Foreign Policy Tweet War WIthin the GOP

Liz Cheney on her hopes for the 116th Congress

The Story:

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wy) and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky), two very prominent Republicans with decided opinions about foreign policy, have been using their twitter accounts to air in public their differences on America’s place in the broader world.

The Difference  Between Them:

Senator Paul’s tweets aimed at Cheney, and at her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, have included this: “Hi @Liz_Cheney,  President @realDonald Trump hears all your NeverTrump warmongering…I’m just grateful for a President who, unlike you, supports stopping these endless wars.”

Some within the Trump coalition believe that the Trump slogan “America First” suggests an America that withdraws from entangling alliances and from military commitments overseas.  Rand speaks for that sentiment. Others, though, plainly believe that “America First” refers to an America that is involved with and leads allies in the fight against terrorism and against the nation-states that offer safe havens to terrorists. Cheney speaks for them.

The Thing to Know: 

Some of Rep. Cheney’s responses to Paul’s jibes have referenced the fact that Paul ran for the Republican nomination for President in 2016 and had to drop out early. Cheney tweets, “I know the 2016 race was painful for you….No surprise since your motto seems to be ‘Terrorists First, America Second.'”

Secretary Pompeo May Run for Senate

Mike Pompeo calls reporter’s question ‘insulting’

The Story:

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, may run for a seat in the Senate from his home state of Kansas next year. Amid widespread speculation on the subject, Pompeo has neither confirmed nor denied such a plan.

Background:

One of Kansas’ Senators, Pat Roberts, announced early this year that he will not run for reelection next year. Roberts is a Republican, and the Democratic Party would presumably love to pick up this seat as part of the larger goal of gaining a majority in that chamber. Running a strong candidate to replace Roberts is, likewise, a critical goal for the Republicans.

Secretary Pompeo spoke at Kansas State University on Friday, September 6. He did not speak on the subject of his ambitions, but stuck with the advertised topic of human rights as a matter of foreign policy. He made reference, for example, to the oppression of the Uighurs in China.

The Thing to Know:

One issue of more pressing concern for many Kansans than the rights of the Uighurs may be Kansans’ ability to sell their wheat to China, an ability threatened by the administration’s trade war. Pompeo’s association with that trade policy may be a hindrance should he make the run for Senate there.

Antitrust and Big Tech

The Story:

The prominence of a handful of Big Tech firms — especially Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google — has become a pressing political issue. Conservative and pro-Trump Republicans believe that Big Tech is too liberal and plots against them. But it also has enemies among the progressives of the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party, as it represents to them the 21st century face of Capital.

Background:

As her catchphrase has it: Senator Elizabeth Warren in particular “has a plan for that.” She proposes to break up each of the four companies named above, saying that they have both stifled innovation and hurt small business. She is invoking laws and precedents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when large business concentrations were popularly known as “trusts” and their political foes as trust busters.

The Thing to Know:

There are reasons to be skeptical that any such remedy will have the desired effects, or that it won’t have quite negative side effects. The first President Roosevelt did break up Standard Oil into parts, but over the following century the oil industry continued to be a great, even a growing, force in US politics, due to market realities that a change in organizational charts could not amend. [And most of Standard Oil eventually put itself back together under the name ExxonMobil.]

Epstein Autopsy Adds Darker Notes to Mystery

Acosta's press conference on the Epstein matter

The Story:

The mystery of the death of financier/sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died of strangulation in his cell in a federal prison in New York City on August 10, has deepened and darkened in recent days, with an autopsy that calls the cause of death suicide, but that discloses evidence that seems to some to favor a contrary conclusion: homicide.

Background:

Epstein had connections with at least two American Presidents, William Clinton and Donald Trump. His arrest on trafficking charges in July led to the resignation of US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, because Acosta, as a federal prosecutor in 2007-08, had approved a cushy plea deal for Epstein in the face of an earlier round of criminal charges.

Epstein apparently first attempted suicide on July 24. He was found “nearly unconscious” with injuries to his neck. Standard protocols for the protection of a prisoner after a suicide attempt were not thereafter followed in this matter. He (or someone else?) finished the job on August 10.

New York’s Medical Examiner, Barbara Sampson, performed the autopsy the day after Epstein’s death, but held off for days on issuing a report.

The Thing to Know: 

Her autopsy showed multiple breaks to the bones in Epstein’s neck. Although this is possible in a suicidal hanging, it is much more common in homicide victims of strangulation. Sampson’s report will surely not end the controversy about Epstein’s death.

Resumption of a Trade War Shakes Up the US Markets

 The Story:

US stocks lost 2.9% of their value Monday, in their worst day of 2019. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 767.27 points. The fall was widely linked to the latest developments in the ongoing trade war between the US and the People’s Republic of China.

Background:

On June 29 of this year, the leaders of the two countries directly involved in the ‘war’ announced a truce, at a summit of the major industrialized nations (the G20 summit) in Japan. President Trump and President Xi Jinping said that while existing tariffs would remain in place, neither country will add to them “for the time being.” Also, the US agreed to allow US companies to do business with the Chinese tech giant Huawei,  although it is still on the US trade blacklist.

