Wednesday, July 26, 2017

McCain Wants To Be A Hero Again-- But Not THAT Much

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By now you know McConnell's Motion to Proceed into the murky depths of healthcare legislation-- virtually none of the senators voting yesterday knew exactly what bill would be proceeded to-- passed when Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie. McConnell dragged McCain out of his hospital bed in Phoenix because he knew only Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) planned to stick to their guns about not wrecking healthcare for tens of millions of Americans. Remember when Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) boasted she wouldn't flinch from being the deciding vote to kill the bill. She wasn't lying whence said. McConnell bribed her after she said it. And remember all that drama from lying sacks of shit like Dean Heller (R-NV), who succumbed to Trump's threats and bluster, Rob Portman (R-OH), Rand Paul (R-KY) and the rest of the phonies.

But the weirdest situation was McCain. All he had to do was stay in his hospital room. Instead he chose to take health insurance away from 23-- or 32-- million Americans... and wreck the V.A. And then he read a long, self-aggrandizing speech one of his p.r. aides wrote that is classic McCain-- desperate not to look like the rubber-stamp zombie he's been for his whole political career.
“Mr. President:

“I’ve stood in this place many times and addressed as president many presiding officers. I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, as close as I will ever be to a presidency.

“It is an honorific we’re almost indifferent to, isn’t it. In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of a ceremonial bore, and it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.

“But as I stand here today-- looking a little worse for wear I’m sure-- I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body, and for the other ninety-nine privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.

“I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege-- for the honor-- of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.


“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

“But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

“I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

“Our deliberations today-- not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities-- authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role-- are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline-- either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

“Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.

“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’

 “I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.

“We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.


“I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.

“We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.

“The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.

“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.

“Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.

“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.

“The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.

“This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.

“We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!

“As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours. And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves.

“The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country-- this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country-- needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.

“We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.

“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.

“What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.

“What a great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body.

“It’s a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else. I appreciate it though, every word, even if much of it isn’t deserved.

“I’ll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which, I’m proud to say is again a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“After that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. And, I hope, to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.

“Thank you, fellow senators."

It may be his last Senate speech ever. Maybe not. But you think there's any chance at all he'll make as brave a move as Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski did yesterday? I don't. It's not in him-- even at this late stage. He probably feels his legacy has withstood a full frontal attack from Trump and it'll withstand his ugly, cowardly vote yesterday as well. Because, despite the hopeful throwaway line someone wrote and he read-- "I will not vote for the bill as it is today"-- just a couple of hours after saying it, he did just that: voted for TrumpCare with no changes, same as Shelley Moore "I didn't comes to Washington to makes peoples' lives worse" Capito did. Apparently she reconsidered and realized she did come to Washington to make 32 million Americans lives worse. The Republicans who voted with the Democrats against the first repeal and replace TrumpCare bill last night were Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Tom Cotton (AR), Lindsey Graham (SC), Dean Heller (NV), Mike Lee (UT), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Rand Paul (KY). It needed 60 votes and it only got 43.

Just after the Senate vote, Congressmembers Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Our Revolution leader Nina Turner and other progressive leaders introduced the People’s Platform-- a progressive agenda to move the country forward. This is what Schumer and Pelosi should have announced this week instead of recycling the Papa John's Pizza slogan. Pramila: "If Democrats want to win in 2018 and take our country back, we can’t just be an opposition party: we must be a proposition party." The People’s Platform includes legislation that addresses the real issues Americans face every day, including universal health care for ALL Americans. More from Pramila:
"I’m proud to be a progressive, and I wear that label with pride. [The ideas in the People’s Platform] are ideas that serve working people across America. These ideas have been tested in every other developed country, and they work-- so why not here in America?

The People’s Platform recognizes that economic, racial and gender justice are deeply intertwined, and will empower working people across our country to stand up to the wealthiest corporations and top 1% and invest instead in working families across our country.

In addition to universal health care, the People’s Platform calls for free college education, automatic voter registration, taxes on Wall Street, raising the federal minimum wage to $15, protecting women’s reproductive rights and ending private prisons.

Together, we need to build an America that will provide every person-- regardless of their age, race, gender or economic status-- access to health care, free college tuition, a livable planet, and a job that pays a living wage.

Pramila has always believed that there is no problem in our country that we can’t solve or challenges that we can’t overcome-- if we do it together.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Who Thinks Subsidizing Rich Sports Team Owners Is A Good Use Of Public Funds?

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I was elected freshman class president at college and the first vote I remember taking on the student council was to oppose spending student funds on moleskin-- a cotton fabric some sports team wanted because it's resistant to wind and abrasion. Let them get their own moleskins; I had Fugs, Doors, Country Joe & the Fish, Who and Otis Redding concerts in mind, not to mention lectures by Timothy Leary and Julian Bond. Conservatives on the council didn't agree with me-- not on that vote, nor on any others... not ever. But I find myself on the same team with conservatives today when it comes to sports stadium funding. I haven't changed my ideas about public money going into sports. But wasn't I surprised to see this OpEd the other day by the New Jersey and Oklahoma state directors of the Koch Brothers' Americans For Prosperity opposing public funds for sports stadiums! It's also a story about two senators, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK), both reliably pro-corporate... until this issue came up. The idea is that "Maybe bringing together two senators from vastly different states and from widely different ideologies-- U.S. Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat-- will help inspire a fractious Congress to work together on a bipartisan bill to cut federal subsidies for sports stadiums."
The bill would end the federal tax giveaway for municipal bonds used to fund sports stadiums. It's a practice that has been going on for decades because shrewd team owners know that local politicians are under extreme political pressure from fans to make sure their beloved local teams don't move to greener pastures unless they get a handout.

Even if we ignore for a moment that such picking of winners and losers is a flagrant foul by the government, it's also a questionable use of federal tax dollars. "The federal government is responsible for a lot of important functions, but financing sports stadiums for multi-million dollar franchises is definitely not one of them," Sen. Lankford said in a statement.

