Let's get political
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Meryl Streep Gets Political

I expected many things from Sunday’s Golden Globes: Hollywood parading down the red carpet, a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher and jokes at our President-elect’s expense. I was not expecting to hear Meryl Streep, one of the most talented actors alive today, accept her lifetime achievement award by so succinctly defining the political zeitgeist in today’s America.

On January 20, one of the most dangerous challenges to our democratic institutions takes office. While his supporters say that he will do away with liberal notions of “special snowflakes” and the “politically correct” fascism that has governed our society, what he has really done is attack without impunity and make a mockery of the Office of the President of the United States.

Meryl Streep could have devoted her time to thanking friends and family for her award, but instead, in that room full of Hollywood elites, she made one of the most astute political commentaries we’ve seen since Donald Trump emerged on the political stage.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life,” Streep said.

Indeed, we are seeing a worrying shift in the way politicians interact with the public and the media. While Lyndon B. Johnson famously bullied congressmen, he did so to get an agenda passed. What we are seeing today is completely different: Donald Trump belittled a reporter for a disability, made horribly sexist comments and incited hatred this country has not experienced in quite some time.

Trump is taking the bully pulpit to a whole new level.

Streep highlighted an even more worrying trend in this country: the increasing vulnerability of the free press “Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.”

Trump has vilified the media at every turn. An institution once known as reporting on truth and facts has been accused of peddling “fake news” and a “liberal agenda.” We are in an unprecedented time when facts are lies told by Hillary-supporting liberal reporters while lies told by a man who has been involved in more than 3,000 lawsuits are accepted as facts.

What Streep did was highlight exactly what has gone wrong in our politics and society. Rather than holding those we elect to a higher standard, we are attacking those very institutions and individuals who are meant to defend that standard. And we are letting the big orange man do it.

Those of us who recognize this worrying trend and want to do something about it should listen to Meryl Streep’s parting advice, “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, ‘take your broken heart, make it into art’.”

How Obama Lost Foreign Policy

President Obama will be remembered fondly for many things but foreign policy may not be one of them. While supporters of the Obama administration point to the Iran Deal and renewed ties with countries like Myanmar and Cuba as successes, Obama’s complete mishandling of Syria will overshadow such victories. And with a new administration clamoring to undo much of Obama’s positive legacies, his failure will play an important role in how we will remember the Obama years.

In history books, the greatest failure of Obama foreign policy will be remembered as the complete and total inaction concerning the Syrian Civil War. Perhaps, most interestingly, the failure stems from a problem that has plagued the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy since the beginning: Asking how a decision will end rather than asking how such a decision could improve the situation or, at the very least, help the most amount of people. We see that the Obama administration took a historically nuanced and careful approach to most of its policy. President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, took the country down a disastrous path by in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama could not repeat such costly mistakes.

Evelyn Farkas, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Eurasia, told Vox’s Ezra Klein that the Obama administration has been particularly cautious about its approach to foreign affairs. It seems that while President Obama pushed to improve the lives of most ordinary Americans by pushing an extraordinarily progressive policy agenda, his international outlook was more guarded.

While President Obama worked to further human rights in the U.S., he failed to do the same as the Arab Spring in Syria went from peaceful protests to a bloody, complicated civil war. First the Obama administration attempted to leverage political pressure on the Syrian regime, calling for Bashar Al-Assad to either step down or greatly reform and democratize his country. Then the Obama administration drew its infamous “red line,” where President Obama himself went on national television promising to use force if the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people. Assad did. Obama did nothing.

Next came a wave of refugees asking for asylum in the European Union while the Islamic State advanced across large portions of both Syria and neighboring Iraq. The Obama administration again did nothing to ameliorate the situation in Syria while the Russians took an opportunity to strengthen the Assad regime, partner with Iran, and drastically worsen the humanitarian disaster unfolding in cities such as Aleppo.

President Obama’s caution and drive to understand how his decisions would find solutions to complicated and fraught situations turned out to be his downfall.

It’s 2017 and the Syrian Civil War does not seem to be any closer to resolution while millions of Syrians are either internally displaced or clamoring for a better life in other countries.

Syria will forever haunt the Obama administration, and maybe for good reason. 

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