Editorial April 7, 2017

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) presents himself as a family oriented, American values, and a compassionate hard worker and what we might expect from such a resume is fairness and well thought out decisions. But that doesn’t seem to be the case when we look at his decisions regarding who and how the House Intelligence Committee conducts its investigation into Russia’s hacking of the 2016 elections and the possibility of collusion on that matter between Russian officials and some people connected to the Trump campaign and Administration.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA-24) got himself in trouble when he received documentation related to the investigation from two White House staffers and then shared the information with Trump while withholding it from his Co-chair Adam Schiff a Democrat from California or, for that matter his committee members. Nunes is off the Committee while the House Ethics Committee investigates him regarding the appropriateness and, perhaps, legality of his actions. The fact that there is an investigation does not presuppose any wrong doing but his actions were so out of the normal routine, certainly by sharing information with the President whose staff may well be under investigation, an investigation is necessary.

What came next is so clearly intended to sway the investigation away from the Trump Administration towards other matters particularly Trumps allegations that names were leaked one would be hard pressed to see the legitimacy of his decision.

Ryan saw fit to appoint three Republicans to run the investigation during Nunes’ absence, three men who very clearly are not concerned about getting to the bottom of the hacking (a necessary goal if we are to avoid such hacking in future elections) or potential collusion.

Rep. Mike Conway (R-TX) who seems to be the head replacement told the Dallas Morning News that he equates the Russian interference on the same scale as Democrats hiring foreign Latino entertainers for a Clinton rally in Las Vegas during the 2016 campaign. He doesn’t think the Russian hacking is such a bad thing.

Next up is Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) who headed the Benghazi Committee investigation into the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans. Gowdy spoke with certainty that the investigation would bear fruit of Clinton’s guilt but it did not and, as if to show us the pure political purpose of such an investigation, continued the pointless investigation until Trump won the White House  then disbanded the investigation leaving the work to the FBI, he said. Gowdy is a zealot and apparently has some prosecutorial experience but he didn’t learn much about investigations; he took on the Benghazi investigation already concluding that Clinton was guilty of something which is a sure way to come up with nothing as the results of that investigation proved. Gowdy, during questioning of witnesses regarding the Russian hacking was more interested in who leaked what.

Then there is Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL) who has no investigative experience whatsoever but, like Gowdy is so sure of the outcome of the investigation he, too, will not likely look with much interest any evidence of the Russian hacking or the possibility of collusion with the Russians by Trump staff. Rooney, formerly a constitutional law professor at West Point continuously peppered Florida voters with his certainty that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Rooney did little else during his first term but hammer at the Administration and Obamacare while accomplishing nothing to solve his district’s problems. ( I used to live in his district). After the Supreme Court concluded that the healthcare law was constitutional Rooney never apologized.

This is all on Ryan’s watch and his decision to fill Nunes’ chair is nonsense, certainly not representative of Americans values because it is using an important investigation to protect the President from allegations that could prove to be substantial and he has created a situation that will never be fair.

Ryan’s decision further affirms that he will not allow what most Americans want, an investigation conducted outside the politics of Capitol Hill. But the family man can’t handle finding out if the truth might be uncomfortable. What a guy.

Hamilton on Congress

This is a column Hamilton wrote prior to November 8th…

A Sobering Look Beyond the Election

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

This campaign year has been full of twists and turns. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone on November 8. So talking about what comes afterward seems premature. But it’s been on my mind a lot, because I’m worried.

This is not about who wins the presidency. I’m concerned about the aftermath of this campaign season and how hard it’s going to be for our next set of elected officials, from the President on down, to govern.

Let’s start with the belief expressed by a lot of people – including some candidates – that the system is “rigged.” This is a perilous way to treat the country’s political system; it sows distrust in future election results, de-legitimizes winners, and undermines the government’s credibility. If the charge takes hold, it will put political stability at risk.

We all have criticisms to make of the system. We know it doesn’t work perfectly and that there’s no shortage of challenges the nation needs to address. But to convey the impression that the whole system is rigged is dangerous and risky. Without a basic foundation of trust, representative government crumbles.