Exempting the interest on municipal bonds from federal income taxes is a legitimate tool to lower the borrowing costs for cities to pay for public projects that serve to carry out core functions of government such as roads, sewer systems, and schools. Subsidizing ballparks for billionaire owners and millionaire players, however, shouldn't be part of the equation.

The carve-out hasn't been cheap. According to the Brookings Institution, the stadium loophole has cost federal taxpayers $3.2 billion for 36 professional sports facilities since 2000.

With the federal government $20 trillion in debt, excising this kind of pointless waste would seem to be the legislative equivalent of a slam dunk. But as with so much else in the federal tax code, it pays to be well-connected.

In 1986, when major tax reform was last enacted, there was a push to do away with federal welfare for stadiums. "We thought we shut down public financing to private sports stadiums in 1986," then-Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat told the New York Times a decade later, in reference to a similar measure introduced at that time.

But the subsidy lives on, like the hope that springs eternal in the fans of a team that gets to the championship game, only to see its dreams dashed yet again. (Sorry, Cleveland.)

So, here we are again, decades and billions of dollars later, and Congress is still trying to figure out a way to end this expensive handout.

It's a matter of simple fairness, according to Sen. Booker, whose home state lost the NBA's Nets to Brooklyn, where a new stadium was built with $161 million in federal subsidies. "It's not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits." The senator is right. Taxpayer subsidies mean that there are fewer state dollars to go around to address areas of true government need.

Congress should act to remove this misguided incentivizing of federal subsidies for stadium financing. If Washington gets out of the ballpark business, taxpayers will be the big winners.
These are the 10 current members of the Senate who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
John McCain (R-AZ)- $583,380
Rob Portman (R-OH)- $225,083
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $219,100
Bitch McConnell (R-KY)- $174,200
Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $167,700
Marco Rubio (R-FL)- $135,865
Todd Young (R-IN)- $128,900
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $128,000
Mike Lee (R-UT)- $109,900
Richard Burr (R-NC)- $109,500
And here are the 10 current members of the House who have taken the biggest bribes from professional sports teams since 1990:
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)- $143,350
Tom Rooney (R-FL)- $107,985
Ron DeSantis (R-FL)- $104,502
Steve Chabot (R-OH)- $101,450
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $88,214
Richard Hudson (R-NC)- $85,800
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)- $74,625
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $71,250
Fred Upton (R-MI)- $69,700
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $68,900
Mostly corrupt Republicans with a sprinkling of 2 of the very worst of the corrupt conservative House Democrats, Hoyer and Wasserman Schultz. What else is new?



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Who Does Ezra Cohen-Watnick Work For In His National Security Council Position?

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The only known photo of Cohen-Watkick outside of Moscow

Way back in April, we warned DWT about a low-profile Trumpist connected to the Kremlin, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, likely to cause problems for Americans in the future. Kremlin spy Michael Flynn brought him into TrumpWorld. The 31 year old Cohen-Watnick may well be a Putin mole inside the National Security Council, where he works as a senior director. As soon as he was hired-- with assurances from Trump he would have control over NSC staffing-- Lt. General H.R. McMaster immediately started removing the Russian spies Flynn had brought into the NSC and quickly moved to fire Cohen-Watnick. Bannon appealed to another Putin-puppet inside the Trump Regime, Kushner-in-law, and they persuaded Trump to go back on his assurances to McMaster and over-rule him on Cohen-Watnick. It's widely believed that Cohen-Watnick, who had been illicitly feeding Devin Nunes selective government documents, will eventually be charged with purloining classified intelligence reports and using them for political purposes, a crime. Putin pays Cohen-Watnick through his wife, Becky, who works as a Russian propaganda agent.

Sunday, Atlantic reporter Rosie Gray took at look at what Cohen-Watnick is doing for Putin inside the Trump Regime. She reported, as we did in April that the only person McMaster couldn't get out of the NSC was Cohen-Watnick. McMaster tried to remove him in March," reported Gray, "but President Trump, at the urging of Bannon and Jared Kushner, told McMaster that Cohen-Watnick was staying." As senior director for intelligence programs on the NSC Coehn-Watnick is in an extremely key position as the person meant to coordinate and liaise between the U.S. intelligence community and the White House.


"If the incumbent has an effective working relationship with the national-security adviser or even the president directly, the senior director for intelligence has an opportunity to exercise considerable influence on intelligence policy, covert actions, and sensitive collection operations," said Stephen Slick, a former CIA official who held the position during the Bush administration.

The CIA has traditionally had control over who fills this position, and normally the job is staffed by a more experienced official. McMaster, assuming he’d be allowed to relieve or reassign Cohen-Watnick, had gone so far as to interview Cohen-Watnick’s potential replacement, Linda Weissgold, a veteran CIA officer.

Despite his prominent, and apparently quite secure, position in Trump’s NSC, little is known about Cohen-Watnick, who had spent much of his short career as a low-ranking official at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Information about him in publicly available sources is scarce. Few higher-ups from the DIA remember him. Only one picture of him can be found online, a snapshot unearthed by Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen.

Unlike other White House officials who have become public figures in their own right, Cohen-Watnick never speaks for himself publicly, leaving others to fill the void. Yet he hardly comes into sharper focus when you talk to co-workers, friends, and former colleagues. Ask around about Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and people get defensive. Some profess not to know him, or ask why anyone would want to write about him. Others simply refuse to discuss him.

“I won’t talk to any journalist about Ezra,” said Michael Ledeen, a Flynn confidant who knows Cohen-Watnick well.

“Is it one of your hit pieces?” asked Bannon, who didn’t respond to a further request for comment.

Bannon and Ledeen may be wary of talking about Cohen-Watnick after his first, and thus far only, turn in the national spotlight. Washington got its first real look at Cohen-Watnick when he was identified as one of two White House sources who provided House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes with evidence that former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the “unmasking” of the names of Trump associates in intelligence documents. In the intelligence world, incidental collection refers to intelligence agencies obtaining, in the course of monitoring foreigners, communications that either refer to or involve Americans, whose names are typically “masked” unless officials request that they be “unmasked.”

