"Assad must go, Obama says."

So read the headline in The Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2011.

The story quoted President Barack Obama directly:

"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. ... the time has come for President Assad to step aside."

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If Democrats are optimistic as 2019 begins, it is understandable.

Their victory on Nov. 6, adding 40 seats and taking control of the House of Representatives, was impressive. And with the party's total vote far exceeding the GOP total, in places it became a rout.

In the six New England states, Republicans no longer hold a single House seat. Susan Collins of Maine is the last GOP senator.

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"Deck the halls with boughs of holly," goes the old Christmas carol. "'Tis the season to be jolly." Yet if there were a couplet less befitting the mood of this capital city, I am unaware of it.     

"The wheels are coming off," was a common commentary on the Trump presidency on Sunday's talk shows. And the ostensible causes of what is looking like a panic in the political establishment?

The December crash of the stock and bond markets, the worst since the Great Recession. The shutdown of a fourth of the U.S. government over the Trump border wall. The president's decision to pull 2,200 troops out of Syria. Resignation, in protest of Donald Trump's treatment of U.S. allies, by Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

But there has to be more to it than this. For America has endured, in the lifetime of its older generations, far worse Christmases than this.

By Christmas 1941, America had just suffered the worst attack in her history. At Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, some 2,400 soldiers, sailors and Marines had died, six battleships were destroyed or crippled, and scores of warplanes were smashed on their runways.

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"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there," wrote President Donald Trump, as he ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria, stunning the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Trump overruled his secretaries of state and defense, and jolted this city and capitals across NATO Europe and the Middle East.

Yet, Trump is doing exactly what he promised to do in his campaign. And what his decision seems to say is this:

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Kim Jong Un, angered by the newest U.S. sanctions, is warning that North Korea's commitment to denuclearization could be imperiled and we could be headed for "exchanges of fire."

Iran, warns Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is testing ballistic missiles that are forbidden to them by the U.N. Security Council.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that, within days, he will launch a military thrust against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria, regarding them as allies of the PKK terrorist organization inside Turkey.

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Mike Scruggs