History Repeating

The Greatest Threat to Security Since WWII

A Commentary By John Kasich, Governor of Ohio

 "We must stand up for our values!"

 
 NATO is in danger and the West is losing its cohesion. Lessons of the past warn us to stand tall against those seeking to unravel a global security framework that has kept us safe since World War II.

The United States and our international allies, which for so long has been the centerpiece of what is rightly called "The Free World," are facing the greatest threat to global stability since the end of World War II. Security arrangements, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which for more than seven decades have kept us safe from yet another global conflict, are quickly coming unraveled. These are the deep concerns I am bringing to the Munich Security Conference.

Here in America, I see the erosion of our alliances caused by growing tensions across the world and fed by angry voices at home. These forces threaten the future of an international security framework that has long ensured the United States and its partner nations of a stable world and the free flow of ideas and trade. Hearing those voices, many here are second-guessing the alliances and relationships that have served us so well in the post-war era.

Too many of my countrymen prefer that we stay at home instead of support our longstanding allies. And in many of those allied nations, similar doubts are taking root.

A Secure and Stable World Order

Why am I alarmed, as an American state governor who is otherwise focused on domestic policies and the delivery of public services to 11.7 million Ohioans? It is because my state has been restoring our economy and creating jobs for Ohio workers by keeping pace with the demands and rewards of a global economy. A secure and stable world order, open to the free exchange of goods and technology, is essential to my state's well-being.

These are not new concerns for me, having served nine terms as a member of Congress, including 18 years on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. From those perspectives I have feared this unraveling for some time, but my concerns are redoubled by the most recent threats to our alliances, both in the United States and abroad.

Why are these alliances essential for Ohio and for all of America? It's more than a matter of protecting our own borders and preserving our national identity, important as those goals may be. It's also about protecting the collective human values that have for so long sustained the United States -- values such as freedom of speech, universal respect for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, and a world open to free enterprise, travel and trade.

These are the shared values that we and our allied nations believe in; the same values others scorn and deny to those they rule.

History Repeating

Through seven stressful decades since the end of World War II, these values and the moral standards they embrace have been the foundation of an international security framework, including NATO, which has helped us avoid global war and provided its partners widespread economic opportunity with free trade. The world has been down this road before, and it didn't end well. Twice before, on the eve of World War I and again in the dark days before World War II, we witnessed regional instability that quickly led to global conflict -- leaving tens of millions dead and large swaths of the world in ruin.

Now history threatens to repeat itself and we can see some of the same erosive forces at work: a weakening NATO and growing conflict in regions such as Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Perennial tensions and bloody conflict in the Middle East are joined by gathering storm clouds in North Korea and the South China Sea -- and overhanging it all, international terrorism.

Calls for disengagement, isolation and shuttered trade add to the sense that our world is coming undone.

Each of our allied nations is safer when freedom, democracy and the rule of law are embraced around the world. In places like Ukraine, there is a deep yearning for these values and we must encourage that desire, not dismiss it.

The notion that it somehow makes Americans safer at home to sacrifice support for a free Ukraine in exchange for a better relationship with Russia -- which continues to deny its unacceptable interference in our presidential election -- is wrong and naïve. It's inconsistent with our shared ideals and leads other allies to doubt American resolve. Putin only respects strength, which is one reason why I support tougher sanctions against Russia and Putin's inner circle.

We Won't Get a Second Chance

A further cause for concern is that our once-vigilant alliances have failed to deal with the most urgent issues facing them -- challenges such as the refugee crisis, secure borders, cybersecurity and intelligence sharing in the face of terrorism. We need to fix those weaknesses, but in ways that help our alliances evolve, not throwing away the underlying values that have held us together and kept the peace for so many decades.

Rather than allowing history to replay its sad lessons, now is the time for us to rediscover the spirit of unity and social solidarity we need to restore the functioning of our own democracies. We must also find in ourselves once again the courage to stand up for our values internationally -- the values on which our shared system of security was built and that have become too easy for us to take for granted.

History teaches that it takes courageous resolve to preserve the values-based alliances that have kept us safe for seven decades. Without a shared commitment to freedom, how can we expect it to survive?

That is why we must reassure the Baltics and Ukraine -- who live in the very shadow of Russia -- that the United States will be there for them if trouble arises. Russian intimidation of our NATO allies or other free nations cannot be tolerated.

