The Real Civil War in the Democratic Party

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, flanked by fellow Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, second from left. and Elizabeth Warren, far left, introduced the party’s new economic message on Monday in Berryville, Va.

As Democrats try to unite around their new “Better Deal” agenda, the supposed battle between the “socialist” left and the “corporatist” center seems to have collapsed into a bland but serviceable slogan, with a reasonably progressive economic agenda that both Senators Elizabeth Warren and Charles Schumer can get behind. So much for that overhyped party civil war.

But Democrats shouldn’t be trumpeting party unity quite yet. The economic-left-versus-center debate has always been primarily an elite one.

Among the Democratic rank-and-file, the more consequential divide is between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those who want entirely new leadership. It’s a divide that Democratic Party leaders ignore at their peril.

As part of a report I wrote for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, I looked at divides between enthusiasts for Senator Bernie Sanders and supporters of Hillary Clinton. For many policy issues I couldn’t find much difference of note, except for a little disagreement over the benefits of foreign trade. Most Democratic voters generally agree on first principles: Economic inequality is a problem; government should do something to help the less advantaged; diversity is a strength. That’s why getting to a shared “Better Deal” agenda was relatively easy.

But I did find one area of notable discord between Clinton and Sanders supporters — their degree of disaffection with political institutions. Support for the political system correlated with positive feelings toward Mrs. Clinton, while voters who felt negatively toward the political system tended to feel positively toward Mr. Sanders.

Most members of the Democratic Party establishment are pragmatists who made it where they are by working within the system that exists, not the one they wish existed. They often have frustration bordering on contempt for those who lack their hardheaded realism.

For those outside the centers of power, it’s far easier to disdain the trade-offs inherent in leadership. After all, voters can look at the political establishment and see a whole lot of consultants and lobbyists getting rich (win or lose).

Such divisions reflect a malady facing both parties: In a word, as the political scientists Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld note, our parties are “hollow.” The parties, they write, are “neither organizationally robust beyond their roles raising money nor meaningfully felt as a real, tangible presence in the lives of voters or in the work of engaged activists.”

No wonder many voters distrust institutions and the establishment. Their engagement with the party mostly consists of receiving fund-raising emails intended to enforce programmatic conformity while activating fear of and resentment toward the other party.

Republicans have already suffered the costs of feeding their supporters a toxic diet of anti-Democratic Party propaganda. They wound up with Mr. Trump as their standard-bearer. Democrats should not make that mistake.

What if, instead of spending billions on consultants, TV ads and mailers engineered to stoke zero-sum partisanship, party leaders and affiliated funders invested in increasing the paid staff of local party organizations, and then sought their input and advice?

With a real investment, community organizations could help Democratic voters feel genuinely invested in their party, including giving them more of a role in helping to develop and select local candidates. Voters might gain more appreciation for the actual challenges of winning a majority — rather than just shouting about how the party establishment is corrupt from their Facebook pages.

They’d also help Democratic Party leaders get a better feel for what communities across the country are thinking, rather than relying on high-priced consultants with data analysis that is too often a lagging indicator or just “proves” what the consultants have been saying for decades. If Democrats had invested in meaningful community organizing in 2016, they might have detected the crumbling of the “blue wall” (states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, which had voted Democratic in recent elections) sooner, and been able to adjust course.

If Democrats need to moderate their message for 2018, local organizers will probably know it, and have a sense of how. If Democrats need to sharpen their message to motivate reluctant supporters, these organizers should know that, too.

Finally, this investment would improve turnout. People are much more likely to get involved and vote when there’s genuine social pressure from people they know (not just random volunteers parachuting into town or calling on the telephone).

Party leaders would have to accept less control, and some national consultants might lose out. But the result would be a party with a broader and stronger base of support, a party that could draw on its strength of relative ideological unity while also making space for some local heterodoxy. Yes, some on-the-ground activists will have crazy ideas. But it’s still better to have them feeling that they’re in the tent, where they can argue about them, rather than outside the tent, where they feel like they have no choice but to organize their own outsider takeover strategies.

Ultimately, the challenge the Democrats face in their party is the challenge of democracy writ large. If voters feel that institutions are not responsive to them, and they have no say in how those institutions are run, powerlessness and resentment have a tendency to erupt in unpredictable and destructive ways.