The incident, coming in the aftermath of Trump baselessly accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower, became one of the first dust-ups related to the investigations into possible Russian collusion during the 2016 campaign that have gripped the White House. The president later accused Rice of having committed a crime; for her part, Rice has denied that she ordered the unmasking for political purposes.

Despite that early controversy, Cohen-Watnick retains one of the most consequential intelligence jobs in the nation, and his influence is rising. He is in the thick of some of the most important policy fights at the White House; he is viewed as an Iran hawk and has been characterized, for instance, as a main proponent of expanding U.S. efforts against Iran-backed militias in Syria. And beyond policy specifics, he’s become a flashpoint in the long-running tension between Trump and the intelligence community, a part of the U.S. government that the president has at times openly disdained.

Yet what we don’t know about Cohen-Watnick far outstrips what we do. Was he a central player in the Nunes scandal, or just a bystander? Has he retained his job due to his talent, or is he being protected because he's advancing the agenda of powerful West Wing patrons? What, besides loyalty to the president, are his credentials? Is he Flynn's mole on the council, or does he not even know the deposed national-security adviser all that well? Is he brash and difficult to work with, or modest and brilliant? And perhaps most important: Now that he has the president’s ear, what will he whisper into it?

...Newsweek reported that Cohen-Watnick entered the Defense Clandestine Service in 2012 and was sent to “The Farm,” the CIA training facility in Virginia, in 2013. Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen reported on Twitter that Cohen-Watnick had done work on Haiti while based out of the Department of Defense’s Miami office. Records show he registered to vote in 2012 with a Miami address, as a Republican and as a Hispanic male (his mother is Colombian).

According to a former senior intelligence official, Cohen-Watnick later served overseas in Afghanistan at a CIA base. “He was embedded with the Agency guys,” said a person familiar with Cohen-Watnick’s career. “But the Agency guys were all like ‘Fuck this guy, he’s just here to spy on us for Flynn and the DIA.’”

A White House official said that Cohen-Watnick did not know Flynn at the time he was in Afghanistan but did not dispute that there were “rivalries between CIA and DIA.”

It was Cohen-Watnick’s connection with Michael Flynn that would catapult him into the top ranks of America’s intelligence officials. But even the seemingly straightforward question of how and when they met yields contradictory and conflicting accounts. One person familiar with his career asserted that Cohen-Watnick had met Matt Flynn, Michael Flynn’s son, at “The Farm.” Another, a former senior intelligence official, said he had briefed Flynn at the DIA.

According to a third person familiar with the matter, the real story is that Cohen-Watnick actually met Flynn much later, in 2016, at a coffee arranged by Michael Ledeen’s wife Barbara, who Cohen-Watnick knows from growing up outside of Washington. Ledeen is a friend of Flynn’s and co-authored the book Field of Fight with him. Barbara introduced him to Cohen-Watnick; the couple connected the young officer with Flynn, and the two kept in touch over the course of the year. Flynn became a prominent surrogate for the Trump campaign, famously leading a “lock her up” chant at the Republican National Convention, and was even considered as the running mate.

Flynn’s time at the helm of the DIA was notoriously troubled. The general came in with a brash approach that rubbed his colleagues the wrong way and eventually led to his being forced out in 2014 by then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Mike Vickers.

This appears to have been a time at which Cohen-Watnick was at a crossroads. In the summer of 2016, Cohen, unhappy at the DIA, began applying for positions on Capitol Hill, interviewing with the House Armed Services Committee, a congressional staffer said. He was notified on August 16, 2016, that he wouldn’t be getting the job. Later that year, in November, Cohen-Watnick married Rebecca Miller, according to a notice on his family’s synagogue’s website.

Trump’s election changed everything for Cohen-Watnick, as it did for many people in Washington. He was chosen for the NSC job during the transition, surprising his new colleagues.

“I didn’t know Ezra from Adam,” said one former intelligence officer who is a member of the NSC. “I didn’t know what job he was going to have in the transition. I met him a few times. I didn’t realize he was running it at first.”

“It’s a very important position and essentially it’s a deep cull,” said a White House colleague who has known Cohen-Watnick for years. “It’s an early pick.” This official described Cohen-Watnick as someone who would seem like a natural choice for the job in five or 10 years’ time, but not now.

“It is noteworthy that someone with very limited experience (a very junior GG-12 in DIA) is appointed to such a senior and critical position,” said Doug Wise, who was for a time Flynn’s top deputy at the DIA . (GG-12 is the equivalent of an Army captain in the DIA; Cohen-Watnick’s rank before he left was actually GS-13, equivalent to a major, according to a source familiar with his career). “This is especially noteworthy when you compare Cohen to some of the individuals who have served in that position, George Tenet, David Shedd, Mary Sturtevant, Stephen Slick, and other very experienced officers were already members of the Senior Intelligence Service when they were appointed. These and the other officers who served in that position were career intelligence officials with serious credentials, demonstrated maturity, and a wealth of experience."

One way or another, Michael Flynn seems to have elevated Cohen-Watnick to his high station in the Trump administration. What remains a mystery is who exactly has protected him since Flynn went down, and why.

Cohen-Watnick’s ability to hang on despite the direct attempt by his superior to remove him raised eyebrows across Washington, and especially in the intelligence world.

“It is very unusual that when H.R. McMaster tried to move Cohen to another position within the NSC, his decision was publicly overturned by the president,” Wise said. “This says much more about Cohen’s political connections than his experience in the intelligence business."

Here, again, multiple officials directly familiar with the events offer contrasting versions of what took place. Some insist that Kushner and Bannon were willing to expend capital on behalf of Cohen-Watnick. According to one person with direct knowledge of the meeting, the roots of their loyalty to Cohen-Watnick stem from a briefing he delivered during Trump’s first visit to the White House situation room in February, at which Kushner was present as well as Pence. Kushner and the president were apparently impressed with the young briefer and took an interest in him.

