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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,835

Journal Archives

How a McConnell-backed effort to lift Russian sanctions boosted a Kentucky project

In January, as the Senate debated whether to permit the Trump administration to lift sanctions on Russia’s largest aluminum producer, two men with millions of dollars riding on the outcome met for dinner at a restaurant in Zurich.

On one side of the table sat the head of sales for Rusal, the Russian aluminum producer that would benefit most immediately from a favorable Senate vote. The U.S. government had sanctioned Rusal as part of a campaign to punish Russia for “malign activity around the globe,” including attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election.

On the other side sat Craig Bouchard, an American entrepreneur who had gained favor with officials in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bouchard was trying to build the first new aluminum-rolling mill in the United States in nearly four decades, in a corner of northeastern Kentucky ravaged by job losses and the opioid epidemic — a project that stood to benefit enormously if Rusal were able to get involved.

The men did not discuss the Senate debate that night at dinner, Bouchard said in an interview, describing it as an amicable introductory chat. But the timing of their meeting shows how much a major venture in McConnell’s home state had riding on the Democratic-backed effort in January to keep sanctions in place.


Social Security isn't in crisis. It just needs a tune-up.

Eighty-four years ago Wednesday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Social Security into law. He advised future generations to continue building on the program’s foundation, which he explained “represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.”

Recognizing Social Security’s importance to the economic security of working families, policymakers followed FDR’s direction and expanded it regularly — until 1972. In the years since, politicians have increasingly seen government, to quote Ronald Reagan, not as “the solution to our problem” but as “the problem.” Not coincidentally, Congress has not passed legislation to expand Social Security in more than four decades.

Nor has any action been taken to increase Social Security’s dedicated revenue, despite the fact that a modest shortfall — projected to begin in 2035 — was first reported to Congress in 1989.

When a shortfall was reported to Congress in 1975, legislation was enacted in 1977. When a new projected shortfall was reported in 1979, Congress again reacted relatively quickly, passing legislation in 1983. In contrast, three decades have passed without action to address a shortfall first identified in 1989.


In suburban Texas, 'it feels like there's no place for lifelong Republicans like me'

Vanessa Steinkamp is the kind of voter that Texas Republicans counted on. She’s a devoted conservative who volunteered for Bob Dole’s presidential campaign, interned for former GOP Sen. Bill Frist and lives in an affluent suburb between Fort Worth and Dallas that is the reddest pocket of a reliably Republican district.

These days, though, Steinkamp feels alienated, not energized, by her party. The thought of voting in 2020 brings on a weary sigh.

“It feels like there’s no place for lifelong Republicans like me,” she said.

Her unease underscores a larger problem for Texas Republicans: Female suburban voters like Steinkamp are no longer a sure bet for the party, injecting new competitiveness into the Lone Star State’s politics.


Donald Trump has emasculated the American farmer

One of the odder aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency is the way in which he has alienated the very voting blocs he claims to love the most.

Trump has proclaimed that he is the biggest booster of the military and that the uniformed services support him. Yet he has done nothing to better understand his role as the commander in chief of the armed forces. Military officers have expressed increasing discomfort with Trump’s use of the uniformed services as a partisan prop. His meetings with veterans groups have led to bizarre exchanges. Trump has restricted his encounters with the families of those killed in action because he found the experience to be too intense. Col. David Lapan, a retired Marine who served as the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security during the first year of the Trump administration, once told the New York Times, “There was the belief that over time, he would better understand, but I don’t know that that’s the case. I don’t think that he understands the proper use and role of the military and what we can, and can’t, do.” Even evangelical groups, the backbone of Trump’s base, have recently expressed qualms about the president’s rhetoric.

Without question, however, the Trump bloc that has suffered the most from the Trump administration has been farmers. Sure, Trump has tweeted about the country’s “Great Patriotic Farmers” multiple times. Tweets don’t put food on the dinner table, however. On that front, this administration has been a blight on America’s breadbasket. Indeed, one has to step back and appreciate the devastation wreaked by administration policies. The Trump White House has taken one of America’s leading export sectors and turned it into a group dependent upon government welfare for its very survival.

Trump’s damage to farmers has two prongs. The first has been his administration’s evisceration of the Department of Agriculture. As Michael Lewis documented in “The Fifth Risk,” Trump’s appointees had little respect for the scientific research performed by the department’s scientists. In 2018, Trump’s secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, centralized control over USDA researchers in an effort to limit the publication of any research critical of administration policies. As a result the Department of Agriculture’s best and brightest began to exit government service. By 2019, non-retirement departures from USDA research agencies had more than doubled compared to the previous three-year average. That exodus will only increase after USDA scientists were given a short date to select whether to move with their agencies from D.C. to Kansas City. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney celebrated the transparent ploy to purge the administration of scientists as “a wonderful way to streamline government.” One outside expert warned my Post colleague Ben Guarino, “This is the brain drain we all feared, possibly a destruction of the agencies.”


The king of insults can't handle the truth about himself

President Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading statements during fewer than 1,000 days in office and has insulted hundreds of people, entire countries and our collective intelligence. When confronted with unpleasant truths about himself, however, he wigs out, according to The Post’s reporting.

Trump said there were “very fine” people on both sides in Charlottesville, accused a judge of Mexican heritage of being unable to do his job, calls African and Caribbean nations “shithole countries” and says he prefers immigrants from lily-white Norway. He told four nonwhite congresswomen to “go back” to where they came from, regularly insults the intelligence of African Americans and has parroted white nationalist rhetoric (“invasion”). But he is upset that people (51 percent, according to one poll) think he is a racist.

