This week was a kaleidoscope in Trump’s Washington, a big picture moving and twisting — tax records, subpoenas, arrests, foreign policy reversals — stories reshaping, shifting, blending, it seemed, by the hour. Or, to borrow a different metaphor, a soap opera — only a very serious one: “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
The sand seemed to be slipping a lot faster for some. On Thursday, two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, were indicted. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were charged with campaign finance violations involving Ukraine. The indictment alleged that the two men enlisted the help of a sitting congressman to remove or recall the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch), and Caroline Polisi posed the question everyone was asking: “What does this mean for the Trump impeachment investigation?”
Short answer: we don’t know yet. “We know that both Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani to try to dig up dirt on the Bidens. But the question of whether that relationship overlaps with criminal conduct is a mystery, for now,” concluded Polisi. Giuliani’s standing with President Trump was cast into sharp doubt on Friday, the same day that Yovanovitch testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, reportedly making explosive statements — about Giuliani, his associates, Trump — and lamenting a “State Department attacked and hollowed out from within.”
Frida Ghitis took a page from the purported Dealmaker in Chief’s playbook: “Dear President Trump,” she proposed. “For many years you’ve been telling us you’re the master of the deal. Well, now is the time to make the deal of your life. It’s time to negotiate your resignation. We know you’ll drive a hard bargain, but people are exhausted, and there’s a good chance they’d cut you a good deal just to put an end to this chapter.”
Speaking of closing the book, Shepard Smith bid a surprise farewell to Fox News on Friday. With his announcement, Smith revealed something important about the state of conservative politics, said Julian Zelizer: there is little room for anyone who questions the status quo in most parts of the Republican universe.
Pick your own metaphor for the impeachment inquiry, but it’s a safe bet the kaleidoscope (and the hourglass too) will be getting a workout in the days ahead. Kathleen Parker put it well in the Washington Post: “No one who enters Trump’s orbit leaves unscathed.”
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The art of creating a crisis
A number of commentators (and politicians, including among the GOP leadership) had strong words in response to Trump’s decision, after a call Sunday with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to pull American forces out of northeastern Syria. Peter Bergen noted that the move essentially greenlighted a Turkish invasion “that is exposing America’s Kurdish allies to the wrath of the second-largest military in NATO”.
Bergen called Trump “clueless,” a master in the “Art of Creating a Crisis,” and drew a line connecting the commander in chief’s mystifying Syria policy with equally confounding approaches to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and North Korea.
No matter Trump’s explanations for the move, it’s “difficult to see anything but abandonment” of proven and loyal friends “in the planned withdrawal,” wrote Elliot Ackerman in the New York Times. Meanwhile, as CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported from northern Syria, Kurdish fighters said, “The Americans sold us out” — and many expect to face the Turkish onslaught alone.
None of this should come as a surprise, argued Jill Filipovic: “(Trump’s) broad impulse to bring American troops home is a good one. The tumultuous, ham-fisted and risky way he’s going about it is not. And his own words indicate he is an unstable wannabe despot.” To her, what’s shocking is that Trump has finally done something to elicit the public wrath of members of his own party — notably Lindsey Graham, who called the Syria decision “a stain on America’s honor.” Filipovic zeroed in on the fissures in the Republican Party, asserting that they must be the start of something more: “The GOP needs to offer more than words. We need action: Republicans, too, must demand that the President goes.”
Pursuing equality, living with whiplash
On Tuesday, LGTBQ Americans watched as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in cases that could determine whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act offers them protection against discrimination, a position their own government — expressed in a brief filed by the Justice Department — opposes. By Thursday, the spotlight had shifted to a CNN Town Hall where nine Democratic presidential candidates offered up their approaches to ensuring fuller LGBTQ inclusion and empowerment. (It’s no wonder, noted Samantha Allen, that many LGBTQ Americans — watching their rights teeter on the judicial brink while under the political spotlight — have whiplash.)
LZ Granderson emphasized the importance not only of CNN’s town hall but also of the protests that rose up in the hall from several trans women of color who felt their community deserved greater visibility. Granderson said both highlighted a critical point of progress in the fight for equality: the public assertion that for the LGBTQ community, the “T” is no longer silent.
That message is one Allison Hope drove home in her assessment of a recent suit by a Virginia teacher who claims he was fired for refusing to use a student’s preferred gender pronoun. Hope saw much more to the story: Transgender kids “are more likely to be rejected at home, bullied by peers at school and online, denied necessary medical care and disadvantaged in nearly every other facet of life. Our teachers shouldn’t be another line item on the list of reasons our transgender kids are less likely to get ahead in life.”
Melisa Raney reinforced the idea that life-and-death steps in the movement for LGBTQ equality can be as individual and everyday as the choice of a pronoun, or a loving text from a parent. For the 31st annual National Coming Out Day Friday, Raney shared a beautifully intimate description of her own process of coming out to her parents — at age 37 and as a parent herself — and what she learned from it: “Your child being gay has nothing to do with who you are as a parent. If anything, credit yourself with raising a child brave enough to speak their truth.”
