Peter Certo – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 18 Mar 2023 04:37:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 20 Years On, What Did the Iraq War Truly Cost? Sat, 18 Mar 2023 04:02:43 +0000 By Peter Certo | –

( – The war claimed more than lives and treasure — it claimed a future’s worth of lost opportunities. Now, younger generations are demanding them back.

Most of us who were alive then remember where we were on the morning of the 9/11 attacks. As we mark the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War this March, I wonder how many also remember where we were that day.

On 9/11, I was a Catholic school eighth grader. I’ll never forget my teacher, Mrs. Anderson, wheeling the TV into the room and saying simply, “I have something to tell you.” That afternoon, the school held a prayer service and sent us home early.

On March 19, 2003, when I was a freshman in Catholic high school, the TVs came out again. In stark, night-vision footage, bombs exploded over Baghdad. We were barely teenagers yet here we were again, watching explosions vaporize human beings on TV.

But this time, the bell rang, classes changed, and folks just carried on. I trudged to my next class, heartsick and bewildered.

Looking back, it’s easier to understand those reactions as a result of the trauma we all suffered after 9/11. People felt wounded, insecure — a feeling the Bush administration exploited with its bald-faced lies that Iraq was linked to the attacks and armed with weapons of mass destruction.

Neither the war nor those lies have aged well in history, which plenty of smart people warned about in real time. Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in the war, along with upwards of a million Iraqis, and the violence unleashed a shock wave of instability across the Middle East.

But when I think about the cost of the war now, I also think about the other futures that were lost as that numb pall fell over my classroom.

The Iraq War super-charged the militarized spending that was already surging after 9/11, which totaled over $21 trillion as of 2021. The National Priorities Project calculates that just a fraction of that sum could have totally decarbonized the U.S. power grid, created millions of good jobs, wiped out all student debt, and all but ended child poverty in this country — with plenty left over.

Imagine what our world would look like today if we’d made those choices. Instead it was war, torture, mass surveillance, and other scandals that filled the space in our imagination where those dreams might have gone. Our gloomy present era of polarization and alternative facts feels like a direct result of this malaise.

But fortunately, that’s not the end of the story.

It may have taken the climate crisis and another traumatizing, mass casualty event — the COVID-19 pandemic — but younger generations have burst open the numb, negligent politics of the Iraq War era with demands for all that was due plus interest.

Why can’t everyone have affordable health care, a livable planet, and paths to pursue a better life? The movements for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and student debt cancellation are posing these questions in a new, serious way that politicians actually have to answer.

Granted, their answers haven’t been very good yet. Military spending is still climbing, the planet is still warming, and our democracy, civil rights, and human rights feel shakier than ever.

Still, there are signs of progress.

Pandemic supports, however temporary, managed to bring down poverty during an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. Last year the U.S. launched its biggest-ever investment in green jobs. And even Joe Biden, who once represented creditors from Delaware, has embraced the cause of reducing student debt.

Of course, this is the floor of what we need, not the ceiling. And there are wounds from the last 20 years, especially in the greater Middle East, that won’t heal anytime soon.

But despite the gloom, the astounding social movements of the last few years have made easier to remember a time when the world felt brighter. Thanks to them, it might be.

Editor’s note: The introduction of this op-ed was adapted from an earlier piece published in 2021.

Peter Certo

Peter Certo is the communications director of the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of

Via (

Why isn’t US Media Screaming that the Republican Party Is Now Openly Against Democracy? Thu, 10 Feb 2022 05:08:26 +0000

The media has a responsibility to tell Americans that a major party now openly endorses using violence to overturn elections.

( ) – If you’re the sort of person who follows the news, you’ve probably heard a good bit lately about podcaster Joe Rogan, Neil Young’s fight with Spotify, and maybe a little about Russia and Ukraine.

All that’s good grist for the mill. But did you also hear former President Trump admit that he’d intended to have Mike Pence overturn the 2020 election? In a statement, Trump asserted that Pence had the power to “change the outcome” and should indeed have “overturned the election.”

Or, here’s a bad one: Did you hear that the Trump administration actually drafted orders for federal law enforcement to seize voting machines before his loss could be certified?

