Saturday, January 11, 2020

Race for the White House # 54

Nobody seemed to have a worse week than Iran. Not even loyalists of an old-fashioned British Royal Family.

A week ago, it looked like the U.S. might be on the precipice of war with Iran. Now, that looks far less likely, even though harsh words and harsh sanctions are likely to continue. While America must always be on guard for provocative action by Iranian actors, it looks like their government acted on their official "revenge" in a fairly laughable (though some American luck and skill possibly involved as well) manner. Far more tragic was the seemingly accidental missile that a skittish Iran fired that took down a Ukranian airliner in which there were no survivors and many citizens of nations such as Canada, and Iran lost their lives.

Everyone came across a bit skittish this week. Democrats seemingly still could not figure out how to best respond to the actions taken by Donald Trump nor the response from Iran in which missiles were from from within Iraq on American military bases. When this news broke, it sounded like a big deal and immediately gave the expectation that an American military response would be required. People on Twitter were insistent that 30 Americans had died. Or was it 80? However, there was not one American casualty or injury. Not one of our allies either. Thank goodness. Did Iran intentionally misfire? Was this all just for domestic consumption that they pretended to respond but tipped us off in a sense so that precautions could be taken?  Mixed messages have been forthcoming since.

The main message sent by Iran though was one of fear. They are scared of what the U.S. and potentially our psychopathic President Donald Trump might do in return to them. After thinking it over, Trump gave a speech the next day which was fairly restrained by his standards and while he stood by the killing of the Iranian general and opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal under Barack Obama, he did offer them a peaceful olive branch and pointed out that Iran seemed to be stepping down. I have to call it as a I see it. As much as I dislike and distrust Donald Trump, this did look like it had the potential to be a big political victory for him. I am glad that a new large avenue of war in the Middle East looks more unlikely now but it is hard to forget that Trump is the same President who "fell in love" with Kim Jong Un and who wanted to bring the Taliban to Camp David on 9/11 for a photo-op. Nonetheless, I am very grateful that instead of putting down our Intelligence Communities and military leadership, he seemed to listen to them over the past week and a half.

Politically, the early indications are that this has not worked out the way Trump has intended and that is said to upset him. Polls show basic approval for taking out Soleimani but basically divided along approval for Trump himself (though people like myself and Senator Rand Paul switch places.) The Administration is clearly having a hard time communicating that an "imminent threat" was at play and Trump himself started talking yesterday about a plot to blow up an Embassy. Americans, even many who prefer Trump to a Democrat, have long decided that he has very little credibility and will openly lie on matters big and small and thus do not believe the narrative. Utah Senator Mike Lee, a conservative who supports Trump on most policy matters was publicly quite angry in saying the briefing given to Congress about action in Iran was void of information and useless. Even one of Trump's staunched online and cable tv advocates, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz voted for a symbolic resolution in Congress to restrict what Trump can do in Iran and this was said to really anger the man in the White House. Next week, we now know will see the beginning of his Impeachment Trial in the Senate.

This has also been a tricky week for Democrats. National and key state polls are being looked at and everyone is waiting to see what might be said in Tuesday's CNN debate, which will be the final meeting of the candidates before the Iowa Caucuses, which according to the latest poll, has Bernie Sanders in front, with three opponents all trailing within the Margin of Error.

Six candidates are likely to debate, while 13 remain officially in the race for Democrats. The list of dropouts has now increased to 16 with the exit of spiritual guru Marianne Williamson. She laid off all her staff last week, and when she said she would try to keep running with a skeleton crew, she might have meant it literally. Alas though, she is the third female Democrat out of the race, while three remain.

Clearly, there are divisions among Democrats days. Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made some news when she said that in any other country she would not even be in the same party as Joe Biden and then suggested that Democrats might have "too big of a tent." Gee, what a winning message. Others on the fringe of the party have run the risk of coming across as either too sympathetic to Iran or unwilling to consider the possibility that American military action could possibly create a result less dire than they feared. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg I felt went too far when he suggested the U.S. might somehow be to blame for Iran accidentally shooting down (and then lying about it for days before begrudgingly admitting responsibility) the Ukranian airplane. Mayor Pete suggested that confusion resulted because of a military "tit for tat." Actually no, the U.S. took action to take out a top terrorist, Iran responded ineffectively, and the U.S. has let that go without a response.

Debates will continue. Impeachment will proceed. Before we know it, voters (in both parties) will be going to the polls to nominate candidates (with the Democrat contest far less rigged than the Republican one.) There will be much to talk about. I hope that Iran does not have to talked about that much for the remainder of the year. If it is, hopefully, the topic will be Iran taking steps to negotiate a legitimate end to their nuclear program, as well as denouncing terrorism. Or maybe it will be about a frustrated Iranian people rising to change their evil regime and move towards freedom. These should be bipatisan goals that unify Americans even as we are so understandably divided domestically.


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