The New Yorker’s big new profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is getting buzz for two reasons: 1) the newly discovered video above, in which a 2016 Pompeo warns that President Trump would be “an authoritarian President who ignored our Constitution,” and 2) an anonymous quote that describes the modern-day Pompeo as “like a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.”
But focusing on those two quotes does the piece and its author, Susan Glasser, a disservice. Around those two narrative-building elements is a nuanced, thoughtful piece about the game Pompeo is playing with Trump. And as someone who has regularly spotlighted Pompeo’s sycophancy and willingness to pretend for Trump that up is down, I think it raises important questions.
Throughout the piece, Pompeo is described not as a hapless yes-man but, instead, as one of the smartest members of the president’s inner circle. He’s painted as a man so adept at playing “the Game” that he has navigated his own past comments about Trump and a worldview that departs from Trump’s in significant ways to become the president’s longest-lasting and perhaps most influential national security aide.How to provoke the ire of Mike PompeoWhen asked about something President Trump said, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is prone to belittle the questioner rather than answer the original question. (Video: JM Rieger/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Even critics praise his remarkable political skills.
“Pompeo’s singular ability is in navigating power,” says Raj Goyle, the Democrat he beat for his Kansas U.S. House seat in 2010 — and against whom Pompeo ran a nasty race. “On that I give him massive respect: the way he mapped Wichita power, the way he mapped D.C. power, the way he mapped Trump.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) calls Pompeo “very bright, very politically shrewd,” “with a certain pugnacious quality to his persona.” Foreign policy analyst Ian Bremmer says Pompeo has “in a sense become the real adult in the room. It is less the case than he would like, but vastly more the case than anyone else.”
The dilemma raised by Pompeo is a familiar one in Trumpworld, but it’s perhaps most pronounced — and consequential — in his case: What is the balance between serving Trump, managing him and enabling him?
It’s a balance we dealt with after that New York Times op-ed by a still-unnamed senior administration official, whom some critics said should have resigned rather than trying to, in the author’s estimation, salvage a bad situation from the inside. It’s one that’s even more important today, as internal critics are pushed out and the pool of replacements inevitably veers toward yes-men and -women (because, after all, who else would want to put up with all that?).
And perhaps the defining moment in that evolution, as Glasser notes, was Trump’s hastily announced Syria withdrawal. That was the moment at which Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — perhaps the most respected man in the administration — finally cut bait. It was also a highly symbolic moment for Pompeo, who in contrast with Mattis defended a decision he disagreed with.
Glasser puts it well in the piece’s penultimate paragraph:
This behavior is the reason that Pompeo has succeeded in becoming the lone survivor of Trump’s original national-security team. At the start of his Administration, the President had bragged about “my generals.” But, now that he has pushed out the actual generals who served as his chief of staff, his national-security adviser, and his Defense Secretary, it seems clear that Trump was uncomfortable with such leaders, and rejected their habits of command and independent thinking.
Then Glasser adds, “He wanted a Mike Pompeo, not a Jim Mattis, a captain trained to follow orders, not a general used to giving them.”
Beautifully put. But as with everyone in politics, we shouldn’t just admire someone because they’re good at playing a difficult game; we should ask what they get out of it. If Pompeo is doing this because of raw ambition — because he wants to be president or something like that — he’s playing a dangerous game as the nation’s top diplomat. If he’s doing it because he feels he can keep righting what has become an increasingly rickety foreign policy ship, then that could be seen as even admirable — especially given that he’s often lighting his own credibility on fire.
The Syria withdrawal is perhaps an example of when that approach can and does work. Despite Mattis resigning over it, Trump later backed off his initial decision to withdraw completely. Pompeo got something he wanted — albeit long after all eyes were trained on the internal drama of it all — by using the kid-gloves approach.
On the flip side, though, Trump is rewriting the rules of the presidency in precisely some of the ways Pompeo warned about. Trump has warmed to authoritarians and authoritarianism, similar to Pompeo’s warnings. Shortly before becoming Trump’s pick for CIA director, Pompeo tweeted that Trump should “make the undemocratic practice of executive orders a thing of the past;” Trump has instead taken it to new heights. The secretary of state who once assured that soldiers “don’t swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other President; they take an oath to defend our Constitution” has shown an almost-unmatched allegiance to Trump.
Some in the foreign policy establishment apparently want to believe it could all be for the best — that Pompeo can, on balance, be a force for good. But we’ve seen their hopes dashed when it comes to another man in whom they invested some wishful thinking, Attorney General William P. Barr.
Pompeo might be the other most consequential man in Trump’s Cabinet. And the narrative of his tenure is very much up in the air — and dependent upon the man he once derided as a dangerous commander in chief.ADVERTISING 57 Comments
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Aaron BlakeAaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper. Follow
Tom Steyer (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)In the
month since Tom Steyer jumped
into the Democratic presidential field with a promise to spend $100 million
on his own campaign,
the billionaire activist and former hedge fund manager has made his name known
across early primary states with millions in ad buys.
But it remains to be
seen whether Steyer, a major Democratic
donor who made headlines in recent years for his calls to
impeach President Donald Trump,
can convert name recognition into a spot on the Democratic debate stage in
September and a viable campaign in the long run.
The Steyer campaign
has spent more than $7 million on TV and digital ads during its first month,
according to data provided by social media companies and an analysis of Federal
Communications Commission filings available in the OpenSecrets political ad database.
identified more than $3.7
million in TV ad buys on more than 12,000 spots across the
first four primary states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
Steyer began running ads on July 10, the day after his campaign launched.
A Flourish data visualisation
The TV spots touch on
Steyer’s business acumen, philanthropic work and activism on climate change, as
well as his efforts to oust Trump.
“Donald Trump failed
as a businessman,” Steyer says in one ad,
citing a New York Times
investigationinto the president’s business losses during the late
1980s. “I started a tiny investment business and over 27 years grew it
successfully to $36 billion.”
