Archive

December 23rd

Democrats' dilemma: Resist Trump or coopt him

    The instinct of many Democrats on Capitol Hill right now is to try to do to Donald Trump what Republicans did so effectively to Barack Obama - express outrage at his every utterance, oppose every nomination, filibuster every piece of legislation in the Senate, file lawsuits to stop every regulation and turn every misstep into a scandal. In short, undermine the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.

    The risk of that strategy is that, to accomplish anything, the new president will be forced into the arms of the most right-wing elements of the Republican caucuses on Capitol Hill, who have already (falsely) claimed Trump's victory as nothing less than a mandate to emasculate and privatize government, cut taxes, shred the social safety net, snuff out unions, withdraw from the world and impose their version of Christian values on all Americans.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Democrats react with fury, and futility, to Russian hacking

    The public furor over U.S. intelligence reports that Russian hackers sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election has kicked off various efforts to reverse or cast doubts about the legitimacy of Donald Trump's claim on the Oval Office.

    They start with the demand by the losers that the Electoral College tally that gives him a clear majority should be set aside, and the popular vote he lost by 2.5 million ballots to Hillary Clinton should somehow prevail.

    Then there is the argument that electors chosen in the various states are not obliged by the Constitution to follow the wishes of their states' voters, and they should cast their ballots in the exercise of their consciences as their political inclinations dictate.

    Petitions have been signed by hundreds of thousands of disappointed and distressed citizens to push for one or both of these actions, with very little possibility that either one will get anywhere. It's locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen, as many of the downhearted would regretfully have to acknowledge.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Useful Idiots Galore

    On Wednesday an editorial in The Times described Donald Trump as a “useful idiot” serving Russian interests. That may not be exactly right. After all, useful idiots are supposed to be unaware of how they’re being used, but Trump probably knows very well how much he owes to Vladimir Putin. Remember, he once openly appealed to the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

    Still, the general picture of a president-elect who owes his position in part to intervention by a foreign power, and shows every sign of being prepared to use U.S. policy to reward that power, is accurate.

    But let’s be honest: Trump is by no means the only useful idiot in this story. As recent reporting by The Times makes clear, bad guys couldn’t have hacked the U.S. election without a lot of help, both from U.S. politicians and from the news media.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump's failure to divest could weaken him

    Donald Trump is apparently not going to sell off his businesses and put his assets into a blind trust, as the Office of Government Ethics recommends and as every recent president has done. He isn't going to release his tax returns, breaking a custom that began with Richard Nixon.

    That almost certainly is going to put him in violation of the clause of the Constitution forbidding anyone holding federal office to receive emoluments -- the dictionary definition is "a salary, fee or profit from employment" -- from foreign governments. He might also potentially be at risk under a 2012 law barring presidents (and other elected officials) from profiting from information obtained through their office.

    And while many other conflict-of-interest laws that apply to the rest of the executive branch are not legally binding on presidents (something Trump has been pointing out), the Office of Government Ethics recommends that presidents act as if they do apply.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Fake news is sickening, but don't make the cure worse than the disease

    When a guy with an assault rifle walks into a pizza joint to "self-investigate" the made-up conspiracy theory he found on the internet about a nonexistent child-prostitution ring, there's no doubt we've got a problem.

    And regular folks are reasonably alarmed.

    A new Pew Research Center study finds that two in three U.S. adults say that fabricated news stories cause "a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events." This sense is shared widely across incomes, education levels, political affiliations and most other demographic characteristics, according to the study.

    Pope Francis agreed, memorably comparing the consumption of fake news to the eating of excrement. (A much-shared fake story said he had endorsed Donald Trump for president.) President Barack Obama has chimed in on the dangers, too: "When there's so much active misinformation and it's packaged very well," he said, it poisons political discourse.

    Facebook, initially reluctant to step into the fray, announced Thursday that it would take some first steps.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Democrats warn State Department of potential Trump 'witch-hunts'

    Democrats in Congress, upset by the Trump transition team's efforts to identify Energy Department officials who worked on climate change, are trying to head off a larger effort to identify and potentially purge bureaucrats who worked on Obama administration policies at the State Department.

    The Obama administration's political appointees will leave office en masse when President-elect Donald Trump takes office, but the civil servants and career diplomats who worked with them will largely remain. The fear is that the Trump team will try to single out career officials who have worked on several Obama foreign policy items that they may seek to reverse, such as the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate accords.

    Earlier this week, the Energy Department refused a request by the Trump transition team to identify specific officials and contractors who have worked on climate change. On Wednesday, the Trump transition team said that this request had not been officially authorized. On Thursday, all but one of the Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry to urge him to reject any similar requests that his agency might get from the incoming administration.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Christmas in America means the usual lawsuits

    Christmas is right around the corner, meaning that the time has come for the usual passel of lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, of bitter division over words and symbols -- in short, of all the usual trimmings of the season.

    Let's do a quick roundup.

    In New York City, on the Upper East Side, a lawyer has filed suit against a wealthy neighbor for playing Christmas music too loud outside her townhouse. The music apparently runs from 7 a.m. until midnight, and the plaintiff says he is not against Christmas music as such -- he just wants a break from his neighbor's loudspeakers.

    In Texas, a nurse's aide at a public school is in trouble for putting up a homemade poster with a picture of Linus and a quotation from the half-century-old television classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The problem is that the quotation is from the scene in which Linus explains to Charlie Brown the true meaning of the holiday: Christmas, he says, is really about Jesus -- and he explains by reciting the famous lines from the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

December 22nd

We need an independent, public investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal. Now.

    The Trump-Russia scandal continues to widen, with revelations that are making it increasingly clear that not only do we need a full investigation, but that investigation needs to be independent and bipartisan, and include public hearings. Some Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have suggested that the Senate Intelligence Committee can handle it.

    But let's make no mistake: that's a way of sweeping it under the rug. The Intelligence Committee's hearings are closed to the public and press, and while there will certainly need to be parts of this investigation that are kept behind closed doors lest "sources and methods" be compromised, we need to learn as much as possible about this scandal. A dusty, redacted report released a year from now will not be enough.

    If this keeps going in the direction it's headed, this could stand alongside Watergate and Iran-Contra as one of the most important scandals in modern American history. It's increasingly looking like a hostile foreign power run by a murderous thug tried to swing an American election, and may have succeeded -- at least, in helping to tip it.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Best secretary of state Kremlin could buy

    OK, take a deep breath. And then consider this: We are about to inaugurate as president a man who won the election with the active help of Vladimir Putin himself.

    But that's not all. Take another deep breath. Now add this: Knowing that Russia directly intervened to help him become the next president of the United States, what's Donald Trump's response? It's to reward the Kremlin by naming one of Vladimir Putin's buddies to be the next secretary of state.

    If that's not enough to strike fear in your heart about our nation's future, I don't know what is.

    Of all the questionable cabinet appointments Trump has made, nominating Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state is by far the worst. For four reasons.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

When will we see Donald Trump's big 'pro-worker' agenda?

    Here's one question to entertain as we evaluate whether Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are really going to roll out an agenda that helps workers, as Trump has promised to do: Will Congress actually spend money to help them?

    There are two key ways Congress might do this: By spending more on efforts to help workers navigate the changes in the economy; and by spending more to create jobs, say, via a big infrastructure package (the latter of which Trump himself has promised). Those aren't the only ways to help them, of course. But many progressive economists think those are two very important tools that could help workers whose plight Trump himself has highlighted -- workers displaced by trade and automation.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!