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Trump chucks Clintons impeachment playbook

0 0 08 Dec 2019

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump and his allies have predicted the president will see a similar impeachment outcome as former President Bill Clinton did: an acquittal in the Senate, a subsequent spike in popularity, and a backlash against the opposing party in the following elections.

Yet two months into the process, it’s become clear that an expectation of Clinton’s results hasn’t translated into an embrace of his tactics. Trump isn’t following the Clinton playbook, the strategies that helped his predecessor weather the impeachment process — a reality that’s frustrated and sparked concern among even his biggest defenders.

For much of Clinton’s impeachment hearings, his approval ratings were in the 60 percent range. They hit the highest point of his presidency at 73 percent approval following his impeachment trial in the Senate, according to Gallup.

Trump, on the other hand, has seen his approval rating stuck in the low-40s, with no sizable shift in public support in his favor since the impeachment process began. Despite Trump’s near daily attacks on the inquiry, the public has remained split over whether he should be impeached and removed from office, with stronger voter support for that prospect than Clinton ever faced.

The divergent strategies are one factor that could explain the differing results, at least so far. Here are a few of the ways the Clinton and Trump response contrast:

Into vs. above the fray

While Trump rarely goes more than a few hours without weighing in on the impeachment inquiry, Clinton’s strategy was to appear above the impeachment fray, a figure too busy working on behalf of the American people to spend his days focused on the investigation by Ken Starr or the impeachment proceedings that followed.

To do that, he left it to his lawyers and TV defenders, like James Carville and Lanny Davis, to combat Democrats and only addressed the controversy in key moments.

It’s the same advice Clinton has said he would give Trump today.

“My message would be, look you got hired to do a job, you don’t get the days back you blow off, every day is an opportunity to make something good happy,” Clinton said in an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper Nov. 14. “I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry, and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.’That’s what I would do.”

Even Trump’s allies have pleaded with him to follow the Clinton model here, leveraging the Oval Office backdrop to foster the image of a president hard at work, not like one spending his days fuming on Twitter and watching cable news.

“President Clinton defended himself but he never stopped being presidential,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters earlier this fall of the Clinton White House. “…The public may not have liked what the president had done, but believed that he was still able to do his job, and as he governed during impeachment, I think that was the single best thing he did.”

There have been moments when it seemed Trump was listening to the advice of supporters like Graham.

He spent much of the first day of public impeachment hearings meeting at the White House with Turkish president Tayyip Recep Erdogan, with Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham saying he was “too busy” to watch the testimony.

During the second week of hearings, as his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, implicated him in a quid pro quo — alleging he had looked to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden — he toured an Apple manufacturing plant, talking about jobs.

But the presidential moments have been short-lived — and throughout, it has been clear the president has been been watching the proceedings.

Trump tweeted a real-time attack at former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in the middle of her testimony, causing Democrats to accuse him of witness intimidation. During a break in testimony last week, he re-enacted to reporters testimony by Sondland that he argued had exonerated him, using notes he’d scrawled in black marker from the televised hearing. A day later, he gave an interview to Fox News where he denying all wrongdoing, insulted witnesses, and doubled down on conspiracy theories around Ukraine.

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“I have sinned” vs. a “perfect call”

Clinton, while denying he committed perjury and obstruction of justice, eventually issued a public apology for his affair: he had “sinned,” he said, asking for forgiveness and apologizing for the hurt he’d caused his family and the American people. The apology came after Clinton admitted to the relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky in videotaped grand jury testimony.

It was a point his lawyers even emphasized in their opening statement before the Senate when arguing he doesn’t deserve to be impeached.

“The president wants everyone to know — the committee, the Congress, and the country — that he is genuinely sorry for the pain and the damage that he has caused and for the wrongs that he has committed” said White House Special Counsel Gregory Craig on the first day of Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Trump, on the other hand, has repeatedly denied there was anything wrong with asking the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival, saying around 200 times so far that his call at the center of the impeachment inquiry was “perfect.”

The lack of apology and remorse makes it difficult for his defenders, said Lanny Davis, who acted as the primary public spokesman for Clinton

“We had one situation where I, on television, was able to say President Clinton has acknowledged his mistake, apologized to the American people and went before the grand jury,” said Davis. “I could not have made that statement for President Trump.”

Trump has instead swatted down any suggestion he may have acted inappropriately in any way — and encouraged his defenders to do the same, even as some Republicans in Congress have suggested it was inappropriate, though not impeachable, to ask the Ukrainian president for such a favor.

“The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT. Read the Transcript! There was NOTHING said that was in any way wrong,” Trump said in a tweet Nov. 10. “Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

War Room vs. “I’m the team”

Clinton assembled a team of aides and outside advisers singularly focused on impeachment to help free up White House staff to carry on with their daily duties and try to minimize the distraction the process created internally.

The Clinton team tasked a handful of people to serve as his public defenders to help keep the messaging focused, said Davis, a former White House counsel who was one of those surrogates.

