Maine Writer

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Democrats need political oxygen to rapid fire fake GOP investigations

Echo opinion by Jennifer Rubin published in The Washington Post:
The GOP’s conspiracy theories and unhinged accusations work best when Republicans are in the minority, when they can throw out half-baked accusations and make leaps of logic with little consequence.

When they are in the majority, however, they must show their cards about supposed Democratic scandals. And that is already proving to be a problem for right-wing performance politicians for four reasons.

First, most voters don’t want lawmakers to spend time spinning scandals. A recent CNN poll found that 67 percent of voters (including 74 percent of independents) don’t like the way Republicans are handling their job. Seventy-three percent (including 48 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents) say Republicans aren’t paying enough attention to the country’s real issues. Likewise, a CBS poll earlier this month found that less than one-third of Americans want Republicans to spend time investigating President Biden. Every hearing that Republicans devote to distractions highlights their failure to tackle real issues.
Second, it is hard for Republicans to explain to an audience not already seeped in right-wing conspiracy theories what they heck they are talking about. At least the Benghazi matter and the bollixed Fast and Furious program were events worthy of oversight. The cockamamie Hunter Biden “scandal,” by contrast, is a mix of convoluted, illogical accusations, as former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa explains in a Substack post.

In an actual hearing, unlike an interview with a captive right-wing media host, one has to explain the alleged scandal in a way that is comprehensible to those who haven’t spent hours soaking up bogus talking points. Democratic committee members will be able to channel what average voters are thinking: “What in the world are you talking about?”

Third, Republicans have a problem with evidence — or the lack thereof. The administration has already told Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the Oversight Committee, that it would not provide documents from the ongoing investigation of classified materials found at Biden’s home and office. 

Likewise, the Justice Department told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is leading the House Judiciary Committee, that it would follow long-standing practice and not turn over information about ongoing criminal probes. So what now?

Republicans can grouse all they like and even send subpoenas, but they will have difficulty getting their slim House majority to find any Biden official in contempt of Congress. Beyond holding a hearing complaining about not being allowed to muck around in pending criminal cases, there is not much Republicans can do.

Moreover, in a revealing interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Jordan couldn’t exactly explain how Democrats have “weaponized” the federal government. Consider this exchange about Jordan’s claim that the FBI has “targeted” parents:—

NBC News host Chuck Todd: Well, I want to unpack a little bit. You talk about the FBI abusing powers when it comes to parents and school boards. School board members were getting death threats. These weren’t idle things. These weren’t parents just yelling and screaming. These were actual —

Jordan babble: Do you know how many parents —

Todd: — death threats to elected officials. And the FBI got a tip. Should they not look into a death threat when an elected official gets a death threat?

Jordan babble: School board writes a letter on September 29th, five days later, the Attorney General of the United States issues a memorandum to 101 U.S. attorneys offices around the country saying, “Set up this line that they can report on.” Sixteen days later, Chuck, the FBI sends out an email to agents all across the country saying, “Put this designation on parents. Report it on the snitch line that the attorney general set up.” So all that happens. Think about it, Sept. 29, Oct. 4, Oct. 20. That all happens in 22 days. When have you ever seen the federal government move that fast?

Todd: There were actual death threats. Congressman, literally
(Maine Writer: Good job Chuck Todd!)
Jordan babble: I understand.
Todd: — this is —
Jordan babble: Chuck, but let me just finish this. Twenty-five parents get reported on that snitch line. They all get investigated. FBI shows up to their door and guess how many have been charged. How many have been charged? Zero.
Todd: Then the FBI did its job.
Jordan babble: Zero.
Todd: Did the FBI not do its job?

As Todd pointed out, it’s not much of a scandal for the FBI to investigate tips and not arrest anyone. 

Even worse for Republicans, the videos of MAGA true-believers threatening public officials are a vivid demonstration of how conspiracy theories can whip up violent rhetoric. Democrats should be happy to discuss the subject.

Fourth, there are rakes aplenty for Republicans to step on. 