It’s true — Trump personally called Rudy Giuliani to see if the Departments of Justice or Homeland Security could seize the machines before votes could be counted in key swing states. A draft of an executive order to do just that was published in full by Politico. It bears Trump’s name.

What about this: After years of making hay over Hillary Clinton’s emails, did you hear that Trump himself illegally removed or destroyed thousands of official documents?

That’s right — Trump personally took at least 15 boxes worth of material with him to Mar-a-Lago, while at least three of his former staffers said Trump ripped documents apart right in front of them. National Archivists have recovered as many as they can, but they literally have to tape the destroyed documents back together.

Finally, did you hear anywhere that one of America’s two major political parties just endorsed the January 6 coup attempt? That’s true, too.

You may remember January 6 for the rioters who smashed public property, viciously assaulted police officers, built a gallows outside the Capitol, and chanted for the execution of elected officials. At least seven people died in connection with the attack, while hundreds of rioters now face federal charges.

But in a recent statement, the Republican National Committee called these despicable acts “legitimate political discourse” and officially condemned Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), the two lone House Republicans helping to investigate the attack. (For good measure, Trump also personally promised to pardon January 6 rioters if he’s reelected — something two-thirds of Americans say they oppose.)

Every single one of these stories broke in late January or early February this year. All were diligently reported by committed journalists. Yet in the broader media, not one of them — much less the bigger story they tell together — has enjoyed anything like the shelf life of another culture war story about an irresponsible podcaster.

So it’s sadly unsurprising that majorities of Republicans report believing the ridiculous lie that the 2020 election was stolen — something not even GOP-led investigations have found a shred of evidence for. And an alarming 40 percent of Republicans now say violence against the government is justified.

If you ask me, it’s extremely dangerous that the GOP is now officially sanctioning a violent coup attempt, a likely GOP contender in 2024 is openly committed to overturning elections and destroying the evidence, and a disturbing minority of the party’s faithful seem ready to endorse violence to do that.

Meanwhile even Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence, who rather bravely spoke out against the RNC’s recent action, have shown themselves to be perfectly comfortable with the voter suppression laws the party is propagating all over the country in service of the very same lies.

We live in interesting times — there’s always news to cover. But these threats to our democracy need to stay top of mind all year, and every politician needs to be repeatedly asked about them. Voters deserve to know about this crisis and where their leaders stand on it.

So tell your favorite outlets: If they value the democracy that makes their work possible, they’d better park all this on page one.


A Few Magnificent Things That Happened in 2021 Sat, 25 Dec 2021 05:04:26 +0000

Feeling bleak? Well, 2021 wasn’t all bad — here are a few astounding things ordinary people won at home and abroad.

By Peter Certo | –

( – It would be easy to survey the end of 2021 and see another year in wreckage. There’s the pandemic that won’t end. Rising inflation. Climate disasters. A democracy that looks creakier by the day.

And that was before West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin hit the brakes on the Build Back Better Act. In a stroke, Manchin put 10 million kids at risk of falling back into poverty, threw millions of green jobs into doubt, and set back projections of U.S. economic growth.

But let me offer an unusual comfort: At least Henry Kissinger is still alive — to see a new progressive government in Chile.

Nearly 50 years after a bloody, Kissinger-backed coup, the South American country is throwing off the shackles of the Pinochet dictatorship. Since last year’s mass demonstrations, they’ve tossed out the dictatorship-era constitution and just elected Gabriel Boric, a progressive new president who wants to build a social safety net in the famously unequal country.

Next door in Peru, voters earlier this year elected Pedro Castillo, a rural teacher and union leader, as president, defeating the daughter of a corrupt former dictator who presided over a vicious civil war.

And in Honduras, voters just handed a commanding victory to Xiomara Castro, a progressive who will also be the country’s first woman president. It’s a stunning result in a country that’s seen 12 harsh years of narco-dictatorship since a U.S.-backed coup in 2009.

Maybe this is small comfort when it feels like our own democracy is unraveling. But to me it shows that people with far less have overcome much steeper odds. And that can help us appreciate how much social movements in our own country have already accomplished.