Davis said he went on television almost daily during some periods, and would consult regularly with the White House lawyers and the political advisers on his message. He kept the talking points focused on the idea that what Clinton did was a personal matter, not an abuse of the office, and between him and his family.

“We had a very simple message based on facts,” said Davis, while Trump’s defenders “are in an impossible situation. They have my sympathy. … They don’t have a message based on facts, so they are all over the place.”

Trump has dismissed the idea of a need for a so-called war room or dedicated staff to battle impeachment.

“I don’t have teams. Everyone’s talking about ‘teams.’ I’m the team. I did nothing wrong,” Trump told reporters Oct. 25.

But the White House and its surrogates have struggled to settle on a clear, consistent defense. Their messaging has instead been notable for headline-grabbing stumbles, such as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s need to walk back his statement, made during a press briefing, that security funding to Ukraine was linked to the country committing to investigate 2016 election interference.

As the impeachment process moved into the public sphere this month, the White House brought in former Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to help direct messaging efforts. But the White House still lacks an individual solely focused on impeachment who reports directly to the president.

Instead, there has been internal infighting, with a rift between Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipillone over who should be taking the lead on guiding the strategy, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Discredit, dismiss

On the other hand, there has been at least one area where the Trump and Clinton strategies have overlapped: their attempts to discredit and dismiss the investigation itself, the officials directing it and the individuals conducting it.

Clinton’s team made a villain out of independent counsel Ken Starr, looking to paint him as a “prissy, partisan, pompous prosecutor,” said James Carville during a speech last month. Starr fought back, at times grabbing the impeachment probe spotlight himself and distracting attention from Clinton.

“Of course, he played right into it and I had more fun slapping Ken Starr around than almost anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Carville said.

Trump has sought to do the same with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. He’s chucked one insult after another at them, calling them “human scum,” making fun of Schiff’s neck size, referring to Pelosi as “crazy Nancy,” and calling her Congressional district as a “disgusting slum.”

And the Clinton team, like Trump’s surrogates, sought to downplay the charges made against them.

“We trivialized the charge — ‘You’re looking to do this over that? Come on, guys?’” Carville said.

Trump’s allies have sought to make a similar argument. Even those Republicans who say it was improper for Trump to ask a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival have argued it wasn’t an impeachable offense. Others have proposed that the fact that Ukraine ultimately received the delayed aid, amid a congressional outcry, means that there is no longer an offense to investigate.

“Concern is different than rising to the level of impeachment,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last month. “I look at it this way: The aid is there and the investigations didn’t happen. So, if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn’t a very effective one.”

Then again, that’s another Clinton-era argument — that the president’s actions may have been flawed in some fashion, but not fatally — that Trump himself has remained unwilling to embrace.

“I always say,” Trump asked at a campaign rally last month, “how do you impeach a president who didn’t do anything wrong?”

Mom of slain UPS driver says she didnt come to this country for my son to be killed

10 0 08 Dec 2019

Luz Apolinario can’t believe that she will be spending Christmas without her son Frank Ordoñez, the 27-year-old UPS driver who was killed during a police-involved shootout in Florida this week.

“I have no words to explain what I’m feeling,” said the heartbroken mother in Spanish during an emotional interview with Telemundo. “He would tell me: ‘Mom, all of us are going to be together this Christmas.'”

Ordoñez, a father of two, was working his route Thursday when his truck was comandeered in an attempted armed robbery that ended in a hail of gunfire.

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He had recently started driving a new route, according to his parents. His truck was hijacked by two men who had attempted an armed robbery on a South Florida jewelry store. Ordoñez was still inside the vehicle when authorities launched a two-county, rush-hour police chase that ended in a shootout between authorities and the suspects. Four people were killed, including the suspects and Ordoñez.

It’s unclear whose gunfire hit Ordoñez. The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined state and local police in investigating the incident.

“I can’t believe they killed my son. I came to this country for a better life, not for my son to be killed,” said Apolinario, an Ecuadorian immigrant living in Hialeah, Florida.

Apolinario said her son had bought all the Christmas decorations for her home and had stayed up all night alongside his two daughters putting them up. Now, every time she looks at them, she is reminded of the tragedy that cost him his life.

The mother said she has watched news footage “over and over” of the gunfire that ended the incident. “He wasn’t even given a chance,” she said.

“I wish I would have died before he did,” she added, crying.

His mother and family have described Ordoñez as an exemplary man dedicated to his job. He was looking forward to buying his own house next year to give his daughters a stable place to live.

Ordoñez is survived by his two daughters, ages 6 and 3.

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Will Ukraines Zelenskiy and Russias Putin give peace a chance?

1 0 08 Dec 2019

MOSCOW ⁠— A lot is riding on talks between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who are set to sit down in Paris on Monday for the first summit between leaders of the two countries since 2016.

A breakthrough would lead to an end of the war in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since it began almost six years ago.

