Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 4, 2023. The House is without a Speaker, Joe Biden is up in the polls, Butler is the new senator from California, Donald Trump's even worse than I could have thought him to be, and much more.

We need to start with a correction on my part.  I don't like Donald Trump and never have.  Even so, when THE ALANTIC published a report on him in 2020 relying upon anonynmice, I didn't believe it.  I didn't believe that even Donald could and/or would say things like he was reported saying.  I was wrong, 100% wrong.  Summer Concepcion (NBC NEWS) reports:

Former Trump White House chief of staff John Kelly is blasting his onetime boss over disparaging remarks he says the then-president repeatedly made about service members and veterans and for what he called Trump's untruthfulness about his positions on various groups as well as on abortion.

In a statement to CNN published Monday, Kelly delivered a scathing criticism of former President Trump while confirming reporting in The Atlantic in 2020 that detailed the comments he made during his presidency.

Kelly called Trump, "A person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform, or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat, or spend years being tortured as POWs are all ‘suckers’ because ‘there is nothing in it for them.' A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because ‘it doesn’t look good for me.’ A person who demonstrated open contempt for a Gold Star family — for all Gold Star families — on TV during the 2016 campaign, and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America’s defense are ‘losers’ and wouldn’t visit their graves in France.”

The Atlantic reported that Trump privately made damning statements against U.S. service and veterans, such as the late Sen. John McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, and former President George H.W. Bush, a former Navy pilot who was shot down in World War II. During a visit to France in 2018 for the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I, Trump also reportedly called Marines who died at Belleau Wood “suckers” and fallen soldiers at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery “losers.”

Again, I was 100% wrong. 

How appalling that anyone would say things like that.  As low as I thought Donald was, even I couldn't believe that he -- or anyone -- would say stuff like that.  But I was wrong.

Let's stay with the topic of politicians, AP reports, "Former union leader and Democratic insider Laphonza Butler was sworn in as the newest member of the Senate on Tuesday, replacing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein after her death and becoming only the third Black female senator in history. [. . .] On the Senate floor Tuesday, Butler was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, who served as the second Black female senator until she resigned in 2021 to join President Joe Biden in the White House. The first was Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who served one term in the 1990s."  The Congressional Black Caucus issued the following on Monday:

“Today, the CBC celebrates the appointment of Laphonza Butler to represent the state of California in the U.S. Senate. Her background and years of experience will bring a much-needed perspective to the Senate, which currently does not have any Black women. For many years, Laphonza Butler has been a champion for women and girls, students, and union workers, and we believe she will bring that same fight to the U.S. Senate on behalf of Californians and our entire nation. As the first lesbian Black woman in the U.S. Senate, Laphonza will bring an important perspective to the upper house at a time when the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community are under attack. We look forward to welcoming Laphonza as the 59th member of the CBC and to continuing our work on behalf of the American people.”

Butler has served as president of EMILY’s List, an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women, since 2021.

She previously worked as the director of public policy and campaigns in North America for Airbnb, a strategist and partner at political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, and a senior advisor for Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign. She also has a long and involved history with the labor movement, having served as the president of home-care workers union SEIU Local 2015 for more than a decade.

Other high-profile California Democrats are currently running for Feinstein’s seat—she was the longest-serving female senator in U.S. history prior to her passing at 90 years old—which will be up for grabs in the 2024 midterms. These include Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee.

Barbara Lee.  "The Fraud Squad"?  Remember that moniker?  It was applied to AOC and others in Congress.  Were they frauds?  That would be a lengthy discussion.  AOC has accomplished in Congress, not a great deal, but she can point to certain things.  She's not Barbara Lee.

The first sign you're dealing with a fake ass is when the person's been in Congress for 25 years and they have to go back 22 years to find something to point to with pride.  Barbara's vote following 9/11?  22 years ago.    

What has the 77-year-old accomplished after 25 years in Congress?