(The New York Times)

Republicans Are Now the ‘America First’ Party

Flag scarf and button on a Donald Trump supporter at a campaign event.

For most of my career, the Republican Party was pretty easy to define. It stood for small government, an internationalist foreign policy, free trade, and moral and religious conservatism. Ronald Reagan was the party’s North Star. Of course, there have always been Republicans who veered from that line — but everyone understood what the party meant.

Of all the people still trying to process Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, perhaps none are more confused than my generation of conservatives, who came of age under Mr. Reagan and drank deeply of that old orthodoxy. We are, by now, the establishment — the senators, governors, think-tank presidents and columnists who, until Mr. Trump came along, got to define what “Republican” and “conservative” meant. My cohort simply cannot accept that Mr. Trump has taken away that coveted role and revolutionized not just our party, but also the very terms of the American political divide.

But we need to. Because as Mr. Trump recognized, the new schism in American life is not about big versus small government, or more or less regulation. It is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he told the Republican National Convention.

It is obvious to all but the most blinkered Republicans that with or without Mr. Trump, the Reagan era is over. The conservative-donor and think-tank consensus has been exploded. The next smart, ambitious young Republican politician with national aspirations will not adopt Ted Cruz’s strategy of trying to revive the rotting flesh of Reaganism. He will read out of Mr. Trump’s playbook, attacking globalism rather than big government. And he’ll win, because he’ll be talking about what worries voters.

When William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955, he argued that individual freedom needed to be protected from liberalism’s drift toward collectivism. Mr. Reagan’s vigorous anti-Communism put this into practice, as did his support of deregulation and tax cuts to promote economic freedom. My generation of conservatives inherited this framework.

Over time, however, that iteration of Republican conservatism became less salient, in large part because it won. In 1989 we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall. Soon after, Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street, promoted the further extension of free trade and was a cheerleader for Silicon Valley billionaires. By 2016, only a thoroughly catechized conservative believed Democrats were strangling economic freedom. Democrats have also assumed a large piece of the libertarian mantle, especially when it comes to sexuality and drugs.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party stood still. True, the positions Mr. Buckley outlined over the years were supple enough, but their advocates were not: Their unthinking and increasingly ritualized loyalty to that phase of conservatism led the Republican establishment into political irrelevance, as Mr. Trump’s takeover of the party so brutally revealed. Given a clear, brash alternative, the Republican base tossed aside the orthodoxies of Reaganism.

Most commentators struggle to explain Mr. Trump’s electoral success, because they assume he has no coherent political philosophy. This is myopic. As a public figure, Mr. Trump has articulated a consistent message that speaks to a fundamental political challenge facing the 21st-century West: We must affirm nationalism and fight globalism.

This basic political message is dramatized by his populist rhetoric. At his campaign rallies he did not get cheers for denouncing government waste or championing tax cuts. His applause lines spoke of building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants, renegotiating trade deals and bringing back jobs. The America First, antiglobalist themes won him the election, not freedom-oriented, anti-government ones.

I’m not surprised. Both parties — but not the average American voter — have been moving in a globalist direction for years. In his 2013 Inaugural Address, President Obama championed the qualities of innovation and mobility that will allow our nation to thrive in “this world without boundaries.” He was not proposing to eliminate passports, but he was expressing a sentiment that regards borders, limits and boundaries as necessary but regrettable, while openness and diversity are inherent goods.

This way of thinking is everywhere, which makes it seem like common sense, rather than a political choice. Woodrow Wilson formulated Princeton’s informal motto: “Princeton in the nation’s service.” In 1996 it was extended to include “and in the service of all nations,” and then recently revised to read “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” Undoubtedly, administrators thought they were adapting to new global realities, rather than taking a controversial stance.

The same goes for Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, who raised $750 million to fund a new program to gather “the world’s brightest minds” who can work “toward solving global challenges.” Isn’t this an admirable, sensible and responsible adaptation to the direction things are going?