The sides are still far ⁠apart — Ukraine was under Moscow’s control when it was part of the Soviet Union, and some experts allege Russia wants a return of sorts to the previous status quo.

Meanwhile, Ukraine simply wants Russian forces and their allies in the east of the country to leave.

“Our main expectation for [the summit] and any other formats is what I call RUxit,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Pristaiko wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “We want Russiа and Russian forces to leave Ukraine.”

The meeting will be brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Putin and Zelenskiy are expected to have a private meeting. The ultimate goal of talks: to bring a shaky 2015 cease-fire known as the Minsk agreement into force as a first stepping stone toward ending the conflict.

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The conflict in eastern Ukraine was sparked by Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and its subsequent support for pro-Russian separatists who took control over the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk on the border with Russia.

According to the United Nations, some 4 million civilians living in eastern Ukraine have had their lives disrupted by the conflict. A UNICEF report published Monday added that 430,000 children in the region “continue to bear the brunt” of the conflict.

Zelenskiy, a young comedian who was elected president in April on a reform agenda that prioritized ending the conflict, is no doubt aware of such statistics. He has routinely touted the need to resolve the conflict for the sake of those living under it. And in this regard, securing a meeting with Putin is a victory itself.

“It’s a victory when the weapons fall silent and people speak up,” Zelenskiy was quoted by TIME as saying in a joint interview with three other foreign publications in Kyiv published Monday. “That’s already the first step.”

But much will be riding on whether Putin gets what he wants — future leverage over not only eastern Ukraine but also Ukraine in general, said Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center think tank in Kyiv.

“At this point, it is difficult to talk about what kind of concrete deliverables might come from the Paris meeting,” she said.

Like the status of Crimea, aspects of the Minsk agreement have for years now proven irreconcilable. Specifically, the two sides cannot agree on an acceptable sequence for implementing the plan.

While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin is prepared to address any topic Zelenskiy desires, even the status of annexed Crimea, he has also categorically ruled out that Crimea is on the table. It is unclear how and if this issue can be resolved. Putin made the annexation of Crimea a key foundation of his support at home.

However, on a smaller scale, the past few months have seen a number of positive developments.

Over three phone calls, the two leaders have facilitated major prisoner swaps, and last month Russia returned three Ukrainian naval vessels seized in a dramatic and dangerous clash on the Black Sea just over a year ago.

Zelenskiy said in the Monday interview that Kyiv’s position is that elections cannot be held in eastern Ukraine until Russian-backed forces are withdrawn and Kyiv’s control over the Ukraine-Russia border restored. The position of Moscow and its proxies in the east has been elections first.

“Putin has no reason to yield, to give ground on Minsk,” says Dmitry Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow think tank. “And Zelensky does not seem capable of fully implementing the deal.” The two are likely only to produce a statement affirming their commitment to finding a way to implement the Minsk agreements.

This, at least, could bring a modicum of calm, if not overall peace.

Navy base shootings in Pensacola and Pearl Harbor revive debate — and myths — about guns

2 0 08 Dec 2019

Back-to-back mass shooting incidents at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Naval Air Station Pensacola have generated wide-ranging debate about the policies governing weapons on military installations, especially the use and availability of weapons.

Incidents like these predictably result in the recommendation of policies that sound emotionally compelling but don’t make much sense in the real world. Notably, mandating the free carry of personal weapons on military bases would make these installations more dangerous, not less.

Incidents like these predictably result in the recommendation of policies that sound emotionally compelling but don’t make much sense in the real world.

First a bit of background. Most American have not spent time in uniform, and so it may come as a shock that a military camp or base, with thousands of service members, is not bristling with weapons. In fact, all military arms, including small arms and handguns, are in locked racks or safes in secured arms rooms. Individual troops are assigned specific weapons, and they are issued only under signature for training, then returned under signature at the conclusion of the exercise. This means gunfire on bases is exceedingly rare, despite a handful of high-profile mass shootings like the deadly 2009 shooting spree in Fort Hood, Texas.

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Service members may also possess private weapons, but these are treated the same ways. Obviously, many service members living off base also own guns, and commanders have a difficult time restricting members from bringing those weapons onto the base. So there is an interesting contrast that develops between the attitude towards weapons on military bases and the attitude towards weapons that has developed among the civilian population, especially in open-carry states. This can make security difficult.

Consider a place like Naval Air Station Pensacola, where more than 10,000 people — military and civilian — work. Because many of these employees live off the base, conducting a thorough inspection of every vehicle as it enters would be impossible, and so the rules are typically more practical, and thus more lenient: a vehicle registered with the base, driven by someone with a government ID, enters without inspection. One can expect that in the aftermath of these shootings, all or most military installations will be more restrictive for a while, although in time those restrictions will likely be relaxed.

The Department of Defense gives base commanders the freedom to permit the open carry of weapons, but it would appear that few if any have done so. With authority comes responsibility, and there seems to be no interest in the military in accepting the higher risk associated with rules that are less stringent. Indeed, the recent shootings are likely to make commanders even more averse to laxity.

