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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, left, and U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser at Camp Lemonnier in Ambouli, Djibouti, Sunday April 23, 2017.   Mattis on Sunday visited Djibouti to bolster ties with the tiny and impoverished African country that is home to an important base for U.S. counterterrorism forces, including drones. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

The Russian riddle

News is not called news for nothing. Terror attacks, cruise missile strikes, nuclear provocation — it all adds up to the headlines of today burying the headlines of yesterday. That’s why it’s essential to circle back to one story that must not be forgotten, the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Inquiring minds want to know whether the political mischief, if any, was cause or effect.

U.S. special representative for North Korea policy Joseph Yun, center, answers questions from reporters following meeting with Japanese and South Korean chief nuclear negotiators to talk about North Korean issues at the Iikura Guesthouse in Tokyo Tuesday, April 25, 2017. North Korea marks the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday, and South Korea and its allies are bracing for the possibility that it could conduct another nuclear test or launch an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.   U.S. envoy Yun says he and his counterparts from Japan and South Korea agreed to coordinate "all actions" on North Korea. (Toru Yamanaka/Pool Photo via AP)

Getting serious about North Korea

President Trump has called the entire U.S. Senate to the White House Wednesday for a rare top-level briefing on what’s going on with “the crazy fat kid” in North Korea. The president will have all hands on deck and he expects 100 senators to be there. They’ll be greeted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Trump has arguably done more than his predecessors to get the border wall along the U.S. frontier with Mexico finally realized. Despite congressional promises, little construction progress has yet been made. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A barrier to the wall

The U.S. government just dodged a headlong run into a wall. Democrats threatened to vote against an interim budget deal if President Trump includes a down payment on a wall on the southern border. It’s a mark of the lengths politicians of the liberal persuasion will go to destroy the Trump presidency. National security is held hostage in a high-stakes game of chicken.

A local resident holds a sign as he listens to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speak at a rally for Omaha Democratic mayoral candidate Heath Mello, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Riding the tiger

“He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount,” a Chinese proverb cautions the unwary. That’s where the Democrats, flailing in a search for a way out of the wilderness, find themselves in their warm embrace of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

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FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions carry an effigy of South Korean President Park Geun-hye as they march during a rally calling for Park to step down in Seoul, South Korea. The jailed confidante of the disgraced president begins a trial Monday, Dec. 19 that will explore a scandal that led to Park's impeachment after millions took to the streets in protest. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

Keeping South Korea on balance

Donald Trump won't become president until Jan. 20, but the globe will demand his attention before the echo of his oath of office fades across the National Mall. Political turmoil in South Korea could well provoke mischief among U.S. adversaries in Asia during the intervening six weeks.

FILE - In a July 14, 1955 file photo, Zsa Zsa Gabor arrives at London Airport from Paris, in a Crimson dress and a straw hat. Gabor died Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, of a heart attack at her Bel-Air home, her husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, said. She was 99. (AP Photo)

Farewell to Zsa Zsa

Some celebrities are famous just for being famous. You can find them all over the internet. Other celebrities are famous for being infamous. There are even a rare few, like Zsa Zsa, who died this week age 99, who are famous just for being who they are.

FILE - In this June 25, 2012 file photo, a crew works on a gas drilling rig at a well site for shale based natural gas in Zelienople, Pa. Hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil and natural gas poses a risk to drinking water in some circumstances, but a lack of information precludes a definitive statement on how severe the risk is, the Environmental Protection Agency says in a new report that raises more questions than answers.  (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Fracking and clean water

Gauging the effects of hydraulic fracturing on the nation's drinking water is much like considering whether the glass of the precious stuff is half-full or half-empty. When energy companies employ hydraulic fracturing in search of oil and natural gas they should take care, and most of them do, to avoid contamination of nearby reservoirs of drinking water. But the incoming Trump administration must determine again whether there's an unacceptable risk to supplies of fresh water.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin talks to reporters as he arrives at Trump Tower in New York.  There's growing concern among Republicans about the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings Mnuchin, the Wall Street financier Donald Trump has chosen to head the Treasury Department (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Where are Trump's free market voices?

Donald Trump's Cabinet selections so far have been good -- principled conservatives like Dr. Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rep. Tom Price, a physician, who will head the Department of Health and Human Services.

In this Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Obama said one of his missions after leaving office will be to develop a new generation of leaders on issues such as climate change, criminal justice reform and expanding health insurance coverage. Obama said in the interview with NPR airing Monday, Dec. 19, that the issues he cares most about will be well served when that new generation moves into positions of authority. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The polarizing president

Tooting your own horn is one way to make sure your tune gets heard. Barack Obama wants to finish his presidency on a high note, so he's arguing his own case for a good grade. However, he will learn, as presidents before him, that his legacy is not his to define, but for the people to decide whether he deserves to be immortalized on Mount Rushmore or merely to have his name on a presidential library on the south side of Chicago.

U.S.  President Harry S. Truman. *File photo (AP Photo/File)

Counsel from an earlier president

Harry S. Truman has become one of our most popular presidents, admired by conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, for his character, his integrity and his unpretentious, down-to-earth good sense that was the hallmark of his time and place.

A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place on Feb. 9 in Manchester, N.H. (Associated Press)

A victory for fair elections

Virginia and the cause of free and fair elections had a good day last week when a panel of three federal judges unanimously upheld the state's common-sense voting law requiring voters to present photographic proof of identification to cast their ballots.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with technology industry leaders at Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. From left are, Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Trump, PayPal founder Peter Thiel, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Oracle CEO Safra Catz. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Liars can figure, but figures don't lie

Happy news is breaking out all over, apparently in expectation of a business-friendly president next year. The November reading of the small-business optimism index of the National Federation of Independent Business, released this week, jumped to 98.4 percent from 94.9 percent, the greatest surge since 2009.

This Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 photos shows a look down Highway Terrace in Leavenworth, Kan., at the main gate of the Leavenworth Detention Center of Corrections Corporation of America. Defense attorneys who represent inmates at a privately run federal prison in Kansas were livid after learning that their meetings with clients had been recorded on video.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Reforming prison reform

Criminal justice reform is a good idea, but every idea of how to make the reform is not a good idea. The system we have now is dangerously dysfunctional, but the Obama administration, and many of its friends on the left seem to think there's no good reason to imprison anyone, except for the occasional businessman in trouble with regulators.

In this photo provided by New York City Hall, pedestrians photograph a street sign renaming West 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues, "Muhammad Ali Way,"  Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the length of street next to New York's Madison Square Garden will be temporarily renamed to honor the boxing legend who had fought in the famed arena, and died last week. (Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office via AP)

It's culture, not complexion

White America is dying off. Does it matter? It obviously matters to those who are doing the dying. In the long run, however, what is important to the future of the nation is not the endurance of a particular color, but the endurance of the nation's culture.

FILE - In this May 9, 2015, file photo, workers unload pipes for the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline that would stretch from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois. The discovery of a possible American Indian burial site in northwest Iowa may require relocation of a crude oil pipeline route which would further delay the beginning of construction in Iowa, the only one of four states where work hasn't yet begun. The Dakota Access pipeline passes through the Big Sioux Wildlife Management area in Lyon County where an American Indian tribe said it has a burial site. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

Complete the Dakota Access Pipeline

Anyone surprised by Barack Obama's last-minute decision to pass on the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline hasn't been paying attention. Going to war, even with foes of fossil fuels, has rarely appealed to the man who prefers to lead from behind.

Rex Tillerson has encountered the stiffest opposition yet, including from several Republican senators who said they share Democrats' concerns about his close business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Associated Press)

The Tillerson nomination

Short of serious reservations about the credibility, character and competence of his nominees, every president is entitled to choose his Cabinet. The president, after all, is the man who will be held responsible for everything.

Green party presidential candidate Jill Stein. **FILE (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron, File)

Jill Stein gets the hook

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, got a reminder Monday that her 15 minutes of fame are up. If politics were just a little bit more like vaudeville, she would have got the hook weeks ago.

President Barack Obama arrives at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington, NH, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Obama's Hail Mary pass

Few Americans know much about the Arms Trade Treaty negotiated by the Obama administration, proposed for adoption by the United Nations three years ago, and still waiting for ratification by the U.S. Senate. President Obama, who would have pushed it along even earlier but didn't want anyone to hear about it before the 2012 election, when it was new, is trying for ratification one last time. The Democrats, as the chastened president said at the time, "took a licking" in those midterm elections, and the licking might have been worse. He persuaded the U.N. to postpone its passage until the elections were done, and then he urged them to go ahead.

President Barack Obama arrives at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington, NH, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) ** FILE **

Rumors and reckoning

Allegations of foreign meddling in an American election is serious, indeed. If it happened, it's a grave threat to how Americans choose their presidents and members of Congress. Russia has been accused of interfering in the recent balloting, casting a taint on whether Donald Trump won fair and square. President Obama's order to the U.S. intelligence community to conduct a thorough review of cyber-attacks on the campaign is welcome, presuming the intelligence agencies can be trusted to investigate without fear or favor. Official Washington can resemble a hall of mirrors where nothing is as it seems, and discovering where hope and fantasy ends and reality begins would be all to the good.

This Feb. 19, 2016 file photo shows the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Blinded by color

Be careful what you wish for, so the folk wisdom goes, because you might get it. Democrats, having learned this lesson the hard way, have set out in Virginia to repeal themselves. Not so long ago, Democrats in Virginia demanded the creation of so-called majority-minority congressional and state legislative districts, where the majority of the voters are members of racial minorities.

The White House South Portico is adorned with Christmas lights Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

A college under siege

All that most Americans know about the Electoral College is that it's probably the only college in the country that might beat Alabama. But it has no student body in the stands chanting, "We're No. 1!" and it celebrates homecoming only every four years, and nobody ever shows up.

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2016 file photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Sunland Park, N.M. U.S. immigration authorities caught barely half the people who illegally entered the country from Mexico last year, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security report that offers one of the most detailed assessments of U.S. border security ever compiled. The report found far fewer people are attempting to get into the U.S. than a decade ago and that 54 percent of those who tried were caught in the year ending Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

The wall first, then the rest

Every new president comes to Washington with two lists. The first is a list of things he would like to do. That's his wish list. He knows he won't get to some of the items. Those are the things that are possible but not probable in his first four years. This is the list he keeps to himself. The second list is much shorter, the things he must get done to make everything else possible. That's his "must-do list."

Various dishes of General Tso's chicken are depicted her in this screen capture from a Google search. The inventor of the iconic Chinese dish, Peng Chang-kuei, died on Nov. 30 at the age of 98 from pneumonia.

The day of the generals

The day of the generals has dawned bright and clear upon us, at least in Washington. Donald Trump, who was educated early at a junior military academy, obviously appreciates officers with lots of gold braid on their chests and sleeves. He has put several generals in his Cabinet and in his inner circle, including even an attorney general.

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Words to the wise

Among the mainstream media's manifest faults is the high regard in which it holds itself. The average "journalist," as uptown newspapermen want to be called in a culture where titles get ever more extravagant, is a forgiving fellow, and never more forgiving than when he confronts his own errors (if any). Being a journalist in Washington means never having to say you're sorry.