A Hard Line on Russia

Monday, April 10, 2017

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Good Monday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • On the eve of his first diplomatic trip to Moscow, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson called Russia “incompetent” for allowing Syria to retain chemical weapons. His comments were far more critical of the Russian government than any public statements by President Trump.
  • Last week’s deadly chemical attack has some former Obama advisers questioning the decision to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
  • Early voting has begun in a special House election, but in the suburbs north of Atlanta, few seem quite sure what the Republican Party stands for now.
  • Mr. Trump has shown a reluctance to overhaul deductions he has used to avoid paying taxes, and Democrats are sounding the alarm that revising the tax code would present his biggest conflict of interest yet.
 The First Draft Team

A Polarized Supreme Court, Growing More So

By ADAM LIPTAK
Judge Merrick B. Garland in March last year, soon after President Barack Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court.

Judge Merrick B. Garland in March last year, soon after President Barack Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Viewed one way, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch’s confirmation will not do much to change the dynamics of the Supreme Court. His appointment is a one-for-one swap, a conservative replacing another conservative.
But there is a more instructive way to think about what Judge Gorsuch’s impact will be after he is sworn in on Monday. It is to consider how the court would have been reshaped by President Barack Obama’s pick for the same seat, Judge Merrick B. Garland.
The answer shows just how polarized the Supreme Court has become. The titanic struggle over who would replace Justice Antonin Scalia was nothing if not partisan, and for good reason — the Supreme Court is just as divided as the rest of the nation.
Had Judge Garland replaced Justice Scalia, the court would have immediately shifted to the left. A majority of its members would have been Democratic appointees for the first time in almost 50 years. And, in a shift in recent years, partisan affiliation has become a very strong predictor of voting trends for all its members.
Read more »

Tillerson, on Eve of Trip, Takes a Hard Line With Russia

By DAVID E. SANGER

The secretary of state called Russia “incompetent” for allowing Syria to retain chemical weapons and accused Moscow of trying to meddle in European elections.

Deputy National Security Adviser Is Expected to Leave Post

By CHARLIE SAVAGE

K. T. McFarland’s departure has been seen as likely since the forced resignation of Michael T. Flynn. She may be nominated to be the United States ambassador to Singapore.

To Charm Trump, Paul Manafort Sold Himself as an Outsider

By GLENN THRUSH

In letters and memos, Mr. Manafort emphasized his distance from Washington and his willingness to work free during Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

For Obama, Syria Chemical Attack Shows Risk of ‘Deals With Dictators’

By PETER BAKER

President Barack Obama said in 2014 that America was “getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike.” Then came last week’s chemical attack.

Democrats See Opening in Tax Overhaul Fight With Trump

By ALAN RAPPEPORT

President Trump has shown reluctance to take on deductions he has used to avoid paying taxes, and Democrats are sounding the alarm.

As Georgia Vote Nears, G.O.P. Asks if Ideological Purity Matters

By JONATHAN MARTIN

Early voting has begun in a special House election, but in the suburbs north of Atlanta, few seem quite sure what the Republican Party stands for now.

How Stephen Colbert Finally Found His Elusive Groove

By JOHN KOBLIN

Mr. Colbert has done what was unthinkable a year ago: turned “The Late Show” into the most viewed show in late night. And President Trump is not the only reason.

‘It Did Not Stick’: The First Federal Effort to Curb Police Abuse

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

In 1997, the Justice Department entered its first consent decree, with the Pittsburgh police. Nineteen other cities have followed suit, with varying results.

Bush Steps Back Into Spotlight to Help Africa Fight Epidemics

By GARDINER HARRIS

Visiting Botswana and Namibia, George W. Bush argued that an H.I.V. program he established as president should be expanded to tackle cervical cancer.

U.S. Reroutes Warships Toward Korean Peninsula in Show of Force

By ERIC SCHMITT

The order to send an aircraft carrier and three guided-missile ships to the Korean Peninsula follows a missile test by the North last week.

Bannon’s Views Can Be Traced to Book That Says, ‘Winter Is Coming’

By JEREMY W. PETERS

“The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 book that foresees a crisis on par with the Civil War, helps explain the basis of an “America First” agenda that Stephen K. Bannon has helped shape.

Boom or Bust: Stark Partisan Divide on How Consumers View Economy

By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ

Sentiment among Democrats and Republicans has swung sharply since November, creating a gap that — regardless of objective data — is wider than ever.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
• Christopher Caldwell in Imprimis:
“Putin has become a symbol of national sovereignty in its battle with globalism.”
Christopher Caldwell, a senior editor for The Weekly Standard, puts President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in historical and geopolitical context. Mr. Caldwell stresses that he isn’t telling his audience what to think of Mr. Putin, but rather how to think about him. It is in this framing that Mr. Caldwell explains how the Russian leader is a Rorschach test for one’s political perspective: If you “feel the international system is not delivering” for you, you’re likely to respect the Russian leader’s insistence on national autonomy. Read more »
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From the Left
• Ben Tarnoff in Jacobin:
“Perhaps the most obvious problem with net neutrality is that, strictly speaking, it’s impossible.”
You don’t often hear arguments against net neutrality from the left. That’s why we were particularly interested to read Ben Tarnoff’s diagnosis of the pitfalls of net neutrality, specifically as a concept that sees internet users as consumers rather than citizens. The solution, for Mr. Tarnoff, is the “deprivatization” of the internet and a radical shift in the left’s political imagination. Read more »
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