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“Politically Inconvenient Truths”: Gingrich Shows How Far He’ll Go To Be Vice President

One month ago today, Newt Gingrich was asked to comment on Donald Trump’s racist remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, and the former House Speaker was surprisingly candid. “This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made,” Gingrich said, adding that the presidential hopeful’s comments were “inexcusable.”

A few days later, however, the Georgia Republican remembered that he might be a top contender to become Trump’s running mate – which led Gingrich to walk back everything he’d just said. The former Speaker told CNN that Trump is “learning very, very fast” and taking the necessary steps “to win the presidency.”

What about Trump’s “inexcusable” mistake? “Any effort to take one or two phrases out of the 90-minute dialogue and say, ‘Gee, Gingrich was anti-Trump,’ is just nonsense,” he said.

Late last week, as Politico noted, we saw a related shift.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, under consideration as Donald Trump’s running mate, is dropping his decades-long support of free trade deals and picking up Trump’s strongly protectionist position.

“I basically agree with Trump’s speech on trade,” Gingrich said in an email to POLITICO on Friday.

Gingrich wasn’t just a passive proponent of modern trade agreements; he championed many of the trade deals Trump is now running against. Trump, for example, has repeatedly condemned NAFTA, which Gingrich not only voted, he also literally stood alongside then-President Bill Clinton when it was signed into law.

 Slate’s Josh Voorhees added that Gingrich continued to voice support for trade agreements after he was driven from Congress, including having been “a vocal cheerleader of permanent trade relations with China.”

That is, until Gingrich decided he had a shot at the VP slot, at which point he discovered he “basically agrees” with the presidential candidate he’s eager to impress.

So, here’s my question: if the vice presidential nomination goes to someone else, will Gingrich go back to his previous beliefs or stick with these politically convenient new ones?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 5, 2016

July 6, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Vice-President Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Still Threatening A Floor Fight”: An Honest Discussion About Free Trade Is Not Likely In This Election

The DNC’s Platform Committee completed work last weekend on a draft document that will be discussed at a meeting in Orlando prior to being taken up at the Convention. According to reports, they reached a lot of important compromises, especially on the issue of Wall Street reforms.

But Nicole Gaudiano writes that Bernie Sanders is still threatening a floor fight over the platform if he doesn’t get further concessions. His primary target is the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Most important to Sanders, he said, is that the platform opposes a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact he says would have “disastrous” consequences for U.S. workers and the environment. Clinton’s supporters on the drafting committee rejected such an amendment by one of Sanders supporters last weekend.

…Sanders said “we want to see the TPP killed” and the amendment should have won overwhelmingly, but he said Clinton’s representatives worried they would “embarrass” President Obama, who has pushed for the TPP.

“Well, I don’t want to embarrass the president either. He’s a friend,” Sanders said. “But in a Democratic society, people can have disagreements.”

While it’s true that President Obama isn’t wavering in his support of TPP and a plank opposing it in his own party’s platform would be unprecedented, to hear Sanders talk, you would assume that all Democrats except the President oppose the deal. That is not true. As I wrote over a year ago, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (which is dominated by Democratic mayors) endorsed TPP. Ron Brownstein more recently reported on why that support from our major metropolitan areas is unwavering. Moreover, a few months ago, Max Ehrenfreund summarized polls showing that the American public in general has mixed feelings about free trade.

To the extent that Sanders wants to make this all about “Clinton’s representatives” or protecting President Obama from embarrassment, he is simply ignoring the position of Democrats from all over the country. Contrary to what many would have us believe, there is not a consensus position on free trade within the Democratic Party. That probably explains why the platform committee settled on language “that said ‘there are a diversity of views in the party’ on the pact and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal ‘must protect workers and the environment.’”

In this election, the American public is not getting an honest discussion about free trade. We all know that Donald Trump is demagoguing the issue, Bernie Sanders is simply saying “no” while exploiting the fears that were stirred up by NAFTA and Hillary Clinton is dodging the issue. In other words, the opponents are yelling so loud that no one else is even trying to speak up.