It was movements who demanded that COVID-19 vaccines be made freely available. Even with a worrying new variant of the disease, millions of triple-vaccinated Americans are safely hugging their loved ones this holiday season thanks to them.

Together they’re unwrapping presents that were shipped in time by America’s public postal service, which was bolstered by COVID-19 relief legislation — and strong support from the public.

Relief packages like the American Rescue Plan Democrats passed this spring put more presents under the tree, too. Despite a deadly pandemic and economic crisis, measures like stimulus payments, expanded unemployment relief, and the groundbreaking Child Tax Credit actually reduced the U.S. poverty rate.

That puts workers in a much stronger position. Next year, tens of thousands of employees will get bigger paychecks thanks to an astounding year of strikes throughout the heartland. In fact, even non-union employers that oppose a federal $15 minimum wage are now posting one for starting positions. Wages have risen more in the last three months than in the previous 20 years.

And despite our political gridlock, there’s even good news on the climate front: The White House has ordered the sprawling federal government to eliminate its carbon emissions. And deep-red Nebraska has embraced a net-zero goal for carbon emissions from its electricity.

We can’t be sanguine about any of this in our political moment. But rather than despair, I’d prefer to remember the late Howard Zinn: “To be hopeful in bad times is not being foolishly romantic,” he said. “It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of competition and cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

If we remember those moments “where people have behaved magnificently,” Zinn advised, “it energizes us to act, and raises at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”

As we spin into another year, let’s take those words to heart. Happy new year.


How Greed is Prolonging the Pandemic – Unless the World is Vaccinated, Variants will Keep Emerging Fri, 03 Dec 2021 05:06:27 +0000 ( – Stop me if this sounds familiar.

It’s been kind of a hard year, but I felt optimistic about the holidays. My wife and I had just scheduled our COVID-19 boosters. Even better, we’d been able to get our young child vaccinated.

We imagined a cautious return to simple family pleasures like indoor dining — and maybe playdates at indoor play centers during the long Midwestern winter. Maybe we’d even test our kid’s appetite for air travel and visit relatives in different parts of the country.

Then — another COVID-19 variant. Possible breakthrough infections. Travel bans and tumbling stock markets. And that familiar feeling of the rug being pulled out.

We don’t know a whole lot about the Omicron variant yet. Will it fizzle out like earlier variants, or run rampant like Delta? Whatever happens, we do know one thing: The longer it takes the world to get vaccinated, the more variants we’ll see.

Here in the United States, getting vaccination rates up means battling misinformation, apathy, and employers who won’t give their employees sick time. But vaccinating the rest of the world means battling corporate greed.

In poorer countries, vaccine access is limited by the patent protections for pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Modern, and Johnson & Johnson. That puts life-saving vaccines beyond the reach of what many countries can comfortably afford.

Omicron was first reported in South Africa. As my Institute for Policy Studies colleagues pointed out in their invaluable newsletter, “South Africa had pleaded with Western governments earlier this year to waive vaccine patents. Instead, South Africa ended up having to pay over double the price for doses that European Union nations paid.”

Thanks to price gouging like that, they note, Moderna alone has minted five new billionaires. Meanwhile South Africa’s vaccination rate hovers at less than 30 percent. With rates that low, new variants are inevitable.

But South Africa is comparatively lucky — less than 10 percent of people on the African continent are fully vaccinated.

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, rich countries have received about 50 times as many vaccine doses as poor countries. That means the virus has free rein to multiply over vast swathes of the planet. Every new infection increases the possibility of new variants — including some that may prove resistant to the existing vaccines.

To close those gaps, poorer countries need more vaccines — and fast.

The Biden administration courageously defied Big Pharma by backing a waiver for vaccine patents. But countries like Germany continue to resist it, and advocates insist the U.S. isn’t doing enough to fight for it.

Another solution involves simply sending doses overseas. The administration announced in August it had already exported 110 million doses, and it recently promised another 500 million. That’s good, but public health advocates are calling for far more.

Vaccine equity could save millions of lives and prevent needless suffering. That’s reason enough on its own.

But by protecting workers across the globe, it would also ease the global supply disruptions that are contributing to inflation here and abroad. And it would go a long way toward ensuring that the existing vaccines remain effective.

