Trump Finally Pivots—but Will It Last? He had a great meeting with ‘Chuck’ and ‘Nancy.’ What comes next is anybody’s guess.

And so, the pivot.

I thought it would come sooner, on the heels of the inaugural address in which President Trump deliberately declared his distance from the Republicans of George W. Bush’s era and the Democrats of Barack Obama’s : “Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.” That was the famous “American carnage” speech, and it was Mr. Trump saying he was something new, a beginner of things, a party of one.

He didn’t follow through.

Congressional leaders meet with President Trump

Congressional leaders meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office

Because the pivot has come late, after almost eight months of fumbles and blunders that hardened sides, the outlook for any new and sustained legislative progress seems doubtful at best. But yes, what we saw this week was Mr. Trump’s pivot toward the Democrats.

It’s amazing he didn’t try it sooner. Mr. Trump is not, as all know, a conservative; he has in his history of statements and positions been at least as much a Democrat as a Republican, and long contributed money to both parties. His core supporters have always been misunderstood as right-wing when they’re something broader and more complicated than that. Mr. Trump has never been a standard Republican. He beat all the standard Republicans in the primaries. On top of that, to govern successfully in an increasingly postpartisan nation, he always needed Democrats on the Hill more than he needed Republicans. He could always, for instance, get most Republicans to support some kind of tax reform, but he’d need Democrats to get a bill comfortably over the top and broadly accepted by the people. Mr. Trump instead threw in with Republican leaders, was disappointed on health care, and concluded they were useless.

Now, after weeks of insulting them—“They look like fools,” he tweeted after that loss—comes what reportedly happened in the Oval Office this week. The president, meeting with Hill leaders from both parties, rebuffed Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and embraced Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s recommendation to raise the debt ceiling and finance the government for only three months. He did this literally in front of the Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and while overruling his own Treasury secretary. Later the president spoke of his great meeting with “Chuck” and “Nancy.” At a tax-reform rally in Mandan, N.D., he invited the state’s Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp, who’d flown out with him on Air Force One and is up for re-election next year, onto the stage, and praised her as a “good woman.”

As Ben Domenech noted in the Federalist, it can be assumed there was something of a personal angle in the pivot: Mr. Trump “doesn’t like McConnell and Ryan, never did. He likes Chuck Schumer, and knows him, and thinks he can work with him. And he knows Chuck always makes money for his partners.” That last is a brilliant allusion to “The Godfather, Part II.”

I suspect most voters will like the deal made this week—get something done, pass a bill! America doesn’t need a government shutdown or a prolonged debt-ceiling debate or a stupid argument over helping Houston (and soon Florida). North Korea is bubbling, hurricanes are battering—people won’t mind this deal, and a lot of them will actively approve of it. The president’s core supporters won’t hold it against him. Again, he had a lot of support from traditional Democrats. His core is not far right, it’s opposed to how Washington has comported itself the past few decades. They have a tropism toward the outsider, and the more the mainstream media hate him, the more they’ll stick with him.

Will the pivot last? There are plenty of reasons to doubt it.

Mr. Trump’s nature lacks constancy. He’s shown he’s unsteady in his direction. He’s changeable. This is part of why he doesn’t do long-term strategy but focuses on daily, shifting tactics. The Dreamers can depend on him, he’ll take care of them. The Dreamers are out of here in six months. The Dreamers have nothing to fear, he’ll work something out. Soon Mr. Schumer or Mrs. Pelosi will get him mad, and he’ll be on the phone with Mr. McConnell saying: “I miss you, at least you have principles. Come see me.”

Mr. Trump isn’t moving toward the Democrats from a position of strength. After the inauguration, he would have had the mystique and power of a new force who’d just won an amazing election. Now he’s battered. Mr. Trump has always put himself forward as the best deal-maker in history, and his core supporters have respected that—he’s “The Art of the Deal,” a survivor who finagled his way through bankruptcies; he’s shrewd. But he hasn’t demonstrated this in the presidency.

Triangulating—making deals with the other party while holding on to your own—requires real policy depth. You have to know what’s nonnegotiable, what can be given up without much damage. It requires a kind of philosophical reach—knowing what you and your supporters stand for and why. Without that knowledge you’ll get outfoxed. Without it you’ll get rolled.

As for the Democrats, their base has come to hate the president as never before. He’s done little to bring them over or blunt their antagonism. That base with its rising left will make Democrats on the Hill pay a heavy price for working with him. They’ll howl and call Democratic leaders sellouts, complicit, accuse them of doing deals with the devil. To get around this, Democratic leaders will have to press Mr. Trump hard to the left in the deals they make.

That in turn would set Republican lawmakers on a path of true rebellion. The president gives the leadership no credit for it, but Republicans have been patient with him, squelching their criticism after embarrassing tweets and statements. They did so not only because they fear Mr. Trump’s core supporters, which they do, but because they hoped to make real progress with him, as they did early on, with Justice Neil Gorsuch’s appointment. But if a Trump being forced too far left frees them from the idea that they must work with him, some will turn on him, venting their long-tamped-down fury. This will further, and in a formal way, rupture the party.

Finally, a Trump in close alliance with Democrats will be disorienting to his closest allies in the House, the conservative members of the Freedom Caucus. They broke with the president on health care, but they come from largely pro-Trump districts, they’ve defended him more vocally and enthusiastically than the GOP leadership has, and they have good relations with him. But they are traditionally conservative in their philosophy and stands. They would in many ways be philosophically opposed to the new Trump.

For now the pivot is a major development. Democratic leaders in Congress are smiling and preparing wish lists. If the pivot lasts and works, it will be remembered as big.

If not, it’s just another zany, fleeting, unconnected moment in Trumpland.

The American Spirit Is Alive in Texas ‘Hold the line,’ Jim Mattis exhorted soldiers. In the face of a disaster, civilians are doing just that.

Give Texas what it needs. It has endured a disaster without precedent. Washington must move quickly, generously. There should be no “The relief bill must be offset by cuts in federal spending.” There should be no larding it up or loading it down with extraneous measures. This is an emergency.

This is no time to threaten government shutdowns. It’s no time to be dilating on debt ceilings. This is the time to know as never before that everything that holds us together as a nation must be strengthened wherever possible, and whatever sinks us in rancor avoided and shunned.

Give Texas everything it needs, and do it right quick.

Washington crossing the Houston floodMost Americans, including Texans, don’t have more than a few hundred dollars in available savings. Most live close to the edge, paycheck to paycheck. Most homeowners in Houston don’t have flood insurance. When they’re lucky enough to get out of the shelter, they’ll return to houses that are half-ruined—wet, moldy, dank, with no usable furniture—and with kids coming down with colds and stomach ailments from stress or from standing water that holds bacteria and viruses. It will be misery for months. When the trauma is over, there’ll be plenty of time for debate. Do we need to hold more in reserve for national disasters? Do local zoning laws need rethinking? All worthy questions—for later.