The ad blitz appears
to have worked on some voters. Steyer, who is visiting Iowa for the first time
on Friday, has already hit at least 2 percent in three qualifying polls, just
one short of the polling requirement for the September debates. That puts him
ahead of several more conventional candidates, including Sens. Kirsten
Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
and Govs. Jay Inslee, Steve Bullock and John
Of the three polls in
which Tom Steyer has achieved at least 2 percent, two were conducted in Iowa
while one was conducted in South Carolina. He has yet to hit 2 percent in any
Still elusive for
Steyer is the requirement of 130,000 unique donors, the Democratic
National Committee’s marker of grassroots support. Campaigns have
until Aug. 28 to reach the threshold. The Steyer campaign has not said how many
donors it has so far.
To attract new donors,
Steyer’s digital ads target voters across the country and ask for contributions
of just $1. During its first month, the campaign spent about $3.5 million on
digital ads: $2.6 million on Facebook,
nearly $700,000 on Google and
more than $200,000 on Twitter. These totals are
unprecedented, even as presidential candidates across the board have increased
digital spending in order to attract small-dollar donors.
campaign presence builds off his activism through political groups he
previously funded out of his own pocket, such as NextGen Climate
Action and Need to Impeach,
a super PAC targeting his now-opponent Donald Trump.
Prior to Steyer’s
official announcement of his candidacy in July, Need to Impeach spent more than
$4.4 million on ads promoting the “Tom Steyer” Facebook page, which is now used
by his campaign. After Steyer threw his hat in the ring, ads on the page
switched from being paid for by Need to Impeach or his personal funds to being
paid for by his 2020 campaign.
Steyer’s 458,000 likes
on Facebook already put him ahead of many better-known candidates including
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And big spending on digital ads allows the billionaire activist to continue to
grow his audience. His campaign’s digital ad spending totals during its first
month are more than double those of any other Democrat during the same period.
When comparing total
spending on digital advertising, Steyer trails only the three candidates who
are leading most polls: former Vice President Joe Biden and
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Warren and Sanders officially launched their campaigns in February, while Biden
declared in April.
Steyer’s spending on
TV advertising, meanwhile, far outpaces other Democratic candidates, who have
generally focused on building their ground games in early primary states rather
than running TV ads.
Among the top five
candidates in terms of polling, only Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
has run TV ads so far. Her campaign’s first ad, a 1-minute spot titled
“3 a.m. agenda,” hit the airwaves in Iowa this week.
Gillibrand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
and former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)
have also devoted resources to TV ads. Gabbard has passed the donor threshold
to qualify for September but still needs three more polls. Delaney and
Gillibrand have yet to reach either benchmark.
While some candidates
might be forced to drop out if they do not qualify for the September debate
stage, Tom Steyer has plenty of resources to continue running ads and pick up
new donors. The DNC will host another debate in
El Paso. Dayton. Gilroy. Santa Fe, TX. Parkland. Sutherland Springs. Las Vegas. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Aurora. Virginia Tech.
At the time of this writing, there have been 250 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2019. That’s more than one per day. And gun violence in all its forms collectively takes the lives of more than 100 people per day.
Republican members of Congress respond to gun tragedies while they’re in the news. But, they don’t take responsibility for how their words and actions — and strategic inaction — allow for white supremacist terror and gun violence, nor do they take action to prevent these tragedies from happening again. Instead, they offer up fleeting sentiments or red herring explanations.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 25 times higher than that of other developed countries. States with more guns have more deaths, and states where it’s harder to get guns have fewer gun-related deaths. Gun safety laws work.
The Democratic-govern House has already passed two pieces of legislation addressing gun violence. Mitch McConnell has refused to bring them up to a vote in the Senate.
Every day Congress refuses to take action, they choose this fate for our children, our communities, and this country. Thoughts and prayers cannot replace action. For this epidemic to end, Congress must intervene.
Join us in demanding Congress, and Trump sign, research-backed gun safety policies including requiring background checks on all gun sales, and supporting a strong Red Flag law that will help prevent gun violence tragedies.
Add your name: Keep your thoughts and prayers. Take action to reduce gun violence.
Look at the Mueller Report as a Detective Story. It Will Blow Your Mind.
It may turn out to be a film noir. The investigators uncovered the plot, but the society is too rotten to do anything about it.
By Quinta Jurecic
Ms. Jurecic is the managing editor of Lawfare.Aug. 2, 2019
When the Mueller report was released, commentators reviewed it not only as a political and legal work but also as another genre: literature. In The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada described the report as “the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency.” Michiko Kakutani wrote in The Columbia Journalism Review that it held “the visceral drama of a detective novel, spy thriller, or legal procedural.” Laura Miller of Slate found it to be a work of “palace intrigues.”
Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill was subjected to theater reviews, too: Political reporters speculated on the “optics” of his appearance, while President Trump declared, “This was one of the worst performances in the history of our country.”
The theatrical focus is a little much. But the literary critics are onto something. The report tells what is probably one of the biggest stories of our lifetimes — and understanding that narrative as a narrative can help make sense of the confused political moment.
Exploring the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the writer Don DeLillo described in his novel “Libra” the endless work of sleuthing new information on the president’s death as an effort to draft the “book of America” — the novel “in which nothing is left out.” The same might be said of the Mueller report.
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The first half of the report — on efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election — is a spy thriller, a high-stakes caper with greed, dirty deals and intrigue straight out of a Cold War potboiler. The second half — on President Trump’s efforts to obstruct Mr. Mueller’s investigation — is a Shakespearean drama about deception and power. But at its core, the 448-page volume is a detective story.
Like most good detective stories, the report actually tells two stories at once. First, there is the tale of what happened: The Russian government worked to reach out to Mr. Trump’s circle and, once he began running for president, his campaign; then, when the F.B.I. and later Mr. Mueller began investigating, Mr. Trump repeatedly sought to undercut the probe.
But nestled in the citations and prosecution or declination decisions for each section, there is the second story, which is closer to what most people think of when they think of a detective novel — the drama of how Mr. Mueller and his team came to uncover that first narrative and what they made of it. Examining footnotes, the reader can trace which information came from which witness — and discover, for example, that Don McGahn, then the White House counsel, provided Mr. Mueller’s office with hours of interviews about the conduct of the president.
