In an exclusive interview with NBC Nightly News, presidential candidate Joe Biden talks to Lester Holt about the escalating tensions with Iran.
FREDERIC J. BROWNGetty Images
Senator Professor Warren returned to her wheelhouse on Tuesday, releasing a plan on reforming the country’s bankruptcy system. This is the area in which she first came to public prominence, and the area in which she first got crossways with a certain U.S. senator from Delaware, which is to credit card companies what Louisiana is to chemical waste. This produced a memorable bit of C-SPAN lore. The new plan dovetails precisely with what SPW has been doing for most of her adult life and for all of her public career.
But there are still serious problems with our bankruptcy laws today, thanks in large part to that bad 2005 bill. That’s why I’m announcing my plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules in this country to give Americans a better chance of getting back on their feet. My plan will:
Make it easier for people being crushed by debt to obtain relief through bankruptcy.
Expand people’s rights to take care of themselves and their children while they are in the bankruptcy process.
End the absurd rules that make it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.
Let more people protect their homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a firm foundation when they start to pick up the pieces and rebuild their financial lives.
Help address shameful racial and gender disparities that plague our bankruptcy system.
Close loopholes that allow the wealthy and corporate creditors to abuse the bankruptcy system at the expense of everyone else.
Warren’s plan is deeply detailed, both in its proposals and in its diagnosis of how badly that 2005 bankruptcy bill has torn up the lives of the people who came under it. This, of course, has resulted in a fair blizzard of horse-race headlines.
Politico: Warren takes shot at Biden with new bankruptcy plan.
HuffPost: Elizabeth Warren Takes Shot At Joe Biden With New Bankruptcy Reform Plan
Bloomberg: Warren Takes Aim at Biden With Plan to Bolster Bankruptcy Rights
None of these headlines are wrong. Biden and Warren were bound to collide on this issue, given Biden’s ownership of the 2005 law, and it very likely will set off some sparks in next week’s debate. But, sometimes, the railbird aspect of political coverage can get depressing.
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You can’t out-Bernie Bernie Sanders.
That may end up being the epitaph of the fake Indian’s fading campaign for president. Oh sure, she’s still limping along, but at every turn, Bernie is just plain … out-Bernie-ing her.
However crazy she gets, Comrade Bernie gets crazier.
This is a battle she can’t win. To paraphrase President Harry S Truman, if you give people a choice between Bernie and Bernie, they’ll pick Bernie every time.
What happened with the Soleimani strike is only the latest example of Bernie’s ability to bond, viscerally, with every free-loading left-wing nut in the party, which is almost all of them, while the fake Indian again showed her tin ear.
Let’s go back to Thursday. It was already a terrible day for Lieawatha — Bernie was announcing another great quarter of fundraising, $34.5 million. Meanwhile, the fake Indian was holding off releasing news of her disappointing haul of $21 million, less than she took in the previous quarter, less than even Mayor Pete.
But then came the news flash about 30 Seconds Over Baghdad. She immediately tweeted out a statement that began:
“Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But…”
Do you see the problem with that statement, at least as far as modern Democrats are concerned? She was trying to be nuanced, shall we say, acknowledging the obvious fact that the world is a better place for Soleimani’s departure.
But her problem was, Trump ordered the hit. And anything that Trump does must be bad, not just bad, but horrible, terrible, the absolute worst.
When it comes to hatred, Democrats can no longer multi-task. There’s only room for one Great Satan, and he’s living rent-free in all of their heads.
Bernie instinctively understood what the Iranian strike was really all about — the same thing every other damn thing is about.
Bernie’s tweet began: “Trump’s dangerous escalation….”
That was all the moonbats needed to read. Bernie had won again.
How dare the fake Indian call Soleimani a “murderer?” Trump killed him, ergo he must be one of Nature’s Noblemen.
Since that first fiasco, she’s been flailing, once again, trying to out-Bernie Bernie. The next day, she called the genocidal killer a “high-ranking military official.” Another Fauxcahontas tweet described Soleimani as “a senior foreign military official.”
Of course it was too late. She was being lacerated once again by the Twittersphere. Some of it was pretty funny — “Go back to scamming rich kids at Harvard” — but most of the attacks were predictably unhinged.
“We need brains back in the White House. Not reckless testosterone.”
Remember Sen. Kamala Harris? When she quit the race, in one postmortem her staffers admitted they’d paid way too much attention to these kinds of lunatic tweets, usually made by pajama boys whose followers number in the high two digits.
But apparently the fake Indian learned nothing from the demise of her fellow woman of color. Sorry, correction, Elizabeth Warren is no longer a woman of color. I forgot.
Whenever a candidate gets into the kind of jam Warren was in after that first tweet, he or she tries to change the subject. So the fake Indian announced that she’s been endorsed by another loser candidate, Julian Castro. He was the one, you may recall, who pledged to provide free government-paid abortions not only to women, but also to men.
Sounds insane, right? Just what the Democrats can’t get enough of. Plus, he has the holy name of Castro. But once again, Bernie had already trumped the fake Indian. He’s been endorsed by AOC, who is of course the real leader of the Democrat party.
AOC is to modern Democrats what Tom Brady was, in his prime, to the NFL. Compared to which, Julian Castro is, I don’t know, Jameis Winston maybe, or perhaps Geno Smith.
