, came into effect in May.

He said that while Ukraine has managed to recruit a significant number of men over the past month and half, it will take time for these new soldiers to be trained up and ready for the front lines.

“Ukrainians are going to be in a very difficult position until August, September, when the first mobilized guys start to enter the front line. If they can get to that point, then there is a big likelihood that they will manage to stabilize the situation from August onwards, but until this happens, more Russian gains are highly likely.”

Muzyka said that with the new weapons arriving and battalions and brigades getting a boost soon from the new recruits, Ukraine will need to decide on its next steps.

“It is unclear what the plans are. What is the strategy for counteroffensives? The problem is that Ukraine is waiting to see what equipment the West can supply them with, and the West is waiting to see what plans Ukraine have for the future,” he said.

Time is of the essence here. Experts estimate that the $60 billion US aid package approved earlier this year will last for – at best – a year or 18 months.

Ukraine’s allies made fresh pledges on arms this week while at a NATO summit in Washington, DC, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for all restrictions on their usage to be lifted.

Given the possibility of former US President Donald Trump winning a second term in November – he has little time to spare.

Maria Kostenko and Daria Tarasova-Markina contributed reporting.

Resilience in the Face of the Onslaught

By Charles M. Blow – July 11, 2024

A blurry photo shows President Biden speaking at a podium in front of the American flag.
Credit…Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Joe Biden is still standing, refusing to bow out — he reiterated that once again in a lengthy and mostly successful news conference on Thursday night. Some may view it as selfish and irresponsible. Some may even see it as dangerous. But I see it as remarkable.

Despite sending a clear message — in his recent flurry of interviews and rallies, in his stalwart address this week to members of the NATO alliance and in his letter on Monday to congressional Democrats, in which he assured them that “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024” — there’s still a slow drumbeat from luminaries, donors and elected officials trying to write Biden’s political obituary.

The talent agency mogul Ari Emanuel (a brother of Rahm Emanuel, Biden’s ambassador to Japan), recently said Biden “is not the candidate anymore.” In a post on X, the best-selling author Stephen King said that it’s time for Biden “to announce he will not run for re-election.” Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Walt Disney fortune, said, “I intend to stop any contributions to the party unless and until they replace Biden at the top of the ticket.”

They seem to believe that they can kill his candidacy, by a thousand cuts or by starving it to death.

But none of this sits well with me.

First, because Biden is, in fact, his party’s presumptive nominee. He won the primaries. He has the delegates. He got there via an open, organized and democratic process.

Forcing him out, against his will, seems to me an invalidation of that process. And the apparent justification for this, that polls, which are highly fluctuant, now indicate that some voters want him replaced, is insufficient; responses to polls are not votes.

Yes, two weeks ago, Biden had a bad debate, and may well be diminished. Yes, there’s a chance he could lose this election. That chance exists for any candidate. But allowing elites to muscle him out of the race would be playing a dangerous game that is not without its own very real risk. It won’t guarantee victory and may produce chaos. The logic that says you have to dump Biden in order to defeat Trump is at best a gamble, the product of panicked people in well-furnished parlors.

Furthermore, no one has really made the case that whatever decline Biden may be experiencing has significantly impacted his policy decision-making or eroded America’s standing in the world. The arguments center on the visual evidence of somewhat worrisome comportment but mostly speculation about cognition.

That is just not enough.

I am not a Biden acolyte. I’ve never met the man. And I’m not arguing against the sense among those who have seen him up close and express worry. I’m not pro-Biden as much as I am pro-stay the course.

Like Biden’s Democratic doubters, I want above all to prevent Trump from being re-elected and to ensure the preservation of democracy. It’s just that I believe allowing Biden to remain at the top of the Democratic ticket is the best way to achieve that.

And since that’s the goal, perhaps the best argument in Biden’s favor is that his mettle has been revealed by the onslaught of criticism he has endured since the debate, much of it from other liberals.

Biden’s support hasn’t cratered, as one might have expected. Which suggests that the idea that Biden can’t win — or that another Democrat would have an easier run — is speculative at best.

Indeed, when I saw one headline that read, “Poll finds Biden damaged by debate; with Harris and Clinton best positioned to win,” I thought: Hillary Clinton? Now we’re truly in fantasy baseball territory.

And in the national poll on which that article was premised, Biden trailed Trump by just one percentage point while Vice President Kamala Harris led Trump by just one percentage point; in both cases, well within the margin of error.

A new Washington Post-ABC News-Ipsos poll found that Biden and Trump are tied nationally.

As for hypothetical candidates like Harris — who I do believe would acquit herself well at the top of the ticket — that same poll shows her performing slightly better against Trump than Biden does. But that is in the abstract, before the chaos of a candidate change, and before she received the full-frontal assault that being the actual nominee would surely bring. And in an era of opposition to “wokeness” and the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, that frontal assault, directed at the first Black, Asian American and female vice president, would be savage.

The potential drag on down-ballot races is a legitimate concern for some Democrats, but it appears to be the panic of some down-ballot candidates that has exacerbated the problem, as more than a dozen House Democrats and one Senate Democrat have called for Biden to leave the race.

There’s no guarantee that swapping out candidates would leave Democrats in a better position, but I believe the case is building that the continued dithering among Democrats about Biden’s candidacy is doing further damage to their chances.

Biden’s candidacy may not survive. But forcing him out of it may hurt Democrats more than it helps them, even with voters who say they want a different choice.

More on President Biden:

David French: Biden Has an Inner Circle Problem. He’s Not the Only One. – July 11, 2024

Ezra Klein: Democrats Are Drifting Toward the Worst of All Possible Worlds – July 11, 2024

Charles M. Blow is an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, writing about national politics, public opinion and social justice, with a focus on racial equality and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

The Devil May Be Enjoying This Election Season, but I Am Not

Thomas L. Friedman – July 9, 2024

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

When I look at my country’s presidential contest, the first thought that comes to mind is that only the Devil himself could have designed this excruciating mess.

Both men running for president right now are unfit for the job: One is a good man in obvious cognitive and physical decline, and the other is a bad man who lies as he breathes, whose main platform is revenge — and who is in his own cognitive tailspin.

But the most important difference for the country — where you really see the Devil at work — is in the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The plain fact is that only one party in America’s two-party system is ready to defend our constitutional order anymore. The other party is interested only in gaining and holding power for the sake of it.

The G.O.P.’s moral emptiness is manifested in several ways. The party has been purged of virtually every Republican politician unwilling to submit to its Dear Leader — Donald Trump, who attempted to overturn our last presidential election. The wife of a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice advocated overturning the results of the election on utterly bogus grounds, which shows you just how little respect that party now has for our sacred institutions. And it is ready to renominate Trump even though many of those who worked most intimately with him in his first term — including his vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, chief of staff, national security adviser, press secretary, communications director and attorney general — have warned the country in speeches, interviews and memoirs that Trump is erratic, immoral and someone who must never be let near the White House again.

One of the biggest mistakes Americans would be making if they were to elect Trump again is assuming that because we survived four years of his norm-busting, law-abusing, ally-alienating behavior once, we can skate by again without irreparable damage. It is the political equivalent of assuming that because you played Russian roulette once and survived you can play it again. That’s insane.

But that is precisely why this election is so important and precisely why the Democratic Party, which still prioritizes defending our democracy, must urgently produce a presidential candidate with the wits, vitality and appeal to independents to build an electoral majority to preserve our constitutional order.

Nothing else matters today — nothing, nothing, nothing.

But the leader the Democratic Party has right now, President Biden — someone I admire but who clearly has lost a step cognitively and physically — has combatively dug in his heels, lashed out at his critics and dared them to challenge him at the convention, despite the mounting calls for him to step aside. One would hope that his wife and family, who surely know the extent of his physical and mental frailties, would prevail upon him to step aside, but they won’t — seemingly oblivious to the risk this is posing to the country and the whole Biden legacy.

My God, the Devil must be enjoying this. I am not.

If Biden were to win, we’d all need to pray that he can get out of bed every day to carry out his agenda as well as he did in the past. If Trump were to win, we’d all need to pray that he stays in bed all day so that he can’t carry out his impulsive agenda, which seems driven first and foremost by which side of the bed he gets out of.

We can do better than this — and we must. Because this is also no ordinary election season. We are at a profound hinge of history that is going to put us on a roller coaster of job market volatility, geopolitical volatility and climate volatility.

The artificial intelligence revolution of the past four years is widely expected to slam into the white-collar job market in the next four like a Category 5 hurricane. The lengthy Hollywood writers strike last year was just a tiny foretaste of what this destabilizing revolution in white-collar work will look like.

At the same time, we are in the middle of defining the post-post-Cold War order, now that the U.S.-dominated post-Cold War order has come unstuck since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Managing a hostile Russia — aligned with an increasingly hostile China, aligned with malign actors like Iran and North Korea, and super-empowered nonstate actors like Hamas, the Houthis and Hezbollah — will take not only incredibly wise U.S. leadership but also a U.S. leader able to forge multiple alliances. The post-post-Cold War world can’t be managed by a lonely American superpower telling all its allies to spend more on defense or we will leave you to the tender mercies of Vladimir Putin.

And finally, speaking of hurricanes, there is every indication that our core climate change challenge — how we manage the disruptive weather that is already unavoidable and avoid the disruptive weather that would become unmanageable — is now on our doorstep. The decisions we make in the next four years may be our last chance to avoid the unmanageable.

Those are just a few of the anticipated challenges facing the next president. And God save us from the unanticipated ones, like massive climate-driven migrations amplifying geopolitical instability. America always needs clearheaded and vigorous leadership, but we need it now more than ever.