There is such a thing as tact. It has to do with a sense of touch—an ability to apprehend another’s position or circumstances, and doing or saying the right thing. There is, believe it or not, such a thing as political tact. It too involves knowing the positions of others, and knowing what time it is.

Politicians, don’t use this disaster to score points or rub your ideology in somebody’s face or make your donors smile by being small, not big.

Now another subject, which ties back to Houston. A lot of people this week were saying, “You should see that Mattis speech.” A frequent answer was: “I did. I play it over and over.”

A week or so ago, probably in Jordan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had an impromptu meeting with what looked like a few dozen U.S. troops. Someone taped it. This is what Mr. Mattis said: “Hold the line.”

“For those of you I haven’t met, my name’s Mattis,” he began. “Thanks for being out here, OK? I know at times you wonder if any of us know . . . but believe me, I know you’re far from home every one of you, I know you could all be going to college you young people, or you could be back on the block. [We’re] just grateful. . . .

“The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is gonna survive is if we’ve got tough hombres like you. . . . We don’t frickin’ scare, that’s the bottom line.

“You’re a great example for our country right now. It’s got some problems—you know it and I know it. It’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, of being friendly to one another. That’s what Americans owe to one another—we’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”

He ended: “I flunked retirement, OK? Only reason I came back was to serve alongside young people like you, who are so selfless and frankly so rambunctious.”

This was the voice of true moral authority, authority earned through personal sacrifice. Speeches like that come only from love.

But it was particularly poignant that Mattis’s speech, with its refrain—“Hold the line”—spread so far and fast this week.

And so, to selfless and frankly rambunctious Texas:

If you gave just a few minutes to the news, you saw it all—the generosity and courage, the sense of community, of people who really care about each other. You saw the pontoons and air mattresses and bass boats and rowboats and pool floats in which people were rescued. No one knows how many were saved or how many saved them. Every disaster at some point becomes a jumble, and people stopped counting. But surely tens of thousands were saved.

We all saw it, often live, on television and the internet because of excellent reporters and crews:

A mother with little children was marooned, the water in her home rising dangerously. “I didn’t know who to call. I didn’t know if it was going to be too late.” Suddenly, there were men outside the house coming for her. “It was just an angel,” she said as she wept from the back of their boat.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo honored Steve Perez, the 60-year-old cop who drowned in his patrol car. When Mr. Acevedo spoke to Perez’s widow, she told him she’d begged her husband not to go in but he’d told her, “We’ve got work to do.” The chief told her: You know who he was, if he had to die, he wouldn’t want it to be home in bed, he would have wanted it to be on the job and trying to help. “Because he has that in his DNA,” said Mr. Acevedo.

On one channel they were looking for what they’d heard was a group of abandoned horses being led through the streets by a guy in a jet ski. In Columbia Lakes a local man showed a reporter the homemade barrier he’d built to protect his neighbors in case the levee broke. He wasn’t afraid: “We don’t do drama.”

On Facebook there was the story of the woman who went into labor while the waters quickly rose. Word spread through the apartment complex. Soon a huge, heavy truck made its way to her door. Neighbors formed a human chain to help her out. She got to the hospital and gave birth to a girl.

There were a lot of human chains. And often when they showed people being pulled from houses the families were all ethnicities and races, the whole American mix—black mamas, white papas, mixed kids, an Asian child. On the national level America always sounds like a constant argument over race. On the local level, meantime, everybody has been happily integrating in the most personal possible ways.

The local ABC station caught a young Catholic priest, a French Canadian assigned to a Houston parish, out in a kayak in heavy rain looking for people who could use a Mass. “I guess this is how the Americas were evangelized as well with a canoe,” he said, “and this is a kayak. I hope that can bring a smile to a few people.” Noticing the TV cameras, he said: “I guess we’re live. The Lord is alive, and the Lord is always with us as well.”

And of course there was the Cajun Navy, from Louisiana, performing its own spontaneous Dunkirk. Texas had taken them in after Katrina. Now it was “Sam Houston, we are here.”

We are a great nation. We forget. But what happened in Texas reminded us. It said: My beloved America you’re not a mirage, you’re still here.

If they’d done only that, they’d deserve whatever they need.

They held the line.

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For a Day, Our Political Troubles Were Eclipsed It was beautiful: Up and down Madison Avenue, people stood together and looked upward.

In Manhattan on eclipse day I had planned to go by Central Park to witness how people would react to the big celestial event. But I didn’t get there because of what I saw on Madison Avenue.

It was so beautiful.

Watching the eclipse

Watching the eclipse over the Empire State Building

Up and down the street, all through the eclipse, people spontaneously came together—shop workers and neighborhood mothers, kids and bank employees, shoppers and tourists. They’d gather in groups and look up together. Usually one or two people would have the special glasses, and they’d be passed around. Everyone would put them on and look up and say “Wow!” or “Incredible!” and then laugh and hand the glasses on.

Walking south I saw the clusters form and re-form. On Madison and 77th there were 10 people, including a neighborhood woman who’d brought a red plastic colander, which she held so that the shadow it cast on the sidewalk showed the changing shape of the sun. That was a hit with the kids. There were grade schoolers who’d made their own viewing devices from cardboard and cereal boxes. A young woman accepted a pair of glasses, looked up, and said: “Oh my freakin’ God.” Another said: “It’s remarkable.” “Beautiful,” a woman added. “It is, isn’t it?” asked a man walking by.

In front of E.A.T. by Eli Zabar, more than two dozen people filled the sidewalk and street. Four had the special glasses that were being passed back and forth. A woman named Beatrice who works at a local real-estate office saw me taking notes and smiled. “Do you wanna see?” I did. She gave me the glasses, and I saw the sun half covered. I told her she would be in The Wall Street Journal on Saturday. Hi, Beatrice.

In front of St. James church small groups formed. A UPS man stood for a long time in the back of his truck on the loading step, looking up, rapt. On 67th Street there were more than two dozen people, everyone looking up, pointing. “Do you see it?”

There was a tattooed man in a heavy metal band T-shirt, with his teenage son. “You want?” the man said. He was lending his glasses to everyone who came by. “Are you doing this just to be nice?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said. “We got them free.” Something nice had happened to him so he was spreading it around.

So that’s what I saw, uptown to midtown—sharing and wonder and friendliness, along with a continual refrain: Here, take my glasses. Do you see?

There was something about it that left me by the end quite moved. Witnessing spontaneous human graciousness and joy is stirring. And we were seeing something majestic, an assertion of nature and nature’s God, together. It was tenderly communal.

And it was this: Everyone was normal. These were regular Americans being nice to one another and to whoever walked by. They were all ages, conditions, races, sizes. They were generous and kindly. No one kept their pleasure to themselves.

They were not fighting in the streets with scarfs covering their faces. They were not marching and chanting anti-Semitic or racist slogans. They were not shutting down speakers on campus. They were not ranting at a rally.

They were not even deciding that a man named Robert Lee shouldn’t call a game down South on ESPN because Americans are so stupid they’ll think he’s Robert E. Lee and cover him with tarp and knock him down.

