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Opinion: What could fall apart after Trump’s victory

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In 2018, Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole proposed the “Yeats Test” to determine how bad things are in the world.

“The proposition is simple: the more quotable Yeats seems to commentators and politicians, the worse things are,” O’Toole wrote. He noted, for example, that after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, “there was a massive surge in online searches for — and presumably readings of — Yeats’s magnificently doom-laden ‘The Second Coming.’”

The 1919 poem by William Butler Yeats is full of memorable lines, including “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” that can be conveniently applied to the fragility of the moment, whatever the subject.

Some sentiment like that might have been on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s mind Wednesday when he admitted that the months-long negotiation to reach a bipartisan compromise on border security and aid to Ukraine may be doomed by opposition from the presumed Republican presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump.

CNN reported that Trump has been urging Republicans to kill the deal “in part because he wants to campaign on the issue this November and doesn’t want President Joe Biden to score a victory in an area where he is politically vulnerable.” Senators from both parties are still trying to move the proposal forward, but its fate is uncertain.

Clay Jones/CNN
Clay Jones/CNN

Trump’s path to the GOP nomination was bolstered Tuesday by a double-digit win over former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in the New Hampshire primary.

“This isn’t the Olympics,” wrote Raul Reyes. “There are no medals for second place. Although … Haley is the last contender standing between former President Donald Trump and the Republican nomination…most Republican voters do not want an alternative to Trump; they overwhelmingly back him. Polling shows Trump even leads Haley in her home state of South Carolina.”

Haley’s quest is going nowhere, wrote Daniel McCarthy. “As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis showed in the days between his second-place finish in Iowa and his withdrawal from the race, it’s agony to keep campaigning when you know you only face humiliation in the races to come.”

The Republican Party is united behind Trump, and with optimal conditions for an opponent like Haley, Trump was still unstoppable.”

“Trump’s challenge, now that the nomination fight is effectively over, will be to appeal to voters who are turned off by his cult of personality,” wrote Paul Begala. “His angry, bitter speech Tuesday night was a terrible beginning for the general election. Did the grievance-filled rant against Haley sound like a winner to you? No, it sounded like a guy who is in deep doo-doo with independents.”

Trump’s election-night needling of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who endorsed the president over Haley, stood out. “Did you ever think (about how) she actually appointed you, Tim? … And you’re the senator of her state,” Trump said to Scott, “You must really hate her.” No, Scott replied, “I just love you.”

“This,” SE Cupp observed, “is yet another glowing example of the Great Emasculation of the GOP by Donald Trump, where grown men throw themselves at a guy who has smeared and slammed them … in hopes of becoming his VP?”

The former president, who has taken days away from the campaign trail to sit in a New York courtroom for a defamation trial he was not required to attend, suffered a costly defeat Friday when the jury awarded writer E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million over remarks Trump made about her in 2019. The verdict, observed Ana Marie Cox, “is far more than a judgment against Trump. Crucially, it’s a vindication of Carroll — and a statement in favor of every survivor who ever questioned whether what happened to them was ‘bad enough’ to count as sexual assault.”

No presidential candidate has ever shouldered as much legal baggage as Trump, historian Julian Zelizer pointed out. Yet Democrats should not underestimate his chances in November. “The qualities that propelled him in the past to command media attention continue to be effective. Even if he has lost many steps as a result of age — as Haley and others have argued — Trump continues to retain all of his talents as a showman. Trump still knows how to do television. He is the entertainer in chief.”

Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News
Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News

Too old?

For the next 280-plus days, American politics is likely to be dominated by the campaign between President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump, however much people might prefer a different set of choices. Biden, 81, and Trump, 77, are the oldest candidates to ever run for reelection as president.

There is an age minimum for the presidency: 35 years. Should there be a maximum age for the job? CNN Opinion is asking two experts to debate the pros and cons of an age limit — and we’re asking you to pose questions for them. Please fill out the form below.

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A deal in the wind?

Another test of the “things fall apart” theory is taking place in the Middle East, as CIA Director Bill Burns meets with regional leaders in search of a deal to free the hostages seized by Hamas on October 7 and to bring the Gaza war to a temporary, if not permanent, halt. The negotiations are sensitive, volatile and high-stakes.

Lishay Lavi, whose husband Omri Miran was abducted in Israel and taken to Gaza, wrote an open letter at CNN Opinion, updating him on her life and that of their daughters Roni and Alma.

“The last time we saw each other, I told you that I love you, that I’ll care for the girls, and that you should not try to be a hero,” Lavi wrote. “You told me that you love me, and then Roni tried to run to you. Thankfully, I managed to stop her in time.”