That truce has badly unraveled in the final days of July and the early days of August. The US has officially declared China a currency manipulator, and China has halted all agriculture purchases from the US. Those shots precipitated the stock market plunge Monday.

The Thing to Know:

In March 2018, President Trump tweeted, “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Events this year are falsifying that breezy assertion. The truce announced in Osaka has been good for the business climate in both countries, and its end may prove to be a grave misfortune.

 

Rep. Gabbard has a big Debate Moment

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: War with Iran would make Iraq War 'look like a cakewalk'

The Story:

On July 31, during the second night of a two-night debate held in Detroit, Michigan among the Democratic Party’s candidates for President, Rep Tulsi Gabbard (HI) attracted a good deal of attention by launching a direct attack on the prosecutorial record of Sen. Kamala Harris (CA).

The Attack:

Senator Harris has long adopted a ‘tough cop’ persona as part of her political appeal. In 2004, Harris became the District Attorney of San Francisco. In 2010, she was elected California’s Attorney General. She went from that post into the US Senate in 2016. This history gives her a resume on which to run, but it has also given opponents a target.

In the debate in Detroit, Gabbard said of Harris’s record as prosecutor, “She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.” What is more, Gabbard said that Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so,” and that she “kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the State of California.”

The Thing to Know:

Gabbard, who has been an almost peripheral figure in the campaign thus far, may now receive greater prominence. Meanwhile, Harris will have to come up with convincing answers to the Gabbard challenge in the months ahead.

 

Eugene Scalia: A New Political Flashpoint

The Story:

President Donald Trump has nominated Eugene Scalia to be the next US Secretary of Labor: the confirmation hearings are sure to be contentious and to open up a new round of arguments over the administration’s regulatory policies and their impact on employees of major for-profit corporations.

Background:

In May of this year, Trump’s Labor Department quietly announced that it might change regulations under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Some administration officials have argued that the existing regulations are too permissive, allowing employees to game the system. They would like new rules that would empower employers to investigate the realities behind an employee’s injury claim.

Confirmation hearings for a Labor Secretary are a sensible time for the Senators who would presumably oppose such a change to press for specifics on the planned changes, why they are necessary and appropriate, and where the new nominee stands.

The Thing to Know:

Eugene Scalia is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who until his death in 2016 had developed a formidable reputation as a conservative jurist. The famous family connection helps contribute to Eugene Scalia’s value to each side of the political wars, either as mascot or as target.

Epstein Scandal Fells a Trump Cabinet Member II

Washington Post obtains confidential draft IRS legal memo about Trump's taxes

The Story:

One can not say with any level of assurance what impact the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein last week, or the subsequent resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, will have on the politics of 2020 and on Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in particular. But it surely helps emphasize one of Trump’s weaknesses.

Background:

During the 2016 campaign, an audiotape surfaced of Donald Trump talking in graphic terms about how celebrity status would allow him to get away with grabbing the private parts of women. Trump has in fact been accused of sexual assault by a number of women, most recently by E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine advice columnist. In September 2018, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University, came forward with accusations that she was assaulted in 1982 by Brett Kavanaugh, who was at the time of the accusation President Trump’s nominee for an open seat on the US Supreme Court.

Ford’s testimony did not derail the Kavanaugh confirmation process: he is Justice Kavanagh now.

In the light of all this, one might presume that the last thing the Trump 2020 re-election campaign needs is any connection between the administration on the one hand and convicted, now re-arrested, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein on the other.

The Thing to Know:

On the other hand, if the Democratic candidate seeks to score points during next year’s campaign on the basis of this connection, the President and his partisans will be sure to point out that Epstein had a personal relationship for some years with former President Bill Clinton, still an important ‘elder statesman’ in that Party. Epstein was a great networker, and given his disgraced state at present there may be many more shoes to drop.

The “Drunk Pelosi” Smear

White House Speaker Nancy Pelosi After White House Meeting: ‘I Pray For The President’ | MSNBC

The Story: 

A video that purported to show the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, slurring her words in a manner that suggested she was under the influence of alcohol, ricocheted around social media, with help from the President and from his personal attorney, beginning on May 22. The video was a fake, and this fakery has enhanced the already considerable polarization of politics in the United States.

The Fakery:

After President Trump walked out of a scheduled meeting about infrastructure initiatives with the Democratic leadership, Speaker Pelosi gave a statement saying that “we” (that leadership) “want to give this President the opportunity to do something historic for this country,” that is, rebuild roads and bridges to last.

A part-time sports blogger in the Bronx, who also appears to be a deep-dyed Trump admirer, slowed down the audio of Pelosi making that “we want to give …” statement, and altered her voice tone, producing the impression of drunkenness.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who now serves as the President’s private lawyer, posted the doctored footage on his twitter feed with the comment, “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

The Thing to Know: 

The facts that (1) the fraud spread as quickly as it did, and (2) it then unravelled as completely as it did, suggests both reasons for pessimism and for optimism with regard to the world’s plague of fake news in general.

Pelosi urges Trump’s family to stage an ‘intervention’

Pelosi urges Trump's family to stage an 'intervention'

Former GOP lawmaker and Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz suggests on ‘Outnumbered’ that the House speaker is responding to the radical side of her party with her recent comments about President Trump. #Outnumbered #FoxNews

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