In contrast, Mr. Trump does not presume that the world must become flat. His Inaugural Address contrasted sharply with Mr. Obama’s 2013 speech. He spoke of renewing borders and solidarity, and called for national reconsolidation. This does not mean putting a stop to global trade or shutting down immigration, any more than Mr. Obama meant to bargain away American sovereignty or “destroy America,” as some conservative pundits insisted during his administration. But these two speeches, only four years apart, reflect a stark difference in emphasis. What Mr. Obama presented as a happy evolution Mr. Trump frames as something to be resisted. As he said in his recent address to the joint session of Congress: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

Mr. Trump’s shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of “America First,” but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize. The once vast and unifying middle class has eroded over the last generation. Today we are increasingly divided into winners and losers. This division involves more than divergent economic prospects and income inequality. Globalism is an ideology of winners who stand astride our society as it is being remade by dramatic economic, demographic and cultural changes.

Mitt Romney wrote off nearly half the American population as “takers.” Hillary Clinton made her notorious remarks about “deplorables.” These sentiments, widely shared by elites on the right and left, have become toxic. Caterpillar recently announced it is moving its corporate headquarters from Peoria, Ill., to Chicago. The unspoken reason? “C-suite level” talent bridles at relocating to flyover country. In today’s America, the rich, well-educated and globalized people on top, whether Republicans or Democrats, do not want to live among those who populate our country. The leaders increasingly hold them in disdain.

After World War II, Mr. Buckley adopted an exaggerated approach to postwar American liberalism (which was hardly inclined toward socialism) because he thought the stakes were high. We face different dangers. In 2017, a growing economic divide and continuing cultural fragmentation, and even animosity, are grave threats that now define our politics. The Cold War is now domestic. Easy talk about the world becoming flat or global trade lifting all boats disguises, explains away and exacerbates the damage being done to the body politic. Mr. Trump’s stark juxtaposition of globalism and Americanism is crude and hyperbolic, but necessarily so.

The generation of conservatives tutored by Mr. Buckley’s polemics against collectivism developed a healthy skepticism of big government. But they did not dismantle the modern welfare state; instead, they sought to limit its excesses and reduce long-term dependency. In the same spirit, rejecting globalism need not entail renouncing America’s role as leader of the international order or attacking global trade.

Rather, we need to become much more skeptical of post-national ways of thinking. For too long a globalist utopianism — Mr. Obama’s happy, peaceful and inclusive world without boundaries — has tempted us to neglect one of the fundamental tasks of political leadership, which is to promote the kind of national solidarity that binds a country’s leaders to its people.

Globalism poses a threat to the future of democracy because it disenfranchises the vast majority and empowers a technocratic elite. It’s a telling paradox that the most ardent supporters of a “borderless world” live in gated communities and channel their children toward a narrow set of elite educational institutions with stiff admissions standards that do the work of “border control.” The airport executive lounges are not open and inclusive.

John Q. Public is not stupid. He senses that he no longer counts. And he resents the condescension of globalist elites, which is why Mr. Trump’s regular transgressions against elite-enforced political correctness evoke glee from his supporters.

After Auschwitz, nationalism inevitably frightens many. I prefer to speak of patriotic solidarity, or a renewed national covenant. Whatever we call the antithesis to utopian globalism, it need not mean wholesale endorsement of Mr. Trump’s harshest rhetoric, which is often narrow and inarticulate. There’s a great deal more to our country than he allows, including traditions of secular and religious universalism that make the idealistic internationalism Mr. Obama sometimes articulated paradoxically very American. Nevertheless, we’ve tilted too strongly in the globalist direction. In our divided country, conservatism — and liberalism as well — needs to lean in the direction of nationalism.

For many in the conservative camp, this seems unnecessary, even irresponsible. They think Mr. Trump has betrayed the movement Mr. Buckley shaped. We need to remember, however, that the Cold War gave drama and relevance to Mr. Buckley’s way of framing our fundamental political commitments. But the Soviet Union collapsed a generation ago. Our commitments must be made against a different horizon.

(The New York Times)

Stop Blaming. Start Governing.

Who’s to blame for the failure of the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare? Who cares? What matters now is that Democrats stop gloating, Republicans stop sulking, and each party come to the table to improve a health-care system that both parties agree needs work.

After the bill collapsed on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of obstruction, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer accused the president of incompetence, Speaker Paul Ryan said health care was done, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bragged that it was a great day. No one had the courage to pick up the pieces and point the way forward.

