Three fiercely determined women with little else in common seized the spotlight this week. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to Congress from the Bronx; Maria Lila Meza Castro, whose image as she fled tear gas at the border went viral; and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Call them sisters under fire:
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Ocasio-Cortez has yet to be sworn in, but she is already Fox News' favorite trigger, wrote Dean Obeidallah. It's "'Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez derangement syndrome,'" he writes: They can't stop talking about her, "from her choice of footwear to the type of apartment she can afford to the alleged impending doom she presents for America." With Hillary Clinton on the sidelines, "a young, brown Latina woman is the new 'villain' Fox News needs to keep viewers tuned in."
Maria Lila Meza Castro slogged her way with thousands of others from Honduras to the United States border, hoping to cross at Tijuana and seek asylum. Instead she was hit with tear gas, and the photograph of her -- wearing a T-shirt from the American film "Frozen," as she pulled two little girls to safety -- became an instant symbol. The cruel irony is that the movie "celebrates freedom and empowerment," noted Yalda T. Uhls. "Unfortunately ... she is unlikely to ever realize the dreams celebrated by the two characters beaming out from her T-shirt -- at least not in 2018 America."
Do the British media have it in for the Duchess of Sussex? Sure looks that way, observed Jane Merrick. The gushing coverage of the royal wedding has given way to tabloid trashing of the former American actress, as "a demanding bridezilla in the run-up to the wedding and a difficult boss" who demanded an emerald tiara and even made her sister-in-law Kate cry. It's unfair and an "apparent effort to 'other' her -- perhaps due to her being American but also, in a more insidious way, over her biracial heritage," Merrick wrote. Cut her a break, she says.
Why '41' will be missed
America's 41st President, George H.W. Bush, died Friday. Aaron David Miller recounted a phone call he received from the President when he worked in Bush's state department. It showed, he wrote, Bush's character, and another essential quality: curiosity. While Bush's "mission in life was certainly driven by personal ambition, it was always tethered to a broader goal of service and obligation to a nation he loved. Together with the passing of John McCain, Bush's death reminds us of what's often missing in today's politics -- the service and bipartisanship required to lead a nation through difficult times."
Trump is right to worry about Cohen
"It is easy to see why (Donald Trump) is so visibly flustered," wrote former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. On Thursday, Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to lying to Congress about Trump's Russia dealings. "Trump took a few swipes at Cohen, calling Cohen 'very weak' and accusing Cohen of 'lying.' This is Cooperator Bashing 101 -- standard, textbook stuff from a frightened target of a criminal probe. As Trump seems to understand, cooperating witnesses often pose the gravest threat to the leaders of closed, corrupt, hierarchical organizations."
The implications mount. "Did Trump's hiring of (Paul) Manafort as campaign chair, for no salary, have anything to do with Manafort's deep ties to pro-Vladimir Putin Russian oligarchs?" And where does the Russian state's effort to hack Hillary Clinton and the DNC's e-mails fit in? If Cohen knows it, now Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller does too, Honig says.
Earlier in the week, Mueller's cooperation deal with Manafort collapsed after Manafort was accused of lying to the special counsel's office ("incredibly reckless and self-defeating," opined Jeffrey Toobin). It's no setback for Mueller, Honig says, since "we know Mueller has the goods on whatever Manafort lied about."
GM job cuts puncture the Trump narratives
If Trump's presidency fails, look to General Motors, not Mueller, as a precipitating cause, suggested Mark Weinberg. On Monday, GM announced it was closing five North American plants, killing 14,000 jobs. Trump, whose steel and aluminum tariffs have cost the company $1 billion, was furious. If his economic policies are implicated, Weinberg wrote, it could represent "a stake in the heart of the Trump presidential experiment ... thousands of American autoworkers, many who voted for Trump in 2016 -- believing he would protect their jobs -- now face a stark reality just weeks before the holidays."
GM's move is a reality check, wrote Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. "We no longer live in a country where what's good for big business is good for its workers or for its politicians. There may be no way back to such a place, but if there is, it's pretty clear that Trump doesn't have the map."
