SOUTH KOREA REACHES OUT TO NORTH AMID NUCLEAR STANDOFF
South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in proposed Monday that his nation resumes military talks with its longtime foe in the north to prevent a nuclear crisis—a position which contrasts sharply with U.S. efforts to internationalize the issue and pressure China to clamp down on its wayward ally. The White House responded dismissively to Moon’s calls, pointing out that the North was unlikely to meet conditions necessary for the U.S. to support talks.
Moon’s proposal came only two weeks after North Korea successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon which potentially threatens the South’s longtime ally, the United States.
Richard Haas, a former State Department policymaker under President George W. Bush, argued Sunday that this new weapon necessitated an international solution that includes all relevant parties, including both Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
“[T]he main alternatives — living with a North Korea that poses a direct threat to the United States or attacking it knowing a large and costly war could ensue — are each even more unattractive” than renewed international diplomacy, Haas wrote. He did not comment directly on the possibility of a bilateral solution that excludes the U.S. from negotiations.
OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT COLLAPSES
Two additional defections Monday night spelled the death—for the time being—of continued Republican efforts to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature health care law. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, had stalled debate on his party’s latest health care proposal as John McCain recovers from surgery, two additional Republican senators announced that they would not even support a motion to open debate on the bill, creating a clear majority opposed to moving forward.
In response to the loss, a disappointed President Trump tweeted “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate.”
Though the Republican Party has opposed Obamacare consistently since its passage seven years ago, Congressional Republicans and Trump himself had previously stated their intention to replace the bill with another plan as they repeal it, as millions would lose health insurance immediately if the bill vanished. Trump indicated in the tweet his belief that, if the bill is repealed, a cornered Democratic party “will join in” frantic measures to craft some sort of replacement.
ISRAELI PM CONFLICTED OVER ANTI-SEMITISM ON TRIP TO HUNGARY
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travels to Hungary Tuesday, he has found himself caught between calls to denounce the nation’s surging anti-Semitism and desires to strengthen ties. In the past month, Hungary’s far-right leader Viktor Orban has publicly praised the country’s Hitler-aligned past leader and launched what many critics have deemed an anti-Semitic poster campaign targeted at left-wing prominent Jewish financier and Holocaust survivor George Soros, leading to calls from opposition politicians for Netanyahu to cancel the visit.
A prominent Israeli blogger has suggested that Netanyahu might in fact support Orban’s opposition to the left-leaning billionaire activist Soros, despite its alleged anti-Semitic tone. In addition to his financial support for a prominent international university in Hungary’s capital, in the past decade Soros has funded various groups that oppose Israel’s current right-leaning coalition government and its occupation of the Palestinian-dominated West Bank.
“Soros’s humanitarianism and universalism represent an expression of post-Holocaust Jewish identity that is anathema to the hard-line nationalism of Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition,” the blogger concluded.
TOP ETHICS WATCHDOG CALLS U.S. A “LAUGHING STOCK”
“We are pretty close to a laughing stock at this point” said Walter Schaub, the outgoing head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, of the Trump administration’s unchecked conflicts-of-interest in an interview this weekend.
Schaub decided earlier this month to resign his position as the U.S. top ethics watchdog in protest of President Trump’s nepotistic hiring practices and his administration’s continued refusal to divest in business interests affected by government policy which he believes undermine trust in government.
“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our side of the street clean,” Schaub said Monday.
The White House hit back at the outgoing ethics chief, rejecting his calls for increased ethics oversight by saying that Schaub was trying to curry favor with Trump opponents on his way out.
“[Mr. Schaub] is interested in grandstanding and lobbying for more expansive powers in the office he holds,” said a White House spokesman, adding that Schaub had problematically voiced concerns in the media before advising the administration privately.
BREXIT TALKS OPEN DESPITE CONFUSION BACK HOME
As Britain’s Brexit Minister began discussions with an EU negotiator Monday amid confusion back home over the U.K.’s priorities in an exit agreement, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee warned her paper’s left-leaning audience that holding out hope of another referendum to reverse the nation’s departure is foolhardy. While many anti-Brexit Britons believe that, when negotiations expose the pain Brexit would inflict, their country will eventually opt to remain in the EU, Toynbee warned this is not the case.
“If your confirmation bias draws your eyes only to stories that tell you the tide is turning, cast your eyes occasionally at how Murdoch, the Mail and the Telegraph still ply their venom,” she wrote. “They would still be there, poisoning the air, in a second referendum.”
Instead, Toynbee called for continued delay that will prevent the most damaging aspects of Brexit from ever taking hold and result in a tepid, half-way agreement.
“Indefinite limbo is no visionary battle cry, and will satisfy no one: Brexiteers will always be implacable,” Toynbee wrote. “But it could turn out to be the least worst option, and so long as we are no better off outside the club, the EU might accept a messy compromise, saving us from calamity.”