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'Wasted our lives': Catholic sex abuse scandals again prompt a crisis of faith

By Julie Zauzmer, et al.
'Wasted our lives': Catholic sex abuse scandals again prompt a crisis of faith
Matthew Mangiaracina stands outside of St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Washington. Mangiaracina used to attend St. Patrick's but changed parishes this past week because he didn't want to face Cardinal Donald Wuerl. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Michael Robinson Chavez

WASHINGTON - She thought about not coming.

Disillusioned by the sex abuse scandal once again consuming the Catholic Church, Claartje Bertaut considered skipping Sunday mass for the first time in more than four decades. In fact, she even considered leaving Catholicism.

But the 87-year-old District of Columbia woman sat in the pews Sunday at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament - one of the region's most prominent Catholic churches - as a young, impassioned priest urged more than 200 churchgoers not to lose their faith in God or Catholicism amid a "period of darkness" for the church. Rev. Alec Scott, Blessed Sacrament's parochial vicar, apologized for the misdeeds of the clergy.

"For all the frustration this has caused you, I express my condolences," Scott said. "But without you, reform won't be possible."

The congregation in Northwest Washington - moved by his plea - clapped when he finished.

"I never in that church heard the audience applaud a sermon," said Bertaut, who joined in the ovation. "This was a first."

It has been a painful summer for faithful Catholics. First, an investigation into widespread abuse in Chile and a cardinal on trial in Australia. Then, the first-ever resignation of a U.S. cardinal accused of sexual abuse - Theodore McCarrick, Washington's former archbishop.

And then last week, a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation revealed a systemic coverup by church leaders of child sex abuse. The report, in graphic victim accounts, detailed alleged abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over 70 years.

"This has been the summer from hell for the Catholic Church and our sins are blatantly exposed for the world to see," Vatican adviser Rev. Thomas Rosica wrote on Friday.

Paul Elie, a writer who lectures at Georgetown University's Berkley Center, thought that after the revelation of the sexual abuse crisis in 2002 and subsequent blows in the years after, he had lost the ability to feel even more disappointment in his church. He was wrong.

"It affects me profoundly," he said of the recent scandals. "A lot of Catholics, we have to ask whether we have wasted our lives following this model of leadership. At this point, the leadership in this country is not credible. The repeated scandals make it difficult or even impossible to pass the faith on to our kids ... I think about it every hour."

The Catholic church has lost more members in recent decades than any other major faith. About 27 percent of former Catholics who no longer identify with a religion cited clergy sexual abuse scandals as a reason for leaving the church, according to Pew research in 2015. And among former Catholics who now identify as Protestant, 21 percent say the sexual abuse scandals were a reason for leaving Catholicism, Pew says.

Even greater numbers of former Catholics say that they left over the church's teachings on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, or women.

Surveys have rarely asked about the Catholic Church's response to the crisis since 2013, when a Post-ABC poll found that 78 percent of Catholics disapproved of the way the church had handled the scandal - more than a decade after the Boston Globe investigation prompted the church to overhaul its procedures for rooting out abusive priests.

"It's almost unsalvageable. The church is in pieces. People have completely separated their faith from the organization," said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University.

As head of a Catholic institution, McGuire said she sees this summer sowing new doubts. "The fact that we thought all the worst had come out already - this is what creates cynicism. People were like: 'OK, it's all cleaned up, now we're moving on.' ... Now we know: The church is a fallible human organization."

For Washington Catholics in particular, last week's Pennsylvania grand jury report dealt a second blow of the summer, by casting doubt on McCarrick's successor, the current Washington archbishop Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

Wuerl, whose conduct as bishop of Pittsburgh was scrutinized in the investigation, has canceled his trip to Ireland for a major Catholic summit and has had his upcoming book's publication postponed. And in the pews of his diocese, some are heartsick to read how the report says he handled the abusive priests he supervised.

Matthew Mangiaracina, 25, went to mass every day on his lunch break at St. Patrick's in downtown Washington, a church where Wuerl often celebrates mass. But this week, as he read the report, Mangiaracina felt he could never go back to St. Patrick's and face the cardinal.

This week, he stepped tentatively into St. Mary Mother of God, the next nearest church to his job at the Family Research Council, to see whether he could find solace in the mass there instead.

"Anything associated with the archbishop makes me uncomfortable. Everything coming out of the Pennsylvania report, it seems pretty damning. I don't trust him anymore," he said. "I'm at a loss."

Facing the latest investigation, Catholics had a range of reactions - from those who can't be shocked anymore to those who were newly grieved, from those who feel Catholics are unfairly singled out to those who maintain their faith in the religion but not its leaders.

"Everybody's always lambasting the Catholic Church," complained Elizabeth Rhodes, a former Fox News producer, as she had lunch with her daughter near the campus of Catholic University of America on Thursday. "They don't look at people in sports, the ones who are training kids in soccer. There are plenty of other religious communities, Jewish and others, where there's sexual exploitation. Any religion, any time, it's a tragedy, but I hate this focus (on Catholics)."

Still, Rhodes said, she's frustrated with the church's leadership. She thinks Pope Francis has been far too slow to respond to the crisis in Chile. She was upset by the revelations about McCarrick. She no longer trusts Wuerl, based on what she's heard about the Pennsylvania report.

But she retains her trust in the priests she knows personally, and in her religion. "For me, church is like a hospital - you go for help. You go in times that are difficult. You need that support, just like you need to work out physically."

Rigo Azanwi, a 26-year-old Capuchin friar who is studying at Catholic University to become a priest, said his first reaction was much the same: sorrow and anger over the children who were hurt, but also suspicion that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office specifically went after Catholics, even though most of the cases are too old to ever be prosecuted.

"Is this supposed to be trying to tarnish the image of the church?" he asked on Thursday.

He said he has learned while wearing his friar habit just how deeply many people view the Catholic church with suspicion after years of scandal. He remembers sitting down on an airplane once, then hearing a stranger sneer at him, "Which child have you abused this morning?"

Fearful of such perceptions, he is careful to never be alone with a child or touch one, even when his nieces and nephews ask him for hugs and piggyback rides. "I love kids but at the same time, I am scared of them," he said.

For young adults like Azanwi, the scandals are simply part of what they know of the church that they have grown up with. Alexandra DeSanctis, a 23-year-old writer who goes to Mass almost daily, said this summer was the first time the issue truly rocked her.

First the allegations against McCarrick, then the immense scale of Pennsylvania report disturbed her deeply - but changed her view of her church's leaders, she said, not her faith. "No one I know will leave the church over this. To me this isn't the Catholic Church, these are people within the church who did evil things," she said.

She's praying all the more fervently at Mass nowadays. "You have to pray and ask for the grace to get through something as difficult as this."


The Washington Post's Scott Clement contributed to this report.

