Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Women's March: Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar join Kamala Harris and Liz Warren

The 2019 Women's March this Saturday may have been abandoned by the DNC on account of perceived anti-Semitism (it still has plenty of sponsors, and the one in Houston is on; keep an eye on the weather), but the 2020 run is almost full.  Of the rumored, declared, and 'exploring' female presidential Democratic contenders kept track of by Axios, all have moved to the starting blocks.

And all have promptly undergone preliminary vetting, Gabbard the most of all.  This post will focus on her; the other women I will put in one post (my thoughts on Warren are here) later this week.  Let me throw up a few links -- no pun -- and sprinkle in some opinion.

Vox: How she went from rising star to pariah -- and then presidential candidate

Zack Beauchamp's history is the best place to begin if you're still learning about the Congresswoman.  Here's a few excerpts.

On paper, Gabbard is the perfect Democratic candidate. She is an Iraq War veteran who vocally criticized American wars, an outspoken economic progressive, and the first Hindu member of Congress. After her 2012 election victory, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called her an “emerging star”; MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow predicted that “she is on the fast track to being very famous.”

You've probably heard about her anti-LGBTQ family upbringing.

Despite her conservative social views — she also opposed abortion — Gabbard was a Democrat, albeit not one likely to succeed on the national stage. But in 2004, Gabbard deployed to the Middle East for her National Guard unit, serving as a combat medic in Iraq and a counterterrorism trainer in Kuwait.

This was, according to Gabbard, a transformative experience. During her 2012 campaign for an open seat in the US House, Gabbard supported both same-sex marriage and abortion rights. She explained her change of heart in a December 2011 blog post on her campaign site. It’s worth reading her statement at length ...

Take a moment and consider that.  Continuing:

Gabbard made a name for herself during the 2012 campaign as a Democrat to watch. The strength of her campaign — she won an upset primary victory after initially trailing by 50 points — and her compelling personal background caught the eye of national Democrats pretty early. That summer, Pelosi tapped her for a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention.

She effectively moved beyond her controversial stands on social issues, situating herself as an economic progressive and critic of the Bush-era wars in the Middle East. The latter was particularly important, as she grounded her anti-war arguments in her personal experience witnessing the cost of war. This immunized her from the “soft on terrorism” charges so many Democrats were terrified to court, making her a powerful critic of “nation building” and “wars of choice.”

Another famous biracial Hawaiian politician, President Barack Obama, endorsed her congressional run. After her victory, Gabbard was given one of five vice-chairmanships of the Democratic National Committee, a sign of the party’s faith in her.

From there, it's been all downhill for Tulsi and establishment Democrats.  First, she consistently put herself on the wrong side of the Obama administration in the War on Terra.  That wasn't a bad thing at first ...until she undermined her 'anti-war' reputation.

As early as January 2015, she started going on every cable channel that would have her — including Fox News — and bashing Obama’s policy on terrorism. She sounded indistinguishable from a Republican presidential candidate.

“What is so frustrating ... is that our administration refuses to recognize who our enemy is,” she said in a January 2015 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “And unless and until that happens, then it’s impossible to come up with a strategy to defeat that enemy. We have to recognize that this is about radical Islam.”

Ah yes, 'radical Islam'.  You'd best go get the full context that follows.

The term is not analytically precise, not necessary for designing a strategy against specific groups like ISIS, and insulting to the vast majority of Muslims around the world. President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism team refused to use it for precisely these reasons.

Yet this was the hill that Gabbard had chosen to die on. Time and time again, she went after the Obama administration for its refusal to say “radical Islam,” each time pushing herself away from the party mainstream.

This overwhelming focus on the threat from terrorism culminated in what’s now her most infamous policy position: quasi-support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the dictator responsible for the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the conflict’s worst atrocities.

Gabbard argued, along with a small minority of foreign policy analysts, that the best way to defeat ISIS in Syria was for the US to align itself with Assad’s regime. Gabbard argued that the US should cut funding to the rebels fighting Assad, even sponsoring a bill in Congress to cut off US support. In the fall of 2015, when Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria, Gabbard celebrated it as a win for counter-terrorism.

