Oversight & The Shutdown — Sen. Michael Bennet: Inspiring Patriot of the Week

in #politics3 years ago

I recommend watching the full video to see Cruz's response in the last ~1/3 of the clip.

Every so often, I see an elected public servant (typically a House Representative or Senator—almost all of whom are lawyers, remember) make a speech in one of the chambers of Congress that rises above the level of "grandstanding" and turns out to be an act of true Patriotism. Whether I agree with the politics of the position or not, I recognize that this elected servant is actually pouring their soul into their job—and (thanks in no small part to our First Amendment) there's a good chance they've deviated from prepared remarks and are actually speaking from the heart. (It's one of the reasons I consider both Roosevelts to be among my favorite Presidents; there's more than one way to skin a cat, and even if I don't agree with your particular "cat skinning" techniques, I'm still rooting for you to skin the cat—that is, run our country—cleanly/effectively…I think…I dunno, that's a weird metaphor. 🤔)

The point is:

I have my own political ideology, but if someone with a totally different ideology is in charge and does things their way—ways with which I probably don't entirely agree—I'll be 100% behind that person in the end if they can successfully "help the country," albeit their methods being different from my own. ("Help the country" is in quotes because, of course, that's not criteria that is at all specific or measurable. I believe in free markets, but if someone develops and implements a policy that substantially improves the entire economy by, e.g. {this example in no way reflects the views of this author} socializing health care, in whole or in part, while improving Americans' health as a whole and costs the nation less than our current system of subsidies and private marketplaces, I'd likely support it. Only if I believed it had the possibility of massive unintended side-effects (which due-diligence would help to rule out, budget-wise; I'm thinking more along the lines of Individual Freedom and Liberty) would ideology overrule pragmatism.

In life, the only hard and fast rule is that there are no hard and fast rules.

More than a "Libertarian," "Republican," "Democrat," or even "Independent," I'm an American. I know that above all else, my fellow Americans and I have more upon which we agree than disagree; at this particular moment in our history, that doesn't "feel" possible, but that's only because the person acting as President is—to an extent never before seen in this nation's history—an individual that thrives on strong-man, authoritarian tactics; goes out of his way to pit Americans against Americans; attacks our institutions of law enforcement and the free press; cozies up to oppressive dictators while pushing away nations that have been among our closest allies for decades, if not centuries; makes false statements so frequently, it's impossible to tell whether he's lying, stupid, or senile; I could go on.

Regardless of how you voted in 2016 or even 2018:

you must begin to consider the notion that the individual currently serving as President of the United States is, at best, woefully unfit for office; at worst, an active & complicit agent of the Russian Federation. (As well as the very real possibility that the President is an unwitting—and, quite possibly, unknowing—Russian agent.)

This brings a number of previous stories together in a potentially disturbing way:

  1. Trump has said from the beginning that he would be the one to "take the mantle" for this shutdown—meaning the ball is in his court to continue bringing proposals to the Democrats. Waiting for them to negotiate against themselves is a waste of time.
  2. In the two years during which the Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress and could have passed wall funding just as the President wanted, they did not.
    • I think this happened because Republicans, writ large, do not support Trump's wall:

      Less than a month after Trump took the oath of office, Republicans were already backing away from the prospect of a border wall — because of the price tag and lack of spending offsets, to which many Republican lawmakers objected, but also because there was disagreement over the essential utility of a physical partition.

      Trump's shutdown gamble now hinges on a wall many Republicans were never truly sold on; emphasis added

    • Additionally, as with so many things that are explained away due to "lack of experience" (as opposed to, say, "felonious behavior/government corruption/a compromised POTUS") it's possible Trump simply (truly) "forgot" to ask Congress to fund wall during virtually all of 2017-2018. After all, he's never been one that seemed too concerned with actually keeping any promises that required real work…though I suppose he does deserve some credit for successfully installing a knowingly-perjured (and arguably alcoholic) sexual predator to the Supreme Court. 🤷‍♂️

    • Finally, there's the deeply disturbing possibility that Trump is keeping the government shut down for as long as possible—intentionally, with no good-faith intention of re-opening until he's absolutely forced—for a number of reasons, none of which relate to border security:

      1. He is working to obstruct the Mueller investigation by doing exactly what "Acting AG" Whitaker suggested could be done to end the probe prematurely by starving it of funding. Of course, that action would have been far too obvious, so rather than just shut down the Special Counsel's investigation, he shuts down the federal government; the fact that the Justice Department is starved of funding is just a convenient side-effect.