“Ezra is deeply thoughtful, hard working, and committed to serving the president,” Kushner said, offering a rare on-the-record comment, which is itself a testament to Cohen-Watnick’s importance.

But a favorable first impression doesn’t quite explain the president intervening to prevent his boss from removing him. Others stressed his commitment to Trump’s worldview, such as it is Trump’s foreign policy statements have been long on rhetoric, but short on specifics-- prompting leading figures within the White House to contend for influence, seeking to persuade the president to back their preferred approaches. Those drawn from the ranks of the Republican foreign-policy establishment tend to favor its traditional views: committed to longstanding alliances like NATO, skeptical of Russia, and supportive of nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others, who supported Trump’s insurgent campaign early on, tend to favor the ideas he advocated on the stump: concern that allies are freeloading, interest in strengthening ties with Russia, and a focus on the threat posed Islamic extremism in nations like Iran.

This split has created a decision-making process in which the responses to each unfolding event can point in a different policy direction than the last. After the Assad regime used chemical weapons against civilians in April, for example, Trump ordered strikes against one of their airbases, angering Syria's ally Russia. But the Trump administration recently announced a ceasefire agreement for southwest Syria negotiated with Russia.

In this context, a staffer who personally briefs the president on his options can be an invaluable ally to other senior officials. And in an administration that has struggled to fill senior national-security roles with appointees sympathetic to Trump’s ideas, a staffer whose views are closer to the president’s than to the think-tanks that line Massachusetts Avenue may be too valuable to lose.

“I would describe President Trump’s foreign-policy vision as absolutely one Ezra completely supports,” said the White House colleague who has known Cohen-Watnick for years. “Ezra has consistently provided value, insight, and support at the highest levels of the White House.”

This may be why several White House staffers used the same word to describe Cohen-Watnick: loyal. One White House official praised Cohen-Watnick as a "true professional and most importantly he is incredibly loyal to the president and this administration.”

“He’s loyal to the president and he’s made a super impression on everyone that deals with him, me included,” said the former intelligence officer who is now a senior NSC official.

The Nunes scandal cemented Cohen-Watnick's reputation as a loyalist and as someone who could withstand the heat of public controversy. But once more, different officials offer flatly contradictory versions of what transpired.

... Whether or not Cohen-Watnick was actually one of Nunes's sources, the public reports tied him to the controversy. They also left the impression that, to defend the president against claims he had leveled unsubstantiated charges of wiretapping against his predecessor, Cohen-Watnick had been prepared to attack the actions of NSC officials and of other elements of the intelligence community. The reports about the Nunes episode suggested to career staffers, perhaps unfairly, that the NSC’s senior director for intelligence was less interested in presenting their views to the president than in imposing the president’s views on them.

Since then, the conflicts within the NSC have settled down, at least publicly. But this is the Trump White House, a hotbed of resentments even when they're not spilling over into public view. Cohen-Watnick survived, but he's remained a topic of gossip and a target of leaks—a flashpoint in the ongoing fight over the administration’s foreign policy.

The Washington Post reported in April that days after McMaster’s effort to remove Cohen-Watnick, the CIA’s liaison to the White House was fired. The Guardian's story on the firing cited sources describing it as an “act of retaliation” against the CIA for encouraging McMaster to sack Cohen-Watnick, a report unlikely to endear him to his colleagues.

But then, McMaster himself became the target of unflattering leaks. In May, Bloomberg reported that Trump had “screamed” at McMaster in a phone call and had become “disillusioned” with him, and that Flynn loyalists on the NSC perceived McMaster as trying to “trick” the president into supporting nation-building efforts. Also in May, Foreign Policy reported that “the knives are out” for McMaster over internal conflicts on Afghanistan policy, with him on one side and Bannon on the other. Foreign Policy noted that McMaster has become the target of online critics, most notably Mike Cernovich, the pro-Trump activist and blogger. Cernovich has also targeted other McMaster allies in the NSC such as Dina Powell.

Cernovich has cited White House sources repeatedly in his reports, though he has told me that he doesn’t know who his sources are and relies on burner phones to keep in touch with them.

One of the most recent McMaster-related leaks was to the AP last week; sources said McMaster had told foreign officials he disapproves of Trump’s closeness with Russia. The story made West Wing senior staff “furious,” according to a senior White House official, who added “if true, a man of honor would resign.”

The leaks have created an atmosphere of suspicion on the NSC, where morale has never been particularly high since the start of the administration. But they’re not always unflattering; some leaks have suggested a prominent policy role for the young staffer. Cohen-Watnick has developed a reputation as one of the primary proponents of an aggressive, Flynn-style stance towards Iran within the NSC. A recent story in the New York Times said that Cohen-Watnick was pushing for regime change in Iran from within the administration. And another recent story in Foreign Policy tagged him and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top official on Middle East issues, as pushing for increased action against Iranian-backed forces in Syria.

“I don’t think it was accurate at all,” said the former intelligence official on the NSC of the Foreign Policy piece, calling it “fake news recycling other fake news.” This official argued that Cohen-Watnick, in his role as the liaison between the White House and intelligence agencies, has no purview over Iran policy: “I’ve never heard Ezra talk about; it’s not in his lane and he’s not involved in those regional policy discussions.”

Furthermore, this official said, those who think NSC officials are exerting broad influence over policy are misreading the current NSC by comparing it to the Obama-era one, where “they were micromanagers who had a long screwdriver and were fundamentally calling the shots even on tactical-level operations in places like Syria and Iraq.”

“I’ve never seen the media [more] united about a topic than around Ezra and that’s a cause of curiosity amongst anyone with some sense of skepticism,” said the White House official who is close to Cohen-Watnick.

Cohen-Watnick’s allies see the leaks about him as evidence of a concerted campaign backed by his detractors in the intelligence community. They suggest that this is motivated by his conflict with the CIA. And they have a different theory as to why he has retained his job, and why he’s drawn attacks: It’s because, they insist, he’s good at what he does.

“He’s a genuinely funny, sardonic, very intelligent, interesting human. He’s not a robot or the way he’s been portrayed,” said one of the senior White House officials. “That human element has been I think completely lost in all of the coverage of him.”

“He’s very engaging, very personable, he tries to connect with people,” said the former intelligence officer on the NSC. But he is “able to parse and probe in a way that makes some of his interlocutors very uncomfortable.” Plus, “the fact that he’s younger than many of these people creates a natural backlash.”

This official described a recent interagency meeting in which Cohen-Watnick was asking about the reasons for covert programs in a country that “on the surface seemed to make sense,” but Cohen “identified a waste of resources and ineffective application,” a duplication of efforts costing an extra $30 million.

Cohen-Watnick’s intense approach, this person said, “causes some people to respond negatively rather than saying a-ha, this is a good thing, now we can reprogram.” CIA representatives pushed back on Cohen-Watnick, and the atmosphere was “frustrated.”

Like most people in this kind of job, Cohen-Watnick is a workaholic, sometimes sleeping on his couch in case he has to respond to something or go somewhere in the middle of the night, the White House colleague who knows him well said. Asked what he does for fun, the colleague said Cohen-Watnick works out and reads military history and philosophy.

It’s an appealing account. The trouble is, like most everything else about Cohen-Watnick, it’s all but impossible to verify, or to reconcile with other versions. Perhaps it’s because he’s emerged so swiftly from the murky world of intelligence. Or maybe it’s because he sits on the fault line of a fractured administration. But now that he’s in the spotlight, he may find further scrutiny hard to avoid.

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Democrats Need Unity And A Strong Positive Platform To Beat Mike Coffman In CO-06

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A few weeks ago we looked at why the DCCC recruit to oppose Colorado Republican Mike Coffman is the wrong guy for the nomination. Since then, one of the two progressive Berniecrats in the campaign, Gabriel McArthur, decided to withdraw from the race and run for Colorado Secretary of State instead, leaving Levi Tillemann as the progressive choice against the corporate Democrat the DCCC dug up to run. Sunday evening McArthur, in a Facebook note, decided to try to strengthen and unite the Democrat Party in CO-06 around Tillemann and his platform of positive values and programs.
Gabriel McArthur: I Am Endorsing Levi Tillemann for Colorado District Six's Primary Fight

At a joint event held earlier this month by Our Revolution Metro-Denver, Colorado Political Revolution, and The Colorado Working Families Party I announced that I will be bowing out of the race for Colorado district six and that I intend to run for Colorado secretary of state instead.

While my focus will be zeroing in on election integrity and innovation in the run for secretary, I remain fiercely passionate about single payer healthcare, tuition free college, automation preparedness, economic attention to traditionally ignored groups, and a number of other progressive issues. As such, I have examined who of the remaining candidates is will speak to these issues with conviction. Additionally, I've considered which Democratic candidate understands the best strategy to best Rep. Mike Coffman--a strategy that does not involve moving to the political center. A boldly progressive vision is the only viable path to victory.

Jason Crow, the candidate ordained by traditional media as the front runner in the primary, has come under fire from Republican opposition as a hand-picked candidate by The DCCC and the Democratic establishment. This is a sentiment that, accurate or not, presents a striking liability for Crow, especially in the wake of Jon Ossof's loss in Georgia's sixth district. It's also a sentiment that I believe to be true.

The American people are completely fed up with politics as usual, and while this certainly should be obvious, the political elite seem frustratingly oblivious to this fact. Their efforts on the Democratic side to edge out progressives in favor of cookie cutter candidates like Crow are not only contradictory to the values they claim to espouse, but have only resulted in a Republican supermajority that threatens our way of life.

I had the opportunity to speak with Levi Tillemann about his plans for district six, and I find his candidacy to be the most promising by far. Levi is the only other politician I'm aware of that understands the urgency in addressing the effects of automation on the workforce. He would be also be aggressive in working to transform our energy system, a move that not only would help conserve our natural resources but would create promising new industries and jobs.

Levi understands the necessity to work towards single payer healthcare as our current system faces challenges both from within its own framework, and Republican efforts to further privatize a preciously vital service.

District six is one of the most diverse in Colorado with a proud immigrant population that I identify with deeply. I'm a mixed-race American myself, whose maternal grandmother came from the Philippines and whose paternal family came from the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation not far from Standing Rock. As a minority, I'm often skeptical of Democratic leaders who give lip service to our needs but very little action. I stressed this frustration to Levi, and I believe he is sincere in his understanding that minority votes are not a given for Democrats, and must be earned.

I will be supporting Levi in his fight against establishment favoritism, and endorse his candidacy in the hopes that he can turn the tide in a district Coffman should have lost several cycles ago.
Probably not the message the Papa John's Pizza Party wants circulating this week. But one Democratic and independent voters in the Denver suburbs should consider carefully.

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Trump's Collapsing Presidency

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Señor Trumpanzee's very shady modeling agency, Trump Model Management, is under investigation again. One guy Trumpanzee can't fire is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman-- but I bet he wishes he could. One of his investigations, coordinated under both the Financial Crimes Bureau and the Organized Crime Task Force, involves the beleaguered modeling agency as part of a possible future Enterprise Corruption indictment.

There is some speculation that Preet Bharara's office was investigating the Trump Organization under federal RICO statutes and that after Trump fired him without cause, Schneiderman took over the investigation with a state-level version of RICO: Enterprise Corruption.

Trump himself-- and his rapidly expanding legal defense team-- are more focused on the Putin-Gate scandal than the "petty" crime that has marked Trump's entire sleazy career. This tweet is just pathetic: his whiny attempt tp guilt congressional Republicans into coming to his aid even more overtly than many of them already have.