This scorched her.  But she kept going.

Gabbard’s pro-Assad behavior only escalated as her time in Congress went on. In January 2017, she traveled to Syria and went to meet with Assad personally, blindsiding the Democratic leadership in Congress. After returning to the US, she went on CNN and parroted the regime’s line that there was “no difference” between the mainstream anti-Assad rebels and ISIS.

When Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in April 2017, Gabbard said she was “skeptical” that Assad was responsible, aligning herself with conspiracy theorists against both US intelligence and the overwhelming majority of independent experts.

The “radical Islam” and Syria debacles doubly damned Gabbard. To the leadership, they showed her to be disloyal; to the party’s policy experts and rank-and-file, they revealed her to be someone who had worrying affinities with Syria and Russia.

That's what drew Neera Tanden and Howard Dean's vitriol.  More from Salon.  Tulsi's benefit-of-the-doubt granted Assad isn't supported by the overwhelming evidence against the dictator, despite his vehement denials (and Putin's excuses for him).

These controversies unraveled the principal promise of Gabbard’s candidacy from a progressive point of view: that she’d be a consistent, effective anti-war voice.

It became clear that her position wasn’t that endless war was bad, but rather that wars for regime change should be replaced with a beefed-up war on terrorism. In addition to suggesting the US should intervene in Syria on the same side as a murderous dictator, she proposed a policy of US special forces raids around the world and even expressed a willingness to authorize torture of terrorism suspects if she were president. She referred to herself in one interview as a “dove” on regime change but a “hawk” on terrorism, neatly summarizing her actual positions.

'Nuance' on torture is a deal-breaker for me.  Let me wrap the Vox profile with this.

If Gabbard were estranged from the party leadership as a result of her views on terrorism, a full-on divorce came in 2016 when she became one of a handful of prominent Democrats to endorse Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. To do so, Gabbard resigned her position as vice-chair of the DNC, a hard break with the party that she claimed was motivated by reservations about Clinton’s foreign policy instincts.


Much like Gabbard’s postwar conversion on abortion and gay rights, this seems both plausible and politically savvy. Gabbard’s positioning on Syria and fights with the Obama administration had already alienated many people in the party’s more mainstream wing; courting the party’s insurgents seemed like a smart way to build a new base of national support.

In the years since, Gabbard has cultivated this relationship. She has endorsed a $15 minimum wage, Medicare-for-All, and the Green New Deal. When she faced a primary challenge in 2018, motivated in part by her Syria position, the pro-Sanders group Our Revolution endorsed her (as did actress Shailene Woodley, an Our Revolution board member). She has a vocal group of online fans from the so-called “anti-imperialist” left, a loose group of writers — like the anti-Israel gadfly Max Blumenthal — who share her position on Syria.

But on the whole, the left isn’t nearly as pro-Gabbard as you might think. Some of Gabbard’s harshest critics come not from the party mainstream, but rather the party’s left and democratic socialist flanks.

In 2017, the socialist publication Jacobin published a brutal takedown entitled “Tulsi Gabbard Is Not Your Friend,” focusing on dispelling the myth of Gabbard as an opponent of America’s wars abroad.

“Gabbard’s almost singular focus on the damage these wars inflict domestically, and her comparative lack of focus on the carnage they wreak in the countries under attack, is troubling,” Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic writes. “It is nationalism in anti-war garb, reinforcing instead of undercutting the toxic rhetoric that treats foreigners as less deserving of dignity than Americans.”

Reached via email, Marcetic told me that he believes many in the American left share his view of Gabbard.

“My sense is there’s a pretty big cohort of the Left that distrusts Gabbard,” he said. “Her anti-interventionism isn’t quite as peaceful as she makes it out to be.”

Just two weeks ago, the Intercept, a left-aligned anti-war outlet, published a deeply reported expose on Gabbard’s ties to Hindu nationalists. Gabbard has long supported Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an anti-Islam right-winger who had previously been barred from entering the US due to being personally implicated in deadly anti-Muslim riots. In turn, American Hindu supporters of Modi had become some of Gabbard’s biggest donors — including some disturbingly Islamophobic groups.

“Hindu-Americans have supported Gabbard since the start of her political career, and that support has increased substantially since Modi’s election, much of it coming from Hindu nationalists,” Soumya Shankar writes in the Intercept’s piece. “Dozens of Gabbard’s donors have either expressed strong sympathy with or have ties to the Sangh Parivar — a network of religious, political, paramilitary, and student groups that subscribe to the Hindu supremacist, exclusionary ideology known as Hindutva.”

Hitting pause: See yesterday's Tucker Carlson/Glenn Greenwald interview -- where the two agree that Tulsi is being maligned by the Washington establishment; never mind what else may be going on with her political positions -- if you need some more cognitive dissonance.

These attacks in the left press underscore how divisive a figure she is even among the party’s insurgent wing. It’s hard to see why a faction that was troubled by Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record would be open to someone who had engaged in borderline Islamophobic rhetoric about “radical Islam,” called for escalations in the war on terrorism, and backed anti-Islam populists and dictators abroad.

What’s more, the Bernie camp has a candidate they’d obviously prefer to Gabbard: Bernie. If the senator from Vermont runs, as many expect, there’s no way his biggest fans in the party would pick Gabbard over him. There isn’t room for multiple left outsiders, and Sanders is just more popular and has far better name recognition.

And even if he doesn’t run, it’s not obvious that his supporters would automatically pick Gabbard over another progressive.

That's bingo on my card.  I'll wish Tulsi good luck but she won't be my second choice, or third, or ...

Still to come: Senators Kamala (pronounced like 'Pamela'), Kirsten, Amy, and one for the boys next week, Sherrod Brown.  For now enjoy this 'top ten' by Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept, which is kind of a joke and kind of truth at the same time.

I'm not counting on Oprah, or her pal Marianne Williamson (who'd be better off running Green) as being serious contenders.  Nevertheless, MW has "something" scheduled for the end of this month.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas so-called Progressive Alliance had a very busy week watching the Lege get open for business again, a handful of Democratic presidential announcements and developments, and the usual mix of of issues, developments, and opinions inviting our comment.

Early voting begins today in two special elections for vacancies in the Texas House of Representatives.  There are eight candidates who have filed in HD-145 (Houston), including Democrats Melissa Noriega -- an Alliance favorite -- Christina Morales, and Republican Martha Fierro, and three in HD-79 (El Paso), including Democrats Art Fierro (no relation), Michiel Noe, and Republican Hans Sassenfeld.  More from TXElects, including this:

Morales’s campaign team includes consultants Marc Campos and Jaime Mercado, who helped guide Alvarado’s outright special election victory last month.

As the Texas Legislature began its 86th session, Lite Guvnuh Dan Patrick was nowhere in sight, having been summoned to Washington by Trump in advance of the president's dog and pony show at the southern border.  Upon returning to work he declared that the country didn't need a border wall that ran the full length of the Rio Grande, and that he told Trump to give Texas the money and the state would build it.

As if things couldn't get more stupid and venal, Ken Paxton joined a roundtable with John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and promptly lied his ass off.

And in a weird "watch me top this" lying game with Trump that reminded some of Vietnam, Patrick declared a belated victory in the 2017 session's bathroom wars.  Off the Kuff congratulated him.  Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer sees Trump and Patrick as a match made in heaven.

In a long-overdue and welcomed development, the state Preservation Board (comprised of Patrick, Governor Abbott, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, one state senator, one Texas House member, and one citizen) voted unanimously to remove a plaque in the Capitol which lied about the cause of both the Confederacy and the Civil War.

The Texas Lege has a brand-new LGBT caucus, thanks to Reps. (from r.) Celia Israel, Mary Gonzalez, Erin Zwiener, Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson.