They were normal, regular people. They were who we are.

That’s what so moved me.

When the news is bad, as it has been lately, you can lose a sense of perspective. But we are a nation of 325 million. How many of us are neo-Nazi, KKK, Antifa or any other dreadful group? Maybe, in all, a million at most? It’s not much. They’re way outnumbered! You can lose this knowledge watching the news.

We are a great people in a nation founded on great beliefs, and though things are troubled at the very top, in Washington, on the levels below and beyond we tend to hash things out and make it all work.

*   *   *

And now, here, the dread political part.

Maintaining perspective is going to be useful in the future, because our national politics, the news of which pulses nonstop through our many platforms, is probably not going to get better anytime soon.

We are in a place we’ve never been. No matter how politically sophisticated you are, you’ve never been to this particular rodeo.

We have a president half the country thinks is crazy, insufficient, not up to the job, unsuited for it by temperament, personality or character. But there’s about a third of the country, among whom are some I love, that passionately supports Donald Trump, has faith in him, sees all the forces arrayed against him and pulls for him in the way an American roots for the little guy. If they see him removed and believe it was done unjustly—the swamp strikes back—they will be left embittered and will lose faith in the entire system.

This on its own is quite a division. It speaks of basic human perception.

Congress will soon be back and is unlikely to get anything major done—not tax reform or infrastructure. The president deliberately insults and offends members of his own party. He thinks his core supporters will agree with his criticisms and blame congressional Republicans for what’s not working. And he’s right, they will. They don’t like the Republican establishment. But this is not a winning strategy.

Mr. Trump has simply replaced the old dysfunction (the one that got him elected) with a new dysfunction of his own making. If Republicans on Capitol Hill get nothing done and continue to be attacked by their party’s president, their reelection will be endangered. Mr. Trump may be ensuring that Democrats retake Congress in 2018.

Does he understand that the first thing they’ll do when they assume power is launch investigations and move to impeach him?

They’ll do it for at least two reasons. One is that hating Mr. Trump is one of the few things that unites their party. The other is that busying themselves with impeachment will allow Democratic leaders to avoid hard fights over what their own party stands for. For it too is warring and riven. But Democrats don’t have to face that while they’re busy with the Trump Removal.

Quieting himself now would be wise. But he likely won’t or can’t. If Mr. Trump continues to be unable to get major legislation passed with a Republican Congress, he will become angrier. He’ll hold more rallies to vent. These rallies and what he says at them may well contribute to disruptions, including in the streets.

So we’re all stuck.

What will resolve this? I think a lot of a quote often attributed to Harold MacMillan about what dictates political fortunes: “Events, dear boy, events.”

Maybe the special prosecutor will find impeachable offenses. Maybe not. Maybe Mr. Trump will get tired of it all. Maybe not. Maybe he will magically learn how to be president. Maybe not.

More likely, the grinding, scalding Trump wars will continue daily. Which will be hard on all of us.

What to do when the mess gets you low? One thing is to have perspective on who we are. We have gotten through much. We’ll get through this. We are a great people and a good one who show this to one another every day. Here, take my glasses. Do you see?

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Trump’s Tangle of Rhetorical Inadequacy A gifted leader might make the case for building more statues rather than tearing down the ones we have.

The political aspect of the president’s failures this week is to reveal him as increasingly isolated. He is not without supporters, but it’s down to roughly a third of the country and one senses soft around the edges. That is not a base, it’s a core. A core can have an impact, but a president cannot govern if that’s all he has. You need something bigger behind you to scare your foes and stiffen your friends. The nation’s CEOs, feeling personal dismay and external pressure, ran for the exits. The president has further embarrassed and frustrated his party on Capitol Hill. That puts in further doubt needed legislation on such popular issues as tax reform and infrastructure, which might fare better if he were not associated with them.

Twitter StormOther fallout the past week is as consequential. Donald Trump is binding himself down with thick cords of rhetorical inadequacy. People felt let down, angry and in some cases frightened by his inability to make clear moral distinctions when he addressed the events in Charlottesville, Va. There were neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic chants, white supremacists; a woman was killed and many people injured. It’s not hard to figure out who and what needed to be castigated—clearly, unambiguously, immediately.

Here is a cliché but only because it is true: In times of stress and fracture, people want a president who’s calm in the storm, who speaks to the nation’s moral conscience, recalls first principles, evokes what unites us, honestly defines the contours of an event, and softly instructs. Mr. Trump did not do any of that. If a leader is particularly gifted he could, in a moment of historical stress, succeed in speaking to the nation’s soul and moving its heart by addressing its brain. This kind of thing comes from love—of the country, our people, what we’ve been. It struck me this week as he spoke that his speeches and statements are peculiarly loveless. The public Mr. Trump is not without sentiment and occasional sentimentality, but the deeper wells of a broader love seem not there to draw from. Seven months in, people know they can look to him for a reaction, a statement, an announcement, but not for comfort, inspiration, higher meaning.

For leadership we turn, as we always do anyway, to each other—to thinkers and respected colleagues, religious figures and neighbors. After the church shootings in Charleston, S.C., two years ago, the great and immediate moral leaders were the victims’ families, whose words at the shooter’s bond hearing spread throughout the country within 24 hours. “I forgive you.” “We are praying for you.” It was the authentic voice of American Christianity, of Wednesday night Bible study, of mercy and self-sacrifice. It quieted the soul of a nation: We’ll be OK. This is who we really are.

Those bereaved relatives never quite got the recognition and thanks they deserved. Their love saved the day.

Which gets me, belatedly and now hurriedly, to what was meant to be the subject of this column.

In June in London, with time on my hands, I walked by Parliament to stare at it. I like the color of its stones. There I noticed for the first time a fierce-looking statue on a towering pedestal. It is a heroic rendering of Oliver Cromwell. He helped lead a revolution that toppled the government. He rose in the military ranks through a brutal civil war and signed the death warrant of an English king, who was beheaded. He brutalized Catholic Ireland and went on to function, arguably, as a military dictator.

He also helped implant the idea that monarchs had best not ride roughshod over Parliament, created England’s first national (and more democratic) army, and widened religious tolerance, at least among Protestants. He died of natural causes, and when the royalists returned, they dug him up and, in a piquant touch, beheaded his corpse.

Some fella. And yet there he is, put forth as one of the towering figures of his nation. He is not there because the British mean to endorse regicide or genocide. He is there because he is England. He is part of the warp and woof of that great nation’s story. He is there because the English still appear to love and respect their own history, which they know is one of struggle, not sinlessness. So he’s on a pedestal below which members of Parliament and tourists pass. This is what that statue says: I am Oliver Cromwell and I am here.

There is a movement now to take down our nation’s statues, at the moment primarily those of Confederate soldiers and generals. The reason is that they fought on behalf of a region that sought to maintain a cruel and immoral system, chattel slavery, which they did. But slavery was not only a Southern sin, it was an American one.