Each time a Republican screams that the government has been “weaponized,” Democrats should be prepared to go through the litany of real GOP abuses and outrages while in power: the failure to audit Trump’s taxes, the Justice Department’s pointless John Durham investigations, GOP governors transporting of unwary asylum seekers out of state and the abusive arrests of African American voters in Florida, to name a few. Simply because these issues are not the majority’s designated topics does not prevent Democrats from talking about them in hearings.

It seems Republicans imagine their hearings will be some sort of payback for the revealing, substantive and gripping investigation conducted by the House January 6th committee. But a major reason those hearings were so effective was the personnel. There were no disruptive Republicans on the panel, and there were plenty of whip-smart Democrats. 

Those same Democrats will be present on Republican-led committees. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), for example, will be the ranking member on Comer’s Oversight Committee. Even the Democrats’ far-left flank should prove useful. 

Whatever one thinks of her politics, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, has ably demonstrated her proficiency in hearings.

In addition, Democrats have set up a rapid response group, the Congressional Integrity Project, to fire back at Republicans. The group will point out which Republican officials participated in the 2020 coup attempt and which refused to testify before the January 6th hearing. Knowing the media will likely give equal time to critics of the hearings, Democrats might receive plenty of oxygen to air Republicans’ dirty laundry.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Unethical Trumpzi sycophant: Kevin McCarthy in action

Opinion echo published by Jackie Calmes in the Los Angles Times:

How does Kevin McCarthy live with himself? I once asked. Maybe he thinks his life is good now that he’s achieved his dream of becoming House speaker, even if it did take a humiliating 15 ballots.

Bad GOP rebrand, Greene, McCarthy leadership: Darcy cartoon

Yet I’m asking again. Because already in these first two weeks of his congressional “leadership,” the soulless “My Kevin” has signaled that he not only continues to tolerate dangerous rhetoric from prominent Republicans in his fold, but he also effectively rewards them, with prime House committee assignments. What’s more, he’s proved quite capable of menacing talk himself.

Repeat after me: Words matter.

McCarthy is a Trump opportunist sycophant'!

With frightening regularity, we get tragic or near-tragic evidence of that truism, plagued as our politics have been by hateful rhetoric since the ascendance of Donald Trump. The latest proof: Monday’s arrest in Albuquerque of a failed Republican candidate who allegedly paid four men to shoot up the homes of four Democratic officials, leaving a sleeping 10-year-old in one house strafed with debris in her bed.

The man had tweeted after his landslide loss in November, “I am the MAGA king.”

In San Francisco, Paul Pelosi continues to recover from the hammer blows that a home intruder intended for his wife, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

For the first time ever, all 435 House members get $10,000 for security at their personal residences, reflecting the spike in threats to lawmakers since Trump became president in 2017. 

Moreover, recently the defeated president yet again took to social media to attack, by name, the volunteer poll worker in Georgia who’d tearfully testified to the House January 6th Committee about the threats she’d suffered after the former president publicly and falsely accused her of election fraud in 2020; his self-appointed stormtroopers even broke into her mother’s home to make a “citizen’s arrest.”

“Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States ... target you?” she asked. (Ruby Freeman's testimony to the January 6th Committee.)

Some House members who faced her at the committee that day do know what it’s like. California’s Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff and former Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, among others, still receive death threats for their anti-Trump, pro-democracy work.

raft of recent studies documents that political violence and domestic terrorism are disproportionately the work of right-wing extremists. The Republican Party’s continued refusal to acknowledge that dangerous reality and to rein in its provocateurs is a threat to national security.

Both Democrats and Republicans are vulnerable. Trump and his ilk are almost as likely to target “RINOs” (Republicans in name only) as Democrats: Last fall Trump wrote on social media that Mitch McConnell “has a DEATH WISH” after the Republican Senate leader agreed with Democrats on a spending bill. In Missouri, a Republican Senate candidate appeared armed in an ad with several commandos, storming a house to go “RINO hunting.”

Against this backdrop consider just some of McCarthy’s recent words and actions in making — and unmaking — House committee assignments.

Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG) of Georgia, stripped of committee seats in the previous, Democratic-controlled Congress because of threatening commentary, including suggestions of assassinations of Democratic lawmakers, each got coveted assignments. Greene once denied that the Pentagon was struck by a plane on 9/11, but now she’ll be on the Homeland Security Committee. She and Gosar were the draws at a white supremacists’ convention last year (without facing consequences from McCarthy), and now they’ll be on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, which will be a hotbed for investigations of President Biden and his administration and family.

Greene’s newfound prominence in McCarthy’s House is her reward for doing as much as anyone to make him speaker. Surely you didn’t think he’d hold it against MTG that she told a Republican audience just last month that if she’d been in charge of the Jan. 6 insurrection to overturn Biden’s election, “We’d have won — not to mention, we would have been armed.”

McCarthy long ago assured rival-turned-ally Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio that Jordan would chair the Judiciary Committee once Republicans took control. Now the craven speaker also has put House Freedom Caucus extremists who opposed his elevation, like Gosar, on powerful committees.

Then, to further ingratiate himself with that bunch, he began making good on his threat to oust two California Democrats from the House Intelligence Committee — former Chair Schiff and member Eric Swalwell — in promised payback for Democrats’ sanctions of Gosar and Greene in 2021. Worse, McCarthy did so with false, incendiary attacks on Schiff and Swalwell that are all but certain to stoke the threats of violence both men already suffer.

Of Swalwell, McCarthy told reporters on camera, “If you got the briefing I got from the FBI, you wouldn’t have Swalwell on any committee.” He baselessly claimed that Schiff “openly lied to the American public” to engineer Trump’s first impeachment, for suggesting to Ukraine’s president that his country would lose U.S. military aid unless it produced dirt against presidential candidate-to-be Biden.

The Washington Post’s fact-checker gave McCarthy its worst score, four Pinocchios, concluding that his indictments of Schiff and Swalwell “appear based on figments of imagination.” Schiff aptly called McCarthy’s words “partisan slander,” while Swalwell told hosts of “The View,” “It looks to me like political vengeance.”

If you doubt Swalwell, take it from MTG (aka the green diva)

MTG the "green diva".
In a post Trump’s social media site, Greene wrote: “Vengeance is mine declares the Lord. God will not let evil go unpunished. The @HouseGOP must do what is right for the American people and no longer serve the Uniparty and the Globalist agenda. America First!”

It’s not God who is taking revenge, though. It’s the new lords of the House like Greene and Gosar, the wrathful powers behind McCarthy’s shaky throne.

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Monday, January 30, 2023

Kevin McCarthy is controlled by a handful of dangerous right wing conspiracy crazies

Opinion echo in Kevin McCarthy's deal with the conspiracy coalition is back door treason.  

High-level politics is fundamentally about deal making. You can’t succeed as anything more than a back-bencher if you aren’t willing to make a deal with almost anyone on almost anything. In Faust, a deal with the devil is fatal; on Capitol Hill, it’s how Kevin McCarthy intends to survive.

(Maine Writer- So, just think about it?  Speaker McCarthy is second in line to the presidency!  In other words, the devils that control Speaker McCarthy are in an overt conspiracy to take over the White House!)
In the popular Broadway play "Damn Yankees," a spirited older Yankee fan approximately the same age of Kevin McCarthy made a pact with the devil. The deal made with the devil was he would forgo his integrity, pledging to do the work of the devil in exchange for a return to his youth (temporarily) to play for and lead the Yankees to a wining season. A season, Yankee fans could could brag about, and a winning season eventfully resulting in a game with the pennant on the line.

Our own McCarthy made the same devilish deal, not with the devil, but radical rebels which were hold-out House members trying to deny McCarthy the speakership. A unified caucus of Pro-Trump zealots believing in election lies and supporting Jan. 6 rioters. Individuals inherently disappointed with democracy. Individuals which would prefer abandoning the ballot box, and worked for disenfranchising voters preferring an authoritarian government led by Trump.
The one huge takeaway from the mid-terms is Americans resoundingly denounced election deniers and voted against the GOP push to marginalize minorities. McCarthy, unable to win the House speakership on his own merits, made the devil-inspired deal as portrayed in "Damn Yankees." He surrendered his integrity and offered plum committee assignments to get the holdouts on board.

