A rescue mission needed at home
WASHINGTON — Perhaps no news story has grasped the American reading and television viewing public in recent days as has the frantic and successful effort by Thai official and volunteer first responders to rescue a dozen young boys and their soccer coach trapped in a below-ground cave.
Amid repeated torrential rain and rapidly diminishing life-saving oxygen supply, the rescuers battled not only the elements but also the clock to extricate the victims from their plight before those uncontrollable elements could snuff out their lives.
In a much less dramatic way, a similar attempt has been is going on here at home on our southern border, in the Trump policy of zero tolerance policy toward immigration law violators. Therein, thousands of small children have been separated from their parents in federal deportation procedures.
The shameless phenomenon in this land built and sustained by other immigrants seeking political asylum and better lives has stirred a developing public protest. A difference here is that Trump has aggressively rallied his political base in support of the ugly policy on questionable national security grounds.
The domestic clash was also dramatized last week by a protesting naturalized U.S. citizen arrested climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty as others hoisted a banner calling for abolition of ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
It was an effective reminder of the historical implications of the zero tolerance policy, but also an overreach against a legitimate and needed agency that cries out for reform, not abandonment in the current crisis. Administration voices cited the demand to kill ICE as a welcome Democratic blunder.
In humanitarian terms, the separation of toddlers from their mothers is yet another black eye on the blunt, impetuous Oval Office occupant. He has inflicted it on himself as he is on a seven-day trip to Europe already generating more foreign protest.
After earlier going to Quebec and poking his finger in the eye of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump in Brussels Wednesday bashed German Chancellor Angela Merkel by accusing her country of being “captive of Russia” through its heavy dependence on natural gas imports from there.
While there, he poured more fuel on the fire of his dispute with other NATO countries, demanding they double their annual contribution to the alliance from two to four percent of their gross national product while still chiding most of them for failing to meet the current level.
Nevertheless, he did sign a 23-page statement by all 28 members on mutual security that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg cited as evidence of continued solidarity, even as the American president continued his disruptive words and behavior as the alliance’s bull in a china shop.
After helicoptering over London Thursday amid large street protests and a call on British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump heads to one of his golf courses in Scotland Friday and then on to Helsinki next week for a one-on-one meeting next week with his Russian dictator pal Vladimir Putin.
The American ambassador to Russia, former Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, told reporters that the administration was doing so “with our eyes wide open,” and that the two countries “can’t solve problems if you don’t talk about them.” He added that “the ball really is in Russia’s court, and the president will continue to hold Russia accountable for its malign activities.”
This latter remark did not seem to square with Trump’s recent observations remarks at a Montana rally, wherein he repeated that Putin told him there was no Russian “collusion” in meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and that he believed him.
Merkel for one offered a personal reminder of past Russian behavior, telling reporters that “I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and am happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany.”
It was a bit of history that Donald Trump appears to have forgotten, if he ever remembered it. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions,” she added, as if speaking directly at him, though he seldom seems to be in a listening mode toward any voice but his own.
Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at email@example.com.