Instead of taking aim at “the system,” we could instead focus our criticism on a more substantive target: politicians, including the two presidential candidates, who have failed to serve us well in their debate on the economy.

Much of the debate has revolved around immigration, trade, and other issues of the moment. These are not unimportant, but they’re not the heart of the matter. The real issue – the one that politicians have proffered few solutions for – is that the economy is not working for most people. True, there’s been some improvement in the lot of middle-income earners, but the fundamental issue that economists of all stripes have been warning us about remains. This is that we face significant structural problems, driven not so much by foreign competition and immigrant workers, but by advancing technology and globalization.

Our real economic challenge, in other words, is how to provide meaningful work and good wages to tens of millions of clerks, accountants, factory workers and service providers whose jobs are disappearing because of robots, machine learning, and other irreversible changes in how work is accomplished.

Politicians need to place much more emphasis on economic growth, which is the key that unlocks many doors and is the preferred course to ease the anxiety and cynicism abroad in the country. Growth should be the central aim of economic policy, and how to achieve it should be the focus of the policy debate.

The problem is, this election isn’t providing us with a substantial policy debate. We’ve heard plenty about personality, vision, and the alleged dirty dealing of people on the other side. Serious debate about policy approaches has been replaced by sound bites signifying… well, not very much.

Indeed, if anything characterizes this election, it’s the politics of personal destruction. Demonizing the opponent has become the central concern of many campaigns, up and down the political ladder. This approach is toxic for democratic institutions and political culture. We have to be able to disagree in this country on matters of great import and controversy without tearing into and trying to destroy the opposition.

We have always had – and should have – vigorous partisanship. But today, politicians prefer hunkering down with their fellow believers and party members and circling the wagons. This makes it very hard to get negotiations going, which is the only way to make the system work.

All of this – the attacks on the system, the lack of meaningful debate about improving Americans’ economic future, the generally substance-free nature of the campaign, the politics of demonization – will make it very hard for whoever wins office to govern well. The anger, frustration, cynicism and outright pessimism that we’re seeing in this election cycle will not miraculously dissipate on Election Day.

It used to be that when a president came into office, a substantial majority of the American people gave him the benefit of the doubt, and with it an extended period in which to get things done. I don’t believe that’s going to happen after this election. And all Americans will be worse off as a result.

Lee Hamilton is a Senior Advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government; a Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and a Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.


Foreign Affairs

Syria, It’s Complicated

Two U.S. guided-missile destroyers fired 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles in a series of strikes on a Syrian airfield believed to be the origin point of a chemical weapons strike in the northern part of the country, several military officials told USNI News on Thursday night. Destroyers USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71) launched the strike from the Eastern Mediterranean at 8:40 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, or 4:40 a.m. on April 7 in Syria, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters in an email statement. Davis added the U.S. military warned Russia of the attacks before the cruise missiles were launched, US Naval Institute. Sam LaGrone and Megan Eckstein

Al Qaeda in Yemen

“American drones and manned aircraft hit over 20 al Qaeda targets in Yemen over the past week, bringing the total number of strikes over the past month to more than 70. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters Monday that the strikes targeted “militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.” Military officials declined to offer a body count for the strikes, or describe the targets in detail. FP’s Paul McLeary and Dan De Luce recently outlined the new willingness of Washington to get more involved in fighting al Qaeda in Yemen, and provide more support for the Saudi and U.A.E.-led fight against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the country. ” FA

US Bases in Iraq

“The subject of whether US troops should remain in Iraq once the Islamic State (IS) is defeated in Mosul is raising questions and fueling controversy among Iraqis. On March 26, the Iraqi government officially announced it favors the idea of some US forces staying. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a Fox News interview that he supports retaining enough US troops to support Iraqi forces in a post-IS Iraq. “We are concentrating on training, logistical support, and intelligence cooperation and gathering; these are three important elements for which I think we need some US troops to stay in Iraq to continue the task,” he stated.” Al Monitor


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