Archive | American Politics

Details of U.S.-Mexico trade deal won’t be released so that Canada has more time

Posted on 03 October 2018 by admin

The text of the Trump administration’s trade agreement with Mexico is due to be released on Friday, launching a contentious U.S. approval process as pressure mounts on Canada to join its partners in revamping the NAFTA pact.

Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo was scheduled to present the text of the Aug. 27 agreement, which aims to rebalance auto trade and modernize parts of NAFTA, to Mexico’s Senate at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT), Mexican government and Senate sources said.

Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal said on Twitter the text will be released simultaneously in Mexico and the United States.

A Trump administration official and U.S. congressional aides said it would be released on Friday, but a spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer declined to comment on the timing.

U.S. lawmakers briefed by Lighthizer on Thursday said they expected the text to largely exclude language related to Canada, a key U.S. trading partner and the third member of NAFTA, which underpins $1.2 trillion in trade between the three nations.

They expressed hope Canada would join in a trilateral trade deal, but were not optimistic it would happen quickly. Several weeks of U.S.-Canada talks in Washington have failed to overcome divisions over dairy trade and how to settle future disputes.

Some U.S. Democratic lawmakers said they could not support a NAFTA deal without Canada.

“Canada is exceptionally important. I think it would be malpractice, both for economic and political reasons, not to have a major agreement with Canada,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the tax and trade Senate Finance Committee.

“I think leaving Canada out of a new deal amounts to the Trump administration surrendering on fixing NAFTA.” Wyden is from Oregon, a state that trades more with Canada than Mexico.

President Donald Trump, a Republican who blames the 1994 NAFTA pact for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, trumpeted the deal with Mexico as a win for Americans and threatened to close the door on Canada if it did not sign on by Sept. 30.

Trump also floated slapping auto tariffs on Canada, a move that could sow disarray in supply chains, take the wind out of the sails of a resurgent Canadian economy and rattle investors already unnerved by an escalating U.S.-China trade war.

Canada’s Liberal government says it does not feel bound by the latest NAFTA deadline, and it repeated on Friday that it would not bow to U.S. pressure to sign a quick deal.

“We are in a very tough negotiation with the United States over NAFTA … there is no deadline on this. As far as we are concerned we want a deal that is good for Canadians and that’s the bottom line,” Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters in Ottawa.

The text of the U.S.-Mexico deal needs to be published by late Sunday night – 60 days ahead of a Nov. 30 deadline for Trump and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign the deal before a new Mexican president takes office on Dec. 1.

It will flesh out an agreement in principle that aims to rebalance automotive trade between the two countries and update NAFTA with new chapters on digital trade and stronger labor and environmental standards.

It is expected to conform to details previously released on tighter auto rules requiring an increase in regional value content to 75 percent from 62.5 percent previously, with 40 percent to 45 percent coming from “high wage” areas, effectively the United States.

Auto industry executives say it is unlikely those targets can be met if Canada is not part of the deal, given supply chains that crisscross NAFTA borders multiple times.

Details also are expected on a side-letter that preserves the Trump administration’s ability to impose global national security tariffs on imports of autos and auto parts, granting Mexico a quota for tariff-free exports to the United States that allows some expansion of production.

And more light is likely to be shed on the enforcement of new labor standards and trade dispute settlement arrangements. The United States has said Mexico agreed to eliminate a system of settlement panels to arbitrate disputes over anti-dumping and anti-dumping tariffs.

But a Mexican source close to the talks said the United States had in turn agreed to drop a demand for tariffs to protect U.S. seasonal produce growers.

Mexico also secured an exemption from U.S. “global safeguard” tariffs such as those imposed in January on washing machines and solar panels, the source said. Mexican-made products were hit by those actions, which were aimed at protecting U.S. producers from import surges.

The release of the trade deal text starts a months-long process for U.S. congressional approval that will require a lengthy analysis by the independent U.S. international Trade Commission and notification periods before an up-or-down vote.

Lawmakers briefed by Lighthizer said he told them the earliest a vote could occur, either on a U.S.-Mexico deal or a trilateral deal including Canada, would be February or March 2019, after the U.S. Congress elected in November is sworn in.

Democrats could significantly strengthen their ranks in the November elections or even take control of the House of Representatives, which would put them in a position to potentially block parts of Trump’s agenda.

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The end of NAFTA? What the U.S.-Mexico trade deal means for Canada

Posted on 07 September 2018 by admin

There was a time when Mexico was seeking reassurances from Canada about not being excluded from the NAFTA renegotiations prompted by the United States.

On Monday, though, it was the U.S. and Mexico that announced a deal to change the 25-year old trade pact, with Canada pressured to sign on by Friday.

And the message to Ottawa from U.S. President Donald Trump was clear: Take it or leave it.

“We’re starting negotiations with Canada pretty much immediately,” Trump said. However, he added, the Canadian economy is “a smaller segment, Mexico is a very large trading partner.”