In Pensacola, the shooter was not a member of the U.S. military but a foreign soldier in America for training. We have been training foreign military personnel in the United States for many decades, and ostensibly each student has been vetted by his government. No system is faultless, of course, but allies would have no reason to vouch for exchange students they know are dangerous. It has been concluded that the attack at Pensacola was probably a terrorist incident, but Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the Saudi lieutenant who killed three people before being killed himself, had been training there for close to two years. Nadil Hassan, the U.S. Army major who killed 13 people and wounded 30 at Ford Hood, was an American citizen born in Virginia.

We are not going to stop training foreign allies; they purchase billions of dollars of our weapons systems and we train with them and fight alongside them against our mutual enemies. Interoperability of equipment and personnel is essential to battlefield success.

In the end, reducing the frequency of tragedies like these requires nothing revolutionary. And flooding military bases with unregulated weaponry is certainly not the answer. For every example of “a good guy with a gun” stopping “a bad guy with a gun,” there are many more examples of deadly accidents, confrontations that turn unnecessarily lethal — and of course, suicide.

Before Hassan was transferred to Fort Hood, his supervisors should have noticed red flags about his behavior. We may discover something similar about the Pensacola suspect.

Every leader in the chain of command is responsible for everything that happens, or fails to happen, in the unit. Co-workers are with each other every day, and in military organizations almost 100 percent of the time. Leaders are trained to recognize problems as they occur, and the circumstances and behaviors that may precede them. The large majority of outrageous conduct is not something that occurs without warning. Instead, it is the culmination of deteriorating standards and behavior that, in retrospect, surprises few close to the situation. You can never eliminate aberrant behavior, but the very fact that it is aberrant should make it easier to prevent than we are willing to admit.

Books, binders and bleed-control kits: How school shootings are changing classroom basics

1 0 08 Dec 2019

When a student recently opened fire at a California high school, staff members did what they were trained to do. They shepherded students to safe spaces, barricaded doors, pulled shades — and, when gunfire struck, used techniques adapted from the battlefield to save lives.

The staffers used two bleeding-control kits in the Nov. 14 shooting in Santa Clarita, in which two students were killed and three injured before the gunman fatally shot himself, said Dave Caldwell, spokesman for the William S. Hart Union High School District. The kits, a recent addition to the district northwest of Los Angeles, are equipped with tourniquets, compression bandages and blood-clotting hemostatic gauze to prevent excessive blood loss.

Such kits have been pushed in school districts across the country. Georgia pioneered a statewide initiative to equip schools with Stop the Bleed Kits, for the 2017-18 academic year. This year, Texas, Arkansas and Indiana passed legislation to put them into schools. The Arkansas law requires public school students to be trained on the kits as part of the health curriculum to graduate.

Some gun control advocates say the efforts sap the political energy needed to reduce the actual violence. Most of the policies on bleeding-control kits have occurred in Republican-led states, where gun control may be especially unlikely to pass. Still, Democrat-controlled Illinois is among those to have picked up the campaign, with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force announcing in September plans to distribute 7,000 of the kits to the state’s public schools.

There is no statewide mandate for the kits in California. Rather, two students in the William S. Hart Union High School District took the initiative there.

Sisters Cambria, 15, and Maci Lawrence, 13, were worried about school shootings and natural disasters. They said they wanted to help keep students safe. After sharing their worries with their father, Dr. Tracy “Bud” Lawrence, who directs the emergency department of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Santa Clarita, the sisters raised $100,000 through the “Keep the Pressure” nonprofit they established to get bleeding-control kits into every classroom in the district.

“We just wanted to get them into as many hands as possible,” Bud Lawrence said.

1.5 million trained

Stop the Bleed kits were developed following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed. Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, who was a surgeon at the trauma center closest to Sandy Hook, said he and his staff prepared for an influx of patients from the attack, but none came to the hospital. They had not survived.

Jacobs, through a coalition known as the Hartford Consensus, led military leaders, law enforcement, trauma surgeons and emergency responders to develop recommendations on how to improve the survival rate in mass casualty events. Among the recommendations was the development of a Stop the Bleed campaign.

The American College of Surgeons, a member of the Hartford Consensus, launched the Stop the Bleed campaign to distribute the kits and to promote training so that more people understand how to stop bleeding if responding to an emergency. Jacobs said the effort has reached 100 countries and trained 1.5 million people.

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Advocates for the campaign stress that the kits can help any type of significant traumatic injury.

Most fatal injuries, in fact, aren’t caused by gunfire, said Billy Kunkle, deputy director for the Georgia Trauma Commission. Kunkle said the No. 1 cause of such deaths is falls, followed by car crashes.

In 2018, for example, a fourth-grade student in Georgia was playing with friends on the playground when she fell and a friend fell on top of her. According to news reports, the girl broke her arm and severed her artery. The school’s nurse, using the Stop the Bleed kit her school had received less than 24-hours earlier, applied a tourniquet that the surgeons who treated Lopez credited with saving her life.