The Tear It Down movement is driven by the left and is acceded to by some on the right. This is the sophisticated stance. I do not share it. We should not tear down but build.

When a nation tears down its statues, it’s toppling more than brass and marble. It is in a way toppling itself—tearing down all the things, good, bad and inadequate, that made it. Or, rather, everyone. Not all of what made America is good—does anyone even think this?—but why try to hide from that?

When you tear down statues, you tear down avenues of communication between generations. Statues teach. You walk by a statue of Robert E. Lee with your 7-year-old, and he asks who that is. You say he was a great general. When he’s 8, on the same walk, you explain the Civil War. When he’s 10 you explain what was at issue, and how Lee was not only on the losing side but the wrong side. This is part of how history is communicated. We’re not doing it so well in our schools. It will be sad to lose another venue.

Condi Rice said it well, before the current controversy. She did not agree with the impulse to tear down. “Keep your history before you,” she said. Keep it in your line of sight.

And once the tearing down starts, there’s no knowing where it will end. On this the president is right. Once the local statues are purged the Tear-Downers will look to Statuary Hall, and the names of military bases, and then on to the Founders, to the slave-holding Washington and Jefferson. Then, perhaps, to their words and ideas. In what way will that help us?

Edmund Burke famously said we have a duty to the past, the present and the future. In the minds of the Tear-Downers only the present is important, and only their higher morality. But they are not the first ever to recognize the truth about slavery. Hundreds of thousands of dead Union soldiers did it before them. There are statues of them, too.

Here is a better way. Leave what is, alone. Be a noble people who inspire—and build—more statues. I’d like one that honors the families of the victims in the Charleston shooting.

More statues, not fewer; more honor, not more debris. More debris is the last thing we need.

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Let Calm and Cool Trump ‘Fire and Fury’ The Cuban Missile Crisis came at a less dangerous time, and involved less dangerous men.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”—President Trump Tuesday

“During the Cuban Missile Crisis we stood behind JFK. This is analogous to the Cuban Missile Crisis. We need to come together.”— Sebastian Gorka, a White House national-security aide, on “Fox & Friends,” Wednesday.

What is happening with North Korea is not analogous to what happened in 1962, except for the word crisis. Fifty-five years ago was a different age with vastly different players and dynamics. We all mine the past to make our points, but Mr. Gorka’s evoking of the Cuban crisis to summon political support is intellectually cheap and self-defeating.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The Soviet Union and Cuba were trying to hide what they had—offensive missiles in Cuba. Kim Jong Un enjoys showing what he has and taunting the world with it. President Kennedy gave great and grave attention to reassuring a nation and world understandably alarmed by nuclear brinkmanship. Does Mr. Trump? Not in the least.

The current crisis is Mr. Trump’s responsibility but not his fault. His three predecessors attempted, without success, to defang North Korea. How Mr. Trump handles it is his responsibility, and one hopes will not be his fault.

More now even than in 1962—especially when the central players are talking so loud and so big—a great threat is of miscalculation, of misunderstanding a signal or overreacting to some chance event or mishap.

In that area, at least, there are useful lessons to be drawn from ’62. In that crisis, Kennedy was verbally careful. He never popped off, because he knew words had power and how they will be received is not always perfectly calculable. He knew he could not use language—fire and fury—that invited thoughts of nuclear war.

He knew that precisely because you are a nuclear power, you can’t make nuclear threats. A thing too easily referred to will lose its horrifying mystique, its taboo. So don’t go there when you speak, or allow people to think you’re going there.

Kennedy tried for a kind of de-escalating clarity, except when he went for a de-escalating vagueness. He famously called his blockade of Cuba a “quarantine,” because a blockade is a military action and a quarantine is—well, whatever you think it is. He worked hard with aides on public statements, hammering out each phrase. He sometimes used dire language—we don’t want “the fruits of victory” to become “ashes in our mouths”—but he knew who he was up against, a Soviet premier whom he’d met in summit, and whose understanding of such messages could be at least roughly gauged.

In Nikita Khrushchev Mr. Kennedy was up against a rational player. America and the Soviet Union had settled into a long Cold War. Our strategy was Mutually Assured Destruction, but the reigning assumption was that neither side would deliberately launch, because we weren’t evil and they weren’t crazy.

We can’t assume that now. It is not clear Mr. Trump is up against a rational player. He must therefore ask if inflammatory language is more likely to provoke than inform.

Some thought Kennedy, at 45, too young and immature for his job, but few thought him crazy, nor was Mr. Khrushchev’s reputation that of a madman. More than half the world at this point would see Kim Jong Un as mad, and some significant number might view Mr. Trump similarly. Thus the current high anxiety, and the need from America for calm, cool logic, not emotionalism.

Many are relieved Mr. Trump is, in this crisis, surrounded by experienced and accomplished generals such as Jim Mattis, John Kelly and H.R. McMaster. Kennedy, on the other hand, viewed some of his generals as hard-liners reliving World War II, men who hadn’t come to terms with the lethal reality of the nuclear age. After a back-and-forth with Gen. Curtis LeMay, Kennedy was quoted in the Oval Office saying his generals had at least one thing going for them: “If we listen to them and do what they want us to do, none of us will be alive later to tell them that they were wrong.” (This is from Richard Reeves’s excellent history “President Kennedy, Profile of Power.”)

The general public now, however, would see Mr. Trump’s generals as the reliables, the dependables, the sophisticates of the administration. It would be good if they could become the American face—and voice—of this crisis.

Some elements that helped resolve the Cuban crisis peacefully could probably never happen now.

JFK himself called the publisher of the New York Times , the president of the Washington Post and the owner of Time magazine to request pledges of cooperation and discretion. All agreed. He filled in his Republican predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, on the plan to blockade Cuba. “Whatever you do,” said Eisenhower, “you will have my support.”

Before his Oval Office speech announcing the blockade, JFK briefed congressional leaders of both parties with complete confidence. Military aircraft were sent for some of them. Mr. Reeves notes House Majority Whip Hale Boggs of Louisiana was fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. “A military helicopter found Boggs, dropping a note to him in a bottle. ‘Call Operator 18, Washington. Urgent message from the president.’ ”

Ten days into the crisis, the president asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to meet privately with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynin. The purpose was to make sure the Russians understood the gravity with which the Americans were approaching their decisions; they didn’t want the U.S. position misunderstood. Both men were tired, and Dobrynin at one point thought RFK was near tears. The U.S. military, he told the ambassador, was pressing hard to invade Cuba. The president would have to agree if Khrushchev didn’t take the missiles out now. Dobrynin said he didn’t know if the Politburo, deeply committed to its position, would back down. They were both telling the truth and lying. RFK was putting it all on the military, Dobrynin on the Politburo, but both were under pressure.

It was a private, high-stakes meeting held, successfully, in secret. Notes were not leaked.

Could any of this happen now?