Detective stories are usually about order and the collapse of order: The world is shattered by an act of violence, and the detective sets about making things right by turning the crime into something that can be explained. As Ms. Kakutani writes, “At the end of detective stories, order is usually restored with the solving of a crime, and with the identification and prosecution of the perpetrators.”
The Mueller report does provide a framework for understanding just what has happened to America in 2016 and the years since.
More than a tale about the restoration of order, though, the Mueller investigation is also about the limits of what can be known. Consider, for example, what the report says about Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s erstwhile campaign chairman. Mr. Manafort, writes Mr. Mueller, shared polling data produced by the campaign with a man known very likely to be connected to Russian military intelligence. The subplot is full of possibility, but it ends up leading nowhere. Mr. Mueller writes that his office “could not reliably determine Manafort’s purpose” in sharing the information, in part because Mr. Manafort and his colleagues used encrypted messaging to communicate with one another.
Or there’s the question of what Mr. Trump knew or didn’t know about his campaign’s communications with individuals linked to the Russian government, and whether he was truthful in his written answers.
In this, the Mueller report fits neatly into a subgenre known as the “metaphysical detective story” — stories that take Sherlock Holmes’s triumphant cracking of the case and turn it upside down, so the detective’s efforts end in the same disorder with which they began. These are mysteries about the impossibility of ever really solving a mystery, or perhaps of knowing anything at all.
The uncertainties that hover around the Mueller report evoke similar themes. How much can be known about what Donald Trump had in mind when he fired James Comey? Was Mr. Trump intent on stopping the Russia investigation, or was his goal to remove an F.B.I. director who irritated him for other reasons? Will the question of what Paul Manafort was up to remain forever unanswered, the information crucial to solving the puzzle lost? And if the full story of the Russia affair remains beyond the reach of explanation, to what extent does this cast doubt on the whole project of restoring order in the first place?
As in the metaphysical detective story, these factual gaps raise broader questions about the detective’s inability to reconstruct the story of the crime. Put crudely, this is the question of what it means that Robert Mueller can’t save the country. It’s how to understand the effect on the stability of American democracy of both the president’s relative impunity at the end of an investigation that strongly implied he may have committed serious crimes and the nation’s inability to come to grips with the fact of interference by a foreign power in an election.
Or to put it another way: Does anything matter?
Mr. Mueller clearly thinks it does. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, he became most animated when he spoke about election interference: “I hope this is not the new normal,” he said, “but I fear it is.”
In a bid to slow the pace of global warming, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has invited major powers, including Britain, China, India, France, and Turkey, to help shape the environmental agenda at a major U.N. climate summit in New York in September. The United States, which the U.N. encouraged to participate, has yet to say whether it will attend the high-level meeting and has opted out of the preliminary negotiations—leaving it to others, including rivals like Beijing, to write the rules.
The absence of U.S. negotiators from the U.N. talks risks undercutting the White House’s effort at the U.N. to contain the rise of China, which has taken the lead in several forums on environmental issues. With Washington on the sidelines, Beijing—at Guterres’s invitation—will co-chair discussions at the U.N. with New Zealand on “nature-based solutions” to global warming, including management of forests, rivers, lakes, and oceans.Trending Articles
Spilling the Tea in Sri Lanka
As large colonial-era tea plantations crumble, family-owned plots are trying to take their place and save the industry.
“By staying out of these negotiations, the U.S. is basically giving Beijing a free pass,” Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the International Crisis Group, told Foreign Policy. “So much of the current effort to contain China at the U.N. boils down to bickering over language in not very important resolutions. I think the Trump administration is missing the big picture, which is that for a lot of countries climate diplomacy is the most important part of what the U.N. does.”
The moves come as the United States has stepped up a diplomatic campaign to stall the march of international progress on diplomatic measures to curb the rise of greenhouse gases that are warming the earth. The White House has selected a climate change doubter to lead a commission to scrutinize a raft of U.S. and international studies detailing the impact a warmer climate is having on the Earth. In an Arctic Council meeting this week in Rovaniemi, Finland, the United States blocked the international body from even mentioning climate change in a final outcome declaration.
Speaking at the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made no mention of climate change and instead touted “new opportunities for trade” presented by the melting of the polar ice caps.
He also warned of geopolitical and security challenges in the Arctic, calling out Russia’s military build-up in the region and warning China “could use its civilian research presence in the Arctic to strengthen its military presence.”
The U.N., meanwhile, has been serving up a raft of studies detailing the alarming risk posed by climate change, which has been accelerating at a pace unforeseen by previous forecasts and bringing with it more violent wildfires, storms, and flooding across the globe. On Monday, the U.N. warned that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. For now, climate change is only the third key contributor to the decimation of biodiversity, behind unsustainable sea and land use practices and the overexploitation of organisms. But the impact of climate change on biodiversity is growing and will in some cases surpass the threat posed by human exploitation of sea and land.
It was the latest report to land with a noiseless thud in Washington, where President Donald Trump has continued espousing skeptical views of climate change despite the dire warnings from the U.N., the U.S. military, and scientists in his own government. It has left foreign delegates frustrated by the administration’s dismissal of the mounting body of scientific evidence that is screaming at policymakers to act to address the Earth’s health.
“Warnings based on science deserve to be taken seriously,” said Kai Sauer, Finland’s U.N. ambassador. “Early warning and prevention have become essential functions of today’s U.N. Previously, this was predominantly the case in the field of peace and security, but today increasingly in areas such as development, climate change, and, most recently, biodiversity.”
“The disappearance of biodiversity is, with climate change, another existential threat to humanity,” France’s U.N. ambassador, François Delattre, told Foreign Policy. “What does it take for the awareness of this man-made tragedy, a kind of genesis in reverse, to cross the beltway?”