The Affordable Care Act has provided health-care coverage to millions more Americans, but there are still some 30 million with no insurance. Premiums are too high. The individual mandate isn’t encouraging enough people to buy into the system. Some of its regulations and taxes make little sense. Insurance markets are too thin, providing consumers too little choice. Health-care savings accounts do too little to encourage savings.

Republicans have viable ideas to address these issues, including high-risk insurance pools and capping the tax exclusion that companies get for providing employees with health insurance. It’s regrettable that none of these ideas were seriously considered in the rush to repeal Obamacare.

Equally regrettable is that Republicans appear to be giving up and moving on to other issues. If they can’t get everything they want, they seem to have concluded, they’ll take nothing. It’s a bad strategy. As Senator John McCain said Saturday, Republicans need Democrats to reform health care. The art of governing is compromise – and not just within the majority party. The sooner Ryan accepts the fact that Democrats can be a cudgel to use against the Freedom Caucus, the more successful he and Congress will be.

Ronald Reagan was known to say that he would happily take 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and come back for the rest later. Yet instead of living by Reagan’s rule, Republicans are hung up on the Hastert Rule, named for Dennis Hastert, the former (and now disgraced) House speaker: Generally speaking, only bills that can get through without Democratic votes are brought to the floor. This led the party to produce a deeply flawed health-care bill that, ultimately, did not win strong support from the Republicans’ moderate or Tea Party wings.

At the same time, Democrats steadfastly refused to reach across the aisle to produce a bipartisan alternative. Gloating only makes that more difficult.

On Friday, Schumer said that Democrats are ready to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act on one condition: that Republicans take repeal off the table. This is not an auspicious step. Democrats ought to allow Republicans to call a new bill whatever they want. The details are what matters, not the label.


Trump Accuses Democrats of Making up Russia Collusion Story

US President Donald Trump accused Democrats on Monday of fabricating allegations of presidential election interference against Russia and creating more “fake news.”

His tweet came just as Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency chiefs were to speak to Congress on what ties Trump may have with Russia and his shocking claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Former national intelligence director “James Clapper and others stated that there is no evidence Potus colluded with Russia. This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it!” Trump said on Twitter.

“The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!” he added.

Trump also tweeted that the “real story” is the leaking of classified information.

The House Intelligence Committee will hear from FBI Director James Comey on whether US officials believe Russia tried to bolster Trump’s chances in the election and if there were any connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign aides.

Comey has been invited to testify along with NSA director Michael Rogers.

Trump and his entourage’s possible ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin have been the subject of much speculation since before he was elected on November 8.

US intelligence agencies in January took the extraordinary step of stating publicly that they had concluded that hackers working for Russia broke into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing ones with the aim of helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Even since then, the question of whether Trump and company were or are somehow in cahoots with Russia has dominated the national conversation.

A congressional panel so far has found no evidence that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, its chairman said Sunday.

Based on “everything I have up to this morning — no evidence of collusion,” by Trump’s team and Moscow, Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Moscow has denied involvement in the hacks, and Trump has denounced the tumult over alleged Russia connections as a “total witch hunt.”

US Republicans, Democrats: Russia Sanctions Must Stay

United States Republican and Democrat Senate top Banking Committee said on Wednesday that sanctions imposed on Russia over involvement in Ukraine must not be lifted.

Senator Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, said reducing sanctions could encourage Moscow to continue aggressive actions. The Senate said that Russia must lead drastic change in order to mitigate of lift the sanctions.

“Russia remains a hostile, recalcitrant power, deploying its military, cyber-enabled information espionage activities and economic tactics to harm the United States and drive a wedge between it and its allies,” Crapo said. US President Trump has said he intends, at least for now, to maintain US sanctions.

President Trump’s fellow Republicans and Democrats in congress have both expressed concern that Trump might reduce sanctions on Russia imposed under his predecessor, Democratic former President Barack Obama, because of Trump’s expressed desire to improve relations with Moscow.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat, said the panel should look at increasing sanctions.

“We should strengthen, not weaken, Russian sanctions, and the president must work with Congress on a Russia policy that is clear-eyed about our adversaries and their behavior,” Brown said in his opening statement at the hearing.

Brown also said a surge in violence in Ukraine since Trump was elected president in November is a test by Moscow of the US resolve to support the Kiev government and the Ukrainian people.