Instead of listening to the siren song of false prophets, we must relearn to work together with respect for opposing points of views in a search for the common ground and a recommitment to shared values that will help us together reaffirm our common humanity.

The Munich Security Conference 2017 gives leaders of our partner nations an exceptional opportunity to work toward strengthening our alliances and rededicating ourselves to the values on which those bonds of trust are built.

Unless we can find the courage and unity to defend our values, we will not succeed. And succeed we must.


Gold: The Only Certainty is Uncertainty

By: John Ing
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In other disturbing news... Trump Cartoon


Too much has been written what Mr. Trump can or can't do. In his first days in office he ambitiously reshaped trade, healthcare, immigration and American law. Dodd Frank is next to be scrapped. And in disturbing everyone, the only certainty is uncertainty.

Trump's "America first" policies of tax cuts, less regulations, infrastructure spending and building the Mexican wall will widen America's budgetary deficits which could usher in the second of many rate increases by the Federal Reserve. Ironically a rate increase would lead to an even stronger dollar wiping out any possible advantage for Trump's manufacturing proposals. Moreover, the multitude of conflicting Trump's proposals on tariffs would certainly boost import prices, hurting his own constituency and aggravate his trade deficits, risking a worldwide trade war. And with the dollar rising to 14 year highs despite running up considerable trade deficits, he even started a war with the dollar bulls, signaling that the dollar is too strong. Since then the dollar has fallen for seven consecutive weeks of losses.

In less than a month, Mr. Trump has created wars on many fronts, sometimes with a stroke of the pen, others with a tweet. To his critics, of which there are many, he is reckless and dangerous. In fact, we believe the recent dollar correction is not because of his bully pulpit, but because of a growing Trump "uncertainty discount".

In bypassing the media, his Executive Order photo-ops are vying with Press Secretary Sean Spicer's daily press briefings as the ultimate reality show, leaving the country and the Democrats in a state of daily surprises. But the ramifications are all so real - ask the acting Attorney General who was fired. To be sure, Trump's rise to power and his policies will have an impact on the global economy. However, the dilemma in the longer-term is that many of Mr. Trump's ad hoc solutions to the complex problems are actually non-solutions. The classic Trump trade then, is to buy gold.

Trump vs Yellen

Overlooked by Wall Street is a potential war with the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve was set for a series of three rate hikes this year in order to "normalize" and shrink its bloated $4.5 trillion balance sheet built up after a near decade of ultra-loose monetary policies, five times pre-crisis levels.

However, such a move would tighten financial markets at a time when Trump's programmes call for a boost in Treasury borrowing. Ominously, any unwinding would risk unleashing a hyper-style inflation because much of the trillions of cheap credit printed under successive quantitative easing programmes, remain trapped on the Fed's balance sheet, as excess reserves.

We believe the first battle will be at the next FOMC meeting on March 14-15 but already, it appears that the Fed has backed down, causing the dollar to slip. While Mr. Trump has signaled that he wants investment to jumpstart the economy no one, including Trump has said how he is to pay for this. The Federal Reserve, on the other hand does not seem ready to finance or give the economy another fiscal stimulus boost. Trump may have won the first battle with his tweets, but there are rumblings that the next battle is over the appointment of a couple Federal Reserve appointees, setting up an inevitable clash with Janet Yellen, Chairwoman of the Fed. To be sure his fight with the Fed would make the Mexican conflict seem quite small. Gold again will be a good thing to have.

Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

As Tom Brady, the iconic quarterback of the New England Patriots showed, the best defenses are told to watch what he does, not where he feints. We believe Trump's method behind the madness of his unorthodox positions are behind his tweets or surrogates' statements and like Brady's feints, are just diversions. It is his actions such as the cabinet appointment of experienced business types and not former government mandarins that will provide an entrepreneurial environment or his unflinching loyalty and appointments of his inner circle that are clues to the man. The rest might be just noise or feints. And, amid this chaos, his nominees have been confirmed and of the 20 or so Executive Orders, only one has been challenged by the courts. Meantime, under everyone's radar, his party and cabinet are fashioning the biggest tax cut in history and while the Bannons and Conways attract fire, his appointees are pushing for regulatory reform ie cutbacks. And for the worrywarts, he has slowed down on Obama Care and stepped back from a confrontation with China. Fortunately despite the noise and war of words, he has shown by his actions that he is a deft chess player. To be sure, no one will test his red lines.

After Justice Gorsuch is confirmed, the Republicans will control all three branches of the federal government leaving the Democrats in opposition amid their internal backbiting, name calling and bitter partisanship; certainly not away to win elections. The US Constitution provided for the separation and thus independence of the three branches of government; legislative (Congress), judicial (courts) and executive (White House) with checks and balances.

However, the forefathers never envisioned the growing polarization, politicization and partisanship on Capital Hill and the judiciary. Today, Mr. Trump signals a new era in US politics. The idea of an independent judiciary went out with the selection of jurists on ideological grounds. The Executive Orders that imposed the immigration ban was one of many by Trump but before him, the record holder was Mr. Obama and even Ronald Reagan conveniently used the orders to circumvent that second branch, Congress.

Today the third branch, the judiciary has struck back. But dangerously he has initiated a war with the judiciary and another war with Congress threatening the ‘nuclear" option to bully Democrats to support his Supreme Court pick. His botched immigration ban shows that control and autonomy are not the same thing. In the art of deal, he learnt that like building his hotels, it will take "give and take", and in overturning his immigration ban, a beginning of the separation of the three branches.

War and Peace

Of greater concern, there is the prospect of a full blown trade war. We simply can't afford it.

America is the superpower of the world with substantial natural resources but in the last forty years, evolved to become more of a consumption based economy. Emerging countries took advantage of America's markets, with China, Japan and India becoming the workshops for the world, generating of course a chronic global trade imbalance. However, not to be forgotten is the flipside benefit that allowed the US to be funded by those Asians, enabling Americans to consume more than they produce and live that "American Dream". At best, their own American icons such as Apple, Walmart and GM benefited from the creation of global supply chains taking advantage of the arbitrage of lower labour costs. Then there are the vast integrated food, agriculture and auto supply chains benefitting North American consumers.

That arbitrage yielded more employment at home and of course profits.

A trade war would collapse these intricate supply chains, hurting American consumers costing badly needed jobs. Trade is not a zero sum game. Yet it is not America's trade deficits that determines their performance. US consumer spending has been the key driver which grew at a 2.5 percent clip resulting in a subpar 2 percent growth. The dilemma for everyone is that the global economy is slowing down, recording its slowest economic growth in five years and Trump's policies or not, the US economy will slow down further.

Little wonder then, that without American markets, emerging countries will have to turn to other markets already exacerbated by Britain's Brexit, elections in France and Germany, and a festering Greek bailout crisis. Trump's poke at Germany which enjoys a huge current account surplus of almost 9 percent of GDP, and suggesting theymake a bigger contribution to NATO was predictably met with a dour reception. Quietly, however Germany has repatriated almost 600 tonnes of gold from America and France in a move to better safeguard its reserves.

However, of greater concern is France's populist Marine Le Pen (Madame Frexit) threatening to renege on France's debt which would amount to the largest sovereign default in history, surpassing Greek's restructuring by 10 times which could cause the breakup of a weakened EU.

Deficits Must Be Financed

The US trade deficit reached half a trillion dollars last year and Trump faces obstacles including the strong dollar, the lack of national savings and a national debt at $20 trillion or 100 percent of GDP.

Shaky demand overseas and the likelihood of another whopping budgetary deficit boosted by the largest tax cuts in history together with an increase in government spending will mean the twin deficits must be financed. Mr. Trump has accused America's major trading partners, China, Japan and Germany of weakening their currencies to gain trade advantages, yet those same countries are asked to finance America's debt. Problematic is that America continues to consume more than they produce and the new world order will make the world's largest creditor beholden to its rivals.

The harsh reality is that Mr. Trump harkens back to the golden days when America became a great superpower initiated by the growth in the first half of the 20th century. The post war recovery from the Great Depression and the Second World War saw demand for America's surplus manufacturing, food and other war related needs. Later the Vietnam War caused a surge in economic activity in the United States, which was reinforced by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Unfortunately, this period had to be financed and America soon faltered in the Seventies under the weight of near hyperinflation caused by the excessive printing of money which had to be ended by Volcker's double digit interest rates. Again today, Americans believe they can have it all. However, America has underinvested in physical and human capital, becoming more of a consumption based economy. Those imbalances have caused a skewing in incomes and the rising inequality paved the way for the populism and election of Mr. Trump.