McCarthy surrendered so much, Rep. Matt Geatz (a rebel holdout) said. There was no more stuff to be asked for. McCarthy dealt away tradition, history and nearly three centuries of speaker integrity to achieve his quest. An extremely hollowed-out title sans all respect.

From Wade Eagleton, in Bakersfield California

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Kevin McCarthy and the consipiracy coalition

Opinion echo letter published in
(Maine Writer- I believe Bakersfield is the Kevin McCarthy hometown newspaper.)
In one of his latest stunning tweets, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy states that he is refusing to seat two Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, citing his desire to return it to "one of genuine honesty and credibility that retains the trust of the American people." Can he have said this with a straight face?
Speaker McCarthy is dispensing committee assignments to the loathsome Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who is well-established as an advocate of crackpot conspiracy theories including those advanced by QAnon, an endorser of violence against elected officials with whom she disagrees, and most recently, stating that if she and others of her ilk had been in charge of the January 6, 2021, insurrection, "we would have won and we would have been armed."

Kevin McCarthy's actions do not match his words. He has no desire to restore genuine honesty and credibility to the U. S. House. Instead, he is burning it down. The lunatics are running the asylum.

— Oren Spiegler, Peters Township, Pennsylvania (suburb of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.)

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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Kevin McCarthy sold his political soul to the conspiracy coalition

 Thin GOP majority, dangerous game

Echo opinion letter published in theNews-Post a newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida:

Now that the GOP (QOP) House has a scant new majority of four seats: Republicans are going to play Russian Roulette with our debt ceiling and decimate our full faith and credit and threaten a shutdown at the worst possible time as we are clawing back from COVID. 
Speaker McCarthy has given new life to the cause of being a dummy. Who is his ventriloquist.
Because Kevin McCarthy promised everything to hardliners to get the gavel after 15 votes, we now have election deniers, conspiracy proponents and QAnon proponents like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert sitting predominantly on the Government Oversight Committee and Jim Jordan (#GymJimJordan!) heading up the Judicial Committee. 

Their first order of business should be the debt ceiling and helping our economy bounce back but, instead, they’re going to concentrate on impeaching Joe Biden and investigating his son. The well-being of their constituents and the electorate is way on the back on the list of possible achievements. They probably will have their very thin majority for two years so this is what we have to deal with till then but it could be too late.

From Glenn Chenot, in Cape Coral

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Mike Pompeo is an embarrassment with no respect for human dignity

 Hello everyone — except you, Mike Pompeo.

Here’s what The Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah thinks about scum bag Mike Pompeo’s craven and irresponsible smearing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Washington Post | Killed in Saudi Arabian Consulate (Istanbul, Turkey), Saudi Arabia | October 02, 2018

Apparently, the former secretary of state feels no shame in smearing the name of a journalist and a defenseless murder victim — as that’s exactly what he does in his new book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love.” 

"The America I love?" Give me a break! Pompeo is a Trumpzi.

According to reports, Pompeo writes that Jamal Khashoggi*— a Post contributing columnist who was my colleague and friend — was not the person we said he was. “He didn’t deserve to die,” Pompeo says, “but we need to be clear about who he was — and too many in the media were not.” Jamal, he goes on, was a journalist only “to the extent that I, and many other public figures are journalists. We sometimes get our writing published, but we also do other things.”

I don’t know how people like this sleep at night.

After more than four years of living with the trauma of Jamal’s killing, and the callousness of both the Trump and the Biden administrations in their policies toward Saudi Arabia in the wake of his murder, I thought I had seen it all. But Pompeo has shown what it looks like when rock bottom has a trap door. 

Attacking a murder victim’s reputation to hawk books is as laughably pathetic as it is craven.

U.S. Intelligence: Saudi Crown Prince Approved Operation To Kill Jamal Khashoggi

Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is also peddling a lot of ignorance about one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest voices. 

