Today’s read: 8 minutes.
The terrorist attack in Florida, a question about the Democratic primary and a bombshell story on the Afghanistan War.
Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Donald Trump. Photo: Sheilah Craighead / White House
Right now, impeachment hearings are continuing with both Democratic and Republican lawyers presenting evidence to the House Judiciary Committee. At some point today, the long-awaited Inspector General report on the FBI’s investigation into Trump will be released. Republicans are expected to elevate details of FBI animus against Trump, while Democrats will seize on conclusions that the FBI did not act out of partisan rancor. We’ll have more when the report is public.
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What D.C. is talking about.
The Florida shooting. On Friday morning, a Saudi Air Force trainee killed three U.S. Navy sailors and injured eight more at a base in Pensacola, Florida. He opened fire with a legally purchased 9mm Glock 45 handgun. It was the second shooting at a U.S. Navy base in a week. On Sunday, the investigation was characterized as a terrorism inquiry. Over the weekend, news broke that the trainee, Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, had filed a complaint in April after an instructor referred to him as “Porn Stash” in front of 10 other aviation students. There have also been reports that Alshamrani made trips to New York (sight-seeing tour), Saudi Arabia (which has sparked questions about “radicalization”) and that the night before he was showing videos of mass shootings at a dinner party. One student, who allegedly filmed the shooting, was detained at the scene of the attack. The U.S. has a longstanding practice of training foreign soldiers, especially Saudis. Some 850 Saudis are in the U.S. for training and more than 5,000 foreign students from 153 countries are here for military training.
What the right is saying.
On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon was going to review screening procedures for foreigners on American military bases, but the programs would continue. “The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us,” he said. “We have something that our potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, don’t have.” Sen. Lindsey Graham called for the program to be suspended until they had more information. Both President Trump and Mike Pompeo immediately passed along condolences from Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the Saudi Prince. Trump thanked the crown prince for Saudi intelligence assisting in the investigation. He also said MBS would “help out” the families, which everyone took to mean as compensating them financially. "There's no question what it is, it's terrorism," Florida Sen. Rick Scott said Sunday. "It's radical Islam."
What the left is saying.
“This is a relationship [with Saudi Arabia] that has some serious problems,” Sen. Cory Booker, who is running for president, said on Sunday. Sen. Chris Murphy went even further, saying it’s “unnerving how eager everyone in this administration is to be PR agents for the Saudis.” He also shared an article saying there was a “manhunt underway” for other Saudi students and asked why Trump was “coordinating the absolution of the Saudis before we even knew the details or had captured the suspects?” On Fox News, Defense Secretary Mark Esper also downplayed reports that one Saudi filmed the entire shooting by saying “you know, today, people pull out their phones and film everything and anything that happens.” Former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill responded on Twitter:
The United States’ relationship with Saudi Arabia is a gross reminder that our moral standing on the global stage can often be purchased. Our intelligence officials told us that the Saudi crown prince may have ordered the killing of Jamaal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who wrote for the Washington Post and was a permanent resident of the United States. We know that Saudi Arabia is currently behind the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, a bombardment of Yemeni civilians that has left 10,000 dead and includes the use of weapons designed to maximize civilian casualties. We also know that 15 of the 19 hijackers from September 11th were Saudi nationals and that since those attacks Saudi Arabia has continued to breed extremists and extremism (whether or not Alshamrani was radicalized, this fact remains).
And yet, this White House and certain members of Congress continue to avoid criticizing Saudi Arabia. Why? For arms deals, oil and to support a country that will stand up to Iran. It’s that simple. We know that because Trump often says the quiet part out loud and has admitted as much. Saudi Arabia pays the U.S. lots of money for weapons that it then uses to commit war crimes throughout the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is critical to world oil supplies. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the region that can counter Iran.
As David Sanger asked in The New York Times, it’s worth considering: What would Trump have said or done if this act was carried out by an Iranian? Or an Iraqi? Or a Mexican? Can you imagine if a Mexican immigrant had killed a U.S. military member on a U.S. military base? Both Democrats and Republicans have responded to this attack by calling for a re-evaluation of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, and they should. The Kingdom needs to be held responsible not just for this, but for its human rights violations in Yemen, for the death of Khashoggi, and for its religious institutions’ role in radicalizing and training Saudis that go on to join extremist groups throughout the region. Only time will tell what Alshamrani’s real motives were. Tweets linked to him indicate he was vengeful about the U.S. invading countries abroad, a common motive for terrorist acts against the U.S. It’s also expected that ISIS will take credit for the attack, but they often claim attacks they weren’t involved in to for publicity’s sake. I’ll do my best to keep you updated as the results of the investigation begin to leak.
A story that matters.