Democrats, if they are being responsible, need to imagine Biden two or three years from now, given the inevitable march of time. Do those running the Biden campaign and those Democratic Party leaders who tell Biden to hang tough really believe that in two years he will have the capacity to carry out the rigorous job of president, with all its pressures, even on a good day? He is already saying he doesn’t want to schedule events past 8 p.m., but the presidency has never been and will never be an 8 a.m.-to-8 p.m. job.

And can you imagine the conspiracy theories that will be circulating on social media and Fox News over “who is actually making decisions?” at the Biden White House when people see a president in two years who is more physically and verbally impaired? The only-Biden Democrats — and the Biden campaign — owe the country an answer to that question. I take no joy in asking it, but ask it we must.

Ditto for Trump. What will it mean for America in the age of A.I. to have a president who swore in an affidavit in a 2022 court case, “Since at least Jan. 1, 2010, it has been my customary practice to not communicate via email, text message, or other digital methods of communication”?

What will it mean to have a president who is a crude-oil-loving climate change skeptic when nearly 70 million Americans were under heat alerts last Sunday, a day on which temperatures in Las Vegas hit 120 degrees for the first time in recorded history?

What will it mean in an age when there is no important problem that can be solved by one country alone — whether mitigating climate change, regulating A.I., dealing with massive global migrations or confronting nuclear proliferation — to have a president who believes in America first and only, and that most allies are freeloaders, that U.S. tariffs are paid by China, not American consumers and that global multilateral institutions — NATO, the W.T.O., the European Union, the W.H.O., the U.N. — are an alphabet soup of useless “globalists”?

Of course, I will vote for Biden if he is the Democratic nominee. And you should, too. We have to do anything we can to stop Trump. But Democrats continuing to insist on putting him there are behaving with dangerous recklessness.

I repeat: Just because we managed to barely survive the Trump stress test to our constitutional order once — not without some serious damage — does not mean our democracy can survive another four Trump years with his now Supreme Court-fortified sense of impunity. Especially if we combine the self-induced stress levels from a second Trump term with the boiling external stresses already building up around us.

That would indeed be playing Russian roulette again — only this time with a fully loaded pistol. That’s a game only the Devil himself would design.

More on the 2024 presidential candidates:

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens: The Presidential Fitness Test Is Back – July 8, 2024

Charles M. Blow, Ross Douthat, David French, Nicholas Kristof, Pamela Paul, Lydia Polgreen, Derek Arthur, Sophia Alvarez Boyd, Vishakha Darbha and Jillian Weinberger: Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In. – July 4, 2024

Charles M. Blow: Forcing Biden Out Would Have Only One Beneficiary: Trump – July 3, 2024

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Opinion columnist. He joined the paper in 1981 and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award.

Omnipotent SCOTUS bows to the Court of King Donald

Omnipotent SCOTUS bows to the Court of King Donald

John Hanno – July 4, 2024

I’m astonished, on this Independence Day 2024, the near 250th anniversary, of America’s Founding Father delegates of the Second Continental Congress declaring the original Thirteen Colonies emancipated from the Monarch of Great Britain, King George III., at having to rationalize SCOTUS’s irrational political proclamation, returning subordination of America’s Democratic experiment back to a now unfettered, kleptocratic, facist minded, autocratic King.

The Mighty Oz has spoken. Six extreme right justices of the highest court in the land have shown their true colors. They clearly believe 250 years of American jurisprudence is suspect, and that our elected legislative branch’s of government can’t be trusted to fashion unbiased laws, that large segments of our judicial branch’s of government can’t be trusted to rule fairly and without favor, that the Democratic Institutions which have served us dependably for many decades, can’t be trusted to dispense scientific and reasoned judgments, that the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees Freedom of the Press, is just more proof of a deep state conspiracy, that disaffected members of the Rockefeller, Eisenhower, Regan conservative Grand Old Party can’t be trusted to engage in bipartisan governance, and that pro choice women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, environmentalists, gun rights and labor advocates, teachers and librarians, the secular and non christians, all can’t be trusted on anything, and that large majorities of We The People, who are at loggerheads on dozens of critical issues, with this new trump conscripted MAGA cult, with the rich and powerful, and with SCOTUS itself, can’t be trusted.

The uncompromising SCOTUS answer to litigants who seek justice and reasoned deliberation from the Court, and who sometimes kneel in prayer on the steps of the Supreme Court building, begging for help, is:

“You’ve no power here! Begone, before someone drops a house on you too!” Wizard of Oz

This Court’s rulings; sometimes applying originalist or textualist interpretations, sometimes not, sometimes narrow, sometimes expansive, sometimes quick, sometimes slow, sometimes follow The Doctrine of Stare Decisis, but only if it suits them. These consequential decisions, more often than not, render unprecedented and confusing views of the U.S. Constitution, and are befuddling to common folks and legal scholars of every stripe alike.

They might advocate for Fundamental Rights, for corporations yes, but seldom for the less powerful. It’s almost as if they’re taking directives from wealthy, fawning benefactors expecting quid pro quo from justices, or from powerful political party leaders and operatives bent on undermining both the Constitution and our Democracy. Pandering to the rich and powerful, no matter how convoluted in reasoning and no matter how demented or suspect the litigant, is not beyond the courts ability to excuse the un-American and un-Democratic conduct of a demented citizen suffering a boggled mind. One would think that judges who aren’t accountable to anyone, or to any set of rules, who have lifetime jobs, would not be intimidated by the person who hired them.

“As for you, my fine friend, you’re a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger, you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom.” — The Wizard of Oz

The 6 far right Supreme Court Jesters (SCJOTUS) have now putinized the Presidency of the United States. trump was always envious of putin and Kim Jong’s luxury of ruling as Kingly monarchs unconstrained by rules, laws, precedent, integrity, equity, honesty, human decency, and above all, the truth. Toss in the express ability to break any of our mortal laws, including retribution and exacting revenge on any perceived member of one’s enemy’s list, and having been granted the capability of disappearing a political rival, and America’s Democracy is no longer the model for the world to aspire to.

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy

Justice Sotomayor Dissented:

“Looking beyond the fate of this particular prosecution, the long-term consequences of today’s decision are stark. The court effectively creates a law-free zone around the president, upsetting the status quo that has existed since the founding. This new official-acts immunity now ‘lies about like a loaded weapon’ for any president that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival, or his own financial gain, above the interests of the nation.

“Sotomayor said that the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, invents “an atextual, ahistorical, and unjustifiable immunity that puts the President above the law.””

“Their ruling, she went on, makes three moves that she said “completely insulate Presidents from criminal liability.” Sotomayor said the court creates absolute immunity for the president’s exercise of “core constitutional powers,” creates “expansive immunity for all ‘official acts,'” and “declares that evidence concerning acts for which the President is immune can play no role in any criminal prosecution against him.””

“Orders are nobody can see the Great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow!”— Doorman

Sotomayor warned that the ruling “will have disastrous consequences for the Presidency and for our democracy” and that it sends the message: “Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends.”

She added, “Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

In her own written dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said that the majority’s ruling “breaks new and dangerous ground.

“Departing from the traditional model of individual accountability, the majority has concocted something entirely different: a Presidential accountability model that creates immunity—an exemption from criminal law — applicable only to the most powerful official in our Government,” she wrote.

“These things must be done delicately, or you hurt the spell.” Wicked Witch of the West

Jackson warned that under the majority’s “new Presidential accountability mode,” a hypothetical president “who admits to having ordered the assassinations of his political rivals or critics…or one who indisputably instigates an unsuccessful coup…has a fair shot at getting immunity.”

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” — The Wizard of Oz

Chief Justice Roberts rebukes the 3 liberals on the court, suggesting that his three liberal colleagues had misinterpreted the majority’s opinion and were engaging in “fear mongering.” Roberts argued that they “strike a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the Court actually does today.” He wrote that “like everyone else, the President is subject to prosecution in his unofficial capacity.”

“My goodness, what a fuss you’re making! Well naturally, when you go around picking on things weaker than you are. Why, you’re nothing but a great big coward!” Dorothy

A Biden campaign adviser, on the other hand, said that the ruling doesn’t change what happened on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Donald Trump snapped after he lost the 2020 election and encouraged a mob to overthrow the results of a free and fair election,” the adviser said. “Trump is already running for president as a convicted felon for the very same reason he sat idly by while the mob violently attacked the Capitol: he thinks he’s above the law and is willing to do anything to gain and hold onto power for himself.”

The twice impeached ex president trump, four times indicted by grand juries, convicted on 34 felony counts, awaiting 3 additional trials on scores more felonies for attempting to overturn the 2020 election and overthrow our government, and for stealing top secret confidential documents, was found guilty of rampant fraud personally and in his business, was also found guilty of sexual assault and libel, has so far escaped being held accountable for his 6 years long crime spree. Because he’s been able to spend more than $100 million dollars of other people’s money on legal fees, in order to delay all of his pending cases, that accounting probably won’t happen before the 2024 presidential election.

“Lions, and tigers and bears! Oh my!” Dorothy, Tim Man and Scarecrow.

Soon after the court issued the ruling, Trump celebrated the decision on his Truth Social account, writing in all caps: “Big win for our Constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!”

“Some people without brains do an *awful* lot of talking, don’t they?” The Scarecrow

trump’s conspirators are numerous, starting with the republi-cons in the U.S. Senate, who could have stopped him long ago. Minority Leader McConnell said the former president was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol on January 6. But after voting to acquit, McConnell argued that he believed it was unconstitutional to convict a president who was no longer in office.

