By Robert A. Vella
Dems selling-out again
Three decades ago, the Democratic Party leadership faced a difficult choice. They either could continue to oppose the corporatization of America being pushed by establishment Republicans’ neoliberal agenda, or they could sacrifice their long-held principles and play the big money game. Under the banner of Bill Clinton, they chose the latter and the rest is history. Although Democrats captured and held the White House for two terms in the 1990s, they quickly lost the majority control over Congress they had largely had for over half a century. What followed was worsening social inequalities, the scam of the Iraq War, massive financial corruption, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the dangerous rise of populist angst and extreme nationalism now plaguing much of the western world.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but it’s reasonable to presume that both the party and the nation would be in a better state now had Democrats not chosen short-term pragmatism over long-term principle back then. Selling-out to the devil always has costs, and those costs are always very expensive.
Today, the Democratic leadership is faced with an even more difficult choice. They either can stand firmly on principle and oppose Donald Trump’s authoritarian attacks on American democracy and its constitutional system based on the rule of law, or they can try to appease their political base with half-hearted opposition and delaying tactics while keeping their eye on winning the 2020 election. From my perspective, it appears that once again they are choosing the latter short-term pragmatic road.
If Democrats do oust Trump in 2020 and take control of both houses of Congress, then what’s wrong with that strategy? The problem is twofold: 1) an unchecked Trump may well feel empowered to undermine or circumvent the 2020 election, and 2) a disillusioned Democratic base might not sufficiently support their candidates just like it didn’t sufficiently support them in 2016. In other words, putting all your eggs in one basket is a gamble too risky to take.
Keep all this in mind as you read the following developments. There isn’t much time left before the 2020 campaign heats up. When it does, the Democratic leadership will be increasingly reluctant to hold Trump accountable for his blatant obstructions of justice and other offenses. By then, such vigorous opposition will become incongruent with their centrist strategy. In my opinion, Democrats intend to slow-walk the process and hope that the public forgets all about it.
As House Democrats plod ahead investigating President Donald Trump, against unprecedented stonewalling by the White House, they are pursuing a long-game strategy that’s playing out in the committee rooms, the courthouse and in the court of public opinion. And it’s going to take time.
Some Democrats say the administration’s blockade is leaving them almost no choice but to open an impeachment inquiry — not necessarily to impeach Trump, but as part of a legal strategy to force the administration to comply with their requests for documents and testimony.
Democrats say they’re not ready to impeach the president. But opening an impeachment inquiry would provide legal weight to their investigations that would be tougher for the administration to ignore. Already, a judge indicated last week Congress may have a right to review some of Trump’s financial documents. As Trump instructs his White House to reject the requests from Congress, more legal battles are coming.
Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who wrote a book on impeachment, said the administration’s arguments for blocking Congress would likely go by the wayside in court if the House were in an impeachment inquiry. The Constitution gives the House the sole power to impeach, which stretches even beyond its traditional oversight role. It’s one thing for Trump to say the White House won’t respond to Congress. It’s another for the administration to defy a court order to turn over documents.
“The courts have been very, very wary of interfering in the impeachment power,” Lichtman said. “This is really a case where one branch of government rules.”
Pelosi, though, signaled she is in no rush to get there.
House Democrats are backing away from plans to hold a blockbuster hearing this month with Robert Mueller after talks stalled out with the special counsel and his representatives.
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and a senior Democratic committee aide told POLITICO on Friday that there’s no Mueller hearing planned for next week, though that could also change at a moment’s notice if the special counsel said he’s ready to testify.
While he was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted at least one member of Congress who was publicly criticizing the special counsel probe, according to messages obtained by CNN.
Flynn sent Twitter direct messages to Rep. Matt Gaetz, encouraging the Florida Republican to “keep the pressure on.” It’s not clear if Flynn sent additional messages to other lawmakers.
“You stay on top of what you’re doing. Your leadership is so vital for our country now. Keep the pressure on,” Flynn wrote in an April 2018 message to Gaetz, which was obtained by CNN.
SYDNEY —The center-right government of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison held onto power Saturday after a surprise surge in national elections that left some pundits making comparisons to President Trump’s poll-defying win in 2016.
The apparent upset victory was the latest election to trample predictions by polling firms, which all showed Morrison’s political bloc trailing the opposition Labor Party.
The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, conceded defeat as election returns tipped the scales against him.
Shorten proposed that Australia generate half of its electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2030, a huge shift for a nation with the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves and the eighth-biggest natural-gas industry.
The policy backfired against him in Queensland state, the center of the country’s coal industry, where voters swung to the government in large numbers. Gains in Shorten’s home state of Victoria weren’t enough to cover losses elsewhere.
A Brazilian U.S. subsidiary is being paid over $60 million in aid aimed at helping American farmers weather President Donald Trump’s trade war, according to media reports.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying $40.1 million to buy pork from JBS USA — a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS SA — using American taxpayer bailout funds intended to help U.S. farmers. That’s in addition to previously awarded pork contracts for $22.3 million, The Greeley Tribune reported Thursday.
The FCC began auctioning off the 24 GHz spectrum in March to wireless carriers who plan to use it for new 5G networks. Earlier this week, Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Maria Cantwell of Washington wrote a letter to the FCC asking that the agency refrain from issuing the licenses to auction winners until a solution can be found.
The problem comes from the use of spectrum in the 24 gigahertz frequency band, which is very close to a spectrum band that NOAA uses to collect data for weather prediction. NOAA uses the 23.8 GHz spectrum to collect data about atmospheric conditions that’s then fed into its data model. The concern is that 5G radios carriers use in the 24 GHz band will interfere with these sensitive sensors on satellites monitoring the atmospheric conditions.
Turning down the power emitted by 5G wireless radios could help prevent some of this interference. But Jacobs pointed out that the current proposal from the FCC would result in a 77 percent loss in data from the NOAA satellite sensors. He said experts from the FCC and NOAA are collaborating to come up with a solution, and he noted he was optimistic a solution will be found.
The FCC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
LOS ANGELES — A blowout at a Los Angeles natural gas well in 2015 that led to the largest-known release of methane in U.S. history was the result of a corroded pipe casing, safety failures by a utility and inadequate regulations, according to an investigation report released Friday.
Southern California Gas Co. failed to investigate previous well failures at the Aliso Canyon storage field and didn’t adequately assess its aging wells for disaster potential before the Oct. 23, 2015, blowout, the report released by the California Public Utilities Commission said.
The disaster led to stricter state regulations and improved policies that would have addressed most of the causes, the report found.