      2. Besides the Mueller probe, this stops/hampers a number of other investigations that are orbiting dangerously close to Trump & Co. (in SDNY, et. al.); if the Judiciary can't afford to pay people to sit on a jury (for either a specific trial, or—perhaps far more critically—on a Grand Jury so indictments can be issued) the gears of justice (which always grind away at a fairly glacial pace, anyway) virtually stop altogether.

        • corollary—"wag the dog:" with all the news focused on the government shutdown and the numerous humanitarian crises that are arising within the United States, for our own federal employees, there is not as much attention on the sheer jaw-dropping incompetence, criminality, cruelty, or lack of leadership espoused by this White House.
      3. If Trump is, in fact, compromised by Putin/another foreign adversary, what more could they possible ask for than the shutdown of the federal government? And not just a shutdown: the longest government shutdown in our nation's history—one that endangers the citizens of this country every day by forcing so many absolutely critical federal employees to work without pay, meaning they're not just stressed about how to pay the bills this month; they're probably also sleep-deprived from spending all of their "time off" driving for Uber. This includes tens- if not hundreds-of-thousands of federal employees, some of which have jobs that require acute focus if you don't want hundreds of people to die—for example, air traffic controllers:

        We have a growing concern for the safety and security of our members, our airlines, and the traveling public due to the government shutdown. This is already the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States and there is no end in sight. In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.

        Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots, Flight Attendants Detail Serious Safety Concerns Due to Shutdown; emphasis added

Every day the government is shut down, it's like a car left in the garage getting sugar poured into the gas tank: as more time passes, not only does it become more difficult to get things running again—some things may be FUBAR for a generation or longer, much of which relate to intelligence/law enforcement. Furthermore, all of our intelligence agencies indicate that Russia is actively engaging in information warfare (Trump is the only "president" to ever denounce our own intelligence services and capitulate to a foreign adversary, on foreign soil, in front of the entire world. And let's not forget: he did so at the same time he was holding one-on-one meetings with Putin during which either no American translator was present, or the translator that was present had their notes seized, was ordered never to discuss the content of that conversation, and Trump won't tell anyone what any of it was about. Or, maybe he has—but I know of zero reasons to trust him, just based on the record of him and virtually every person ever associated with him being an almost [if not outright] pathological liar.) and the "Commander in Chief" appears to be asleep at the wheel.

Senator McConnell: just because it rhymes with your given name doesn't mean you have to be Trump's "bitch."

In fact, one can easily make the case that it is your duty to work to reopen the government regardless of what Trump wants. Congress' oversight role of the Executive includes passing bipartisan policy, with or without a veto-proof majority. By deciding not to bring anything to a vote unless you know Trump will sign it, you're making him a Monarch. While you share a political party, you are independent branches of government; by declining to even allow Congress to act independently by denying bills be brought to a vote, you're merely a pawn of the King.

Why are Senate Republicans so willing to relinquish their power to Trump?

The only reason I can think that still makes sense is the fact that contrary to all expert reasoning, Trump has managed to keep the base happy; because the Republicans sold their souls to a megalomaniac Oompa-Loompa, they have activated an extremist faction of the party that has resulted in more Republicans defecting since 2016 than the number of times Congress voted (and failed) to repeal the Affordable Care Act, multiplied by the number of Clinton-Benghazi investigations, raised to the power of the multiple felony indictments Trump would almost certainly be facing right now if he wasn't the sitting "president."

In other words: the former "GOP" is now the Trumpian Nationalist party; "real" Republicans nationwide have to worry about an extremist candidate challenging them from the right—which, in a Republican district, may be a very serious problem. I think the fact that Democrats picked up nearly four-dozen House seats while losing Senate seats in 2018 is a sign that Trump's incompetence as POTUS is finally hitting home; after all, members of the House of Representatives each have substantially fewer constituents than a Senator, and they are elected district-by-district—not State-wide. In short, House Reps are more aligned with their constituents by virtue of simple statistics. Additionally, because Reps only serve for two year terms, they are essentially in constant "campaign" mode. I believe this keeps them more in-tune with the constituents they represent than either of that State's Senators.