Not seeing it.  And she's too damn old to be going into the Senate.  Fortunately, there are other choices and that does include Laphonza.  The Legal Defense Fund issued the following:

Today, Laphonza Butler was sworn-in to the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away last week at 90. Ms. Butler, who previously served as president of Emily’s List, is also a labor leader, political strategist, and an advocate for women and working people. She is now the sole Black woman serving in Congress as a U.S. senator, the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in American history, and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Vice President Kamala Harris.  

LDF President & Director-Counsel Janai Nelson issued the following statement in response:

“We applaud Governor Newsom for his historic appointment of Laphonza Butler to represent California in the U.S. Senate. We also congratulate Senator Butler on this momentous achievement in a career that has been distinguished by leadership, advocacy, and public service. She is one of only three Black women to have served as a senator in the U.S. Congress and the only Black LGBTQ+ woman to do so. These historic distinctions underscore the continued importance of embracing and empowering a diversity of perspectives at key decision-making tables. We are especially encouraged by Senator Butler’s labor credentials and her work on the behalf of women and girls, whose rights to bodily autonomy in the current national landscape continue to require sustained defense. We look forward to the contributions Ms. Butler will make in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the communities she has long served but who have never been fully represented in the halls of Congress.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.

We'll note a few Tweets.

The California Legislative Women's Caucus issued the following:

Oct 02, 2023
Karen Bocaling Lapis,; Sulema Landa,

SACRAMENTO – California Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Vice Chair Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) today applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom’s selection of Laphonza Butler to be California’s new U.S. senator, replacing the late Dianne Feinstein.

“We commend Gov. Newsom for his choice of Laphonza Butler to be California’s new U.S. Senator, filling out the remaining term of the legendary Sen. Feinstein. Dianne Feinstein was a true trailblazer for women in politics, and so it’s fitting that her successor, Laphonza Butler, will also break barriers as the first out woman of color to serve in either house, Senate or Congress. For now, Butler will also be the only Black woman U.S. Senator and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate. 

“For the past few years, Butler has been a brilliant leader of Emily’s List, the nation’s largest political action committee promoting women into elected office. She was also the first mother and woman of color to be president of the pro-choice organization.

“As a mom and former labor leader, who headed up California’s largest union, SEIU Local 2015, representing hundreds of thousands of long-term care workers, Butler is a steadfast champion of women and girls and working-class families. She’s an excellent choice to represent California in Washington, D.C., and we’re confident that she will not only fiercely protect the rights of women and girls but also help build a better nation for all.”


And the NAACEP noted:

NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson released the following statement congratulating Butler and commending Newsom: 

"The NAACP is proud to congratulate Laphonza Butler on her well deserved appointment to serve as the first Black, openly LGBTQ+ Senator. It is only right that a Black woman who has paved the way for countless others to lead is now given an opportunity to lead herself. The NAACP commends Governor Newsom for taking steps to fill the gaps in representation that currently exist within our Senate. We look forward to supporting the future Senator as she makes strides in the halls of Congress. One thing is clear - Black women are supreme."

Newly sworn-in Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) is free to run for a full term in the U.S. Senate if she chooses to do so, a spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) office confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

“There are no conditions related to the Governor’s appointment of Senator-designate Butler. That decision is entirely hers,” the spokesperson said.

Butler is replacing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), a trailblazer for women in politics who died last week, leaving Newsom to pick her replacement.

Yesterday, Tavis Smiley discussed Laphonza with THE LOS ANGELES TIMES' Mark Z. Barabak.

Other news from yesterday?  Well the House of Representatives no longer has a Speaker of the House.

For the first time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives voted to oust its own leader Tuesday after a motion by far-right Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to vacate the appointment of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy's speakership passed with eight GOP votes and the support of every Democrat present.

The 216-210 vote to remove McCarthy (R-Calif.) came after his allies failed to come up with enough votes to table the motion to vacate.