Kunkle said the kits should be viewed as an extension of a first aid kit. He likened them to other lifesaving tools, such as defibrillators, that have been installed throughout public spaces.

“We know it works. We know it saves lives,” said Republican Indiana state Rep. Randy Frye, a retired firefighter who authored legislation to put the kits in the state’s public schools. “You can’t wait for 911, even in the best system.”

Limited reach of gun control

Still, gun control advocates say bleeding-control kit efforts allow lawmakers to avoid dealing with the cause of school shootings.

“On the one hand, anything we do to save lives is good. But, on the other hand, fundamentally, it is allowing lawmakers and officials to ignore the root cause of gun violence,” said Kyleanne Hunter, vice president of programs for Brady, formerly known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Yes, we need to deal with mental health. Yes, we need to deal with first aid and medical care. And we need to address how easy it is to get guns,” Hunter said. “We don’t believe it should be an either-or.”

Legislators have ignored numerous proposals aimed at reducing gun violence, including Brady’s “End Family Fire,” she said. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, 75 percent of school shootings involved guns that shooters found unsecured in their homes. End Family Fire encourages the safe storage of weapons to make it more difficult for children to access unsecured guns.

“I am sure that a lot of school safety legislation allows some legislators to say, ‘We are doing something,’ and that allows a release valve for them to not focus on gun control,” said Democratic Texas state Rep. Diego Bernal, who was a co-sponsor on the Stop the Bleed legislation in his state.

Still, he added, “I suspect, even if there was gun control legislation, we would pursue this bill. I don’t think this is an either-or proposition.”

Among the advantages of having the kits in schools and more people trained on methods to stop bleeding, Jacobs said, is that a lockdown often follows a shooting. That prevents emergency responders from getting in or the injured from getting out. In every kind of trauma, he said, minutes count.

“If, God forbid, something happens, you really want to know there is someone right there beside you who can do something,” said Jacobs. “If you can keep the blood inside the body until you reach the hospital, you have a phenomenal chance for survival.”

In Georgia, the governor allocated $1 million from fees generated by the state’s Super Speeder traffic safety law to pay for the kits. To date, Kunkle said, the kits are in about 2,100 of the state’s 2,300 schools, and have been used seven times.

In Arkansas and Indiana, the cost of supplying kits to schools was covered largely by private donations.

Dr. Marlon Doucet, a Little Rock, Ark., trauma surgeon, is leading efforts to expand access and training on Stop the Bleed kits in schools and elsewhere in his state. He believes strongly that training more people — including cops, teachers and students — will save lives.

Twenty-five people were shot in the July 2017 Little Rock Power Ultra Lounge shooting, and all survived, Doucet said.

“No one died because law enforcement officers were using tourniquets and packing wounds,” he said. “This just makes sense.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Bloomberg or Bernie: 2020 Democrats should look to the past for lessons on progressive coalitions

2 0 08 Dec 2019

Can a progressive candidate defeat the current occupant of the White House? Big money in the Democratic Party is now betting against it. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire centrist, is pouring cash into a presidential bid based on that premise. Is Bloomberg on to something or is this just self-serving speculation?

What is clear is that, in a country increasingly torn apart by the fierce politics of division and inequality, many Americans are looking for a candidate who will fight for a more just society. But the politics is fraught. Because the fight for equality can mean different priorities for different constituencies.

The politics is fraught. Because the fight for equality can mean different priorities for different constituencies.

In this time of #MeToo, and real risks to reproductive rights, for example, many voters see the fight for sexual equality with special urgency. Does this mean supporting a female candidate?

Meanwhile, as cell phone cameras document lethal police violence against black bodies, many voters focus on striking a blow for racial justice. But along with criminal justice reform and protecting voting rights, does racial equality mean a candidate who supports reparations or other specific remedies?

Stagnant incomes amid soaring profits have also opened up a chasm of economic inequality unseen for nearly a century. Many voters have as their top priorities a living wage, health care and education. But can the economic inequities of this new Gilded Age be addressed without fighting for the structural changes necessary to realize “Medicare for All,” free public university education and a Green New Deal?

In short, a progressive campaign could find itself dragged down by the undertow of conflicting currents within the progressive camp. So how to align the different demands for equality? And what type of candidate can bring together the multiple constituencies necessary to defeat President Donald Trump, a person who appears to embody the inequalities of our time?

This is not the first time Americans have confronted such choices. The Civil War, fought over racial slavery, unleashed a torrent of claims to equality, and these struggles were fractious and messy. The Gilded Age’s often competing great social movements speak to our current crisis in telling ways. The question was — and remains: Equality for whom?

For many African Americans, breaking the chains of bondage meant that now was the hour to gain racial justice and equality. Women’s rights activists, however, saw it as the moment for female suffrage and equality of the sexes. The votes of white women, they believed, took priority over the votes of black men. Meanwhile farmers, workers and other anti-monopolists asserted it was time to challenge the power of corporate capitalism.

