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The Nation’s Editorial Board

Joe Biden: An Anti-Endorsement

Vigorous public debate is the best way for the strongest progressive platform to reach and be embraced by a majority of voters. Progressives may not agree with centrist Democrats like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, but engaging with and answering their criticisms now is essential – not merely to win in 2020 but also to build public pressure on a Congress whose members have proved reluctant to defy their corporate benefactors. Yet that very debate has been stifled by the continuing candidacy of a man whose chief rationale for running—that he alone can defeat Donald Trump – has become increasingly threadbare. Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, Joe Biden offers the promise of picking up where the Obama administration left off: a restoration of business as usual for the K Street lobbyists and Wall Street speculators whose prosperity the 2008 financial crisis did little to disturb. Let us be clear: Joe Biden is not a crook. Unlike Donald Trump, he has not violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution or appointed members of his family to positions of influence and power. The point about “legal graft” – the corrupt trading of favors, from Tammany Hall to the Delaware Way – is that it’s perfectly legal. But that doesn’t make it right or a winning platform. Biden and his backers need to face the facts. It may still be unclear which Democrat is best positioned to beat Donald Trump, but we know one thing: The answer is not Joe Biden.

Any views expressed by the editors and authors of The Nation, an independent voice in American journalism founded by abolitionists in 1865, are their own.

Bloomberg May Enter 2020 Democratic Race

Michael Bloomberg actively prepares to enter 2020 presidential race. NYT: “Michael R. Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary and is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state with an early filing deadline, people briefed on Mr. Bloomberg’s plans said. Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, has been privately weighing a bid for the White House for weeks and has not yet made a final decision on whether to run, an adviser said. But in the first sign that he is seriously moving toward a campaign, Mr. Bloomberg has dispatched staffers to Alabama to gather signatures to qualify for the primary there. Though Alabama does not hold an early primary, it has a Friday deadline for candidates to formally enter the race. Mr. Bloomberg and his advisers called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state. Aides to Mr. Bloomberg also reached out to Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association. Mr. Reid said in a brief interview that Mr. Bloomberg had not explicitly said he was running for president but that the implication of the call had been clear.”

EPA Chief Of Staff Under Investigation

EPA chief of staff under investigation in document destruction. Politico: “The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is investigating whether chief of staff Ryan Jackson was involved in destroying internal documents that should have been retained, according to two people familiar with the matter. The IG’s office is asking witnesses whether Jackson has routinely destroyed politically sensitive documents, including schedules and letters from people like lobbyist Richard Smotkin, who helped arrange a trip for then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Morocco when he was in office, according to one of the sources, a former administration official who told investigators he has seen Jackson do that firsthand. The previously unreported allegations add to the controversy around Jackson, a former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who has been at EPA since the early days of the Trump administration. EPA’s internal watchdog accused Jackson earlier this week of refusing to cooperate with other ongoing investigations. Jackson was put on notice that the document destruction was improper, something the former official said he discussed earlier this year with an official from the IG’s office.”

Pence Rerouted USAID Money To Favored Christian Groups

Mike Pence’s office rerouted foreign aid money to favored Christian groups. ProPublica: “Last November, a top Trump appointee at the U.S. Agency for International Development wrote a candid email to colleagues about pressure from the White House to reroute Middle East aid to religious minorities, particularly Christian groups.  ‘Sometimes this decision will be made for us by the White House (see… Iraq! And, increasingly, Syria),’ said Hallam Ferguson, a senior official in USAID’s Middle East bureau, in an email seen by ProPublica. ‘We need to stay ahead of this curve everywhere lest our interventions be dictated to us.’ The email underscored what had become a stark reality under the Trump White House. Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from the office of Vice President Mike Pence, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake. Five months before Ferguson sent the email, his former boss had been ousted following a mandate from Pence’s chief of staff. Pence had grown displeased with USAID’s work in Iraq after Christian groups were turned down for aid. ProPublica viewed internal emails and conducted interviews with nearly 40 current and former U.S. officials and aid professionals that shed new light on the success of Pence and his allies in influencing the government’s long-standing process for awarding foreign aid. Most people spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Trump administration’s efforts to influence USAID funding sparked concern from career officials, who worried the agency risked violating constitutional prohibitions on favoring one religion over another. They also were concerned that being perceived as favoring Christians could worsen Iraq’s sectarian divides. ‘There are very deliberate procurement guidelines that have developed over a number of years to guard precisely against this kind of behavior,’ said Steven Feldstein, a former State Department and USAID official during the Obama administration. When politics intrude on the grant-making process, ‘you’re diluting the very nature of what development programs ought to accomplish.'”

Groundswell Grows To Stop Execution Of Rodney Reed

The outcry to stop the execution of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed is growing. CNN: “The outcry is growing from an army of supporters, including celebrities, clergy and state lawmakers, trying to stop the execution of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who is set to die in less than two weeks. Reed’s execution is scheduled for November 20. More than 20 years ago, he was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas, southeast of Austin. Police said he assaulted, raped and strangled Stites. Reed said he’s innocent. His attorneys say the wrong man was convicted. They point to new witness accounts and evidence they say exonerates Reed. More than 2 million people had signed a petition on freerodneyreed.com as of Thursday. A Change.org petition has garnered more than 300,000 signatures. Celebrities such as LL Cool J, Kim Kardashian West, Beyoncé and T.I. have voiced their support for Reed, whose attorneys are seeking a new trial. Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin, and Democratic and Republican state lawmakers made appeals this week to stop Reed’s execution.”

What Art Can Do

What art can do. The Atlantic: “All art is political. In tense, fractious times—like our current moment—all art is political. But even during those times when politics and the future of our country itself are not the source of constant worry and anxiety, art is still political. Art lives in the world, and we exist in the world, and we cannot create honest work about the world in which we live without reflecting it. If the work tells the truth, it will live on. Public Enemy’s “911 Is a Joke,” George Orwell’s 1984, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s whole damn catalog—all are political works that tell the truth. Yes, Rodgers and Hammerstein. Consider The Sound of Music. It isn’t just about climbing mountains and fording streams. Look beyond the adorable von Trapp children: It’s about the looming existential threat of Nazism. No longer relevant? A GIF of Captain von Trapp tearing up a Nazi flag is something we see 10 times a day on Twitter, because all sorts of Nazis are out there again in 2019. As last spring’s searing Broadway revival of Oklahoma! revealed, lying underneath Hammerstein’s elephant-eye-high corn and chirping birds is a lawless society becoming itself, bending its rules and procedures based on who is considered part of the community. Or consider your parents’ favorite, South Pacific. At its center, our hero, Nellie Forbush, must confront her own internalized racism when she learns that the new love of her life has biracial children from a previous marriage. Let your parents know if they forgot: Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals form the spine of Broadway’s “golden age,” and they also deeply engage with the politics of their era.”

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