As China pushes clean energy policies at home, it is exporting its high-pollution coal industry to pristine places like Kenya’s Lamu Island—with Nairobi’s seal of approval. Local residents fear it will destroy the environment they depend on.FEATURE | DANA ULLMAN
The United States caused many of the planet’s problems and can still unmake them—but only if its politicians face up to the challenge.ESSAY | JONATHAN TEPPERMAN
Paul Bodnar, a former senior National Security Council aide on energy and climate change under former President Barack Obama’s administration, said such warnings aren’t likely to gain much traction in Trump’s Washington.
“If there’s no mechanism in the interagency [process] to elevate these issues, it tends to go nowhere, unless there’s some international shaming, or if a foreign leader raises it with Trump or Pompeo,” said Bodnar, now a managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that studies clean energy. “It is all, at the end of the day, a function of what the president cares about. I don’t think it’s any surprise biodiversity and environmental protection are not at the top of the president’s priority list.”
A State Department spokesperson insisted that “[d]espite the global situation, the United States has a good story to tell” on environmental conservation. “The United States is one of the largest bilateral and multilateral donors to nature conservation, spending more than $400 million annually to support biodiversity conservation worldwide, and billions more at home,” the spokesperson said.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services cites five key causes of the collapse of Earth biodiversity: changes in land and sea use, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive species.
The report, the most comprehensive study ever produced on biodiversity, drew on the work of 145 experts from 50 countries. “Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” Josef Settele of Germany, one of three co-chairs of the assessment, said in a statement released with the report. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
In April, 13 U.S. federal agencies released a major report confirming that climate change was already contributing to deadlier wildfires and hurricanes, and it could shave off hundreds of billions of dollars from some sectors of the economy by the end of the century.
The U.N. issued its own landmark report last October warning that the global climate is expected to increase by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of 2040, a level that would accelerate droughts, increase food shortages, and cost the world tens of trillions of dollars in lost economic production.
The White House has responded to these reports with a mix of mockery and contempt, critics say. Earlier this year, the White House made preparations to set up a new committee to challenge scientific reports claiming that climate change is man-made. The commission would reportedly be chaired by William Happer, an emeritus Princeton University physicist with no formal training in climate science, who has likened the “demonization” of carbon dioxide to the treatment of Jews under Adolph Hitler.
“The Trump administration has a track record of ignoring science,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the chief program officer for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We see, even when it’s the U.S. natural systems and communities on the front line of harm on climate change and other types of devastation, the Trump administration is ready to do nothing. Even more than doing nothing, they are actively working every day to undermine bedrock environmental protections in place for years.”
The Obama administration put climate change at the front and center of its diplomacy, crafting the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement that outlined ambitious country-by-country plans to curb global carbon emissions.
The Trump administration began dismantling those efforts as soon as it took over, beginning by drastically watering down language on climate change on the State Department’s website and culminating in Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement in June 2017.
His nominee as U.N. ambassador, Kelly Knight Craft, a wealthy Republican donor who served as Trump’s envoy to Canada, has downplayed the international consensus that human activity is fueling global warming, saying that “both sides of the science” had merit on climate change debate.
In an effort to maintain momentum on climate, the U.N. chief in March called on world leaders, business leaders, local governments, and others to convene at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 23. “I am telling leaders: ‘In September, please don’t come with a speech; come with a plan,’” Guterres said.
The conference will try to secure agreements to take some form of action on six major areas: promoting a global transition to renewable energy; making urban infrastructure more resilient in the face of extreme weather; encouraging the sustainable management of forests, agriculture, and oceans; aiding countries vulnerable to global warming to adapt to the new realities; and securing public and private financing to address the major challenges posed by climate.
The U.N. has invited more than a dozen key countries, including Britain, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, India, Turkey, and Qatar, to lead international negotiations on several significant issues, including carbon pricing schemes, financing for renewable energies, and the development of resilient urban infrastructure.
“We can no longer wait for one country to lead the way on climate,” said one U.N. official. “The key is for all actors to understand they have the capacity and responsibility to do something. We need to change the way we consume and we produce. There is a need for transformational change.”
The State Department has sidelined efforts to address climate change and left the career professionals working on the issue in Foggy Bottom without clear guidance on what to do, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in January. “State changed its approach in 2017, no longer providing missions with guidance on whether and how to include climate change risks in their integrated country strategies,” the report read.
Ahead of the Arctic Council meeting this week, the Trump administration pushed to strip all references to climate change or the Paris climate agreement from the international body’s joint statement, according to the Washington Post. Pompeo defended the decision in an interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on Sunday ahead of his trip to Finland for the Arctic Council meeting, casting doubt on the effectiveness of the Paris climate deal.
“We don’t think that that has any hope of being successful. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen America reduce its carbon footprint while the signatories, including China, haven’t done theirs,” he said.
China is still the world’s largest consumer of coal, and its total carbon emissions increased last year, despite a pledge to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into renewable energy in the coming years.
Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch
This is an advanced draft of speech and speech notes to be delivered at the University of Oslo June 19, 2019.
DRAFT OF SPEECH ELEMENTS FOR NORWAY TALK JUNE 19:
GREETINGS, GIVE NAMES association. I am honored to speak with
you today as one American giving what I hope is an informed guided tour of
recent events in our country, how they came to be and where this once more
respectable Superpower entered its present chaotic condition. Our esteemed
President said “we need More Norwegians” emigrating to the United
States. Do we have any volunteers? Perhaps he should have said: “we
need to be more Like Norway.” But
then, he would never Say that.
What I propose to do is
in 3 parts. For about 35 minutes I would like to share with you ideas on how
the US got into its present situation: both in domestic politics and foreign
policy. For about 15 minutes I would like you to ask me about what you would
like to know about the current insanity and your view of Norway’s View of this
predicament. Finally with the remaining 10 minutes time I would like to ask You
volunteers from the audience to tell Me some answers to questions I have about
the future of the EU, Brexit, and all that.
are we? How did we get here? Stress historical precedents (Reagan, Norquist,
Rove, the Bushes, the right Wing press, FOX, Thomas Frank recommend)
Stress less for now things like: Russian collusion, Mueller Report,
polarization, Trumps idiosyncrasies, angry whites… look at the longer term
of launching into a list of Trump oddities and destructive policy and
aggressive posturing: start with a list of why someone so improbable would
defeat Hillary Clinton and the
background conditions that made his win possible, if only by a razor thin
after laying the groundwork for a Trump unlikely win, and his appeal to various
factions (elaborate) and also briefly sketch out how the electoral college is
tilted in favor of the Republicans in recent years
differentiate actual policies of the past 2 to 10 years Obama Trump) and the
various incomprehensible buffoonish and crude, crass qualities of the man….