Parenthetically, Dobrynin did not have a reliable telephone or telegraph connection with the Kremlin. To transmit a summary of his crucial conversation, he called Western Union. A young man, “came by on a bicycle to pick up the telegram,” Mr. Reeves recounts. “Dobrynin watched him pedal away, figuring that if he stopped for a Coca-Cola or to see his girlfriend, the world might blow up.”

Actually, it was lucky the players in the Cuban crisis lived in a slower, balkier world. They had time to think, to create strategy and response. The instantaneous world—our world—is so much more dangerous.

Lessons from the Cuban Missile Crisis? Crises have a million moving pieces and need a central shepherd to keep track of them, to keep a government focused. Real-time decisions made under pressure need to be not only logical but logically defensible. And it’s wise to keep the temperature as low as possible, especially when things turn hot.

Can Kelly Conquer the White House Chaos? The new chief of staff has the confidence of a general and the power of the last available grown-up.

I realized as I wrote this that I’ve never met a Kelly I didn’t like, who wasn’t admirable. There was the great journalist Michael Kelly, lost in Iraq in 2003 and mourned still by anyone with a brain: What would he be making of everything now? There’s Gentleman Jim Kelly, formerly of Time and an award-winning journalist. Ray Kelly was one of New York’s finest police commissioners. Megyn Kelly is a brave, nice woman. I wrote once of a small miracle in which a group of friends arrived, late and in tears, to see John Paul II celebrate Mass in New York. The doors of the cathedral were shut tight. A man in a suit saw our tears, walked over, picked up a sawhorse, and waved us through. As we ran up the steps to St. Patrick’s, I turned. “What is your name?” I cried. “Detective Kelly!” he called, and disappeared into the crowd.

Grace Kelly was occasionally brilliant and always beautiful. Gene Kelly was a genius. There is the unfortunate matter of the 1930s gangster “Machine Gun Kelly,” but he is more than made up for by Thomas Gunning Kelley (an extra e, but same tribe), who in 1969 led a U.S. Navy mission to save a company of Army infantrymen trapped on the banks of a canal in South Vietnam’s Kien Hoa province. He deliberately drew fire to protect others, was badly wounded, waved off treatment, saved the day. He received the Medal of Honor. There are other Kellys on its long, illustrious rolls.

John Kelly on Capitol Hill

John Kelly on Capitol Hill

So Gen. John Kelly (retired), U.S. Marine Corps, veteran of Anbar province, Iraq, and new chief of staff to President Trump: onward in your Kellyness.

Everyone wonders what he’ll do, what difference he’ll make. He is expected to impose order and discipline, tamp down the chaos. I suspect his deepest impact may be on policy and how it’s pursued, especially in the area of bipartisan outreach.

American military leaders are almost always patriotic, protective, professional, practical. They’re often highly educated, with advanced degrees. Mary Boies, who for two decades has worked with the military as a leader of Business Executives for National Security, said this week: “In general, military top brass are among the most impressive people in our country.”

It’s true. And in a nation that loves to categorize people by profession, they can be surprising.

Generals and admirals are rarely conservative in standard or predictable ways, ways in which the term is normally understood. They’ve been painted as right-wing in books and movies for so long that some of that reputation still clings to them, but it’s wrong.

They are not, or not necessarily, economic conservatives. Top brass are men and women who were largely educated in, and came up in, a system that is wholly taxpayer-funded. Their primary focus is that the military have what it needs to do the job. Whatever tax rates do that, do that. They are not economists, they don’t focus on Keynesian theory and supply-side thought. They’re like Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who saw the historically high tax rates of the Roosevelt-Truman era and thought fine, that’s how we won World War II. He didn’t seem concerned about tax rates until he’d been president for a while and started hearing about the problems of business while playing golf with CEOs.

Generals are not romantic about war, because it’s not abstract to them. Ms. Boies: “Army officers know better than anybody the limits of military hard power. Military people hate war because they’ve seen it and know both its limitations and its devastating effects.”

In my observation generals are both the last to want to go in (“Do you understand the implications of invasion? Do you even know the facts on the ground?”) and the last to want to leave (“After all this blood and sacrifice, this hard-won progress, you’re pulling out because you made a promise in a speech?”). They hate hotheaded, full-of-themselves civilians who run around insisting on action. Those civilians are not the ones who’ll do the fighting, and as public allies they’re not reliable.

On social issues they generally tend to be moderate to liberal. I have never to my knowledge met a high officer who was pro-life. They largely thought Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a reasonable policy, but they’re realists: Time moves on, salute and execute. They don’t want to damage or retard their careers being on the wrong side of issues whose outcomes seem culturally inevitable. You don’t die on a hill that is not central to the immediate mission.

They are as a rule not deeply partisan. Those who work in the Pentagon have to know how to work with both parties and negotiate their way around partisan differences. (Enlisted men in my experience are more instinctively conservative, though often in interesting ways.)

*   *   *

When things are working right, chiefs of staff have an impact on presidential thinking. They guide discussions toward certain, sometimes directed conclusions. They’re expected to give advice, and it’s expected to be grounded in knowledge and experience.

It may be easier for Mr. Kelly to impose order than people think. Sacking Anthony Scaramucci sent a message. The warring staffers around Mr. Kelly know it won’t be good for them if they don’t support him, at least for now. If they fight him with leaks, they’re revealed as part of the problem of the past six months. If they are compliant and congenial, it will look like they weren’t the problem; someone else was. Also they’re tired of being part of a White House that has been famously dysfunctional. It will help their standing in the world to be part of something that works. Similarly with Mr. Trump: If it works with Mr. Kelly, the first six months were Reince Priebus’s fault, if it doesn’t work, it was the president’s.

Beyond that, a good guess is that Mr. Kelly will not be especially interested in partisan differences; he will not be ideological. He will guide Trump in the direction of: Solve the problem.

On tax reform, for instance, his instinct will be to figure the lay of the land and try to get to the number it takes to pass a bill with both parties. A friend who once worked with Mr. Kelly said: “He won’t go ‘This has to be comprehensive, historic.’ He’ll figure the few things both sides agree on and build out from there. You’ll get a compromise. It won’t solve everything, but it will be good for the country and it will get Trump on a path to somewhere, because right now he’s on a path to nowhere.”

Generals are not known for a lack of self-confidence. If he goes up against Mitch McConnell it won’t be big dawg versus eager puppy, it will be big dawg versus big dawg. And Mr. McConnell has already disappointed the president. Mr. Kelly hasn’t.

Mr. Trump, whatever his public statements, doesn’t need to be told things haven’t gone well; he knows. He has nowhere else to go, and the clock’s ticking.

Mr. Kelly has the power of the last available grown-up.

Another advantage: He doesn’t need the job. He’s trying to help, as a patriot would. But this is not the pinnacle for him. His whole career has been pinnacles.

Trump, ObamaCare and the Art of the Fail What happens when we elect a president who prefers to freelance rather than to lead.