Anyone who does any basic research can find out pretty easily that Jamal had a long career as a writer, editor and aspiring media entrepreneur for decades before he came to The Post. (It sometimes surprises me how many people around the world learned about Jamal only through his horrible death.) He was a reporter and book author; he would talk to me about his reporting trips to Africa and to Turkey.

Why does there now seem to be a backlash toward Jamal in Washington’s elite circles? Pompeo’s remarks remind me of the Atlantic’s Graeme Wood, whose 12,000-word magazine profile gave Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, the space to insult and demean Jamal, and defend his own human rights record, without pushback. (When Wood asked about the murder, the crown prince replied that “Khashoggi would not even be among the top 1,000 people on the list” of targets to kill, and that the episode “hurt me and it hurt Saudi Arabia, from a feelings perspective.”)

I speak to people to this day who felt anger and sadness for Jamal — who truly felt for this man they never met. To them, Jamal became a symbol of the powerful’s callous disregard for human life. They, at least, understand that this sort of human connection is more potent than anything Pompeo has to offer.
I knew Jamal’s work and the heart and strength it took for him to write in defense of those in Saudi Arabia who were being persecuted under the crown prince. Jamal Khashoggi will forever be known as someone who fought for the voiceless and who lost his life for speaking the truth. Pompeo? I’m sure history won’t remember much about him at all.

Jamal Khashoggi, was a Saudi journalist and Post contributing columnist since 2017. He was killed in Istanbul at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in 2018. According to a U.S. intelligence assessment, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation to capture or kill him.

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James Webb telescope legacy teaches with stunning perspective about our dusty origins

George Will* at his essayist best! His echo essay succinctly captures the spirit and the astounding abundance of science projected by the spectacular James Webb Space Telescope. Published in The Washington Post.

The Webb Space Telescope is telling humanity the history of everything

BALTIMORE ― At the Space Telescope Science Institute, on the Johns Hopkins University campus, a constant torrent of data pours in from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, enabling cosmologists to write ancient history. Not the history of the Greeks and Romans, who lived a mere blink ago. Rather, it is the history of everything.
Everything began, cosmologists currently think, with a bang — the Big Bang; if it does not deserve to be a proper noun, what does? — 13.7 billion years ago. All the material in the universe, including us, is — literally — stardust (cue Nat King Cole’s rendition), meaning residues of the explosion. The light gathered by Webb’s mirrors expands our knowledge of how stars form. And perish: This is not going to end well.

Launched 13 months ago, Webb is orbiting 940,000 miles away. With its 18 mirrors and its five sunshield layers unfolded, it is a tennis-court-size engineering masterpiece.
Jupiter has a lot going on, with massive storms, intense winds, auroras, and severe temperature and pressure extremes.

To function, each mirror must, after being hurled into space on a shuddering rocket, retain this exquisite precision: If each mirror were the size of the continental United States, each should not vary more than 2 inches from perfect conformity with the others.

Furthermore, the mirrors left Earth the “wrong” size: They were designed to contract in space to achieve a precise shape at the temperature out there: minus-388 degrees Fahrenheit.

The wavelength of light is “stretched” as the universe expands; hence the analysis of light can date the light’s source. Above the filter of the Earth’s atmosphere, Webb has already gathered light that has taken more than 13.4 billion years to reach its mirrors, light from the earliest galaxy yet confirmed: It formed only 350 million years after the Big Bang.

The U.S. lunar expeditions, the last of which was in 1972, were feats of individual bravery and engineering ingenuity. They were, however, without the scientific fascination that has driven space exploration since the discovery in 1965, that the universe is permeated with background radiation. This seems to confirm the Big Bang theory.

Scientific propositions are, however, testable and hence theoretically falsifiable, so even familiar ones are contingent. The Big Bang theory postulates that the universe was inflated from a microscopic speck in a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, at a temperature of trillions degrees centigrade. And is still expanding.

If so, Copernicus’s supposed impertinence — demoting Earth (and us) from the center of the universe — was, we now know, nonsensical: There is no center in an expanding universe without an edge. 