"Carried over the line on my back?" The man is delusional. Most Republican incumbents did better-- many much better-- than Trump, who, after all, did lose to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes-- 65,853,516 to 62,984,825. In most constituencies Trump wasn't carrying anyone on his back. He was an anchor. He certainly helped defeat Republican Senate incumbents Mark Kirk (IL) and Kelly Ayotte (NH), each of whom outpolled him, Kirk 2,184,692 to 2,146,015 and Ayotte 353,632 to 345,790. In fact, in New Hampshire, he also dragged incumbent Tea Party congressman Frank Guinta to a career-ending debacle. Nor was Guinta the only Republican who lost his seat because of Trump. The voters in Mark Kirk's old House district in Illinois also threw out Bob Dold while they were defeating Trump and Kirk. Florida voters ousted GOP incumbents John Mica and David Jolly and in Nevada, where Trump lost to Hillary, he dragged down the Republicans' Senate candidate, Joe Heck, and two House candidates, incumbent Cresent Hardy and challenger Danny Tarkanian.

Not even an utterly fact-free imbecile like Trump is likely to claim he carried Utah Senator Mike Lee over the finish like on his back. Lee took 760,241 votes to Trump's very sad 515,231. Trump has been bitching a lot about Kansas Senator Jerry Moran not supporting his proposals or defending him from attack. But if anyone carried anyone on their back, it was Moran, who got 732,376 votes, carrying Trump, who only won 671,018 votes, to a win in Kansas. Trump may grouse that Chuck Grassely's efforts to protect him aren't enough but Grassley is doing way too much already and certainly won way more votes that Trump did in Iowa-- 926,007 to Trump's relatively weak 800,983. Other Republican Senate incumbents who outpolled Trump last year include McCain (AZ), Rubio (FL), Rob Portman (OH), Johnny Isakson (GA), Mike Crapo (ID), Richard Burr (NC) and Ron Johnson (WI).

And in the House, the Republicans who came closest to losing their seats were all dragged down by Trump. A good example was in CA-49, the San Diego/Orange County district where Hillary beat Trump 50.7% to 43.2% dragging Darrell Issa to his worst result ever and nearly costing him his seat. In the end Issa eked out a miserable 155,888 (50.3%) to 154,267 (49.7%) win over newcomer Doug Applegate, even though Issa outspent Applegate $6,275,754 to $2,041,091. Or take TX-07, the Houston district represented by John Culberson. Hillary won 48.5% to 47.1% and Culberson, despite running against a Democrat with virtually no support suffered his worst election result ever and, like Issa, is likely it be defeated in 2018.



Meanwhile, Trump is still tweeted veiled threats to Republicans in Congress growing increasingly sick of him and his childish, vindictive behavior. Is this one a threat? The real repercussions will be to the 20 to 30 million Americans who lose their healthcare if TrumpCare in ever enacted. And if that isn't enough of a repercussion for the self-absorbed, Adderall-fueled Trump, how about the fact that voters have consistently said-- by huge margins-- that they will be much less likely to vote for their own members of Congress if they back TrumpCare?



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Beyond The Slogan The Democrats Stole From Papa John's Pizza...

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Monday morning's NY Times had an OpEd, A Better Deal For American Workers, by Senate minority leader Little Chucky Schmucky, the non-presidential candidate politician who's taken the most in bribes from Wall Street, a cool $26,601,840 as of this morning. "Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy," he began. "They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people." Bold changes, unrigging the system, taking from elites and special interests to make things more equitable for ordinary working families... if that doesn't equate with Chuck Schumer in your mind, you're not alone. A less credible messenger for economic populism could never be found anywhere, ever. How comfortable are you with a crooked Wall Street whore like Schumer mouthing a Bernie message? "The wealthiest special interests can spend an unlimited, undisclosed amount of money to influence elections and protect their special deals in Washington. As a result, our system favors short-term gains for shareholders instead of long-term benefits for workers." Schumer is exactly who they're spending money on to influence the country's politics he's bemoaning. And, again, in unsell-aware self-description, he declares that "for far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans."

Schumer seems to have absorbed complaints progressives have been making about him and his kind for over a decade, writing "Democrats have too often hesitated from taking on those misguided policies directly and unflinchingly-- so much so that many Americans don’t know what we stand for. Not after today. Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people-- and that we stand for three simple things."

I'd rather have this message than a reactionary message or no message at all, but it's going to take a lot more than an OpEd to persuade me that corrupt corporatists like Schumer mean a word of it:
First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.

Over the next several months, Democrats will lay out a series of policies that, if enacted, will make these three things a reality. We’ve already proposed creating jobs with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan; increasing workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15; and lowering household costs by providing paid family and sick leave.

...Right now, there is nothing to stop vulture capitalists from egregiously raising the price of lifesaving drugs without justification. We’re going to fight for rules to stop prescription drug price gouging and demand that drug companies justify price increases to the public. And we’re going to push for empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for older Americans.

Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care. We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.

Right now millions of unemployed or underemployed people, particularly those without a college degree, could be brought back into the labor force or retrained to secure full-time, higher-paying work. We propose giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs. This will have particular resonance in smaller cities and rural areas, which have experienced an exodus of young people who aren’t trained for the jobs in those areas.
If there's one thing we should have learned by now, it's that if policies are important as follow-through, rhetoric, narrative, and emotional signifiers are at least as important to voters. For one thing, the Democratic Party should focus, in some meaningful way, on changing the way it does business. There was a lesson the Democrats should have learned from the Wasserman Schultz scandal. They still haven't. Thankfully, Schumer's messaging is coming from Bernie and from Elizabeth Warren, not from the Clinton wrong of the party but unless someone has a PhD will they even understand what he's talking about? As Claiborne Deming, who helped start SumOfUs.org and is the current VP of Impact.College, explained yesterday, "In order to define an 'us' we have to define a 'them,' and that 'them' must be larger than Donald Trump. When talking about monopolies, Schumer first speaks about antitrust laws, and then says, vaguely, that they'll break up corporations 'if they're hurting consumers.' That puts the focus on policy and an economic framing. It's wonky. It has no 'them' aside from some ethereal policy failure, removed from the lives and lived experience of actual Americans. It's cautious language, designed not to offend. I would take it a step further and blame the collusion of big corporations and big government, and then name names. Point out that a Verizon lobbyist leads the FCC. If we force the GOP to side with cable companies, we've won. Instead of speaking of the opioid crisis as a natural disaster, name the companies that pocketed billions of dollars from hooking millions of Americans on drugs. Name Wall Street banks and the problems of runaway financialization. Don't be afraid to make enemies."