It was a political drubbing of the first order. A new Republican president and a Republican Senate and House put everything they had into a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and couldn’t do it. The leadership is rocked. The president looks confused and hapless, while publicly enacting determination and a scolding tone toward those who’d let him down. He rarely showed signs of fully understanding the details or even the essentials of the plan he backed. His public remarks were all over the place: He’ll let ObamaCare collapse of its own weight; he’ll replace it with something big and beautiful; just repeal it; no, let it collapse. He criticized Hill Republicans: They “never discuss how good their healthcare bill is.” But neither did he, not in a persuasive way.

Republicans on the Hill need a popular president with the quasi-mystical clout presidential popularity brings. Mr. Trump does not have it. They need someone who has a serious understanding of his own policies and can gently knock heads together. I remember the story of a GOP senator whose vote President Reagan badly needed. Reagan met with him privately, pressed hard, the senator squirmed: I just can’t do it, Mr. President. You know I’d jump out of a plane if you asked me, but—

Senator Dean Heller and President Trump

Senator Dean Heller and President Trump

Reagan leaned in and said: “Jump.” The senator laughed and gave up. I’m going to tell anecdotes like this until I feel better.

It is true that a central dynamic of the failure was the truism that once people are given an entitlement, they aren’t keen to see it taken away. But another reason some senators voted to repeal ObamaCare in the past and refused now is they believe the ground has shifted. Back in their home states, in the almost-decade since the economic crash of 2008, and since the Obama era, what they’ve seen is more need, not less, more anxiety and dysfunction, and more public skepticism that change will constitute improvement. In politics you have to know how to read the ground, the real topography. You can’t just go by the work of past mapmakers, you have to see clearly what’s there now. It’s unconservative not to.

As for Mr. Trump, the first six months of his presidency suggest many things, including that what made him is thwarting him. He is a man alone, independent and ungoverned. He freelances not because circumstances dictate it but because he is by nature a freelancer. He doesn’t want to be enmeshed in an institution, he doesn’t want to have to bolster and defend it and see to its life. He wants to preserve his freedom—to tweet, to pop off, to play it this way or that. One of the interesting things about his New York Times interview this week was that he met with the reporters alone save for his aide Hope Hicks. Afterward members of his own White House reportedly had to scramble to get tapes so they’d know what the boss said.

But presidential leadership involves being to some degree an institution man, upholding not only a presidency but a government, even its other branches. He doesn’t understand this. In any case he doesn’t do it. It is all a personal drama. This aspect of his nature will probably make further legislative failures inevitable. In time, though no one in the White House seems to fear this, it will lead to his diminished support. His supporters will likely never hate him, and won’t be severely disillusioned because they weren’t all that illusioned. They’ll probably always appreciate him for blasting open the system and saving them from normality—i.e., the dumb, going-through-the-motions cynicism of Washington. They are sympathetic because of everything he is up against—every established power center in Washington—with no one behind him but his original supporters.

But at some point baseline political competence is going to become part of the story. If the president continues to show he doesn’t have the toolbox for this job, he’s going to go from not gaining support, which is where he is now, to losing support. He’s not magic and they’re not stupid.

As for health care, Sen. John McCain, recovering from surgery, had it right: “One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote,” Mr. McCain said in a statement. “As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure.” Congress, he said, must return to regular order, hold hearings, work across party lines, “and heed the recommendations of our nation’s governors.”

Mr. Trump should have done this from the beginning.

Is there any legitimate hope of a bipartisan solution? It can be fairly argued, as Jim Geraghty does in National Review, that a Democratic Party that relentlessly lied to pass ObamaCare—you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor, premiums will go down—is unlikely to consider conservative reform ideas in good faith. Democrats will press to keep individual and employer mandates and the status quo on Medicaid; they’ll want billions in higher subsidies to get insurers back into failing exchanges. Some will want more money to offset larger-than-expected claims for insurance companies in the state and federal marketplaces, some will want single-payer. Mr. Geraghty: “Conservatives who oppose government mandates, subsidies, bailout and state-run health care won’t like any of that.”

They won’t.

And yet no fix or improvement in health care is going to be broadly accepted unless it comes from both parties. No reform will be accepted unless it’s produced in a way that includes public hearings in which representatives make the case and explain it all. And any fix, because of America’s current political nature, will be temporary. Democratic presidential hopefuls will be campaigning two years from now on single-payer, whatever happens with this bill.

And health care in battered, anxious America will continue to play against Republicans.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, beats the drum for the bipartisan approach. His logic: The ACA is wobbly; if nothing is done “prices will get outrageous and people will revolt and rebel.”

“Why inflict this much pain?” he says in a telephone interview. “The elderly, the vulnerable—you’re scaring the bejesus out of them.” The Republicans, he says, have tried everything else. “Why don’t you sit down and work with us?” He too asks for regular order.

Yes, he says, some Democrats see this as an opportunity to go for single-payer, but that would be “a big change”: “If you want to talk about that, do a working group.” For now, Mr. Manchin says, both parties should focus on Medicare, Medicaid, the private market, pre-existing conditions—issues on which quick or clear progress can be made. He notes that the Senate has 11 members who are former governors. As executive branch veterans with on-the-ground experience, they’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. They’re mostly moderate, not extreme. Get them in on this, he urges. “We still have some reasonable people here,” he says. “Some are just a little too quiet.”

Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor Half his tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn.

The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity.

He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity.

Poor me!Half the president’s tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.” The brutes. Actually they’ve been laboring to be loyal to him since Inauguration Day. “The Republicans never discuss how good their health care bill is.” True, but neither does Mr. Trump, who seems unsure of its content. In just the past two weeks, of the press, he complained: “Every story/opinion, even if should be positive, is bad!” Journalists produce “highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting.” They are “DISTORTING DEMOCRACY.” They “fabricate the facts.”

It’s all whimpering accusation and finger-pointing: Nobody’s nice to me. Why don’t they appreciate me?

His public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t strong, cool and deadly; it’s limp, lame and blubbery. “Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” he tweeted this week. Talk about projection.

He told the Journal’s Michael C. Bender he is disappointed in Mr. Sessions and doesn’t feel any particular loyalty toward him. “He was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.” Actually, Mr. Sessions supported him early and put his personal credibility on the line. In Politico, John J. Pitney Jr. of Claremont McKenna College writes: “Loyalty is about strength. It is about sticking with a person, a cause, an idea or a country even when it is costly, difficult or unpopular.” A strong man does that. A weak one would unleash his resentments and derive sadistic pleasure from their unleashing.

The way American men used to like seeing themselves, the template they most admired, was the strong silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films—Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Henry Fonda. In time the style shifted, and we wound up with the nervous and chattery. More than a decade ago the producer and writer David Chase had his Tony Soprano mourn the disappearance of the old style: “What they didn’t know is once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings they wouldn’t be able to shut him up!” The new style was more like that of Woody Allen. His characters couldn’t stop talking about their emotions, their resentments and needs. They were self-justifying as they acted out their cowardice and anger.

