July 26, 2019

Boris Johnson Becomes UK Prime Minister

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“Boris Johnson promised in his first speech as prime minister to lead Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 with ‘no ifs or buts’ and warned that if the bloc refused to negotiate then there would be a no-deal Brexit.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is worried that Johnson will not be able to solve the Brexit crisis.

The raw dilemma at the heart of Brexit: Will the U.K. remain principally a European power, aligned with its continental neighbors on trade, foreign policy, and defense, or will it feel compelled to move much closer to the U.S. in the aftermath of an acrimonious breakup?...

“Britain’s choice is a difficult one. It prizes its ‘special relationship’ with Washington, largely centered on intelligence-sharing and defense, but as a member of the EU, it is much more closely intertwined with European economies. Throughout the presidency of Donald Trump, London has also showed itself far more willing to strike out against the U.S. position, aligning itself with Brussels, Paris, and Berlin on a range of foreign-policy questions from climate change to tariffs—and, crucially, the Iranian nuclear deal… The British government has so far sought to separate Brexit from all other questions of strategic national interest. Boris Johnson may soon find that’s no longer possible.”
Tom McTague, The Atlantic

“Nobody believes that Mr. Johnson, who is widely disdained in Brussels, especially after his gaffe-prone stint as foreign secretary, will be able to wrest a better deal than the diligent Mrs. May got in two years of negotiations. And countless analyses by independent research groups and the British government have warned that a hard Brexit would be an economic disaster, with long lines at Channel crossings and broken supply chains. British Treasury studies have predicted slowed economic growth and high costs from lost trade — far from the patently fictional savings of 350 million pounds a week that Mr. Johnson blithely advertised on his pro-Brexit campaign bus… Mr. Johnson’s bombast is about to collide with the realities that undermined Mrs. May’s efforts.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Boris Johnson’s plan to solve Brexit: believe harder… The 90,000-odd Conservative Party faithful who elected him (a ‘selectorate’ that forms less than 1 percent of the British population)... are bored with discussions of trade deals, nontariff barriers, and regulatory orbits. [Johnson] promises entertainment and novelty instead… The possibility of a No-Deal Brexit is exciting, in the way that stories about the Second World War—and Johnson’s hero, Winston Churchill—are exciting. It is a viewpoint that can flourish only now that so few people remember the reality of that time: rationing, air raids, death. There’s a reason that ‘May you live in interesting times’ is considered a curse.”
Helen Lewis, The Atlantic

“In historical terms, now might be a uniquely bad moment to experiment with maverick leadership. Britain is adrift between an aggressively protectionist US and a European project destabilised by nationalism. Economic storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. We are only beginning to grasp the extent to which digital revolution is reordering societies and in denial about the consequences for democracy if that transformation is shaped by China. There is a climate emergency. Under the circumstances, it would be handy to have a prime minister with perspective and humility regarding the UK’s capacity for unilateral action. Instead we have a man whose strategic horizon goes no further than his own ego; who does not distinguish between personal gratification and fulfilment of national destiny.”
Rafael Behr, The Guardian

It is widely claimed that there are, in fact, two Boris Johnsons. The first is the ideologue—a populist, barnstorming Brexiteer who ousted back-to-back establishment prime ministers on his way to power. This Johnson would probably play hardball with the European Union, and force the nation into a no-deal departure come October 31. The other Johnson is an opportunist, a shape-shifter who was able to work across party lines as the only Conservative ever to become the mayor of liberal London. This Johnson, it is hoped, would build a consensus and prevail over a bitterly divided Parliament to deliver a passable Brexit deal… But even if Johnson possesses both the conservative yin and the centrist yang his backers claim, the task before him remains far more difficult and delicate than it has been made out to be.”
Stephen Paduano, New Republic

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of Johnson.

From the Right

The right is generally supportive of Johnson.

“Brexit in Britain, like President Trump in the United States, [has] sparked a political realignment, with the capital pitted against the countryside, the elites ensconced in the very largest metropolitan areas versus small-town traditionalists and their former partisan opponents in beleaguered mining and manufacturing centers…

“Some establishment types may really believe that Trump is Hitler and that Brexit will plunge Britain into another Great Depression. Most of them drip with contempt for ordinary citizens and, astonishingly, seem to think it entirely healthy and consistent with democracy to overturn the decision of the voters. They’re sure they’re better than ordinary people. Those attitudes are unjustified. Johnson’s three top Cabinet appointees are of Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish ancestry: Nationalism doesn’t mean white supremacy.”
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

“Boris is perhaps one of the most qualified and astute British politicians of recent history. Born in upper-middle-class New York, he went through the classic Eton-Oxford route to be a scholar in classics at Balliol College… People sometimes equate Boris with other populist leaders, but he’s rather incomparable in that regard. On the other hand, Boris is not a conservative in the truest sense of the term either. He embodies the pro-business and freedom ideals of the British Liberal Party’s 19th-century heyday, and with instinctive Victorian propriety.”
Sumantra Maitra, The Federalist

“He has charisma. He’s eloquent and disarming. He is capable of winning people over. He’ll need to, if he’s going to bring Britain out of the political deadlock that led to the crushing defeats of May’s Brexit plan… Britain needs a successful Brexit, and he may be the only political figure in Britain who can do it. It would be nice to think that the U.K. could simply hold a second referendum and that the ‘Remain’ camp would prevail this time. Yet there’s no guarantee it will. And even if it did, a second referendum leading to a different result would convince nearly half the country that they had been cheated of their democratic due.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

“First and foremost, Johnson must somehow find a way to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31. The European Union is trying to delay Brexit, but Johnson says the date will hold. His challenge, then, is to somehow persuade the EU to grant some more concessions, something the political bloc says it won't do. Johnson must also persuade a majority in the House of Commons to approve any new deal. This won't be easy. Still, Johnson does have one ace up his sleeve in the form of America. Supported by Trump, Johnson will be able to ask Trump to exert new pressure on the EU to make compromises favorable to Britain. Considering ongoing EU economic doubts and Trump's penchant for tariffs, the EU may well bend to the president's words.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“What this new cabinet or — as some commentators have rightly observed — this new government signifies is that a Remainer administration has been replaced by a Brexiteer administration almost as completely as after a general election defeat… still more important, the four great offices of state — the prime ministership, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the Treasury — are all in the hands of reliable Brexiteers… All are prepared… to sign on to Boris’s condition that they will support a No Deal Brexit if an EU–U.K. deal proves impossible to strike.”
John O’Sullivan, National Review

If “freed from the policy shackles of Brussels, Britain will be able to ink a bi-lateral free trade agreement with the U.S. That should give an immediate boost to both economies. In addition, Britain will be able to speak with a completely independent voice on European foreign and security affairs. For too long, the EU’s consensus-based approach to policy-making has produced lowest-common-dominator foreign and security policies. A truly authentic British voice will be a powerful and much-needed antidote for European groupthink.”
James Jay Carafano, Fox News

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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