The United States: Wither the Democrats?

“What next for Democrats in the United States?”

This was the question put by a small group of journalists at a private dinner to a Democrat party grandee during a recent passage in London.

Insisting on Chatham House rules, that is to say not to be quoted by name, the grandee offered an expose aimed at dismissing the party’s setbacks including the loss of the White House to Donald Trump, as a mixture of mishaps and bad luck.

But, does the Democrat Party have a strategy for returning to power?

“Whatever happens, demography favors us,” he quipped.

What is meant by “demography” here is the salad-bar view of America in which the nation is divided in a list of double-barrel identities.

The assumption is that a majority of those with double-barrel labels will always vote Democrat.

President Barack Obama called it his “rainbow coalition”, an alliance of African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Arabs-and-Muslims, Native Americans, and gays-and-lesbians-and trans-genders that helped him triumph in two presidential elections.

Last November, however, that alliance failed to mobilize to defeat Trump. The percentage of African-Americans, Hispanics, Arabs and Jews who voted for the Democrat candidate Mrs. Hillary Clinton was lower than it had been for Obama.

Counting on the “rainbow coalition”, Mrs. Clinton neglected an important segment of the electorate, the blue-collar workers of the old industrial states known as the Rust Belt. Losing in those states ensured her defeat.

The “demographic” analysis shows that Democrat Party strategists have become prisoners to what could be described as electoral arithmetic.

According to the “demographic” analysis, the White-European segment of the US population, accounting for 69 percent of the total in 2016, will fall below 50 percent by 2030. In the largest state, California, that is already the case.

Hispanics, representing the fastest growing community, are likely to emerge as a majority in at least five states while African-Americans will enhance their demographic strength in eight others.

Thanks to that arithmetic, Tom Perez, a former member of Obama’s Cabinet, became the first Hispanic to be elected Democrat Party’s National Chairman last week.

According to that arithmetic, Hispanics and most other minorities will always vote Democrat.

All that the strategist has to do is to ensure that he collects enough votes from each segment of the electorate to capture the magical 50+1 key to power. He has no need of coherent policies, let alone an ideological anchor. All he needs is a candidate, a slogan and a tone.

This is why the latest presidential election in which something like $1.5 billion was spent on “campaigning” failed to handle a single major issue of American life from the prism of clearly spelled out policy proposals. All that Trump had to do was repeating in the manner of a clocked-up automaton: “Make America Great Again” while Mrs. Clinton hoped to win only because she was not Trump.

For their part, the Republicans have tried to cast themselves as defenders of “true Americans”, that is to say precisely those who fear becoming a minority in their homeland. The result is a tribalization of American politics that could damage the nation’s democratic structures.

Regional, ethnic and religious divisions have always played some role in American politics. For decades the southern states were solidly Democrat in reaction to the War of Secession which they lost to the northern states under a Republican president, and the subsequent martyrization by “Yankee” carpet-baggers.

From the 1960s onwards, however, partly in reaction to reforms imposed by President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, in favor of African-Americans, the same states turned Republican. At the same time, the New England states, the original bastion of republicanism, morphed into Democrat electoral chips.

For decades, California was a Republican bastion, producing such figures as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Now, however, having lost much of its White-European middle class, it is a sure-win for Democrats.

Reducing politics to a version of arithmetic resembles failure to see the woods for the trees.

Over the past three decades, two parallel debates have dominated US politics. The first debate concerned social and life-style issues such as gender equality, sexual preferences, contraception and abortion, capital punishment, gun ownership, religious diversity and political correctness.

All in all, it is possible to suggest that on most issues the Democrats have won that debate.

From the 1990s, the Republicans made the mistake of refusing they had lost on those issues, alienating a larger segment of the electorate. That refusal meant that since 1989, with the exception of George W. Bush winning his second term in 2004, no Republican has won the presidency with a majority of the votes.

Moreover, in the context of the Cold War, Republicans were cast as the party of war, although it had been Democrats who had engaged the US in all its wars since the early 1900s.

The second debate concerned economic issues in the context of globalization which the US, promoting free trade and creating the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) mechanism, had pioneered since the end of the Second World War.

Initially, the Democrats adopted an anti-globalization posture that reflected protectionist and socialistic trends they had always harbored on the margins since the 1930s with such figures as Norman Thomas and Upton Sinclair, a tradition partly revived by Senator Bernie Sanders.

Under Bill Clinton, however, Democrats converted to globalization in a big way, as it benefited the economic, social and cultural elites that supported them. In the process they ignored the damage that globalization was doing to the party’s traditional blue-collar urban base.

They also went too far in their support of communitarianism, political correctness and Blame-America-First posture.
Trump won partly because a large number of Americans believe that multiculturalism and globalization have gone too far. However, Republicans would be wrong to assume that this means a desire to turn the clock back to the 1950s.

The Democrats cannot win by making a U-turn on multiculturalism and globalization, and by confronting Trump. What they need is a grand strategy of reform and re-adjustment, something eminently possible in a robust democracy.

Rather than trying to out-beat Trump by beating on hollow drums of radicalism, a la Sanders, Democrats need to move to center ground, recapturing the space lost under Obama’s erratic leadership.

That requires something more than electoral arithmetic.

Trump: I Have Done in a Month in Office More than What My Ancestors Have Done in 100 Days

President Trump smiles while speaking to a meeting of the National Governors Association, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, at the White House in Washington.

Washington – US President Donald Trump said that during his first month at the White House, he managed to achieve more than what the previous presidents had done in 100 days.

Trump spoke during an interview with Fox News Channel, during which he blamed former President Barack Obama for the protests against him and the leaks. The president had the interview hours before heading to his first speech at the Capitol Hill.

Trump expressed his belief that President Obama was behind the protests because his people were certainly behind it.

“Some of the leaks possibly come from that group, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security. But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue,” he added.

Earlier, transcripts of Trump’s phone calls with both presidents of Mexico and Australia were leaked. Trump blamed “Obama people” for the embarrassing leaks of private phone calls.

“It’s a disgrace that they leaked because it’s very much against our country,” Trump told Fox News.

In response, he vowed to replace the White House and National Security Council staff holdovers from the Obama administration with his own people.

“A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have,” Trump said, adding that: “Many of those jobs I don’t want to fill. I say, isn’t that a good thing? That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”

When asked if he’d decrease his tweets, Trump said that Twitter allows him to go around dishonest media.

“Most of the people that want me to stop it are the enemies, I’ll be honest with you. If I felt the media were honest, all of it, or most of it, I wouldn’t do it. But it is a modern day form of communication,” he insisted.

Trump concluded the interview by saying that despite ending his first month in office with the lowest approval rating of any president in the US history, a recent poll showed “the level of enthusiasm for me is as strong as they’ve ever seen,” adding that he had managed to achieve in the first 4 weeks more than any previous president had done in 100 days.

Later, Trump gave his first speech before the Congress where he was expected to draw the highlights of the political and legislative guidelines.

Analysts believe that Trump’s announcement of a $54 billion increase in defense spending won’t be welcomed by Democrats or even Republicans.

They believe that this will also create huge clashes on fundamental policy ideas with House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan has made a career out of pressing difficult truths on federal spending. For years, he has maintained that to tame the budget deficit without tax increases and prevent draconian cuts to federal programs, Congress must be willing to change, and cut the programs that spend the most money — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Social Security, health care and net interest now comprise nearly 60 percent of all federal spending, and that figure is expected to soar to 82 percent over the next 10 years.

Analysts believe that this is not simply a fight for an ideological core but rather a question of what can pass Congress.

According to the analysts, a budget with no entitlement cuts and one that does not balance most likely has no chance of passing the House, and could be rejected by Senate Republicans, as well.

If Congress fails to pass a budget blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October, Trump’s promise to drastically rewrite the tax code could also die because the president was counting on that budget resolution to include special parliamentary language that would shield his tax cuts from a Democratic filibuster.

Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and federal budget expert believes that President Trump has talked about deeper domestic spending cuts than even House and Senate Republicans have talked about.

“I think to a certain degree congressional Republicans understand they are going to have to drive the train on balancing the budget,” Riedl said.

Yet, Riedl thinks that the question is how far Republicans can go with Trump in the White House because they don’t expect him to barnstorm the country talking about how to rein in federal spending.