Raise your mug for Texas' craft breweries; they scored a win on opening day.

Grits for Breakfast gave the Lege a to-do list for criminal justice reform.  And in two round-ups of other CJ developments included the news that the new Harris County misdemeanor judges have dropped the appeal of the bail lawsuit their predecessors fought, and linked to The Appeal about the fallacy of "failure to appear".

Democrats deciding to run and thinking about running for president had a full week.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs went long and link-heavy on 2020 Democratic developments on Thursday, then updated that on Saturday.

In an expected declaration in San Antonio on Saturday morning, Julián Castro (don't forget the accent mark) made his bid official.

In a surprise announcement Friday night on CNN's Van Jones program, Tulsi Gabbard said she would form an exploratory committee and make a formal announcement "within the next week".  And while Bernie Sanders is still deciding whether to get in the race for the Dem nom, his supporters held more than 400 house parties across the country on Saturday afternoon urging him to do so.

All of this added to the speculation that had the supporters of Beto O'Rourke asking: "What are you waiting for, dude?"

O'Rourke barged into last year's Senate race almost laughably early, in March 2017, insisting he was a credible contender against the incumbent, Republican Ted Cruz, when almost no one nationally knew of O'Rourke.

Now he's doing almost anything to keep people paying attention to him without formally starting a presidential campaign for 2020. He's not expected to decide until next month at the earliest whether he's running.

These days, that counts as playing hard to get. Influential activists in Iowa and elsewhere are clamoring for him to get in the race while some potential rivals move their timelines earlier. So far, interest in O'Rourke has held after his near upset of Cruz, but for how much longer?

SocraticGadfly saw the names already making 2020 presidential announcements, along with the speculation about many others, and offered his initial oddsmaking take on Democratic candidates along with other assessment.

As the confirmation hearings for attorney-general designate William Barr get set to begin tomorrow, Texans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will help him run the gauntlet of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to draw attention to themselves and their 2020 presidential aspirations.  Watch Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and to a lesser extent Amy Klobuchar for signs as to whether Barr will have a rough time getting confirmed.  (The Senate's Republican numbers are in his favor, never mind the likes of Joe Manchin.)

Media news was huge and ominous: The Dallas Morning News laid off 43 employees, 20 in the newsroom, including some longtime journalists.

“Arts and entertainment sustained the heaviest cuts, among them Chris Vognar, who’d been a critic at the paper for 23 years; Dawn Burkes, a longtime entertainment writer and editor; Sara Frederick Burgos, editor for Guide; and Kelly Dearmore, who was hired as a part-time music critic in 2016,” wrote Teresa Gubbins in her dispatch at CultureMap Dallas. “News staffers include Jeff Mosier, an environment & energy writer; Tasha Tsiaperas, a sharp metro reporter; and Dianne Solis, who wrote about immigration. Longtime photographer Louis deLuca was also let go.”


The story attributed the need to a decline in print revenue from advertising, which has been bigger than the drop in circulation revenue. The company says it is focusing on digital subscriptions. A.H. Belo is a publicly traded company, and its fourth-quarter financial reports are due soon. Revenue declined nearly 19 percent in the first three quarters of 2018, and the company’s loss jumped to $5.58 million from $2.66 million the prior year.

As word got out, some began to dissect the latest travails of Dallas’ daily paper. One pointed out a recent stock buy by the hedge fund Minerva, while Matt Pierce, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that corporate leadership had gotten “some nice raises in recent years.

More from D Magazine.

Talking Biz News reports the News will no longer run a standalone print business section, with the exception of its Sunday edition. Business coverage will otherwise fold into Metro. Further details to be announced in a DMN column on Wednesday, says TBN.

Texas Monthly named veteran journalist Dan Goodgame as its new editor-in-chief, and scored an interview with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on the band's 50th anniversary.