The new Canon: The best films of the 2000s

By Ann Hornaday
The new Canon: The best films of the 2000s
Six-year-old Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, in Richard Linklater's

As the film world prepares to leave the childish things of summer behind and welcome the more serious, artistically ambitious movies of festival and awards season, it's an opportune moment to consider the Canon: that list of revered films that helped form cinematic language, broke it open, captured not only their own zeitgeist but proved wisely prescient, and have stood the test of history to remain mini-master classes in aesthetics, technique, grammar and taste.

For the most part, the Canon has remained an unchanged list of cinema's most revered titles; the last time it was even slightly upset was in 2012, when the respected film journal Sight & Sound announced that its Greatest Films of All Time poll of programmers, film professionals and academics had put Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 fever dream "Vertigo" at the top of the list, upending longtime pride-of-place holder "Citizen Kane."

That blip aside, the rest of the list was and continues to be a largely predictable - and unquestionably well-deserved - litany of familiar titles, from Jean Renoir's "The Rules of the Game" to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Lists from such august institutions as the American Film Institute and the British Film Institute have mostly hewed to worship of the classics, with Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love" and David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" the only films released in 2000 or after to be added.

If the bias toward older films is understandable - it's only in the fullness of time that we understand what possesses enduring artistic value and meaning that transcends its precise cultural moment - it gives short shrift to movies that, despite their youth, could take their place among their forebears with confidence. Even considering a Hollywood business model that has doubled down on comic-book movies, effects spectacles and all of the re's (re-boots, re-makes, re-treads and re-quels), the early 21st century has witnessed the emergence of breathtaking visions and voices, both in classical narrative and subversions of form and genre.

This list advances the modest proposal that, when it comes to the Canon, we expand our notions of permanence and connoisseurship to include films that are worthy of appreciation - even veneration - despite being so recent. (As for rankings, this collection is unnumbered, reflecting a loose, intuitive collection rather than a strict hierarchy.) No one is a prophet in their own hometown; sometimes we need reminding that many of the films we're seeing right now are genuinely timeless.

- "Children of Men" (2006)

Alfonso Cuarón's adaptation of the P.D. James novel evinced the perfect balance of technical prowess, propulsive storytelling, complex character development and timeliness when it was released in 2006. But its depiction of a dystopian near-future - what we ruefully now call the present - has proved to be not just visionary but prophetic. Its predictive value aside, it stands as a flawless movie - a masterwork of cinematic values at their purest, with each frame delivering emotion and information in equally compelling measure.

- "25th Hour" (2002)

Released a little more than a year after Sept. 11, 2001, Spike Lee's urban thriller, about a criminal (a superb Ed Norton) confronting his past as he embarks on a seven-year prison sentence, was the first bona fide post-9/11 movie, evoking post-World War II neorealism in its use of a shattered city as a backdrop. Although Lee never commented on the tragedy directly in the film, it suffused the film's mood of numbed resignation (the ruins of Ground Zero can be glimpsed in the background). Lee displayed his usual talent for beginnings and endings, conceiving an operatic coda bursting with life, hope and the grief of a future reduced to ashes.

- "The Hurt Locker" (2008)

The director Kathryn Bigelow has always felt at home in hypermasculine, ritualistically aggressive subcultures. In this Iraq War drama, she plunged viewers into the world of technicians dismantling explosive devices in and around Baghdad with filmmaking that was viscerally subjective and formally thoughtful. Although the battle sequences were masterfully choreographed and executed, it's a scene toward the end - when a cocky bomb tech returns stateside and stands dumbfounded in a supermarket cereal aisle - that's the most memorable, conveying an entire interior landscape with no words or discernible action whatsoever.

- "Michael Clayton" (2007)

If movies can be evaluated as sums of their parts - script, performance, design, editing and sound - then this legal thriller is sheer perfection. Screenwriter Tony Gilroy, making his directorial debut, wisely subverts the native charisma of star George Clooney, whose portrayal of a man coming undone among Manhattan cutthroats stands as the finest of his career. It's a master class in balancing craft, tone and star power with precision, finesse and, of all things, soul.

- "Pan's Labrynth" (2006)

An eccentric, uncompromising artist pursuing his most personal obsession always courts risk: At their worst, such enterprises wind up being overworked, solipsistic and hopelessly opaque. With this surrealistic fable - the story of an intrepid young girl in Franco-era Spain finding safety in the most frightening reaches of her imagination - Guillermo del Toro created a film that qualified not only as one of the most dazzling visual pieces of cinema of the early century but also as a superbly effective political allegory regarding fascism, personal expression and the power of finding allies in our most secret monsters.

- "There Will Be Blood" (2007)

From its nearly wordless opening sequence, featuring the prospector Daniel Plainview bullying a vein of ore from a pit in the American Southwest, Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of the Upton Sinclair novel "Oil!" announces its ambition: to be the closest thing we have to the Great American Novel on screen. A wild, unwieldy portrait of greed, aspiration and self-belief, featuring an uncompromising performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, this chronicle of enterprise, exploration and Darwinian capitalism bursts with daring and emotion; even its bizarre final sequence - controversial for its brazen tonal shifts and outright weirdness - acknowledges the fact that the very best movies always have a touch of madness to them.

- "Boyhood" (2014)

The coming-of-age tale is a reliable genre precisely because of its reassuring linearity; the idea of discovering it anew is ludicrous, which is probably why Richard Linklater attempted to do it, filming the same boy over 12 years - along with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents - and then working with longtime editor Sandra Adair to sew the resulting assortment of moments together into a seamlessly flowing depiction of time at its most inexorable, corrosive and liberating. It's not often that one can say a filmmaker has invented a new cinematic language, but that's what Linklater did with this tender, openhearted portrait.

- "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (2007)

Naturalism as cinematic style is nothing new - as the oeuvre of everyone from John Cassavetes and Mike Leigh to Paul Greengrass and Andrea Arnold readily attest - but the Romanian writer-director Cristian Mungiu reinvigorated the form with this portrait of a young woman in Bucharest working the late-communist black-market system to terminate a pregnancy. Told virtually in real time with long, uninterrupted takes, the story is a harrowing, unforgettable portrayal of Darwinian survival, as well as female friendship, generational change and ethical complexity.

- "Old Joy" (2006)

Like Mungiu, the American director Kelly Reichardt works within a rigorously realistic vernacular, the kind of unforced, spontaneous, fly-on-the-wall observation that demands far more difficult work than its improvisatory aesthetic suggests. Where "4 Months, 3 Weeks" was gritty and downbeat, this chronicle of a weekend trip taken by two old friends in the Pacific Northwest is lyrical and lush, with the actors Will Oldham and Daniel London being enveloped by the generous verdant embrace of the Cascade Mountains, their emotional connection deepening over long, eloquently silent interludes.