Note: abortion, traditional values, Machismo, America first, immigration, and
other issues that Trump capitalizes on…the man may be very odd, perhaps
unbalanced, certainly narcissistic, but not stupid
IMPACT of electoral college and Senate as a problem for todays Democrats and
Progressives. The minimum number of electors per state is 3 and all states have
2 senators: The top ten states (CA, TX< NY< FLA, etc.) have 20 senators
and represent a total of 152,000,000 people. The bottom 10 states in population
(WY, AK, VT) each have 2 senators (also 20 total) and represent 9,364,000
system was designed in 1787 so that small former colonies like Delaware and
Georgia would have equal representation in the Senate to the larger populated
states like Virginia and Massachusetts. Today effectively: a senator in Wyoming
would be representing about 290,000 people (577,000/ 2), while a senator from California
would be representing 20 million people, although in fact both senators are
elected by all of the voters in each state.
electoral college, which determines who wins the presidency, the minimum vote
per state is 3. There are 8 states with populations small enough to give them 3
votes each or 24 votes. The 8 states with the largest populations have 206
electors total 139 million people The 8 states with 24 electors have 7 million
people. So an electoral vote in one of the largest states represents about 10
times as many people as in the smaller states.
point is that the US president can be elected not only without winning the
popular vote (2016 Clinton 65,845,063 Trump 62,980,160 ) but that the small states
are over-represented in the electoral college because of a large number of
states with 3,4 or 5 votes. These tend to be rural states with an increasingly
conservative voter base, with the exception of Vermont and Hawaii. Again, this
strongly favors the Republicans.
fair the top 12 states in population could win the electoral college, the top
16 would guarantee Democratic victory. Or Republican. Theoretically
these top 12 states include CA, NY, PA, IL, normally Democratic. Only TX for now is reliably Republican. FL
and NC can go either way,
though less so than in the pre-Vietnam period; some of this if from the humming
economy, which Trump takes full credit for even though there were 90 months of
economic recovery under the Obama administration before Trump took office
civil society, grassroots activism, lower crime rates; violent crime nationally
has fallen the the level of the 1960s in spite of the spectacular shootings
that we seem to produce almost on a weekly basis
of great variety: cultures and landscape
wealth so the potential for opportunity for all: U.S. government spending is
$4.7 trillion (2019); Kennedy’s first budget in 1961 was about $100 BILLION.
The Kennedy budget would be about $800 billion in today’s terms or about 1/6 of
the current budget. Today the U.S. spends about $660 billion for defense and
Below your Graph of US discretionary spending I
have listed items that could be provided by the government if the defense budget
were trimmed by 28%.It is generally agreed, even among so called defense
spending “hawks” [you might say “highk”/hauk] that the defense budget
could be cut by 20% with absolutely no effect on its real power. There is much
waste and redundancy [overflødighet/ohver-flu-dee-et] in that budget.
(declining) of American exceptionalism, destiny (EXPAND)
increased inequality of wealth and prosperity even in the midst of what appears
to be unprecedented prosperity
has been characterized as an infection of the collective mind, Trumpism and
unprecedented polarization and backsliding In a bewildering range of arenas to
be discussed: but mainly pro-business and wealth friendly policy changes
Disturbing social indicators: decline of middle
class, lower crime but still high incarceration rates, increases in drug abuse,
suicide, divorce, gun crime, income and wealth differentials, traffic deaths,
bankruptcies and foreclosures; mental illness, homelessness
are seriously divided over questions such as government regulation, taxes,
income redistribution, immigration and race relations, abortion and women’s
health—and role in society; tolerance, sexuality for example
Americans as a whole are not particularly concerned with world opinion of them,
their opinion of themselves and the country’s future seems to be in decline. The
reasons for this decline are widely disputed. There are multiple ironies in
Trump’s slogan “Make America great, again.”
There are far too many statistics to
elaborate on in the short time we have, but we can offer a few. (Quip by Mark
Twain about lies, damned lies, and statistics.) But we can be fairly sure that
there have been about 3 million traffic deaths in the U.S. since 1920, and
perhaps 35 million world-wide since that time. It is hard to get reliable
numbers. 2 statistics stand out: 1. In
2013 the World Health Organization estimated 1.25 million world traffic deaths
for that year alone; 2. Since World War II it is likely that half the number of
deaths in that conflict have occurred on the world’s roads….
A third statistic that is simply
curious is that in any 4 week period following the September 11 attacks on the
U.S., more people died in traffic accidents than in those attacks.
FOR TOPICS TO DISCUSS & DEVELOP
TO TRUMP- I want to try to move the needle a bit and discuss the Trump’s rise
to power from his unlikely strengths and appeal. You like most academic
audiences are probably more used to getting information on the obvious flaws in
Trump the candidate and Trump the chief executive. We will get to those soon
TRUMP-Who did he appeal to, given his personal qualities: rich playboy,
controversial real estate ventures, reality TV star, 3 high profile wives etc? In spite of his bullying, New York tough-guy
ways he overcame the NEVER TRUMP traditional conservative to moderately
conservative wing of the Republican Party.
have to remember that the country had 8 years of Nixon/Ford, 8 years of the
More Conservative Reagan, and the slightly less conservative George H.W, Bush.
And then the 8 years of George W. Bush, although many still believe that his
first election in 2000 by 538 Florida votes (exactly the number, by the way of
electors in the electoral college!—pure coincidence unless your are fascinated
by numerical coincidences).
projected a macho image much as Reagan had, one favored by Republicans. It
happens that for these 2 presidents the machismo was more style than substance.
With Hillary Clinton running as a female, assertive, tough, and highly
accomplished technocrat, not charismatic.