But he was a comic. It was funny. He wasn’t putting it out as a new template for maleness. Donald Trump now is like an unfunny Woody Allen.

Who needs a template for how to be a man? A lot of boys and young men, who’ve grown up in a culture confused about what men are and do. Who teaches them the real dignity and meaning of being a man? Mostly good fathers and teachers. Luckily Mr. Trump this week addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, where he represented to them masculinity and the moral life.

“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts, right?” But he overcame his natural reticence. We should change how we refer to Washington, he said: “We ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to perhaps ‘cesspool’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer.’ ” Washington is not nice to him and is full of bad people. “As the Scout Law says, ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal—we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.” He then told them the apparently tragic story of a man who was once successful. “And in the end he failed, and he failed badly.”

Why should he inspire them, show personal height, weight and dignity, support our frail institutions? He has needs and wants—he is angry!—which supersede pesky, long-term objectives. Why put the amorphous hopes of the audience ahead of his own, more urgent needs?

His inability—not his refusal, but his inability—to embrace the public and rhetorical role of the presidency consistently and constructively is weak.

“It’s so easy to act presidential but that’s not gonna get it done,” Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. That is the opposite of the truth. The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him. If he were presidential he’d be getting it done—building momentum, gaining support. He’d be over 50%, not under 40%. He’d have health care, and more.

We close with the observation that it’s all nonstop drama and queen-for-a-day inside this hothouse of a White House. Staffers speak in their common yet somehow colorful language of their wants, their complaints. The new communications chief, Anthony Scaramucci, who in his debut came across as affable and in control of himself, went on CNN Thursday to show he’ll fit right in. He’s surrounded by “nefarious, backstabbing” leakers. “The fish stinks from the head down. But I can tell you two fish that don’t stink, and that’s me and the president.” He’s strong and well connected: “I’ve got buddies of mine in the FBI”; “ Sean Hannity is one of my closest friends.” He is constantly with the president, at dinner, on the phone, in the sauna snapping towels. I made that up. “The president and I would like to tell everybody we have a very, very good idea of who the leakers are.” Chief of Staff Reince Priebus better watch it. There are people in the White House who “think it is their job to save America from this president, okay?” So they leak. But we know who they are.

He seemed to think this diarrheic diatribe was professional, the kind of thing the big boys do with their media bros. But he came across as just another drama queen for this warring, riven, incontinent White House. As Scaramucci spoke, the historian Joshua Zeitz observed wonderingly, on Twitter: “It’s Team of Rivals but for morons.”

It is. And it stinks from the top.

Meanwhile the whole world is watching, a world that contains predators. How could they not be seeing this weakness, confusion and chaos and thinking it’s a good time to cause some trouble?

A Pope and a President in Poland In a good Warsaw speech, Trump invokes one of Pope John Paul II’s great 1979 orations.

The greatest speeches given in Poland in the modern era were delivered in June 1979 by a pope. Ten months into his papacy, John Paul II sweetly asked the government of Poland for permission to journey home from Rome to visit his people. Europe was divided between the politically free and the unfree, on one side the democracies of Western Europe, on the other the communist bloc. Poland had been under the Soviet yoke since the end of World War II.

John Paul knew his people: They did not want dictatorship, and a primary means of resistance was through their faith. Every time you took communion it was a rebellion, a way of reminding yourself and others that you answered to a higher authority. The Catholic Church of Poland survived precariously, within limits, under constant pressure, as John Paul well knew, having been a cardinal in Krakow for 11 years.

What would happen when the first Polish pope went home? If Warsaw refused his request it would be an admission of weakness: They feared his power to rouse and awaken the people. But if they invited him they risked rebellion, which would bring on a Soviet crackdown and could bring in Soviet troops. They chose to invite him, calculating that as a sophisticated man he would, knowing the stakes, play it cool. He happily accepted their terms: It would be a religious pilgrimage, not a political event.

Pope John Paul

Pope John Paul

The Polish government did everything it could to keep crowds down. Parade routes were kept secret or changed. State media would censor word of what was said and done. Grade-school teachers told pupils he was a wicked man in gold robes, an enemy of the state.

And so it began. On June 2, in Victory Square in the Old City of Warsaw, John Paul celebrated Mass. Halfway through, the crowd began to chant: “We want God! We want God!” He asked: What was the greatest work of God? Man. Who redeemed man? Christ. Therefore, he declared, “Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude. . . . The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man.” Even those who oppose Christ, he said, still inescapably live within the Christian context of history. And Christ is not only the past for Poland, He is also the future, “our Polish future.”

The chant turned to thunder: “We want God!”

John Paul was speaking not only to the faithful but to the rulers and apparatchiks of an atheist state. He did not explicitly challenge them. He spoke only of spiritual matters. And yet he was telling the government that Poland is the faith and the faith is Poland, and there is nothing communism can ever do to change that.

More, he was saying: God is real. And God sees one unity of Europe. He does not see “East” and “West,” divided by a wall or a gash in the soil. In this way, as I once wrote, he divided the dividers from God’s view of history.

The next day he spoke outside the cathedral in the small city of Gniezno. Again, he struck only spiritual themes—nothing about governments, unions, fights for political freedom. “Does not Christ want, does not the Holy Spirit demand, that the pope, himself a Pole, the pope, himself a Slav, here and now should bring out into the open the spiritual unity of Christian Europe . . .?”

Oh yes, he said, Christ wants that.

At both events he was telling Poles that they should see their position differently. Don’t see Europe divided between free and unfree, see the wholeness that even communism can’t take away. The map makers think they’re in charge. We know who’s really in charge.

At the end of the trip, at Krakow’s Blonie Field, a muddy expanse just beyond the city, there was again a public mass. The government refused to publicize it but word spread. Two million people came, the biggest gathering in the history of Poland.

It is possible, John Paul said, to dismiss Christ and all he’s brought into the history of man. Human beings are free and can say no. But should they say no to the one “with whom we have all lived for 1,000 years? He who formed the basis of our identity and has himself remained its basis ever since?” He was telling the communist usurpers: You’ll never win.

He extended his hands in an apostolic gesture. “I speak for Christ himself: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ ” he said. “I speak again for St Paul: ‘Do not grieve the spirit of God.’ ” He urged Poles: “Be strong, my brothers and sisters! You must be strong with the strength that faith gives.”

It sounded like he was telling them to be strong in their resistance to communism.

“Today more than in any other age you need this strength.” Love, he said, is stronger than death. Seek spiritual power where “countless generations of our fathers and mothers have found it.”

This was a reassertion of the Polish spirit, and those who were there went home seeing themselves differently—not as victims of history but as fighters within a new and promising reality. At home they turned on state-run TV, which did not show the crowds and the chants but only a few words by the pope, and a few pictures. They were offended by the lie of it. It was another blow to the government’s claims of legitimacy.

Years later I asked Lech Walesa about the impact of the pope’s trip. Poland, he said, always knew that communism could not be reformed but could be defeated. “We knew the minute he touched the foundations of communism, it would collapse.”