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The resulting conflicts over the meanings of equality too often proved destructive. This was particularly true when it came to matters of race. Mighty campaigns against corporate power and to overthrow the patriarchal tyranny of the late Victorian era went hand in hand with Jim Crow, disfranchisement and the destruction of rights for African Americans and other racial minorities.

Yet there were breakthrough moments when the politics of diverse constituencies aligned in favor of justice and equality — as when, for example, African-American demands for civil rights and the anti-monopolist demands for economic rights reinforced each other at the ballot box. These moments hold lessons for today.

For many women suffragists, the amendments to address racial equality — the Fourteenth in 1868 and the Fifteenth in 1870 — were a betrayal. They provided equal protection of the laws and voting rights for black men, but not for women. In response, many white women leaders, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, joined white supremacist efforts to deny equality to black men.

But the bigger story was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which linked the fight against alcohol with sexual equality. In 1890, the WCTU had 10 times the membership of the largest suffrage group. Its dynamic leader, Frances Willard, was the most powerful woman of her generation. Under her “Do Everything” policy, the Temperance Union did much more than warn of the dangers of booze — it worked for a broad agenda of public health and labor reform, as well as women’s rights and equality.

The Temperance Union also enrolled African-American women, who saw the organization as a vehicle for both women’s rights and black rights. Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, the celebrated black abolitionist, spread the word that racial and sexual equality shared a common foundation in human dignity.

Ultimately, however, the WCTU leadership made a strategic political alliance with the elite women of the former Confederacy. In the name of female equality and solidarity, Willard, daughter of Lincoln Republicans, found a friend in Varina Davis, wife of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Not only did this alliance eventually drive Harper and other African Americans out of the WCTU, it led to a fateful clash with the civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, who rightly accused Willard of apologizing for lynch mobs.

At the same time, Willard and the WCTU made common cause with the anti-monopolist organizations of farmers and workers that gave rise to the Populist revolt of the 1890s. But the anti-monopolists also had a mixed record when it came to conflicting demands for equality.

In the early 1870s, the farmers’ Grange was the beating heart of the anti-monopoly movement. It was an organizational colossus, enrolling as dues-paying members a majority of farmers (at least white farmers) in agricultural districts from Mississippi to Nebraska. Women also joined, attracted by the Grange’s pledge to sexual equality. And to gain equality for farmers, the organization pushed through the so-called Granger Laws to regulate railroads, grain-elevator companies and other “cursed monopolies.”

This anti-monopoly struggle, however, came at a heavy cost for former slaves. Grangers in the North and West saw Southern white planters as their natural allies. In the name of equality, for example, Grangers in 1874 demanded that Congress make payments to white plantation owners as reparations for the post-Civil War cotton tax. More fundamentally, the Grange demanded an end to federal support for the Reconstruction efforts to achieve racial equality.

This anti-monopoly struggle, however, came at a heavy cost for former slaves. Grangers in the North and West saw Southern white planters as their natural allies.

By the mid-1880s, it was labor’s turn to field a massive organization to stake its claim for equality. With nearly a million members, the Knights of Labor was the largest labor organization in U.S. history (and probably world history) to that point. The Knights also embraced a more universal notion of equality, making it one of the most inclusive institutions of its era, with the striking exception of Chinese immigrants. It organized men and women, immigrants and native born and black and white workers — arguing for the equality of all workers no matter their skill, gender, marital status or race or nationality (again, with the exception of the Chinese).

The Knights held its national convention in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, in 1886, and the delegates shocked the nation with their disregard of the host city’s color line. Not only did Frank Ferrell, an African American, play a prominent part at the convention, he joined his fellow Knights in the “choicest” orchestra seats at a performance of “Hamlet.”

Many white people responded with predictable horror. But black people responded by signing up. In the rural South, cooks, cotton pickers, ditch diggers, washerwomen and housekeepers turned the Knights into an organization of the black poor.

Populism, the product of a coalition of social movements, marked the cresting of the post-Civil War egalitarian wave. In 1891, farmer, labor, women’s rights and other reform movements united to create the People’s Party, known as the Populist Party. It brought together the Farmers’ Alliance (which had surpassed the Grange as the nation’s farm organization), the Knights of Labor, the WCTU and other interest groups.

But populism also could not escape conflicting claims to equality. The WCTU’s Willard left the Populists when the Populist Party’s national convention failed to support women’s political equality because it was “secondary to the great issues” of economic equality and fighting corporate power. Meanwhile, to cement the Populist coalition, the Knights of Labor deferred to the white Farmers’ Alliance to “manage the negro.” African Americans mainly kept their distance.

Yet, in key places, the Populists managed to successfully align divergent movements for equality. In Colorado in 1893, for example, the success of an anti-monopoly coalition of miners and farmers helped make that state the first to adopt women’s suffrage.

As this history suggests, the politics of equality are complicated. Voters will weigh their competing priorities. Is this the moment to strike a blow for racial equality? For sexual equality? For economic equality?