Astronomer Adam Frank says Webb, which was expected to support the Big Bang theory, has revealed “the existence of galaxies so old that the very origins of the universe have instead been called into question.” As has, some say, the theory of an expanding universe. Not so, says Frank:

For most of the previous 2,500 years, the universe was considered timeless and unchanging. 
Even by Albert Einstein, who, Frank says, “assumed that the universe now must look like the universe a trillion years in the past and future.” By proving that galaxies formed before they had previously been expected to exist — “just a few hundred million years after the cosmic expansion began” — Webb has done what, Frank says, science should do, which is “force us to confront false assumptions we hadn’t even known we’d made.” Doing so, he says, the telescope has confirmed the essence of the Big Bang theory: “cosmic evolution.” The universe has a history. As we learn how to write it, we learn about our place in it.

Earth is “biophilic” — conducive to life — only because the Big Bang led to molecules of water and atoms of carbon, which are necessary for life. They need not, however, have been included in a post-Bang universe. For some theologically inclined people, this fact means that we are not a cosmic fluke but a cosmic imperative.

Our sun, however, will expire in approximately 5 billion years. About when our wee Milky Way galaxy with its 200 billion stars will collide with the nearby Andromeda galaxy. The universe, as portrayed by the light that Webb gathers, is breathtakingly beautiful and unimaginably violent.
Blue Beautiful Glowing Andromeda Galaxy with Stars

Earth is biophilic only somewhat (volcanoes, earthquakes, viruses, etc.), and only briefly, as measured by the cosmos’s clock. But what distinguishes us from trees and trout and every known (so far) thing in the universe is what Webb exists solely to satisfy. The Webb Space Telescope speaks well of us precisely because it has, and needs, no justification beyond the purity of its service to curiosity.

*George Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs.

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Friday, January 27, 2023

George Santos hides from truth but Republicans continue to ignore his lies

Echo opinion by columnist Eugene Robinson published in The Washington Post:  Calling for Republicans to do the right thing and expel George Santos from Congress.
The people of New York’s 3rd Congressional District thought they were sending to the House a successful Jewish businessman who had attended an elite prep school, starred on the volleyball team at Baruch College, earned a graduate degree at New York University, worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, founded his own thriving asset-management firm, and served his community by running an animal-rescue charity.

Instead, they voters got none of the above.

Rather, they got Rep. George Santos (R), or “Anthony Devolder,” or “Anthony Zabrovsky,” or “Kitara Ravache.” Whoever he might be, he is not remotely the man those voters believed they were electing.

Here's a list of Rep. George Santos's trail of untruths*

Santos defrauded his constituents, morally if not legally, and effectively disenfranchised them. More of his fabrications are revealed almost daily. His presence in the House chamber, where so much history has taken place, defiles and dishonors the institution — yes, that is still possible — and he should be promptly expelled.

This is something that Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on. Almost every member of Congress I’ve ever met, from either party, at some level understands holding elective office as a sacred trust. To accept a brazen charlatan such as Santos as a colleague is to mock the hallowed place they love to call the “People’s House.”

The excuse for doing nothing that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Santos have offered — that the people of his district decided Santos should represent them, and their will is sovereign — holds no water. Those voters chose a fictional character, a figment of Santos’s fertile imagination. Their will was not honored, but instead thwarted, by his myriad lies.

If Santos had, say, claimed a college degree that he fell just short of earning, or exaggerated his athletic prowess or his business acumen, I would understand a decision to let voters render their verdict in 2024. He would hardly be the first member of Congress to burnish a résumé. But I am aware of no precedent in which a representative or senator forged an entire gleaming persona out of patent lies.

There is no shame in capping one’s formal education with a high school equivalency diploma; Abraham Lincoln, who served a term in the House, never went to college, either. But to then claim both undergraduate and graduate degrees is indeed shameful, and dishonest, and perhaps pathological.

And given where his district is, it was unforgivable for Santos to falsely claim on his campaign website that his mother “was in her office in the South Tower” of the World Trade Center at the moment of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Santos said on Twitter that 9/11 “claimed my mother’s life.” He told voters that although she survived the attacks, she later died of cancer — implying that the illness was caused by toxic dust and debris from the towers’ collapse. There is no evidence that Santos’s mother worked at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and immigration records appear to show she was not even in the United States at the time.