Here’s the thing: Democrat voters trust Bernie. This is a guy who was thrown out of a hippie commune in Vermont in the early 1970s for being too lazy. In other words, he is one of them. Prattles endlessly on about the working class, but has never actually worked a day in his life — and he’s almost 80 years old.
How does the fake Indian fight that?
Back in the 1980s, as the fake Indian was flipping houses in Oklahoma, trying to turn a quick buck, Bernie was honeymooning … in the Soviet Union, stripping off his shirt and singing Woody Guthrie anthems.
In this election cycle, crazy beats sleazy every time. Which is why Comrade Bernie is mopping the floor with Harvard’s first woman of color (not).
Fake Indian, if you want to make it to Super Tuesday, heed my advice. It’s all about Trump Trump Trump.
And if you can’t say something bad, don’t say anything at all.
Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed President Trump as “dangerously incompetent” in a speech Tuesday, in which the Democratic presidential hopeful presented his foreign policy experience as a foil to what he said was “Trump’s folly” in killing Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Biden blamed the current crisis in the Middle East on a series of missteps that began with Trump backing out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, a move the former vice president said planted “the seeds of danger.”
“I have no illusions about Iran, I never have. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. They continue to detain American citizens. They have ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters,” Biden said. “But there’s a smarter way to counter them, to counter Iran.”
Biden said Trump had “no strategy, no endgame” and his “constant mistakes and poor decision making” have left the United States “with a severely limited slate of options to move forward with, and most of those options are now bad.”
But Biden’s foreign policy record has already come under scrutiny from some of his Democratic rivals, particularly U.S. Bernie Sanders and now former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who have both criticized Biden’s vote in favor of invading Iraq in 2002. Sanders in particular has become more vocal in his attacks as the Democratic presidential hopefuls seek to make their case as the best commander in chief amid the Iran crisis.
Biden told the president to “stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with these threats,” to rejoin the nuclear deal and to focus on de-escalation.
“You have to explain your decision and your strategy to the American people. That’s your job as president, Mr. President, not ‘Dear Leader’ or ‘Supreme Leader.’”
Biden played up his own foreign policy bona fides, citing his eight years in the executive branch under former President Barack Obama, and his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, during which he was chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find a way to work together to advance our national interests,” Biden said.
In January 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, “@BarackObama will attack Iran in order to get re-elected.” He kept that clever idea in his back pocket for eight years. In January 2020, on the eve of his own reelection campaign, he ordered the assassination by drone strike of Iranian top commander Qassem Soleimani.
With this blatant act of aggression Trump has not only lurched toward war with Iran, but also shown his political hand. After running disingenuously as an anti-war candidate in 2016, it’s now evident that his 2020 campaign will be set to war drums.
It’s a shrewd political strategy. Impending or ongoing war could be a political game-changer. Our nation is presently of two minds: even as millions of Americans grow disillusioned with wars in the Middle East, we are still vulnerable to star-spangled sentimentality and fearmongering about conniving foreign adversaries, still persuadable that the urgent need to reform economic and political life at home is subordinate to the duty to respond aggressively to perceived threats abroad.
These rival tendencies are both powerful. In 2016, Trump tapped into the antiwar instinct and was successful. Now he’s pivoting to the pro-war instinct, and that could work, too. Whether the American populace will finally, after nearly two decades of perpetual chaos and pointless slaughter in the Middle East, reject the imperialist foreign policy consensus remains to be seen.
In the United States, presidential contests are lengthy mass spectacles, which means that if Trump decides to run on war with Iran or in any way refresh the rhetoric of the “war on terror,” he’ll be blaring militarist propaganda to hundreds of millions of Americans for months on end. Though Americans are increasingly tiring of war, this could reverse the trend.
The stakes are too high for us to meet Trump’s potential pro-war reelection campaign with lukewarm opposition. If agitation for war is going to be a pillar of Trump’s reelection strategy, then we have to ask: which candidate is capable of making the strongest case against war?
Is it Joe Biden? Biden was a strong early supporter of the Iraq War, despite his claims to the contrary. He played a key role in selling George W. Bush’s war to the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion.
“I think if we do this well — and we’re capable of doing it — we can essentially tighten the noose around Saddam Hussein’s neck,” said Biden in 2001. “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe this is a march to peace and security,” he said in 2002. “I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again,” he said in 2003.
As Branko Marketic has observed, Biden’s hawkish foreign policy positions are not limited to Iraq, either. They extend across the globe, from Russia to Serbia to Sudan.
Marketic writes that Biden “was a champion of what he called ‘counterterrorism plus’: a combination of drone strikes and special forces, which essentially became Obama’s approach to fighting terrorism. In other words, if you like Obama’s approach to fighting terrorism, with Biden, you can keep it.”
In keeping with this record, Biden’s statement on the assassination of Soleimani is not particularly vehement or persuasive. It opens with a condemnation of Soleimani as a mass murderer, which is the primary talking point that the Trump administration is relying on to rationalize its actions.
Biden’s statement then chides the White House for lacking “discipline or long-term vision,” implying that war with Iran might be justified if pursued more intelligently — exactly the kind of centrist sophistry, appearing to condemn war while simultaneously providing cover for it, that centrist Democrats have perfected over the last few decades.