In North Carolina the next year, “fusion” between white anti-monopolists and black voters toppled the reactionary corporate regime of white supremacy, cleaned up a corrupt electoral system and financed public schools for black and white children. White and black fusion voters had different priorities — but they agreed to align their votes in the interest of both. Unable to beat the “fusionists” at the polls, the reactionaries resorted to a violent “white supremacy campaign” culminating in the Wilmington massacre of 1898.

As this history suggests, the politics of equality are complicated. Voters will weigh their competing priorities. Is this the moment to strike a blow for racial equality? For sexual equality? For economic equality?

The long-term — or perhaps the only — answer will likely be intersectional politics, rooted in a recognition of the common grounds for the diverse claims to equality. This idea already resonates among a section of woke activists, and shows signs of growing deeper politics roots.

Short of that, however, in our two-party, winner-take-all political system, the answer might lie in the fusion notion of aligning votes with the aim of defeating the current administration and its savage inequities.

Army football team removes slogan because of ties to white supremacist groups

10 0 07 Dec 2019

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s football team is changing its motto after learning of its ties to white supremacist groups, a spokesman said.

Since the mid-1990s, the Army Black Knights used a skull-and-crossbones flag with the letters “G.F.B.D.” — for God Forgives, Brothers Don’t — written on the skull’s lips.

But a few months ago, the football program removed the acronym from the flag and merchandise after administrators were told in September that it’s linked to the Aryan Brotherhood and motorcycle gangs, according to ESPN.

In a statement to NBC News, a West Point spokesman said the football program was initially unaware that the acronym and saying were “associated with extremist groups.”

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“The motto was originally used to emphasize teamwork, loyalty, and toughness,” the statement said. “The academy immediately discontinued using it upon notification of its tie to hate groups.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most popular sayings used by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is “God Forgives, Brothers Don’t.” The group is one of the largest and most violent white supremacist prison gangs in the country, according to the ADL.

The military academy’s superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, said in a statement that the team’s use of “G.F.B.D.” was “in no way related to a radical hate group or any similar group.”

“The U.S. Military Academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values,” Williams said. “Ideology, actions, and associations of hate groups directly conflict with our values and have no place at this institution.”

Williams told ESPN the incident was “embarrassing.” and he immediately asked for an investigation upon learning about the slogan’s origin.

“We take stuff like this very, very seriously. Once I found out about this goofiness, I asked one of our most senior colonels to investigate,” he told the outlet.

West Point’s athletic director, Mike Buddie, told ESPN that a group of players on the football team adopted the slogan after seeing it in the movie “Stone Cold,” which stars former NFL star Brian Bosworth as a police officer who infiltrates a fictitious Mississippi biker gang called The Brotherhood.

Academy investigators spoke to the former West Point cadet who introduced the slogan, and he said he did not know of its ties to white supremacy groups, Buddie told the outlet.

Saudi Air Force member who killed 3 at U.S. Navy base had watched mass-shooting videos

4 0 07 Dec 2019

The Saudi Air Force member suspected of killing three people and wounding several others at a shooting Friday at a naval base in Pensacola, Florida, attended a dinner prior to the rampage at which mass shooting videos were shown, according to an official familiar with the investigation.

The official said it’s unclear what that means.

The gunman, who was killed in the incident by responding sheriff’s deputies in the incident, was identified by several law enforcement sources as Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. He was at Naval Air Station Pensacola as part of a training program.

In other news about the investigation into the shooting, a number of Saudi training students were led away by authorities after the incident, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Officials have not publicly confirmed the shooter’s name or discussed a possible motive.

“We are not prepared at this hour to confirm what may have motivated the shooter to commit this horrific act today,” said Rachel L. Rojas, FBI special agent in charge of the Jacksonville division, at a news conference Friday night.

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The shooting happened at around 6:50 a.m. in a two-floor classroom building at the naval base, which is on the Florida Panhandle about 13 miles from the Alabama border.

Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, said the suspect had been scheduled to complete a three-year U.S. Air Force Foreign Military Sales training program, funded by Saudi Arabia, in August.

Foreign students from ally and “partner” nations of the U.S. have been coming to train at the base since at least World War II, Base commander Capt. Timothy Kinsella said Friday.

“There have always been international students training here because it’s a good place to train. It’s good-quality training,” he said.

Eastburn said 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries, including 852 Saudis, are in the U.S. for Department of Defense security cooperation-related training. According to a Pentagon policy, foreign nationals who want to participate in the program are vetted for terrorist activity, drug trafficking, corruption, and criminal conduct.

Three people were killed in the shooting and eight others, including two Escambia County sheriff’s deputies, were injured after an exchange with the shooter, who was armed with a handgun. Authorities said both deputies are expected to survive.

One of the victims killed is being remembered by his brother for saving the lives of others despite being shot multiple times.

In a gut-wrenching Facebook post, Adam Watson confirmed that Joshua Kaleb Watson was among those killed and said that his brother told first responders where the shooter was located inside the base.

“Today has been the worst day of my life,” Adam Watson wrote. “Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable.”

Adam Watson said his brother “died a hero.”

“We are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled,” the Facebook post read.

Friday’s shooting is the second incident this week at a U.S. Navy facility. On Wednesday, a U.S. sailor shot and killed two civilian Defense Department employees and wounded a third at the Pearl Harbor Shipyard in Hawaii before killing himself.

Ken Dilanian contributed.

Billy Dee Williams says his gender identity comments were misunderstood

8 0 07 Dec 2019

“Star Wars” actor Billy Dee Williams walked back comments he made to Esquire magazine that were construed by a number of media outlets, LGBTQ advocacy groups and fans as an expression of his gender fluidity.

“What the hell is gender fluid? That’s a whole new term,” Williams, 82, said in an interview published Wednesday in The Undefeated.

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A week before his interview with The Undefeated, Esquire ran an article in which the actor said, “I think of myself as a relatively colorful character who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.”

Williams then added, “And you see I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine.”

Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, tweeted congratulations at Williams for “coming out and living your truth as gender fluid.”

Williams told The Undefeated that he was referring to “men getting in touch with their softer side of themselves,” and pointed to the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who theorized in the early 20th century that both men and women have “anima and animus,” which are masculine and feminine consciousness and subconsciousness.

“So, that’s what I was referring to. I was talking about men getting in touch with the female side of themselves. I wasn’t talking about sex, I wasn’t talking about being gay or straight. People should read [Jung]. I mean, it would be an interesting education for a lot of people,” he told The Undefeated, further clarifying that “he identifies as a man” and that he is “not gay.”

Williams did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. Williams’ next film, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” premieres Dec. 20.

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Family of Robert Levinson, held in Iran 13 years, calls prisoner exchange bittersweet

4 0 07 Dec 2019

The family of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent held for nearly 13 years in Iran, said on Saturday that they are happy about the release of American student Xiyue Wang in a prisoner exchange, but can’t help feeling “extremely disappointed” that their husband and father continues to be imprisoned.

The Levinsons said they send their best wishes to Wang’s wife and his young son: “This is a day they have long hoped for, but this news is bittersweet for our family.”

Levinson has been held hostage longer than any other American, the family’s statement noted.

“We can’t help but be extremely disappointed that, despite all its efforts, the United States government was unable to secure his release,” the statement said. “Iranian authorities continue to play a cruel game with our father’s life, and with our family. But the world knows the truth, and Iranian leadership must come clean. It is time for Iran to send Bob Levinson home, so he can live the rest of his life in peace.”

Wang, 38, was released and able to head home on Saturday after spending more than three years in an Iranian prison. The U.S. and Iran negotiated in Switzerland to exchange Wang for Iranian citizen Massoud Soleimani, who was being held in an Atlanta jail over accusations that he had violated U.S. sanctions.

Levinson, 71, was working with the CIA on an unauthorized intelligence-gathering mission when he disappeared in March 2007 on Kish Island, a resort area off Iran’s coast. He is now the longest-held American hostage in history, but his condition and whereabouts are largely unknown.

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Iran acknowledged in a filing to the United Nations last month that it had an open case against Levinson.

Otherwise nothing has been known since family members released photos and video of him in 2011 that included a request for help and a warning that he was running out of medication to treat his diabetes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday that the U.S. is committed to bringing home every American held by Iran and other countries.

Stephanie Levinson Curry, the daughter of the former FBI agent, told Fox News in an interview last month that she felt encouraged by the work that President Donald Trump had done to ensure his return, including an offer of a $25 million reward for information about the prisoner.

“Our family is not political, but we think that President Trump is demonstrating his leadership and showing his commitment to bringing hostages home,” Curry said.

Curry’s brother had sharper words for the Obama administration when it negotiated a complex prisoner exchange with Iran in 2016 that brought four Americans home, but not Levinson.

“Don’t get me wrong. We’re very happy for these families. But we wish we were among them,” Daniel Levinson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell at the time, noting his view that the Obama administration had failed his family.

“We’re not getting any answers,” he added. “We have been abandoned. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”

Obama administration officials at the time said they had not been able to determine Levinson’s whereabouts, but had repeatedly brought up his disappearance with Iranian officials.

Iran, in response, denied any knowledge of Levinson’s location in 2016 and offered to help search for him.

The former FBI agent isn’t the only American currently being held by Iran. Iranian-American father and son Siamak and Baquer Namazi and U.S. Navy veteran Michael White remain imprisoned there.

Babak Namazi, the son of Baquer Namazi and brother of Siamak Namazi, said he was also excited for Wang’s release but that his family was still waiting for answers.

“I am beyond devastated that a second President has left my ailing father Baquer Namazi and brother Siamak Namazi behind as American hostages in Iran in a second swap deal,” Babak Namazi said. “I hope, pray, and expect that this is not a one-time trade but the beginning of an expedited process that will bring my family home soon.”