Trump’s Helsinki Walk-Back Doesn’t Go Far Enough
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- President Donald Trump today walked back, barely, some of what he said in Vladimir Putin’s presence in Helsinki yesterday. He said he didn’t mean to deny that Russia meddled in the 2016 election – he just got hung up on a double negative when addressing the topic. He now believes the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered and will do so again. Given that he also blamed unidentified “other people” (while identifying Barack Obama for blame), and given the double-negative thing, he may have done little to clean up the damage from openly capitulating to Putin on global TV.
That means we’re still looking for answers for why the president does what he does. In one best-case scenario – the one White House officials used when trying to explain Helsinki – he’s subsuming American interests to satisfy his obsession with his own legitimacy, as Ramesh Ponnuru argues. We also have to consider the possibility that he thinks blowing up the post-World War II order and befriending Russia is a good idea geopolitically, as Noah Feldman invites us to do. Hal Brands thinks destroying U.S. foreign policy is indeed Trump’s goal, and that he expects us to trust his ability to build a new world order around himself.
The other scenarios are even worse. One involves Putin having leverage, financial or otherwise, over Trump. The president could end some of this speculation easily by releasing his tax returns, notes Tim O’Brien (who has seen some of his returns but can’t talk about them), but: “I suspect that Trump is hesitant to make them public because they would reveal, among other things, sensitive information about his business activities, conflicts of interest and financial pressures that might come to bear upon him in the White House. Pressure from places like Russia, for example.”
More Russia Reading:
Life, not being a video game, seldom gives you do-over opportunities. Britain right now has a big, juicy one: It has a chance to hold a new vote on whether to leave the European Union, two years after its narrow and surprising decision to Brexit. It’s had this ability all along, but it has taken some time for it to sink in that Brexit will not go nearly as hoped. The immediate dividends Brexiteers promised have still not arrived. The economy is struggling. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is losing people faster than the last act of “Rogue One,” partly because she can’t get anybody to agree to a Brexit path that is as little like actually Brexiting as possible.
Why not just stop the foolishness and hold a brand new Brexit vote? Bloomberg’s editors ask. May’s predicament has more people getting on board with the idea, including some Brexit fans. A re-vote would be messy for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the UK’s deadline to get out of the EU is less than a year away – offering no time to hold a new referendum without an extension an annoyed EU might not be willing to give.
Therese Raphael, who argued against a re-vote last year, thinks it could be a workable nuclear option for a cornered May – as long as the referendum is handled more carefully than David Cameron handled the first one: “It would certainly make a difference if the decision were binding and the choice clear. But the bar is high: Ask the wrong question at the wrong time and a second referendum could (hard as this is to fathom) make things even worse.”
More Brexit reading:
- May claims a new fighter jet will boost the fortunes of a post-Brexit UK. Don’t buy it. – Lionel Laurent
Amazon.com Inc. had some problems with its made-up Prime Day holiday yesterday. For a while there the online retailer was unable to do any online retailing. The problem was fixed quickly, and this is hardly the end of the world financially for Amazon, point out Sarah Halzack and Shira Ovide. But it doesn’t speak well of Amazon: “A company that’s trying to be the starting point for the world’s shopping displayed how fragile it could be, just like any fusty old retailer. And worse, the company’s reaction to its setback exposed Amazon as tone-deaf to its customers’ problems.” Click here to read the whole thing.
Bonus death-of-retail reading:
- Conor Sen and Noah Smith debate Amazon and the retailpocalypse.
Bob Dylan once sang, “he not busy being born is busy dying,” which could be the motto of Netflix Inc.: It must constantly grow its subscriber base in order to justify its paint-peeling spending levels and outrageous stock valuation ($165 billion, or a bit more than The Walt Disney Co.), writes Shira Ovide. It failed on that count in the latest quarter, which is why its stock was chopped and blended like a smoothie today. Read Shira’s take here.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell hinted he may have a nervous eye on the yield curve, writes Brian Chappatta.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s numbers seem to be shifting to match the rise of David Solomon, writes Stephen Gandel.
Dell Technologies Inc.’s buyout math doesn’t add up, writes Brooke Sutherland.
Sovereign wealth funds are having a hard time finding private investments; this may not be a good sign for private investments. – Mark Gilbert
The Statue of Liberty stands for more than you realize. – Tyler Cowen
Israel is more ready than ever to launch a military attack on Iran if it starts up its nuke program again. – Ilan Jonas
The WeWorks Cos. meat ban is really a branding exercise. – Virginia Postrel
Better food labeling can fight obesity. – Jessica Fanzo
Chinese researchers just set a record for quantum entanglement.
Can psychedelic drugs give you access to a true mystical reality, or are you just really really high?
Hotels have secret rooms they don't tell anybody about.
How not to spend your lottery winnings.
The news is terrible, so let’s watch a live stream of brown bears hunting for salmon instead. (h/t Shira Ovide)
Note: Please send lottery tickets, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at email@example.com.
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Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.
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