Trump’s appeal in the campaign was not simply to ignorant, negative, provincial
voters, although those were a part of has base:
are some key voting groups that he convinced that he was the better choice than
Clinton and will use in 2020:
ABORTION RIGHTS V. ANTI ABORTION RIGHTS. Trump was in fact the better
choice for anti-abortion voters and these were more than 40% of the American
electorate in 2016. Of course there a gradations of
Approval or disapproval based
on medical circumstances, religious beliefs, etc. but the terms pro life and
pro choice are actual fairly useful terms. Although many people are not
completely pro-life (fetus as baby) many, IDENTIFY as largely anti- abortion,
in the 35 to 40% range
LINE ON IMMIGRATION: Many of the same people who oppose
in these 25 mostly total states with two Senators each (50 of 100), are also
sensitive to changes in their world caused by … million immigrants coming into
the country. To oversimplify: they want restrictions for 100 different reasons.
The perception is that people from Mexico, or India, or Africa, or the
Caribbean Islands will have special skills, will work long hours and for less
pay than working class or “marginal” Americans
of these same people who oppose abortion and want much less immigration also
oppose restrictions on gun ownership. Guns are one of many divisive issues in
the US. Norway experienced its own tragic mass shooting in 2011 of course. But
in the US there have been more than 200 school shootings with 400 deaths since
2011. Between 2006 and 2017 there have been approximately 320 shootings of 4 or
more people totaling about 1450 dead.
CHANGE/ PRO- CARBON FUELS- Trump refused to sign the Paris accords on climate
change and global warming and has not shown an interest in measures to slow
this rolling catastrophe. One reputable survey showed that 30% of Americans
were “very worried about climate change” but fewer were willing to spend large
sums to prevent it, These figures present an opportunity for Trump because he
is closer to mainstream opinion on actually doing something about climate
TRADE- Americans are conflicted on free trade. If you ask a general question
about the value of free trade agreements, there will generally be more than 50%
support. But more specific questions like the impact of cheap foreign goods on
American economic well-being the support will drop. Many Americans are content
to shop for cheap foreign products while criticizing trade agreements that send
jobs abroad or hurt U.S. labor. Trump’s general anti-free trade attitude, his
withdrawal from or modification of the Trans-Pacific and NAFTA Agreements and
his pro-tariff policies are moderately popular and his surprisingly skilled
subsidy of farmers or industries hurt in the short term by such measures helps
him. Loss of control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats may
complicate these efforts.
Of course you are aware of Trump’s partially successful insistence that
European NATO countries increase their financial support for NATO. Trump has
generally been supportive of Brexit and nationalist foreign policies generally
and less supportive of American alliances of any President since the 1920s.
Trump has a certain appeal to Americans for delivering on his campaign
promises and his America First policies. His lack of criticism of foreign
strong men, whom he sometimes identifies with, has hurt him with voters and
groups outside of his base of support, but these are Democrats and people who
would not be likely to support Trump anyway. The so called mainstream media
have been overwhelmingly critical of Trump. His public support is the lowest of
any president since the Gallup poll began—averaging about 45% and only above
50% for a few of the 880 days he has been in office as of today.
TRUMP’S OPPOSITION AND LIABILITIES
must be said that American progressives/liberals have existed for 20 months in
a kind of living nightmare. My experience is that 4 out of five dinner
conversations have circled back to the sheer Narcissism and mental strangeness
of the elected Chief Executive. There have been questions about whether trump
actually one an lection when his opponent got almost 3 million more popular
votes than he did, and he one three large states PA< MI<WI by 78,000
votes total in 2016.
not alone in endorsing a theory, a serious one in political science, that when
an unprecedented politician lies When he does not need to, congenitally, as a
reflex and promotes policies almost daily that alienate at least 50n % of the
population, people become numb almost immune to the horror of what they are
Trump must be credited for not sending 8000 young Americans to their deaths. Or
the equivalent of killing over a million Iraqi and Afghan civilians, he has
created an atmosphere where truth is always questioned. He is not exactly a
Trujillo or Mussolini, but that seems due to the strong if sometimes corrupt
American constitutional and legal system. He is not as intelligent as any of
the last 14 presidents, possibly going back to Harding in 1921, but he is by no
means stupid. And although more advisors and Cabinet members have left his 30
month administration than any President’s in American history, he still has
some intelligent (we say “crafty” [give Norwegian and ask] advisors, which are
now called “handlers” colloquially.
The map above shows
the county level and vote share results of the 2016 US Presidential Election.
The darker the blue the more a county went for Hilary Clinton and the darker
the red the more the county went for Donald Trump. This map helps explain why
Trump was able to win.
IF DEFENSE BUDGET WERE CUT BY 28%
Health insurance for $200 million
Americans who currently have in adequate medical coverage. If the defense
budget were reduced by $175 bullion then the 200 million Americans would have
25% more for health coverage. THE EFFICIENCIES IN THIS KIND OF 1 PAYER PROGRAM (government)
would save the U.S. as a whole about $500 billion per year.
defense budget is larger than the next 15 defense budgets combined.
The looming conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into U.S. President Donald Trump may be dominating the conversation in Washington. But Trump faces a long list of other ongoing inquiries, some of which may ultimately cause him far more trouble. Here are the 10 most pressing investigations into the president, his campaign staffers, and his inner circle.
Violation of campaign finance laws
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and longtime fixer, has testified that Trump ordered him to pay hush money to silence adulterous scandals that could have hurt his presidential campaign.
Who’s Implicated: Michael Cohen
Danger for Trump: This case directly implicates the president.
Status: Cohen has pleaded guilty to “felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with” Trump. Additionally, in testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, Cohen showed off personal checks signed by Trump, which Cohen testified were to reimburse him for the payoffs. Cohen added that Trump was involved in other illegal activities but said he could not comment because of the ongoing nature of the investigations.
Danger for Trump: Trump is facing intense scrutiny across three jurisdictions as a result of his inaugural committee’s behavior.
Status: In February, courts subpoenaed the inaugural committee for documentation, though no one has been charged with any wrongdoing. The case is ongoing.