As someone who recognizes that trade is necessary and that agreements are a way to protect not only our economy/environment but have played a vital role in lifting people out of extreme poverty around the globe, this is an unacceptable situation. Discussing trade agreements raises hard issues that are likely to lead to both payoffs and sacrifices. One has to wonder if the American public is capable of having a discussion like that right now. In an election year, I guess not.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Land Of His Imagination”: Even Donald Trump’s Most Presidential Speech Was A Bizarre, Lie-Riddled Fantasy

On Wednesday, Donald Trump gave one of the most presidential speeches he’s ever delivered — which is to say, a speech that was written out beforehand and which he read off a teleprompter, without his usual digressions into his spectacular performance in the polls and the scum-sucking lowlifes who have filed lawsuits against him (or are judges in those lawsuits). But just when you think Trump is going to put together a logical and persuasive case on something — in this speech, the all-encompassing villainy of Hillary Clinton was the topic — he dashes off into the land of his imagination, spinning out a weird series of easily debunked lies and bizarre fantasies.

This pattern repeated itself over and over in Trump’s speech (you can read the prepared text here; there were some off-the-cuff embellishments, but not too many). He would start with a reasonable critique: for instance, that Clinton supported NAFTA, which cost Americans jobs. But then he would take that critique to an absurd place: “Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs, and effectively let China completely rebuild itself. In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!”

After trade, Trump moved on to Benghazi, of course. Setting a serious tone, Trump said, “She started the war that put [Ambassador Chris Stevens] in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die.” Trump continued with this fanciful exploration of the full breadth and depth of Clinton’s power, which apparently existed on a scale that would make kings and presidents seem like tiny bugs the titanic Hillary could brush off her shoulder:

In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East.

Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to the ISIS barbarians.

Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East, and on the road to nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton’s support for violent regime change in Syria has thrown the country into one of the bloodiest civil wars anyone has ever seen — while giving ISIS a launching pad for terrorism against the West.

She helped force out a friendly regime in Egypt and replace it with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian military has retaken control, but Clinton has opened the Pandora’s box of radical Islam. [Donald Trump]

Let’s recap. You may have thought there was a revolution in Libya to overthrow longtime despot Moammar Gadhafi, a revolution that accomplished its initial goal with some help from the United States. This apparently is not correct; it turns out that what actually happened was that Hillary Clinton invaded Libya. Iran’s influence in the region? All because Hillary Clinton wanted it that way. Syria’s civil war? Started by Hillary Clinton. All those people you saw protesting Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Cairo’s Tahrir Square? Sent there by Hillary Clinton, I suppose, who then engineered the ensuing election to make sure the Muslim Brotherhood won. Radical Islam? Non-existent before Hillary Clinton came along (but don’t tell al Qaeda).

I won’t bother to go through the long list of lies Trump told through the rest of his speech (that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, that there’s no system to vet refugees, etc.) But whenever Trump began a legitimate critique of Clinton, it would inevitably go off the rails. It’s fine to criticize her use of private email at the State Department, which was a mistake. But Trump says that in the personal emails her attorneys segregated from those to be sent to the State Department and which were then deleted, there were terrifying secrets. “While we may not know what is in those deleted emails, our enemies probably do. So they probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be president of the United States. This fact alone disqualifies her from the presidency. We can’t hand over our government to someone whose deepest, darkest secrets may be in the hands of our enemies.”

I suppose if you use “probably” as a modifier you can say whatever you want, like “Donald Trump probably keeps his hair soft and manageable by shampooing in the blood of kittens.” Do we know that, or have any concrete evidence that it might be true? No. But it probably is, right?

I have no doubt that Trump’s most ardent fans eat stuff like this up. When he calls Clinton “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” they cheer in agreement. But Trump’s task isn’t to delight his supporters, it’s to win over people who aren’t already in his camp. But only someone who is already a Trump voter could be persuaded by that kind of ridiculous hyperbole.