Biden would like you to believe that he has seen the light when it comes to the folly of imperialist adventures abroad, that he has found redemption post-Iraq. But his response to the assassination of Soleimani suggests that the old Biden is alive and well.
No, Joe Biden cannot be relied upon to make the case against Trump’s war.
Perhaps, then, the best person to make the case against war is Navy veteran Pete Buttigieg. While he was working as a corporate consultant at McKinsey & Company, Buttigieg commissioned into a special program that fast-tracks college-educated military volunteers to officer positions, allowing them to bypass normal training. After several years in the reserves, he left the South Bend mayor’s office to serve in uniform for six months in Afghanistan.
But Pete Buttigieg is no veteran for peace. On the campaign trail, he frequently equivocates on or outright promotes US military intervention abroad.
He’s staunchly pro-Israel, has called for continued “counterterrorism missions” in Afghanistan, and supports what he terms “isolating dictatorship” in Latin America. As Sarah Lazare observes, Buttigieg “has demonstrated an impressive ability to speak in empty philosophical bromides while glossing over the harm the United States perpetrates around the world. To the extent he has positions on militarism, Buttigieg has thrown in his lot with the center of the Democratic Party.”
Like Biden’s, Buttigieg’s statement on the assassination of Soleimani opens by emphasizing that Soleimani was a bad guy and a “threat to [US] safety and security.” It then proceeds to scold Trump for not having a plan, and for his norm-breaking use of social media. Elsewhere, Buttigieg has made it clear that he has no problem with war per se. His primary concerns are “a lack of strategic clarity and poor execution, which is damaging America’s credibility in the region and around the world.”
No, it can’t be Pete Buttigieg we entrust to make the rock-solid antiwar case against Trump.
Perhaps Elizabeth Warren is our best bet. She seems dovish, right? Not so fast.
Warren’s history of foreign policy positions is much more conservative than many understand. As Lazare points out, on foreign policy Warren is neither a progressive nor a leader, having “gone along with some of the most belligerent acts that have occurred under her watch, cheerleading Israel’s devastating 2014 war on Gaza and vocalizing her support for sanctions against Venezuela.”
Even Warren’s plan to green the military-industrial complex is a national security tautology, uncritically accepting the existence of the US’s unprecedented network of military bases and arguing that they must be made more eco-friendly for their own sake, so that they can continue carrying out their mission. What exactly that mission is — continued military dominance of the entire planet — remains unarticulated and unquestioned.
In that plan, Warren name checks Iran as a US adversary, something that shouldn’t be considered a foregone conclusion if peace is the objective. Warren also voted for sanctions on Iran in 2017, escalating the conflict and increasing the likelihood of war. She hasn’t exactly been the vanguard of diplomatic peacekeeping with Iran.
Like Biden’s and Buttigieg’s, Warren’s first statement on the assassination of Soleimani echoed Trump’s talking points, calling Soleimani “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans” before proceeding to condemn Trump’s “reckless move.” Facing criticism from the Left, Warren gave it another try, saying the following day that Trump had “assassinated a senior foreign military official” and “has been marching toward war with Iran since his first days in office — but the American people won’t stand for it.”
It’s troubling that this wasn’t Warren’s first instinct. But that’s consistent with her foreign policy in general, which is muddled and seems to naturally hew to the establishment line until she experiences pushback.
If Trump is going to argue for war, Warren can’t be relied on to consistently and unambiguously make the opposing argument.
Among the Democratic Party presidential contenders, only Bernie Sanders can be counted on to bring moral and logical clarity to the question of war.
For one thing, Sanders has the credentials. In the sixties and seventies he opposed the war in Vietnam, in the eighties he opposed US intervention in Central America, in the nineties he voted against the Gulf War, in the aughts he opposed the war in Iraq, and he has recently opposed US intervention in Venezuela, voiced support for Palestinian rights, led an initiative to stop the US-backed Saudi war in Yemen, and is now introducing legislation to stop war in Iran. Even when he’s made mistakes — for example, he voted to authorize the invasion of Afghanistan (the sole dissenter being California representative Barbara Lee) — he has been able to admit he was wrong and reassert his commitment to an antiwar foreign policy.
Unsurprisingly, Sanders denounced the assassination of Soleimani right off the bat, in no uncertain terms. He did so without overstating the threat Iran posed to the United States, and without remarking on Soleimani’s moral integrity — an irrelevant point, since it would not justify his assassination or the deaths of the countless innocents who would become casualties in a needless war between the US and Iran.
Since then, Sanders has proceeded to make a more general case against war on the grounds that, as he put it, “it is rarely the children of the billionaire class who face the agony of reckless foreign policy. It is the children of working families.” His words echo those of socialist leader Eugene Debs, whose famous 1918 antiwar speech in Canton, Ohio landed him in the jailhouse from which he ran for president a final time.
“The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles,” Debs said. “The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives.”
If Trump is going to use his election platform to convince hundreds of millions of Americans that we must enter yet another pointless war, then the case laid out by Sanders above is precisely what the nation needs to hear argued back at him, day in and day out.
Americans are plenty exhausted by wars abroad and austerity at home, but we’re not in the clear yet. The period we’re about to enter is a dangerous one. If we want to avoid lapsing into another red, white, and blue fever dream, we need a high-profile leader on the national stage speaking truths that went unsaid by mainstream politicians in the early 2000s.
We need someone who will say: these wars are not about safety, and they’re not about freedom, and they’re not about a better life for you. You’re being played. Don’t fall for it. That person is Bernie Sanders.
Former national security adviser John Bolton said Monday he is “prepared to testify” at the Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump if he is subpoenaed.
Bolton, who left the administration on Sept. 10, has previously said he would allow the federal courts to determine whether he has to testify to Congress about his White House tenure. Senate Democrats want Bolton to testify about his knowledge of Trump’s position toward Ukraine, while Republicans have said they want a speedy trial without witnesses.
House Democrats have caused a delay in the trial by withholding articles of impeachment as the Senate hammers out details about how the trial will be conducted.
“Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said in a statement issued at a website for his political action committee.
House Democrats opted to vote on articles of impeachment before securing testimony from Bolton and other Trump administration officials, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Bolton and Mulvaney are likely to have information about Trump’s rationale in withholding the Ukraine aid. Democrats have asserted that Trump withheld the funding in order to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Trump has denied a quid pro quo and said he withheld the money out of concerns with corruption in Ukraine and because European countries were not also providing security assistance.
Administration officials who have already testified in the impeachment inquiry said that Bolton was skeptical of some of the White House’s actions regarding Ukraine. Fiona Hill, who served as the White House’s top Russia expert, said that Bolton described the actions of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland as a “drug deal.”
Many of the witnesses described two separate channels of communication between the administration and Ukrainian government. There was the official channel, which exclusively involved U.S. diplomats and White House officials. There was also an unofficial channel, in which Giuliani worked with Sondland and another diplomat, Kurt Volker.
Text messages between Sondland and Volker have shown that they pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to publicly announce investigations supported by Trump in exchange for a White House meeting.
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It’s clear that a radical president can shift a party’s center of gravity: Republican public opinion— on immigration, Russia, the FBI—has rapidly moved to align with Trump’s views, and Republican politicians have largely done the same. A Sanders presidency would polarize the national debate in a similar way, pressuring Democratic legislators to side with their leader over the inevitably fanatical Republican opposition.
In fact, Sanders’ movement is already doing just that: No single figure or force aside from Trump has done more to reframe the terms of American politics over the past four years.
Sanders’ political rise emerged from (and accelerated) a crisis of the centrist liberal establishment. Witness the elite panic and personal arrogance that has sent Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg rushing in to relieve and replace Joe Biden, their tottering standard-bearer. Still, while the old world is dying, its replacement with something better is not inevitable. A growing number of college-educated white voters, for instance, are turning to Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a former McKinsey consultant whose only consistent belief is in his own greatness. When Sanders insists that “we need to not only defeat Donald Trump, but to take back our democracy from the corporate elite,” he is drawing a line in the sand and indicting the status quo: If Democrats aren’t with the people, then they’re standing against them.
Effective left populism requires a vision of the people and their enemy. This movement’s enemies are the few: a greedy and pathologically destructive billionaire class; the fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, insurance and financial industries. By contrast, the people contains multitudes: a diverse coalition of the working and precarious middle classes. Though powered at present by mass youth appeal, a Sanders victory could rapidly energize skeptical Gen X and Boomer voters whose political horizons have shrunk under the decades-long neoliberal onslaught.
Sanders’ program unifies the interests of working-class people without erasing their differences. His deep support in the Latino community and the remarkable enthusiasm he’s generated among Muslims illuminate the contours of a potential realignment that puts those most demonized by the xenophobic Right at the core of a powerful Left. His October 2019 Queens, N.Y., rally with Ocasio-Cortez emphasized the ethical basis of a political coalition rooted in love and solidarity: “Take a look around you, and find someone you don’t know,” Bernie told the crowd. “Maybe somebody who doesn’t look kind of like you. Are you willing to fight for that person as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?”
Sanders’ plan to win the general election in red states like West Virginia likewise holds out the possibility that a multiracial working-class coalition can subvert the social divide. When Sanders was asked whether West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin or Montana Sen. Jon Tester, both centrist Democrats, would vote for his programs, his response was blunt. “Damn right they will. You know why? We’re going to go to West Virginia,” Sanders told CNBC. “Your average politician sits around and he or she thinks: ‘Let’s see. If I do this, I’m going to have the big money interests putting 30-second ads against me. So I’d better not do it.’ But now they’re going to have to think, ‘If I don’t support an agenda that works for working people, I’m going to have President Sanders coming to my state and rallying working-class people.’” That’s not fantastical. The working class in West Virginia is restless, with a wildcat teachers strike shaking the state in 2018 and sparking further walkouts in Arizona and Oklahoma. A recent poll shows that a full 69% of West Virginia voters continue to support teachers striking for higher pay. The legislative agenda of any Democratic president depends on a seismic political shift in enough red and purple states that Democrats capture both the House and Senate, and remaking the electoral map requires deepening these movements’ power. Sanders has already used his campaign database to push supporters to the picket lines and could lead a far more massive mobilization from the Oval Office. As sociologist Barry Eidlin notes, FDR’s signing of a 1933 law protecting unions helped spark mass labor organizing in the 1930s, even though the law had no practical enforcement mechanism. Imagine the power of a president using a primetime address to offer his solidarity to a strike wave. It would be historic—and transformative.