Deming goes on to point out that Americans' confidence in institutions is at historic lows. "Look at that list and see what Republicans are against-- the press, with an approval rate in the mid-20s, government, with approval rating in the mid-thirties (presidency and Supreme Court) or low teens (Congress). What is the Democratic Party against? None of those, really. What is the GOP for? The military and police, the two groups with the highest confidence. And organized religion, in the low forties. What are Dems for? Government and schools, in the mid-thirties. And unions, in the mid-twenties. IMHO, Dems need to be very aggressive about being for small business (70% confidence) and against big business (20% confidence). We need to explain why Congress (12% confidence and likely lower by the end of the year) is broken (big money, gerrymandering, corporate lobbying). We should be against big banks (32%)."

He believes that the Democrats' effort yesterday is "a decent start" but that they're "still committing the same errors we've seen from wonky politicians that have had difficulty connecting with Americans emotionally (Hillary, Kerry, Gore). Obama had charisma and 'hope' at the right moment. Bill Clinton had charisma, 'I feel your pain'... We'll need candidates who can connect with Americans where we are emotionally and really side with our worldviews, not merely try to lecture at us that we should rationally choose their policies. It's when people believe that the candidate is really on of them that they will do their utmost to get that person into office. And you do not get there by trying to be inoffensive and appeal to everyone at once."

That sound like the perfect definition of @IronStache-- Randy Bryce, the progressive iron worker running in Wisconsin against Paul Ryan, someone who has authenticity and a brand the DCCC has never been able to help one candidate create init's entire miserable history of abject failure and loss. His message is more credible than Schumer's or Pelosi's. The House Dems chose Rhode Island moderate David Cicilline, NYC corporate liberal Hakeem Jeffries and far far right Blue Dog corruption monger Cheri Bustos, a Rahm Emanuel protégée, co-chairs of the House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee, to deliver their messaging message (in an OpEd for CNN. "Washington Republicans," they wrote, "are unable to uphold the basic bargain they made with the American people when they were elected: to fight to create new good-paying jobs and support sustained economic growth. The simple truth is the economy isn't working the way it should; incomes and wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. Wage stagnation, underemployment, the exploding cost of a college education and the erosion of pensions are leaving many without hope. From rural towns to inner cities, millions can no longer achieve the American dream. Meanwhile, Washington special interests and powerful corporations have acquired more and more wealth." What reader wouldn't then ask himself or herself if the Democrats did more or would do more?
Through A Better Deal, we will create opportunities for those who need them most, not just those at the very top. We'll make government responsive to all hardworking Americans, not just a select few. And we'll make certain that if you work hard that you can support your family, that you can retire with the security and dignity that you've earned, and that your children can get the skills and knowledge they need to secure good-paying jobs in their hometowns.

For Democrats, this is our collective vision. This is not a slogan. It's who we are and what we intend to accomplish for the American people.

First, our plan starts by creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in our crumbling infrastructure-- and putting people back to work building our roads and bridges. To help our small businesses thrive, we will prioritize entrepreneurs over giving tax breaks to special interests. We will fight for a living wage-- so parents don't have to work three or four jobs just to pay rent. And we will keep our promise to millions of workers who earned a pension, Social Security and Medicare so they can retire with dignity.

Second, we will lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs and the cost of an education that leads to a good job with a college degree or a technical skill. And we will crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power that has led to higher prices for consumers, workers and small businesses-- and make sure Wall Street never endangers Main Street again.

Third, we will offer new tax incentives to employers to invest in their workforce through training and education. To make sure our country stays on the cutting edge, we will bring high-speed Internet to every community in America and offer an apprenticeship to millions of new workers. We will encourage innovation, invest in advanced research and ensure start-ups and small businesses can compete and prosper. By making it possible for every American to get the skills, tools and knowledge to find a job or to move up in their career, we'll not only improve individual lives, we'll also stay competitive in the global economy.
Juan Williams, writing for The Hill Monday, pointed out a Washington Post/ABC News poll that found 51% of registered voters say Trumpanzee won't be a factor for them in their 2018 decisions and that only 24% say they plan to vote in opposition to Trump-- countered by the 20% who say they will go to the polls solely to support congressional Republicans backing Trump.
That split-- a 4-point deficit for Trump-- is smaller than the 10-point disadvantage for President Obama going into the 2014 midterms or the 14-point disadvantage for President Bush going into the 2006 midterms.

“A majority of Americans see the Democratic Party as ‘just standing against Trump’ rather than presenting a coherent alternative-- a stance that may not be enough to get voters to the polls next year,” according to an ABC News report on the poll.

...The new plan presents Democrats as the party creating jobs; offering job training; keeping healthcare costs low while making college affordable; and pushing higher wages including a hike in the minimum wage. The plan is called: “A Better Deal-- Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages.”

This is the “strong, bold, sharp-edged and common sense economic agenda” Schumer promised in a television interview last month.

Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.), who is the most popular national politician with a 57 percent approval rating, has been calling for this kind of clear, Trump-free branding to convince voters that Democrats are “on the side of the working class of this country.”

