Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.

By this author

Cat & Mouse / Tom & Jerry

What with all the air being sucked up by the Rise and Fall of Donald Trump, we have been distracted from the Cat and Mouse game between Russia and the United State in Europe. Trump's current hope, seemingly supporting Russian President Putin, is that NATO wraps itself up and goes home. There are many facets to the cat and mouse game: Ukraine, Crimea and sanctions against Russia; Russian maneuvers in the Baltics, Sweden, etc.; Polish hysteria and Baltic angst about Russia that have brought an increase of U.S. troops and promises of more.

Imre Kertesz, RIP

The Hungarian writer and Nobel Prize winner, Imre Kertesz has died (Thursday, March 31). His first novel, Fateless, is a strange and moving story of a boy (the boy Kertesz was) sent to a concentration camp in 1944.

Trump's Enablers

To what Rand Cooper has posted below on what Trump is doing to the Republican Party, add what he is doing to the media.

What's Putin Up To?

Vladmir Putin is seen to be the quintessential trickster. The image of the unreliable actor colors much of the criticism directed at Putin by pundits and government officials alike, and is regularly followed by a Cold War sneeze. True, his actions are usually unexpected and unexplained. True, he is not going to get an A in moral rectitude. His announcement that the Russian air force would begin to withdraw from Syria was unexpected. Initial surprise was followed by grave suspicion that this was a trick. Mr. Putin simply said that Russian goals for intervening in Syria had been met and it was time to pull back.

It is hard to read Putin, no doubt, and difficult to see where he's going. When a pundit manages to do so, it is worth a read. Paul Pillar (Assymetry in Syria and the Russian Drawdown), who writes for the National Interest and appears regularly at LobeLog, has this to say:

"The latest Russian move should not have been at all surprising. To the extent that it was, this is because of imputing to the Russians motives and thought processes that they do not exhibit.... The announced withdrawal shows that Russian objectives in Syria were never unlimited or grandiose. The objectives had to do with such things as a temporary propping up of the Assad regime to prevent it from collapsing, and asserting a Russian role in helping to determine the future of Syria....

"The Russian moves demonstrate in addition that Putin does not apply to the Syrian situation the kind of framework that many American critics of the Obama administration’s policies apply,

Obama Out of the Closet UPDATE

President Obama's foreign policy has been a puzzle to some, a source of contempt by others, and a relief to many who don't think we need another war. Now Obama explains his thinking in a long, long interview with Jeffrey Goldberg.

Obama declares himself a "realist," and cites Brent Scowcroft as a source of his foreign policy stance. Scowcroft served as national security advisor to Gerald Ford and George HW Bush. He is a retired air force general. If memory serves, he also reined in George W. in his second term.

Whither Populism?

While we wait for one of the Matthews to analyze and cheer the Sanders win in Michigan, let's think about both victories there last night: Trump and Sanders. Each in his own way has a populist appeal.

New York Daily News: Move to Canada

"Make America Migrate"—this was the headline on the cover of today's edition of one of New York's finest newspapers, the Daily News, following Donald Trump's success in yesterday's primary elections. Much has been written about how the Republican party has come to this (including E. J.

Bernie Sanders Is Jewish. Isn't He?

Listening to Bernie Sanders, you know that he is from Brooklyn and you would correctly surmise he is Jewish.

Everyone in New York knows, or should know that Bernie is Jewish; it goes without saying! Here's a piece by NYTimes reporter Joe Berger, who knows what he knows but writes as if he didn't, "Bernie Sanders is Jewish, but he won't talk about it."  Berger is not alone. Many complain that Bernie won't admit this obvious fact. Right?

Antonin Scalia, former Xavier High School student, dies

The following just appeared in my in-box...remembering Justice Antonin Scalia. There is a lot to disagree with in Scalia's Supreme Court opinions--and I do. I would guess that the current president of Xavier HS may have some disagreements as well, nonetheless he reminds students, parents, and (grandparents) that Scalia was a fascinating character, a human being! a brilliant jurist, and a fellow Catholic. He has written a good letter reminding us of that.

Dear Sons and Friends of Xavier:

Last night, I received a call from Fr. Jim Keenan, S.J., informing me of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia ’53. Our prayers are with his wife Maureen, his family, and his fellow justices.

I will leave it to others to write about Justice Scalia’s legal career and his impact on our nation, but I am happy to share my own experience with the justice during my time as President of Xavier. I was tremendously proud to have a Son of Xavier sitting on the nation’s highest court. Since 1847, Xavier has sent forth young men to be of service to the nation. It is an integral part of who we are. Our Sons have served in every war since the Civil War, defending this nation and the freedoms we hold dear. In the military, the State Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office; in our local communities as policemen, firemen, and elected officials; in the Church as pastors, provincials, and bishops; and in countless other places and professions, the Sons of Xavier have served this nation and led with distinction. As an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia had a distinctive place in the roll of Xavier’s leaders. He dedicated his life to the service of the nation and worked to make real the words of Xavier’s mission statement, “to transform the world for God's greater glory.”

The Rabbi and the Two Pockets

At Tuesday's town forum, Rabbi Spira-Savit, in asking Clinton a question, quoted what turns out to be a Hasidic story of two notes, one in each pocket: "How do you cultivate the ego, the ego that we all know you must have, a person must have to be the leader of the free world, and also the humility to recognize that we know that you can’t be expected to be wise about all the things that the president has to be responsible for?” His question to Hillary elicited a thoughtful answer about balancing ego and humility.