In Depth

Instant Opinion: the Trumps are ‘the Republicans’ second most dysfunctional family’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 25 August

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Marina Hyde in The Guardian

on competition between families at the RNC

For once, the Trumps are only the Republicans’ second most dysfunctional family

“In what may turn out to be a sign of the general oustering to come, the Trumps are suddenly not even the most dysfunctional family represented at their convention. Quite a feat to be upstaged by an even more defective domestic unit, but undoubtedly, the Kellyanne-and-George Conways have managed it... A top presidential adviser, Kellyanne (pictured above) has finished second in the White House Lying Bee four years running, and is the only person who wears more makeup than Trump himself. She doesn’t so much reapply as repoint. Her husband, George, is a conservative lawyer who held a dignified silence on the Trump presidency for about 10 minutes, before – like most holders of dignified silences – giving way to hourly frothings, in this case about the president’s iniquities. On Sunday, Kellyanne suddenly announced she’d be leaving the White House to focus on her family, while George declared he would be stepping back from anti-Trump campaign group the Lincoln Project, and taking a Twitter ‘hiatus’... As for what’s brought all this on, it seems not unrelated to the Conways’ four children, in particular their 15-year-old daughter’s furiously damaged forays on to social media over the past few months, culminating in a stated desire to be ‘emancipated’ from her parents. You can see her point.”

2. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on an organisation in Dominic Cummings’ sights

Military is latest institution in No 10’s sights

“The armed forces are the latest target of the prime minister and his senior adviser’s desire for ‘creative destruction’ in Whitehall. Even though it was the military that helped to build the Nightingale hospitals and delivered personal protective equipment around the country at the height of the Covid crisis, No 10 is said to be determined to clip the wings of the Ministry of Defence. General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, was warned by one Tory MP last month that unless the MoD ‘sorted itself out... Cummings is going to sort you out his own way, and you won’t like it’... No part of the state is safe from the search for manifestations of a liberal establishment ‘blob’. Downing Street has the civil service, universities, judges, the House of Lords and the BBC in its sights. It argues that the pandemic has revealed fundamental flaws in the machinery of government that go beyond the NHS and social care but the revolutionaries around Mr Johnson are exploiting the crisis to pursue their long-held obsessions.”

3. Holly Baxter in The Independent

on a darkly pessimistic night in North Carolina

The first night of the Republican National Convention was deeply, disturbingly weird

“Most of us knew the Republican National Convention was going to be deeply weird before we tuned in; expecting normalcy from this kind of event is like opening your mouth next to a UV light and expecting it to cure you of coronavirus. Nevertheless, what we saw tonight was so especially weird that it’s worth discussing beyond the usual, ‘Wow, was that a fever dream?’ or, ‘Did you get anything from that word salad?’ Because this was a glimpse of what we’re in for over the next four years if Trump continues the usual trend and wins himself a second term — and it’s both darkly funny and horribly dangerous... What will dyed-in-the-wool, middle-America Republicans think of what happened tonight, though? Well, for people who complained about a ‘doom and gloom convention’ from the Democrats, the GOP sure did bash the pulpit about hellfire like nobody else. Tonight they certainly succeeded in making me believe in a dystopia just over the horizon — and I presume they got a few others there as well. Unfortunately, as the speech tempo went out of control and the wild-eyed cries about radical socialist policies like believing in climate change became increasingly frequent, I started to think the dystopia might be one of their own creation.”

4. Bret Stephens in The New York Times

on electing a president to lead, not defer

Biden’s Loose Lips Could Sink His Chances

“Biden and his advisers may suppose they’re on a glide path to re-election against a manifestly flawed and failed incumbent. But they face an opponent who fights best when he’s cornered, and who will take the same ruthless political advantage of Biden’s line that George W. Bush’s campaign did of John Kerry’s calamitous classic about the Iraq war, ‘I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.’ The Hippocratic oath for the Biden campaign should be, ‘First, do no self-harm.’ The next time Biden is asked about lockdowns, he might cite a line from John F. Kennedy: ‘Scientists alone can establish the objectives of their research, but society, in extending support to science, must take into account its own needs.’ That’s a line to win over a wavering voter.”

5. Dr Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia and Eurasia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, in The Daily Telegraph

on a country vital to Russian interests

Putin has no good options in Belarus

“The Kremlin values Belarus more than it does its leader. Russia tried to remove Lukashenko in 2010, and Lukashenko has rarely been a reliable partner for the Kremlin’s geopolitical games. He refused to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, following Russia’s war with Georgia, and has flip-flopped on Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, maintaining strategic ambiguity ever since... Does this mean that Russia will not intervene militarily in Belarus? No. But the Kremlin is unlikely to intervene militarily to keep Lukashenko in power, at least in the long term. Instead, Moscow – amid continuing large-scale protests and a steady trickle of defections from Lukashenko’s government – may be willing to contemplate other options, including a power transition. This would become more likely if the Kremlin sees a figure in the disparate Belarus opposition movement with whom it could work. In fact, it would be surprising if the Kremlin were not already testing the water.”

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