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Unregistered foreign lobbying
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort used a shell organization to lobby for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine, enlisting white-shoe lobbyists Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs, as well as the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, without properly registering as a foreign agent.
Who’s Implicated: Paul Manafort’s lawyer Gregory Craig, and lobbyists Vin Weber and Tony Podesta
Danger for Trump: The case shows the pro-Russian tilt of his campaign manager and his allegedly illegal operations. It also shows Mueller’s ability to work closely with other prosecutors to investigate a broader range of potential wrongdoing than he can as special counsel.
Status: Skadden, which allegedly advised Mercury not to register as a foreign agent, settled its case for $4.6 million, representing the amount it earned from its shadowy work in Ukraine. Skadden, Mercury and the now defunct Podesta Group have all registered retroactively as acting on behalf of a foreign government.
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Irregular super PAC finances
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
Paul Manafort lied about a $125,000 payment he received from the Trump super PAC “Rebuilding America Now” in 2017. Coordination between political action committees and campaigns is illegal. Manafort’s associate, Sam Patten, has pleaded guilty to FARA violations and his testimony shed light on the details of how foreign actors worked to gain access to Trump’s inauguration. Patten revealed that he secured tickets to the event on behalf of an oligarch from Ukraine by organizing a U.S. citizen to act as a proxy buyer.
Who’s Implicated: Paul Manafort, Sam Patten, and Rebuilding America Now
Danger for Trump: The case shows how those close to Trump misused campaign money and facilitated improper access to the president by foreign influencers from Ukraine and Russia from the very start of his term.
Status: Manafort is behind bars for violating his plea deals with Mueller and will face sentencing on March 13 for conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice through witness tampering. Patten has pleaded guilty to violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and faces sentencing in April; he is cooperating with investigators.
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Allegedly illegal operations by the Donald J. Trump Foundation
The New York Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance
The lawsuit skewers the Trump Foundation for alleged “extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign” as well as “repeated and willful self-dealing transactions” and “violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations.” The alleged misconduct of the Trump Foundation includes using funds to buy a portrait of the president at a fundraiser in an effort to burnish his image, as well as allegedly using its money to funnel resources into organizing a campaign fundraiser in Iowa that raised millions of dollars.
Who’s Implicated: Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.
Danger for Trump: This case is especially damaging for the president. Former New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said the Trump Foundation functioned as “little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” and Letitia James, who took the case over when she was sworn in as Attorney General is seeking a 10-year ban on Trump and his adult children from running nonprofits, as well as repayment of $2.8 million.
Status: The case is ongoing, but the Trump Foundation has been dissolved, and its remaining funds are set to be distributed to other nonprofits.
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Allegations of tax fraud and tax evasion by the Trump family
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
Following a New York Timesinvestigation into the Trump family’s finances, city and state officials said they were investigating allegations that the Trump family may have committed tax fraud and tax evasion over the course of several decades.
Who’s Implicated: Donald Trump and the Trump Organization
Danger for Trump: Evidence of systemic tax evasion could strike a major blow to Trump’s credibility. Trump’s unreleased tax returns have been a high-profile departure from U.S. political norms. The House Ways and Means Committee has the power to demand the release of Trump’s tax returns, something that Democrats are now calling for with renewed energy after Michael Cohen told Congress that he believed Trump had failed to release his tax returns because he did not want tax experts to “run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces” and feared “taxable consequences [and] penalties.”
Status: The investigation is ongoing.
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United States v. Maria Butina
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the National Security Division of the U.S. Justice Department
Maria Butina is the first Russian to be prosecuted directly for attempting to influence the U.S. political landscape in the Trump era. Butina posed as a gun rights activist and gained influence in the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association, all while allegedly working as a Russian agent.
Who’s Implicated: Maria Butina
Danger for Trump: The case is an additional indication of Russia’s interest in advancing Trump’s candidacy. Butina also managed to directly askTrump a question about Russia and sanctions at the start of his run for president. “What will be your foreign politics … and do you want to continue the politics of sanctions?” Butina asked. Trump responded, “I believe I would get along on very nicely with [Vladimir] Putin.”
Status: Butina pleaded guilty to conspiring against the United States. In late February, the court declined to set a date for her sentencing, as she continues to cooperate with U.S. authorities. She will likely be deported to Russia at the conclusion of any time she serves.
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Russian disinformation campaigns
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia
“Project Lakhta,” a Russian disinformation campaign that used social media to interfere in the 2016 presidential and 2018 midterm elections,worked to “sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” according to prosecutors.
Who’s Implicated: Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, allegedly the chief accountant for Project Lakhta
Danger for Trump: The case provides insight into the inner workings of Russian efforts to boost Trump’s electoral chances, as well as prosecutors’ determination to hold foreign actors accountable for interfering in U.S. elections.
Status: Khusyaynova has been indicted, and the case is ongoing.
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Improper Turkish influence inside Trump’s campaign and administration.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia
Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his business partner Bijan Kian allegedly served as unregistered lobbyists for Turkish interests and were paid to undermine Turkish cleric and regime gadfly Fethullah Gulen as a part of a 90-day campaign against him that was dubbed “Operation Confidence.”
Who’s Implicated: Michael Flynn, Bijan Kian, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, who created the firm Inovo that allegedly hired the Flynn Intel Group to launch an anti-Gulen campaign
Danger for Trump: The president’s efforts to get the FBI to stop investigating Flynn during the early days of his administration led directly to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel.
Status: Kian and Alptekin were indicted in December 2018, and Kian pleaded not guilty. Alptekin has yet to appear in a U.S. court, and his location is unknown. Flynn is cooperating with the Mueller investigation and will serve as a principal witness when Kian goes on trial in July.
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Alleged violations of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause
The attorneys general’s offices for Maryland and the District of Columbia
The Constitution bars the president from using his office to profit from foreign states. The Washington Postreported in December 2018 that Saudi lobbyists had paid for an estimated 500 nights in Trump’s D.C. hotel over a three-month period so that military veterans could come to Washington and lobby against a bill the Saudi government opposed. Profits from the Saudi government going to a Trump-owned hotel would seem to violate the emoluments clause.