“Your captivity, with all its unknowns, has been all-encompassing. Are you injured? Do you eat? Do you need any medication? Are you being tortured or abused?”

The not-knowing is a torment that wraps around my heart and squeezes it.”

Barbie and Oscar

Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News
Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News

Sara Stewart spoke for many “Barbie” fans when she noted that “Tuesday’s Oscar nominations included eight nods for ‘Barbie,’ the highest-grossing movie of the year — but none for director Greta Gerwig, who created its singular, wildly popular vision, or lead actress Margot Robbie, who was, you know, Barbie. It’s a forehead-slapping pair of snubs that perfectly reflect the movie’s central premise: Patriarchy is baked into every aspect of our culture, and it’s exhaustingly hard for women to get a fair shake…”

“Social media quickly lit up with outrage over the slights. Author Brad Meltzer summed it up nicely: ‘Nominating Ken but not Barbie is literally the plot of the movie.’” (The film is distributed by Warner Bros., which like CNN, is part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Taking a contrarian view, Hannah Ryan acknowledged the outrage, but added, “Here’s the thing; ‘Barbie’ is neither smart enough nor interesting enough to be inspiring this level of uproar.” It “offered audiences a watered-down version of feminism.”

“While ‘Barbie’ achieved cultural phenomenon status last year, other films that took a more complicated approach to womanhood were shut out of the Oscars and the mainstream awards circuit completely. Sofia Coppola’s ‘Priscilla’ — a claustrophobic portrait of Priscilla Presley’s marriage to Elvis — and Molly Manning Walker’s ‘How to Have Sex’ — a devastating story of a girls’ vacation that ends in tears — received no attention from the Academy. Nor did Ava DuVernay’s groundbreaking film ‘Origin.’”

For more on movies:

Noah Berlatsky: Why the terrors of “Dr. Strangelove” still feel so familiar, 60 years later

The problem with ‘return to office’

The Covid pandemic upended the culture of office life — and there’s no going back, wrote Peter Bergen. One third of Americans who can do their jobs remotely work from home exclusively, and they appreciate the flexibility it gives them to be closer to their families, he noted. Some CEOs have argued that innovation and productivity suffer in a remote work environment. But the US economy is booming, Bergen pointed out. “If working from home suppressed innovation, productivity and creativity, you would expect quite different economic results.”

“The internet and cell phones obviate so much of what was once done at the office, which is, after all, largely an artifact of the 20th century thanks to the rise of mass transportation, the ability to build tall office buildings and the previous immovability of the ‘work’ telephone, which was stuck to a desk. All this, thankfully, is going the way of the dodo.”

“During the office era, so many workers spent so much time at their desks that workplaces often tried to present themselves as some kind of alternative family. You had your ‘work husbands’ and mandatory ‘team building’ events. Of course, this all came at the expense of your loved ones at home, as you had to spend time away from them while doing all your office-based events and tasks.”

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AND….  

Lisa Benson/Counterpoint Media
Lisa Benson/Counterpoint Media

How to brew tea

Suzanne Plunkett/CNN
Suzanne Plunkett/CNN

You can’t say Michelle Francl didn’t study up in developing her controversial advice on how to brew tea. The Bryn Mawr College chemistry professor read about 500 scientific papers and experimented with her own teapots and the tea itself. (She pointed out the disturbing news that, “There are the remains of lots of bugs in my tea — the DNA of hundreds of different insects have been identified in tea leaves.”)

But what landed her in hot water with the British public was the suggestion in her book, “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea” to add a pinch of salt to take the edge off the bitterness.

The response from the UK? Don’t mess with our national beverage, Rosa Prince noted. “I took up the tea habit when I was about 12 or 13, and like most of my countrymen and women have had a cuppa four or five times a day ever since. It’s less edgy than coffee, cheaper than gin and generally a soothing, unifying kind of thing, particularly when shared with others. You’re offered a cuppa char if you’ve given birth, witnessed a murder, come home from a crappy day at work.”

“And there are definite wrongs and rights about how to brew up. Too weak, and you’ll be accused of serving ‘gnat’s piss’; leave the bag in too long and it’s ‘stew.’”

“As to the question of whether or not to add sugar; to my mind it seems a little immature over the age of puberty but who am I to judge?”

“However, salt? Salt? Whether in the seas of Boston Harbour or some mad prof’s lab in rural Pennsylvania, tea and salt do not mix and that, my Yank friends, is that.”

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