Ironically in 2008, while Americans overwhelmingly opted for "change", they never got it.

Trump promised change and in delivering change everyone is screaming - or are they? Change has come, unpopular as it is.

Trump vs China

During Trump's campaign it appeared that he was spoiling for a full blown trade war with inflammatory talk questioning China's one China policy. In his first 100 days of election, Obama slapped a tax on Chinese tires but quickly dropped the tax when China countered. Of course, ramping up tensions, risks Chinese retaliation. Today, Apple phones and Boeings are likely targets. The bigger concern, however is that China stops financing America's profligacy. 

China has imposed new regulations to staunch the outflow of cash moving offshore, including tightening approvals for foreign acquisitions, causing a shrinking market for the renminbi and raising rates to keep money in the country. China has even run down its behemoth foreign exchange reserve pool by a whopping trillion dollars, selling dollars aggressively to curb renminbi depreciation as well as purchasing huge supplies of gold as a currency hedge.

While only 2 percent of its vast foreign exchange hoard is in gold, China has stockpiled 1,833 tonnes of gold up from 600 tonnes in 2003 for a 200 percent increase making China the sixth largest holder in the world. China is the world's largest producer and consumer, yet must import almost half of the world's production to satisfy demand. We believe China's moves are designed to reduce dollar exposure, knock currency speculators offside and importantly, build up an arsenal in anticipation of a potential trade war between the world's two largest economies. While China and the United States appear to be on a collision course, it seems that the trade fight could be more of a re-establishment of the world order. Yet this time, Beijing has many cards to play.

Thus, Trump's celebratory New Year phone call, albeit 11 days late to Mr. Xi Jinping and the reaffirmation of China's One-China principle are steps in the right direction. Similarly, welcoming Japan's Prime Minister Abe to a meeting and a round of golf and signalling 100 percent support for an ally is another positive sign that maybe the United States could share power, setting the stage for a peaceful negotiation of the potentially toxic trade irritants.

Geopolitically, a retreating America is highly destabilising. China by default would inherit the mantle. China has already filled the vacuum by taking up the cause of globalization using their domestic core markets as a base, allowing them to internalise their brands and markets. The result is a "state-owned" capitalism. At Davos, President Xi Jinping warned, without naming the US, about countries pursuing their narrow interests. Still China has strategic areas like gold and technology which are out of bounds to foreigners. Above all, China has been the major beneficiary of free-trade, supporting countries by financing the infrastructure they need. China today pays for Saudi Arabian and Russian oil in renminbi, bypassing the dollar. Ironically in pursuing its mercantilist policy, China has already filled the vacuum created by America's retreat in Africa and parts of Latin America.

Today Mr. Xi's "One Belt One Road" initiative will see trillions of infrastructure spending that will exert China's growing political and economic influence among some 65 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. China will also finance these entities through the China Development Bank, the Export Import Bank as well as the newly created Asian Infrastructure Bank (AIIB). Tellingly China's investments and new alliances would also offset the impact of a potential trade war with the US, ironically taking yet another page from America's book.

Since the start of the year, gold is back in demand, rising 6 percent outperforming the major indices.

It appears gold has taken on a Trump discount. We believe this Trump trade is a hedge against the possibility his presidency will be one of global disorder, pitting country against country, consumers against producers and debtors against creditors. Gold is also a hedge against the chance that the world central banks' false solutions are again no better at boosting their economies than preventing high inflation. In addition, Trump's tax cuts and spending programs will widen his deficits. Gold is a classic hedge as a store of value when two thirds of the world's assets are denominated in the fiat currency issued by a country whose authorities are taking policy actions which leads to debasement.

Since 1973, gold has averaged 23 percent gains after the first year of the inauguration of a Republican president in contrast to only a 5 percent rise under Democrats. Money is no longer money in the central banks' war against savers so the prospect of building an economy on gold certainly has serious luster now that gold has become an alternative investment to the dollar for many central banks. Gold is a good thing to have.

Recommendations

Gold has rebounded from the lows of $1,140 an ounce after reaching a peak at $1,940 an ounce, six years ago. Meantime jewellery demand tapered off in India but remains strong in China yet both countries still make up of 60 percent of demand. By contrast, investment demand surged with large purchases by ETFs. We continue to believe that the resumption of gold's uptrend will see gold at $2,200 an ounce.

The dollar and gold are telling us that a perilous adjustment in currencies and economies lie ahead.

