OurWeek in Politics (6/2-6/10/18)

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. President Donald Trump Alienates American’s Allies at G7 Summit Due to Erratic Behavior, Questionable Comments

In his second G7 conference as President, Donald Trump and his erratic policies decrease certainty in the future role of the US in the eyes of European leaders.

In his second G7 Summit since assuming office, President Donald Trump alienated the closest allies of the US at the annual summit of the group in Canada with his aggressive trade declarations and a surprising suggestion that Russia should be readmitted to the exclusive club of major economic powers. After leaving early, President Trump went on Twitter to blow up the agreement forged at the meeting. Trump exited the Quebec resort on June 9 where the group had gathered, leaving other world leaders whipsawed and uncertain about their future relationship with the US, to head to Singapore for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday. Trump’s actions added to the anxiety of longtime US allies, who are alarmed to see him lashing out against them while he is advocating for Russian President Vladimir Putin and cozying up to North Korea.

Just hours after leaving the summit in Quebec on June 9, President Donald Trump abruptly retracted US support for a joint statement signed by every nation in the group and blasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “meek and mild.” Firing off tweets from aboard Air Force One, Trump said he was reversing the US position in response to Trudeau’s comments at a press conference at the end of the summit. Trudeau had pledged to impose tariffs on the US in response to Trump’s recent steel and aluminum tariffs against Canada. “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around,’” Trump tweeted. “Very dishonest & weak.” At his closing news conference after Trump left the summit early, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that his country would respond to Trump’s trade moves, said the President’s argument that its trade policy threatened US national security was “insulting,” and added, “we will not be pushed around.”

Most political observers feel that the G7 summit ended in abject failure and only served to highlight the ideological and political divisions between Trump and Western allies and fueled fears that the most successful alliance in history is beginning to erode. “What worries me most, however, is the fact that the rules-based international order is being challenged, quite surprisingly not by the usual suspects but by its main architect and guarantor, the US,” said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said in Quebec before the spat over the communique. Additionally, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron described the G7 summit as a “sobering” and “depressing” experience due to their strong disagreements with Trump on issues ranging from international trade, diplomacy, and environmental policy. Perhaps the results of the G7 summit show that the role of international cooperation and agreements is becoming less and less important in the eyes of powerful countries such as the US.

2. US Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Colorado baker in Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple.

In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake to celebrate the marriage of a same-sex couple because of religious reasons. The court held that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward the baker due to his religious beliefs. The ruling is a win for baker Jack Phillips, who cited his beliefs as a Christian but leaves unsettled the broader constitutional question of the balance between religious liberty and outright discrimination. The case was one of the most anticipated rulings of the term and was considered by some as a follow-up from the court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision three years ago that made legal same-sex marriage at the national level. That opinion, also written by Kennedy, expressed respect for those with religious objections to gay marriage. Because Justice Clarence Thomas concurred in part, the judgment of the court on the case was 7-2 but the opinion on the rationale was 6-2 in favor of Phillips’s right to refuse service.

Overall the reaction to the ruling has been mixed. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, who represented Phillips, praised the ruling and stated that “Jack serves all customers; he simply declines to express messages or celebrate events that violate his deeply held beliefs. Creative professionals who serve all people should be free to create art consistent with their convictions without the threat of government punishment.” She further added that the case “will affect a number of cases for years to come in free exercise jurisprudence. That’s how the court’s decisions work,” Waggoner also stated. On the other hand, Rachel B. Tiven, the head of Lambda Legal, called the decision a “limited, fact-specific victory” for religious conservatives. “The Court today has offered dangerous encouragement to those who would deny civil rights to LGBT people and people living with HIV. Religious freedom under our Constitution has always meant the right to believe whatever you wish but not to act on your beliefs in ways that harm others. The Court today alarmingly fails to heed that distinction,” stated Tiven in an interview following the court’s decision.

3. Annual “Quds (Jerusalem) Day” Rallies Held in Iran in Protest of Israeli Policies & the Ideology of Zionism’

The annual Quds Day rallies were held in Iran this week to protest Israeli policies regarding Palestine, as well as US imperialism throughout the world.

Iran held its annual day of protest against Israeli policies and the political ideology of Zionism on June 8, determined to show defiance at a time of mounting pressure from the United States and its regional allies.”The US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel want to put Iran in a corner, but they don’t know that with this action they are threatening their own security,” said parliament speaker Ali Larijani to a crowd of several hundred thousand in Tehran.

An estimated 20 million Iranians took to the streets in the capital and other cities for Quds (Jerusalem) Day, held every year since 1980 to show support for the Palestinian people and opposition to the human rights abuses carried out by the Israeli government ever since its inception 70 years ago. President Hassan Rouhani called for “all” Iranians to turn out for the rallies. Rouhani further stated the demonstrations must send a message “to the usurper Zionist Regime [Israel] that they have not forgotten the Palestinian land and the Holy Quds and the freedom of the Holy Quds is still the holy cause of the Iranian people and all Muslims.”

In addition to Iran, several other Quds Day rallies were held throughout parts of the Middle East as well as in the UK, France, Germany, and Canada. This years’ rallies take on a high level of significance due to factors ranging from the decision by the Trump Administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, escalating Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, and the growing alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

4. President Trump says he is Likely to Support Ending Blanket Federal Ban on Marijuana

President Trump surprised many observers this week with his announcement that he would be in favor of lifting the federal ban on Marijuana usage.

President Donald Trump said he likely will support a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana, a major step that would reshape the pot industry and end the threat of a Justice Department crackdown. Trump’s remarks put him sharply at odds with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the issue. The bill in question (pushed by a bipartisan coalition) would allow states to go forward with legalization unencumbered by threats of federal prosecution. In contrast, Attorney General Sessions has ramped-up these threats and has also lobbied Congress to reduce current protections for medical marijuana. President Trump made his comments to a group of reporters on June 8 just before he boarded a helicopter on his way to the G-7 summit in Canada. His remarks came the day after the bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed their measure.

One of the lead sponsors is Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is aligned with Trump on some policy issues such as economics, but recently has fought with the administration over the Justice Department’s threats to restart prosecutions in states that have legalized marijuana. “I support Sen. Gardner,” Trump said when asked about the bill. “I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.” The legislative proposal, which is also championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), would reshape the legal landscape for marijuana if it becomes law. Trump’s support could also have a major impact, providing political cover for Republicans who worry about being tagged as soft on drugs.

Despite the popularity of legalizing marijuana, the proposed bill still faces a difficult road ahead in Congress. A majority of Republican members of Congress, as well as several conservative Democrats such as Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), are opposed to reform in federal drug policy, arguing that marijuana is a dangerous substance that contributes to societal disorder.  Additionally, lobbying groups such as the National Narcotic Officers’ Associations‘ cautioned Trump against supporting the bill and instead endorsed Attorney General Session’s efforts to expand the federal War on Drugs.

5. NASA Finds ‘Organic’ Substances Linked to Life On Mars, Potentially Increasing Public Support for Space Program

NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, possibly linked to life, on the Martian surface.

The US space agency (NASA) says its Mars exploration vehicle has discovered chemical substances necessary for life. Scientists reported that NASA’s Curiosity Rover found large amounts of organic molecules in a million-year-old rock in an area called the Gale Crater. The area on Mars is believed to have once contained a large lake. The discovery of organic molecules suggests that ancient conditions on Mars may have supported life. Ashwin Vasavada a scientist working on the Curiosity project stated that the chances of being able to find signs of ancient life with future missions “just went up.” Additionally,  Jennifer Eigenbrode (an astrobiologist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) noted that there is a strong possibility that the organic molecules were, in fact, created by some form of ancient life on the Martian surface.

The impact of these findings is significant because it may result in increased funding for space programs such as NASA, as well as higher levels of support for space exploration efforts by the US. Currently, the total budget for NASA stands at $18.4 billion, less than 0.5% of the federal budget. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of Americans today feel that the federal government spends far too much on space exploration and that the money would be better spent on education, public health, and developing alternative energy sources. The discovery of life on Mars might create the perception in the eyes of the American people that further space research and exploration is worth it and that the federal government should rethink its priorities to make such efforts a reality.

the author

Matt is a graduate of Monmouth University. Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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