And that’s what Trump is like when he’s being presidential.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, June 23, 2016

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Middle East | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Barking Up The Wrong Tree”: Ted Cruz Keeps Talking About ‘Wages’ — But He Won’t Support Raising Them

“Washington” is keeping wages down and impoverishing the American middle class, at least according to Ted Cruz, who has adopted economic populism as a line of attack against the political establishment as a routine part of his stump speech in recent months.

The Texas senator has tried to link rival Donald Trump to Democratic frontrunner and perennial enemy of the American right, Hillary Clinton. But the argument that the federal government, and by extension the Obama administration, was responsible for the decline in wages of American workers, was yet another baseless charged levied against a rhetorically-convenient “Washington establishment.”

Where to start. It’s unclear whether or not Cruz believes in a minimum wage. He has argued against a minimum wage, saying it leads to job losses among American minority groups. “Every time we raise the minimum wage, predictably what happens is a significant number of people lose their jobs, and they’re almost always low-income, they’re often teenagers, African Americans and Hispanics,” he said, voicing concern for demographic groups that are unlikely to vote for him anyhow, and for whom his policies don’t reflect the concern of his talking points.

In Cruz’s mind, the minimum wage is best left to the states. While he assails the loss of American jobs, sounding much like a vague, rehearsed mashup of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in their criticism of outsourcing, his policies have a different end in mind: employment above all else.

“I think it’s bad policy,” said Cruz on CNBC, criticizing the existence of a minimum wage. “And you know, one observation I make to folks is next time you go to a fast food restaurant and you start ordering on an iPad, you’re seeing the minimum wage.”

During a Senate hearing in 2014, Cruz spoke out against President Barack Obama’s proposed federal wage increase to $10.10. He said:

The undeniable reality, the undeniable truth, is if the President succeeded in raising the minimum wage it would cost jobs for the most vulnerable. The people who have been hurt by this Obama economy would be hurt worse with the minimum wage proposal before this body. In 2013 the President in his State of the Union address proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00. Now a year later the request has magically changed to $10.10. The only reason (there’s no economic justification) the only reason is politics. And I suppose if the approval ratings of democratic members of this body continue to fall in another month we’ll see a proposal for $15.00 an hour and then maybe $20.00 or $25.00 an hour. But I think the American people are tired of empty political show votes. The nonpartisan congressional budget office says that raising the minimum wage could cost a loss of 500,000 to 1 million jobs.

Cruz is barking up the wrong tree. It is not the $7.25 an hour minimum wage that made companies like Carrier, whose managers were infamously recorded laying off 1,400 at its Indianapolis plant earlier this year, outsource those jobs to Mexico. As the Economic Policy Institute pointed out in a 2003 report, NAFTA resulted in a period of job growth in the U.S. between 1994 and 2000. But starting in 2001, jobs started disappearing. “Job losses have been primarily concentrated in the manufacturing sector, which has experienced a total decline of 2.4 million jobs since March 2001,” read the institute’s report. “As job growth has dried up in the economy, the underlying problems caused by U.S. trade deficits have become much more apparent, especially in manufacturing.” It pointed to systemic turmoil in internationalized labor markets, the result of free trade agreements, which allow companies to move to where living costs (and thus labor) are cheapest.

But for Cruz, the problem has always been the minimum wage, despite evidence to the contrary: Another EPI report released in 2013 outlining the benefits of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 concluded, “Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 would lift incomes for millions of American workers and provide a modest boost to U.S. GDP.”

Despite the doomsday predictions from Cruz and the rest of the 2016 Republican field, the report also predicted large increases in employment. By increasing the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10, low wage earners would experience a recovery of real income the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades.

