North and South Korea make big steps together


Ronny Jackson seriously messed up his job interview, while Mike Pompeo and others have a much easier time of it in this week’s politics roundup

VA nominee Ronny Jackson steps aside

For a moment, it seemed as if Dr. Ronny Jackson’s nomination was an easy win. Jackson served as the White House physician for multiple presidents, gaining relative acclaim for his work. For some, the Secretary of the Veterans Affairs was honestly nothing much to write about. Of course, the VA has been plagued by multiple scandals over the years, but that wasn’t Jackson’s fault, necessarily.

What is Jackson’s fault is his conduct while serving as chief physician to President Trump. Lawmakers were presented with testimony alleging that Jackson indulged in inappropriate workplace conduct, including driving drunk and becoming so inebriated that he was unable to complete his duties.

Perhaps even more alarmingly, reports claim that Jackson was rather free with his prescription pad. His office’s medication records were said to be lax, perhaps covering for his over-prescription of opioids and heavy-duty sleep aids like Ambien.

These reports, which were compiled by Democratic staffers connected to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, are said to have been collected from Jackson’s co-workers.

Jackson’s supporters state that these claims are so far unsubstantiated. They point out that Jackson and his medical office underwent routine reviews and passed them each time. As for his conduct, which includes an alleged drunk driving incident that Jackson himself strenuously denies, that has not affected his performance, supporters say.

However, these charges were enough to give committee members pause. They postponed Jackson’s congressional hearings, further delaying his new job. The White House avidly supported him, but it wasn’t enough. On Thursday, despite continued pushback against the allegations, Jackson withdrew himself from consideration.

Pompeo confirmed as Secretary of State

Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, experienced far fewer roadblocks on his path to becoming the 70th Secretary of State. He was confirmed as the newest leader of the U.S. State Department on Thursday. Pompeo was narrowly confirmed 57-42.

Even before he gained the title, Pompeo was sent on quasi-secret trips to North Korea in order to meet with Kim Jong-un. After everything became official, Pompeo’s calendar became even more packed. First, he’s off on a diplomatic trip to Europe and the Middle East. Once overseas, he will likely have to face questions about NATO, Russia, and whatever news has most recently come out of the White House.

He also faces some seriously challenging tasks ahead, including the upcoming U.S.-North Korea talks. Pompeo will also likely have much to do centering on the Iran nuclear deal, as the May 12th deadline to renew or dismantle it is quickly approaching.

Merkel and Macron visit the U.S.

French President Emmanuel Macron played nice with the U.S. President in a heavily-covered state visit, wherein there was much hand-holding and cheek-kissing between the two world leaders. It was rather unexpected, given how much France and the United States have clashed on matters like military troops in Syria, the Iran nuclear deal, and the U.S.-imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was far more businesslike. Merkel was in Washington, D.C. for one day on Friday, a visit replete with meetings and a news conference. Like practically every other world leader, Merkel likely pushed for a renewal of the Iran nuclear deal, with its May 12 deadline looming.

Merkel also certainly wanted to talk about the European exemptions from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, which are set to expire on May 1. Germany has also declined to participate in airstrikes against Syria, potentially a sticking point for the White House. At least Germany will finally get a U.S. ambassador, Richard Grenell, who was confirmed in his post on Thursday.

On Friday, officials from North and South Korea agreed to begin work on removal of all nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in stated that they will pursue an end to the Korean War.

The conflict was active from 1950 until the 1953 armistice. However, no one has ever drawn up a formal peace treaty. Technically and oftentimes culturally speaking, the Korean War has never truly ended.

Kim Jong-un’s visit marked the first occasion that a North Korean leader stepped onto South Korean soil. It was a remarkable turn away from earlier tensions. Earlier speeches and statements had precipitated fears of a nuclear war.

A peace treaty between South and North Korea has been one of the North’s goals in particular, especially in exchange for its nuclear disarmament. Such an agreement would necessarily involve the United States, which has a significant military presence on the Korean peninsula. China will almost certainly lead a push for the removal of U.S. troops from their current bases in South Korea.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

Need a break from all of the talk of state meetings and confirmation hearings? Take a side trip into the world of royal fashion. See if that doesn’t help with your sense of legislative vertigo.

This isn’t to say that fashion or royal families are political lightweights, historically speaking. It’s true that many royals are nowadays little more than very fancy figureheads. However, in the past, many have wielded considerable power. Even now, the soft power of a beloved royal can push politicians in a particular direction.

That kind of power extends in many directions, including the world of fashion. Even if you dress only in beige sacks, you have to admit that what people wear is a big deal. Clothes are signifiers of class, gender, national pride, ethnicity, personal taste, and much more. For highly visible people such as royals, those signifiers are serious business.

With that in mind, check out some of the royal fashion on display in Royal Women. This exhibit is currently at the Fashion Museum in Bath, England. Yes, the exhibit closes on April 28. Few of us have the means to drop everything and spend a weekend in Bath. However, there are thankfully plenty of online resources to view the royal garments.

Next: James Comey has a lot to say in his new book

Check out the Fashion Museum’s webpage on the exhibit, along with a more in-depth review at The Guardian. If you’re ready to dig in, read this interview with the exhibit’s curator, Elly Summers. Racked also presents an overview of royal fashion from the first Queen Elizabeth all the way to young Princess Charlotte.