Sanders promises to reshape the global order by exercising U.S. power in pursuit of negotiated geopolitical settlements—above all, on the environment. And nowhere does an American president have more concrete power than in the realm of foreign policy and national security.
Unlike Elizabeth Warren, who has no substantive critique of American empire, Sanders has straightforwardly denounced the military-industrial complex, has long voted no on defense budgets, and stands alone in his consistent support for making the United States a partner to Global South struggles. In the 1980s, Sanders stood in solidarity with Central American revolutionaries against the Reagan administration’s bloody support of oligarchs. Recently, Sanders cheered the release from prison of Lula da Silva, Brazil’s former Workers’ Party president, and quickly denounced the November 2019 coup in Bolivia for what it was.
The potential a president has to unilaterally reorder the global power system has been demonstrated by none other than our current president. His behavior has been so erratic that Saudi Arabia is reported to have quietly reached out to Iran, hedging against the possibility that they might one day be unable to rely on U.S. military protection. Imagine what might be possible if Sanders, a relentless critic of the Saudi royal family and the war it leads against Yemen, pushed for a negotiated settlement among rival regional powers.
Sanders could likewise provide unprecedented hope for tipping the balance in favor of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Though imperfect on the issue, Sanders has broken with the pro-Israel bipartisan consensus more than almost any member of Congress.
U.S. foreign policy has long been driven by national security concerns that in reality reflect not any “national interest” but rather the interests of major corporations and the national security state’s conventional wisdom. In 2015, Obama adviser David Axelrod called Sanders “tin-eared” for his repeated assertion that climate change was the greatest threat to national security. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan called him “slightly daffy.” “Some people laughed in 2015 when Bernie said climate change is the most serious national security challenge we face,” says Matt Duss, Sanders’ top foreign policy advisor. “No one’s laughing now.”
As Sanders has stated, “Our endless entanglements in the Middle East have diverted crucial resources and attention” away from addressing climate change. Instead of more war, Sanders pledges $200 billion for the Green Climate Fund to help the Global South adapt to the climate emergency.
U.S. willingness to commit to deep emissions cuts is a prerequisite for convincing other nations to do the same, as international climate negotiations are governed by a logic akin to that of nuclear disarmament: No one wants to go first and be left vulnerable. China must be convinced that a rapid transition will not undermine its economy. Poor countries across the Global South must be assured they will not simply be denied the fruits of fossil-fueled development already enjoyed by the Global North.
Sanders was clear about that at the September 2019 climate town hall: “I think we need a president, hopefully Bernie Sanders, that reaches out to the world—to Russia and China and India, Pakistan, all the countries of the world—and says, ‘Guess what, whether you like it or not, we are all in this together, and if you are concerned about the children in your country and future generations, we’re gonna have to work together. And maybe, just maybe, instead of spending a trillion and a half dollars every single year on weapons of destruction designed to kill each other, maybe we pool those resources, and we work together against our common enemy, which is climate change.”
Neoliberalism has divided us across borders and atomized our personal lives, leading us to blame ourselves for problems caused by a rigged system. This moment demands a new politics that unites us to confront our shared enemies and transform our society. Sanders consistently argues, “Beating Trump is not good enough.” This is an understatement. The world quite literally depends upon a political revolution. And only Sanders has a plan for that.
This story was produced in collaboration with Jacobin.
is author of All-American Nativism (forthcoming from Verso) and host of The Dig on Jacobin Radio.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, In These Times does not oppose or endorse candidates for political office.
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Democratic Presidential candiates: Sen. Corey Booker, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden. Bottom row: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Tom Steyer, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang. File photo; Castro has since dropped out. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
WE WERE ALL ATWITTER Monday when JOHN BOLTON popped up on his political action committee’s webpage to say that he would testify if subpoenaed in a Senate trial.
BUT, AT THIS MOMENT, why should we think he’ll testify?
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL seems to have his entire conference behind the Clinton rules for impeachment, which required 51 votes to subpoena someone for testimony — we’ll get to that in a second — and there was very, very little movement Monday.
AS OUR COLLEAGUES MARIANNE LEVINE and JOHN BRESNAHAN pointed out Monday night, moderate senators are siding with MCCONNELL over Democrats on Bolton’s testimony. Read their story here … (BTW: At the moment, House Dems don’t seem eager to subpoena Bolton on their own — which they could do — and they say it’s the Senate’s duty. If you’re a House Dem and want to hear from Bolton, why not subpoena him? By not subpoenaing him, you’re betting on the Republican Senate.)
EVEN IF, SOMEHOW, the Republican dam does break, don’t you think President DONALD TRUMP will first try to block Bolton by asserting executive privilege, and then try to go to court to prevent him from testifying? And if it goes to court, that could last a long time — much longer than the Senate trial.
AS OF NOW, we have Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) — who said he’d like to hear from Bolton but wouldn’t commit to a subpoena. What do you believe is more plausible: Romney galvanizing the support of three other Republicans, or McConnell holding onto party unity?