Former U.S. Officials Urge Trump to Negotiate with Iranian Opposition


London – Nearly two dozen former U.S. officials have urged President-elect Donald Trump to enter into discussions with the Iranian opposition group – the National Council of Resistance of Iran – to reconsider the current U.S. administration in order to put an end to the Iranian role in shaking stability in the region and to take full responsibility for the human rights’ abuses in Iran.

The former officials requested in a letter that the new U.S. administration holds discussions with Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The letter’s signatories include former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, former FBI director Louis Freeh, President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser James Jones, former Democratic New Jersey senator Robert Torricelli and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hugh Shelton.

Both Democratic and Republican officials were included among the signatories.

The letter revealed that the U.S. interests, policies, strategic concepts and the allies’ benefits are in danger due to the record-rate of execution cases in Iran and the imposed-sectarian war through supporting Assad regime in Syria and Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

“The power and credibility of U.S. in the world needs a policy based on mutual international standards and concepts, reflecting high standards of peace and justice,” said the letter.

It noted that “the pursuit of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to possess nuclear power is not due to legitimate concerns to defend the country but to the wish to maintain the dictatorial regime that lacks legality since the beginning of his aggressive age and his lack of courage to carry out public free elections.”

The letter concluded with re-demanding the U.S. administration to commence discourse with the exiled Iranian opposition.

Trial of 11 September Mastermind to Launch Next Week


Washington- On the 26th of January, the trial of the plotter of 11 September attacks will kick off. The mastermind is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and he is of Pakistani origins.

His trial will take place in Guantanamo, in the presence of journalists and reporters of international channels.

A reliable military source told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the trial will continue until the third of February.” He added that the sentence is unlikely to be issued in the end of preliminary hearing sessions but will be postponed to a later time.

According to the source, this is the first time Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be allowed to appear before the media as well as it is the first time to witness a trial of one of 11 September’s masterminds after 16 years of the attack.

Asharq Al-Awsat was informed that the trial will be broadcasted live from the courtroom to a receiving channel in Maryland and the U.S. Ministry of Defense will decide later whether to make it public or not.

The military court that the mastermind will come before has accused him several years ago of getting involved in planning for the attacks of September — Other names were included in these accusations.

U.S. President Barack Obama was willing to carry on a public trial for those but his wish was rejected by Republicans and some Democrats as well.

In 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested and was called then the third man in al-Qaeda.

According to a report published by the U.S. Congress, investigating Mohammed did not come up with valuable information and the given he provided detectives with were not enough to arrest a terrorist or stop a terrorist conspiracy.

Obama’s Political Journey: Launched, Concluded in Chicago


Washington – Thousands of people in Chicago were waiting for Barack Obama’s farewell speech after eight years of presidency. Obama spoke to the American people and thanked those who supported him and those who opposed his policies.

“And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man” said Obama, who also stressed his belief in people’s capacity on making change.

The Democratic President, who will hand over the U.S. Administration on 20 January to the Republican Donald Trump, 70, has chosen Chicago, which witnessed the debut of his political journey, to address his final speech as a president in the White House. During his warm speech, Obama was accompanied by his wife Michelle, and his Vice President Joe Biden in the heart of this big city.

While Obama seemed to be very emotional, he called people for awareness saying that democracy can be deteriorated if people gave up to fear. He said democracy will be threatened each time people take it for granted. He added that the U.S. constitution is a valuable gift, but said it will be powerless alone.

The Former U.S. President shed lights on the achievements reached during both his presidency rounds, mainly the provision of job opportunities, the reform of health insurance system, and the termination of Osama bin Laden.

Obama also warned from racism saying it is a moral issue in the United States – he called all people, from all political parties, to commit to the rebuilding of national democratic institution.

The former president sought to reassure his supporters who have been shocked with Trump’s election, by stressing his trust in the people of the United states and its power to achieve advancement, according to AFP.

On Chicago Obama said: “So I first came to Chicago when I was in my early twenties, and I was still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. And it was a neighborhood not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills”.

He continued: “But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country, the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders”.

It is worth noting that Obama also chose this city to address his first presidential speech on 5 November 2008.

People rushed early on Saturday to get free tickets from Obama’s speech and waited in queues despite the freezing weather. A survey conducted by the independent Quinnipiac University showed that 55% of voters back Obama’s presidential performance, which was considered the highest rate for a president since seven years.