Since the price peaked in 2011, miners have since written off tens of billion of dollars of investments and repaired their balance sheets. The latest quarter was a good quarter for miners with improved prices and free cash flow and despite flat production, they are making more profits per ounce. The producers seems to be operating from the same playbook of reduced spending, costs and debt.

Barrick has again led the way with improved margins. Newmont is bringing on a couple mines to replace lost production from Indonesia. Agnico Eagle is midway through a growth profile that will see a boost in production and reserves. Cash costs for the miners will be at the lowest in years and free cash flow at their highest in years. We believe that over the next few quarters, the miners will announce growth in exploration and an emphasis on organic growth as they try to replace declining reserves. For the last two years, the industry has not replaced reserves. We continue to like Barrick, Agnico Eagle and in the mid tier B2Gold and Eldorado. McEwen Mining is favoured for organic growth. New Gold, Goldcorp and Detour Gold face execution problems and are not favoured here.


Ensuring Euro-Atlantic Security

Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor S. Ivanov
. Kuznetsov aircraft carrier russian northern fleet


MUNICH – The chasm between Russia and the West appears to be wider now than at any point since the Cold War. But, despite stark differences, there are areas of existential common interest. As we did during the darkest days of the Cold War, Americans, Europeans, and Russians must work together to avoid catastrophe, including by preventing terrorist attacks and reducing the risks of a military – or even nuclear – conflict in Europe.
 
Ever since the historic events of 1989-1991 changed Europe forever, each of us has been involved in Euro-Atlantic security, both inside and outside of government. Through it all, efforts to build mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region have lacked urgency and creativity. As a result, the Euro-Atlantic space has remained vulnerable to political, security, and economic crises.
 
In the absence of new initiatives by all parties, things are likely to get worse. Terrorist attacks have struck Moscow, Beslan, Ankara, Istanbul, Paris, Nice, Munich, Brussels, London, Boston, New York, Washington, and other cities – and those responsible for carrying them out are determined to strike again. Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine since 2013, and more are dying in renewed fighting today. Innocent refugees are fleeing the devastating wars in the Middle East and North Africa. And Western-Russian relations are dangerously tense, increasing the risk that an accident, mistake, or miscalculation will precipitate a military escalation – or even a new war.
 
The first step in acting to advance our common interests is to identify and pursue concrete, practical, near-term initiatives designed to reduce risks, rebuild trust, and improve the Euro-Atlantic security landscape. There are five key areas that such initiatives should cover.
 
- We must reduce the danger of a nuclear weapon being used. Today, the risk of an accidental or mistaken nuclear ballistic-missile launch is unnecessarily high. A starting point for minimizing the threat could be a new declaration by the Russian and US presidents reaffirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This would mirror the joint statement made by former US President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which was well received in both countries, and marked a new effort to improve relations.
 
-  We must reduce the risks associated with keeping nuclear forces on “prompt-launch” status, whereby they are ready for immediate launch and can hit their targets within minutes. The United States and Russia should commit to begin discussions on removing a significant percentage of strategic nuclear forces from prompt-launch status at a later date. This, together with the declaration proposed above, would set a strategic direction for reducing the nuclear threat.
 
-  We must reduce the threat of nuclear and radiological materials falling into the wrong hands. As the Islamic State looks for new ways to export terror to Europe, North America, and beyond, it may try to acquire and detonate a radiological-dispersal device, commonly known as a “dirty bomb.” It is especially urgent that the US, Russia, and Europe lead a global effort to secure the most vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world. In particular, there is an urgent need to cooperate on securing radiological sources. Many facilities using these materials today are vulnerable, but the estimated date for securing them globally is 2044.
 
-  We must reduce the risks of a military confrontation by improving military-to-military communication through a new NATO-Russia Military Crisis Management Group. This initiative should accompany efforts to restart bilateral military-to-military dialogue between the US and Russia. The focus should be on increasing transparency and trust on all sides.
 
We must reduce the risk of a mid-air incident leading to a political or military conflict. Increased military activity in areas where NATO and Russia both operate now poses an unacceptably high risk to civilian air traffic. Countries that are active in the Baltic Sea region, for starters, should exchange “due regard” regulations – the national operating procedures that state aircraft must follow when in the proximity of civilians. Technical support for greater air transparency would also significantly reduce the risk of a mid-air collision.
 
