Saturday, October 19, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 42

There are so many political fronts that could be covered this weekend and no way I will be able to touch on everything. From a debate, to a major endorsement, to fundraising totals being released, to the ongoing impeachment saga, to a foreign policy kerfuffle, the week was full of action.

Twelve Democrats debated in Ohio this week, while at least half a dozen in the field were not included, and pretty much are out of the picture. Among the dozen that did enter the spotlight, only a few really mattered. With so many candidates though, Joe Biden sort of remained in the background, and that might be ok with him. There was not discussion of him making any sort of major gaffe and the other candidate largely avoided going after him. It seems like Donald Trump's obsession with Biden's son and Ukraine has generated him some immunity, at least for now, from intra-party attacks. This week, Hunter Biden did say that while he did absolutely nothing wrong, he will never do it again, and if his father is President, he will stay off of foreign boards.

It was also a fairly uneventful debate for Bernie Sanders, just a bit over a week after having a heart attack, and that also suited his needs pretty well. (It should also be mentioned that Sanders' 46 year old daughter in law died recently of cancer, although it does not seem like the Sanders campaign even recognized that fact publicly.) It is good for news for the Vermont Senator that he was able to look like his old self (no pun intended) for the three hour affair.

Instead, it seemed like the other Democrat candidates were focused on going after Elizabeth Warren, and she may have taken her first real political hits in a while. I will note though that only Julian Castro seemed to avoid criticizing her. Does he think he has a deal to be her running-mate? At varying degrees of effect other candidates though from Kamala Harris (fairly ineffective) to the more primed Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar took on Warren for her policy proposals and how forthcoming she has been over the cost tag. I think Buttigieg and Klobuchar in particular had strong nights, but will it really matter at this point? This could still prove to be a race between Warren and Biden. However, in terms of cash on hand, Biden is well behind Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg.

The overall content of the debate continued to be very left-wing. Besides for the attacks on Donald Trump and some reasoned support for the Kurds, I found virtually nothing to agree with. This continues to be a risk for Democrats as they go up against a polarizing President, whom many will still vote for simply because they fear what will happen if the other side wins.

The Sanders campaign did receive a jolt of enthusiasm when he was endorsed by freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who first entered the political realm as part of the "Bernie Revolution" four years ago. Fellow "Squad" members Ihan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are also apparently on board. The AOC endorsement was unveiled today at a very large Sanders rally in New York City. Conventional wisdom is that it will still be tough for Sanders to somehow overcome Elizabeth Warren as the top "progressive" in the race, but Sanders money and grassroots support cannot be overlooked. It is amazing how he has seemed to survive the media storm that would have occurred in cycles past if a 78 year old candidate suffered a heart attack.

Donald Trump had his typically crazy week and there are rumblings, though relatively quiet of Republican fatigue on Capitol Hill beginning to seep in. Many pages could be written about the situation in Syria regarding the Kurds and Turkey and all the ramifications of it. The entire situation is very troubling. Donald Trump genuinely seems to want to "end wars" perhaps because he thinks he might one day win a Nobel Peace Prize, but politicians in both parties (which does not necessarily speak to the surface attitudes of the American people) have reacted very badly to the decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. When it looked like a slaughter was underway, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were sent to the region and proclaimed a cease-fire had been agreed to. This was after the Administration leaked a goofy letter in which Trump told Turkish President Erdogan that he should not be a "tough guy" or a "fool." That letter apparently made it into the trash.

So, now Trump of course is praising himself for this "great deal" and how everyone will be happy. It seems though like we gave Turkey everything they wanted and that Trump got rolled. For example,we are apparently abandoning our own equipment.  Utah Senator Mitt Romney is calling for an investigation of the whole thing. We know this week that when Trump received political pushback for his policy he made the outrageous statement that the Kurds (longtime U.S. allies) were more dangerous than ISIS and then that illegal immigrants from Mexico are more dangerous than ISIS. Suddenly, Trump is trying to downplay ISIS in a shameful way. People on my side were outraged when Barack Obama used to do that. Trump tried to downplay them this week from Obama's "JV Squad" to a 5th grade girls team. The consequences of all this are serious. A strengthened ISIS will harm Americans, potentially hear at home, and that blood will be on Trump's hands.

All of this was happening as Trump continued to fight with Congressional Democrats. This might al be somewhat related though, as the day the U.S. House voted to disapprove of Trump's Syria policy, in which Republicans by more than 2-1 also went on the record in opposition, Trump had a "meltdown" in a meeting with Congressional leaders. Of course, he also accused Nancy Pelosi of having a "meltdown" and of being a "third rate" or "third grade" politician. This is all fine for Pelosi in keeping her street cred within the party and she publicized the photo of her pointing her finger at Trump. The media liked that photo better of the one where then Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pointed a finger at then President Obama. As we have seen before, both Pelosi and Trump all but accused each other of being mentally unwell.

Pelosi also said this week and she may have a point then when it comes to all Trump foreign policy decisions, "all roads lead to Putin." This week, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suddenly emerged publicly to hold a rare White House press briefing. He had to defend the decision of Trump to hold next year's G7 Summit at a Trump golf resort in Miami, which many claim is purely unethical or illegal considering his role as President. Then, there was also the Ukraine matter. Mulvaney seemed to say very flatly that yes, there was a quid pro quo to give aid to Ukraine in association with their looking into who tried to hurt Trump politically in 2016. Mulvaney says this happened all the time. Then, with the media going crazy and many Republicans said to be extremely taken aback, another statement was released in which Mulvaney tried to say "nevermind."  Impeachment is going to be a hell of a ride.

Reportedly in this meeting, Trump also said that his first Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, was "the greatest overrated general" and that he, Trump, was personally responsible for killing ISIS in one month. Mattis got a bit of a chance to fire back at the Al Smith Dinner on Thursday when he said that he was honored to be the "Meryl Streep of Generals" and that he had gotten his spurs on the battlefield while Trump got his in a letter from his doctor. Please speak our more General Mattis!

With all this happening, perhaps the weirdest story occurred yesterday. In some sort of interview, Hillary Clinton said that the Russians were working to mount a third party effort to help Trump win reelection. Without naming names, she was clearly talking about current Democrat candidate Tulsi Gabbard, the young Congresswoman from Hawai'i being groomed by the Russians to do just that. (Clinton also said once again that 2016 Green Party nominee Jill Stein was a "Russian asset.")

Firstly, many people believe there is something very weird about Gabbard including her ties to Bashar Assad of Syria, and her reluctance to call him out as a murderer. In theory, Gabbard is serving the purposes of the Russians by supporting a foreign policy that weakens America. Calling her basically a traitor to the country though might be  a bit much, especially since she is an officer in the United States Army who has fought overseas. If Clinton genuinely believes Gabbard is a tool of a hostile government, she must also want her to be court martialed and brought up on charges.

So while Hillary was perhaps not entirely off base to be suspicious of Gabbard, it really was politically dumb of her to bring all this up publicly. Gabbard is no risk of winning the Democrat nomination. She has said she will not run as an Independent candidate and many states have laws that would prevent her from doing so anyway after previously running this cycle as a Democrat. So, this was a case of punching down. One can think of Teddy Roosevelt turning on William Howard Taft though or Mitt Romney giving a blistering speech about Donald Trump and lump this in as examples of immediate past nominees attacking an active candidate for President in their own party. What Clinton said might have been harshest of all though.

Not surprising Gabbard, whom in 2016 had backed Bernie Sanders, fired back on Twitter with both barrels,  saying things such as Hillary Clinton was the "epitome of corruption" and the "Queen of Warmongers." She also maybe went a bit crazy in theorizing that Mrs. Clinton was the source of all the whispers about her from the start of the campaign and then oddly challenged the former Secretary of State to enter the Presidential race directly against her.

So, Gabbard is a lot more famous than she was before Hillary Clinton called her out (even unnamed) and will raise a lot of money for her fledgling campaign because of it. Even many Trump supporters like her weirdness and similarity to Trump on some foreign policy matters. If there was not much talk about Gabbard running as a third party candidate before, that might increase now, at least to the extent she could legally do so. Some think Clinton did this deliberately in order to box Gabbard in. I think it was a political miscalculation that further alienates Democrats from their most recent nominee. After Gabbard fired back, nobody in the field really seemed to jump to Clinton's defense.

This feud may continue to play out, perhaps in next year's Congressional primary in Hawai'i, in which Gabbard is expected to run again. First though, Secretary Clinton pulled out of an event that also had Gabbard on the schedule.

Finally, this morning, Tulsi Gabbard, a woman of Samoan background and an adherent of the Hindu religion was endorsed for President by infamous white nationalist David Duke, whom apparently is over Trump now. He said that Gabbard as President would not send white children to die for Israel. At least she had the sense to immediately reject the endorsement.


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