Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
March 17, 2017 (posted March 22, 2017)
Mr. President: Every so often the laws of nature appear to reverse, as when cold air
is trapped on the earth's surface in a thermal inversion enveloping people in a smog
of pollution. Such has been the recent political experience of the Dutch, until a blast
of fresh air on Wednesday sanitized the country.
The Dutch election came as a relief to mainstream political parties in Europe after
Brexit in Britain and the election of Donald Trump in America. Geert Wilders the
Dutch populist, anti-immigrant, Koran and Mosque banning firebrand simply burned
himself out. At one point leading in the polls with 25 percent, there were fears he
might win a plurality and have the prerogative of being the first to be asked to form a
government -- although an impossibility as the other major parties had refused any
alliance. Even so it would have delayed the formation of a new governing coalition.
None of it came to pass. Mr. Wilders came a distant second with 20 seats and only
13 percent of the vote. Outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte's center right party was
the greatly relieved winner of 33 seats although it lost 8. A big winner was Jesse
Klaver's GreenLeft which boosted its seats from 4 to 14. It was in its way a
repudiation of Geert Wilders and his hate rhetoric for the attractively boyish Mr.
Klaver has a Moroccan father and a mother of Indonesian descent.
The Dutch Labor party PvdA suffered an historic defeat losing 29 seats our of the 38
held previously. Their traditional voters chose smaller left wing parties and
GreenLeft. Might it portend the fate of British Labor unless they can marshal their
supporters before the next election?
All in all not a bad week for the Dutch who ended it with their heads high and their
liberal/moral credentials intact. Then, was it not Hugo Grotius who initiated the
concept of just war in the West, sparing civilians and prisoners of war and so forth.
In the U.S., our own homegrown populist was busy exercising his charms on
Germany's Angela Merkel, here on a very brief one-day visit, her hand strengthened
by Wilders poor showing. Asked by the press to shake hands for a photo, President
Trump ignored the request. No doubt a great relief for the Chancellor as 87 percent
of Germans in a January poll felt he was not good for Germany. A photo like that
could have been plastered all over by her opposition before the forthcoming election
on September 24th. They did shake hands although more privately and not posed.
The Dutch election results have fortified the EU drivers. Marine Le Pen's star seems
to have peaked and the latest betting odds offered have Emmanuel Macron an
odds-on favorite. While bookmakers can be wrong, Le Pen's chances in the French
second round look remote. That Britain is adrift, facing a possible breakaway
Scotland, has been sobering to other electorates. Being part of the EU has definite
As Angela Merkel obliquely pointed out, addressing the press instead of Donald
Trump, who was bemoaning Germany's great trade deal with the United States, her
country has long surrendered trade negotiations to the EU in Brussels -- a large
trading block comparable to the U.S. and consequently a more powerful negotiator.
And as she has pointed out earlier, why can't American manufacturers turn out cars
Americans want to buy.
Little Britain adrift in a sea of sharks had Theresa May running to Washington doubly
eager to sign a trade deal to allow it to swim in the wake of one of the biggest fish
around. It doesn't take great art for Mr. Trump to figure that deal, but just wait for Mr.
Xi's visit. He has already had him retreat from attempts at a two-China policy without
moving a muscle. That's one tough cookie, as they say.
Perhaps a bigger problem for Mr. Trump is his idee fixe. He is beginning to be
tedious, and nothing turns off the public faster than a one-trick pony -- in Mr. Trump's
case squeezing more money for the US out of friends and rivals alike (from the
so-called bad trade deals and countries not paying enough for their defense). Once
the public has had enough, there goes the second term. Going by recent poll
numbers, that seems to be the hope of an increasing majority of the people.