clock menu more-arrow no yes

Vox Sentences: Trump caps off Infrastructure Week by burning down some bridges

Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what's happening in the world, curated by Dylan Matthews and Dara Lind. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

Nobody knows anything, nobody is in charge, good night and good luck.


DUPTF, mate?

Leader Of The Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn Casts His Vote In The 2017 General Election Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images
  • Three things that are true about the UK general election, now that all the votes have been counted: Nobody really won. The prime minister (who gets to keep her job) lost. And the biggest winner was the leader of the minority party. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • No party had an outright majority of seats in Parliament according to the voting, which left Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Conservatives had the plurality of seats, to find a party to give her the needed votes to stay in power. [BuzzFeed News / James Ball]
  • At present, it looks like she’s going to rely on the Democratic Unionist Party, who aren’t willing to enter a formal coalition with May but are willing to give her the “confidence and supply” to get enough votes to stay prime minister. [The Independent / Maya Oppenheim]
  • Who the hell are the Democratic Unionist Party? Glad you asked. They’re a Northern Irish party that’s historically supported Protestantism and unionism (keeping Northern Ireland in Great Britain). They are also culturally conservative in all the ways the Conservatives really aren’t — super-opposed to abortion and homosexuality, for example, and in denial about climate change. [Washington Post / Henry Farrell]
  • It’s really not clear that May’s going to be able to keep them in line for very long — and if she loses a majority, the country goes back to the polls to vote in a new Parliament, again.
  • That’s if she lasts that long. Remember, the Conservative Party had a majority in Parliament before May decided to call a snap election in the hopes of increasing it. She gambled and lost, badly. [The Economist]
  • Furthermore, May’s biggest rivals within the Conservative Party weren’t really involved in the campaign effort — because May was trying to prove she could win without them — so they are now untainted by the failure, and in a stronger position to challenge her for party leadership and the prime ministership that goes with it. [National Review / Michael Brendan Dougherty]
  • Meanwhile, the party leader whose job has been in near-constant jeopardy — Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist head of the Labour Party — has totally silenced the doubters. Corbyn’s proved that an unabashedly pro-welfare state politics that hasn’t been popular in Great Britain (or the US) since the 1970s is still viable. Indeed, that it might be a preferable alternative for many to the austerity budgets of the Conservatives. [New Yorker / John Cassidy]
  • But Corbyn also owes his victory to his acceptance of Brexit, and his support for ending free movement within the EU. Those positions are credited with winning him back the working-class voters who voted for the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party in recent elections (UKIP has all but collapsed). But he also won the support of students and Londoners who voted Remain — and who, should Corbyn become prime minister (something that looks entirely plausible after another election or so), are unlikely to agree with the ex-UKIP voters about what government should do. [Slate / Isaac Chotiner and David Runciman]

Qatar the hell is going on over there

President Donald Trump Meets With Members Of His Cabinet Photo by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images
  • After several days of a boycott led by Saudi Arabia, things are going badly for the residents of Qatar. People grabbed food off the shelves in panic when the blockade was announced, and thousands of Qataris have been unable to leave the country to visit relatives in neighboring countries. [Reuters / Tom Finn]
  • So it might have been reassuring when US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on Friday calling for the boycott to end. It might have been, had President Donald Trump not, scarcely an hour later, slammed Qatar as a funder of terrorism and signaled his support for the blockade. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]
  • It’s not a flip-flop so much as a quantum state: The White House is occupying two different positions at once. Except that it refuses to acknowledge this is the case. An anonymous staffer told the Washington Post that the positions are consistent: President Trump is okay with lifting the boycott, but he also thinks Qatar deserved everything it’s getting. [Washington Post / Karen DeYoung and Sudarsan Raghavan]
  • Qatari officials — some of whom had been quietly negotiating with Tillerson’s State Department — took Trump’s statement as a warning that the US’s alliance with Qatar (including having a military base on Qatari soil) was in danger. [NYT / Gardiner Harris]
  • But what could the State Department even say? It’s clear, at this point, that reassurances offered by Tillerson, or by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (who sought to soothe foreign leaders during a speech last weekend), don’t mean anything because the president isn’t listening to them. [The Diplomat / Ankit Panda]
  • And Trump’s own position can’t necessarily be predicted either. A few weeks ago, he deliberately cut out a section of his NATO speech swearing to uphold the mutual-defense provision in the NATO charter; on Friday, he offhandedly endorsed it in response to a question from a Romanian journalist at a press conference. [Foreign Policy / Robbie Gramer]
  • The Qatari situation right now doesn’t have a lot of room for careless flip-flopping. Saudi Arabia and company rolled out a list of Qatari citizens who are now being subjected to sanctions — which includes several top officials and continues to escalate tensions. [The Guardian / Peter Beaumont]
  • Meanwhile, Turkey and Pakistan (which, in case you’ve forgotten, is a nuclear-armed nation) are sending their troops to Qatar to defend it in case of attack. [Yeni Safak]
  • In tense situations like this, when one country mistakenly believes another country will rise to its defense, wars happen. It is not the time to be coy. [New Republic / Jeet Heer]

