It was no coincidence that Donald Trump scheduled a trip to Britain to promote one of his golf courses in Scotland, on June 23, 2016. That was the day of the Brexit referendum in which 52 percent of the electorate --17.4 million voters, more than any party has ever won in a general election -- voted for the UK to leave the European Union.
The televised presidential address from the Oval Office, a staple of communication between the chief executive and the people in the second half of 20th century, has recently been in desuetude. Former President Barack Obama delivered only three such addresses in his eight years in office. President Donald Trump this week delivered his first one, just days short of completing half his term.
The hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting of World War I in Europe came and went with surprisingly little notice last Nov. 11. Commemoration was muted for a conflict that took the lives of some 15 to 19 million soldiers and civilians -- estimates vary widely -- including, in just 19 months, more than 116,000 Americans.
The numbers are small, the terrain unfamiliar, the cast of characters chaotic and the clash of interest hard to decipher.
"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there," wrote President Donald Trump, as he ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, stunning the U.S. foreign policy establishment.
Trump overruled his secretaries of state and defense, and jolted this city and capitals across NATO Europe and the Middle East.
In 1957, 4.3 million babies were born in the United States. In 2017, 60 years later, the number was 3,853,472. That's an 11 percent decline, in a nation whose population has nearly doubled over those six decades. And though there are a few days left in 2018, the number for this year is sure to be lower.
Two weeks ago in this column, I asked what is to blame for the weakness of the heads of government here and in Western Europe, institutional failure, voter fecklessness, leaders' personal weaknesses or some combination of all three?
This week, let's look at one of those institutions: political parties. How have they contributed to current woes? How can they perform better?
George H.W. Bush "gave the nation its most successful one-term presidency." He "was the best one-term president the country has ever had, and one of the most underrated presidents of all time."
So said two not impartial sources -- the late president's vice president, Dan Quayle, and his Houston friend and secretary of state, who was with him at the end, James Baker. But their assessments are entirely defensible.
In the wake of the off-year elections, conservative analyst Yuval Levin saw no winners. "It is the weakness of all sides, and the strength of none, that shapes this moment."
Some random observations on the 2018 offyear elections, for Thanksgiving weekend pondering:
1. We hear constantly, and in some respects accurately, that Americans are deeply divided politically. Another way to look at it: The differences between north and south, visible for two or three centuries, are vanishing. As Real Clear Politics analyst Sean Trende tweeted, "Southern suburbs are starting to vote like northern suburbs, northern rurals/small towns starting to vote like Southern rurals/small towns."