A TALE OF TWO PRESIDENTS

A TALE OF TWO PRESIDENTS

A century ago, Woodrow Wilson became the first US president to visit Great Britain. (Check out some amazing archival footage here.) According to the December 27, 1918 edition of The Guardian: “The plain citizen raising a tall hat in response to the cheers was the centre of all. When the cavalry escort came jingling out of the sanded courtyard at Charing Cross, preceding the carriage in which the President and King George sat side by side, a roar of cheers went up. It gathered volume all the way round the West End to the Palace.”


When President Trump arrived in the UK yesterday, the contrasts between the two men were evident. Wilson was an ascetic, professorial idealist, a man on a mission to persuade Europe that common values could provide a foundation for world governance, a League of Nations, to make the world safe for democracy. Trump is the tough-talking crown prince of conspicuous consumption, a confrontational man with a relentlessly transactional approach to all relationships.

The historical moments too are entirely different. Wilson arrived in a Britain exhausted by World War I, grateful it was over, and thankful for US help. This was also a Britain that hadn’t yet accepted the coming end of its empire. America was an upstart, a new player in European politics, a role many back home wouldn’t accept for another generation.

Trump, by contrast, leads the world’s sole superpower. His abrasive personal style aggravates allies, and he seems eager to unburden America of the responsibilities that come with a leadership role that US presidents have championed for decades. There was no inflatable Baby Wilson hovering above London’s streets in 1918, and Trump was not welcomed by ringing church bells and adoring crowds this week.

The US president can attack her Brexit policy and praise her rivals. Yet, Prime Minister Theresa May knows that personal opinions of Trump don’t alter the need to pursue her nation’s national interest. That means preserving the best possible relationship, even if only as an exercise in damage control as those who dislike Trump await his successor. If, as May says, post-Brexit Britain is to be a “truly global Britain,” good relations with the US will remain essential.

The bottom line: At a moment when the UK is departing the EU, and the Brexit process became uglier and riskier just this week, the US-UK partnership remains vitally important for Britain, its economy, and its security. Whatever the chemistry between the two leaders and whatever the mood of the moment, that hasn’t changed in 100 years.

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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Dr Anthony Fauci says the US is again "going in the wrong direction" as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across America. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations — an apt indicator of serious illness from COVID — have spiked in 45 out of 50 states as a result of the contagious delta variant and rejection of vaccines, which are leading many US states to now have a vaccine surplus. We take a look at the 10 states where hospitalization rates have increased the most in recent weeks, and their corresponding vaccination rates — and unused vaccine rates.

Iraqi PM's face-to-face with Biden: Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's prime minister, met with President Biden at the White House Monday to discuss the future of US troops in Iraq. The US still has about 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq to engage in "counterterrorism" operations and train Iraqi forces. In an interview published this week, al-Kadhimi called for the withdrawal of all US combat troops, because, he said, Iraqi forces have proven capable of fighting ISIS militants on their own. (Just last week, some 30 Iraqis were killed when ISIS militants attacked a busy Baghdad market.) Al-Kadhimi still wants non-combat US troops to stay on in a training capacity. He became PM in 2020 as a consensus candidate after nationwide protests over corruption and joblessness forced the resignation of the unpopular previous government. At least 500 protesters were killed during a crackdown by Iraqi security forces, fueling demands for fresh elections, which are set to take place this October. The green PM has a tough job: he has to juggle relations with the Biden administration, which just pledged $155 million in aid to Iraq, and ties with Tehran, an influential player in Iraqi politics. (Iraq relies on Iran for energy imports, and Iran-backed militias inside Iraq are a force to be reckoned with.) Local sentiment has soured on the US presence as Iraqis resent being caught in the middle of US-Iran fights inside Iraqi territory.

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7,100: As a third COVID wave ravages Myanmar, the death toll has now risen above 7,100, a gross undercount because that total includes only those who died in hospitals. Myanmar, which has one of the weakest healthcare systems in Asia, is also dealing with a vaccine hesitancy problem: people are rejecting shots because they see vaccination as validation of the military, which overthrew the democratically elected government earlier this year.

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Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

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