Wasn't this about Michael Bennet?

I'm getting there! 🙃 Yesterday (Thursday, January 25) Senator McConnell finally decided to do his job and bring two bills with the potential to re-open the government (at least temporarily) to the Senate floor for a vote. One of the bills was the Trump-approved budget that included wall money, and the other was introduced by Democrats to match the budget already unanimously passed in the Senate in December and would have funded the government through February while wall negotiations continued.

Of course, neither of these bills passed yesterday, despite the Republican Senate voting for the same bill weeks ago. That was before Trump was chastised by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh—and since conservative talk media is the real authority, Trump folded to them as quickly as he folded to Vlad in Helsinki. And, being the "master deal-maker" he is, Trump immediately showed all his cards to everyone and pushed his stack "all-in:"

Trump boasted during an Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders last week that he would be “proud” to shut down the government over border security and that he’d be willing to take the blame for any fallout.

Senate passes bill to avoid government shutdown; House vote comes next

Now that it's clear Trump is handily losing this battle, I think it's also interesting to note the continuing numbers of Republicans in both chambers of Congress that are peeling away from Republican leadership and voting against Trump (e.g., recent bills to block sanctions relief for Russia receiving support of myriad different Republicans in both the House and Senate; between yesterday's pair of bills, Schumer's received more "yea" votes than McConnel's in a Republican-controlled Senate.) With the likelihood of a "smocking gun" (😉) being discovered (assuming Mueller doesn't already have it) seeming to increase day-after-day, Trump's own TV lawyer quoting him about his lying to the public during the campaign (potentially breaking attorney-client privilege) while Trump, himself, spends his time making threats against the family of his former "criminal" lawyer/"fixer" in blatant, public witness tampering, and the increasingly likely (almost guaranteed) scenario Trump will at the very least be impeached in the House of Representatives—shattering his chances in 2020, and the GOP's along with him, unless the Senate finally turns on him (as they've begun showing signs of doing) to ensure his removal from office so they can have a "clean" primary, Trump will be a one-term president likely to spend the rest of his post-POTUS life in prison.

The reason this speech from Senator Bennet was so inspiring to me is that it called Cruz out for exactly the problem he is, explained why "politics" is not the way to govern (strange as that may sound), and called on the Senate to put aside bickering, reopen government, and start saving Americans lives (literally) not to mention actually securing our nation—something every terrorist organization in the world knows we're not doing to our fullest extent right now.

Because Trump triggered this shutdown by not asking for wall money earlier in the appropriations process, and then proudly declared it the "Trump Shutdown," and polls increasingly show Americans blaming him—personally—for the shutdown, Democrats have no reason to cave. Americans see this as Trump's disaster, and rightly blame him for it. To be fair, as alluded to above, McConnel could re-open government by passing the same bill they unanimously passed in December; even if Trump vetoes, 67 votes would override—last I checked, 67<"unanimous", whether there are 100 Senators in town or 99 or 98 or whatever. If McConnell wanted to make it happen, and Congressional Republicans had any respect for their oversight role or Constitutional Checks and Balances, they'd re-open the government over Trump's head and keep it open while immigration reform/security is negotiated.

Which is the other reason Democrats can not let Trump feel like this shutdown was "worth it:" because he clearly has nothing but a scabby callous of a soul, if he thinks there is something to be gained by shutting down the government, he'll do it again. And again. And again. (Has Trump ever given us any reason not to believe he's actually a 12 year-old in a fat, old, skin-bag held together with artificial tanner and hairspray? 🤔)

Much like a toddler being taught the concept of "no" for the first time, Donald Trump mustn't be allowed to force himself on anyone.

I'm not sure how he got Ted Cruz to lick his boots, but sure as Lindsay Graham will use strong rhetoric only to turn himself around and bend over the table so fast he gives himself whiplash, Ted Cruz is the last vestige of a radicalized-Tea Party, with Trump as its ultimate culmination. We must do everything we can to stand up for what is right in the face of sheer cruelty, indifference, and incompetence.

Oh, and remember that the Internet remembers things, too: Ted Cruz says he's opposed shutdowns, but he hasn't always