It's not likely GM does, either, wrote Detroit native Marc Osler; it is motivated by short-term gains for investors, not long-term vision. The company will "roll out as many gas-guzzling Suburbans as Texas moms can buy. I don't believe for a second, though, that there is much chance that GM will eventually pivot to electric vehicles or autonomous cars." The harsh truth: "Don't fall in love with GM. She will not love you back."
The trouble with Beto-mania
Beto O'Rourke, who failed to unseat Ted Cruz from the United States Senate, told a crowd in El Paso on Monday that he may well run for president in 2020. Consider this, wrote Jill Filipovic. "A record number of women won races in the midterm election, making the incoming Congress the most female and the most racially diverse in American history. So of course presidential speculation is all about the white guy who lost his Senate race." The truth is "we still understand executive power as male, and so we continue to look to men to occupy it."
More than three weeks after the midterm elections, the country was still wrapping them up last week.
In Mississippi, the Republican Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith won a runoff Tuesday, after clinging tightly to Trump during a campaign marked by repeated race-related controversy. Lamented Mississippi author Ralph Eubanks: "Tuesday night, Mississippi had the opportunity to show the country that it had become a state that has shaken off its image as a closed society. "In the end, it was Mississippi's past that won the election rather than its future."
Burying climate change report backfires
Why, asked Ken Kimmell and Brenda Ekwurzel in The Guardian, did the Trump administration try to bury its own scary climate report by releasing it on Black Friday? What's Trump, a climate change skeptic, hiding? the writers ask. That "it's here and now," and that its findings "make the case that the administration must stop rolling back the climate policies the previous administration put in place." Trump ignores this at the world's peril, they note, even as states, cities and the private sector are stepping up with climate change strategies of their own.
Alaskan Bernadette Demientieff saw confirmation in the report: "Many of our Native communities ... are living that reality daily," she wrote. "Alaska is ground zero for climate change." And yet the Trump administration is pushing to open up the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling. The "dangerous collaboration of the fossil-fuel industry and the Trump administration are threatening our food security, our traditions, our cultural heritage, and our very survival," she says.
John Bolton's cowardice
John Bolton, President Trump's national security adviser, told reporters Tuesday he had a perfectly good reason not to listen to an audio recording of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi's torture and murder in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey: He doesn't speak Arabic. Earlier, Trump explained to Fox News' Chris Wallace that he, too, did not want to listen because "It's a suffering tape. It's a terrible tape." Paul Begala offered "a word for those who, when entrusted with leading our nation, purposefully turn away from their duties because they are difficult or unpleasant: cowards." "What this sad story teaches us is they (Trump and Bolton) also don't speak the language of American values," Begala says.
Khashoggi himself faced truth directly, his daughters Noha and Razan Jamal Khashoggi reflected in the Washington Post. "It was vitally important to him to speak up, to share his opinions, to have candid discussions." They offer not a eulogy of their journalist dad, but "a promise that his light will never fade, that his legacy will be preserved within us."
Washington Redskins should be ashamed
Reuben Foster was charged with domestic-violence battery in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Sunday and the San Francisco 49ers swiftly dumped him from their roster. Three days later the Washington Redskins hired him. Repulsive message received, wrote Roxanne Jones. The "NFL continues to excuse misogyny and abuse against women." But this will backfire, she says. "Women make up nearly 45% of the NFL fanbase," and often are the deciders for their kids' involvement. "We know our power. If the league intends to keep women watching and spending on the NFL, it cannot keep justifying guys like Reuben Foster."
Seven minutes of terror, and then...
Piece of cake: Point and shoot an $814 million spacecraft at Mars, 300 million miles away, then wait seven months for it to arrive and plunge at 12,300 mph (and a precise 12-degree angle) through the planet's atmosphere, and parachute gently to the featureless surface.
What could possibly go wrong? Nothing did. To cheers, NASA's Mars probe InSight landed flawlessly Monday, which is quite a thing, wrote physicist Don Lincoln ahead of the landing: The planet is a "graveyard of failed probes," with 44 tries and 18 successes over the years. Finding liquid water this time "would be the key discovery," says Lincoln, and "very comforting to possible future explorers."
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