*   *   *

And so to President Trump’s speech in Warsaw.

Near the top he deftly evoked John Paul’s 1979 visit and the sermon that brought on the chants. “A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: ‘We want God!’ ” He called the Polish people “the soul of Europe.”

It was a grown-up speech that said serious things. Article 5, the NATO mutual defense commitment, is still operative. Missile defense is necessary. He called out Russia for its “destabilizing activities.” He spoke as American presidents once did, in the traditional language of American leadership, with respect for alliances.

But he did it with a twist: The West is not just a political but a cultural entity worth fighting for. It is a real thing, has real and radical enemies, and must be preserved.

A lovely passage: “We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes . . . and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers. We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence. . . . We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. We empower women as pillars of our society and our success. . . . And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.”

If he talked like this at home, more of us would be happy to have him here. If he gives serious, thoughtful, prepared remarks only when traveling, he should travel more.

Victory, Sacrifice and Questions of ‘Collusion’ Mosul is liberated, a fallen policewoman is mourned, and Donald Trump Jr. is exposed.

Three important things happened this week. Two were insufficiently noted.

Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fallen three years ago to Islamic State, was liberated by forces of the Iraqi government. Not long ago ISIS, the first and true sustained scum of the 21st century, was seen as militarily formidable and ideologically perhaps indomitable. Now they’ve disappeared into the hills. The fall of Mosul is a blow to their mystique, and that of radical Islam. As for the Iraqi military, not long ago it was derided as unprofessional and barely loyal to its own country. Now it has succeeded, with the help and encouragement of the U.S., including its special forces.

Whatever your convictions about America’s presence and policy in the Mideast, whether you trend nationalist or neoconservative, America First or Lead From Behind; whatever your personal disposition, be it bitterness over the blunders of the past or half-mad with schemes for the future; and whether you judge the ultimate beneficiary of Mosul’s liberation to be the current Iraqi government, the idea of a stable democracy, or the schemers of Iran, we should pause to recognize what just occurred and say:

Good. Bravo.

This is a victory. For what? Civilization.

*   *   *

Mourning Officer Miosotis Familia

Peter Vega, Genesis Villella and Delilah Vega mourn their mother, Officer Miosotis Familia

The second story too involves admirable people in uniform.

 

This week the New York City Police Department buried one of its own, also one of our own. We should put aside a moment to mourn.

The murdered officer was Miosotis Familia, 48, reportedly the youngest of 10 children of Dominican immigrants and the first in her family to attend college. She had three children and cared for her own ailing mother. She’d been a cop for 12 years. She was one of the people who keep my city of 8.5 million up and operating each day, in both its personal and public spheres.

She was on the midnight shift in the Bronx on Wednesday, July 5. Her killer, 34-year-old Alexander Bonds, was a lowlife and prison parolee with untreated mental illness. He posted threatening anticop rants on Facebook. The night of the murder he walked up to her police vehicle and fired once through the window, shooting Officer Familia in the head. Police shot him dead soon after.

Here is NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at her funeral this week at the World Changers Church: “Let me tell you something. Regular people sign up to be cops. They sign up for this job of protecting strangers knowing the inherent risks. . . . But not one of us ever agreed to be murdered in an act of indefensible hate. Not one of us signed up to never return to our family or loved ones. So where are the demonstrations for this single mom who cared for her elderly mother and her own three children?”

The 4,000 mourners stood and burst into sustained applause. Mr. O’Neill continued: “There is anger and sorrow, but why is there no outrage? Because Miosotis was wearing a uniform? Because it was her job? I simply do not accept that. Miosotis was targeted, ambushed and assassinated. She wasn’t given a chance to defend herself. That should matter to every single person who can hear my voice in New York City and beyond.”

It should.

Unnamed but a clear focus of Mr. O’Neill’s remarks was the radicalism and rage of the Black Lives Matter movement, coupled with a national media too often willing to paint the police, in any given incident, as guilty until proven innocent. This sets a mood that both excites and inspires the unsteady and unstable.

Mr. O’Neill: “When we demonize a whole group of people, whether that group is defined by race, by religion or by occupation, this is the result. I don’t know how else to say it. This was an act of hate, in this case against police officers—the very people who stepped forward and made a promise to protect you day and night.”

We are not paying enough attention to what is happening to the police throughout the country. As this was being written, Newsweek reported the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund claims that the number of officers killed in the line of duty was up 30% for the 12 months ending June 30, compared with the preceding year. That number doesn’t include Miosotis Familia. The head of the Memorial Fund said: “Officers have been targeted for the job they do, shot and killed, or hit with vehicles.”

It should be a major, sustained national story when cops are killed for being cops. Yet each incident never gels into a theme. The media caravan moves on.

Orwell spoke of forcing inconvenient stories down the memory hole. It is a feature of our age that we now force them down the hole before they’ve had a chance to become a memory.

*   *   *

Now to the story that did get attention. Can you hear your columnist sigh?

Donald Trump Jr. ’s adventure with sketchy characters claiming to represent Russia made me think of a quote from a deadly old 19th-century European diplomat. It’s no trick to fool a man who thinks himself clever, he said, but a plain, honest man—that can be a challenge.

One of the things campaigns always have to watch out for is bumptious oafs who think themselves sophisticated.

The White House defense of the Trump Jr. meeting is essentially a question: Who wouldn’t take a meeting with someone who has negative information on your political opponent?

But that’s not the question. This someone was purportedly representing a foreign government. And that government was an adversary of the U.S.

Who wouldn’t take that meeting? Anyone with a brain and a gut. Anyone who didn’t think “House of Cards” is a moral template for modern political behavior.

Former opposition researchers are angry. I asked one, who worked in George H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign: Suppose a representative of a foreign state, or a person claiming ties to that state, contacted you and said: “We have some dirt on your opponent.” What would your reaction have been?

“Immediately we would have walked away,” he said.

What if the foreign government was an adversary of the U.S.? “Hell no. You don’t go there.”

He recalled there was chatter in 1988 that the Stasi, East Germany’s domestic spy agency, had dirt on the Democratic presidential nominee. The Bush campaign rejected any possible contact out of hand. “There’s such a thing as self-discipline,” he said.

It is wrong to let another nation take an active role in a campaign for the U.S. presidency. It is imprudent, and also rather unpatriotic. It’s not their government, it’s ours. It can be assumed that we will attempt to look out for America’s interests, and they will not.

What should Donald Trump Jr. have done when the music promoter urged him to meet with the representative of the Russian government who had secret, big-league, deep, dark info on Hillary Clinton ?

As Sen. Lindsey Graham told President Trump’s FBI nominee: “If you get a call from somebody suggesting that a foreign government wants to help you by disparaging your opponent, tell us all to call the FBI.”

I add: And send word of the contact to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, with the information that you have not and will not respond. Because that would have helped our political civilization.

Was it collusion? It was worse, it was classless.