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.

The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace launched in 2018 with the commitment of signatories to stand up to cyber threats like election interference, attacks on critical infrastructure, and supply chain vulnerabilities. Last week, on the first anniversary of the call, the number of signatories has nearly tripled to more than 1,000 and now includes 74 nations; more than 350 international, civil society and public sector organizations; and more than 600 private sector entities. These commitments to the Paris Call from around the world demonstrate a widespread, global, multi-stakeholder consensus about acceptable behavior in cyberspace.

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In recent years, Republicans have come to dominate most of the state legislatures in the US. Ironically, it was during the Obama-era that the GOP made major headway in states that had long been considered safely blue. State legislatures are now redder than they've been in nearly a century, and in most parts of the country, one party holds all the levers of power. For the first time since 1914, there's only one split legislature in the entire country: Minnesota. To be sure, some state races are bucking the trend: Kentucky and Louisiana, both deep-red states, recently elected Democratic governors. Here's a look at how Democratic and Republican control of state legislatures has evolved over the past four decades.

Forty years ago, Islamic extremists angry at the Saudi government's experiments with social liberalization laid siege to the Grand Mosque of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The attack came on the heels of the Iranian revolution across the Gulf, putting the House of Saud and its American backers in a precarious spot. Tehran had challenged Saudi Arabia's Islamic legitimacy from without, while jihadists were now doing the same from within. For a few days it seemed as though the world's most important oil producer – and the custodian of Islam's holiest places – might be in danger of collapse.

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Forty years ago today, dozens of bearded gunmen stormed the holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque at Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

They held the complex for two weeks before a French-trained Saudi force rooted them out, but the fallout from the attack went on to shape the modern Middle East in ways that are still with us today: in the scourge of transnational jihadism and the deepening rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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What changes now that the U.S. softened its position on Israeli settlements?

Well, I mean, not a lot. I mean, keep in mind that this is also the administration that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. Everyone said that was going to be a massive problem. Ultimately, not many people cared. Same thing with recognition of Golan Heights for Israel. This is just one more give from the Americans to the Israelis in the context of a region that doesn't care as much as they used to about Israel - Palestine.

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