Don’t tell him, but the president who has racked up a deficit of “$119.7 billion, good for a 27% increase over a year ago, according to government figures released Monday,” might be called “fiscally irresponsible” (oh my!) by some.

Trump might be troubled to know that after years of excusing Russia’s attack on our democracy and those of other Western countries, and after taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of the U.S. intelligence community, people are calling him a “patsy” or a “poodle” for Putin. The nerve!


It's Alan Dershowitz vs. David Boies, again and again

In the twilight of the ceaselessly dueling courtroom gods, legacies wobble and crack.

Once, they were unquestioned giants of the legal profession. David Boies, the slayer of Microsoft’s monopoly, the man Al Gore turned to in hopes of salvaging his bid for the presidency. Alan Dershowitz, one of the intellectual bulwarks of the O.J. Simpson defense team, the tactician immortalized on the big screen for reversing the murder conviction of socialite Claus von Bülow.

But now, as they reach an age when other esteemed elder statesmen of the bar might be basking in acclaim for their life’s work, the 78-year-old Boies and the 80-year-old Dershowitz are brutally yoked in a subplot of the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case. Their link became even tighter and more complicated this weekend when the disgraced multimillionaire was found dead of an apparent suicide at a federal detention center in New York where he was awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges. Epstein’s death occurred the day after newly unsealed court documents claimed he had a voracious sexual appetite for underage girls and detailed the alleged methods he and his friends used to recruit them.

The clash between Dershowitz and Boies, and its offshoots, have spawned lawsuits, swarms of stinging court documents, ferocious accusations, angry television appearances, a secretly taped call and more. In this long-running melodrama, Boies and his partners at Boies Schiller Flexner represent one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre — who was a teenage locker-room attendant at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort when she met Epstein. Giuffre has alleged that Epstein demanded that she have sex with him repeatedly when she was underage and lent her for sex to his friends, including Dershowitz.


Evangelicals aren't turned off by Trump's first term -- they're delighted by it

Three years ago, Rickey Halbert was torn about whether to vote for Donald Trump.

On the one hand, he’d read about Trump’s extramarital affairs and the women who alleged he had sexually assaulted them. Halbert, a Defense Department employee, didn’t think the candidate matched his moral compass.

Then again, he believed Trump would reduce the number of abortions in the country.

In the end, he said, that convinced him to vote for Trump, like most of his fellow evangelicals.


GM, Volkswagen Say Goodbye to Hybrid Vehicles

Auto makers for two decades have leaned on hybrid vehicles to help them comply with regulations on fuel consumption and give customers greener options in the showroom. Now, two of the world’s largest car manufacturers say they see no future for hybrids in their U.S. lineups.

General Motors Co. and Volkswagen are concentrating their investment on fully electric cars, viewing hybrids—which save fuel by combining a gasoline engine with an electric motor—as only a bridge to meeting tougher tailpipe-emissions requirements, particularly in China and Europe.

GM plans to launch 20 fully electric vehicles world-wide in the next four years, including plug-in models in the U.S. for the Chevy and Cadillac brands. Volkswagen has committed billions to producing more battery-powered models, including introducing a small plug-in SUV in the U.S. next year and an electric version of its minibus around 2022.

“If I had a dollar more to invest, would I spend it on a hybrid? Or would I spend it on the answer that we all know is going to happen, and get there faster and better than anybody else?” GM President Mark Reuss said in an interview.


Harry Reid: The Filibuster Is Suffocating the Will of the American People

I am not an expert on all of government, but I do know something about the United States Senate. As the former majority leader, I know how tough it is to get anything through the chamber, which was designed to serve as the slower, more deliberative body of the United States Congress.

But what is happening today is a far cry from what the framers intended. They created the Senate as a majority-rule body, where both sides could have their say at length — but at the end of the day, bills would pass or fail on a simple majority vote. In their vision, debate was supposed to inform and enrich the process, not be exploited as a mechanism to grind it to a halt.

The Senate today, after years of abusing an arcane procedural rule known as the filibuster, has become an unworkable legislative graveyard. Not part of the framers’ original vision, the modern filibuster was created in 1917. The recent use of the filibuster — an attempt by a minority of lawmakers to delay or block a vote on a bill or confirmation — has exploited this rule, forcing virtually all Senate business to require 60 of the 100 senators’ votes to proceed. This means a simple majority is not enough to advance even the most bipartisan legislation.

Republicans over the past decade — knowing their policies are unpopular and that obstruction benefits them politically — perfected and increased the gratuitous use of the filibuster. Even routine Senate business is now subject to the filibuster and Republicans’ seeming obsession with gridlock and obstruction.


From race to plastic straws, Trump dials up culture wars in divisive play for 2020 votes

George W. Bush had “freedom fries,” Sarah Palin had the “Big Gulp” and Dan Quayle had the Hollywood portrayal of an unwed single mother named Murphy Brown.

For President Trump, it’s paper straws — the latest addition to an ever-growing list of cultural flash points his campaign is seeking to highlight as part of a base-focused reelection effort.

As cities and coffee chains across the country have adopted policies aimed at limiting environmental damage, the president’s campaign has targeted what it calls “liberal paper straws.” It’s selling a Trump-branded plastic version as a fundraising tool.

Pointing to the “runaway success” of the straws — which have earned the campaign more than $670,000 in a month — communications director Tim Murtaugh said they represent Trump’s ability to make a political point using a cultural issue everyday voters can relate to.

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