“You may be fully vaccinated, you may have had your booster, but you’re not that disconnected from the person who lives in a country where only 2 percent of the population is vaccinated,” warns Emory University virologist Boghuma Kabisen Titanji.

If these gaps persist, “the virus will catch up with us regardless of where you are.”

She’s right. Thanks to a new variant halfway around the world, I have to worry about whether I can take my kid to the diner down the road. But it’s a fitting holiday lesson, in a way — the more we give, the more we get. Better tell the administration to make a list.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

CNBC International: “Vaccine inequality is a human rights issue, says U.S. doctor”

Why Biden Is Right to End the War in Afghanistan Sat, 21 Aug 2021 04:08:11 +0000 ( – The scenes from Afghanistan are heartrending.

I can’t imagine the desperation of someone who clings to a military airplane as it takes off, as Afghan refugees attempted to in Kabul. Nor is it possible to dismiss the fears of Afghan women, as a faction that once executed them for seeking jobs or education comes back to power.

But in light of the precipitous collapse of the country’s 300,000-man army and political leadership, it’s also impossible to dismiss President Biden’s conclusion that the war was never going to be winnable.

“If Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now,” Biden said, “there is no chance that one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would have made any difference.”

Biden is right. And many of the military and political leaders who’ve prosecuted the war agree. In 2019, the Washington Post reported on interviews with over 400 who said the war was doomed even then — including many who said the opposite publicly.

Biden put a finer point on it. Of “those who argue that we should stay,” he asked: “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?”

After years of sacrifice, the only correct answer is none. But Biden is wrong to pin all the blame on Afghans.

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan not just for the last 20 years, but for the better part of the last 40. Throughout the 1980s, we armed and trained the rudiments of what would become al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

We wanted them to fight off the Soviets. They did. Then 9/11 happened.

We went back, deposed the Taliban, and cobbled together a hopelessly corrupt alliance of warlords, exiles, and opportunists to serve as a new government. To back it, we created the Afghan National Army.

We also carpet bombed the country and dispatched shadowy CIA death squads, contributing more than our fair share of the war’s nearly 50,000 civilian casualties.

Over 60,000 Afghan troops gave their lives fighting the Taliban. But between the violence, corruption, and poor governance, the U.S.-backed government simply didn’t command the support of the Afghan people. When the president took off with a helicopter full of cash, many Afghan soldiers sensibly concluded it wasn’t worth dying for any longer.

Biden is right to end the war. But he’s wrong to call it just “a civil war in a foreign country.” In truth, it’s a disaster we spent 40 years creating. That project wasn’t just unwinnable — it was wrong.

So now our obligation is to the Afghans living with the consequences.

Groups like Afghans for a Better Tomorrow are calling on the administration to lift refugee caps so more Afghans can come here, invest heavily in humanitarian aid inside the country, and not to relaunch the conflict under the guise of “counter-terrorism.”

We should also, my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Phyllis Bennis adds, work with the United Nations and international community to ensure safe passage for aid workers and help the country respond to the pandemic.

Those are fair demands — and a bargain relative to the costs of war. The IPS National Priorities Project found we could resettle over 1 million Afghan refugees for less than the cost of one year of war.

That’s the least we could do — that, and learn our lesson. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” President Biden said.

Next time, we should be wise enough not to send them at all.



Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

CBS News: “The cost of the 20-year war in Afghanistan”

We Can Have the Filibuster or Democracy, But Not Both Sun, 01 Aug 2021 04:04:34 +0000

The warning from democracy advocates is clear: Kill the filibuster and pass the For the People Act, or our democracy won’t survive.

By Peter Certo |

( – The American political system is complicated, but fixing it doesn’t have to be.

Voters of all stripes broadly agree on the kinds of changes they’d like to see. We need less money in politics. It should be easier to vote — early, in person, or by mail. And voters should be able to pick their own representatives, not the other way around.

The For the People Act, which passed the House earlier this year, would do all of these things. It includes new ethics rules for members, protects and expands the right to vote, and would restrict the extreme partisan gerrymandering that’s become commonplace. No wonder it’s popular — around two-thirds of Americans tell pollsters they support it.

