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Pat Buchanan - Breakup of the West?

By the time Air Force One started down the runaway at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, to bring President Trump home, the Atlantic had grown markedly wider than it was when he flew to Riyadh.

In a Munich beer hall Sunday, Angela Merkel confirmed it. Europe must begin to look out for itself, she said, "take our fate into our own hands. ... The times in which we could rely fully on others, they are somewhat over."

Merkel's apprehensions are understandable. A divorce could be in the cards. During his visit to NATO in Brussels and the G-7 in Sicily, Trump, with both his words and body language, revealed his thinking on who are friends and who are freeloaders.

Long before arriving, Trump had cheered Brexit, the British decision to quit the EU, and shown a preference for nationalist Marine Le Pen in the French election won handily by Emmanuel Macron. But when it comes to leaders, Trump seems to prefer Deke House to student council types. He has hailed Vladimir Putin as a "strong ruler" and "very smart." In Riyadh, Trump declared King Salman a "wise man." He calls China's Xi Jinping "a great guy," and welcomed Turkish autocrat Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Oval Office: "It is a great honor to have you with us."

When Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has imprisoned and killed thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood, came to visit, Trump said, "He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation." In a phone call, Trump also praised Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has had narcotics dealers gunned down in the streets, for doing an "unbelievable job on the drug problem." Trump has even found merit in Kim Jong Un, the 33-year-old dictator of North Korea, describing him as a "a pretty smart cookie."

And where Trump was photographed by the Russians grinning broadly with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, his confab with Merkel was marked by a seeming reluctance to shake hands.

But the disagreements with Europe are deeper than matters of style. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have indicated that in dealing with foreign nations, U.S. support for democratic norms and human rights will now take a back seat to strategic interests.

In Riyadh, Trump signaled the Sunni King of Bahrain we will no longer be giving him instructions on how to treat his Shiite majority. We're not "here to lecture," Trump assured the Arab royals. After the conclave, the king's police killed five and wounded dozens of demonstrators outside the home of a Shiite cleric, and arrested 286 of his supporters.

Of greater concern to Trump and Tillerson is the retention of the Persian Gulf naval base of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

Trump also tilts toward GOP skepticism of the threat of global warming and is considering pulling out of the Paris climate accord that is the altarpiece of the environmentalist international.

In Brussels, Trump praised NATO's decision to back the U.S. war in Afghanistan after 9/11, but did not specifically recommit to Article 5, requiring all NATO nations to treat an attack on one as an attack on all, which our nervous NATO allies had wanted to hear. Instead, they got an earful of pure Trump about how they owed back pay for NATO and that only five NATO nations were meeting their obligation to allocate 2 percent of GDP to defense.

Merkel seemed to take this as an implied threat that the U.S commitment to defend Europe from a Russia with one-tenth of NATO-Europe's GDP may be contingent, and may have a time limit on it.

Moreover, France, Britain and Germany appear far more solidly committed to the Iran nuclear deal than are Trump and Congress.

A U.S.-NATO collision could come here, and soon.

The Iranians have signed on to purchase 100 Airbus aircraft and 80 commercial airliners from Boeing. If the Republicans impose new sanctions on Iran, or scupper the Boeing deal, Europe would have to decide whether to abandon the Airbus sales, or deliver the planes and perhaps take over the Boeing contract. That could bring a crisis.

And any U.S. confrontation with Iran, pressed upon us by Saudis, Israelis and Sunni Arabs could find Europeans bailing out wholesale on the next U.S. war in the Middle East.

Trump also seems less committed to the sanctions on Russia for its reannexation of Ukraine and support of pro-Russian rebels in the Donbass than does NATO Europe or Congress.

From his rough remarks, Trump sees the Europeans as freeloaders on U.S. defense, laggards on their NATO contributions, and mercantilists who craft policies to run endless trade surpluses at our expense, especially the Germans who are "bad, very bad."

The European half of Trump's trip should be taken as a fire-bell-in-the-night warning: Shape up, Europe, or you may find yourselves on your own when it comes to the defense of your continent.

For we Americans have had about enough.

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

  • Written by Edward Engler
  • Category: Columns
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Bob Meade - Religious freedom?

Our nation's founders were exceptional people . . . brilliant, courageous, and sensitive to the relationship between the people and government. They challenged and faced down the greatest power in the world at that time. They gave us gifts in the form of a Declaration of Independence and followed with a blueprint for managing our country in the form of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. What they provided was intended to put the power in the hands of the people the government was to serve.
We are in the process of abusing those gifts. We stand mute as people seek political office not to serve and return to their homes, but for political careers and the ensuing power it provides. The power of incumbency overwhelms those seeking to challenge the office holder.
Amendment 1 of the Constitution starts, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; . . . " . In spite of that admonition, we have seen . . .
— The government put forth "regulations", as part of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), requiring employers and religious institutions to either violate their religious beliefs or face absurdly excessive fines and incredible legal costs. The legality of this act was decided by one vote in the Supreme Court. In order to arrive at that decision, the Chief Justice found that the act, which imposed a requirement that each citizen purchase health insurance, was "legal" because it was the imposition of a tax. (Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the right to lay and collect taxes.) Interestingly, the president had repeatedly denied that the act was imposing any taxes on the citizenry. In this case, one person in the judiciary essentially "found" a way for the government to demand citizens buy a product, by calling it a tax, otherwise, it would not have been "legal".
— In the Roe v. Wade decision, the government put itself in conflict with religious entities, and the people of faith who work in them. Seven members of the Supreme Court found the "right of privacy" in the Fourteenth Amendment gave women the right to have an abortion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who served as an attorney for the A.C.L.U. for eight years, said this issue should have been decided by the Legislative Branch, not the courts. Our politicians abrogated their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution by legislating this difficult issue, preferring instead, to let the issue bubble up through the judicial branch for a decision.
— In 2012 the Federal government provided over $540 million dollars of funding to Planned Parenthood. That organization provides about one third of all abortions in this country. While we are told that funding is not used for abortions, money is fungible, so the taxpayers' money essentially "frees up" other Planned Parenthood funds to be used for abortions. Planned Parenthood also spends a considerable amount of money lobbying for more government funding, and spends additional large sums endorsing political candidates who are favorable to their activities. No matter how you look at it, they use taxpayer dollars to secure more taxpayer dollars.
These three issues are a direct affront to the First Amendment, particularly the free exercise of religion. And today, we see another assault on that clause in the issue of "Gay marriage". Advocates for and against this issue rally outside the Supreme Court building holding up their signs and chanting slogans. Inside, reporters hang on every word from the mouths of the justices. Most especially, every question or comment from Justice Kennedy, the expected "swing vote". How it will be decided is yet unknown. However, the basic issue is that the founders envisioned that the states, through their own legislative processes, would be the test beds for change. Other states could adopt or reject those changes based on the results each provided. Today, 38 states have signed into law, or have constitutional provisions, limiting marriage as between one man and one woman. Six of those states also have laws permitting "civil unions". Nine other states have enacted laws enabling marriage between people of the same gender. This issue has received a great deal of attention, and has been acted upon, throughout the country. Why then, does this become an issue to be brought before the courts for, essentially, one un-elected individual to decide?
In addition to abusing the First Amendment and religious freedoms, are we now shifting power from the people to the un-elected few, in the name of political correctness?
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
  • Category: Columns
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