WHAT LIES AHEAD? … MCCONNELL has hinted in recent days that if he is unable to strike a rules agreement on a trial with Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, he’ll go to the floor with something mirroring the Clinton impeachment rules. REMEMBER: That rule package only needs 51 votes.
SO … IT’S WORTH A REFRESHER about what the Clinton impeachment rules — passed 100-0 — called for back in 1999, because the rules are shaping up to look quite similar this time around:
— IN 1999: THE HOUSE’S impeachment managers had 24 hours to make their case, and the president’s team had 24 hours to respond on the Senate floor. Each side had as many people as they wanted to help make their case. Senators had 16 hours to question the parties. Only after that whole process could the Senate consider subpoenaing witnesses or entering information not already in the record.
— IF DEPOSITIONS were ordered, they were videotaped, and conducted by House managers and the president’s lawyers. Two senators presided over the depositions, and House managers and the president’s attorneys conducted the depositions — but no more than two from each side were permitted to participate. “Members of the Senate, one designated staff member per senator, and the chief justice” were permitted to watch the videotape and review the transcript, but all sides were bound by confidentiality. Read the rules
TEAM TRUMP IMPEACHMENT STRATEGY — “‘We’re ready to go’: Trump legal team readies for Senate trial’s start,” by Darren Samuelsohn and Melanie Zanona: “President Donald Trump’s lawyers have their strategy in place for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. All they need now is a start date. Coordinating over the last month, the White House counsel’s office and the president’s team of private lawyers have prepared a detailed legal brief pushing back against last month’s House-passed impeachment articles that seek Trump’s removal from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“That document, according to a person familiar with the Trump legal strategy, is modeled after one that President Bill Clinton’s lawyers submitted at the start of his 1999 Senate impeachment trial — which ended a month later with his acquittal. Trump’s lawyers have also been preparing their oral arguments — and who will give them.
“Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who has written several blistering letters to Democrats critical of their efforts, is primed to have the lead speaking role and will be backed up by his top deputies, Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s longest-serving personal attorney, also is expected to have a presence on the Senate floor during the trial, though it’s still unclear whether that includes making any public remarks.
“One thing still up in the air: Trump’s legal team hasn’t arrived at a final decision on whether to give House Republicans official speaking slots during the Senate trial, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.” POLITICO
Good Tuesday morning. CAPITAL WEATHER GANG is calling for snow tonight. Check out their projection
THE STEP BACK … BURGESS EVERETT and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Iran overshadows impeachment as Trump leaves Congress staggering”: “It’s hard to imagine anything eclipsing the imminent impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. But that’s where Congress finds itself with the United States on the brink of military conflict with Iran.
“Trump’s killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has utterly overshadowed the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, at least for now. But the twists are still coming at a breakneck pace: Not long after Trump issued new threats to Iran on Monday, John Bolton, his former national security adviser, said he’d testify about Trump’s Ukraine scandal if subpoenaed by the Senate. Meanwhile, the House could vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution asserting Congress’ authority alone to declare war.
“Lawmakers are left struggling to prioritize the two dramas — and could for weeks if Iran retaliates against the United States while the Senate considers removing Trump. It’s a microcosm of Trump’s frenetic presidency: The plodding pace of Congress has it barely keeping up as an institution.” POLITICO
— THE LATEST IN IRAN: “Iran TV: Stampede at procession for slain general, some dead,” by AP’s Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell in Tehran
WE’RE AT WAR … AMERICA PREPARES … NYT’S THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF: “How U.S. Troops Are Preparing for the Worst in the Middle East”
— AP: “U.S. officials are also aware that Iran could try to strike a high-level American leader in a ‘tit-for-tat’ move, potentially a military commander. One official said some Iranian ships have spread out, and while the intent isn’t immediately clear, they could move rapidly to attack.”
IRAN PLOTS ITS REVENGE … FT’S NAJMEH BOZORGMEHR in Tehran: “During four days of mourning, huge crowds have demanded retribution for the assassination last week of their most revered military leader. Publicly, the regime has issued bellicose statements — threatening a ‘historic nightmare’ for the US and warning that it has ‘13 scenarios’ for retaliation.
“But in private, even hardliners have said Tehran must strike back but avoid a full-blown conflict. ‘We cannot ignore this aggression easily and have to prevent the US from repeating its rogue behaviour,’ said Hamid-Reza Taraghi, a politician close to Iran’s hardline forces. ‘But our strategy is retaliation in such a way that we do not go to a war.’ …
“On Tuesday, Iran’s top security official said that Iran was working to reach consensus on one of the ‘13 scenarios’ under discussion that could lead to a ‘historic nightmare’ for the US in response to the killing of a senior military commander.
“‘Even if we reach consensus on the weakest scenario out of these 13, its implementation can turn into a historic nightmare for Americans,’ Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, told domestic media, without giving further details. ‘I can only promise to the Iranian nation that the revenge operation … is not supposed to be in the form of one single operation.’” FT
— NYT’S FARNAZ FASSIHI and DAVID KIRKPATRICK: “In the tense hours following the American killing of a top Iranian military commander, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a rare appearance at a meeting of the government’s National Security Council to lay down the parameters for any retaliation. It must be a direct and proportional attack on American interests, he said, openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves, three Iranians familiar with the meeting said Monday.” NYT
— WHAT A MESS: “Pentagon distances itself from letter announcing plans for Iraq withdrawal,” by Bryan Bender: “The Pentagon on Monday disputed that U.S. troops are preparing to withdraw from Iraq — after a leaked letter from a U.S. general suggested plans are underway to prepare troops to leave following the Iraqi Parliament’s Sunday vote calling for their removal.
