Welcome back to a new year of Sunday Morning Coffee! I've been getting up early on Sunday and writing my thoughts about politics (and sometimes a dash of religion) for over a decade. It's the news you've seen or, perhaps missed, all laced with my commentary. Why not... Much to share so let's go!
Stopping a War
The president says that the killing of a top Iranian military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, was carried out to. "stop a war". However not he, nor his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have shared any information that would back up that statement. While it is true that Soleimani has been a bad actor the question that must be asked is, "What are the plans going forward?" That seems to be in question as the administration, known for "flying by the seat of their pants" struggles to connect the dots.
True to form this appears to be another decision by this president that has no start nor end game. And, to be fair, it reminds me of when, in December of 1987, President Clinton on the eve of an impeachment vote authorized four days of heavy bombardment of Iraq. The next day the U.S. House laid aside an impeachment vote.
The bottom line here is that there is no sustained and thoughtful foreign policy from this president and that, my friends, is the real danger.
What We Don't Get
The Middle East is a confusing and dangerous place. You would think the United States would have that figured out by now. While I am no expert on that region it seems to be that top leaders in this administration don't have a clue. It all starts with two very divided factions of Islam. It is the oldest internal struggle of that faith group. While they have co-existed for centuries they differ in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organisation. And they have been fighting each other for generations.
The bulk of the Arab States adhere to the Sunni tradition. The name "Sunni" is derived from the phrase "Ahl al-Sunnah", or "People of the Tradition". The tradition in this case refers to practices based on what the Prophet Muhammad said, did, agreed to or condemned.
Meanwhile about 10% of the world's Muslims adhere to the Shia tradition. In the Middle East Iran is the most populous Shia nation. Shia, by the way, means literally "Shiat Ali" or the "Party of Ali". They claimed that Ali was the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad who died in 632. as leader (imam) of the Muslim community following his death in 632.
OK, here is where it gets interesting: In countries which have been governed by Sunnis, Shia tend to make up the poorest sections of society. They often see themselves as victims of discrimination and oppression. Sunni extremists frequently denounce Shia as heretics who should be killed.
Iraq sits between Shia Iran and the majority Sunni nations which surround it. And, to complicate the issue Iraq has a mixture of Shia and Sunni who, once again, have been active in killing each other for centuries.
And we want in on this? It's a boiling cauldron of religious, economic and political issues few understand and we fail at our peril.
The Iowa Caucus
Some are predicting that this will be the final year of Iowa being first in the nation. The exit of former Secretary Julian Castro from the presidential race heightened that sentiment. The rub is that Iowa is not representative of the rest of the nation so it, and New Hampshire, have no business in their outsized role of picking winners and losers.
But, my friends, it's more than that. And the uninitiated can't figure it out.
I came to Iowa in 1979 and attended my first Democratic Caucus in 1980. I thought the entire process was, in a word, weird. I mean where is it that people show up on a specific night, talk politics and policy and then wrangle votes and support among those in attendance for their prefered candidate? It's messy and personal and it is far more impactful that walking into a private booth to cast a secret vote.
The reason? Iowa is a place where organization follows message. While the message is always critical it takes an organization of people to carry that to voters. And, the voters in Iowa follow these things carefully. When candidates are asked questions they are never surprised at the depth of understanding the questioner brings to the discussion. Those that are surprised often fail here.
While the media may grumble Iowans listen and learn and they become some of the most informed voters in this nation. Rare is it that on caucus night you'll find folks that are simply "hanging on". (Photo: NPR)
Finally Iowa, and New Hampshire, make sense because they are small states where message and organization can be tested and perfected and not cost a boat load of cash. The winners in Iowa often do not carry the day but...and this is big...they are able to bring to the table their ideas and policy perspectives that impact and hone the message going forward for the eventual nominee.
My opinion...but then, again, this entire piece is...yep, my opinion.
The 2020 effort to roll back citizen rights starts later this month. The Republicans that have held a stranglehold on both chambers as well as the governor's office will gavel to order what will be the last hurrah for many in the GOP. For a very long time Republicans have championed local control only to then pass laws that outlaw local control. They will, once again. come together to see how much money they can shovel into the coffers of already successful businesses as they commit education, infrastructure, health care, voter rights, equal rights, reproductive rights, worker rights, land and water action and public assistance services into a dung pile.
We have had enough and your time is over.
Some may sense the discontent of Iowans and offer fig leaves to the Democrats but do not be fooled. This crowd is an insidious bunch who are not motivated by doing the most good but by doing evil for their masters the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the Iowa Farm Bureau and the corporate shills that suck the life blood out of our great state.
They are not concerned that mothers and fathers can not find affordable day care. They are not concerned that workers get a good wage so they can spend time with family rather than working two or three jobs. They are not concerned with issues of affordable housing. They care not that Iowa continues to lag other states in education. They care not that even, as their faith demands, that workers be allowed and encouraged to collectively bargain for wages and benefits. They do not...care. They have theirs and screw the rest of you.
The battle is full on. Elections have consequences. It's time to change.
We've had a flurry of activity going into the New Year. On the business side of things it's been an interesting couple of days. It's like people woke up on January 2nd and said, "Crap, I've not thought about business since the 20th of December! It's time to get busy!" My office phone rang more on the final two days of last week than it had for three weeks prior. And, of course, everybody wants everything done...like yesterday. Focus people...focus.
It's been "A-Holes & Elbows" around here. Which, I believe, is a phrase my Father z"l used to say. I think it comes from his time in the Navy when folks were always scrubbing the deck. "All I wanna see is a-holes and elbows!" meaning....get busy. Which is what we've been doing getting a room ready for a campaign staffer who will be with us in the coming days. I thought it would be OK to clean up a room, put the furniture in and be done. But nope...Georgie has a much different idea so it's a ceiling to floor adjustment. Yikes...and one more day to go.
I was with several hundred at a Joe Biden event last evening. I believe it was his fifth of the day. This was held at McKinley School on the East Side of Des Moines. It had been moved from a facility in the East Village because of space. They should have moved it again to even a larger venue. With many standing in line outside prior to 7:00PM. And once inside the gym was packed. The Vice President along with Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (D-IA), a recent endorsement, and Bonnie Campbell didn't arrive until after 8:30PM and the event was still going on when we left at 9:30. I honestly don't know how he does it. It is truly remarkable. Good times in Iowa and 29 days away from the caucus.
Tomorrow at 4:00PM my friend Congresswoman Cindy Axne (D-IA) is holding at Town Hall at Smokey Row in Des Moines. The GOP have already sent out a notice to their members asking them to show up and disrupt the event. It's what they do...fear and lies. I would be there but I'm conducting a funeral in Mason City. If YOU have time to go and support Cindy...please do!
Finally, thank you! Last week I included a link to my campaign for the Iowa State Senate donation page and many of you responded. This is going to be a hell of a fight picking off the president of the Iowa State Senate...and I can not do it alone. If you are so motivated to help a life long progressive Democrat who has been in the trenches working on behalf of working families in Iowa for decades, I'd ask for your support. Thanks so much, in advance! The note cards are going out today!
Thanks for reading and have a great Sunday!