She makes sense, for sure. Is she enough of a brawler? Eugene Debs, Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, maybe Raph Nadar, also and sense. But the destiny of the Republic requires, this once, a tough guy (he can have a VP of any combination of genders and colors as long as they are really good and can balance the macho chieftain who can knock Trump (or Pence, should Trump step down) of the pedestal.
She has big ideas for repairing the American economy. The other Democratic candidates should too.
Senator Elizabeth Warren is running for president with a platform that aims to reform American capitalism.CreditFrank Franklin Ii/Associated Press
March 15, 2019
Bill Clinton had a consequential presidency when it came to the economy. He brought down the Reagan-era deficits, helping spark the strongest economic boom in decades, and he made the tax code more progressive.
Barack Obama had an even more consequential presidency. He halted the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He did so in part by signing a stimulus bill full of spending on education, wind energy and other programs with lasting benefits. He also put in place new regulations for Wall Street and extended health insurance to almost 20 million people.
By the end of Obama’s eight years, G.D.P. growth was still disappointing. Middle-class and poor families were still receiving less than their fair share of that growth. Median household wealth was lower than it had been two decades earlier. In the most shocking sign of struggle, average life expectancy has declined in recent years. Rich Americans, on the other hand, continue to thrive, amassing Gilded Age-level concentrations of wealth. The resulting frustration helped make possible the rise of Donald Trump.
So far, only one candidate among the 2020 contenders has an agenda with this level of ambition: Elizabeth Warren. Her platform aims to reform American capitalism so that it once again works well for most American families. The recent tradition in Democratic politics has been different. It has been largely to accept that big companies are going to get bigger and do everything they can to hold down workers’ pay. The government will then try to improve things through income taxes and benefit programs.
Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms but the underlying disease. She has proposed a universal child-care and pre-K program that echoes the universal high school movement of the early 20th century. She favors not only a tougher approach to future mergers, as many Democrats do, but also a breakup of Facebook and other tech companies that have come to resemble monopolies. She wants to require corporations to include worker representatives on their boards — to end the era of “shareholder-value maximization,” in which companies care almost exclusively about the interests of their shareholders, often at the expense of their workers, their communities and their country.
Warren was also the first high-profile politician to call for an annual wealth tax, on fortunes greater than $50 million. This tax is the logical extension of research by the economist Thomas Piketty and others, which has shown how extreme wealth perpetuates itself. Historically, such concentration has often led to the decline of powerful societies. Warren, unlike some Democrats, comfortably explains that she is not socialist. She is a capitalist and, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, is trying to save American capitalism from its own excesses.
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“Sometimes, bigger ideas are more possible to accomplish,” Warren told me during a recent conversation about the economy at her Washington apartment. “Because you can inspire people.”
Before I go further, I want to offer two caveats. One, Warren’s grasp of the country’s problems does not necessarily mean that she should be the Democratic nominee for president. Politics is not an expertise competition. The nominee should be, and most likely will be, the candidate who best inspires voters. Maybe that will be Warren, or maybe it will be someone else.
Two, I don’t agree with all of Warren’s proposals. Her plan to break up the big technology companies seems too uniform, for example. Her plan to put workers on corporate boards may not be as practical as, say, a big federal push to increase workers’ bargaining power.
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Paul Krugman did explanatory journalism before it was cool, moving from a career as a world-class economist to writing hard-hitting opinion columns.SIGN UPSenator Warren’s proposals include a universal child-care and pre-K program, and a wealth tax.Credit Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times
But whatever my — or your — specific objections, Warren is identifying the right problems and offering a coherent vision for a post-Obama Democratic agenda. “Clinton and Obama focused on boosting growth and redistribution,” Gabriel Zucman, a University of California, Berkeley, economist who has advised Warren, says. “Warren is focusing on how pretax income can be made more equal.”
She isn’t simply proposing larger versions of Obama’s (worthy) tax cut for middle-class and poor families, as several 2020 candidates have. Her plans are also much more detailed than those of Bernie Sanders (who, to his credit, pushed the party to become bolder). And she has avoided getting trapped in the health insurance wonkery that too often dominates progressive policy debates. The future of the republic does not actually depend on the relative sizes of Medicare, Medicaid and the private market.
It may, however, depend on whether Americans’ incomes and living standards are consistently rising.
In the months to come, I hope that every other 2020 candidate offers answers to the questions that Warren has taken on: How can corporate America again help create a prosperous, growing middle class, as it did from the 1940s through the 1970s? How can the power of giant corporations — over consumers, workers and smaller businesses — be constrained? How can the radical levels of wealth inequality be reversed? How can the yawning opportunity gaps for children of different backgrounds be reduced? How can the next president make changes that will endure, rather than be undone by a future president, as both Obama’s and Clinton’s top-end tax increases were?
It is not surprising that Warren has jumped out to an early lead in the ideas primary. The main theme in her life, both professional and personal, has been economic opportunity. Her father was a carpet salesman at Montgomery Ward in Oklahoma City in the 1960s, until he had a heart attack. He had to switch to lower-paying work as a janitor, and her mother got a minimum-wage job, answering phones at Sears.
Warren’s three older brothers all went into the military. “That was their chance to make it into the middle class,” she told me. Warren went to college and became a teacher, until the school chose not to renew her contract rather than give her maternity leave. She then went to a public law school — for $450 per semester — and became a bankruptcy expert, early on at the University of Houston and ultimately at Harvard.
“The way I see it is, I have lived opportunity,” she said. “I’ve lived the kind of opportunity that comes from a government that invests a little in its kids, a government that tries to keep the playing field a little bit level for folks like my family.”
Her theory of political change has been shaped by two experiences — one failure and one success. As a professor in the 1990s, she served on a federal bankruptcy commission and fought against legal changes that favored banks over borrowers. The fight went on for a decade, and Warren’s side lost. The defeat left her believing that a technocratic legislative debate — “the inside game,” as she calls it — almost always favors industry lobbyists.