A few days after New Year’s, Gibbons left Austin for Houston to join bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard to rehearse for the band’s first-ever residency in Las Vegas—an eight-show series at The Venetian that runs through early February. The Vegas gigs are the first real acknowledgment of the band’s 50th anniversary for 2019. Indeed, short of the first few singles and tours, it’s been what Gibbons describes as the “same three guys, same three chords” for a half-century.

“Someone asked recently, ‘How did you three guys manage to stay together for longer than most marriages?’” Gibbons says. “Two words come to mind: separate buses. It’s made it all go all right. It’s a good team.”

Stace at Dos Centavos started the New Year off busy, providing context to the recent prison release of La Raza Unida Party's Ramsey Muñiz, reviewing the new Little Joe video San Antonio, posting twice about the border boondoggle, and again regarding a Houston city council candidate's 2019 campaign.  He also got his endorsement of Julián Castro out of the way early ('mano, you forgot the accent mark):

As attacks on Julian Castro will escalate, we will be hearing more about other 2020 prospects. Whether it’s Kamala Harris’ jailing of poor moms because of their kid’s truancy; Klobuchar’s selling out on border wall; Joe Biden being, well,  Joe Biden; and the list will go on, Democrats will get to choose among candidates who have some bad marks. I just want to say ahead of time that criticism should not be thrown only at Julian Castro.

Texas Leftist finally closed up shop at the blog and invites his fans to listen to his Ingressive Voices Podcast.

David Collins sees Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shaking up Washington in the best possible way: driving Republicans insane and making establishment Democrats mad.

Wayne Dolcefino filed another complaint against Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, alleging non-disclosure of public records.

Tarrant County's GOP vice-chairman survived getting removed from his post by the party because he is Muslim, accounts Texas Standard.  However, as John Coby at Bay Area Houston laughed, this means that the Republicans in one of Texas' largest cities are only 25% religious bigots.

State Representative Erin Zwiener has a guest column for the Texas Observer, asking us to take sexual misconduct seriously.

Pages of Victory blogged about two walls, one at the border and the one that keeps men from treating women as equal people and partners.

Miao Zhang, a junior at Rice University and recent intern with Public Citizen, guest-blogged at Texas Vox about metal recycling in Houston's Fifth Ward.

The financial plight of the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon -- the best little museum in the state, according to the Texas Observer -- is perilous.

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly sees that Marfa is now famous enough to be mocked by The Simpsons.

Last, after CBS Sunday Morning featured the Green Book, a directory of African American-friendly businesses for black travelers in the Jim Crow era (that spawned the hit movie of the same name)...

"It was after the Depression, before the war, when the auto culture was really burgeoning, and there were more jobs for black people," said cultural historian Candacy Taylor, whose book about "The Green Book" will be published this fall. "By the '40s, the second wave of the Great Migration was underway, and so you had 1.5 million black people leaving the South during that time."

At risk if they owned nice cars. Taylor told the story of her stepfather's family being stopped and relying on a tried-and-true subterfuge for avoiding trouble: "His dad worked for the railroad, had a good job. And his mother was sitting in the front seat. So, the sheriff comes to the door and says, you know, 'Who's this car? Where are you going? Who are these people with you?' And his father says, you know, 'This is my employer's car.' And he looked to his wife. And he said, 'And she's the maid. And this is her son.'

"And then the next question was, 'Well. where's your hat?' Meaning the chauffeur's hat. And he said, 'It's hanging right in the back, officer.'"

Essentials for driving in and out of the Jim Crow South: A chauffeur's hat, and the Green Book. "The 'Green Book' was like a Bible. You did not leave home without it," said Alice Clay Broadwater, who was a teacher traveling with her lawyer-husband and small children between Boston and the South. She relied on the book.

"Black travelers in those days, in the '50s, had to carry the Green Book if they needed to stay overnight someplace, or if they wanted to know where they could eat," Broadwater said.

... Swamplot gathered the Tweets from Urban Edge's Leah Binkovitz and the piece by the Chron's Craig Hlavaty that featured the diners, motels, and more that were listed in Houston.