But what about the thrill that comes from fighting Trump? What about the blood sport of responding to his bullying tweets and his name-calling; and giving attention to the ongoing probe into his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia in the 2016 race?

That fight is a “fool’s errand,” according to Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Writing in the New York Times, Phillips argued Democrats are never going to win over Trump voters. He sees only a waste of time in trying to win “support from conservative, white working-class voters susceptible to racially charged appeals.”

Phillips favors a focus on getting Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton last year to come out for the midterms-- with specific attention to black voters whose turnout rates dropped in 2016. He also wants to win back Democrats who opted to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee.

The opposing view calls for Democrats to reach out to Trump voters.

Democrats have to “move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party,” according to Mark Penn, who served as chief strategist in Clinton’s 2008 run for the presidential nomination.

This debate about the right message and the right audience for congressional Democrats going into 2018 extends to uncertainty about the right candidates to run for president in 2020.

Who would be on the perfect ticket for Democrats to keep Trump from a second term in the White House?

  Following the National Governors Association meeting this month, two Democratic governors-- Montana’s Steve Bullock and Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo-- are getting a lot of attention in Washington. [Note: Raimondo defines Democratic political corruption, so of course hacks like Cole reflexively push her.]

They are not political firebrands like Sanders or Warren. They don’t go on liberal political talk shows. [Note #2: No, they-- or at least Raimondo-- hang out with lobbyists and Wall Street vampires.]

But they have established themselves as solution-oriented politicians able to win with Democrats while attracting support from independents and Republicans.
Solution-oriented? In reaching out to Wall Street and more elites who are loathed by voters? The Democrats don't need corrupt conservatives; that's what the GOP is for. And they don't need announcement of slogans; they need Democrats showing how to work for principles and values, men and women like Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, as 3ell as Ro Khanna, Ted Lieu, Barbara Lee, Jeff Merkley, Pramila Jayapal, Marek Pocan, Jamie Raskin, Judy Chu, Alan Grayson, Tammy Baldwin... Best advise for Democrats I heard all day: "don't just talk about it, be about it."

Ro Khanna is a member of the Budget Committee. This is what he told his constituents in the South Bay last week: "Once again, House Republicans think the best policy solution is giving a massive tax cut to the wealthy while leaving working families left to fend for themselves. First it was with health care, now it’s with the entire federal budget. The draft GOP budget resolution is an extreme case of putting special interests first. Instead of strengthening programs that help people get back on their feet, ensure regulation of the financial industry, and improve benefits for workers, the GOP is placing more than $200 billion of this funding on the chopping block. All to hopefully introduce an unfair tax reform plan. A budget should reflect the values of our nation, and I will work with my colleagues on the Budget Committee to make sure the version that goes to the House floor does just that."

We asked the two progressive stalwarts campaigning for congressional seats in Illinois, Geoffrey Petzel, who is running for the Chicagoland seat Peter Roskam is holding on it, and David Gill, who is running for the downstate seat held by sad sack Paul Ryan rubber-stamp Rodney Davis. Geoff:
Goal Thermometer "Every day I talk with voters. The unified message that I hear is that people are angry-- angry at the Trump mess, angry at Republicans for trying to take away healthcare, and angry at Democrats for doing nothing.The Democratic Party has a problem. They aren't listening to the people. They don't have a unified solution on healthcare, or minimum wage, or the big banks... or anything. For Democrats to be successful they need to be unified around progressive ideas and push to implement them. In our district, voters want elected officials to make their lives better (or at least, not make them worse). People want a healthcare solution, they want adequate environmental protections and they want a level playing field. That is why I advocate for a single payer healthcare system. I talk all the time about implementing a tax system that imposes fees on power plants that emit greenhouse gases and provides tax breaks for wind and solar investments. I advocate for breaking up large banks and large corporations that monopolize markets and prevent small businesses from having a fighting chance at success and I strongly support increasing the minimum wage. In my District, people want a Congressman who will fight for them and their families and ignore the special interests that have over run our political system."
Dr. David Gill's message on this is kind of personal, related to the career that he's been engaged in all of his adult life-- health care: "Voters are looking for politicians who actually care more about the well-being of ordinary citizens than that of insurance companies, arms manufacturers, Wall Street banks and oil and pharmaceutical companies. As a physician, I have been providing CARE to people from all walks of life for nearly 30 years. I openly criticize the corporate ownership of our politics and our government. By putting people first, both in my professional career and in my political aspirations, I have been able to perform far better than other Democratic candidates in my congressional district. I intend to keep pushing my message of single-payer healthcare, tuition-free public universities, and a $15 per hour minimum wage, and I have little doubt that this message, delivered by a demonstrated caregiver, will succeed next November."

Blue America is enthusiastic about two candidates running in the CA-45 Orange County district Mimi Walters technically represents, even though she lives in a fancy mansion on the beach in a neighboring district. One is former Sherrod Brown staffer Kia Hamadanchy. He was very frank in his assessment of the Democratic Party messaging and re-branding assault yesterday.
Personally I'm not really looking to the national party when it comes to messaging  and how we move forward as a party. One- because it's an area where we completely failed as a party and I don't think there has been a real examination as to why. Two- because we need a new vision for the Democrat party and that vision is going to come from the grassroots and from candidates all over the country who represent a new generation of leadership and the kind of different thinking that we need.

A lot of what is in the Better Deal plan is clearly designed to attempt to appeal to Trump voters in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. However I'm sure that when it comes to Orange County the advice I'll get will be the complete opposite and that I'll be told I need to run as a centrist Democrat to have any chance of winning. Frankly I think that's plainly wrong and if we don't strongly for progressive values in this election, we'll lose. People have to be inspired and you have to give them something to believe in and a reason to get out and vote. And that's not by running a cookie cutter campaign that doesn't resonate in any way shape or form. The biggest problem we face as Democrats right now is that we don't fight for working people anymore. And the only way to fix that is by being very clear about where we stand not just in where we are in the issues but with how we go about communicating that to voters.

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