However, the federal minimum wage has not budged by even a penny, leaving wage increases largely to states or large American cities, exactly the sort of decentralized political process Cruz would be expected to support: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle have all instituted $15 per hour minimum wages following concerted efforts by local organizations that stemmed partly from frustration over partisan gridlock in Washington. Both California and New York’s governors signed bills this year approving wage increases to the $15 an hour benchmark over a period of time. A total of 29 states, and Washington, D.C., have instituted their own minimum wages exceeding the federal minimum wage, as a result of slow progress on the federal level.

Since the minimum was last raised to $7.25 in 2009, it has lost 8.1 percent of its purchasing power as a result of inflation, according to Pew Research. The OECD has described the American minimum wage as an outlier amongst wealthy, industrialized nations — it should really be around $12, if we were to use GDP per capita as a guide. American workers are in desperate need of a minimum wage increase, not just poorly paid employment.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The  National Memo, April 29, 2016

April 30, 2016 Posted by | Jobs, Minimum Wage, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Left Is So Wrong On Trade”: Playing A 78 rpm Record In The Age Of Digital Downloads

The left’s success in denying President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ugly to behold. The case put forth by a showboating Sen. Elizabeth Warren — that Obama cannot be trusted to make a deal in the interests of American workers — is almost worse than wrong. It is irrelevant.

The Senate Democrats who turned on Obama are playing a 78 rpm record in the age of digital downloads.

Did you hear their ally, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the day after the Senate vote? He denounced TPP for being “patterned after CAFTA and NAFTA.” That’s not so, but never mind.

There’s this skip on the vinyl record that the North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed American manufacturing. To see how wrong that is, simply walk through any Walmart or Target and look for all those “made in Mexico” labels. You won’t find many. But you’ll see “made in China” everywhere.

Many of the jobs that did go to Mexico would have otherwise left for low-wage Asian countries. Even Mexico lost manufacturing work to China.

And what can you say about the close-to-insane obsession with CAFTA? The partners in the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement — five mostly impoverished Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic — had a combined economy equal to that of New Haven, Connecticut.

(By the way, less than 10 percent of the AFL-CIO’s membership is now in manufacturing.)

It’s undeniable that American manufacturing workers have suffered terrible job losses. We could never compete with pennies-an-hour wages. Those low-skilled jobs are not coming back. But we have other things to sell in the global marketplace.

In Washington state, for example, exports of everything from apples to airplanes have soared 40 percent over four years, to total nearly $91 billion in 2014, according to The Seattle Times. About 2 in 5 jobs there are now tied to trade.

Small wonder that Sen. Ron Wyden, a liberal Democrat from neighboring Oregon, has strongly supported fast-track authority.

Some liberals oddly complain that American efforts to strengthen intellectual property laws in trade deals protect the profits of U.S. entertainment and tech companies. What’s wrong with that? Should the fruits of America’s creativity (that’s labor, too) be open to plundering and piracy?

One of TPP’s main goals is to help the higher-wage partners compete with China. (The 12 countries taking part include the likes of Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand.) In any case, Congress would get to vote the finished product up or down, so it isn’t as if the public wouldn’t get a say.

But then we have Warren stating with a straight face that handing negotiating authority to Obama would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank.”

Huh? Obama swatted down the remark as wild, hypothetical speculation, noting he engaged in a “massive” fight with Wall Street to get the reforms passed. “And then I sign a provision that would unravel it?” he told political writer Matt Bai.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Warren insisted. Yes, in a twisted way, the hard left’s fixation over big corporations has joined the right’s determination to undermine Obama at every pass.

Trade agreements have a thousand moving parts. The U.S. can’t negotiate with the other countries if various domestic interests are pouncing on the details. That’s why every president has been given fast-track authority over the past 80 years or so.

Except Obama.

It sure is hard to be an intelligent leader in this country.

 

By: Froma Harrop, Loeb Award Finalist for Economic Commentary in 2004 and 2011, Scripps Howard Award Finalist for Commentary in 2010; The National Memo, May 14, 2015

May 15, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Fast Track Authority, Trans Pacific Partnership | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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