“The misfire added yet another layer of confusion to an already murky situation days after the region erupted in response to the U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. It also raised new questions about the Pentagon’s intentions as it faces new threats from Iranian militias in Iraq even as it seeks to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley took the usual step of holding an impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters at the Pentagon after media outlets reported a top US. general on Monday informed an Iraqi counterpart that American personnel are initiating steps for a possible withdrawal. The reported letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely to Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir outlined plans for ‘repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.’
“‘We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,’ the letter added. But Milley, agreeing the letter was a ‘mistake,’ told reporters it was only a draft and had not been sent. He said he had just spoken to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, about it.” POLITICO
WSJ ED BOARD: “Trump’s Post-Soleimani World”: “It may be true that no good deed goes unpunished, but only the ever-active Donald Trump could take it upon himself to punish his own good deed. …
“We think the President’s strike against Soleimani was justified on the merits, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent Sunday morning explaining on TV. A concurrent reality, however, is that we are starting a presidential election. To win, the Democrats desperately need to be able to run against Mr. Trump personally, as Mike Bloomberg’s ad blitz is making clear.
“If the President allows his Soleimani decision to look like a one-and-done event, with no follow-up beyond tweets and rhetorical barrages against the Iranian and Iraqi people, he’ll give his opponents an opening. … Targeting Soleimani was a bold act that other Presidents probably would not have attempted to restore a measure of deterrence against an enemy state. Most Americans appreciated its show of strength. But now Mr. Trump has to show he can manage the consequences in a way that proves it was a wise decision in America’s interests.”
POMPEO UPDATE — “Mike Pompeo Is Said to Decide Against Running for Senate in Kansas,” by NYT’s Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, that he does not plan to run for Senate in 2020, most likely ending Republicans’ hopes of securing a potentially dominant candidate for the open seat in his home state of Kansas, according to four people briefed on the meeting.
“Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman from the Wichita area, has quietly explored a campaign for months. But in the aftermath of the military operation last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, Mr. Pompeo has told senior party officials that he is ruling out becoming a candidate, according to several people who have spoken with him directly. His conversation with the majority leader, which took place in Mr. McConnell’s Capitol office, touched on the events of the last few days in the Middle East, according to an aide to the senator.” NYT
2020 WATCH …
— JOE BIDEN at a NYC fundraiser Monday night described the next 10 months on the campaign trail as a “long slog.” “Though it will be an ‘ugly race,’ Biden said, ‘it has to be run.’” (via pooler Madeline Rivera of Fox News)
— “Democratic distress casts shadow over primary,” by David Siders in Davenport, Iowa: “The new year is taking the presidential primary to a dark place in the nation’s first caucus state. President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment trial and fear of war with Iran — as well as the Australia wildfires and their implications for climate change — quickly cast a pall over a contest in which Democrats are already wracked with uncertainty about which candidate has the best chance of defeating Trump. All across Iowa hangs an air of heightened distress, which the candidates are readily leaning into.
“‘I tell you all these things not to get you nervous, but to get you depressed,’ Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking about climate change, said at a town hall meeting in Grundy Center, Iowa, over the weekend. Hours later in Des Moines, it was Joe Biden describing the state of Trump’s presidency more broadly as ‘extremely, extremely worrisome.’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren admonished supporters in Davenport that ‘this is a time of crisis in this country.’” POLITICO
— STATE OF PLAY: “More Dems face debate chopping block,” by Zach Montellaro: “The Democratic presidential debate stage is set to shrink again next week. Only five candidates so far have earned spots in the Jan. 14 CNN/Des Moines Register debate in Iowa: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang and Cory Booker will all watch from the sidelines unless they see polling surges before Friday’s deadline to qualify.
“Faced with this potential winnowing of the field, the Democratic National Committee has come under new criticism — especially from the candidates on the chopping block. They pointed to a smaller number of polls over the eight-week qualifying period — which included lengthy breaks over both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — and a weeks-long early state polling drought, urging the DNC to make the polling thresholds more lenient.” POLITICO
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president and first lady Melania Trump will participate in the arrival of Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mareva Mitsotakis at 2 p.m. in the South Portico. Trump and Melania Trump will participate in a meeting with the two in the Oval Office at 2:10 p.m. Trump and Mitsotakis will hold an expanded bilateral meeting at 2:40 p.m. in the Cabinet Room.
ANOTHER NATURAL DISASTER IN PUERTO RICO — “6.5 quake strikes Puerto Rico amid heavy seismic activity,” by AP’s Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico: “A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas.
“A tsunami alert was initially issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but later canceled.
“The Electric Power Authority reported an island-wide power outage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m. just south of the island at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers. It initially gave the magnitude as 6.6 but later adjusted it.” AP
MEANWHILE, IN CARACAS: “Mike Pence Says Juan Guaidó Is the ‘Only Legitimate President’ of Venezuela,” by WSJ’s Andrew Restuccia: “Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone with Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó and reiterated the U.S. position that Mr. Guaidó is the country’s “only legitimate” leader, a senior administration official said.
