When the Republican candidate won the U.S. November election for president, I vowed to never utter his name in these pages again (aside from quotations) and to reference him as just an asterisk: *.
I have changed my mind.
There is a remarkable letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin that formally addresses our president-elect as "Your Excellency." (Can you hear me laughing again even though I've read it a dozen times by now???)
When he released the letter to the media, his excellency described it as "A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct." (You can read the entire letter here - scroll down.)
Of course such a man would crave such an exalted title. So until something better comes along, in this space * will become "his excellency." In a post-ironic world such as ours, how could I resist.
Here is what Russia expert Nina Khrushcheva, who is professor of international affairs at New York University, had to say about the letter and the response to his excellency in Russia on an MSNBC News panel a couple of days ago:
On Christmas Day, The New York Times published a big story telling us that although his excellency still insists there are no legal conflicts of interest between his businesses and his new position, he and his family have announced the will close foundations and end some development deals.
In the past few days, he has also ended a long-running labor dispute in a Trump hotel in Las Vegasv ending his demand for a 15-foot fence at an ocean-front golf course in Ireland. Ivanka is said to be "looking at" donating proceeds from an upcoming book to charity and Eric Trump announced he will no longer attend administration meetings. These are among a fairly lengthy list of divestitures. However,
"While the family may be removing some of the most obvious problems," reports The Times, "critics say Mr. Trump will still know what properties his family owns and which policy decisions will benefit them, no matter how careful he is.
"The portfolio of assets might influence his interactions with leaders in nations such as Turkey and the Philippines, where Mr. Trump has prominent marketing deals.
"In places where he has allowed the use of his family name and even his image, Mr. Trump will soon be confronting foreign policy decisions, such as how to confront human rights violations or fight terrorism.
"The family, at least so far, has not announced how it will resolve other issues, such as the lease at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which was issued by the federal government’s General Services Administration, an agency Mr. Trump will soon oversee."
This is good news but perhaps not for the reason you may think. As The Times makes clear, this is a start but the changes get nowhere near clearing the table of his excellency's conflicts. But here is what this news otherwise tells us:
His excellency (or his lawyers, I suppose) responds to public pressure that, in this the case of conflicts, has been non-stop since he was elected.
Keep that in mind: he responds to public pressure if it is loud and unrelenting. That means that on any upcoming issue, enough noise, enough media attention, enough commotion, uproar and outcry can make a difference.
It's not just Congress we will need to repeatedly and resolutely lobby in the coming year(s). Add the White House to our list of Congressional representatives because on so many issues, nothing can become law without the signature of the president.
That is what makes even this puny divestiture good news - news we can use in our fight against the coming Republican onslaught against the virtues and values of our country.