To me there was no lone story last week that was the biggest in American politics; there was a collecting when taken together that is of historic proportion. In the following paragraphs I will attempt to briefly cover several of them. The article will be lengthy but I’m certain still incomplete. Let’s explore.
I want to begin with two Congressional votes from last week: SJ Res.2 (Senate roll call vote #6) and HJ Res. 30 (House roll call vote #42). Both votes dealt with negating the administration’s removal of sanctions against Russian companies largely owned by Russian oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska.
On Wednesday the Senate version failed to get the needed 60 votes in a 57-42-1 vote (Bernie Sanders was absent). 42 Republican Senators sided with Vladimir Putin over America. They are: Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Braun and Todd Young of Indiana, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Kevin Cramer and Mike Hoeven of North Dakota, Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, James Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Johnny Isakson and David Perdue of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, Rick Scott of Florida, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Alexander and Roberts have announced their retirements at the end of this term so what are they afraid of or trading their vote for? Burr chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee if anyone should know what a crook Deripaska is it is him. Mitt Romney was roundly criticized for calling Russia the biggest threat to America during the 2012 presidential campaign. I still think he was a bit off, but with the benefit of hindsight he certainly wasn’t crazy. His vote proved my suspicion that he would be the new Jeff Flake not the new John McCain. Flake would criticize Trump but ultimately vote with him. At least occasionally McCain had the courage of his convictions. The least surprising of the 42 was Rick “The Fifth” Scott. I gave him the moniker because he invoked the Fifth Amendment 75 time in a single deposition. He probably holds Deripaska and Putin among his role models and heroes. Moore Capito, Cassidy, Cornyn, Enzi, Ernst, Graham, Hyde-Smith, Inhofe, McConnell, Perdue, Risch, Rounds and Tillis are all up for reelection in 2020. Many of them are vulnerable. If I were considering running against them I’d already be planning ads around this vote.
For those, like me, waiting for at least 20 Senate Republicans to become patriots and abandon Trump, while the cracks are starting to appear, we may have to wait a bit longer. Of the 22 seats held by GOP Senators that are up in 2020 15 or 68% voted with Putin. If you discount the retirees, the numbers are 13 of 20 or 65%. While the motivation is open to debate the reality is clear. At least in this case (and probably many more) Trump is Putin’s puppet.
In the House Thursday’s vote was 362-53-18 with 136 Republicans crossing over to join the Democrats. All 53 nay votes were cast by Republicans. I found it interesting that Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter were part of the 53. They are the only current sitting House members under felony indictment. They were also the first two Congressional members to endorse Donald Trump in 2016. What is that saying about birds of a feather?
Across the pond in the United Kingdom Brexit is a bigger mess by the day and Prime Minister Theresa May had to endure a no confidence vote. If the UK pulls out of the European Union the biggest economic winner is Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Last week it was widely reported that on more than one occasion President Trump has verbalized a desire to pull America out of NATO. Russia’s biggest military deterrent is NATO. On Thursday, at the last minute, Trump thwarted a Congressional delegation led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi from taking a three country trip whose first stop was Brussels, Belgium. Trump had the absolute right to pull the military air transportation. However, he went so far as to release her itinerary and the “backup” commercial flight plans rendering the trip too huge of a security risk. If you think it was just a political power play let me give you another dot to connect; Brussels is NATO headquarters.
Amid the chaos of a pullout of American forces from Syria which Trump justified by declaring that we had defeated ISIS in Syria ISIS launched an attack that left four Americans dead in what was considered to be one of the “safe zones”. The genesis of the Syrian pullout was a telephone call request from Turkish President Recep Erdogan. Putin covets the naval base he has in Syria, his only Mediterranean Sea base. He has been a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A US pullout would lead to Russia being the sole dominant foreign power in Syria and the naval base intact. America’s best ally in the military effort against ISIS and aligned terrorist groups has been the Kurds who the Turks hate. With America out of the way the Turks will be free to slaughter the Kurds. I see Vlad as a winner but not Joe Lunchbucket.
Various reports surfaced last week of Trump actually going to the point of seizing the notes of his interpreter in the aftermath of one-on-one meetings with Putin. (At least one such meeting didn’t even have an American interpreter present.) On the flight home from their meeting in Hamburg, Germany Trump called New York Times reporter David Sanger and told him he believed Putin’s version of events because he bought Putin’s logic that if Russia had interfered in the American election they were so good at hacking they never would have been caught. I know Trump doesn’t read but perhaps he could get someone to read Malcom Nance’s book, The Plot to Hack America, to him which explains the situation. Short of that perhaps he could simply comprehend that sometimes criminals want to “brag” by leaving “breadcrumbs” in an effort to get caught. It is sort of like flexing their “muscles”.
Then, of course, there is the matter of Trump making the American government dysfunctional. We are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in history with no end in sight. It is called the Trump Shutdown 3.0 because it is the third time Trump has shut down the federal government in his less than two years in office.
If you can’t get bigger than your opponents, one way to beat them is to reduce them in size and divide them from each other. Vlad is winning. How about you? If Trump were subject to truth in advertising he’d have to change the wording on his hats to Make Russia Great Again.
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