In addition to Gaetz, the Republicans who voted for the motion to vacate were: Reps. Andy Biggs (Az.), Ken Buck (Col.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Az.), Bob Good (La.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mt.).

Those lawmakers have accused McCarthy of being insufficiently conservative. They were incensed by his deal with the White House to raise the debt limit earlier this year and have demanded the House make even deeper cuts to social safety net programs than the deal contained.

The pro-democracy group Stand Up America said in a statement that "today’s vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as speaker shows how intent ultra-MAGA Republicans are on sowing chaos and dysfunction, rather than actually governing on behalf of the American people."

"It's clear who is really in charge of the GOP Conference: Matt Gaetz and his band of political arsonists," the group added. "MAGA Republicans' sole agenda is to grind the federal government to a halt, use their power to exact political revenge, and attack our democracy and basic freedoms. We can't expect the same election deniers who tried to overthrow the will of voters on January 6th to legislate for the American people now."

While the media has presented the crisis as a conflict of personalities, Tuesday’s vote is reflection of deep divisions within the ruling class itself. Gaetz and roughly a dozen other far-right Republicans opposed the CR because it lacked social spending cuts and further appropriations for the border police.

In an interview on Newsmax following the vote, Gaetz, speaking for a faction of finance capital, rejected accusations that without a speaker the government would be thrown into “chaos” and reiterated that McCarthy was stripped of the speaker’s gavel because of his refusal to enact sufficiently draconian spending cuts.

“Chaos is the dollar losing its status as the global reserve currency. Chaos is the greatest nation in the world sitting on top of $33 trillion debt. Chaos is accepting Biden budgets that will lead to $2 trillion annual deficits...forever,” said Gaetz.

Following his ouster, McCarthy told a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that he would not seek reelection as speaker. At a subsequent Tuesday evening news conference he said, “I will not run for speaker again... I’ll have the conference pick somebody else.”

Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is currently serving as the interim speaker. McHenry said the House would not meet again until next Tuesday, with the aim of holding a vote for the new speaker on Wednesday, October 11. Several names have been floated by Republican representatives as possible candidates to replace McCarthy, including Majority Leader Steve Scalise (Louisiana), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (Minnesota), Kevin Hearn (Oklahoma) and even Donald Trump.

While it is unclear who, if anyone, will be the speaker in the immediate future, what is clear is that Tuesday’s vote marks an inflection point in the ongoing US political crisis, which has not subsided more than two-and-a-half years after Trump’s failed coup. The ousting of McCarthy sets the stage for even more explosive political convulsions and a further shift to the right by the entire political establishment.

As chaos in the House makes Republicans look demented, James Brickerton (NEWSWEEK) notes:

President Biden has recorded his first positive poll rating in five months in a new Rasmussen Reports survey, which found 49 percent of Americans approve of his conduct in office while 48 percent disapprove.

According to polling aggregate site FiveThirtyEight, this is the first time more Americans have approved than disapproved of Biden since a YouGov survey published in May, though it remains an outlier with most surveys giving Biden a negative approval rating.

The White House must be saying thank you to Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and adult performer Lauren Boebert, Joe couldn't have done it without you.

In other news, yesterday afternoon, the US State Dept issued the following:

On behalf of the Government and the people of the United States of America, I extend to Prime Minister Sudani and the Iraqi people our sincere congratulations as you celebrate your independence.

The 360-degree strategic partnership that exists between our two countries continues to advance our shared values as we work together to address global challenges like tackling climate change, promoting economic development, advancing human rights, protecting the environment, and ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS. We continue to strengthen people-to-people ties that form the basis of our partnership.

This is a day to reflect on and be proud of Iraq’s achievements and the perseverance of its people. For over 91 years, Iraq has endeavored through adversity to foster a more inclusive and equitable society for its citizens and for future generations of Iraqis.

Let's wind down with a Tweet from Paul Rudnick.

The following sites updated: