Tag Archives: Pelosi

The Russians Are Playing, The Russians Are Playing

The Russians Are Coming 1966

While playing connect the dots is a favored past-time among the punditry, it takes time to piece together the actions and intent of the Russians in terms of American politics.   We can, however, list some items which should be of continuing interest to the American voting public:

Item: Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo, has been doing some heavy lifting in the background information department.  He reminds us that the Russians aren’t playing from a position of strength; they aren’t the power they once were, and shouldn’t be perceived as the Cold Warriors of Old. This doesn’t mean we can dismiss their “asymmetrical” activities in American elections, but we should be clear about their capacity to do major harm.  They are engaged in trolling operations; and in “news” operations.  And, yes, as Marshall outlines it, there is a Putin-Trump connection.  What does make all this interesting is that both Putin and Trump are operating from positions of weakness, rather than strength; Putin in a declining economic power and Trump in a declining political position.

Item: The Manafort Issue is no less intriguing. CNN reports that the Trump Campaign chair received funds from the former Ukrainian regime, now under investigation for corruption. According to the NYT:

“And Mr. Manafort’s presence remains elsewhere here in the capital, where government investigators examining secret records have found his name, as well as companies he sought business with, as they try to untangle a corrupt network they say was used to loot Ukrainian assets and influence elections during the administration of Mr. Manafort’s main client, former President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.”

Manafort’s response has been varied.  He’s denied that any such transactions took place (Vanity Fair) and tried to shake off the allegations by saying that some donations to the Clinton Foundations were equally shady. (Politifact)  However, Mr. Manafort’s allegations of corruption were not substantiated with any actual evidence. [Politifact] This leaves us with an uncomfortable bit of circumlocution from Mr. Manafort — “I didn’t do it, but if I did what the Clinton’s did was worse.” This is not a very strong argument.

Item:  The matter of the DNC hack.  That the hack came from Russian sponsored sources is no longer a matter of debate – it did.  We should get used to titles like Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear in relation to the hack job. The first round of released information was enough to thoroughly embarrass the DNC, but the second round may be the most deleterious.  The hacking was more widespread than previously thought, and the DCCC information was both leaked and used – according to Minority Leader Pelosi:

“The California lawmaker was responding to the latest hacking incident, into the House Democratic campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which on Friday night published members’ personal cell phone numbers and some private email addresses.”

Democratic lawmakers received obscene calls and texts. Pelosi advised members to change their phone numbers, and they were also advised on another concern, “One major concern are the emails sent to the members or the staff could include website links with malware or phishing attempts to steal identities or financial information. Congressional security officials have warned members and staff not to click on websites they are not familiar with.” [CNN]  Now, we’re getting into some truly nasty territory. It could be argued that the Trump Campaign has outsourced the Dirty Tricks Department to the Russians?

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Filed under corruption, Foreign Policy, Republicans

The Story of Six Warships

USS San AntonioThe full transcript of the President’s speech on the Syrian issue can be found here, and here.   The video can be found here.  The reactions, predictably run from precise to persiflage.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca): “As the Obama administration continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution, the president justly made clear tonight that the threat of military action remains on the table as we continue to work to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.” — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.”  [ABC]

Pelosi has been listening.  Note the phrasing, such as “continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution,” and “the threat of military action.”

When the former House Speaker used the phrase “continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution,” she was precisely summarizing U.S. diplomatic transactions with the Russians vis a vis their client state, Syria.  Business Insider followed the plot:

“Our goal from the beginning has been to secure the chemical weapons stockpile in Syria,” a senior administration official insisted.

The announcement by the Russians was the result of months of meetings and conversations between Presidents Obama and (Vladimir) Putin, and Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lavrov, about the role Russia could play in securing chemical weapons,” the official told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

The idea was first discussed at a G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, a year ago by Obama and Putin, and has been raised in subsequent meetings “though agreement could not be reached,” the official said.

Kerry sought to flesh it out during a trip to Moscow in May, when he discussed with Lavrov “replicating the potential model of Libya’s nuclear program which in 2003 was removed under an international agreement.” (emphasis added)

The  diplomatic discussion concerning the control of Syrian chemical weapons has been a plot point since the G20 Summit on June 17, 2012.   The former Speaker is also on point with the phrase: “threat of military action.”

Notice that the topic of  options available for the control of Syrian WMD/Chemical weapons stockpiles has been ongoing since June 17, 2012, so why did Secretary of State Kerry’s comments, and publicizing of the topic draw such an immediate and positive response from the Russians?

A former Secretary of State’s observations shed some light on this.  Our previous Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated:

“It is very important to note that this discussion that has taken hold today about potential international control over Syria’s stockpiles, only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States to keep pressure on the Syrian government as well as those supporting Syria, like Russia.” [Atlantic] (emphasis added)

In short, Secretary Kerry couldn’t reasonably expect the Russians to approve any proposals for external control of Syrian regime chemical and biological weapons without a statement by the U.S. President that he was perfectly willing to use force — if necessary — to curtail their use.    The Secretary now quotes Samuel Johnson, “Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.”  The crux of the matter is that the U.S. has tried since June 2012 to impress upon the Russians the necessity of curtailing their client state’s use of chemical weapons — until the U.S.S. San Antonio and the U.S.S. Stout, Mahan, Ramage, Barry, and Graveley were parked in the neighborhood [GR.ca] the Russians had ignored these proposals.

Thus what “sounded” like a gaffe on June 9, 2013 was simply merely the publication of an American proposal, under quiet discussion for the previous year,  made more palatable to the Russian government by the presence of a “creditable threat” as personified by the six warships. Had Secretary Kerry made the proposals public before the arrival of the six warships the Russians could have made public their opposition to external control of Syrian chemical weapons without fear of much reaction.  The six warships made the point — the U.S. is very very serious about this option.

Congratulations to House Minority Leader Pelosi for keeping the plot straight, and for realizing that timing is everything.  First the negotiations, then the credible threat, then the publication of the proposal, and then the positive reaction.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus didn’t follow the plot: “The administration’s handling of the U.S. response to Syria has been so haphazard it’s disappointed even the president’s most ardent supporters. This rudderless diplomacy has embarrassed America on the world stage.” — Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.” [ABC]

Haphazard? Priebus may be good at following talking points, but he missed the sequence on this one.  “Rudderless?” It should be obvious at this point the U.S. had been proposing the external control option from the 2012 G20 to the 2013 G20 — the difference being those six warships serving as exclamation points made the option much more attainable by the 2013 session.   The rudders of those six warships weren’t guiding the vessels along a vacation route, there was a reason for their destination, and had been since June 17, 2012.

“Embarrassed?”  Only if one adopts Vladimir Putin as the ultimate negotiator, which the conservatives appear to be doing.  Did Putin “save the President’s face?” Or, come to the “Diplomatic Rescue?” [MMFAThese assertions work only if one ignores the initial positions of the two powers.  The U.S. wanted control over the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in concordance with the 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1993 CWC.  The Russians didn’t.   When one side adopts the position of the opponent during diplomatic negotiations that is generally conceded to be a Win.

There is still room for debate about the appropriate use of force to be deployed or applied by the United States. There is still room for debate concerning the efficacy of limited military engagement. There is still room for discussion about the nature of American interests in the region.  What should no longer be debatable is the consistency of Obama Administration policy on the use of chemical weapons.

Congress may choose to allow the Administration the rope (military option) to form the noose threatening the Russians and their client state in Syria — or it can opt to remove this tool from the diplomatic shed.  The question remains: How focused will the Russians be on a diplomatic solution  without those six warships deployed and fully ready to act?

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Filed under Foreign Policy

Coffee and the Papers

Nevada:  The Las Vegas Sun looks at 11 specific ways the Administration’s budget might affect the Silver State.  Nevada Progressive looks at reasons why Nevada may well remain a Blue State in 2012.   Why is Sheldon Adelson sorry he wore an American uniform, and how might the Romney campaign respond? See The Gleaner.

The federal deficitJared Bernstein sums it up – “The key for any real deficit hawk to understand is that right now, Republicans won’t support anything that raises taxes on the rich — which is to say they’re not supporting a meaningful path to lower long term deficits. They didn’t last year, and they won’t this year. No matter what their initial rhetoric claims.”

There’s more on the political side of the subject at TPM; once burned, twice shy, the GOP would rather increase the deficit than fight over the extension of the payroll tax holiday paid for with any tax increase on millionaires and billionaires.

But, OH, the Beltway Villagers are inclined to wail that the current budget doesn’t do what the President promised in 2009.  This would be an appropriate time to remember that the GOP is the party that won’t take “yes” for an answer.  The President’s call for the Grand Bargain was dismissed by Republicans even though it reduced the deficit, and made cuts with which they said they agreed.  The Villagers have very short memories.

So, it should come as no surprise that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already announced that the President’s budget is DOA in the Congress. [The Hill]  The GOP seems beyond even pretending to participate in legislative discourse.

The Democratic lady the GOP loves to hate, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had this to say about the budget:

“President Obama has laid out an innovative blueprint for restoring opportunity for all Americans and for constructing an economy that is built to last.  The budget is balanced, fair, and responsible and is an investment in our economic growth, in job creation, and in a stronger, thriving middle class.  It is a fiscally responsible plan, reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over ten years.”

Department of Shiny Objects:  If you missed Jon Stewart’s takedown of the opponents of contraception insurance coverage, here’s a link.   And, there’s Sebelius’s insightful dissection of Representative Joe Heck’s perspective on women’s health, including the following:

“When I asked Heck directly during the 2007 Legislature why he, a physician, would vote against a vaccine that prevents an infection that can lead to cancer, he told me simply, “because it’s a mandate.” And when I replied by saying, “So what?” Heck (after a second or two; apparently he’d never been asked that before) told me that mandates drive up costs of insurance for everybody.

I wonder, which costs more: The HPV vaccine, or treatment for cervical cancer? And what drives up costs more, a vaccine given to prevent a disease, or the expensive treatment for those who get the disease?”

Local Interest: The Seeno vs. Whittemore battle continues, with implications for Nevada political life, as explained in the Reno Gazette Journal.  And, the BEST invitation ever:

The Holy Order-Sin Sity Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence invite you to “Project Red Dress” on February 25, 2012. The event will be held at The World Market Center (495 S. Grand Central Parkway) on the 16th floor. The VIP Party ($50), which includes admission to the Main Event, will start at 8pm and the Main Event ($30) will start at 10pm. This is a non-smoking and 21+ event.The money raised through this event will be used for The Sisters AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

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Filed under Adelson, Federal budget, Heck, Nevada, Nevada politics, Obama, Pelosi, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights