Opinion: The Queen Elizabeth prophecy that came true

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In February 1952, King George VI was found dead in his sleep by a servant delivering his morning tea at the royal retreat at Sandringham. His 25-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, became Queen even before she was able to rush home from a trip to Kenya.

The nation was saddened by the king’s death, reported Clifton Daniel in the New York Times, but saw the rise of Elizabeth as a good sign: “It is a tradition that Britain prospers and grows great whenever a queen reigns,” as it had under the first Queen Elizabeth, from 1558 to 1603. Daniel, who later became managing editor of the Times and the son-in-law of former President Harry Truman, observed that the new queen “was carefully trained from the age of ten for her regal duties.”

“She is a calm and happy young woman who has a capacity for fun and who in her official life displays a rigid sense of duty and discipline and an appreciation for the dignity of her high office,” wrote Daniel. “As a result of long training and serious application to her job she almost invariably does the right thing – as rightness is understood in this country.”

Remarkably, 70 years later, the Queen, who died Thursday, is being remembered for exactly that quality. “Duty is a rather old-fashioned concept today in a world rife with public figures who hunger only for power to be achieved by any means available,” wrote Peter Bergen. “But duty is the one word to best summarize the reign of Queen Elizabeth II … The Queen selflessly gave of herself. Hers was a role that is ceremonial, but it is also deeply embedded in the oldest constitutional monarchy in the world and in a country that has given the world so many of the concepts and policies that we associate with democracy.”

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But there was more to her enduring role. As Laura Beers wrote, “On Queen Elizabeth II’s watch, post-war Britain rebuilt itself in the wake of two devastating world wars, and became the modern nation celebrated to such fanfare in the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremonies – an international spectacle in which the Queen gamely played a starring role, alongside Daniel Craig’s James Bond.”

“And in a country whose recent politics have been defined by increasing polarization and disunity dating back to the Brexit referendum in 2016, if not before, Queen Elizabeth has been one of the few figures capable of uniting the country.”

The sense of fun noted by Daniel persisted too. “In the 1990s, Britpop again put the country on the musical map,” Beers wrote, observing that the Spice Girls’ “1997 photo ops with Prince Charles and the Queen helped to cement the relationship between the monarchy and ‘Cool Britannia.’”

In the Guardian, Caroline Davies wrote of the Queen’s constant presence: “familiar in brightly coloured coat, brimmed hat and handbag, she glad-handed her way through ‘walkabouts’, garden parties, ship launches, plaque unveilings, tree plantings, building inaugurations – the bread and butter of her engagements diary – with an inscrutable smile in place…”

“She kept much back. Only those closest knew Elizabeth the wife, mother, grandmother and excellent mimic … she remained largely an enigma, and will do so until the diaries, which in royal tradition she wrote daily, are made public.”

Balmoral Castle, where the Queen died, was one of her favorite places, but Davies noted that “visitors didn’t always share her enthusiasm” for it. “It was draughty, and a little threadbare … but such details fascinated the public: a queen who stored cereal in Tupperware, used a two-bar electric fire for heating, and kept a Big Mouth Billy Bass, a battery-operated fish, on top of her piano, seemed less remote, despite being woken each morning by bagpipes.”

Her eldest son, Charles, who was just three years old when his mother ascended the throne in 1952, is now King Charles III. It’s a sudden departure in a nation where more than 85% of the population has known only one monarch, a female one.

Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times that she had been “raised in an Irish family baked in bitterness about British oppression. The monarchy seems like an expensive relic to me, and I think King Charles, on the throne at last at 73, will struggle with a domain in which former colonies may consider dropping him as head of state.”

“I always thought of Queen Elizabeth as an avatar of nepotism and colonialism. But as time went on, and victimhood became the fashion, I began to have a creeping admiration for her stoicism.”

“Then, in 2011, I covered her fraught trip to Ireland, the first by a British monarch in a century. Suddenly I understood how one small movement of her head could soothe over 800 years of bloodshed and hatred…The queen showed all the empathy and warmth she could not summon when Diana died. By the end of the visit, the Irish had melted. They were calling Elizabeth their ‘prodigal mother,’ ‘Liz,’ and some were even waving Union Jacks.”

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The midterm elections look far more competitive than they did just two months ago, with Democrats energized by the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“Many women are feeling scorned, thanks to a Supreme Court decision in June overturning nearly 50 years of settled law on abortion,” said SE Cupp. “That spells trouble for many Republican candidates, unsurprisingly. So naturally many of them are shifting the positions they had in their primary campaigns to a softer approach in the general election. It’s not even all that subtle.”

For example, “in Arizona, Blake Masters removed language on his campaign website that once said he was ’100% pro-life.’” The candidate for US Senate shifted “from supporting a national abortion ban to a ban on third-trimester pregnancies.”