Throughout the press conference, the U.S. president portrayed the new agreement as a bilateral trade deal, in which Canada might or might not be included.

“They used to call it NAFTA. We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement. We’ll get rid of the name NAFTA,” Trump told reporters, adding that the name had a “bad connotation.”

The White House is telling Canada to “sign on the dotted line,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC Capital Markets, told Global News.

But it isn’t entirely clear, yet, what Ottawa would be agreeing to.

 “I think the reality is that we’re still likely to end up with a three-way deal,” Shenfeld told Global News.

And that means there would still be a North American free trade agreement, whatever the U.S. president wants to call it.

Details on what the U.S.-Mexican deal contains are scant, but media leaks indicate the two have agreed to raise the threshold for North American auto content in NAFTA vehicles to 75 per cent, up from the current level of 62.5 per cent. Also, the new pact would require 40 per cent to 45 per cent of auto content to be made by workers earning at least US$16 per hour, something that would reduce Mexico’s ability to attract manufacturers based on US$4 an-hour wages.

For Ottawa, “it will either be a tariff on cars or a negotiated deal,” Trump said. The White House has previously threatened to impose tariffs of 25 per cent on imports of cars, trucks and auto parts from foreign countries, including Canada.

But the auto sector is unlikely to be a sticking point for Canada, which wouldn’t be affected by the wage provisions and appeared open to higher auto content rules in the past, Shenfeld said.

The U.S.-Mexico pact is also said to include a compromise on what had been a key point of friction between Ottawa and Washington: The U.S. demand for a sunset clause that would force the renegotiation of the deal every five years.

Instead, the deal will come up for review every six years, with the potential for expiration after 16 years.

Less is known, however, about what the U.S.-Mexico pact says on a number of other issues that have proven to be “poison pills” for the Canada-U.S. negotiations, said Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

These include U.S. demands to curtail Canada’s and Mexico’s ability to bid for U.S. government contracts and to scrap dispute-resolution provisions. Mexico agreed to eliminate dispute settlement panels for certain anti-dumping cases, a move that could complicate talks with Canada.

However, it is Ottawa’s treatment of dairy products that will likely be the biggest issue for Canadian and U.S. negotiators, Sands predicted.

Canada’s supply management system, which sets production quotas and prices for domestic dairy products while imposing steep tariffs on imports, was very much on President Trump’s mind on Monday.

“You know, they have the tariffs of almost 300 per cent on some of our dairy products,” Trump said referring to Canada.

At the start of the negotiations, “the U.S. assumed, wrongly, that because [former Prime Minister Stephen] Harper was willing to make concessions on [supply management] for the [Trans-Pacific Partnership] TPP talks, this government would be willing to do the same,” Sands said.

But supply management is a much bigger issue for Trudeau’s political base, Sands added.

Still, Canada could perhaps get a deal and preserve supply management if it is willing to accept the rest of the U.S.-Mexico pact, he noted.

If Canada doesn’t add its signature to the agreement inked by Washington and Mexico City, it will likely negotiate a separate bilateral deal with the U.S., Sands said.

This now appears a concrete possibility, as the U.S. administration has been signalling since April that is has a strong preference for bilateral over multilateral deals. Negotiating one-on-one with other countries gives the U.S. greater leverage, Sands noted.

The end result could be one U.S.-Mexico deal, one Canada-U.S. deal and one agreement between Canada and Mexico that would be based on whatever is left on NAFTA, Sands said. This could considerably complicate the trade rules governing North American trade and possibly create an incentive for some businesses to relocate to the U.S., he added.

“The more complex and North America-based your supply chain, the more you are vulnerable,” Sands said.

Manufacturing companies in the auto sector and aerospace industry would likely be among those feeling the biggest impact, he noted.

The U.S. has said it hopes to conclude negotiations with Canada by Friday in order to give the U.S. Congress the required 90 days to review the deal and allow outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to sign it before leaving office on Dec. 1.

The text of the pact itself won’t be made publicly available until 30 days from today, Sands said, another element that puts the Trudeau government in a tough negotiating spot.

But Ottawa might be able to extend its negotiating window and still sign on to a three-way deal with a little help from Mexico, Sands said.

Speaking with President Trump’s speakerphone in the Oval Office, President Pena Nieto repeatedly stressed the importance of keeping Canada in the pact.

If his successor, president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is equally keen on including Ottawa in the deal, he might be able to keep the window open for Canada a little longer, Sands said.

It’s Canada’s turn now, it seems, to seek reassurances from Mexico.

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Donald Trump: ‘Canada must wait’ on trade deal, but Mexican one is coming nicely

Posted on 15 August 2018 by admin

Canada would have to wait on a trade deal due to “tariffs and trade barriers” but the U.S. is making progress with Mexico, President Donald Trump tweeted Friday night.

“Deal with Mexico is coming along nicely. Autoworkers and farmers must be taken care of or there will be no deal. New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman,” tweet.

Trump appeared to be referring to efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada in his tweet from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

He added that any deal with Mexico must take care of American autoworkers and farmers, but he praised the new Mexican president, calling him “an absolute gentleman.”

“Canada must wait. Their Tariffs and Trade Barriers are far too high. Will tax cars if we can’t make a deal!” the president continued, likely referencing the trade spat between Canada and the U.S. that resulted in new tariffs being placed on American imports to the Great White North in July.

Trump went on to warn that he would tax Canadian auto exports if Washington and Ottawa could not arrive at a deal.

The Trump administration angered the Canadian government after its decision to place tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel exports earlier this year, despite protests from both within the GOP and among Democrats.

In response, Canadian officials announced “dollar for dollar” retaliatory tariffs, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called them at the time, to the tune of over C$16 billion in U.S. imports.

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While U.S. waters down auto emissions rules, Canada set to launch review of its own this week

Posted on 08 August 2018 by admin

 Canada will review the joint vehicle emissions standards it has with the United States before it decides what to do about the U.S.’s plan to weaken those standards in the coming years.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will unveil a discussion paper as early as Tuesday to kick start that review, just days after the White House announced it is going to cancel the required annual increases in emissions standards after 2021.

Canada and the U.S. have been aligned on vehicle emissions for more than two decades. Unless Canada scraps the existing regulations and writes its own, which could take at least two years, this country will automatically follow the American plan.

That plan, agreed to in 2012 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, was to compel automakers to make vehicles more fuel efficient each model year between 2017 and 2025.

President Donald Trump, however, is now going to freeze the standards as of 2021.

A spokeswoman for McKenna said the review was planned when the regulations were adopted, not as a result of the Trump move last week. Caroline Theriault said Canada will look at both environmental and economic impacts in that review and complete it before any decisions are made on how to proceed.

“We are paying close attention to the U.S. mid-term review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards and to the actions of California and other like-minded U.S. states” she said.

Canadian automakers don’t want Ottawa to make any final decisions on regulations here until it’s clear what will happen in the United States.

At least 19 state attorneys plan to sue the U.S. government over the rollbacks, including the White House’s goal to eliminate a federal legal waiver that allows states to set standards stricter than the national ones.

“The reality is because we have always followed what the U.S. has done it makes sense to see what comes out of the other end of the U.S. regulatory review process,” said David Adams, president of Global Automakers of Canada.

His group represents 15 automakers which sell cars in Canada and will be part of the review process.

Among the variables the government needs to explore, Adams said, are whether consumers have behaved the way government and industry expected when the regulations were set, and whether fuel-efficiency technology has been adopted as expected.

 “Right now, we’re finding the market is dramatically different than we maybe anticipated when the standards were first set,” said Adams.

The biggest change has been the uptick in demand for pickup trucks and SUVs compared to cars.

Trucks and SUVs now account for more than two-thirds of auto sales in Canada.

Light-duty gasoline vehicles accounted for about 11 per cent of Canada’s entire greenhouse gas footprint in 2016, the most recent year for which emissions data is available, an increase of about four per cent over the previous decade.

Canada’s aim to cut emissions to be at least 30 per cent less than they were in 2005 by 2030 requires road transportation to play its part.

If Canada remains aligned with the U.S. on vehicle emissions and the U.S. does halt further improvements after 2021, the International Council on Clean Transportation last week projected it will add 10 million tonnes to the annual emissions of cars and trucks by 2030, compared to where they would be with the existing standards.

Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, said the U.S. move has introduced a lot of uncertainty for automakers and for Canada, with a multi-year legal battle over the Trump plan expected.

Woynillowicz said automakers plan six or seven years ahead and are already preparing for the existing standards so it may be the best business policy for them to proceed as planned no matter what the U.S. does.

Electric vehicles also add a variable to the mix, with consumer demand for hybrid and zero-emission vehicles increasing each year.

Canada plans to unveil a zero-emission vehicles strategy sometime this year and Woynillowicz said the American emissions standards situation may end up affecting that plan.

Adams said the industry is committed to making cleaner cars and knows electric zero-emission vehicles will eventually be the whole picture.

“It’s reasonably clear now the future of the industry is decarbonization,” said Adams. “It’s just a question of how quickly we go down that path.”


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Donald Trump Cabinet Roundup: How Rich, How Conservative, How Canada-Friendly

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has now named most of his cabinet picks, including the senior positions. Here’s what the next U.S. administration looks like:

—Quite conservative

Trump is only occasionally a conservative. Some members of his team are true believers.

His proposed education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, promotes alternatives to public schools. Conservative favourite Ben Carson would lead housing and urban policy. His pick for energy secretary, Rick Perry, once proposed eliminating his future department. A climate-change skeptic will be leading climate policy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The labour secretary studied replacing human workers with robots, and fought minimum-wage increases, as a restaurant-chain owner. The pick for health secretary, Tom Price, has advocated a more laissez-faire approach than Obamacare.

The attorney general choice, Jeff Sessions, has fought against the trend of relaxing drug penalties. He recently said this about marijuana: “It is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about … good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

The vice-president-elect, Mike Pence, once supported federal funding for gay-conversion therapy — though he’s never called for it. Trump, himself, has suggested he’ll appoint pro-life judges.

—A generals’ club

Trump says he’s fond of senior military figures. It shows in his picks. Michael Flynn will be his national security adviser. His defence pick is James Mattis, a blunt-talking, well-regarded, well-read retired Marine. Retired general John Kelly is his choice for Homeland Security secretary.

Kelly appeared at the Halifax Security Forum in 2014. In a panel discussion, he accurately predicted that the so-called Islamic State would begin to suffer reversals once it tried holding territory, and was drawn into traditional combat.

But he added that the group would learn, and adopt new techniques.

“Warfare is first and foremost an intellectual activity,” Kelly told that audience in Canada.

“You learn from the people you’re fighting … It’s chess.”

—Very rich

The Washington Post began a story noting that George W. Bush’s cabinet was called the team of millionaires, then added: “Combined, that group had (a) … net worth of about $250 million — which is roughly one-10th the wealth of Donald Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary alone.”T

That’s Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor. Cabinet picks includes heirs to the Ameritrade and Amway fortunes, one of whom, Todd Ricketts, also owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

The transportation pick is a member of the U.S.’s 39th-richest family, according to Forbes. The labour secretary is restaurant chain owner Andy Puzder. The next Treasury secretary is a relative pauper, compared to some of these people. Hedge-fund manager Steve Mnuchin is reportedly worth a mere $40 million.

“Almost no one going into this administration … isn’t making an economic sacrifice, big-time, in order to do so,” Ross told CNN. “We want to give back and help the country.”

—Not devoid of Democrats

Not everyone is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. The commerce pick, Ross, used to be a Democrat and donated in the 1990s to Bill Clinton and senators Ted Kennedy and Sam Nunn. He flipped to the Republicans in the early 2000s, and generally favours deregulation. The former general, Flynn, also was a Democrat.

In fact, much of Trump’s family fits that description. Politico reports his daughter, Ivanka, intends to play a First Lady-like role and champion climate change causes, after already having pushed her father to announce plans for a parental-leave program.

—Loyalists and outsiders

The top White House staffers will be fellow travellers from Trump’s campaign — Republican chair Reince Priebus and strategist Steve Bannon. The commerce secretary, Ross, wrote Trump’s anti-NAFTA trade platform.

The picks for treasury, attorney general, and national security adviser are all early Trump supporters.

However, Trump has gone outside the tent.

Secretary of state pick Rex Tillerson was a surprise choice. Perry was an early Trump critic. He’s appointed another ex-critic, Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, as UN ambassador.

—Open to racial controversies

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Sessions will certainly be asked about his last confirmation hearing. The chamber refused to make him a federal judge three decades ago because of remarks about blacks, including one possible joke about supporting the Ku Klux Klan. He’s a foe of undocumented immigrants, and supports voter-ID and prison policies that disproportionately affect blacks.

Flynn has often made disparaging remarks about Islam.

The Canadian angle

A binational business lobby group says Canada has gotten a good draw. Scotty Greenwood of the Canadian American Business Council says the cabinet is stacked with people with productive ties to Canada.

People with military and business backgrounds deal often with Canada — more than most career politicians, she said.

“Military people — more than almost anyone — really love Canada … If I had to pick a category of (Americans) who love Canada the most: generals,” she said.

“The second most: business people.”

Businessman Ross wants to revamp NAFTA, although it’s unclear how Canada fits into that. Haley’s parents lived briefly in Canada, upon moving from India. Tillerson runs Exxon Mobil, has addressed Alberta’s Spruce Meadows club, and, according to former U.S. ambassador Gary Doer, he expresses pride in his company’s considerable oil investments in Canada.

As noted, Kelly has attended the Halifax Security Forum.

The Russian connection

Trump’s team also has close ties to Russia — which could come up at congressional confirmation hearings. Tillerson, as an oil CEO, has had a friendly, years-long relationship with Vladimir Putin and questioned sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Flynn once dined with Putin and received an unspecified sum to appear at an event for the Kremlin-run Russia Today network.

Other members of the team are more hawkish on Russia.

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Donald Trump Seeks ‘Extreme Vetting’ Of Immigrants To U.S.

Posted on 18 August 2016 by admin

Donald Trump called Monday for “extreme vetting” of immigrants seeking admission to the United States, vowing to block those who sympathize with extremist groups or don’t embrace American values. He said the policy would first require a temporary halt in immigration from dangerous regions of the world.

Speaking in swing state Ohio, Trump also said his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton lacks the “mental and physical stamina” to take on the Islamic State. He said destroying the terror group would be the centerpiece of his foreign policy and he would partner with any countries that share that goal — specifically singling out Russia as a nation the U.S. could have a better relationship with.

“Any country that shares this goal will be our allies,” Trump said. “We can never choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies.”

Ahead of Trump’s address, Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden vigorously challenged the Republican nominee’s preparedness to be commander in chief. Biden called Trump’s views “dangerous” and “un-American” and warned that Trump’s false assertions last week about President Obama founding the Islamic State could be used by extremists to target American service members in Iraq.

“The threat to their life has gone up a couple clicks,” he said.

While Trump has been harshly critical of Obama’s handling of the threat posed by the Islamic State, his own policies for defeating the group remain vague. His most specific prescriptions centred on changing U.S. immigration policy to keep potential attackers from entering the country.

Trump’s campaign aides said the new ideological test for admission to the United States would vet applicants for their stance on issues like religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights. The government would use questionnaires, social media, interviews with friends and family or other means to determine if applicants support American values like tolerance and pluralism. The U.S. would stop issuing visas in any case where it cannot perform adequate screenings.

Trump did not clarify how U.S. officials would assess the veracity of responses to the questionnaires or how much manpower it would require to complete such arduous vetting. Nor did the campaign say whether additional screenings would apply to the millions of tourists who spend billions of dollars visiting the United States each year.

The Republican nominee’s foreign policy address comes during a rocky stretch for his campaign. He’s struggled to stay on message and has consistently overshadowed his policy rollouts, including an economic speech last week, with provocative statements, including his comments falsely declaring that Obama was the “founder” of the Islamic State.

Blames Obama, Clinton for ISIS

Trump spent much of the speech building a case that Obama and Clinton are to blame for the creation of the terror group that has roiled the Middle East and carried out attacks in the West. He specifically highlighted the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011, arguing the move created a vacuum for terror groups to thrive.

Reiterating a favourite criticism of Republicans, Trump also panned the Obama administration for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe sympathizers.

Obama, Clinton and top U.S. officials have warned against using that kind of language to describe the conflict, arguing that it plays into militants’ hands.

Set to release list of ‘terror countries’

Trump’s immigration proposals were the latest version of a policy that began with his unprecedented call to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from entering the country — a religious test that was criticized across party lines as un-American. Following a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June, Trump introduced a new standard, vowing to “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats.”

That proposal raised numerous questions that the campaign never clarified, including whether it would apply to citizens of countries like France, Israel, or Ireland, which have suffered recent and past attacks. Trump had promised to release his list of “terror countries” soon. But aides say the campaign needs access to unreleased Department of Homeland Security data to assess exactly where the most serious threats lie.

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McCain denounces Trump’s comments on family of Muslim soldier

Posted on 04 August 2016 by admin

In a remarkable and lengthy rebuke of his party’s presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain sharply criticized Donald Trump’s comments about the family of a fallen Muslim Army captain, providing an opening for other vulnerable Republican senators to do the same, even though they all stopped short of rescinding their endorsements of him.

 “While our party has bestowed upon him the nomination, it is not accompanied by unfettered license to defame those who are the best among us,” said McCain, a war hero whose service and capture in Vietnam were also once derided by Trump.

Within an hour, other embattled Republican senators, who like McCain are trying to stand between the windy forces of Trump and those he offends, offered their own condemnations.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whose husband is a veteran of the Iraq war and who is fighting to win a second term, said Monday that she was “appalled” by Trump’s comments. A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also weighed in, as did Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. They denounced Trump’s words but did not reverse their endorsements.

“I remember how much I worried about my son Matt during his years of active duty,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “The Khans have made the greatest possible sacrifice for our country; they deserve to be heard and respected.”

But Trump on Monday morning continued to criticize Khizr Khan, whose son, Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Trump complained that Khizr Khan had become a ubiquitous presence in the media since his Thursday address at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in which he excoriated the Republican presidential nominee.

“Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over TV doing the same,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Nice!”

In a second post Trump shifted course and said the campaign should be focused on terrorism. “This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S.,” he wrote. “Get smart!”

Even as pressure increased from establishment Republicans who have been calling for repudiation of Trump, neither House Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has pulled his support for Trump’s candidacy. They offered statements Sunday in support of the Khan family, but did not mention Trump by name.

For congressional Republicans, Trump’s inflammatory remarks are a vexing challenge. On one hand, they want to distance themselves just enough to try to grab support from voters of both parties who do not intend to vote for Trump but may split their tickets. But they do not want to outright flip on their prior endorsements of Trump because they need his supporters’ votes to win, too.