“The 10-minute phone call on Monday afternoon came after President Nicolás Maduro sought to exert his control over the country on Sunday, with his allies trying to replace Mr. Guaidó as the head of the National Assembly with their preferred choice.
“In a chaotic scene, Mr. Guaidó and other congressmen who form the assembly’s opposition majority were barred from entering as Mr. Maduro’s allies in the body and some new converts who had previously opposed the regime chose Luis Parra as the body’s new president.” WSJ
BOOK CLUB … FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Strong Arm Press is publishing “The Populist’s Guide to 2020” by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on Feb. 8.
VALLEY TALK — “Facebook Bans Deepfakes but Permits Some Altered Content,” by WSJ’s Betsy Morris: “Facebook Inc. is banning videos that have been manipulated using advanced tools, though it won’t remove all doctored content, as the social media giant tries to combat disinformation without stifling speech.” WSJ
MEDIAWATCH — VANITY FAIR’S JOE POMPEO: “‘The March to War Is a Hell of a Drug’: With Trump’s Iran Conflict, the Media Is Under a Microscope”
— Stephen Moore is now a columnist for the Washington Examiner.
— Megan McGrew is now a data graphics and visuals news assistant at PBS NewsHour. She is a recent UNC-Wilmington graduate.
— TV TONIGHT: Joe Biden sits down with NBC’s Lester Holt for an interview.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at Fogo de Chão on Monday night. Pic
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Mara Rudman will take over as CAP’s EVP. Jacob Leibenluft, who currently holds the job, will be a senior fellow at CAP in New York. … Becca Glover is now a director at the Brunswick Group. She previously was director of public affairs at the Department of Commerce.
TRANSITIONS — Amanda Crane is now a senior account manager at Curley Company. She previously was principal media adviser for Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey and the Australian Embassy. … Rae Sheynberg is now a public policy manager at Facebook. She is the former director for international economics at the Obama NSC. … Peter Horst is now CEO at PSB. He previously was CEO of CMO Inc. …
… Catherine Hill is now on the corporate communications team at Twitter. She previously led communications at Meetup by WeWork. … Jennifer Moran is now director of advancement for the National Portrait Gallery. She previously was executive director for development at the Art Institute of Chicago.
ENGAGED — Liz Crampton, a POLITICO agriculture reporter, and Andrew Bahrenburg, a legislative assistant for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), got engaged at their Capitol Hill home just before Christmas. The couple met during 2018 farm bill negotiations. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Julia Ainsley, NBC News correspondent, and Newman Ainsley on Sunday welcomed Mary Wells Knight, who came in at 7 lbs., 11 oz and 19.5 inches. Pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Maura Keefe, founder of Keefe Strategies and former COS to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). A fun fact about her: “Years ago my family owned a haunted house on the coast of Maine and the ghost once wrote me a note on a fogged-up bathroom mirror. Skeptics abound, but it’s true!” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is 59 … Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is 57 … Katie Couric … Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) is 54 … Adam Entous, staff writer at The New Yorker … Jordan Karem … Dave Banks, chief strategist for the GOP on the House Climate Crisis Committee (h/t wife Chrissy Harbin) … John Reiss, EP of NBC’s “Meet the Press” … Jann Wenner is 74 … Stewart Verdery, Monument Advocacy founder and partner, is 53 (h/t Tim Punke) … The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, founding editor of the Best of Journalism newsletter, is 4-0 … POLITICO’s Jon Clark … Holly Shulman, New Hampshire Dems spokeswoman … Max Mallory, creative director at Hamilton Place Strategies … Alex Milofsky, DCCC Midwest/South finance director (h/t Alex Schechner) … Fox Business Network anchor Dagen McDowell … Adam Chernicoff, an Obama WH advance and NSC alum now at Penn Law (h/t #INTECON44) … Anthony Pritzker … Judge Paul D. Borman is 8-0 …
… Cherie Short, DHS deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs (h/t husband Michael Bars) … Megan Clarke, SVP of booking at Fox News … Jamie Lovegrove … former Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is 6-0 … Greg Bury (h/t Courtney Alexander) … Yohannes Abraham … Taylor Gee … Zoya Raynes … Peter Vaghi … Ashley Callen … Conor Skelding … Britta Ritter-Armour of WeWork … Monica Lee … CMS’ Ernie Tai is 66 … Rishi Sahgal … APCO’s Tim Kraus … Ira Berkow is 9-0 … Alex Pazuchanics … Meghan Cline … Cory Crowley … Garth Spencer … Michael Longo is 27 … Chris McCreight … Matt McKinney … Sarah Youssef Wright … Andrea Elizabeth Hailey … Eric Pfeiffer … Axios’ Ben Geman … Facebook’s Nick Clegg is 53 … Brianna Labuskes … Jim Bohannon … Jeff Gulko … William Flynn … Brett Shogren … Brian Summers … Neal Osborne is 31 … Yvonne Conza … Bill Shoehigh … Diane Roberts … Joel Rivlin (h/t Teresa Vilmain)