In the parts of Queens and Long Island that Santos represents, many voters would have personally known office workers or firefighters who died on 9/11 or in the aftermath. For Santos to lie about having a personal connection to a tragedy so deeply felt by so many New Yorkers is cynical and sick.

I realize that calling for Santos to be expelled might sound quixotic. Yes, I know that Republicans have only a nine-seat House majority. I know McCarthy needed Santos’s vote to become speaker and will need his continuing support to keep that hard-won gavel. And I know there is a good chance that if Santos were tossed out, the seat might well go to a Democrat in a special election.

But even then, Republicans would still control the chamber. And McCarthy’s position is already precarious, since any member of the GOP caucus can force a vote on his ouster. 

Also, there is a practical question: How can McCarthy or anyone else in the House trust anything Santos ever says?

The House Ethics Committee is investigating Santos, but usually moves at the speed of molasses in winter. Local and federal prosecutors, meanwhile, are following the money — looking into Santos’s personal and campaign finances — and McCarthy might be waiting to see what those probes unearth before taking any action.

If so, that is a mistake. It is already beyond dispute that injury has been done to the people of New York’s 3rd District, who are denied the representative they voted for. As speaker, McCarthy has a binary choice: Either he moves against Santos in defense of the House’s integrity — or he proves that it has none.
*Education lies: High school 
During the 2020 campaign, Santos told a dramatic story about how Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx, a prestigious private school he said he attended, refused to help his financially struggling family before his graduation, forcing him to leave four months early.

College:  On a résumé he submitted to the Nassau County GOP, Santos wrote that he graduated from Baruch College in 2010, with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. Santos said he was an exceptional student, earning a 3.89 GPA, graduating summa cum laude and ranking in the top 1 percent of his class. Except, Santos never attended Baruch.

Chairman Joseph G. Cairo Jr. of the Nassau County Republican Committee, who this past week called for Santos to resign. Santos told him that he was a star on the Baruch volleyball team “[He] told me, I remember specifically, that he was into sports a little bit — that he was a star on the Baruch volleyball team and they had won the league championship,” Cairo said at a news conference, prompting some laughter. “What can I tell ya?

Graduate school: Santos said he received an MBA in international business from New York University in 2013, after scoring an impressive 710 on his GMAT exam. He never got a degree from NYU.

“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé,” Santos said in an interview with the New York Post. “I own up to that. … We do stupid things in life.”

Religion:  In June 2020, Santos wrote on Twitter that he is the “grandson of Holocaust refugees.” Last month, Jewish Insider cast doubt on that claim, noting the dates Santos cited for his grandparents’ departure from Belgium to Brazil do not line up, nor do immigration records support his version of his family’s history.

In March, Santos said in a podcast interview that he was “raised Catholic, born to a Jewish family  ❓— very, very confusing religious background.” 
More recently, he told the New York Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” 

Santos now says that he’s “clearly Catholic,” but he claims that his grandmother told stories about being Jewish and later converting to Catholicism.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Russians have no future under failed Vladimir Putin

Echo Opinion - This is an expert analysis by Michael McFaul published in The Washington Post

Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Putinism?

Wartime leaders change generals when they’re losing, not winning. On January 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, was to replace Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed just a few months earlier in October, as his new overall commander of Russian military forces in Ukraine. The only reasonable conclusion: 

Putin understands that Russia is losing in Ukraine.

This shake-up at the top of the Russian military is not the only sign of Putin’s recognition of failure. He canceled his annual end-of-year news conference, evidently reluctant to take questions even from a mostly loyal and controlled press corps.

His solitary and subdued appearance at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin on Orthodox Christmas communicated little confidence.

His propagandists sound depressed. Strikingly, one of them, Sergei Markov, summed up the previous year by stating bluntly, “The USA was the main winner of 2022. Especially Biden.” 

Newspaper reporter Maksim Yusin recently said on a talk show that Russia’s “special military operation” had achieved none of its original goals. 

Former Putin adviser Sergei Glazyev lamented in public that Russia does not have a clear end objective, a sound ideology or the resources to win the war against the collective West.