Many experts agree. “According to polling thus far, voters don’t automatically couple Donald Trump with Republican candidates or hold other Republicans responsible for Donald Trump’s sins,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, editor of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter.

McCain is the embodiment of the internal conflict Republican candidates face. Reverence for the military has been at the core of McCain’s career — he was his party’s nominee for president in 2008 and serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — and he has a close allegiance to families of those killed in conflict.

“I wear a bracelet bearing the name of a fallen hero, Matthew Stanley, which his mother, Lynn, gave me in 2007 at a town-hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire,” McCain wrote. “His memory and the memory of our great leaders deserve better from me.”

“Make no mistake: I do not valorize our military out of some unfamiliar instinct,” he wrote. “I grew up in a military family, and have my own record of service, and have stayed closely engaged with our armed forces throughout my public career. In the American system, the military has value only inasmuch as it protects and defends the liberties of the people.”

He added: “I claim no moral superiority over Donald Trump. I have a long and well-known public and private record for which I will have to answer at the Final Judgment, and I repose my hope in the promise of mercy and the moderation of age. I challenge the nominee to set the example for what our country can and should represent.”

McCain’s family has also been critical of Trump. His daughter, Meghan McCain, said on Twitter Saturday: “I would ask what kind of barbarian would attack the parents of a fallen soldier, but oh yeah it’s the same person who attacks POW’s.”

Despite the intensifying criticism from Republican Party leaders, Trump on Monday showed no sign of relenting in his clash with the Khan family. He has not apologized for his suggestion that Ghazala Khan might have been forbidden to speak at the Democratic convention, and he has not yet acknowledged the mounting criticism from respected Republicans like McCain.

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Hillary Clinton chooses Tim Kaine as her running mate

Posted on 27 July 2016 by admin

HILLARY CLINTON’S choice of Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her vice-presidential running-mate should cheer Americans despairing at an election season steeped in vitriol, division and fear-mongering. It should be balm to centrists’ souls to hear Senate colleagues from both parties agree that Mr Kaine is a thoroughly decent and reasonable man. One of the first reactions came from a Republican senator, Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose own decency has to date left him unable to endorse his party’s demagogic nominee, Donald Trump. “Trying to count the ways I hate Tim Kaine, drawing a blank,” Mr Flake tweeted. “Congrats to a good man and a good friend.”

Mr Kaine is the son of a Kansas City welder whose brains took him to Harvard Law School and whose social conscience led him to become a Catholic missionary in Honduras (picking up fluent Spanish) then a civil rights lawyer, popular mayor of the racially-divided city of Richmond, governor of Virginia and now senator.

But the pick says something encouraging about Mrs Clinton’s plans for defeating Mr Trump this November, too. Political campaigns can be boiled down to two tasks, one nobler than the other. The first involves maximising turnout on voting day. This can be a grim business if a campaign pursues a core-vote strategy of pandering and stoking the partisan passions of their base. The second task is persuasion. At its noblest, this involves finding arguments or candidates so reasonable or appealing that they can lure voters out of partisan trenches to cross party lines.

In choosing Mr Kaine, Hillary Clinton is placing a bet on persuasion over turnout. Mr Trump has gone the other way—his Republican National Convention, just ended in Cleveland, was a four-day bet on turnout, with a succession of bleak, angry speeches describing an America plunged in chaos and violence, its streets stalked by “illegal alien” murderers set free by corrupt and uncaring elites, while overseas American enemies mock and cheat the fallen superpower at every turn.

Divided America still harbours some pockets of swing voters: think of married mothers of school-age children who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 but lost faith in him as he seemed to expand government too far, turning to the Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. They may be found in such places as the suburban “collar counties” that surround Philadelphia and Denver, or in the leafy cul-de-sacs of Fairfax or Loudon counties in Virginia, where weekends unfold to a sound-track of buzzing lawnmowers, children’s soccer games and church bake-sales.

Many such suburban voters dislike and distrust Mrs Clinton, thinking her dishonest. They are anxious about terrorism and long to feel safe. That could be an opening for Mr Trump, but with his splenetic, testosterone-fuelled convention, at which speakers called Mrs Clinton a fan of Lucifer and an accomplice to murder, and the air rang with chants of “lock her up” and cries of “hang the bitch”, the Republican offered them nothing, choosing instead to stoke the passions of his core voter blocks, and notably white men without a college education.

Mrs Clinton has her own angry ideologues to worry about on the left, starting with millions of Democrats and leftists who voted for her rival in the presidential primary contest, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Partisans on the left insist that the path to victory in 2016 lies in picking an economic populist who opposes free trade and wants to slap punitive taxes on Wall Street banks and the rich, using the proceeds to fund free college for young people, increase old-age pensions through Social Security and expand the role of government in healthcare. They wanted Mrs Clinton to pick such populist pin-ups as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, or the Labour Secretary Thomas Perez, who is much-liked by trade unions.