- "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

Michel Gondry, working from a script by Charlie Kaufman, limns a man's desperate attempts to erase and then recapture a lost love in an audaciously imaginative, brilliantly staged psychic thriller that starts out as a thwarted love story but winds up being a deeply moving meditation on memory, consciousness and the construction of personal meaning. As an ever-enfolding house of cards, the movie manages to be cerebral and achingly emotional, freewheeling and meticulously calibrated, all at the same time.

- "Hunger" (2008)

The accomplished visual artist Steve McQueen would win an Oscar for the 2013 drama "12 Years a Slave," but it was his directorial debut about Irish Republican Army leader Bobby Sands that announced his undisputed cinematic chops. Structured as a triptych set in the notorious Irish prison the Maze, the film follows Sands - played in a mesmerizing performance by Michael Fassbender - during his final days, when he embarked on a hunger strike to attain political status for IRA prisoners. Anchored by a riveting 17-minute take when Sands debates the morality of his political action with a Catholic priest, the film is both intimate and carefully formalist, disturbing and full of fleeting, improbable beauty.

- "You Can Count on Me" (2000)

The writing-directing debut of playwright Kenneth Lonergan is a masterpiece of subtext, on its face the story of an adult brother and sister coming to terms with their past, but teeming with the subterranean impulses of grief, abandonment, loyalty and forgiveness. Filmed with disarming directness, masterfully interpreted by Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney, this simple, often amusing human drama demonstrates the art of screenwriting at its most layered, honest and emotionally resonant.

- "No Country for Old Men" (2007)

With this adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, Joel and Ethan Coen created a technically perfect movie, a one-film master class in every element of cinematic style, from writing and acting to cinematography, editing and sound design. Viewers can be skeptical of the film's moral universe - conditioned by McCarthy's weary pessimism and overworked moral rhetoric - and still appreciate the Coens' impeccable control of the material. A scene when Josh Brolin's protagonist listens to an approaching foe in a hotel hallway is a tutorial in the use of sound to tell a story with excruciating tension and suspense.

- "I'm Not There" (2007)

Biopics are usually the starchy, conventional stuff of Wiki-lists and Oscar bait. But Todd Haynes exploded the genre in this composite portrait of Bob Dylan, in which the notoriously mythologized and constantly self-reinventing musician was portrayed by six male and female actors, only a few of whom bore a remote physical resemblance to the real-life analog. The fact that the most spot-on depiction belonged to Cate Blanchett (as the "Don't Look Back"-era Dylan) only reinforced the rightness of an enterprise that subverted the form, but never at the expense of the subject himself.

- "Minority Report" (2002)

Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story stands as one of his finest elaborations on established genre conventions, in this case film noir put to the service of speculative science fiction. Casting Tom Cruise in a starring role as a man at odds with the surveillance culture of the not-too-distant future, Spielberg built a sleek, stylish, eerily convincing world of consumerist technology and corporate control that turned out to be breathtakingly prescient.

- "Dunkirk" (2017)

Since his breakout indie hit "Memento," Christopher Nolan has played with notions of time, scrambling his movies' chronology and creating densely layered narratives that barely skirt utter incomprehensibility. With this interpretive history of the World War II evacuation of Allied forces, Nolan deconstructs the time frame, doing away with linear narrative in favor of a sensory experience that is immersive and empathic. As an exercise in sound and image, "Dunkirk" achieved a purity rarely seen in contemporary commercial cinema, simultaneously returning movies to their roots and pushing them forward.

- "Mudbound" (2017)

In her adaptation of Hillary Jordan's World War II-era novel, Dee Rees made a magnificent throwback of a movie, a multigenerational drama reminiscent of "The Best Years of Our Lives" and the literary work of William Faulkner that also felt distinctively of this era. Collaborating with cinematographer Rachel Morrison and an acting ensemble that included Carey Mulligan and Mary J. Blige, Rees embraced the classical values of sturdy, unfussy narrative filmmaking, shaking off the dust in the process and proving that even old-fashioned movies can feel urgent, new and quintessentially American.

- "Spotlight" (2015)

Another example of pared-down, classical filmmaking, Tom McCarthy's dramatization of the Boston Globe's investigation of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church exudes quiet confidence, from its straightforward storytelling and McCarthy's levelheaded control of tone to ensemble scenes of shoe-leather reporting that with less accomplished actors and filmmakers would have been fatally talky and dull. This is a high-wire act in extracting taut drama from quotidian routine, and it never puts a foot wrong.

- "Son of Saul" (2015)

Even at their best-intentioned and highest execution, films aspiring to dramatize the Holocaust evoke queasiness almost by definition, with the act of bearing witness and preserving memory almost always at odds with questions of aestheticizing sadism and suffering or reducing them to spectacle. Laszlo Nemes, a first-time feature filmmaker from Hungary, achieved the impossible, re-creating the atrocities at Auschwitz, but at the margins of a frame taken up with the wary visage of a man navigating the camp while trying to give a child's corpse a proper Jewish burial. Filmed in a squared-off aspect ratio that accentuated the protagonist's entrapment, Nemes called upon viewers to fill in the blanks of the unspeakable acts around them, making us collaborators in his own moral imagination.

- "Stories We Tell" (2012)

In this personal memoir of her own childhood, actress and director Sarah Polley uses first-person essay, interviews, re-enactments and archival footage to create a sublime visual and emotional collage in which fact, fiction, memory and slippery notions of truth run in parallel and intersect in fascinating ways. As part of a Golden Age of nonfiction film, this exploration of the genre's core tenets qualifies both as a juicy whodunit and a valuable demonstration of how to balance artistic license and transparency, fulfilling its implicit contract with the audience with beauty, grace and tact.

- "The Fog of War" (2003)

In the 1990s, Errol Morris revolutionized documentary filmmaking with his use of narrative film technique, including re-enactments and stylized speculative scene-making. In this movie, about Vietnam-era defense secretary Robert McNamara, Morris delivered the ultimate example of an otherwise derided nonfiction form: the talking-head movie. Stripping the format down to its deceptively crude basics, filming McNamara in pitiless close-up, he allows his subject to emerge as several things at once: confident, conflicted, brilliant, arrogant and, finally, confounding.

- "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001)

Wes Anderson achieved the fullest expression of his signature style in this saga of a sprawling Manhattan family, who flawlessly embodied the filmmaker's deadpan humor and mannered style, but avoided the quirk-for-quirk's-sake to which he can often succumb. Anderson's bespoke approach to visuals and music can often feel labored and hermetic. But this story of sadness and redemption brims with genuine feeling that breaks out of the dollhouse and into a realm that's recognizably, triumphantly human.

- "Spirited Away" (2001)

Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki seems unable to make anything but masterpieces; still, this epic tale of a young girl separated from her parents and thrust into a magical world stands as his greatest - not only for its transporting visuals but also for its bracing sense of adventure, terror, resilience and heroism. Full of whimsy, fantasy and childlike wonder - elements that would otherwise feel overbearing or unforgivably ersatz - Miyazaki's vision is also earthy and profound, even at its most allegorical.

Jimmy Carter shuns riches and lives modestly in his Georgia hometown

By Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan
Jimmy Carter shuns riches and lives modestly in his Georgia hometown
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walk home with Secret Service agents along West Church Street after having dinner at a friend's house in Plains, Ga., their hometown. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Matt McClain

PLAINS, Ga.- Jimmy Carter finishes his Saturday night dinner, salmon and broccoli casserole on a paper plate, flashes his famous toothy grin and calls playfully to his wife of 72 years, Rosalynn: "C'mon, kid."

She laughs and takes his hand, and they walk carefully through a neighbor's kitchen filled with 1976 campaign buttons, photos of world leaders and a couple of unopened cans of Billy Beer, then out the back door, where three Secret Service agents wait.

They do this just about every weekend in this tiny town where they were born - he almost 94 years ago, she almost 91. Dinner at their friend Jill Stuckey's house, with plastic Solo cups of ice water and one glass each of bargain-brand chardonnay, then the half-mile walk home to the ranch house they built in 1961.

On this south Georgia summer evening, still close to 90 degrees, they dab their faces with a little plastic bottle of No Natz to repel the swirling clouds of tiny bugs. Then they catch each other's hands again and start walking, the former president in jeans and clunky black shoes, the former first lady using a walking stick for the first time.

The 39th president of the United States lives modestly, a sharp contrast to his successors, who have left the White House to embrace power of another kind: wealth.

Even those who didn't start out rich, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have made tens of millions of dollars on the private-sector opportunities that flow so easily to ex-presidents.

When Carter left the White House after one tumultuous term, trounced by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election, he returned to Plains, a speck of peanut and cotton farmland that to this day has a poverty rate of nearly 40 percent.

The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn't want to "capitalize financially on being in the White House."

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that Gerald Ford, Carter's predecessor and close friend, was the first to fully take advantage of those high-paid post-presidential opportunities, but that "Carter did the opposite."

Since Ford, other former presidents, and sometimes their spouses, routinely earn hundreds of thousands of dollars on speeches.

"I don't see anything wrong with it; I don't blame other people for doing it," Carter says over dinner. "It just never had been my ambition to be rich."

- - -

Carter was 56 when he returned to Plains from Washington. He says his peanut business, held in a blind trust during his presidency, was $1 million in debt, and he was forced to sell.

"We thought we were going to lose everything," says Rosalynn, sitting beside him.

Carter decided that his income would come from writing, and he has written 33 books, about his life and career, his faith, Middle East peace, women's rights, aging, fishing, woodworking, even a children's book written with his daughter, Amy Carter, called "The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer."

With book income and the $210,700 annual pension all former presidents receive, the Carters live comfortably. But his books have never fetched the massive sums commanded by more recent presidents.

Carter has been an ex-president for 37 years, longer than anyone else in history. His simple lifestyle is increasingly rare in this era of President Donald Trump, a billionaire with gold-plated sinks in his private jet, Manhattan penthouse and Mar-a-Lago estate.

Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the home he lived in before he entered politics - a two-bedroom ranch house assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside.

Ex-presidents often fly on private jets, sometimes lent by wealthy friends, but the Carters fly commercial. Stuckey says that on a recent flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, Carter walked up and down the aisle greeting other passengers and taking selfies.

"He doesn't like big shots, and he doesn't think he's a big shot," said Gerald Rafshoon, who was Carter's White House communications director.

Carter costs U.S. taxpayers less than any other ex-president, according to the General Services Administration, with a total bill for him in the current fiscal year of $456,000, covering pensions, an office, staff and other expenses. That's less than half the $952,000 budgeted for George H.W. Bush; the three other living ex-presidents - Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama - cost taxpayers more than $1 million each per year.

Carter doesn't even have federal retirement health benefits because he worked for the government for four years - less than the five years needed to qualify, according to the GSA. He says he receives health benefits through Emory University, where he has taught for 36 years.

The federal government pays for an office for each ex-president. Carter's, in the Carter Center in Atlanta, is the least expensive, at $115,000 this year. The Carters could have built a more elaborate office with living quarters, but for years they slept on a pullout couch for a week each month. Recently, they had a Murphy bed installed.

Carter's office costs a fraction of Obama's, which is $536,000 a year. Clinton's costs $518,000, George W. Bush's is $497,000 and George H.W. Bush's is $286,000, according to the GSA.

"I am a great admirer of Harry Truman. He's my favorite president, and I really try to emulate him," says Carter, who writes his books in a converted garage in his house. "He set an example I thought was admirable."

But although Truman retired to his hometown of Independence, Mo., Beschloss said that even he took up residence in an elegant house previously owned by his prosperous in-laws.

As Carter spreads a thick layer of butter on a slice of white bread, he is asked whether he thinks, especially with a man who boasts of being a billionaire in the White House, any future ex-president will ever live the way Carter does.

"I hope so," he says. "But I don't know."

- - -

Plains is a tiny circle of Georgia farmland, a mile in diameter, with its center at the train depot that served as Carter's 1976 campaign headquarters. About 700 people live here, 150 miles due south of Atlanta, in a place that is a living museum to Carter.

The general store, once owned by Carter's Uncle Buddy, sells Carter memorabilia and scoops of peanut butter ice cream. Carter's boyhood farm is preserved as it was in the 1930s, with no electricity or running water.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is essentially the entire town, drawing nearly 70,000 visitors a year and $4 million into the county's economy.

Carter has used his post-presidency to support human rights, global health programs and fair elections worldwide through his Carter Center, based in Atlanta. He has helped renovate 4,300 homes in 14 countries for Habitat for Humanity, and with his own hammer and tool belt, he will be working on homes for low-income people in Indiana later this month.

But it is Plains that defines him.

After dinner, the Carters step out of Stuckey's driveway, with two Secret Service agents walking close behind.

Carter's gait is a little unsteady these days, three years after a diagnosis of melanoma on his liver and brain. At a 2015 news conference to announce his illness, he seemed to be bidding a stoic farewell, saying he was "perfectly at ease with whatever comes."

But now, after radiation and chemotherapy, Carter says he is cancer-free.

In October, he will become the second president ever to reach 94; George H.W. Bush turned 94 in June. These days, Carter is sharp, funny and reflective.

The Carters walk every day - often down Church Street, the main drag through Plains, where they have been walking since the 1920s.

As they cross Walters Street, Carter sees a couple of teenagers on the sidewalk across the street.

"Hello," says the former president, with the same big smile that adorns peanut Christmas ornaments in the general store.

"Hey," says a girl in a jean skirt, greeting him with a cheerful wave.

The two 15-year-olds say people in Plains think of the Carters as neighbors and friends, just like anybody else.

