This will not get any better. As Cohen writes: “Enormous foreign-policy failures are like heart attacks: unexpected and dangerous discontinuities following years of neglect and hidden malady. The vertigo and throbbing pulse one feels today augur something much worse tomorrow.”
The First White President (Ta-Nehisi Coates)“Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.” In a scathing new essay, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on the whiteness of the Trump presidency, which he says is predicated nearly entirely on the negation of a black president, and what it means for America. Coates reminds readers that Trump’s “political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against ‘lazy’ black employees.”
This essay is drawn from Coates’ forthcoming book, “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy,” which collects his writing in The Atlantic, and will be published next month.
The War on Public Schools (Erika Christakis)
Americans have come to talk about education less as a public good than as a private consumable. But as education expert Erika Christakis argues, our public-education system is about much more than individual rights and choice; it is about preparing people to work together to advance society. Christakis argues that Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’s intense focus on school choice is the latest distraction from this purpose, and is thereby furthering the denigration of our public schools and a growing neglect of their role as an incubator of citizens. The author warns that we are ignoring “public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril. To revive them will require good faith across the political spectrum,” because “when we neglect schools’ nation-binding role, it grows hard to explain why we need public schools at all.”
How Americans Lost Faith in the Presidency (Ken Burns and Lynn Novick)
America’s failure in Vietnam undermined the country’s faith in its most respected institutions, and opened the credibility gap that the American presidency has yet to overcome. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the filmmakers behind the forthcoming documentary series The Vietnam War, look back at how each of the Vietnam-era presidents, in dealing with the quagmire of the conflict, was plagued with skepticism that eventually gave way to disillusionment with the presidency itself. But the story is about more than just the loss of faith in our country’s highest office. It’s about citizens, too. Burns and Novick point out: “The war may have robbed America of its innocence, but it also reminded us that the duty of citizens in a democracy is to be skeptical—not to worship our leaders, who have always been fallible, but to question their decisions, challenge their policies, and hold them accountable for their failures.”
Big In… China: License-Plate Marriages
You can marry for love, you can marry for money, or, in Beijing, you can marry for a license plate. As authorities try to cap the number of vehicles in China’s car-choked capital, they’ve taken to doling out new license plates via a six-time-a-year lottery. The odds are daunting, but there’s a big loophole. Licenses can be transferred between spouses, leading to a growing market of sham marriages—plate owners offer to tie the knot for a steep price (more than $13,000). All this for the privilege of driving in Beijing.