Europe, the US, and Russia are confronting a range of significant issues today. But none should distract attention from the important goal of identifying a new policy framework, based on existential common interests, that can stop the downward spiral in relations and stabilize Euro-Atlantic security.
 
The practical near-term steps that we have identified here are the right place to begin. We need to start now.
 
 


Is This Trump’s Watergate?

Unless Team Trump gets back to the basics of the 2016 election, 1974 could return.

By Daniel Henninger


A president’s blood is in the water and another White House staff can only look out the windows as the sharks arrive from miles off.

Dan Rather, who normally toils at explaining away his George W. Bush National Guard story for CBS years ago, swam toward the Trump White House Tuesday to posit that “Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now.”

Like-minded trolls in the social-media village sent Mr. Rather’s Facebook post viral. The Watergate “meme” that attached itself instantly to Mike Flynn’s firing over his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak was: What did President Trump know, and when did he know it?

We are far from Watergate levels of threat to the Trump presidency. The Democrats are in the congressional minority, and however much they intone the I-word, there will be no Sam Ervin committee.

Impeachment, though, is not the goal of Donald Trump’s opponents. They want to cut off his power—his hold on much of the American public. To do that, they need to make him look like a loser.

On Monday, the president lost Mike Flynn. On Wednesday, he lost Andy Puzder, his labor nominee. Both fell in large part because of an understaffed and dangerously diffused White House management structure. The Trump opposition—Democrats, unions, Never Trumpers—now know that if they can turn three Republican senators against him, he won’t matter.

They may succeed unless Team Trump can reverse the tides starting to erode the foundations of the president’s political support.

Let’s talk about the swamp.

If we have learned anything about the Trump presidency, it is that Mr. Trump and his chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, despise the Washington swamp, which includes the city’s lobbyists, all of its bureaucrats, every member of the media, the entire congressional delegation and their staffs.

At the moment, that would cover most of the forces arrayed against them, and a good question is whether they’ll drain the swamp before the swamp swallows them.

Messrs. Trump and Bannon should give an older member of the Washington establishment a temporary Oval Office visa to talk about what it was like during Watergate. Mr. Trump surely recalls the giddy frenzy of waking each day during Watergate to see what new anti-Nixon bombshell was on the morning newspaper’s front page.

What happened to Richard Nixon an eon ago looks familiar: Donald Trump’s presidency is getting bitten to death by an invisible, lethal ant hill of anonymous leakers.

Mr. Trump himself outputted this reality in remarks to the press Wednesday: “From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked, it’s criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time.” It sure has. Ask George Washington.

Back in the days of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the primary unidentified source was known as Deep Throat. Now, when the bar for anonymity is about an inch high, the locutions of invisibility are more elegant. A favorite: “requested anonymity to speak candidly.”

As always, it works. You could have spent all Wednesday reading grimly exhilarating stories based on almost no names, such as the Washington Post piece about the White House triumvirate of Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus keeping Mike Pence out of the loop after they’d been told Jan. 26 by the Justice Department of Mr. Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador. Mr. Pence had gone on Sunday morning television earlier to defend Mr. Flynn.

Whether the Pence wedge between him and the inner circle (as of this week) is true hardly matters. Life in the capital wouldn’t be much fun without believing such things. Washington’s most powerful force is . . . the whisper.

Trumpians can launch a million outraged emails and tweets against all this incoming, but the blunt reality is, So what? If you aren’t winning in Washington, you are losing. Nobody has changed the rules of that game yet.

For the first two weeks, Team Trump was winning. The executive orders unwinding the Obama regulatory apparatus had Democrats gagging in astonishment. Having abandoned any arguments based on policy, the Democrats sank to the level of senior members like Sen. Elizabeth Warren exchanging views on TV with comedians. Comedians are now the Democratic Party’s brain trust.

Then the White House overplayed its strong hand with the rushed-out immigration order. The political fires lit by that then consumed a vulnerable Mike Flynn and are now roaring toward the Oval Office. Unfair? Criminal? Maybe, and maybe the historians will sort it all out someday as solace.

Forgotten now is that Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven by the anonymous torrent, but only after he saw he’d lost the support of his own party in Congress. We’re not there, yet.

Mr. Trump is in the White House because voters wanted two things, in this order: 1) change; 2) Donald Trump.

That’s the basics. Get it straight, or 1974 could return.