Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion beyond the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we prove it every week. Julie Roginskya democrat and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who worked on opposing teams their entire careers but remained friends throughout. Here they discuss the week’s events with Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.
Q. President Biden’s approval rating has increased 5 points over the past five weeks to an average of 42%. And Cook’s policy report now says Republican control of the House next year remains likely but is “no longer a foregone conclusion”. What do you think of these changes?
Mike: Democrats shouldn’t throw a party for those Jobs approval numbers. President Obama’s approval rating was actually one point higher before the historic midterm losses of 2010, and Trump’s ratings were similar, by about 40%, before the Republicans were beaten in 2018. Numbers that aren’t as awful as they once were aren’t the same be good.
Julia: This election, like all midterm elections, should have been a referendum on the president. Instead, Republicans foolishly made it a choice. It’s not even a question of politics anymore; instead, it’s about Republican overreaching. The question is whether to elect extremist candidates under the influence of an unbalanced, potentially criminal authoritarian. It is about whether to elect extremist candidates who want to control the bodies of women and even young girls. It’s about whether to elect extremists who are open to subverting our democracy. And because elections are also always about economics, stupid, it’s now a contest between a party that talks at least about improving the lives of ordinary people economically and a party that only talks about knowing if Trump was mocked by the feds, which isn’t putting food on anyone’s table. Biden who?
Q. In a court filing on Tuesday, the Justice Department revealed new evidence that former President Trump may have obstructed justice, showing photos of top-secret documents found in his office at Mar-a-Lago during the search of August 8, despite written assurances. all classified documents had been returned. What’s the over-under on the criminal charges down the road?
Mike: The more it comes out, the worse Trump looks. At best it seems negligent and selfish, at worst it is criminal, and we have seen lesser cases of negligent or intentional mishandling of classified material being criminally punished.
Julia: Every time Trump and his lawyers open their mouths, I suspect the nation’s criminal defense attorneys begin to quiver in unison. I can’t claim to read Merrick Garland’s mind, so I have no idea if indicting a former president is something he’ll end up doing. But to be clear, if it was anyone else on earth, it would have been swept away long ago.
Q. Senator Lindsey Graham, on Fox News Sunday night, predicted “rioting in the streets” if criminal charges are filed against Trump for his mishandling of these secret documents, and seemed to justify it by saying, “When he it’s about Trump, there is no law. It’s all about having it. Has Graham crossed a line?
Mike: Senator McCain has to look down, shaking his head at his old friend Senator Graham. I expected more from Senator Graham, wrongly, I suppose. He was a vocal critic in the 2016 primary, but he capitulated as much or more than anyone when he saw Trump’s support. I don’t think he’s trying to justify violence, though; I think he predicts what might happen. We have seen violence from Trump supporters before. This is a bullying tactic against the Department of Justice, and I hope it will behave impartially, regardless of political pressure from both sides.
Julia: I agree that when it comes to Trump, there is definitely no law; at least so far. Because if it was anyone else, that person would have been charged long ago for breaking myriad laws dating back years.
Q. Governor Phil Murphy has so far refused to join California in its new rule that bans the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, even as Washington and Massachusetts have signed on. This comes on top of his support for a major expansion of the toll road to the Holland Tunnel, a plan that environmentalists vehemently oppose. Is the governor going easy on the fight against climate change?
Mike: What? Are you serious? I don’t often/never agree with Governor Murphy when it comes to energy policy, but he’s been a strong ally to the environmental community, which, by the way, will never be satisfied and likes to call on anyone who’s not are not with them 100% of the sweet time. You can never be pragmatic and always satisfy them. And does anyone really think we should follow California and Massachusetts when it comes to energy? Their electricity rates are among the highest in the country. California has brownouts every summer. Boston is proposing to ban gas hookups, but only 7% of their electricity comes from wind and solar. seven%! This is wishful thinking disguised as politics. If there aren’t gas-powered cars in California in 13 years, people won’t be driving Teslas, they’ll be driving Fred Flintstone cars using their feet as brakes.
Julia: Pragmatically, the California economy makes New Jersey look like a pikeman. If California bans gas-powered cars by 2035, automakers will stop making them because the California market is simply too big to ignore. The biggest worry for Governor Murphy isn’t the kind of cars we drive, it’s that the Gateway Tunnel won’t be ready by 2035 and closing the existing rail tunnel before that, as the Feds has long threatened to do so, will put hundreds more cars on the road. Not only is this terrible for the environment, but commuters will also be hit hard by the impending congestion pricing in New York. This will ultimately be a future governor’s problem, but the right thing for that governor to do would be to start focusing on this now.
Q. A disheartening new report from the federal government has shown steep learning losses during the pandemic among 9-year-olds in reading and math, wiping out two decades of progress, with the greatest loss among disadvantaged children. Was it inevitable, or did we do something terribly wrong?
Mike: The mistake did not occur in the early days of the pandemic, when virtually all schools closed for the final months of the 2020 school year. The tragedy was the loss of the 2020-21 school year for so many people. One way or another, most private schools have figured out how to return to in-person school in the fall. Yes, some things were different. Some activities have been cancelled. Students, faculty and staff wore masks. Children didn’t interact as much in large groups. But they were back – in person. It was six months into the pandemic. Some public schools found a way to return in person that year, even in a limited or hybrid way, but many didn’t at all. Some states were much more aggressive. In some districts, children were absent most of the school year, and this was an example of how the interests of adults come before the needs of children.
Julia: The difference between private schools and so many public schools is that the private schools had the physical infrastructure to stay open. Some of our public schools have no ventilation and children learn in antiquated facilities. Meanwhile, the state is doing little to prepare for the next pandemic, when poorer children will once again be forced to learn remotely, even if they don’t have internet access. This should require a whole-of-government approach and a concerted effort from all stakeholders, but sadly that is not happening either.
Q. Finally, the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. He is a hero in the West for ending the Cold War and bringing new freedom to Russia. But he had no intention of breaking up the Soviet Union, individual freedoms were mostly lost under Vladimir Putin and he supported the 2014 invasion of Crimea. What is his legacy?
Mike: Julie will have a much more informed answer, but her legacy for most in America will be the end of the Cold War. Growing up, we lived under the threat of nuclear war, and fallout shelter signs were visible in every school and public building. The threat of nuclear war hung over the world for 40 years until Gorbachev and Reagan brokered a peace. The Soviet Union was on the brink of collapse, so perhaps he had little choice, but Gorbachev helped bring about even a temporary peace between two major superpowers that had nukes pointed at them. to each other for decades. His smile as he shakes hands with Reagan is a watershed moment in world history, and is how he will be most remembered in the West.
Julia: Gorbachev was neither the hero the West considers him to be, nor the loser the Russians consider him to be. By the time he came to power, the Soviet economy had been in negative GDP for a decade, the cost of supporting the Eastern Bloc was too much to bear, and the war in Afghanistan was further draining the treasury. He had no choice but to deal with Reagan on an arms control treaty because there was no money to continue participating in the nuclear arms race. In the end, however, he was still a product of the Soviet Union: unable to imagine an economic system where perestroika could work effectively, unable to imagine that giving people a little glasnost would lead to a pent-up torrent of freedom of expression enough to overthrow the regime, unable to peacefully let dissidents and even Soviet republics leave the USSR until his hand was finally forced by others. That said, he was like John Locke to Putin and for a time led a nation that didn’t feel compelled to be in constant opposition to democratic ideals.
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