“For 23 years, I’ve been dying to tell you what I thought of you, and now… well, being a Christian woman (Senator), I can’t say it!” — Auntie Em

All of the members of the MAGA republi-con congress could have held trump accountable by not condoning or endorsing every hair-brained scheme, criminal conduct, grift and assault on our Democratic institutions, our courts, the independent press and the American voters.

“Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila… er, phila… er, yes, er, Good Deed Doers.” — The Wizard of Oz

The embarrassing and comical parade of U.S. Congress men and women, dressed in their cult leader’s blue suit and red tie costume, who pontificated outside the New York court about the injustice of the American system of justice’s attempts to hold trump accountable for his one man crime wave, will be remembered in history for their un-American and treasonous butt kissing of an angry, demented megalomaniac bent on retribution and revenge.

“You’re right, I am a coward! I haven’t any courage at all. I even scare myself.” The Cowardly Lion

The U.S. Constitution establishes 3 equal branches of government. The partisan deadlocked legislative branch has proved powerless to hold trump and many of his cowardly conspirators accountable. The many courts who have ruled against and prosecuted trump for his crimes, in spite of scores of trump lawyers filing hundreds of frivolous, obfuscating briefings aimed primarily at delaying accountability until after the election, have been mostly neutered by this unjustifiable Supreme Court ruling on immunity. This rogue court has attempted to not only usurp and strip legislatures, the lower courts and our Democratic institutions of their Constitutional powers, they have empowered the executive branch and the president with a broad immunity contrary to the founding fathers intensions.

There are some hero’s in this American tragedy. Although the U.S. Senate voted 57-43 to acquit trump at his impeachment trial, for his role in inciting the horrific attack on the U.S. Capitol, the largest number of senators in history, voted to find a president of their own party guilty of an impeachment charge. Voting to find Trump guilty were GOP Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The Republicans in the House censured and forced out Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of my home state of Illinois, for their courageous role in the January 6th Committee hearings and for referring trump’s conduct to the Justice Department. Liz Cheney has more balls than all the MAGA republi-con men in congress combined.

On September 17, 1787: Benjamin Franklin presided over the first day of the Constitutional Convention, in his home town of Philadelphia.

The day began with a prepared speech from Ben Franklin (PA) who, eighty-one years old and painfully afflicted with gout and kidney stone, was unable to read the speech himself and delegated that task to Wilson (PA).

On September 18, 1787, the final day of the Convention, this now famous quote of Benjamin Franklin was recorded in a journal kept by James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention. 

Elizabeth Willing Powel of Philadelphia, asked Dr. Franklin: “Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.”

Oblique view of Powel house, looking southwest
Elizabeth and Samuel Powel’s house at 244 South Third Street, Philadelphia, where the conversation between Elizabeth Powel and Benjamin Franklin might have taken place. Historic American Buildings Survey. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

It appears we must rely on another 81 year old patriot to help preserve our Democratic Republic. Although not as eloquent as Benjamin Franklin, and in spite of his word fumbles and stutters, President Joseph Biden believes he’s up to the task. I also believe he is. One very important advantage, is Joe Biden’s ability to bring people together to solve America’s and the world’s monumental problems. With the highly qualified and diverse people he’s brought into his administration (none of them indicted, resigned, fired or in prison), to the 50 countries he’s help assembled to defend Ukraine against trump’s brother from another mother, the Biden administration has more than risen to the task over the last 3 1/2 years. But Uncle Joe can’t do it himself, everyone in his administration must step up. And the voters must award the President with a big D Democratic House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Joe Biden is remarkably adept at overcoming trying times.

Frightened? Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe. I was petrified.” — The Wizard of Oz

trump, on the other hand, hires people not for their expertise at governing or solving problems, but for their ability to dismantle the critical Democratic institutions they’re tasked with running, for their talent at ignoring laws and regulations, for engaging in self-serving financial enrichment, and for turning a blind eye to trump’s chaotic reign of terror. During his administration, the media had flow charts of the dozens of trump appointees who were fired, resigned, indicted, tried, convicted and sent to prison. And all of them had to hire lawyers, and their lawyers had to hire lawyers, and their lawyers, lawyers had to hire lawyers.

And a Final Word From the Library of Congress Blog:

“Another source of Elizabeth Willing Powel’s influence was her own social and political dexterity, which she deployed to make her home a gathering place for the city’s political elite from the revolutionary period through George Washington’s presidency. Among the regulars at Powel’s dinners and parties were George and Martha Washington, with whom the Powel’s became close friends. Letters exchanged between the couples are in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress. One of these, from Elizabeth Powel to George Washington, dates from the third year of Washington’s first term as president, a time when he was hoping he would be able to resign the presidency and go home.

Detail of letter from Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington
“May you, till the extremest old age, enjoy the pure Felicity of having employed your whole Faculties for the Prosperity of the People for whose Happiness you are responsible, for to you their Happiness is intrusted.” Elizabeth Willing Powel to George Washington, November 17, 1792, George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division.

In his 1789 inaugural address, and in many private letters as well, Washington made clear that he was longing to return to his retirement at Mount Vernon. Less than a week after his inauguration, he wrote to former military officer and South Carolina legislator Edward Rutledge that when he accepted his “duty to embark” on the presidency, which he described as “the tempestuous and uncertain Ocean of public life,” he “gave up all expectations of private happiness in this world.” In the fall of 1792, seeing the end of his first term in sight, Washington began planning his exit. Elizabeth Willing Powel was among the friends who convinced him to stay. In her letter she warned him that his political opponents would see his resignation as a sign that he believed the republican experiment had failed and, fearing for his own reputation, had “withdrawn from it that you might not be crushed under its Ruins.” She pleaded with him: “For Gods sake do not yield . . . to a Love of Ease, Retirement, rural Pursuits.”

Please don’t retire Joe !

Biden aimed to prove US and global doubters wrong with NATO speech

Politico

Biden aimed to prove US and global doubters wrong with NATO speech

Alexander Ward and Myah Ward – July 9, 2024

With the eyes of the world on him, President Joe Biden delivered a forceful speech to open the NATO summit in Washington, aiming to reverse doubts about his fitness for the job domestically while boasting that his leadership revitalized the storied alliance and saved Ukraine.

The address, which kicked off three days of high-profile meetings in the steamy U.S. capital, served as both a political and geopolitical test for Biden. With every speech, he must prove that age is just a number and that his shambolic debate performance against former President Donald Trump was a one-off bad night. And with every appearance at the NATO Summit this week, Biden must demonstrate he can still rally allies to Ukraine’s cause for the long haul.

“Ukraine can and will stop Putin,” he said at the ornate Mellon Auditorium in Washington. “Russia will not prevail. Ukraine will prevail.”

The president didn’t fumble over words as he often does during remarks. He was clear and forceful, appearing energized by the transatlanticism that he has embraced throughout his political career.

The speech was more than atmospherics. Biden used the occasion to announce the delivery of new air defenses for Ukraine, one of Kyiv’s top requests for this summit. The U.S. and four NATO allies — the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Romania — will this year send four Patriot air-defense systems and related components as well as one SAMP/T system. In the coming months, Washington and its partners will also deliver dozens more tactical air-defense systems to bolster Ukraine’s security and expect to make similar announcements later in the year.

A critical part of the new assistance package will see some countries who have ordered air defense missiles from U.S. companies bumped down the list, as supplying those interceptors to Ukraine will take priority.

“Make no mistake: Russia is failing in this war,” Biden declared before noting that 350,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, with another 1 million people fleeing the country. “When this senseless war began, Ukraine was a free country. Today, it’s still a free country, and the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country.”

In a joint statement released shortly after Biden’s remarks, the president and the leaders of the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Romania and Ukraine said: “Our message to Moscow and the world is clear: Our support for Ukraine is strong and unwavering.”

The move ends months of a U.S.-led search for air-defense systems to send to Ukraine and negotiations over how to procure them. Some nations didn’t want to part with the sophisticated defensive weapons, at least not before figuring out how to replace them. Last week, a senior Biden administration official told POLITICO “we’re shaking the hell out of the trees, and we’re going to get the highest number that we can.”

A boost in air-defenses was high on Ukraine’s list, as Russia’s superior arsenal allowed it to bombard cities and key military targets. On Monday, Russia overwhelmed Ukraine’s defenses in Kyiv, launching a deadly strike on a children’s hospital — one of Europe’s largest — leading surviving patients to receive cancer treatments on the street.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, told POLITICO reporters before the announcement that he was pleased his country would get more support, but he lamented that the delivery was unnecessarily “delayed” and should’ve been completed much sooner. “Now it’s necessary to close our cities,” he said, claiming these and future air-defense system transfers will better protect against Russian missiles and deter future barrages.

Biden will continue to be under a microscope this week as he manages a busy schedule, including a jam-packed Wednesday and a rare news conference on Thursday, when he will face questions about his age and mental acuity.

Biden will use the days ahead to reassure NATO allies — and skittish Democrats at home — that he’s up to the job of taking down Trump, as heads of state from Europe and North America prepare for the possibility of his predecessor’s return. The president has said the summit is a good venue for judging his abilities and has pointed to his leadership in rallying NATO support for Ukraine as evidence that he’s equipped to serve four more years.

With the potential of Trump’s return to power looming, the president has repeatedly highlighted his commitment to NATO, while warning voters that his predecessor would abandon the alliance if he returns to the White House.

Unlike in 2016, NATO allies are actively preparing to manage the return of a NATO-skeptic Trump administration. NATO officials are ramping up weapons production, consulting with Trump’s advisers and holding meetings to prepare for the former president’s return, and with that, an America-first, restraint-focused approach and a deep skepticism toward Europe.

Paul McLeary contributed to this report.

Trump seeks to disavow ‘Project 2025’ despite ties to conservative group

Reuters

Trump seeks to disavow ‘Project 2025’ despite ties to conservative group

Nathan Layne – July 5, 2024

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign event in Chesapeake
House Freedom Caucus and others hold a press conference regarding federal government spending, in Washington

(Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump tried to distance himself on Friday from a conservative group’s sweeping plans for the next Republican presidency, days after its leader claimed a second American Revolution was underway that would “remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

The Republican presidential candidate renounced any connection with Project 2025, a plan Democrats have been attacking to highlight what they say is Trump’s extreme policy agenda for a second term should he beat President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 election.

Many people involved in the project lead by the Heritage Foundation, America’s top conservative think tank, worked in the Trump White House and would likely help fill out his administration if he wins in November.

But Trump said on his Truth Social platform he had nothing to do with the plan.

“I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it,” he wrote.

“I disagree with some of the things they’re saying,” he continued, adding some of their assertions were “absolutely ridiculous and abysmal.”

Trump’s post came three days after Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts’ comments on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast about a second American Revolution. Democrats and others criticized what they viewed as a veiled threat of violence.

In a statement provided by a Project 2025 spokesperson on Friday, Roberts repeated his claim that Americans were carrying out a revolution “to take power back from the elites and despotic bureaucrats” and said it was the political left that had a history of political violence.

The spokesperson said that while Project 2025 provided recommendations for the next Republican president, it would be up to Trump, should he win, to decide whether to implement them.

Trump’s move to create distance with Project 2025 could in part reflect an effort to moderate his message in the final months of the race, especially with Biden’s campaign faltering after the Democratic candidate’s June 27 debate, said James Wallner, a political science professor at Clemson University.

“Trump is basically now seeking to appeal to a broader audience,” Wallner said.

The Biden campaign has stepped up its efforts to tie Trump’s campaign to Project 2025.

“Project 2025 is the extreme policy and personnel playbook for Trump’s second term that should scare the hell out of the American people,” campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement.

The 900-page blueprint calls for drastic reform of the federal government, including a gutting of some federal agencies and a vast expansion of presidential power. Trump’s statements and policy positions suggest he is aligned with some but not all of the project’s agenda.

The plans have been drawn up by the Heritage Foundation in coordination with a collection of other like-minded groups.

A number of people who worked on Project 2025 have close ties to the former president. Russ Vought, who was Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget and is heading up a key committee at the Republican National Convention, authored one of the project’s chapters.

Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump who is widely expected to be tapped for a top job in a second Trump administration, heads up a legal group on Project 2025’s advisory board.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Chris Reese)

Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In.

Gretchen Whitmer, Kamala Harris, President Biden — who is best positioned to beat Donald Trump in November? July 4, 2024

By Charles M. Blow, Ross Douthat, David French, Nicholas Kristof, Pamala Paul and Lydia Polgreen 

Produced by Derek Arthur, Sophia Alvarez Boyd, Vishakha Darbha and Jillian Weinberger

With President Biden’s candidacy in question, we asked six New York Times Opinion columnists: Who would you like to see as the Democratic nominee? Read their answers below. Or listen here:

Who Should Lead the Democratic Ticket? Six Columnists Weigh In.

Gretchen Whitmer, Kamala Harris, President Biden — who is best positioned to beat Donald Trump in November? Listen · 29:20 min

00:35: Lydia Polgreen on Vice President Kamala Harris

06:33: Nicholas Kristof on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan

09:42: Ross Douthat on Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia

13:55: Pamela Paul on Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland

18:10: David French on Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania

23:57: Charles M. Blow on President Biden

I’m Lydia Polgreen, Opinion columnist for The New York Times. Like many of my colleagues, I think it’s time for Joe Biden to bow out. And I believe that the best person to replace him is Kamala Harris.

She didn’t make it that far in the primaries, and that might make you think: This is someone who has tried and failed to become president — why would she be good on the national stage? But I think it’s important to remember that running in the primaries and running for the general election are actually two very different things.

In the primaries, you’re essentially running against your peers — in many cases, your fellow politicians from your party — and you’re arguing with them over smaller differences than the big differences that separate our politics in this very polarized time. And where gender and race actually play a huge role in terms of how people are perceived and where the showing of emotion or anger or other feelings play very differently, depending on whether you’re a woman, depending on whether you’re a person of color — that primary environment, I think, is actually quite complicated.

Those same dynamics can be at play in a general election, as well, but they’re actually much different in this particular general election, because Donald Trump is a very particular kind of politician.

I think one of the things that makes Kamala Harris really compelling in this environment is that we’re dealing with a bully. And she is a person who does very well in going up against bullies. She has a demeanor, she has a way of speaking that very much comes from her experience as a prosecutor that plays very well when dealing with someone who really is kind of outside the bounds of the law.

One of the things that was most troubling about the debate between Biden and Trump was that, unsurprisingly, Trump just spouted lie after lie after lie, The thing that was so devastating was that Joe Biden just seemed completely unable to counter those lies. And it’s just impossible to imagine that Kamala Harris, who is really a very successful debater, wouldn’t be able to just methodically come in and counter, point for point, every single thing that came out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

The Biden administration has put Kamala Harris front and center on the messaging about abortion rights, and rightfully so. Everyone knows that Joe Biden is not a great messenger on this issue. He has had a long history of ambivalence about choice. He is a devout Catholic, and I think it’s fair to say he does not feel particularly comfortable speaking in strident terms about a woman’s right to choose.

That is not a problem for Kamala Harris. She is a lifelong believer and fighter for this cause and would be an eloquent and powerful spokesperson for the issue as the nominee, just as she has been on the campaign trail as part of the ticket.

I think there are really two separate questions we need to ask ourselves. One question is: Would Harris be a good nominee? I feel, based on what we’ve seen, that actually she could make a pretty compelling case for herself as a strong candidate. Then there’s another question, which is: Would she make a good president? And in an abstract world where we weren’t weighing her against Donald Trump, that’s an interesting conversation to have.

One of the criticisms of her when she was a primary candidate was that there wasn’t a clear and compelling reason that she could give for why she should be president. What was her vision? And I don’t think that she solved that problem. But I think it’s important to remember that circumstances dictate who the right person is at any given time.

What is the need of the hour? The need of the hour is to somehow find a way to ease Joe Biden out of the presidency, somehow find somebody to take on Donald Trump. And so for me, the case for Kamala Harris is that she is the right person for that first part of the job. Which is, frankly, the most important part of the job.

This is an existential crisis. We cannot survive another Trump administration. Preventing Trump from winning the presidency, I think, has to be the paramount goal. I’m not saying that I don’t think that Kamala Harris would be a good president. She might very well be a great president. I have no idea. But I don’t think that that’s a question that we, frankly, have the luxury to ask right now. Because we know that Donald Trump would be a catastrophic president.

In order to have a vacancy, in order to have an opportunity to run another candidate, President Biden has to decide not to run. And that, ultimately, is his decision to make. And it’s going to be an excruciating and very hard decision.

And to me, part of the reason that anointing Kamala Harris, who is his vice president, is an easier thing to do than simply throwing it open to a brokered convention is that this is a natural order of things. You choose a vice president because you might not live through your entire term. That’s true of any president. I think it would be easier and less damaging for the party for President Biden to simply say, “You know what? I think my time is up. It’s time for me to pass the baton to the person you, the voters, voted into office as part of my administration to carry us forward.”


I’m Nicholas Kristof, and I’m here with a case for Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan.

I’m rooting for Whitmer because the job of the nominee — and especially at a time when the stakes are so high, when Donald Trump is the opposition — the job of the nominee is to win. I do think that Governor Whitmer is particularly well placed to get votes in the handful of states that are in play.

For starters, Michigan is an absolute must-win state for the Democrats, and Whitmer has won it handily in both her races for governor. That suggests that she will also do well in nearby states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and I think her pragmatism will also play well with centrists in states like Arizona and Georgia.

I think a Michigan governor is well positioned to ride the anti-incumbent, anti-elitist mood that we see among voters in the U.S. and just to generate excitement as a fresh face on the national scene, somebody from a new generation. And boy, I would just relish seeing how a dynamic younger candidate can force Trump on his heels and make him defend himself as the old guy with dubious mental acuity left in the race.

I’ve been following Whitmer ever since she was a state senator, and in 2013 she gave just an extraordinary speech for abortion rights that put her on the national map.

Audio clip of Gretchen Whitmer: I rise for my “no” vote explanation, as the Republican male majority continues to ignorantly and unnecessarily weigh in on important women’s health issues that they know nothing about​.

Toward the end of that speech, she put down her notes and disclosed something that she had hidden from most people that was intensely personal.

Clip of Whitmer: Over 20 years ago, I was a victim of rape. And thank God, it didn’t result in a pregnancy, because I can’t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker.

She was emotional, raw, powerful and persuasive. And that speech marked her as a politician to watch.

Look, there are lots of uncertainties ahead. I have no idea what Whitmer’s foreign policy would be. But I do know that she’s a good speaker, that she has shown she can win over centrist voters and that she was only 1 year old when Biden was elected to the Senate. So in my view, Gretchen Whitmer is the best Biden alternative. Keep an eye on her.


I’m Ross Douthat, and I’m a columnist for The New York Times. I’m here to make the case that the Democrats should nominate the senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin.