This morning, The Washington Post released a bombshell investigative report on the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan: “A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” It took a three-year-long court battle to obtain the documents. In them, members of the U.S. military and the Bush and Obama administrations speak candidly about how the U.S. had no strategy in Afghanistan, no plan, no understanding of the country they were in and the simple fact soldiers (some 2,300) were dying for nothing. Since 2001, the Defense Department and U.S. Agency for International Development have spent or appropriated between $934 billion and $978 billion on the war. You can read this incredible piece of journalism here.
Your questions, answered.
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Q: For those of us that just want Trump out of office, how bad is it that more candidates keep popping up? I feel like all this is doing is separating the Left from being able to make a decision which will ultimately put someone on the ticket that not enough people support and more people will turn to Trump. If I had to make a bet today, I think Trump runs away with the 2020 election based on all the candidates out there and how different they are.
- Jonathan, Denver, CO
Tangle: I think you’re right that the number of candidates in the field is ultimately going to hurt Democrats, but perhaps not for the reasons you cited. Ultimately, most people on the left are going to vote against Trump no matter what. He is one of the most loathed Republican presidents of all-time, I don’t think there is a candidate currently in the field — save Michael Bloomberg — who could send Democrats to Trump that are currently planning to vote against him.
One thing that’s already happening, though, is that the huge field of Democrats forces lesser-known candidates to do as much as they can to land punches against the front-runners to get noticed. Ultimately, some of those punches are going to stick. If this were just a race between Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg, I think there’d be a good reason to believe that the party would coalesce behind whoever ultimately won the nomination. I also think, with the exception of Sanders, the other three candidates could probably pick up moderates or Republican-minded Americans who can’t stand Trump and Trumpism.
Instead, though, the race includes candidates like Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang and Michael Bloomberg. For different reasons, each of these candidates is going to do what they can to knock down frontrunners in the race — and they will occasionally strike gold when they do. How Gabbard went after Kamala or some of the more “establishment” Democrats on military intervention and marijuana legalization clearly resonated with the electorate. How Yang has disparaged the government’s ability to grapple with automation or modern-day problems that tech causes is clearly resonating with the electorate. And now Michael Bloomberg, who will undoubtedly draw in support from older and more moderate Americans, is going to beat back Warren and Sanders and make them seem as extreme as possible, something that will surely resonate with parts of the electorate.
Because there are so many candidates in the race, things are getting a lot more complicated than they should be. In a dream world for Democrats, the message on the election is simple: “Donald Trump is the most extraordinarily unqualified and unhinged president we’ve ever had. Every one of us is a better, safer, alternative to keep the country together, improving your quality of life and keeping our global alliances. Maybe we have some different plans about health care or guns, but by and large you’re going to get an expansion of government-provided health care, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without a criminal record, fewer guns on the streets, stability abroad and an eco-friendly economy.”
Instead, though, you’ve got Tulsi lobbing grenades into everyone else’s stance on foreign policy and past wars. You have Amy Klobuchar assuring voters that Sanders and Warren are making empty promises they can’t keep. You have Michael Bloomberg telling every moderate Dem who will listen that there isn’t a candidate available who can beat Trump. And so on.
This, to me, does damage both to the individual candidates caught in the crossfire and to the field as a whole. The common themes of what a Democratic presidency would look is getting drowned out and the media time for individual Democrats is being divided by 15 or 16 or 122 or however many Democrats are running now. Messages get mixed. Half a dozen candidates say they would support Medicare-for-All but each has very different definitions of what that is. They’re going to take all the guns or just the guns from abusive boyfriends. They’re going to pass the Green New Deal or they’re just going to build more solar and wind farms. And on and on and on. If Trump ends up winning again, I think the giant and convoluted field Democrats have now will definitely be a factor.
Speaking of: Marianne Williamson, the spiritual guru who has outlasted Senators and Governors in the presidential race, apparently fell for an internet hoax last night. Williamson tweeted that there was “something deeply sinister” about Trump pardoning Charles Manson, an event that never happened. Williamson deleted the tweets, then apologized, then deleted the apology. But it’s another instance of a public official or someone vying for public office falling for an internet hoax that many teenagers are capable of spotting.
- $23,000.The average cost of health care to cover a family for a year when its provided by an employer.
- 3. The number of consecutive years Americans’ life expectancy has been declining.
- 68%. The percentage of districts in the U.S. where Fox News is the most-watched news network.
- 76.4%. The percentage of U.S. adults who are on Facebook at least once a week.
- 105. The number of times President Trump tweeted or re-tweeted something on Sunday, the first tweet at 12:47am and the last at 11:59pm.
- 44%. The percentage of U.S. workers who are employed in low-wage jobs that pay median annual wages of $18,000.
- 53 million. The number of U.S. workers between the age of 18 and 54 working in those low-wage jobs.
- 29%. The percentage of Democrats on who post political content on Twitter that identify as moderates or conservatives.
- 53%. The percentage of Democrats who don’t post political content on social media that identify as moderates or conservatives.
Have a nice day.
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