Celebrating a long-term accomplishment!
August 15, 2022
[No audio version today due to limited internet access.]
The House passed the Inflation Reduction Act last Friday, and the bill is headed to President Biden’s desk for signature this week. As Biden said to Obama when the Affordable Care Act passed, “This a big deal.” (That is the PG version of Biden’s comment.) The passage of the IRA by the House was anti-climactic because the House stood ready to pass any bill that could make it through the Senate. Although the bill fell far short of the original targets by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, not a single member dissented. The Act is truly a “big fantastic deal,” and Americans should celebrate when Biden signs the legislation into law later this week.
Despite the unanimous support for the bill by congressional Democrats and the landmark nature of its achievements, parts of the bill remain controversial—especially efforts to fight the climate crisis. Climate activists should not allow that controversy to spoil the victory for Democrats, nor should Democrats brush off the legitimate criticisms by climate activists. Both sides make valid points: The bill is the most significant investment in the climate crisis ever, and that investment came with steep concessions to the fossil fuel industry. The bottom line is that the legislation may help reduce carbon emissions in the US by 40% in the next decade. Commit that fact to memory and use it whenever necessary!
Daniel Sherrell of The Guardian encapsulated the feelings of victory and frustration the bill provoked among climate activists. Sherrell’s essay takes a measured view of both sides of the controversy and arrives at the correct resolution of the tension: The Inflation Reduction Action is a great accomplishment, but it must be only the beginning. See The Guardian, The Democrats’ climate bill is a historic victory. But we can’t stop here.
It was gratifying to learn that the “presumed dead” Build Back Better bill was resuscitated by young staffers in Chuck Schumer’s office who refused to take “no” for an answer. Sherrell lists the groups that deserve credit:
Thank Senator Chuck Schumer, sure, but also thank the staffers who sat in his office, demanding he restart negotiations on a bill most of Capitol Hill had left for dead. Thank President Biden, but also thank the legions of young people who transformed the mainstream Democratic consensus and forced the climate crisis to the top of his policy agenda. Thank the organizers, scientists, wonks and artists who have labored for decades to create the political conditions under which this bill could be passed. Thank the people who put their bodies on the line to block new fossil fuel infrastructure – without their grassroots embargo of the Mountain Valley pipeline, for instance, Schumer might not have had the leverage to finally coax Manchin on board.
In other words, although the Inflation Reduction Act seemed to come out of nowhere at the last minute, it resulted from decades of toil by people who refused to give up on the planet. Bless them all! There is a lesson in the improbable success of the Inflation Reduction Act: Even when our actions seem futile in the moment, our defeated efforts add to the duff of the forest floor to become fertile soil for future endeavors. Every effort is worthy, without regard to its immediate success or failure. The Inflation Reduction Act is testament to that fact.
Despite Sherrell’s disappointment in the failures of the Inflation Reduction Act, she cites respected climate activist Daniel Hunter, who said,
Who will want to join … if it’s all sadness and misery? Who will acknowledge our contributions if we fail to name them ourselves?”
Sherrell concludes, “Cynicism, in other words, does not build power – only hope can do that.”
Of course, the IRA is about more than climate, but let’s leave those additional accomplishments for later this week. Tonight, let’s celebrate the hard-won, long-fought partial victory that lights the path forward.
The FBI seizure of stolen documents from Mar-a-Lago.
Trump is howling that he is being persecuted for removing defense secrets from the White House. A reader posted a comment that included a helpful thought experiment to evaluate Trump’s claims. Imagine that instead of Trump, a senior White House staffer who had legal access to defense secrets took classified documents to his private residence after he left the federal government’s employ. The FBI receives a tip that the employee has removed defense secrets to his home, obtains a warrant, and seizes the documents. What would happen to the employee? Answer: He would be led away in handcuffs and allowed to explain his actions from a jail cell.
Trump was not led away in handcuffs from Mar-a-Lago because he is a former president and has been shown extreme deference he does not deserve. That has not stopped him from issuing increasingly bizarre explanations and threats as he tries to find a defense that is not simultaneously pathetic, dangerous, and risible.
The issues surrounding the search are complicated, and Trump is attempting to leverage that complexity to create confusion. He is succeeding among right-wing media, but is largely failing elsewhere. An “explainer” by Charlie Savage in the NYTimes will answer all of your questions (and demonstrate the illogic of Trump’s defenses). See NYTimes, Presidential Power to Declassify Information, Explained.
Here is the most important point in Savage’s essay: The “classified status” of the documents taken by Trump is irrelevant to the potential crimes committed by removing and mishandling defense secrets. To repeat, it does not matter to Trump’s criminal liability whether the documents were classified. Every defense raised by Trump regarding classification is a smokescreen—including the notion that Trump “deemed” documents declassified whenever he moved them from the Oval Office to the White House residential quarters.
The notion that Trump issued a “standing order” regarding declassification is an easily refuted lie. Moreover, as an expert noted in Savage’s article (above), it is an “incoherent statement” to say that documents were “deemed declassified” because no one else in the administration would be on notice of the declassification—thereby defeating the very purpose of the classification system. The claim is a fiction and an absurdity fabricated by inexperienced lawyers advising Trump, who may have lied to the FBI and are now trying to cover their own criminal exposure.
Congressional Republicans have now shifted tactics and are demanding congressional “oversight” of an ongoing DOJ investigation—because they know that will never happen! See Reuters, FBI seized top secret documents at Trump’s home; Espionage Act cited. The intelligence community may provide Congress with a damage assessment of the improper removal and storage of defense secrets—which is different than explaining the DOJ’s justification for obtaining the search warrant.
The reckless statements by congressional Republicans continue to endanger the lives of FBI and DOJ agents and employees. See Business Insider, Mar-a-Lago Raid: Armed Trump Supporters Protest at Phoenix FBI Office. Republicans must not only tone down their inflammatory rhetoric, but they must also actively discourage violence and armed protests against the nation’s law enforcement agencies.
The situation surrounding the search of Mar-a-Lago will continue to incite strong sentiments on all sides. Still, Trump’s ludicrous explanations and rationalizations are causing elected GOP officials to take a half-step back as they wait to see how bad it will get. And with Trump, it is always worse than we imagined.
For the moment, Democrats should be content to allow the wheels of justice to grind away. Trump has been knocked back and is scrambling. The next move is with the DOJ and FBI. Someone helped Trump move and conceal defense secrets. Those conspirators should be next up on the FBI’s search list. The momentum is on the side of justice and accountability, at long last. Let’s hope that Merrick Garland keeps it that way!
As you read this note, my wife and I are celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary with a three-day “mini-vacation.” Everything I am, I owe to her. We met when we were only six years old (in the first grade) and have been lifelong companions ever since. It has been a wonderful journey, and we wouldn’t change a thing. So, instead of an inspiring statement to all of you, I will simply say that I am inspired and sustained every day by my wonderful wife! This newsletter exists only because of her unwavering support, generosity of spirit, and wise counsel. The next two newsletters may be shorter than usual as we mark another milestone in our lives. Thanks for your understanding!
Talk to you tomorrow!