"I grew up in church with him," says Maya Wynn. "He's a nice guy, just like a regular person."

"He's a good ol' Southern gentleman," says David Lane.

Carter says this place formed him, seeding his beliefs about racial equality. His farmhouse youth during the Great Depression made him unpretentious and frugal. His friends, maybe only half-joking, describe Carter as "tight as a tick."

That no-frills sensibility, endearing since he left Washington, didn't work as well in the White House. Many people thought Carter scrubbed some of the luster off the presidency by carrying his own suitcases onto Air Force One and refusing to have "Hail to the Chief" played.

Stuart Eizenstat, a Carter aide and biographer, said Carter's edict eliminating drivers for top staff members backfired. It meant that top officials were driving instead of reading and working for an hour or two every day.

"He didn't feel suited to the grandeur," Eizenstat said. "Plains is really part of his DNA. He carried it into the White House, and he carried it out of the White House."

Carter's presidency - from 1977 to 1981 - is often remembered for long lines at gas stations and the Iran hostage crisis.

"I may have overemphasized the plight of the hostages when I was in my final year," he says. "But I was so obsessed with them personally, and with their families, that I wanted to do anything to get them home safely, which I did."

He said he regrets not doing more to unify the Democratic Party.

When Carter looks back at his presidency, he says he is most proud of "keeping the peace and supporting human rights," the Camp David accords that brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, and his work to normalize relations with China. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

"I always told the truth," he says.

Carter has been notably quiet about President Donald Trump. But on this night, two years into Trump's term, he's not holding back.

"I think he's a disaster," Carter says. "In human rights and taking care of people and treating people equal."

"The worst is that he is not telling the truth, and that just hurts everything," Rosalynn says.

Carter says his father taught him that truthfulness matters. He said that was reinforced at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he said students are expelled for telling even the smallest lie.

"I think there's been an attitude of ignorance toward the truth by President Trump," he says.

Carter says he thinks the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has "changed our political system from a democracy to an oligarchy. Money is now preeminent. I mean, it's just gone to hell now."

He says he believes that the nation's "ethical and moral values" are still intact and that Americans eventually will "return to what's right and what's wrong, and what's decent and what's indecent, and what's truthful and what's lies."

But, he says, "I doubt if it happens in my lifetime."

On Church Street, Carter points out the mayor's house with his left hand while he holds Rosalynn's with his right.

"My mother and father lived in that brick one," he says, gesturing toward a small house across the street. "We use it as an office now."

"That's Dr. Logan's over here."

Every house has a story. Generations of them. Cracked birdbaths and rocking chairs on somebody's great-grandmother's porch. Carter knows them all.

"Mr. Oscar Williams lived here; his family was my competitor in the warehouse business."

He points out the Plains United Methodist Church, where he spotted young Eleanor Rosalynn Smith one evening when he was home from the Naval Academy.

He asked her out. They went to a movie, and the next morning he told his mother he was going to marry Rosalynn.

"I didn't know that for years," she says with a smile.

They are asked if there is anything they want but don't have.

"I can't think of anything," Carter says, turning to Rosalynn. "And you?"

"No, I'm happy," she says.

"We feel at home here," Carter says. "And the folks in town, when we need it, they take care of us."

- - -

Every other Sunday morning, Carter teaches Sunday school at the Maranatha Baptist Church on the edge of town, and people line up the night before to get a seat.

This Sunday morning happens to be his 800th lesson since he left the White House.

He walks in wearing a blazer too big through the shoulders, a striped shirt and a turquoise bolo tie. He asks where people have come from, and from the pews they call out at least 20 states, Canada, China, Denmark and Kenya.

He tells the congregation that he's planning a trip to Montana to go fishing with his friend Ted Turner, and that he's going to ride in an autogiro - a sort of mini-helicopter - with his son Jack Carter.

"I'm still fairly active," he says, and everyone laughs.

He talks about living a purposeful life, but also about finding enough time for rest and reflection. Then he and Rosalynn pose for photos with every person who wants one, including Steven and Joanna Raley, who came from Annandale, Virginia, with their 3-month-old son, Jackson Carter Raley.

"We want our children to grow up with a heart of service like President Carter," says Steven, who works on Navy submarines, as Carter once did.

"One of the reasons we named our son after President Carter is how humble he is," Joanna says.

Carter holds the baby and beams for the camera.

"I like the name," he says.

When they reach their property, the Carters turn right off the sidewalk and cut across the wide lawn toward their house.

Carter stops to point out a tall magnolia that was transplanted from a sprout taken from a tree that Andrew Jackson planted on the White House lawn.

They walk past a pond, which Carter helped dig and where he now works on his fly-fishing technique. They point out a willow tree at the pond's edge, on a gentle sloping lawn, where they will be buried in graves marked by simple stones.

They know their graves will draw tourists and boost the Plains economy.

Their one-story house sits behind a government-owned fence that once surrounded Richard Nixon's house in Key Biscayne, Florida. The Carters already have deeded the property to the National Park Service, which will one day turn it into a museum.

Their house is dated, but homey and comfortable, with a rustic living room and a small kitchen. A cooler bearing the presidential seal sits on the floor in the kitchen - Carter says they use it for leftovers.

In a remodel not long ago, the couple knocked down a bedroom wall themselves. "By that time, we had worked with Habitat so much that it was just second-nature," Rosalynn says.

Rosalynn Carter practices tai chi and meditates in the mornings, while her husband writes in his study or swims in the pool. He also builds furniture and paints in the garage; the paint is still wet on a portrait of a cardinal that will be their Christmas card this year.

They watch Atlanta Braves games or "Law and Order." Carter just finished reading "The Innovators" by Walter Isaacson. They have no chef and they cook for themselves, often together. They make their own yogurt.

On this summer morning, Rosalynn mixes pancake batter and sprinkles in blueberries grown on their land.

Carter cooks them on the griddle.

Then he does the dishes.

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

America is overdue for another Lehman-like episode

By george f. will
America is overdue for another Lehman-like episode


(Advance for Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Will clients only)

WRITETHRU: 2nd to last graf, 2nd sentence: "and saddle" sted "and saddling"


WASHINGTON -- Eric Sevareid (1912-1992), the author and broadcaster, said he was a pessimist about tomorrow but an optimist about the day after tomorrow. Regarding America's economy, prudent people should reverse that.

This Wednesday, according to the Financial Times' Robin Wigglesworth and Nicole Bullock, "the U.S. stock market will officially have enjoyed its longest-ever bull run" -- one that rises 20 percent from its low, until it drops 20 percent from its peak. And Sept. 15 will be the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Bros., the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank. History's largest bankruptcy filing presaged the October 2008 evaporation of almost $10 trillion in global market capitalization.

The durable market rise that began March 6, 2009, is as intoxicating as the Lehman anniversary should be sobering: Nothing lasts. Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.

Economists debate, inconclusively, this question: Do economic expansions die of old age (the current one began in June 2009) or are they slain by big events or bad policies? What is known is that all expansions end. God, a wit has warned, is going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding. When He, or something, decides that today's expansion, currently in its 111th month (approaching twice the 58-month average length of post-1945 expansions), has gone on long enough, the contraction probably will (BEG ITAL)begin(END ITAL) with the annual budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion.

The president's Office of Management and Budget -- not that there really is a meaningful budget getting actual management -- projects that the deficit for fiscal 2019, which begins in six weeks, will be $1.085 trillion. This is while the economy is, according to the economic historian in the Oval Office, "as good as it's ever been, ever."

Leavening administration euphoria with facts, Yale's Robert Shiller, writing in The New York Times, notes that since quarterly GDP enumeration began in 1947, there have been 101 quarters with growth at least equal to the 4.1 percent of this year's second quarter. The fastest -- 13.4 percent -- was 1950's fourth quarter, perhaps produced largely by bad news: The Cold War was on, the Korean War had begun in June, fear of the atomic bomb was rising (New York City installed its first air-raid siren in October), as was (consequently) a homebuilding boom outside cities and "scare buying" of products that might become scarce during World War III. Today, Shiller says, "it seems likely that people in many countries may be accelerating their purchases -- of soybeans, steel and many other commodities -- fearing future government intervention in the form of a trade war." And fearing the probable: higher interest rates.

Another hardy perennial among economic debates concerns the point at which the ratio of debt to GDP suppresses growth. The (sort of) good news -- in that it will satisfy intellectual curiosity -- is that we are going to find out where that point is: Within a decade the national debt probably will be 100 percent of GDP and rising. As Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute says, "If unlimited borrowing, financed by printing money, were a path to prosperity, then Venezuela and Zimbabwe would be top of the growth tables."

Jay Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, says fiscal policy is on an "unsustainable path," but such warnings are audible wallpaper, there but not noticed. The word "unsustainable" in fiscal rhetoric is akin to "unacceptable" in diplomatic parlance, where it usually refers to a situation soon to be accepted.

A recent IMF analysis noted that among advanced economies "only the United States expects an increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio over the next five years." America's complacency caucus will respond: But among those economies, ours is performing especially well. What, however, if this is significantly an effect of exploding debt? Publicly held U.S. government debt has tripled in a decade.

Despite today's shrill discord between the parties, the political class is more united by class interest than it is divided by ideology. From left to right, this class has a permanent incentive to run enormous deficits -- to charge, through taxation, current voters significantly less than the cost of the government goods and services they consume, and saddle future voters with the cost of servicing the resulting debt after the current crop of politicians have left the scene.

This crop derives its political philosophy from the musical "Annie": Tomorrow is always a day away. For normal people, however, the day after tomorrow always arrives.

George Will's email address is

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group


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A time to mourn

By kathleen parker
A time to mourn


(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE. Normally advance for Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, and thereafter.)

(For Parker clients only)


PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Ecclesiastes tells us that there's a time to mourn and a time to dance, but lately I can hardly find time to mourn -- and I'm dancing as fast as I can.

These thoughts came tumbling down Thursday after the heart-wrenching news that Aretha Franklin had died. I spent the day re-listening to all my favorite recordings of the Queen of Soul singing her heart out. When, I wondered, had I stopped listening to the one-and-only Aretha?

I have loved that woman since I was in high school and spent summers here. "Beach Week" on this storied island, where the marsh marks time with the moon and spirits roam the beach, was set to the music of Motown -- and still is. Aretha's version of Otis Redding's "Respect" was released as a single in April 1967, the spring of my sophomore year, when my brother was deployed in Vietnam. Those were times of upheaval, marked by the civil rights movement, women's lib and a war only a few professed to understand.

Through it all, Aretha was there, suggesting that we were all soul brothers and sisters -- and that each of us deserved a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You couldn't then -- and you can't now -- watch her perform that song and not feel like jumping to your feet, setting yours arms squarely on your hips, and testing your body's resistance to gravity. She was magnetic, magical and spiritual all at once and you could feel her soul just rolling out to greet and carry you wherever you needed to go.

On Thursday, as eulogies poured in from presidents, entertainers, friends and fans, I kept an ear to the TV while unpacking the last few boxes from a recent move. From a pile of mail, I pulled out a small postcard that I instantly recognized. It was one of dozens of such cards that I had received through the years from a regular reader and loyal correspondent. Each card always began with "Dear Kilo Papa" (for "KP"). This one, like all the rest, was signed, "Whiskey Delta."

Short and pithy was the way Col. Wm. Dougald MacMillan IV kept things. Maybe military training and his several combat deployments contributed to this quality. Or, maybe, he knew he stood a better chance of being read by making it easy. All I had to do was flip it over.

"You sure do keep smacking the nail on the head," he wrote in response to a piece I'd written about an upcoming election. "This is not yet my favorite campaign of the last 60 years ([Harry S. Truman] was by FAR the best Demo. Pres.), but I try to stay optimistic (recalling [Winston Churchill]). I need your help. Remember, if you pass by, come for p.m. ... best & w/love -- Whiskey Delta."

No wonder I liked the guy. I don't remember what "p.m." meant in this context, but given that he lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina -- and knew that I was an I-95 road demon who commuted between South Carolina and Washington -- he probably figured I might break for a chat on the southbound leg.

The card was dated June 10, 2008 -- two months before that year's Democratic and Republican conventions. Had it really been a decade? Then it hit me. I hadn't heard from Whiskey Delta in a while. With my mind virtually attached to the 24/7 news cycle, it's easy to lose track of time. But 10 years? How could it be?

Curious, I searched his name on the internet and found what I'd hoped I wouldn't -- Whiskey Delta's obituary. My pen pal had died five years ago. Somewhat oddly, the news sank me low. This man had written me for years and I'd only begun to learn about him five summers after his passing. He was 87 when he took his final leave.

So it goes in the world we inhabit. All I know about Whiskey Delta, alas, is what I read in his obituary. Maybe one of his grandchildren will find this small meditation of interest -- and be reminded that the colonel served his country with valor and briefly shared his thoughts with a humble newspaper writer he called Kilo Papa.

I never did get by for that chat, Whiskey Delta, but I'll catch you on the next round. If you bump into Aretha in the meantime, just give her a little respect -- and an H-U-G -- from all of us down here.

Kathleen Parker's email address is

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Slouching towards autocracy

By e.j. dionne jr.
Slouching towards autocracy


(Advance for Monday, August 20, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Sunday, August 19, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Dionne clients only)


WASHINGTON -- In their book, "How Democracies Die," political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write: "How do elected authoritarians shatter the democratic institutions that are supposed to constrain them? Some do it in one fell swoop. But more often, the assault on democracy begins slowly. ... The erosion of democracy takes place piecemeal, often in baby steps."