Much of the Democratic Party and many of my friends in the media are convinced that this election has almost existential stakes for the United States of America. And if that is the case, there is a reasonable argument for the Democratic Party to nominate someone who is as close to the center of American politics as you can get, with a long record of voting for Democratic causes. So, Manchin 2024.

I’ve thought Joe Manchin should run for president for a while. In 2023, I made the case that he should run as an independent. I thought, as a moderate Democrat, Manchin was well positioned to run basically, I argued, a kind of test-the-waters campaign.

But the reason to think of him as a plausible third-party candidate is also the reason to think of him as a plausible nominee for the Democrats — if their absolute goal is to defeat Donald Trump, no matter what.

Manchin is a guy who successfully managed to get elected to the Senate from West Virginia over the course of multiple election cycles where West Virginia was being transformed from a reliably Democratic state into a reliably Republican one. And his strategy always seemed to be: Pull a given piece of Democratic legislation more toward the middle (or toward the middle as he understood it), but be willing to vote for it when push came to shove.

He was more socially conservative in various ways on issues ranging from abortion to immigration. He tended to be more skeptical of large spending bills of all kinds, climate change legislation in particular. He did a lot of things, especially in the Biden era, that made more ideological Democrats incredibly frustrated with him. At the same time, he remained a pretty reliable vote for Democratic causes and programs and judicial nominations and everything else.

In imagining him as a Democratic nominee, you’re picking someone who in a different kind of era would have been the leader of probably a pretty big centrist faction in the Democratic Party. And so nominating him wouldn’t require the Democratic Party to radically shift its positions on almost any issue. It would be a unique signal to the country that the Democrats were willing to make a major ideological compromise, which is the kind of signal that, if you are determined to win the election at all costs, you want to be sending.

I think Manchin’s biggest challenge in the incredibly unlikely event that he was the Democratic nominee is that because he is a moderate who is despised by key activist groups in the Democratic coalition, most Democrats are just not going to turn out for someone who spent the Biden years trying to make Joe Biden’s agenda more moderate and sometimes contributing to derailing it.

That’s always the problem with trying to nominate the most moderate candidate: You risk alienating your own base. But I think in this scenario, given the lateness of the hour and Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, that what you would gain among swing voters would outweigh what you would lose in the party’s base.

Both political parties have nominated candidates for president who are broadly unacceptable to the middle 30 percent of Americans, and it would probably be useful for the country if one of the two parties tried to nominate someone who was much more acceptable to Americans in that middle ground.


I’m Pamela Paul, an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, and I’m here to make the case for Wes Moore as the Democratic candidate for president.

Wes Moore is the first-term governor of the State of Maryland. So, relatively inexperienced in politics but with a broad range of experience before coming to politics. He has served in the military, including serving at war in Afghanistan. He’s worked in the private sector in investment banking. He has foreign policy experience and expertise, and he’s published five books, including books for young people.

As the former editor of The Book Review, I’ve been aware of Wes Moore for a long time as an author, and that’s how I often thought about him. I first met him out at Stanford University, where he was participating in a conference about revitalizing American institutions. He and Gov. Chris Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, did a panel together in which they had a really lively, interesting conversation.

Audio clip of Chris Sununu: I’m absolutely honored to be here and to be with Wes who I consider a great friend. He’s a great governor.

And the thing that struck me most about their conversation is that they were friends, even though they are from very different sides of the political spectrum.

Chris Sununu, as the more experienced governor, has given advice to Wes Moore, and Wes Moore called him his best adviser as a governor.

Clip of Wes Moore: When I think about some of the governors who are the most helpful to me, as I made the transition, because I’d never run for office before I became governor. People can think about “It’s this governor, that governor, which political party.” The reality is, you’ve been one of the most helpful governors to me in this transition. And that’s a Republican governor.

And I thought that was remarkable because, as we all know, we live in a hyperpartisan time.

And something that really came out in their conversation was that, as governors, you need to get things done. You need to balance a budget. You cannot just not vote. You cannot just slide by. It’s not like the Senate. And one of the reasons I think that Governor Moore is one of the best-equipped people to assume the presidency is that as a governor, he has better experience than many people who have served in Washington for a long time.

I think his relative youth could shake up a campaign that no one is happy with between two geriatric candidates. He could energize the electorate. I think that he could win and govern well and he could really usher in a new era of leadership for Democrats. I mean, how have we gotten into a situation where we have an 81-year-old man who’s been in politics his entire life as being our candidate when it’s clear that Americans are not happy with how things are going and with the current direction of this country?

The No. 1 thing people will say about Wes Moore is that he doesn’t have the experience necessary, that it’s not his time yet. But first of all, I feel very frustrated with the “it’s his time” or “it’s not his time” thinking because when Biden was running, everyone thought, “Oh, it’s his time. He deserves it.” When Bob Dole was running: “Oh, it’s his turn. He deserves it.” This is a way to lose a campaign.

This is not about making someone feel better. This is about what’s doing right for the country. And Wes Moore, though he may not have a lot of governmental experience, he certainly has a lot more experience than Donald Trump did coming on.

And in fact, I think his relative inexperience would work in his favor because people are looking for someone to bring a new perspective who is not afraid of change, who can draw from a wide range of experience outside Washington and who’s shown that he knows how to solve problems and lead.


I’m David French. And I’m here to make the case that Josh Shapiro should replace Joe Biden on the top of the Democratic ticket.

Until 2016, I was a Republican. I’m still conservative. I’m a conservative in the Reagan conservative mold. So it is very unusual for me to be giving any kind of advice to the Democratic Party. However, I am of the belief that Donald Trump needs to lose in 2024 for the health of the country, for the health of our Constitution and for the health, honestly, of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. And so I want to see the best possible Democrat face Donald Trump in 2024.

Josh Shapiro is the first-term governor of Pennsylvania, a former attorney general of Pennsylvania and a former member of the State House of Pennsylvania.

I think there are multiple reasons Josh Shapiro would be a very good pick. And we can start with ideology, we can go to temperament, and then we can end with location, location, location.

So, ideology. Josh Shapiro is a more moderate or centrist Democrat. There are a number of initiatives, for example, in the State of Pennsylvania, that he has broken with his party on, at least to some degree, to move toward the center. For example, he has advocated for lowering corporate tax rates in Pennsylvania, the kinds of things that Republican voters would either appreciate or at least see that this person is not an ideological extremist, but somebody who’s willing to reach out across the aisle.

He’s somebody who ideologically is much closer to the exact kinds of voters who helped give Joe Biden the presidency in 2020, a lot of these suburban voters and college-educated women and others, many of whom voted Republican in the past. He seems to be much more in line with the bulk of the American people than somebody who’s more on the left side of the Democratic Party.

And then let’s talk about the really important aspect of temperament. This is a guy who really, by and large, has a pretty measured tone, an ideal way of confronting someone like Donald Trump, who really needs to be meticulously rebutted in all of his falsehoods. Dismantling these wild statements that Donald Trump has made and doing so in a calm and measured way, I think, is exactly what the doctor ordered for the public square. It would, in many ways, be a restoration of the way we think about the presidency: that we’re not just electing a vehicle for an agenda but a human being who we could actually have a degree of trust in.

And then finally, he has the advantage of location, location, location — the three most important things in real estate. He’s a popular governor in a key swing state. This is perhaps the key swing state in the 2024 election. And this is something that’s really important not just for the sake of Pennsylvania but other swing states. I think there’s some real possibility there that he’s actually a good cultural fit for some of these swing states.

And there’s one other thing I didn’t mention: He’s relatively young. He was born in 1973. He’s a Gen X-er. And this contrast between a Gen X candidate who’s reasonable, who’s sober, who’s sharp as a tack, against a 78-year-old man who physically is able to sort of cover up his decline but cognitively is capable of the exact kinds of word salads that we saw come out of Joe Biden’s mouth in the debate — the contrast, I believe, would be very real and very obvious and exactly the kind of contrast that the American people are looking for.

And so these are all things that I think speak strongly in his favor, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s just a no-brainer of a decision. There are also some downsides that come with Josh Shapiro. Nothing major or glaring, but there’s two right away that you can think of. One, he’s a first-term governor. He’s not had a complete term as a governor, so there would be some questions about experience. It also has to be acknowledged that nobody knows who he is. If you’ve tuned into this and you knew who Josh Shapiro was before you tuned in, you’re either a Pennsylvanian or a political nerd. And nothing against political nerds — I’m one of you — but it’s just part of the challenge that you have when you’re trying to introduce yourself to the American people.

But on balance, when you’re talking about the identity of a candidate: Is he a man for the moment? It’s not simply the case that you can say people want anyone not named Donald Trump. That’s not where the American people are. They’re wanting a choice that they can feel unambiguously good about. And the debate performance, I think, robbed Biden of that message now and for the rest of the campaign.

Here is a different candidate people can be voting for, as opposed to purely voting against Donald Trump.


I’m Charles Blow, an Opinion columnist at The New York Times. And while a lot of my colleagues are making the case for replacements for Joe Biden, I’m making the case that Joe Biden should not be forced off the ticket.

I assume that most people who want to replace Joe Biden want the exact same thing that I want, which is to prevent Donald Trump from being re-elected as president of the United States.

If that is the goal, then you have to go with the person who has the best chance of defeating him. And I think that for right now, that person remains Joe Biden.

There is no evidence that any of the other candidates who have been proposed as possible replacements for Joe Biden would do better than Joe Biden. There is no F.D.R.-, Barack Obama-like candidate waiting in the wings whom everyone knows and who is going to galvanize the Democratic Party.

