“I and others sat in astonishment.”
William B. Taylor Jr., the top diplomat in Ukraine, was describing the moment he realized that President Trump was holding up military aid until Kiev coughed up some kompromat on Joe Biden.
Oh, please. We aren’t surprised by anything Trump does at this point. But we were a little stunned by some royal news from far away. No, not Harry and Meghan’s millennial meltdown over the trials of maintaining their work/high life balance. (We do have a story about it, though.)
Nor do we mean Naruhito, the emperor of Japan, who had a second coronation this week, a public one that even his wife, the Empress Masako, was allowed to attend. The first was a stag event, which was probably just fine with Masako, since she is a bit of a shut-in. The guest list was a little surprising. Prince Charles, check. Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, check, though you’d think she’d be worried about the protests back home. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines? A very bad man, and not even a good guest. He left early because of “back pain.”
Duterte? A very bad man, and not even a good guest.
And you know who represented the United States?
Not Pence. Not Pelosi. Not Ivanka. Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation. In order of precedence, Chao is No. 12 on the list of Cabinet members. Then again, 3rd is Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and HUD chief Ben Carson is 11th, so we can see why they let protocol fall by the wayside.
Hello, Young Lovers
But that was minor. The more stunning royal news came out of Thailand when King Maha Vajiralongkorn, 67, denounced and demoted his lovely 34-year-old consort, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, his former bodyguard. (A consort is sort of like a sister-wife, only with better jewelry.)
The king accused her of being “disloyal,” “ungrateful,” and “ambitious.” Harsh words, though that’s pretty much how the British tabloids describe Meghan. Worse, the king summarily stripped Sineenat of all her titles—and Instagram followers—only three months after having elevated her to Royal Noble Consort.
We didn’t see it coming—they looked so happy in the official portraits, which included shots of her in a crop top in the cockpit of an airplane, and prostrate at his feet in the throne room. No exact reason was offered for the demotion, but it’s possible that the King and I treatment was giving Queen Suthida, the king’s bride—his fourth—consort fatigue.
So much bizarre news about women overseas made us grateful to Casey Schwartz for talking to Meghan Daum about her book The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars, which has to do with the excesses of the American #MeToo movement. It’s a prickly topic, one on which most smart people avoid voicing unfashionable opinions out loud. Daum knows she will almost certainly get mauled on social media, but says she felt she had to say something, because “the stupid, thoughtless people are doing all the talking.”
Though by that, she may mean us. To find out, read on.