Our nation is divided in many ways, and one of the most important chasms involves the question of whether President Trump poses a threat to our constitutional foundations. Is he merely a loud-mouthed demagogue, or is he an autocrat-in-the making willing to strike at the underpinnings of republican government?

Those of us fearful that Trump is subverting basic freedoms and the arrangements that sustain them are frequently dismissed as alarmists who fail to recognize the endurance of checks, balances and other circuit-breakers. In this view, asserting that Trump imperils our liberties demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the genius that is the American experiment.

It is certainly true that most of our rights are still intact. We still have free speech and a free press, despite Trump's assaults on both. After all, I am writing this column and you are able to read it -- and to disagree with it if you wish.

The opposition party, moreover, has a good chance of taking over at least one house of Congress in this fall's elections. At levels below the Supreme Court, judges have blocked many of Trump's most egregious actions, among them the separation of immigrant children from their parents.

For all of this, one can be grateful. But it is precisely because citizens of enduring republican democracies easily fall into complacency that Levitsky and Ziblatt's warnings are so pertinent.

Begin with those much-touted checks and balances. Their health depends -- as my colleagues Norman Ornstein, Thomas Mann and I argued in our book "One Nation After Trump" -- on the willingness of those in the legislative and judicial branches to put their institutional loyalties and their stewardship of the system as a whole above their partisan loyalties.

The opposite is happening in the GOP-led Congress. With the exception of a few Republican elected officials at the periphery, Congress has worked to enable Trump's abuses (witness the behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) to undercut Robert Mueller's investigation) and to minimize the outrageousness of his conduct.

When Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance in retaliation for Brennan's criticism of him (and, as Trump confessed in a Wall Street Journal interview, because he objected to Brennan doing his job in 2016 by probing connections between Trump's campaign and Russia), the response from most Republicans was pathetic.

Trump's actions were an abuse of presidential power far beyond anything Republicans used to complain about bitterly during President Obama's term. They are aimed directly at intimidating critics and interfering with a legitimate investigation. Where was House Speaker Paul Ryan on the issue? When Trump first threatened the security clearances of his critics last month, Ryan shrugged it off and said Trump was "just trolling people." We still await a robust response from party leaders now that the president has shown he had more than "trolling" in mind.

And long before Trump ran for office, Republicans were eager to change the rules of the game when doing so served their purposes, as Michael Tomasky argued last week in the Daily Beast. Consider just their aggressive voter-suppression efforts and their willingness to block even a hearing for Merrick Garland, Obama's nominee to replace Justice Scalia.

The list of ominous signs goes on and on: Trump invoking Stalin's phrase "enemies of the people" to describe a free press; the firing, one after another, of public servants who moved to expose potential wrongdoing, starting with former FBI director James Comey; Trump's willingness, even eagerness, to lie; his effusive praise of foreign despots; his extravagantly abusive (and often racially charged) language against opponents; and his refusal to abide by traditional practices about disclosing his own potential conflicts of interest and those of his family.

This not business as usual. Yet our politics proceeds as if it is. Slowly, Trump has accustomed us to behavior that, at any other recent time and with just about any other politician, would in all probability have been career ending.

We know what a military coup looks like. But as Levitsky and Ziblatt note, a slow-motion dismantling of rules, norms and expectations can be more insidious because we don't even notice what's happening to us.

E.J. Dionne's email address is Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Will what happens in Turkey stay in Turkey?

By robert j. samuelson
Will what happens in Turkey stay in Turkey?


(Advance for Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Samuelson clients only)


WASHINGTON -- The pertinent and unanswerable question about Turkey is whether the country's present economic turmoil is an isolated event, mostly confined to Turkey itself, or whether it portends a larger economic convulsion that shakes markets around the world. Among economists and other experts, there's no consensus. Some foresee contagion: Turkey's problems will spread. Others envision a one-country economic blip.

Which is it?

The answer obviously matters. The global economy already faces obstacles to growth. American interest rates are rising, as the Federal Reserve tries to prevent higher inflation. President Trump's trade wars are threatening. If we now add a slowdown of "emerging market" economies (China, Brazil and similar "middle-income" nations), the global expansion might sputter or halt.

Turkey's experience is relevant. In recent months, its currency (the lira) has collapsed. At the start of 2018, it was trading at roughly 4 lira to the dollar; now that's about 6 lira to the dollar.

This makes it harder for Turkish businesses and consumers to repay debts, which -- more than in many other countries -- are often made in dollars. To repay these debts, Turkish companies need to earn more lira, which can be sold for dollars. The more lira go to repay dollar debts, the fewer lira are left over to buy other things. Economic growth slows. If debtors can't raise the dollars to repay their loans, they default. Too many defaults, and growth stops.

Turkey's debt problems are undeniably daunting, notes economist Hung Tran of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), an industry research and advocacy group. Consider: Between now and the end of 2018, Turkey faces debt repayments -- principle and interest -- of about $120 billion; in 2019, the total is about $200 billion. By comparison, Turkey's economy (gross domestic product) is about $850 billion. Some of these loans could be rolled over; how many is unclear.

Many debts were incurred by banks or private firms, encouraged by easy-money policies. The government pumped up the economy in the wake of a failed military coup in 2016 and in anticipation of a new election. The election was held in June 2018 and was won by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was surely helped by the economic stimulus. Last year, Turkey's GDP grew 7 percent, up from 3.2 percent in 2016.

To complicate matters further, Turkey and the Trump administration are feuding over the Turks' detention of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor accused of anti-state activities.

Now comes the reckoning. Many observers believe that what happened in Turkey will stay in Turkey. Its economy is simply too small (about 1.4 percent of global GDP, according to some estimates) to influence the rest of the world. "It's mainly a Turkish issue," says economist C. Fred Bergsten of the Peterson Institute. He doesn't expect large spillover effects -- say, a slowdown of growth in Europe or capital flight from other "emerging market" countries, such as Brazil or India.

Not all economists are so hopeful. Writing in The Hill, Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute predicts that "Turkey will default on its debt and impose capital controls." (Capital controls are legal restrictions on money movements in and out of a country.) He expects contagion -- capital flight from heavily indebted countries -- that will weaken the global recovery and hurt the U.S. economy.

Economist Tran of the IIF thinks that emerging-market countries that have problems similar to Turkey's -- poor policies, maturing debts, sizable current account deficits -- are the most vulnerable to capital flight. These include South Africa, Indonesia and Egypt. So far, the evidence is reassuring; the IIF's most recent survey of capital movements didn't detect any sizable money surges since the lira's latest large drop.

Crowd psychology could trigger a panic. If investors expect other investors to sell, there could be a stampede for the door.

This story isn't over yet. What's uncontroversial, at least among many economists, is that Turkey will need to go to the IMF to end the present crisis. The IMF would provide a hefty loan (it's doubtful anyone else would) and impose "tough austerity policies" designed to improve the economy's performance, says Jacob Funk Kirkegaard of the Peterson Institute.

By their nature, these policies would be unpopular, especially with Erdogan, because they "could weaken [his] hold on power," as Kirkegaard puts it. It seems likely that he would resent and resist them as long as possible. That could change everything. Stay tuned.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post Writers Group

Free-speech conservatives, this is your call to arms

By catherine rampell
Free-speech conservatives, this is your call to arms



(For Rampell clients only)


To all those supposed constitutional conservatives out there, consider this your call to arms: The First Amendment is under direct attack, and this time from a much more powerful foe than misguided college freshmen.

By whom I mean: the ostensible leader of the free world.

Again and again, President Trump has used the weight of his office and the broader federal government to inflict financial damage upon critics, whistleblowers, journalists and peaceful protesters for exercising their rights to free speech.

Trump's most recent salvo involves former CIA director John Brennan. During his long career in intelligence, Brennan briefed Republican and Democratic presidents alike. Which makes his fierce criticism of Trump, and his characterization of Trump's Helsinki performance as "treasonous," all the more biting.

Such comments led Trump to revoke Brennan's security clearance Wednesday. The administration said Brennan no longer needed clearance because it didn't plan to call on him for consultations. But high-level clearances are valuable for private-sector work as well.

In other words, this was about shutting Brennan's mouth by going after his wallet.

Such actions appear unprecedented. More may be in the offing, however, given that the president is considering stripping clearances from at least nine other former high-level officials.

And that is but one way Trump has tried to silence critics just this week.

A day earlier, Trump's campaign said it had filed an arbitration action against Omarosa Manigault Newman alleging that the former White House aide broke a 2016 nondisclosure agreement by publishing her recent tell-all book.

One need not be a fan of the "Apprentice" villain to understand this as an attempt to visit financial injury upon yet another critic -- and, by extension, to intimidate other campaign and White House alumni, who also signed likely unenforceable confidentiality agreements.

That the party bringing the claim here is technically a campaign, rather than, say, the Justice Department, doesn't matter. The First Amendment is supposed to protect those critical of their government, including critics of its highest officeholder, from political retribution. And political retribution laundered through an election campaign at the president's instruction is retribution all the same.

Elsewhere -- again, in recent days -- the president and his minions have called the press the enemy of the people and the opposition party. Previously they have blacklisted reporters and entire news outlets (including The Post) whose questions Trump disliked. When unhappy with Post coverage in particular, Trump has threatened government action against Amazon in an apparent attempt to financially punish its chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who independently owns the paper.

Journalists and media owners are hardly the only ones whose job or financial security Trump has targeted from his bully pulpit. He called for the firing of National Football League players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. NFL owners, in a secretly recorded meeting in October, expressed concern about the president's impact on their bottom line.

Curiously, Republican politicians and conservative pundits who call themselves staunch defenders of the Constitution have allowed, and at times encouraged, the president to run roughshod over the First Amendment.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), John Neely Kennedy (La.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) celebrated Trump's revocation of Brennan's security clearance.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee oversaw a hearing titled "Free Speech 101: The Assault on the First Amendment on College Campuses," refused to condemn Trump's calls for the firing of NFL players engaged in peaceful protest. Instead, in September, he attacked the media for giving the "false impression" that Trump spent too much time attacking the NFL.

Republican lawmakers have likewise done precious little to push back against Trump's attacks on a free press. The toothless Senate resolution adopted by unanimous consent Thursday affirming that "the press is not the enemy of the people" did not mention Trump at all.

And who can blame these lawmakers?

Polls in the past couple of years have shown that pluralities and, quite often, majorities of Republicans say that they, too, consider the media the enemy of the people; believe that the president should have the authority to close news outlets that he believes behave badly; and favor firing NFL players who refuse to stand for the anthem and stripping citizenship from anyone who burns the flag.

Nonetheless: If Republican lawmakers actually give a damn about upholding our most cherished democratic values, now is the time to stand up and fight -- and not to be intimidated, whether by the president or his supporters, into silence.

Catherine Rampell's email address is Follow her on Twitter, @crampell.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

Stunning, shocking revelations of the president behind closed doors

By alexandra petri
Stunning, shocking revelations of the president behind closed doors



(For Petri clients only)


I cannot believe the things that Omarosa Manigault Newman shed light on in her new tell-all, "Unhinged," and her steady trickle of tapes. Among the stunning Trump revelations:

-On Nov. 8, 2016, millions of people across America, including a majority of white women, went to polling places and voted to elect Donald Trump president of the United States.

-On July 21, 2016, Donald Trump stood up in front of a large crowd of Republicans and announced that "I alone can fix it," and they clapped and cheered and he accepted the party's nomination for president of the United States. Donald Trump!

-Donald Trump was captured on tape saying that there were good people on both sides at Charlottesville, where a white supremacist allegedly killed a woman by ramming his car into a crowd of protesters.

-The book reveals that Donald Trump and Manigault Newman, two former stars of "The Apprentice," have both been in the Situation Room, because Donald Trump is the president of the United States.

-Donald Trump has been caught on tape sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office making executive decisions as president of the United States, and sometimes he signs bills into law.

-Donald Trump has still not released his tax returns!

-There are tapes of Donald Trump representing the United States at diplomatic functions in which he insults our allies and shakes everyone's hand very weird.

-There are tapes of Donald Trump saluting a North Korean general and lavishly praising Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator.

-Donald Trump apparently starts each day by watching "Fox and Friends" and live-tweeting his responses to it.

-Donald Trump named his daughter and son-in-law as special advisers. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was specifically charged with bringing about peace in the Middle East, although he has admitted to having no particular expertise or experience in this area. His security clearance was for a time lower than that of the White House calligrapher, but he is still supposed to be bringing about peace in the Middle East.

-There was a guy Anthony Scaramucci who served as communications director for only 10 days before he called a writer for the New Yorker and in a profanity-laced tirade accused Steve Bannon of extraordinary flexibility and self-regard, and then he was fired. This really happened!

-Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon his chief strategist! Steve Bannon! Steve "Economic Nationalism" Bannon, who ran and made it a foul and loathsome cesspool of bad ideas on purpose.

-Stephen Miller is a human being who is allowed to set policy in the White House, although he frequently says things like The Statue of Liberty Was Meant to Shoo People Away and views even legal immigrants as a threat.

-There are tapes that reveal that Donald Trump went to Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria and threw paper towels into the crowd to show that he was helping.

-Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of John Brennan because he is responsible for a "witch hunt."

-Donald Trump fired the director of the FBI!

Oh no, I'm sorry. These are not in the book. These are just matters of public record. But I'm sure the book has stunning revelations, too.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter, @petridishes.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

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