Leftists reacted with dismay and anger to the choice of Mr Kaine. They hold against him that he is a white, middle-aged man. They are furious that he is a long-standing supporter of free trade. In 2007 he chided protectionists who want to erect trade barriers for a “loser’s mentality” and in 2015 he voted to give the next president fast-track trade promotion authority to approve new trade deals. They dislike the fact that as a devout Catholic he is personally opposed to abortion, and deplore the fact that as governor he presided over executions in Virginia. Some leftist websites quickly called him a friend to big banks, after he backed bipartisan Senate measures to ease capital requirements on regional banks. A few tried to call him a friend to the National Rifle Association (NRA). To be clear, what such leftists wanted was for Mrs Clinton to pursue her own version of a turnout strategy, choosing a running-mate who would excite and energise unhappy Sandernistas and anti-globalisation blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt—and forget trying to persuade those suburban swing voters in Loudon County.

Left-wingers attacking Mr Kaine should check his record. Though personally opposed to abortion, he says that such decisions fall in the sphere of personal morality, and has voted to uphold the right of women to choose abortions. Though he calls Jesuits his moral heroes, his is a rather Latin American social justice Catholicism, with a whiff of Pope Francis to it. He has been an early supporter of gay rights, and a defender of refugees. As mayor of Richmond Mr Kaine sent his children to tough, mostly-black city schools—an act which was itself an example of history rhyming: he married the daughter of the moderate Republican governor of Virginia from 1969 to 1973, A. Linwood Holton, who ended his state’s ferocious resistance to civil rights and desegregated schools.

Mr Kaine opposes the death penalty in person but bowed to the law as governor of Virginia, a once-rural state with a stern conservative heritage, now trending more towards suburban moderacy. He won bipartsan plaudits for his handling of a gun massacre in 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech, a college, though Republicans in the state house blocked his attempts to ensure background checks on buyers at gun shows. He has an “F” rating from the NRA. As a senator he has specialised in national security and foreign policy, clashing with Mr Obama—of whom he was an early endorser—by joining Senator John McCain, a Republican, in insisting that Congress should formally authorise the use of military force against Islamic State.

Mr Trump, who specialises in insulting epithets, has quickly labelled Mr Kaine “Corrupt Kaine”, referring to $160,000 worth of gifts that the Virginian accepted as governor. Much of that sum involves flights paid for by donors or by the Obama presidential campaign as Mr Kaine flew around the country as a campaign surrogate for Mr Obama in 2008. But the total includes the loan of a Caribbean holiday home by a Democratic donor, valued at $18,000. Though the gifts were reported and were legal under his home state’s loose ethics laws, Republicans sense an opening, not least because a former Republican governor of Virginia was recently convicted of corruption for accepting gifts from a businessman (though that conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court).

In private, Mr Kaine is notably thoughtful, with nuanced views about America’s place in the world. Amidst noisy debates about whether America should be the “indispensable nation” or should pull back from global responsibilities, Mr Kaine calls himself a believer in President Harry Truman and his doctrine of extending aid and support to democracies threatened by authoritarian regimes. A self-declared “boring” man, Mr Kaine is known to like quiet, unflashy words to describe his vision of America—urging his country to be “magnanimous” and to strive to be “’exemplary” so that it can earn its status as an indispensable nation. He is not the most exciting or aggressive choice that Mrs Clinton could have made. But in this election cycle, many will feel there is more than enough aggression to go around.

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Last-Ditch Rebellion Against Donald Trump Fails

Posted on 21 July 2016 by admin

Chaos erupted on the floor of the Republican National Convention Monday as fervent opponents of Donald Trump fought and lost an ugly, public rebellion to derail him.

New Hampshire delegate Gordon Humphrey, who has been working with the Delegates Unbound and Free the Delegates groups, tried to force party leaders on Monday to approve their rules for the convention on a roll-call vote, rather than a voice vote as is normally done.

The idea was that with a public roll call, a majority of delegates might defect.

“Donald Trump is so ignorant of anything that he hasn’t a clue what is going on here in general or in detail,” said Humphrey, a former senator who backed Ohio Gov. John Kasich during the primary season.

The bid for a roll-call vote failed, but caused an ugly moment in Trump’s march to the nomination.

The unrest began when Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack took up the resolution to approve the rules and asked for a voice vote, as the anti-Trumpers lined up behind behind microphones waiting to demand a roll-call vote. Many delegates cried “Aye!” but were soon followed by a roar of “No!” from the crowd. Womack then declared “without objection” that it had passed ― even as delegates from Virginia, Utah and a handful of other states screamed in protest.

Virginia delegate Ken Cuccinelli led dozens of his state’s delegates in chanting “point of order” and then “roll-call vote,” as Trump supporters in other states chanted “USA” and “We want Trump.”

Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.), who was about to officiate the moment, did not take to the podium while the pro- and anti-Trump factions delivered their competing chants.

One delegate from Tennessee wearing a Trump button said, “I wish it came down to a fistfight. That would be easier for me.”

 “I have never seen anything like this. There’s no precedent for this,” Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) told reporters on the floor. “The podium has been abandoned. No one is standing at the podium. I want a roll-call vote.”

Humphrey and his cohort nearly got the vote because they had managed to get majorities of nine state delegations to ask for one. The rules required seven states to ask.

The Trump campaign and RNC leaders, though, demonstrated the power of holding the gavel. While the stage was empty, RNC officials apparently convinced enough delegates to rescind their demands, leaving just six states seeking the vote.

About 20 minutes later Womack reappeared, redid the voice vote, again declared that it had passed, but this time offered the Utah delegation the opportunity to ask for the roll-call vote. He informed them, however, of the delegates who had changed their minds and had withdrawn their support for a roll-call vote ― dropping them below the threshold they needed. “Accordingly, the chair has found insufficient support for a recorded vote,” he said.

“That was the plan that was developed over the course of the day,” one top RNC official said on condition of anonymity.

Although C-SPAN reported that state delegates from Iowa and Colorado had staged walkouts in the wake of the voice vote, the state pens for Iowa and Colorado were never fully emptied in dramatic fashion.

However, a group of delegates did at least try to spark a mass walkout through the time-tested organizing tool of a group text.

Eric Minor, a delegate from Washington, which was rumored to be considering a walkout too, told reporters that all the Trump opponents wanted was a vote.

Humphrey had said the roll-call vote would have given him and like-minded Republicans one last chance to empower their fellow delegates to get rid of Trump.

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Obama’s Immigration Smorgasbord

Posted on 17 May 2011 by admin

Members of Congress may be motivated by politics or otherwise believe deeply in taking one approach or the other toward reforming the nation’s immigration laws.  But it appears the public believes in doing both.

A very recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that 72 percent of the American public supports providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs.  Slightly more (78 percent) support stronger enforcement of immigration laws and border security.  If you do the math, at least half of all Americans support both legalization and stronger enforcement.



President Barack Obama’s speech once again laid out a smorgasbord of policies for how to reform U.S. immigration policy. While he jested about moats and alligators along the border in El Paso, President Obama has been beleaguered by immigration reform, as was his predecessor, but the problem may not be with the occupant of that office.

During and since the collapse of the Bush administration’s failed 2007 immigration overhaul effort, the debate has typically been framed by two polarized and opposing policy strategies: “enforcement-first” versus “comprehensive.”

In the enforcement camp, proponents focus on the rule of law, strengthening border security, keeping out illegal immigrants, and new strategies for worksite verification. With this accomplished, only then, per this view, should we start the discussion about other issues, including legalizing the millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

Comprehensive reform includes all of the above measures, but also focuses on changes to the immigration admissions system and an earned legalization program. This perspective emphasizes the point that in order to have a system that works properly all of these components must be operating at once. The biggest dividing line between the two positions is that the comprehensive reform camp supports a legalization program for immigrants who are already in the United States if they pass a background check, pay a fine and are working. Enforcement-first backers often morph into “enforcement only” supporters at this suggestion.

Members of Congress may be motivated by politics or otherwise believe deeply in taking one approach or the other toward reforming the nation’s immigration laws.  But it appears the public believes in doing both.

A very recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press showed that 72 percent of the American public supports providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs.  Slightly more (78 percent) support stronger enforcement of immigration laws and border security.  If you do the math, at least half of all Americans support both legalization and stronger enforcement.

But that’s the national picture.  If you did the same poll state by state, metro by metro, county by county, you would find a lot of variation.

On enforcement, there are states such as Arizona and Georgia that want more than the federal government is offering and have proposed and implemented their own policies. There are other states like Illinois and New York that are unhappy about the Secure Communities Initiative, a federal enforcement program that requires local enforcement agencies to share biometric information for every detained person with federal immigration officials. (They are subject to deportation if they are in this country without authorization).

Then there is Utah.  They have a state enforcement policy similar to Arizona’s but also have designed their own program that would allow immigrants who are illegally present to be certified to work in Utah.

State action is putting multiple pressures on federal lawmakers.  In acknowledging Congress as perhaps the biggest obstacle in front of immigration reform, the president enlisted the American people to add their voices to the debate, giving out the White House web address to “sign up to help.”

Will we reach consensus on the best way to reform federal immigration policy across America? President Obama convincingly argued for a need to balance the strong and effective enforcement efforts with something for the other side.  As he put it, “So, the question is whether those in Congress who previously walked away in the name of enforcement are now ready to come back to the table and finish the work we’ve started. We have to put the politics aside.”

Once Congress tires of arguing the same debates, perhaps we can talk sensibly and rationally about the best way to move ahead with immigration reform.


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