If only we’d listened to our young athletes
Too often, women and girls who report sexual abuse are ignored or punished — even after the Larry Nassar scandal and even after #MeToo, insisted Abigail Pesta, author of “The Girls,” a book about Nassar’s victims and how they were kept silent for so long. Pesta contended that their stories, along with those portrayed in the Netflix series “Unbelievable,” are a stark reminder that we still aren’t hearing and acting on the stories of survivors of abuse.
“I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, wrote Pesta. “Many people believe that this story ended in the courtroom. But that was just the beginning. … As a society, we remain too quick to dismiss survivors. We find it too easy to simply move on. We need to put survivors and their stories front and center — not just once, not just when the victims are famous, but always. Every single time.”
It’s a timely message, as consternation swirled around Ronan Farrow’s forthcoming book, “Catch and Kill,” which details his struggles at NBC to report out stories of alleged assault and harassment by powerful men like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. For The Cut, Rebecca Traister summarized the unfinished reckoning Farrow’s work underscores: “The reveal … is not that there are corrupt people; it’s that corrupt people are in control” and “many of them remain in control. … Farrow does much to vividly describe the kind of horror story we still live in, when it comes to harassment and assault, and more broadly, to power imbalances and abuses.”
Elizabeth Warren gave American women deja vu
After a conservative outlet tried to cast doubt on the details of a story of pregnancy discrimination Elizabeth Warren has told on the campaign trail, a surge of women on social media and elsewhere pointed out that the kind of story Warren told is one many know by heart. Kara Alaimo wrote that “no matter where you work or what your resources are, the impact of pregnancy discrimination on women and their families is real, it is harrowing, and it is wrong.”
CNN Opinion is reaching out to our readers about this important issue. We hope you’ll share your own story of pregnancy discrimination or weigh in on what you think about it here.
Pregnancy discrimination isn’t just about pregnancy — it can also be about pregnancy loss. Over 500 women shared their stories of pregnancy loss with the New York Times. “Miscarriage might just be the loneliest experience that millions of women have faced,” reflected Lauren Kelly and Alexandra March. And they’re facing it everywhere — including in the workplace, “its own special hell for women who’ve miscarried.”
National Review’s Alexandra DeSanctis tweeted, “You don’t have to like Warren or agree with her policies to acknowledge the reality of pregnancy discrimination. Too many conservatives don’t want to talk about it because it’s somehow a ‘liberal’ thing, but a more pro-woman, pro-family right would be willing to admit it happens.”
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The NBA’s China problem is growing
The firestorm sparked by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong burned all week. Commissioner Adam Silver affirmed the league’s commitment to free speech, the league then curtailed media availability of its athletes currently traveling and playing in China. Other companies’ stance toward China came under the microscope.
The NBA’s struggle here is unique, observed Phil Taylor for CNN Business Perspectives, given the league’s longstanding commitment to social justice: “While other companies may have to bend over backwards to avoid offending the Chinese, they don’t have to then twist themselves into a pretzel trying to reconcile that position with their public stance on freedom of expression. … Tapping into the Chinese market requires a certain selling of the corporate soul, but other US businesses are surely grateful that their decision to do so isn’t quite as glaring as the NBA’s.”
Megan McArdle pulled no punches in the Washington Post, where she bluntly called the NBA and other companies with dealings in China “cowardly” and noted: “the NBA-wide genuflecting to China is just one disturbing example of a much larger problem, as US companies have wiped Taiwan off their maps, erased Tibetan characters from American films, and expelled or cut ties with anyone who dared suggest that democracy is better than China’s one-party rule, and that liberty is better than living in an authoritarian surveillance state.”
Another smart take on sports:
— Daron K. Roberts for CNN Business Perspectives: Paying college athletes is a huge win for women
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Simone Biles should make you think
Simone Biles hasn’t yet met a ceiling she can’t smash with room to spare, and this week, she became the most decorated gymnast in history, taking the World Championship title and adding two new skills no one else has ever done that will now be named after her.
One of them, the “double double” — a double twisting, double somersault off the balance beam — has stirred a telling controversy, said Ella Donald: “The governing body of gymnastics issued a ruling on the difficulty of Biles’ eponymous skills” (giving the “double double” a lower degree of difficulty to deter other gymasts from doing it) “that paternalistically undercut elite athletes’ agency over their own bodies and turned a willfully blind eye to the changes in the sport that a new generation of gymnasts, led by Biles, has ushered in when it comes to what women can do.”
Biles, her sport and the athletes she’s inspired to follow in her footsteps deserve better, opined Donald. Such treatment “prompts a more existential question for the future of gymnastics and women’s sports. If the best in the world isn’t rewarded for her innovation in the sport, then who is?”