The people in Louisiana do not know the governor of Michigan. The people in North Carolina do not know the governor of California. And we are saying that somehow in a brokered convention at the end of the summer with only three months to go, you could put forth a virtually unknown person to the country and that somehow that would be better than sticking with a person whom we already know.

In addition to that, a brokered convention would mean that the voters would not have a say in who the candidate is. There would be no direct voting for the person the Democrats put forward. These would be delegates. Some of them are elected officials, and I guess you could say that elected officials are kind of secondhand representatives of the people. So people did vote for the elected officials, and if they vote for the candidate, maybe that makes you feel a little bit better.

But delegates are also party leaders. No one voted for these party leaders. These are just people who have participated and won favor and people like them. Those are the people who would pick the candidate? That is not democratic. That doesn’t feel like the business that the Democratic Party would want to be in, which is having the candidates produced not by the voice of the people but by the voice of the insiders.

This has become an election about people who are for democracy and those who are not for it. It has nothing to do with the individual people and the individual characters and their individual competency.

So I’m not trying to convince anyone that Biden is your best candidate, he’s a fantastic person, shooting on all cylinders and full of verve. I’m just saying that as it stands, he is likely your best option to prevent catastrophe. None of these candidates are people that I’m going to say, ‘Oh, I’m just jumping up and down because this person is so electric and magnetic.”

I’m simply saying, “Do you want to keep a country or not? Where’s your best chances of keeping the country that you know and you love and that will have a chance to fight again one day with different candidates who may be younger, may be more to your tastes?”

I am convinced that people are not scared enough yet. I don’t think that people will be turning out for Biden. They’ll be turning out against Donald Trump.

I don’t need a champion in the White House this cycle. What I need is someone to hold the White House and to hold the country in its current customs, in its current structure, so that the next cycle, maybe we have better options that we can be excited about.

Joe Biden is already strapped to the rocket. At this point, he remains the best option.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photographs by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters, Laurent Cipriani, Matt Rourke, and Evan Vucci/Associated Press, Andrew Harnik and Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

This episode of “The Opinions” was produced by Jillian Weinberger, Vishakha Darbha, Derek Arthur and Sophia Alvarez Boyd. It was edited by Kaari Pitkin, Alison Bruzek and Annie-Rose Strasser. Engineering by Sonia Herrero, Isaac Jones, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Mixing by Sonia Herrero, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Original music by Carole Sabouraud, Isaac Jones, Efim Shapiro, Sonia Herrero and Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta and Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Annie-Rose Strasser.

Charles M. Blow is an Opinion columnist for The New York Times, writing about national politics, public opinion and social justice, with a focus on racial equality and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author, most recently, of “The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery.”

David French is an Opinion columnist, writing about law, culture, religion and armed conflict. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a former constitutional litigator. His most recent book is “Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation.”

Nicholas Kristof became a columnist for The Times Opinion desk in 2001 and has won two Pulitzer Prizes. His new memoir is “Chasing Hope: A Reporter’s Life.”

Pamela Paul is an Opinion columnist at The Times, writing about culture, politics, ideas and the way we live now. 

Lydia Polgreen is an Opinion columnist and a co-host of the “Matter of Opinion” podcast for The Times. 

Team Trump Has a Ukraine Plan—and It’s a Total Nightmare

The New Republic – Opinion

Team Trump Has a Ukraine Plan—and It’s a Total Nightmare

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling – June 25, 2024

Donald Trump’s advisers have revealed their new plan for resolving the war between Russia and Ukraine—and it involves Ukraine’s immediate submission.

The plan effectively promises an increase in U.S. weapons aid to Ukraine so long as it shows up for peace talks with Russia, reported Reuters. And while that deal may not sound so bad, the writing between the lines isn’t so simple. Trump’s advisers envision that the peace talks—which Trump would facilitate should he win the November election—would also quietly include Ukraine ceding part of its territory that is currently occupied by Russian forces.

The concept was drawn up by retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg and Fred Fleitz, both former chiefs of staff on Trump’s National Security Council. Trump did not immediately sign on to “every word” of the plan, but Fleitz told Reuters that they were “pleased to get the feedback we did.”

The Kremlin told Reuters that Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to peace talks, but that any proposal by a possible future Trump administration would have to reflect the “reality on the ground.”

When pressed on the details of the plan, Fleitz explained that Ukraine would not formally need to relinquish its land to Russian forces. He did concede, however, that Ukraine was unlikely to regain control of all of its territory in the near future.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that ending the war on the borders of its current front lines—where Russia has gained a foothold in the southeast portion of Ukraine—would be “strange,” pointing to the fact that Russia had violated international law by invading it in the first place.

“Ukraine has an absolutely clear understanding and it is spelled out in the peace formula proposed by President [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy, it is clearly stated there—peace can only be fair and peace can only be based on international law,” Podolyak told Reuters.

The plan’s promise to send more military aid to Ukraine only if it admits defeat and ends the war seems a bit counterintuitive—and disingenuous, considering that Trump and his advisers have done practically everything within their power to undermine sending more military aid to the embattled nation since the beginning of the year. And the plan’s obvious benefit to Russia also raises further concerns over Trump’s notoriously cushy—and sometimes subservient—relationship with Putin.

A Foreign Policy for the World as It Is

Foreign Affairs

A Foreign Policy for the World as It Is

Biden and the Search for a New American Strategy

By Ben Rhodes – July – August, Published on June 18, 2024

Álvaro Bernis

“America is back.” In the early days of his presidency, Joe Biden repeated those words as a starting point for his foreign policy. The phrase offered a bumper-sticker slogan to pivot away from Donald Trump’s chaotic leadership. It also suggested that the United States could reclaim its self-conception as a virtuous hegemon, that it could make the rules-based international order great again. Yet even though a return to competent normalcy was in order, the Biden administration’s mindset of restoration has occasionally struggled against the currents of our disordered times. An updated conception of U.S. leadership—one tailored to a world that has moved on from American primacy and the eccentricities of American politics—is necessary to minimize enormous risks and pursue new opportunities.

To be sure, Biden’s initial pledge was a balm to many after Trump’s presidency ended in the dual catastrophes of COVID-19 and the January 6 insurrection. Yet two challenges largely beyond the Biden administration’s control shadowed the message of superpower restoration. First was the specter of Trump’s return. Allies watched nervously as the former president maintained his grip on the Republican Party and Washington remained mired in dysfunction. Autocratic adversaries, most notably Russian President Vladimir Putin, bet on Washington’s lack of staying power. New multilateral agreements akin to the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris agreement on climate change, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership were impossible, given the vertiginous swings in U.S. foreign policy.

Second, the old rules-based international order doesn’t really exist anymore. Sure, the laws, structures, and summits remain in place. But core institutions such as the UN Security Council and the World Trade Organization are tied in knots by disagreements among their members. Russia is committed to disrupting U.S.-fortified norms. China is committed to building its own alternative order. On trade and industrial policy, even Washington is moving away from core tenets of post–Cold War globalization. Regional powers such as Brazil, India, Turkey, and the Gulf states pick and choose which partner to plug into depending on the issue. Even the high-water mark for multilateral action in the Biden years—support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia—remains a largely Western initiative. As the old order unravels, these overlapping blocs are competing over what will replace it.

Biden victory in this fall’s election would offer reassurance that the particular risk of another Trump presidency has passed, but that will not vanquish the forces of disorder. To date, Washington has failed to do the necessary audit of the ways its post–Cold War foreign policy discredited U.S. leadership. The “war on terror” emboldened autocrats, misallocated resources, fueled a global migration crisis, and contributed to an arc of instability from South Asia through North Africa. The free-market prescriptions of the so-called Washington consensus ended in a financial crisis that opened the door to populists railing against out-of-touch elites. The overuse of sanctions led to increased workarounds and global fatigue with Washington’s weaponization of the dollar’s dominance. Over the last two decades, American lectures on democracy have increasingly been tuned out.

Indeed, after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli military campaign in Gaza, American rhetoric about the rules-based international order has been seen around the world on a split screen of hypocrisy, as Washington has supplied the Israeli government with weapons used to bombard Palestinian civilians with impunity. The war has created a policy challenge for an administration that criticizes Russia for the same indiscriminate tactics that Israel has used in Gaza, a political challenge for a Democratic Party with core constituencies who don’t understand why the president has supported a far-right government that ignores the United States’ advice, and a moral crisis for a country whose foreign policy purports to be driven by universal values. Put simply: Gaza should shock Washington out of the muscle memory that guides too many of its actions.

If Biden does win a second term, he should use it to build on those of his policies that have accounted for shifting global realities, while pivoting away from the political considerations, maximalism, and Western-centric view that have caused his administration to make some of the same mistakes as its predecessors. The stakes are high. Whoever is president in the coming years will have to avoid global war, respond to the escalating climate crisis, and grapple with the rise of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. Meeting the moment requires abandoning a mindset of American primacy and recognizing that the world will be a turbulent place for years to come. Above all, it requires building a bridge to the future—not the past.

THE TRUMP THREAT

One of Biden’s mantras is “Don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” As the presidential campaign heats up, it is worth heeding this advice. But to properly outline the dangers of a second Trump term, it is necessary to take Trump’s arguments seriously, despite the unserious form they often take. Much of what Trump says resonates broadly. Americans are tired of wars; indeed, his takeover of the Republican Party would have been impossible without the Iraq war, which discredited the GOP establishment. Americans also no longer trust their elites. Although Trump’s rhetoric about a “deep state” moves quickly into baseless conspiracy theory, it strikes a chord with voters who wonder why so many of the politicians who promised victories in Afghanistan and Iraq were never held to account. And although Trump’s willingness to cut off assistance to Ukraine is abhorrent to many, there is a potent populism to it. How long will the United States spend tens of billions of dollars helping a country whose stated aim—the recapture of all Ukrainian territory—seems unachievable?

Trump has also harnessed a populist backlash to globalization from both the right and the left. Particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, large swaths of the public in democracies have simmered with discontent over widening inequality, deindustrialization, and a perceived loss of control and lack of meaning. It is no wonder that the exemplars of post–Cold War globalization—free trade agreements, the U.S.-Chinese relationship, and the instruments of international economic cooperation itself—have become ripe targets for Trump. When Trump’s more punitive approaches to rivals, such as his trade war with China, didn’t precipitate all the calamities that some had predicted, his taboo-breaking approach appeared to be validated. The United States, it turned out, did have leverage.

But offering a potent critique of problems should not be confused with having the right solutions to them. To begin with, Trump’s own presidency seeded much of the chaos that Biden has faced. Time and again, Trump pursued politically motivated shortcuts that made things worse. To end the war in Afghanistan, he cut a deal with the Taliban over the heads of the Afghan people, setting a timeline for withdrawal that was shorter than the one Biden eventually adopted. Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite Iranian compliance, unshackling the country’s nuclear program, escalating a proxy war across the Middle East, and sowing doubt across the world about whether the United States keeps its word. By moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights, and pursuing the Abraham Accords, he cut the Palestinians out of Arab-Israeli normalization and emboldened Israel’s far right, lighting a fuse that detonated in the current war.

Although Trump’s tougher line with China demonstrated the United States’ leverage, it was episodic and uncoordinated with allies. As a result, Beijing was able to cast itself as a more predictable partner to much of the world, while the supply chain disruptions caused by trade disputes and decoupling created new inefficiencies—and drove up costs—in the global economy. Trump’s lurch from confronting to embracing Kim Jong Un enabled the North Korean leader to advance his nuclear and missile programs under reduced pressure. Closer to home, Trump’s recognition of an alternative Venezuelan government under the opposition leader Juan Guaidó managed to strengthen the incumbent Nicolás Maduro’s hold on power. The “maximum pressure” policy toward Venezuela and Cuba, which sought to promote regime change through crippling sanctions and diplomatic isolation, fueled humanitarian crises that have sent hundreds of thousands of people to the United States’ southern border.

Biden in Washington, D.C., May 2024Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters

A second Trump term would start amid a more volatile global environment than his first, and there would be fewer guardrails constraining a president who would be in command of his party, surrounded by loyalists, and freed from ever having to face voters again. Although there are many risks, three stand out. First, Trump’s blend of strongman nationalism and isolationism could create a permission structure for aggression. A withdrawal of U.S. support for Ukraine—and, perhaps, for NATO itself—would embolden Putin to push deeper into the country. Were Washington to abandon its European allies and promote right-wing nationalism, it could exacerbate political fissures within Europe, emboldening Russian-aligned nationalists in such places as Hungary and Serbia who have echoed Putin in seeking to reunite ethnic populations in neighboring states.

Despite U.S.-Chinese tensions, East Asia has avoided the outright conflict of Europe and the Middle East. But consider the opportunity that a Trump victory would present to North Korea. Fortified by increased Russian technological assistance, Kim could ratchet up military provocations on the Korean Peninsula, believing that he has a friend in the White House. Meanwhile, according to U.S. assessments, China’s military will be ready for an invasion of Taiwan by 2027. If Chinese leader Xi Jinping truly wishes to forcibly bring Taiwan under Beijing’s sovereignty, the twilight of a Trump presidency—by which point the United States would likely be alienated from its traditional allies—could present an opening.

Second, if given the chance, Trump has made it clear that he would almost certainly roll back American democracy, a move that would reverberate globally. If his first election represented a one-off disruption to the democratic world, his second would more definitively validate an international trend toward ethnonationalism and authoritarian populism. Momentum could swing further in the direction of far-right parties in Europe, performative populists in the Americas, and nepotistic and transactional corruption in Asia and Africa. Consider for a moment the aging roster of strongmen who will likely still be leading other powers—not just Xi and Putin but also Narendra Modi in India, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Ali Khamenei in Iran, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. To say the least, this cast of characters is unlikely to promote respect for democratic norms within borders or conciliation beyond them.

This leads to the third danger. In the coming years, leaders will increasingly be confronted with global problems that can be managed or solved only through cooperation. As the climate crisis worsens, a Trump presidency would make a coordinated international response much harder and validate the backlash against environmental policies that has been building within advanced economies. At the same time, artificial intelligence is poised to take off, creating both valuable opportunities and enormous risks. At a moment when the United States should be turning to diplomacy to avoid wars, establish new norms, and promote greater international cooperation, the country would be led by an “America first” strongman.

A TIME TO HEAL

In any administration, national security policy is a peculiar mix of long-standing commitments, old political interests, new presidential initiatives, and improvised responses to sudden crises. Navigating the rough currents of the world, the Biden administration has often seemed to embody the contradictions of this dynamic, with one foot in the past, yearning nostalgically for American primacy, and one foot in the future, adjusting to the emerging world as it is.

Through its affirmative agenda, the administration has reacted well to changing realities. Biden linked domestic and foreign policy through his legislative agenda. The CHIPS Act made substantial investments in science and innovation, including the domestic manufacturing of semiconductors. The act worked in parallel with ramped-up export and investment controls on China’s high-tech sector, which have buttressed the United States’ lead in the development of new technologies such as AI and quantum computing. Although this story is more complicated to tell than one about a tariff-based trade war, Biden’s policy is in fact more coherent: revitalize U.S. innovation and advanced manufacturing, disentangle critical supply chains from China, and maintain a lead for U.S. companies in developing new and potentially transformative technologies.

Gaza should shock Washington out of the muscle memory that guides too many of its actions.

Biden’s most significant piece of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, made enormous investments in clean energy technology. These investments will allow the United States to raise its ambition in meeting climate goals by pushing domestic industry and global markets to shift away from fossil fuels faster. Although this breakthrough enhanced U.S. credibility on climate change, it also created new challenges, as even allies have complained that Washington resorted to subsidies instead of pursuing coordinated cross-border approaches to reduce emissions. In this respect, however, the Biden administration was dealing with the world as it is. Congress cannot pass complex reforms such as putting a price on carbon; what it can do is pass large spending bills that invest in the United States.

Despite tensions over U.S. industrial policy, the Biden administration has effectively reinvested in alliances that frayed under Trump. That effort has tacitly acknowledged that the world now features competing blocs, which makes it harder for the United States to pursue major initiatives by working through large international institutions or with other members of the great-power club. Instead, Washington has prioritized groupings of like-minded countries that are, to use a catch phrase, “fit for purpose.” Collaboration with the United Kingdom and Australia on nuclear submarine technology. New infrastructure and AI initiatives through the G-7. Structured efforts to create more consultation among U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific. This approach involves a dizzying number of parts; one can lose track of the number of regional consultative groups that now exist. But in the context of an unraveled international order, it makes sense to thread together cooperation where possible, while trying to turn new habits of cooperation into enduring arrangements.

Most notably, Biden’s reinvestment in European alliances paid off when Washington was able to swiftly mobilize support for Ukraine in 2022. This task was made easier by the administration’s innovative release of intelligence on Russia’s intentions to invade, an overdue reform of the way that Washington manages information. Although the war has reached a tenuous stalemate, the effort to fortify transatlantic institutions continues to advance. NATO has grown in size, relevance, and resourcing. European Union institutions have taken a more proactive role in foreign policy, most notably in coordinating support for Ukraine and accelerating its candidacy for EU membership. For all the understandable consternation about Washington’s struggle to pass a recent aid bill for Ukraine, Europe’s focus on its own institutions and capabilities was long overdue.

SLOW TO CHANGE

Yet there are three important ways in which the Biden administration has yet to recalibrate its approach to the world of post-American primacy. The first has to do with American politics. On several issues that engender controversy in Congress, the administration has constrained or distorted its options by preemptively deferring to outdated hard-liners. Even as Trump has demonstrated how the left-right axis has been scrambled on foreign policy, Biden at times feels trapped in the national security politics of the immediate post-9/11 era. Yet what once allowed a politician to appear tough to appease hawks in Washington was rarely good policy; now, it is no longer necessarily good politics.

In Latin America, the Biden administration was slow to pivot away from Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaigns on Venezuela and Cuba. Biden maintained, for example, the avalanche of sanctions that Trump imposed on Cuba, including the cynical return of that country to the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism just before leaving office, in January 2021. The result has been an acute humanitarian crisis in which U.S. sanctions exacerbated shortages of basic staples such as food and fuel, contributing to widespread suffering and migration. In the Middle East, the administration failed to move swiftly to reenter the politically contested Iran nuclear deal, opting instead to pursue what Biden called a “longer and stronger” agreement, even though Trump was the one who violated the deal’s terms. Instead, the administration embraced Trump’s Abraham Accords as central to its Middle East policy while reverting to confrontation with Iran. This effectively embraced Netanyahu’s preferred course: a shift away from pursuing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and toward an open-ended proxy war with Tehran.

Anyone who has worked at the nexus of U.S. politics and national security knows that avoiding friction with anti-Cuban and pro-Israeli hard-liners in Congress can feel like the path of least resistance. But that logic has turned into a trap. After October 7, Biden decided to pursue a strategy of fully embracing Netanyahu—insisting (for a time) that any criticism would be issued in private and that U.S. military assistance would not be conditioned on the actions of the Israeli government. This engendered immediate goodwill in Israel, but it preemptively eliminated U.S. leverage. It also overlooked the far-right nature of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which offered warning signs about the indiscriminate way in which it planned to prosecute its military campaign, as Israeli officials cut off food and water flowing into Gaza within days of Hamas’s attack. In the months that followed, the administration has been trying to catch up to a deteriorating situation, evolving from a strategy of embracing Netanyahu, to one of issuing rhetorical demands that were largely ignored, to one of partial restrictions on offensive military assistance. Ironically, by being mindful of the political risks of breaking with Netanyahu, Biden invited greater political risks from within the Democratic coalition and around the world.

The temptation to succumb to Washington’s outdated instincts has contributed to a second liability: the pursuit of maximalist objectives. The administration has shown some prudence in this area. Even as competition ramped up with China, Biden has worked over the last year to rebuild lines of communication with Beijing and has largely avoided provocative pronouncements on Taiwan. And even as he committed the United States to helping Ukraine defend itself, Biden set the objective of avoiding a direct war between the United States and Russia (although his rhetoric did drift into endorsing regime change in Moscow). The bigger challenge has at times come from outside the administration, as some supporters of Ukraine indulged in a premature triumphalism that raised impossible expectations for last year’s Ukrainian counteroffensive. Paradoxically, this impulse ended up hurting Ukraine: when the campaign inevitably came up short, it made the broader U.S. policy toward Ukraine look like a failure. Sustaining support for Ukraine will require greater transparency about what is achievable in the near term and an openness to negotiations in the medium term.

Biden and U.S. officials meeting with a Chinese delegation in Woodside, California, November 2023 Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Gaza also showcases the danger of maximalist aims. Israel’s stated objective of destroying Hamas has never been achievable. Since Hamas would never announce its own surrender, pursuing this goal would require a perpetual Israeli occupation of Gaza or the mass displacement of its people. That outcome may be what some Israeli officials really want, as evidenced by right-wing ministers’ own statements. It is certainly what many people around the world, horrified by the campaign in Gaza, believe the Israeli government really wants. These critics wonder why Washington would support such a campaign, even as its own rhetoric opposes it. Instead of seeking to moderate Israel’s unsustainable course, Washington needs to use its leverage to press for negotiated agreements, Palestinian state building, and a conception of Israeli security that is not beholden to expansionism or permanent occupation.

Indeed, too many prescriptions sound good in Washington but fail to account for simple realities. Even with the United States’ military advantage, China will develop advanced technologies and maintain its claim over Taiwan. Even with sustained U.S. support, Ukraine will have to live next to a large, nationalist, nuclear-armed Russia. Even with its military dominance, Israel cannot eliminate the Palestinian demand for self-determination. If Washington allows foreign policy to be driven by zero-sum maximalist demands, it risks a choice between open-ended conflict and embarrassment.

This leads to the third way in which Washington must change its approach. Too often, the United States has appeared unable or unwilling to see itself through the eyes of most of the world’s population, particularly people in the global South who feel that the international order is not designed for their benefit. The Biden administration has made laudable efforts to change this perceptionfor instance, delivering COVID-19 vaccines across the developing world, mediating conflicts from Ethiopia to Sudan, and sending food aid to places hit hard by shortages exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. Yet the overuse of sanctions, along with the prioritization of Ukraine and other U.S. geopolitical interests, misreads the room. To build better ties with developing countries, Washington needs to consistently prioritize the issues they care about: investment, technology, and clean energy.

Once again, Gaza interacts with this challenge. To be blunt: for much of the world, it appears that Washington doesn’t value the lives of Palestinian children as much as it values the lives of Israelis or Ukrainians. Unconditional military aid to Israel, questioning the Palestinian death toll, vetoing cease-fire resolutions at the UN Security Council, and criticizing investigations into alleged Israeli war crimes may all feel like autopilot in Washington—but that’s precisely the problem. Much of the world now hears U.S. rhetoric about human rights and the rule of law as cynical rather than aspirational, particularly when it fails to wrestle with double standards. Total consistency is unattainable in foreign policy. But by listening and responding to more diverse voices from around the world, Washington could begin to build a reservoir of goodwill.

A FAREWELL TO PRIMACY

In its more affirmative agenda, the Biden administration is repositioning the United States for a changing world by focusing on the resilience of its own democracy and economy while rebooting alliances in Europe and Asia. To extend that regeneration into something more global and lasting, it should abandon the pursuit of primacy while embracing an agenda that can resonate with more of the world’s governments and people.

As was the case in the Cold War, the most important foreign policy achievement will simply be avoiding World War III. Washington must recognize that all three fault lines of global conflict today—Russia-Ukraine, Iran-Israel, and China-Taiwan—run across territories just beyond the reach of U.S. treaty obligations. In other words, these are not areas where the American people have been prepared to go to war directly. With little public support and no legal obligation to do that, Washington should not count on bluffing or military buildups alone to resolve these issues; instead, it will have to focus relentlessly on diplomacy, buttressed by reassurance to frontline partners that there are alternative pathways to achieving security.

Avoiding friction with anti-Cuban and pro-Israeli hard-liners in Congress can feel like the path of least resistance.

In Ukraine, the United States and Europe should focus on protecting and investing in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian government—drawing Ukraine into European institutions, sustaining its economy, and fortifying it for lengthy negotiations with Moscow so that time works in Kyiv’s favor. In the Middle East, Washington should join with Arab and European partners to work directly with Palestinians on the development of new leadership and toward the recognition of a Palestinian state, while supporting Israel’s security. Regional de-escalation with Iran should, as it did during the Obama administration, begin with negotiated restrictions on its nuclear program. In Taiwan, the United States should try to preserve the status quo by investing in Taiwanese military capabilities while avoiding saber rattling, by structuring engagement with Beijing to avoid miscalculation, and by mobilizing international support for a negotiated, peaceful resolution to Taiwan’s status.

Hawks will inevitably attack diplomacy on each of these issues with tired charges of appeasement, but consider the alternative of seeking the total defeat of Russia, regime change in Iran, and Taiwanese independence. Can Washington, or the world, risk a drift into global conflagration? Moreover, the reality is that sanctions and military aid alone will not stop war from spreading or somehow cause the governments of Russia, Iran, and China to collapse. Better outcomes, including within those countries, will be more attainable if Washington takes a longer view. Ultimately, the health of the United States’ own political model and society is a more powerful force for change than purely punitive measures. Indeed, one lesson that is lost on today’s hawks is that the civil rights movement did far more to win the Cold War than the war in Vietnam did.

None of this will be easy, and success is not preordained, since unreliable adversaries also have agency. But given the stakes, it is worth exploring how a world of competing superpower blocs could be knitted into coexistence and negotiation on issues that cannot be dealt with in isolation. For instance, AI presents one area in which nascent dialogue between Washington and Beijing should evolve into the pursuit of shared international norms. Laudable U.S. efforts to pursue collaborative research on AI safety with like-minded countries will inevitably have to expand to further include China in higher-level and more consequential talks. These efforts should seek agreement on the mitigation of extreme harms, from the use of AI in developing nuclear and biological weapons to the arrival of artificial general intelligence, an advanced form of AI that risks surpassing human capacities and controls. At the same time, as AI moves out into the world, the United States can use its leadership to work with countries that are eager to harness the technology for positive ends, particularly in the developing world. The United States could offer incentives for countries to cooperate with Washington on both AI safety and affirmative uses of new technologies.

Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 2022
Mandel Ngan / Reuters

A similar dynamic is required on clean energy. If there is a second Biden administration, most of its efforts to combat climate change will likely shift from domestic action to international cooperation, particularly if there is divided government in Washington. As the United States works to secure supply chains for critical minerals used for clean energy, it will need to avoid constantly working at cross-purposes with Beijing. At the same time, it has an opportunity—through “de-risking” supply chains, forging public-private partnerships, and starting multilateral initiatives—to invest more in parts of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia that have not always been an attractive destination for American capital. In a sense, the Inflation Reduction Act has to be globalized.

Finally, the United States should focus its support for democracy on the health of existing open societies and offering lifelines to besieged civil society groups around the world. As someone who has made the case for putting support for democracy at the center of U.S. foreign policy, I must acknowledge that the calcification of the democratic recession in much of the world requires Washington to recalibrate. Instead of framing the battle between democracy and autocracy as a confrontation with a handful of geopolitical adversaries, policymakers in democracies must recognize that it is first and foremost a clash of values that must be won within their own societies. From that self-corrective vantage point, the United States should methodically invest in the building blocks of democratic ecosystems: anticorruption and accountability initiatives, independent journalism, civil society, digital literacy campaigns, and counter-disinformation efforts. The willingness to share sensitive information, on display in the run-up to war in Ukraine, should be applied to other cases where human rights can be defended through transparency. Outside government, democratic movements and political parties across the world should become more invested in one another’s success, mirroring what the far right has done over the last decade by sharing best practices, holding regular meetings, and forming transnational coalitions.

Ultimately, the most important thing that America can do in the world is detoxify its own democracy, which is the main reason a Trump victory would be so dangerous. In the United States, as elsewhere, people are craving a renewed sense of belonging, meaning, and solidarity. These are not concepts that usually find their way into foreign policy discussions, but if officials do not take that longing seriously, they risk fueling the brand of nationalism that leads to autocracy and conflict. The simple and repeated affirmation that all human life matters equally, and that people everywhere are entitled to live with dignity, should be America’s basic proposition to the world—a story it must commit to in word and deed.

  • BEN RHODES is a co-host of the podcast Pod Save the World and the author of After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made. From 2009 to 2017, he served as U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting in the Obama administration.