Putin plans to reverse 2022’s Russian losses by launching a spring offensive after drafting several hundred thousand more soldiers. But even with incremental successes, he will never be able to restore the reputation he once enjoyed among his subjects as an all-powerful and all-knowing leader. 

Putin will not recover from his disastrous war in Ukraine.

First, major Russian victories on the battlefield are unlikely. Russia’s armed forces have neither the capabilities nor the will to capture all four Ukrainian regions that Putin annexed on paper last fall. Successful Ukrainian counteroffensives are more likely, especially if President Volodymyr Zelensky receives the offensive weapons — tanks, longer range missiles and jet fighters — he requested from the United States and NATO. Putin is very unlikely to resurrect his reputation by achieving military glory. 

Oligarchs in Moscow, communist leaders in Beijing and Russian nationalist bloggers on Telegram all seem to understand this.

Second, Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine triggered the most comprehensive sanctions we’ve seen imposed against a single country, ending two decades of Russian integration into the global economy. This isolation will continue for as long as Putin is in power. Sanctions are sticky. They will begin to unwind only when new leaders who are less aggressive and autocratic come to power. In the meantime, Russians will face economic malaise and stagnation, a fact the economic elite already understands and laments. Tens of thousands of Russia’s best and brightest have left; thousands more are trying to do so.

Putin won’t regain respect from Russia’s private business sector.

Third, Putin’s societal support is soft and declining. 

Public opinion polls show he still enjoys popular support. But these polls in Russia have high refusal rates, which should not be surprising in a country where you can go to jail for 15 years for “public dissemination of deliberate false information about the use of Russian Armed Forces.” The minority responding to these polls supports the regime, but the majority who choose not to respond likely do not. And even these highly flawed polls show little enthusiasm and declining support for the war, and a solid majority ready to support Putin if he ends the invasion. Anxiety about the conflict is growing.

And the demographics of his support are clear: The older, more rural, less educated and poorer support Putin in greater numbers than the younger, more urban, more educated, wealthier Russians. 

Putin is losing the future.

Other indicators look equally grim for Putin. Organic mass movements in support of Russian imperialism have not emerged over the past year, but antiwar protests have. Before the war began, Putin arrested Russia’s most popular opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, who continues to denounce the war from his jail cell. Since Putin invaded Ukraine, almost 20,000 people have been detained and arrested for protesting the war, including most recently opposition leaders Alexei Gorinov and Ilya Yashin, who received seven- and eight-year sentences respectively for telling the truth about Russian war atrocities in Ukraine. 

If the war was truly popular, why would Putin’s regime need to arrest these allegedly marginal, unpopular critics?

Likewise, a paranoid Putin felt compelled to shut down many independent media channels — including TV Rain and Echo of Moscow radio — and ban Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Yet viewership of Russian state-controlled media outlets is declining while audiences increasingly consume independent media operating from exile. Viewership of Navalny’s YouTube channels, operated by his team in exile, jumped dramatically in 2022, especially after Putin announced a new draft in September. (Only a week after the order was issued, as many men or more fled Russia than enlisted.)

Revolutions are hard to predict, but Putin remains in little danger of being overthrown through a palace coup or a popular revolt. 

Over two decades in power, he has constructed a highly repressive dictatorship; his inner circle fears him, while his main critics sit in prison. And in the unlikely event that one of his hawkish critics were to seize power, such a regime would not last long, since none of these militant nationalists enjoy mass followings or ideological appeal. The most likely scenario is Putin will remain in control for the near future, albeit discredited and diminished.

It is hard to escape the sense though that Putin's best days and his ideas are behind him. Like Leonid Brezhnev in Afghanistan, Putin has overreached in Ukraine. He and his regime will never recover. Even if the process of unwinding begins in earnest only once he is out of power, Putin’s colossal failure in Ukraine could well be the beginning of the end of Putinism.  In fact, the Russian president’s recent behavior suggests that even he might understand this fact.

Opinion by Michael McFaul
Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University and a contributing columnist to The Post. He is the author of "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia."

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