Oren Cass wrote, “Earlier this summer, a highly unpopular President Joe Biden floundered in the White House. He was facing multiple crises – Russia’s war in Ukraine, crime on America’s streets, record migrant crossings at the southern border, surging gas prices and inflation and stalled economic growth.”

“Polls and forecasts pointed to a Republican Party romp in the upcoming midterms. But Republican candidates failed to capitalize on that momentum, and party strategists are beginning to sweat about their likely margin in the House of Representatives and their chances of winning a Senate majority at all.”

“Candidates and incumbents don’t decide whether gas prices are going up or down, but one important factor they can control is the agenda they present to voters – their broad priorities and their actual plans. It’s here that Republicans seem determined to sabotage their own chances, by refusing to say anything at all,” Cass wrote, laying out his own ideas for an agenda for the party. “In the upcoming election, while not being Democrats still looks pretty good, it may not be enough,” he argued. “Support families, empower workers and protect kids. America could get behind that.”

While Democrats’ chances to retain control of the Senate have increased, Republicans have gone into recrimination mode, as recent strife between Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott, who heads the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, demonstrates. McConnell suggested that “candidate quality” could impair the party’s chance of retaking control of the upper chamber. “Although Scott stands by his candidates,” Julian Zelizer wrote, “many commentators agree with McConnell, arguing that former President Donald Trump has inserted himself in the midterms and endorsed several inexperienced and unfit candidates who are now struggling to pull ahead…”

“It will take a series of major losses that keep Democrats in control of Congress and the White House for Republicans like McConnell to step forward and demand his party take a new approach,” Zelizer observed. “But until it’s clear that Trump is a dead weight dragging the GOP down, we won’t hear more than an occasional gripe from Republicans like McConnell.”

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A recent report carried a sobering message, as Jill Filipovic noted. “Our school children have suffered unprecedented learning losses, with 9-year-olds seeming to have lost some two decades worth of progress on math and reading skills, according to new test results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

Filipovic added that “this should make the progressive-minded among us who supported school closures pause and ask ourselves if we got this one right – and what we could learn from this whole debacle…”

“Shutting down schools in the spring of 2020 made sense. Covid-19 was a new disease, and we initially knew precious little about who might be particularly vulnerable, and how it might impact children. But by the fall of 2020, when we knew much more, the US remained a global outlier in keeping schools shuttered … Liberals can win on education. But we have to get in the fight. And to do that, we must first admit that improving our nation’s badly damaged educational outcomes is a battle worth fighting.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel argued that education is a key issue Republicans can run on this fall. “The GOP is rightly focused on the economy, but it will need more to keep suburban and swing voters on its side in the face of Democratic scaremongering over abortion and Joe Biden speeches about ‘semifascist’ Republicans. Education is the powerful rejoinder, a reminder that conservative candidates are the ones who have all along been on the side of parents and common sense … Any Republican who isn’t making criticism of failed Covid education decisions – and promises of school choice and parental involvement – a lead message is committing an election foul.”

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Russia turned off the tap. As David A. Andelman noted, the Kremlin stopped the flow of natural gas to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, saying it won’t resume until the West relents on sanctions it has imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. “There’s no other name for this than extortion,” Andelman wrote. “That’s a bad idea in the short run for Europe and in the long run for Russia…”

“A strong will is essential at the ballot box and in ministries and parliaments across the continent.” Russian President Vladimir “Putin has substantial support in some still-isolated quarters. There must be an equally profound understanding by the West of how steep the price would be for any retrenchment in the face of Russian bluster.”

Former President Donald Trump won a court victory Monday when US District Court Judge Aileen Cannon granted his request “for a special master to review documents the FBI seized last month at his Mar-a-Lago resort,” wrote legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers. The judge “also enjoined the FBI and the Department of Justice from reviewing or using those documents in its criminal investigation.”

“Cannon had previewed this result – both with her questions and statements at Thursday’s hearing – as well as in her initial scheduling order before the Justice Department even had an opportunity to be heard. But when it arrived, the judge’s written order struck many legal experts, including me, as being extremely weak in its legal analysis.”

Frida Ghitis wrote that “the latest reporting from the Washington Post, that Trump kept super-secret information about another country’s nuclear capacity” at Mar-a-Lago “highlights just how much risk Trump’s mishandling of classified documents has potentially created, not just for the United States but also for other countries – and possibly for the rest of the world.”

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There are tens of millions of pieces of space junk orbiting Earth – “anything from dead satellites … to pieces of metal, screws or flecks of paint” – wrote self-described space environmentalist Moriba Jah.

“Until now, space has been seen as a free-for-all – the next frontier to explore. But what we forget is that it’s also an ecosystem – and like any ecosystem, exploration of it has come at an environmental cost. Even the tiniest speck of debris, orbiting at around 15,700 miles per hour, can damage satellites and disrupt the services that have become essential to our daily lives. Even worse, large pieces of debris can fall from the sky and crash on Earth.”

Governments are developing plans for debris removal, but Jah argued that individuals need to sign onto the effort too: “Everyone needs to understand that what we do in one location on Earth influences our oceans, our air and yes, space. And we need to act accordingly.”

Historic flooding has left a third of Pakistan underwater. “If indeed it is global warming that is causing or even simply aggravating these extreme weather events, as scientists generally concur,” wrote Paul Hockenos, “then the South’s ever angrier nations are completely justified in their demands that the world’s wealthier regions – those ultimately responsible for this made-in-the-developed-world crisis – pay for its losses. In particular, the historically largest emissions sinners – the United States and Europe.”

“But these poorer countries shouldn’t count on it because not only is most of the Global North in denial about its oversized role in creating the crisis – it is dead set against condoning the principle of liability.”

“The grim images of washed away houses, stranded refugees, children and elderly people in rushing floodwaters vividly underscore the gross inequities of the crisis that are reverberating across the Global South,” Hockenos noted.

The people of California are living through the state’s driest year on record thus far and enduring periods of extreme heat. For Christian Vescia, who lives in San Carlos, it was hard to “justify using the hundreds of gallons of water required to maintain the three lawns we have on our property.”

While he is looking forward to his upcoming retirement, anticipating “cooking big meals, having friends over and dining al fresco on my back patio,” it will happen in a garden “now almost entirely free of grass.” He replaced his front lawn with “a ground cover called kurapia that is drought tolerant and uses significantly less water than a traditional lawn – as much as 80% less according to some studies,” Vescia wrote.

“Now that we’ve made the switch, I love the fact that I don’t have to stalk back and forth across the lawn every two weeks behind a noisy mower. Most of all, I feel good about using less of our precious water resources.”

Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, Pa.

In the Washington Post, David Von Drehle wrote that even the killing of terrorist leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this summer won’t bring the struggle with terrorist groups to an end. “Though the American public is tired of war, and the United States’ leaders prefer to act as if it is all over, American warriors must continue to fight because our enemies still have a vote. As another 9/11 anniversary comes and goes, we owe it to those warriors to remember them, to care for them, and to honor their sacrifices of body and soul.”

Queen and Truss

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In front of a blazing fire at Balmoral, two days before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, she carried out her constitutional duty of meeting and officially appointing the new UK prime minister, Liz Truss.

As Rosa Prince wrote, Britain today is feeling a lot like 1979, when Margaret Thatcher won the nation’s top office. “In 2022, it is as if the country itself is twisting into a shape Thatcher would recognize. The supporting characters are all playing their parts: union leaders souring industrial relations, Russia sowing discord and inflation spiraling to a degree not seen since the 1970s.

“There can be no denying that this new prime minister inherits a set of political circumstances more akin to those in play when Thatcher first came to office in 1979 than that facing anyone else who entered Number 10 in the intervening years.”

“What is perhaps most striking is not so much the similarity of Truss and Thatcher’s views – the medicine they believe a sick Britain must swallow to cure the public finances (and only time will tell if the patient’s recovery is swift) – as it is the determination with which they hold those views,” Prince noted.

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AND …

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Andrew Harnik/AP

When Joe and Jill Biden hosted Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House Wednesday for the unveiling of the former first couple’s official portraits, the stakes were especially high, wrote art historian Adrienne L. Childs.

The portraits hadn’t been publicly seen before the ceremony and even the identities of the artists were secret. As it turned out, Childs wrote, “The paintings are stunning…”

Hyperrealist painter Robert McCurdy “treated Obama in his iconic style, meticulously rendered on a stark white background. No desk, flag, or family portraits to set the presidential scene. Just Obama in minute detail. Obama joked that McCurdy would not even reduce the size of his ears for the portrait. What appealed to the former president was McCurdy’s honesty and ability to render him in all of his humanity.”

“Sharon Sprung captured the sophisticated and fashionable Michelle Obama. In what is reminiscent of a Gilded Age society portrait, Obama is pictured in a celestial blue Jason Wu gown. Seated on a red couch in front of a pale peach colored background, the artist uses large fields of warm reds in the background and a soft treatment of the figure to produce a romantic depiction of the former first lady.”

“In light of the many Americans who have been and will be emotionally, culturally and politically invested in their story and their legacy, the Obamas have beautifully and carefully crafted how they will be represented in the people’s house.”

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