It’s also, for now, doomed. And with a wave of voter suppression laws, new gerrymandering schemes, and ongoing efforts to discredit the 2020 election results still underway, that’s a very dangerous development for our democracy.

Explaining why reveals some truly absurd things about our system. For one thing, the law just “failed” by a party-line Senate vote of 50-50 — 50 Democrats for, 50 Republicans against.

Ordinarily, 50 votes should be enough to pass something in the Senate when the vice president supports it, as Kamala Harris does. But thanks to an arcane Senate tactic called the filibuster, opponents of legislation can force supporters to come up with 60 votes, instead of a simple majority.

It gets even more absurd when you realize that those 50 Democrats represent over 40 million more Americans than those 50 Republicans. And with the filibuster, Republicans representing just 20 percent of us can easily stop legislation that overwhelming majorities support.

The filibuster is how Republicans are holding up everything from universal background checks on gun purchases to popular laws that would protect the environment, the right to form unions, or now voting rights.

Republicans are champions of the filibuster now, but it was only a few years ago that they weakened it so they could pack the Supreme Court with unpopular nominees like Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of sexual assault.

Meanwhile, in states across the country, filibuster-free Republican legislatures are pushing hundreds of laws that will make it much harder to vote — or even, in some cases, let those same lawmakers overrule decisions made by voters.

Now that they’re in power, the Democrats could get rid of the filibuster. Hundreds of historians and political scientists, alarmed by the state-level onslaught against democracy, have warned that they’ll need to do just that. So too have hundreds of faith, labor, voting rights, and environmental groups.

Kill the filibuster and pass the For the People Act, they urge, or our democracy may not survive.

But a small number of Democrats — notably Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) — have steadfastly refused. In high-profile op-eds, they’ve called the filibuster essential to democracy and bipartisanship.

These claims are absurd. Plainly, the filibuster is enabling an extremely partisan assault on our democracy. If you commit to bipartisanship with a party that’s waging an all-out war on democracy, the only bipartisan thing you’ll win is its demise.

For now, pro-democracy groups are stepping up their pressure campaigns.

The Poor People’s campaign is marching on Manchin and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Others are targeting the Senate’s Democratic leaders, who are only in power because an extraordinary mobilization last year helped them win the Senate despite the map being tilted toward Republicans by over 40 million people.

But the truth is, the movements and the voters have done their part to protect our democracy. If senators don’t do theirs, they may well deserve to lose — but not if they take our democracy with them. Tell your senators: End the filibuster, pass the For the People Act.



Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

MSNBC: “‘That Is How Democracy Dies’: Single-Party Power Grab Flagged By Voting Rights Advocates”

No Trump ‘Blue Collar Boom’: 1/2 of Americans work Low-Wage Jobs and Manufacturing is in Decline Tue, 11 Feb 2020 05:01:16 +0000 ( – Trump is counting on the working class he’s betraying most aggressively. Can the left get out of affluent suburbia and back to its roots? By | February 5, 2020

There’s an image burned into my brain from childhood: the graffitied train tracks along the intersection of Fifth and Patterson in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

It’s a slightly shabby landscape dotted by warehouses, churches, fast food restaurants, and — at the margins — an old arthouse theater. If you look closely, you can see the building where I went to kindergarten, and maybe even the dive bar where my wife and I had our first date.

A photo of this familiar landscape greeted me recently in an unfamiliar place: at the top of a New York Times feature headlined, “How the G.O.P. Became the Party of the Left Behind.”

It followed an out of work union teamster in nearby Moraine who’d voted Democratic for years, only to shift to Republicans in the wake of plant closures that left him adrift. In 2016, the story goes, Dayton’s Montgomery County — population 530,000 — swung narrowly for Trump. It was the first time the county had gone red in nearly 30 years.

We’ve met these voters in countless articles since 2016. And they’re exactly who President Trump was pitching in his recent State of the Union address, where he boasted of “a great American comeback” and a “blue collar boom,” crediting himself generously.

First, let’s be clear: There’s no “great American comeback.”

Low overall unemployment means little when half of Americans now work low-wage jobs. Manufacturing remains in decline, farm bankruptcies are spiraling, and union membership just hit an all-time low. Even as 140 million Americans are poor or low-income, the administration is working relentlessly to shred Medicaid, Social Security, and the food stamp system.

Trump has little to offer this class but half-truths about the economy and hateful lies about immigrants. Still, he’s only accelerated a partisan realignment along class lines for white voters.

In the 1990s, the Times story observed, Republicans “received roughly the same share of the vote in richer and poorer counties.” Yet by 2016, the GOP “won almost twice the share of votes in the nation’s most destitute counties… than it won in the richest.”

And the Democrats? After their sweeping midterm victories, reported, they found themselves in control of each of the 10 wealthiest U.S. congressional districts — and 41 of the top 50.

Democrats still outperform Republicans among voters making under $50,000 a year, while Republicans still dominate the $100,000-plus crowd. Yet the gaps have narrowed since 2012, as Democrats have seemingly traded many white working class voters for more affluent ones.

It speaks to the power of Trump’s nativist scapegoating that he’s accomplished this working class coup even as the GOP has embraced its most overtly plutocratic agenda ever.

Thanks to Trump and the GOP, those blue collar Moraine workers now pay higher tax rates than Trump and his fellow billionaires. Republican lawmakers made millions off the corporate tax cuts they passed, while companies like GM took their tax cuts and laid off tens of thousands of workers anyway.

These are huge vulnerabilities. Yet to date, the most visible Democratic case against Trump has focused on comparatively arcane subjects like abusing aid packages to Ukraine — an issue that plays better in affluent suburbia than in lagging Montgomery County.

As Trump made clear in his speech, he will almost certainly try to get the Democrats’ left on trade and jobs — and cover his tracks with nativist nonsense — if they let him. They shouldn’t. With the Ukraine mess ignobly disposed of in a sham Senate trial, what progressives need is a multiracial, working class-led case against the administration’s policies.

That would be a “blue collar boom” to be proud of.



Bonus Video:

Wochit Business: “US Manufacturing Is Shrinking”

Impeach Trump for his Crimes against the People, not just Against the Bidens & Dems Tue, 01 Oct 2019 04:02:48 +0000 ( – Democrats need to take Trump’s crimes against people and the planet as seriously as those against Joe Biden.

“Has Trump finally gone too far?” There’s a headline you’ve seen a thousand times.

At last, Speaker Nancy Pelosi says he has. A whistleblower says Trump withheld foreign aid to Ukraine to pressure the country’s new president into investigating Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s past business there. Trump doesn’t even really deny it.

Pelosi has long resisted calls for impeachment, to the chagrin of more progressive lawmakers and activists. But the latest revelations finally brought a cavalcade of more centrist party figures around on the issue.

If true, of course, Trump’s conduct was patently corrupt. “If the president used his office to get a foreign government to investigate a political rival, with an eye toward undermining that rival, that’s a clear abuse of power that assaults the basic premises of American democracy,” explains The Nation’s John Nichols.

But I admit I’m puzzled — not about why Trump’s behavior here was bad, but why this was the offense that got so many reluctant Democrats to stick their neck out.

There’s been any number of earlier abuses — from the merely venal (like altering a hurricane forecast with a sharpie) to the unapologetically corrupt (like putting military officers in Trump hotels and charging taxpayers for vacations at his own properties).

I also recall there was something about Russia, a fired FBI director, and — oh right — that time he called Nazis who’d just beaten people and killed someone in Charlottesville “very fine people.”

At every juncture, and countless others, pundits wondered whether this was the last straw, only to have a fresh truckload delivered the next day. (In fact, the Trump campaign now makes a killing selling Trump-branded plastic straws, to trigger the sea turtles I guess.)

To me the Ukraine-Biden gambit looks like a lot of other things Trump has accustomed us to expect from him. Is there some deep reservoir of public affection for Biden or Ukraine that Democrats feel they can draw on to get their case across this time? It seems unlikely.

The fact that we’ve grown desensitized to such abuses could itself be the best reason to finally prosecute one. But truthfully, there are about a thousand other things I’d rather see lawmakers build a case around.

For instance, after taking buckets of fossil fuel money, the president rolled back power plant emissions limits, launched legal action against automakers who agreed to increase their fuel efficiency, and wants us out of the Paris climate agreement. He’s repeatedly censored government climate scientists to cover his tracks.

