US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an interview yesterday to the Washington Post. I want to respond to her answers since I think they demonstrate much about the (corporate) Democrats as a party and Mrs. Pelosi herself as Speaker.
She first spoke of public sentiment as her guiding principle as Speaker, citing the line from Mr. Lincoln ‘With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed’. So, Madame Speaker, you will be implementing Medicare4All, tuition-free university, a living wage and be bringing an end to the costly and unnecessary wars? All of these issues have massive public support, so you will be doing that? No. None of these things is on the agenda despite their immense popularity. And why would they be? After all, that way lies long-term electoral success. Who wants that?
To their credit, certain Democrats in the House, including AOC, have used the power of oversight to gain vital information about President Trump and his alleged crooked financial dealings. We saw this during the Michael Cohen testimony. Going after Trump on financial dealings, including money laundering as well as tax and insurance fraud, may seem equivalent to getting Al Capone on tax fraud. My response to that is simple: it worked, did it not? How you get the criminal does not matter, only that you get them.
The Interview, Part One: The Agenda
Returning to Mrs. Pelosi, asked what her and her party’s agenda was now that they were back in the majority, she responded
Lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks, building the infrastructure of America, cleaner government. We have H.R. 1 on the floor, and in the first 100 days we will have had introductions, hearings, markups or floor action on everything in our agenda: lowering health-care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, building infrastructure, bigger paychecks
Let us partially unscramble the political speak here. Lower health-care costs (along with better access to care) is code for maintaining the Affordable Care Act passed under Mr. Obama. This was originally a right wing idea. Indeed, this was the conservative response to Clinton Care, an original Democratic plan for universal coverage. As for HR1, this sounds good, even if, in typical legal fashion, it has the clarity of mud.
Turning now to lowering prescription drug prices, this is a good idea. A common approach is the proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders to import cheaper drugs from Canada. The true shame is that in the past, Democrats (including Presidential candidate Cory Booker) have not supported it. Worse, the argument that was used against it was that the imported drugs would not pass FDA regulations and so their safety was not assured.
Ok, ignore the fact that regulations in Canada are more stringent than the US. Focus on the fact that, as the Intercept pointed out, drugs sold in Canada were often originally created in the US. They surely met FDA standards then. Sending a product to Canada does not remove its FDA rating. Thus, the Democrats do not have a good record on this issue, and Presidential candidates trying to turn over a new leaf should have their claims put under a microscope.
The Interview, Part Two: The Political Climate
Asked about the current political climate in Washington, Mrs. Pelosi responded as follows
We have a very serious challenge to the Constitution of the United States in the president’s unconstitutional assault on the Constitution, on the first branch of government, the legislative branch. … This is very serious for our country. So in terms of divisiveness…this is probably the most divisive and serious.
Like so much political speak, those are words, and they follow each other, but their meaning is not clear. Unconstitutional assault on the Constitution? Even her attempt at clarification is vague, defining her terms as Trump’s assault on the legislative branch. With respect, Madame Speaker, the legislative branch is subject to far more popular oversight (the house is up for election every two years) than, say, the Supreme Court. Trump’s assault on the judiciary, both through his attacks on judges that rule against him as well as this appointments to the Supreme Court, has far wider implications.
The Interview, Part Three: Vacuousness is Not Vision
For my next comment, I want to focus on Mrs. Pelosi’s remarks about the 2020 election. Naturally, she seeks Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House. Fair enough. But her reasons for ousting Trump are so vacuous. She says
Not to diminish the importance of the others [previous elections], but because of the actions taken by the person in the White House, disregarding the Constitution of the United States, disregarding our commitments to the world in terms of our commitment to NATO, to Paris climate, to our values
If I hear one more corporate Democrat use the phrase ‘our values’ without explaining, in precise terms, what that means, there will be an incident. Note, too, that she never explains what it is that Trump has done that violates the US Constitution. All she and her colleagues have to do is say what Trump has done. Whether it is emoluments, witness tampering, obstruction or whatever. I do not care. But you must define your terms, if for no other reason than to short circuit the charge that your criticism of Trump actually is ‘orange man bad’.
The right was accused for a long time of having Obama Derangement Syndrome, the idea that their disagreement was not policy based (how could it be, he was a right-winger in many respects) but based rather on a visceral, personal hatred of Mr. Obama. Try to avoid looking as crazy as the other guys, Madame Speaker.
This is a long interview, so more of The Speaker next time.
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