If you think being in Trump’s America is hard, just imagine being stuck half-in it

The Puerto Rico and US flags. Paul Richards/AFP via Getty Images
  • On Sunday, Puerto Ricans will vote in a plebiscite on whether they wish to become a state, seek independence, or retain “territorial status.” [The Economist]
  • It’ll be the fifth time a vote has been taken on this question in one fashion or another. The last time, in 2012, a plurality of filled-in votes supported statehood; but because the setup of the vote complicated the question of what the will of the people had really been, Congress refused to recognize the results. [BBC]
  • The intervening five years have made the question a lot more urgent. Puerto Rico is all but bankrupt (the problem is that, being a territory, it can’t officially declare bankruptcy) and has been forced to slash government services to pay even the most minimal amount on its billions in debt. [Forbes / Wayne Winegarden]
  • Congress passed a bill last year that would establish a control board to figure out how debts could be repaid — which signaled to many Puerto Ricans that they were really a colony after all, and bolstered the argument of Gov. Roberto Rossello that gaining statehood was the solution to the island’s economic woes. [The Economist]
  • (You could argue that the federal government owes the island big-time, given that it can trace its economic woes back to the 1990s, when Congress decided to end a tax loophole that had brought business to the island, but pocket the revenues instead of reinvesting it in Puerto Rico to help it weather the loss of industry from closing the loophole.) [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • It’s certainly true that becoming a state would give Puerto Rico and its residents more federal money. Puerto Ricans, for one thing, pay into Social Security and Medicare but are restricted in the benefits they can derive; statehood would change that. [USA Today / Alan Gomez]
  • But that is also a good argument for the government not to honor the results of the plebiscite. And it’s not at all clear that they will. The Department of Justice refused to certify the language of the referendum, which — in addition to forcing Puerto Rico’s government to pay for the costs of administering a vote that might be useless — gives the feds an out to declare statehood null and void. [Latino USA / Julio Ricardo Varela]
  • You will be shocked to know that the Trump administration’s position on this question is unclear. President Trump has tweeted angrily about a “bailout” to Puerto Rico. But Vice President Mike Pence told leaders he supports statehood. [CNBC / Leslie Picker and Dawn Giel]

Miscellaneous

  • Apropos of the news that Donald Trump — maybe accidentally and probably not reliably — said he would testify under oath about James Comey, here’s a story about the last time Trump testified under oath. (It went badly.) [Washington Post / David A. Farenthold and Robert O’Harrow Jr.]
  • Jumping spiders have eyes built like Galileo’s telescope and can — this has been mathematically calculated — see the moon (but not any visible planets). [The Atlantic / Ed Yong]
  • Pour one out for Pirate Joe’s, the Canadian grocery store chain that sold, literally, unauthorized imports of Trader Joe’s products. [NYT / Christopher Mele]
  • A dress. Made out of straw hats. A straw hat dress. [The Cut / Sarah Spellings]
  • The Trump administration is successfully draining a swamp! Well, a pool. After 80 ducklings died in it. [NBC Washington / Kyle Rempfer]

Verbatim

  • “Thousands of people a day called 911 expecting a swift answer. Only some of them got it.” [Dallas News / Sarah Mervosh, Terri Langford and Tristan Hallman]
  • “Nik Lentz, a featherweight MMA fighter who is an active defender of the President in Trump’s replies, told BuzzFeed News he sees Trump’s replies as an opportunity to have a ‘direct feed to the SJW matrix’ that allows him to ‘troll these moron Soros bots.’” [BuzzFeed News / Charlie Warzel]
  • “I used to be a vegetable smuggler. It’s not how I got to prison, but it’s what I did once I was there.” [The Marshall Project / Matthew Hahn]
  • “In the world the Babadook has come to rescue the Vaneks from, heterosexuality is about locking things up, closing them away, medicating children into a stupor and casually murdering dogs I guess and tucking troublesome books above the wardrobe (my mom’s version of the ‘Mister Babadook’ book was called ‘Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl??!’ and involved a gender-swapping elbow-kiss but that’s a conversation for my therapist).” [Birth. Movies. Death / Anthony Oliveira]
  • “After she slipped on that frozen lake in Yosemite National Park, my mother became quiet and tender, sensitive to the world in unexpected ways.” [Tin House / Meehan Crist]
  • “The news that Jared Kushner will be meeting with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the early signs that Ivanka Trump is attempting to rebrand herself could have been an opportunity for ‘The Trump Show’ to explore how Trump’s presidency has had unintended and unsettling consequences for their ambitions.” [Washington Post / Alyssa Rosenberg]

Watch this: Grime: London’s latest music export

It's definitely not hip-hop. [Vox / Carlos Waters]


Read more

Margaret Atwood on the utopias hiding inside her dystopias and why there is no “the future”

Senate Republicans are closer to repealing Obamacare than you think

Why it’s so hard to say no to your boss — even if you’re director of the FBI

The Mummy says more about its stars and its franchise than anything mummy-related

How the Babadook became the LGBTQ icon we didn’t know we needed

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.