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Geopolitics

Donald Trump: Asshole Or Idiot Or More Fake News?

What will Donald Trump be today?
What will Donald Trump be today?
Stuart Richardson

-OpEd-

PARIS — Donald Trump's task on Tuesday should have been simple enough. Traveling to the storm-ravaged island of Puerto Rico, the American president was supposed to offer some comforting words, distribute emergency supplies, and commit the federal government to rebuild the U.S. territory as quickly as possible.

But rather than disaster relief, Trump was just a disaster. Instead of rehabilitating his image — after a series of insensitive tweets this past weekend aimed at a Puerto Rican mayor and two weeks of stoking racial tension over the national anthem at football games — he once again showed the world that he is unfit for office.

This, of course, also comes as the country is reeling from the worst mass shooting in modern American history on Sunday night. Hitting the right notes on that, likewise, was not in the offing. While departing the White House on his way to San Juan, he called the massacre in Las Vegas, which left 59 concert-goers dead, a "miracle," apparently as a way to praise local police efforts.

But it was in Puerto Rico where the "miscommunicator-in-chief" was in rare form. He chided the devastated island territory for throwing "our budget a little out of whack." (Needless to say, his cheeky joke didn't land.) He quickly followed up by telling the gathered crowd and media cameras that despite the toll — "what is your death count now? 16? 17?" (now up to 34) — that Hurricane Maria was not a "real" catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina. He then turned a photo op into a practice session of lazy jump shots with rolls of paper towel.

The president's comportment in Puerto Rico reveals a man seemingly bored — and quite possibly annoyed — by his duties as the Commander-in-Chief. He offered neither empathy nor reassurance. Perhaps he never intended to.

Leading a nation in these troubled times means that Trump has a somewhat similar job to do Wednesday in Las Vegas. Will he manage to comfort bereaved family members? Will he comfort a city in mourning? Can he find the right words? Will he try again to play politics in the wrong setting? Watching each stop on this trainwreck of a presidency is turning into a kind of grim parlor game: What will he be today, asshole or idiot?

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Society

Where 'The Zone Of Interest' Won't Go On Auschwitz — A German Critique Of New Nazi Film

Rudolf Höss was the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp who lived with his family close to the camp. Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest, a favorite to win at the Cannes Festival, tells Höss' story, but fails to address the true inhumanity of Nazism, says Die Welt's film critic.

Where 'The Zone Of Interest' Won't Go On Auschwitz — A German Critique Of New Nazi Film

A still from The Zone of Interest by

Hanns-Georg Rodek

-Essay-

BERLIN — This garden is the pride and joy of Hedwig, the housewife. She has planned and laid out everything — the vegetable beds and fruit trees and the greenhouse and the bathtub.

Her kingdom is bordered on one long side by a high, barbed-wire wall. Gravel paths lead to the family home, a two-story building with clean lines, no architectural frills. Her husband praises her when he comes home after work, and their three children — ages two to five — play carefree in the little "paradise," as the mother calls her refuge.

The wall is the outer wall of the concentration camp Auschwitz; in the "paradise" lives the camp commander Rudolf Höss with his family.

The film is called The Zone of Interest — after the German term "Interessengebiet," which the Nazis used to euphemistically name the restricted zone around Auschwitz — and it is a favorite among critics at this week's Cannes Film Festival.

The audacity of director Jonathan Glazer's style takes your breath away, and it doesn't quickly come back.

It is a British-Polish production in which only German is spoken. The real house of the Höss family was not directly on the wall, but some distance away, but from the upper floor, Höss's daughter Brigitte later recalled, she could see the prisoners' quarters and the chimneys of the old crematorium.

Glazer moved the house right up against the wall for the sake of his experimental arrangement, a piece of artistic license that can certainly be justified.

And so one watches the Höss family go about their daily lives: guiding visitors through the little garden, splashing in the tub, eating dinner in the house, being served by the domestic help, who are all silent prisoners. What happens behind the wall, they could hear and smell. They must have heard and smelled it. You can see the red glow over the crematorium at night. You hear the screams of the tortured and the shots of the guards. The Höss family blocks all this out.

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