Jose Luis Magana / AP

We’re ending the year as it began: with the U.S. government headed toward another shutdown, this time chiefly over funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will resign at the end of February, citing disagreements with the president over foreign policy. Mattis is just the latest in a long line of senior administration staff, from John Kelly to Nikki Haley, who announced this year that they are leaving the White House.

Mattis’s resignation comes after Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria—a move that did not come as a shock to longtime Syria-policy experts. Mattis, who has always understood Trump’s deficiencies, agreed to serve him out of a sense of patriotism, writes Jeffrey Goldberg, and his departure signals a dangerous third phase of Trump’s foreign policy. But in coverage of Mattis’s resignation, Conor Friedersdorf writes that the news media has failed “to treat the withdrawal of troops [from Syria] as a legitimate, reasonable position.”

In the final Politics & Policy Daily of 2018, we’re featuring one last round of standout Atlantic politics stories from the past 12 months, including a complex portrait of Heidi Cruz, an assessment of the impact former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had on the legal gains of the civil-rights era, and an intimate look at the unique weight of grief in the aftermath of the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Elaine Godfrey, Madeleine Carlisle, and Olivia Paschal


(Matthieu Bourel)

The End of Civil Rights
Vann R. Newkirk II
“...from the Black Belt in Alabama in the 1980s to the farthest reaches of the border fence today, the Sessions Doctrine is the endgame of a long legal tradition of undermining minority civil rights.”→ Read on.

The Perpetual Disaster of the Trump Administration
David A. Graham
“It is as though the United States is stumbling, never quite falling on its face but never fully righting itself, either, caught perpetually mid-stumble. The only certainty is more weeks like this one. There is no exit.” → Read on.

The Jews of Pittsburgh Bury Their Dead
Emma Green
“Jewish tradition teaches that the dead cannot be left alone. Some call it a sign of respect for people in death, as in life. Others say that the soul, or nefesh, is connected to the body until it is buried, or even for days afterward, and people must be present as it completes its transition into the next world.”→ Read on.


(Todd Spoth)

Heidi Cruz Didn’t Plan for This
Elaina Plott
“As Heidi had discovered at the beginning of her marriage, signing on to a way of life is one thing; living it is another matter entirely. Despite her best efforts, Real Heidi and Campaign Heidi at times became one.”→ Read on.

The Democrat Who Could Lead Trump’s Impeachment Isn’t Sure It’s Warranted
Russell Berman
“It was Robin Bady, a 67-year-old neighborhood resident, who asked about impeachment: What were the chances, she wondered, that it could happen if Democrats won back the House majority this fall? It’s a question likely on the minds of millions of Americans at the moment, and more than just about anyone else in the country, [Jerry] Nadler is the person to ask.” → Read on.


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