Is destroying the planet impeachable?

What about caging thousands of children, or continuing to separate them from their parents after a court ordered him to stop? Or openly violating U.S. and international law on the treatment of refugees? Or allegedly encouraging border officials to break the law, with the promise of pardons?

Speaking of attacking rivals, what about tweeting incendiary racist slanders against Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and other progressive women of color, all but openly encouraging extremist violence against them?

What about encouraging a foreign leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to block those members of Congress from an official visit to the top U.S. aid recipient?

Impeachment is as much a political tool as a legal one. If Democrats feel they need the Ukraine story as a legal hook to start the process, that’s one thing — but I hope they won’t forget to make a political case against these much more egregious abuses along the way.

Otherwise they risk sending the message that the worst thing a president can do isn’t to attack the people or the planet, but a fellow elite.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

CNN poll: Rising Republican support for impeaching Trump

It isn’t Just Trump: It is Washington DC out to get The Squad Mon, 22 Jul 2019 10:07:16 +0000 ( – You’ve heard the cliche: If you’re taking heat from “both sides,” you must be doing something right. It’s dubious advice, but it fits pretty well for “the Squad” — the progressive first-year Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.

Donald Trump recently tweeted that these four women of color “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” He accused them of “hating America” and urged them to “go back.”

Of course, all four are U.S. citizens, three were born here, and the only immigrant in the group — Omar — has lived here longer than the first lady. And, of course, that’s not the point. Trump “was not making a factual claim,” argues The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer. “He was stating his ideological belief… that only white people can truly be citizens.”

Democrats agreed — all the way up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who rightly called the comments “racist” and “disgusting,” and passed a resolution condemning Trump’s remarks.

Here’s the awkward part: Only days before, Pelosi was waging her own war against the Squad.
When the Squad opposed a Pelosi-backed measure funding Trump’s immigrant internment camps in exchange for paltry concessions, Pelosi ridiculed them as just “four people” living in a “Twitter world” — even though nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the administration’s border policies.

Earlier, Pelosi had ridiculed the Green New Deal — the most sweeping climate and industrial policy ever proposed, and a key priority for Ocasio-Cortez — as a “green dream or whatever,” and staffed a weak committee to study it with compliant, fossil fuel-funded allies.

Not long after, she led an abortive charge to slander Omar as anti-Semitic for criticizing the Israeli government. (After significant pushback, Pelosi changed her tune.)

“This isn’t about America’s welfare or Omar’s qualifications,” wrote Dina Nayeri, herself a refugee, after Trump’s attack on Omar. Instead, Trump and his allies “see Omar’s potential and are desperate to clip her wings.”

Might the same be said of the Democratic leadership?

Through their passionate advocacy of popular causes, these women have gained massive social media followings — the freshman Ocasio-Cortez has over 2 million more Twitter followers than the veteran legislator Pelosi. They’re running to Pelosi’s left, and making an impact doing it.

Medicare for All, student debt cancellation, tuition-free college, and a Green New Deal — all policies members of the Squad have championed — are enormously popular with the public, though Trump and Pelosi, for different reasons, have resisted them.

The women used Trump’s attack to pivot back to those issues. Don’t “take the bait,” said Pressley. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern, and consequence to the American people.”

“We love all people in this country,” said Ocasio-Cortez, explaining their support for universal health care and education. Trump, Omar added by contrast, is “keeping children in cages and having human beings drinking out of toilets.”

They concluded by calling for impeachment — another move both Trump and Pelosi, again for different reasons, have resisted.

“I represent the third-poorest congressional district in this country, one that is made up of working people, who have been targeted by this administration,” said Tlaib, who comes from Detroit. “I urge House leadership… to take action to impeach this lawless president today.”

Pelosi and Trump are, of course, not the same, and Trump’s attack was far more vile. But both appear to feel threatened by the Squad’s progressive, movement-driven politics.

Unlike Trump, Pelosi could still embrace the energy these women have brought to her party. Whatever she does, I’d urge everyone else to turn off the cable news and listen to the Squad themselves. If you don’t like the way business normally gets done in Washington, you might like what you hear.