The historic deal with Israel.

Plus, who is Jo Jorgenson?
Isaac Saul Aug 18, 2020
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Today’s read: 14 minutes.

Complex issues and reader feedback mean a little bit longer newsletter than usual. We’re covering the Israel-UAE deal, plus answering this question: “Who is Jo Jorgenson?”

A Google Maps image highlighting the locations of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, whose step toward diplomacy will have far-reaching impacts on the Middle East.

Correction.

In yesterday’s numbers section, I wrote that 23% of Hispanic or Latino Americans said they had never heard the term ‘Latinx’ before. That was supposed to say that 23% of Hispanic or Latino Americans said they have ever heard the term Latinx before, essentially flipping the meaning on its head. In other words: 76% of Hispanic or Latino Americans said they have never heard the term Latinx before, 23% said they had, and 1% didn’t answer.

This is the 12th Tangle correction in its twelve-month existence, and the first in nearly a month after a hilariously bad June. I track corrections in an effort to be transparent and plan to stop counting when the number becomes embarrassing.


Reader feedback.

I heard you all! Dozens of readers wrote in with the same gripe yesterday, but I think Jonathan from Raleigh, North Carolina, summed it up best: “What you and most Republican takes on the USPS situations glossed over is the mandate to fully fund pensions, which began in 2006. The USPS worked in the black just fine up to that point and then Congress changed it up on the USPS and now it functions in the red. History shows a working post office, with billions in surplus before lobbyists got Congress to screw the USPS over by forcing tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars to be pre-planned going forward for pensions. Reverse that decision, leave the USPS to do their job as normal, and you will probably see a return to surplus for the USPS.”

Jonathan has a point. There is a simple, brief write-up about this topic here, but the crux of it is that the USPS has a policy to fund its retirement account 75 years into the future, which — as you might imagine — costs a ton of money for hundreds of thousands of employees. It’s called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) and a lot of people argue it is the singular reason the Postal Service operates in the red, blaming it on George W. Bush (the bill was passed in 2006).

I will say: I was struck by the overconfidence of many of my readers that this is the single reason for the Postal Service woes. First, the policy is not as unique as many of you seemed to think in your emails to me. Second, the math seems to indicate the USPS would still be bleeding money if they were paying as they went on health care benefits. An actuary in Forbes has a great breakdown of the “myths and facts” of the USPS pension fund that you can read here, and I think it’s worth your time.

Nonetheless, I regret sharing the right’s argument about profitability and not mentioning the PAEA, which is crucial to the left’s argument about the USPS. That wasn’t a balanced way to present the story. I was trying to focus the conversation on the election impacts, and not necessarily the argument about why the Postal Service bleeds money or whether it should be profitable in the first place (I actually think there’s a better case that striving toward profitability is not necessary than there is that the PAEA is the reason the USPS bleeds money). That’s an argument for another day, though — and I look forward to covering it in Tangle.


Quick hits.

  1. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has agreed to testify before Congress. Democrats have been raising alarms, accusing DeJoy of implementing changes to undermine mail delivery speeds ahead of the November election. Republicans have argued the USPS is well-equipped and well-funded to carry out their duties in November, and DeJoy has said the changes were necessary reforms to improve how the USPS works. Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors that appointed DeJoy, also agreed to testify. P.S.: Ruth Goldway, who was a regulator at USPS for 18 years under three presidents, wrote a New York Times op-ed insisting that everyone “stay calm” and that the USPS is perfectly capable of handling the election. “Don’t fall prey to the alarmists on both sides of this debate,” she said.
  2. The final volume of a nearly 1,000-page report from the Republican-controlled Senate committee that spent three years investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election was released today, and it details extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials. The report “did not conclude that the Trump campaign engaged in a coordinated conspiracy with the Russian government,” according to The New York Times, but it did show “extensive evidence of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin — including a longstanding associate of the onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom the report identifies as a ‘Russian intelligence officer.’”
  3. The University of North Carolina abruptly gave up on in-person classes just a week into the school year. "This decision comes after the University's COVID-19 positivity rate rose from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent last week,” The Daily Tar Heel reported. “As of Monday, the University has 177 students in isolation and 349 students in quarantine both on and off campus." The decision illustrates the difficulty ahead for colleges trying to bring students back for in-person learning.
  4. Michelle Obama stole the show at the first night of the DNC convention. Obama delivered an 18-minute long keynote speech that dominated the press coverage of the event. She described President Trump as “in over his head” and said he was not the president to meet this moment. “If you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this,” she said. “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can and they will if we don't make a change in this election. If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.” It was the most direct attack Obama, one of the most popular public figures in America, has ever delivered against Trump.
  5. Former Democratic presidential nominee and billionaire Mike Bloomberg pledged a $60 million infusion of money to House Democrats ahead of November. Bloomberg roughly matched the money he spent on helping Democrats flip the House in 2018, and is committing the money to television and digital ads to defend the 20 House freshmen who are facing their first reelection races along with money to go after Republican incumbents. “Mike’s view is that the investments he made last time are some of the best investments he has ever made,” a Bloomberg adviser said on Monday. “We are going to be looking at the same kinds of places, which is to say suburban, swing districts. There will be some overlap with presidential contest states.”

What D.C. is talking about.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Last week, Israel and the UAE announced that they were normalizing diplomatic ties to forge a new relationship in the Middle East, an announcement that has the potential to reshape the most contentious Middle East politics — from Israel-Palestine relations to tensions with Iran. It might not be as spicy as news about the Postal Service or drama from the DNC convention, but this is probably the most important thing to happen in global politics over the last week.

The deal, which was brokered by Donald Trump and the White House, included an agreement from Israel to temporarily suspend its annexation of areas in the West Bank, where many Palestinians currently live and which is a major source of tension between Israel and Palestine. “Annexation” is the process of adding territory or land — and Israel’s annexation of the West Bank is central to the United Nations’ claims that it continuously violates the rights of Palestinians.

By announcing a normalization of relations, the UAE and Israel are moving toward a full diplomatic relationship, which would likely involve ambassadors in each county, tourism exchange, and direct flights. It would mean the governments working together. Israel has struck similar deals with both Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The UAE has a population of less than 10 million people but is the Arab world’s second-largest economy thanks to its oil, and it has growing influence in the Gulf and Middle East region as it has helped other Arab nations fight off Islamist militants.

It’s also a major win for President Trump, who has been pushing for the accord in hopes of further isolating Iran from surrounding Arab nations. “Peace between the Arabs and Israelis is Iran’s worst nightmare,” Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for Iran, said. The deal is being called the “Abraham accord,” named after the biblical figure that is considered the father of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

While Trump and Israel celebrated the historic deal, the UAE pledged that it would continue to be a strong supporter of the Palestinian people, who have been fighting to create their own independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. UAE leaders say the deal will improve the chances of a two-state solution in the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict, while Palestinian leaders said it was “betrayal” and rewarded Israel for bad behavior in the region.


What the right is saying.

On foreign policy, Trump has been looking for a major win. The UAE and Israel delivered just in time for the election. The Wall Street Journal editorial board said the deal is worth celebrating on its own terms, but also holds lessons for the future of U.S. foreign policy: it shows the benefit of the U.S. standing by its allies in the Middle East.

“President Trump’s Mideast strategy has been to strongly back Israel, support the Gulf monarchies, and press back hard against Iranian imperialism,” the board wrote. “His liberal critics insisted this would lead to catastrophe that never came, and on Thursday it delivered a diplomatic achievement: The United Arab Emirates and Israel agreed to normalize relations, making the UAE the first Arab League country to recognize the Jewish state in 20 years.”

In The Hill, Richard Grenell, who worked in the Trump administration as the U.S. ambassador to Germany and spokesman to the United Nations, agreed. He lauded the Trump foreign policy and wrote a “We told you so” op-ed to the left.

“For nearly four years, Washington foreign policy experts and Obama administration alumni warned that the Trump administration was jeopardizing any prospects for Middle East peace,” Grenell wrote. “By withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, we were told, the U.S. would alienate itself from its allies. By moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, it would inflame the anger of millions of Arab Muslims. By recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, it would estrange the Arab states. By maintaining close relations with the Israeli government, it would imperil the lives of Palestinians.”

Instead, the D.C. establishment has “its tail between its legs once again.”

In Bloomberg magazine, Eli Lake zoomed out from the dynamics of the Israel-Palestine relationship, instead focusing on what this means for the region as a whole. Lake argued that this agreement formalized something we all knew already: the Gulf states and Israel have been quietly working together in the background for years. It also affirms that Israel is not responsible for the volatility in the region, no matter how many leftist Americans say so.

“Israel had nothing to do with the collapse of the U.N.-recognized government in Yemen — the Iranian-supported Houthis did,” Lake said. “Israel had nothing to do with the collapse of Syria — that was the fault of the country’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. And Israel had nothing to do with the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In all of these cases, the regimes and groups most vocally opposed to Israel also served as the region’s chief arsonists… In assessing the region, the UAE’s leaders have seen one state thrive as its neighbors burned. They have chosen the strong horse.”


What the left is saying.

It’s a mix. In The Washington Post, David Ignatius praised the deal, speculating it will open the door for similar diplomatic normalization with countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Morocco.

“Trump didn’t need to manufacture any superlatives. This was, as he tweeted, a ‘HUGE’ achievement,” Ignatius wrote. “Netanyahu and MBZ [UAE’s leader Mohammed bin Zayed] were drawn together by shared interests: They agreed that Iran and its proxies threatened the Middle East; they mistrusted the Obama administration and its secret nuclear diplomacy with Iran; they favored more trade and investment across the region; and they liked the Trump administration’s transactional realpolitik.”

Thomas Friedman agreed, saying a “geopolitical earthquake just hit the Middle East” (in a good way). To understand it, he said, “Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.”

Others were less convinced. For one, and perhaps most importantly, the Palestinian leadership was totally boxed out of the deal despite being the group most impacted by it. In The New York Magazine, Eric Levitz said the UAE sold out the Palestinians.

“The UAE’s price for providing Israel with this recognition — and providing its embattled leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, with a political victory — was markedly cheap,” Levitz wrote. “The Israeli government did not pledge to recognize Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank. It did not promise to halt or even slow the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Rather, Israel agreed that it will not illegally annex its settlements in the West Bank, in wanton defiance of international law and opinion — for a little while.”

“As for the Palestinians,” Levitz added, “the deal leaves non-Israeli inhabitants of the West Bank subject to the military rule of an occupying power and 2 million Gazans living under an Israeli blockade on a small strip of land that has no sustainable source of drinking water and which the United Nations has deemed ‘uninhabitable.’”

The Financial Times editorial board seemed to agree. It noted that the deal affirms a reality on the ground many have known — that for the Gulf Arab states, Iran (and not Israel) is now the primary enemy in the region.

”But the pact has one glaring fault: it fails to address the core problem that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the paper wrote. “Instead, the UAE has rewarded Israel for pausing an annexation of occupied territory most of the world considered illegal, rather than for moving forward a peace process that brings an end to occupation.”


My take.

How you view the deal depends largely on how you view its purpose. If this is meant to beat back Iran’s growing power in the region, and keep a rising tide of Islamic extremists from wielding power, it’s a good deal and it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. Affirming a UAE-Israel relationship, and opening the door for the Gulf States to come into the picture with Israel, should create security relationships and diplomatic ties that will be invaluable to adding stability to the region.

Part of that, of course, has to do with one aspect of this deal many people seem to be willfully ignoring: the weapons. The UAE spends billions of dollars a year on weapons, and Israel’s greatest economic upside from establishing these ties is that money is likely to be spent on Israeli military hardware now. In fact, as Hagai Amit noted in the left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz, some people in the industry are legitimately worried about the deal because it will bring many of the Israel-UAE arms deals out into the open (as opposed to now, when they happen under the table).

If the deal is meant to help the Palestinian people, though, and alleviate their suffering, it’s not going to do much good. I’m a Jew, and I’ve lived in Israel, more specifically in East Jerusalem (an area that could be the future state of Palestine in a two-state solution). There are parts of me that are partial to Israel’s stance in the region, particularly when considering the Palestinian leadership. In the Gaza Strip, the militant organization Hamas has effectively been in control since 2007.

At the end of July, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told a Qatari news outlet an interesting story: He said he recently rejected an offer from the leaders in the Gulf region that included $15 billion, a lifting of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade that prevents food, water and medical supplies from getting to Gaza, and access to both an airport and a seaport. He said Palestine shouldn’t have to relinquish its political principles for something it was entitled to. But when asked what his principles were, Haniyeh responded:

“We will not recognize Israel,” he said. “Palestine must stretch from the river to the sea, the right of return [must be fulfilled], the prisoners must be set free, and a fully sovereign Palestinian state must be established with Jerusalem as its capital.”

In other words: the offer Haniyeh is willing to accept is one where the state of Israel is wiped out of the region, a proposal so ludicrous to the rest of the world (and even to the Arab Gulf states) that it gives them nothing to work with.

All of this, of course, leaves the Palestinian people in ruin. They are stuck between Netanyahu, a corrupt, callous and seemingly empathy-free leader of Israel willing to further encroach on a people already suffering unthinkable living conditions, and their own leadership, militant extremists so rigid in their views, that they are not being betrayed by the UAE so much as simply being left behind.

Odeh Bisharat convincingly argued in Haaretz that a “decent person would oppose the Israel-UAE deal.” It grants legitimacy to the oppression of the Palestinian people. It ties Israel closely to an authoritarian regime (in the UAE) that routinely “disappears” its citizens and exploits both women and workers. And it does nothing to alleviate the suffering of the people who are suffering most.

So, again: it depends where you’re coming from. Selling this as a deal that will bring more stability to the region is feasible — and one Trump and company deserve credit for. Very few people saw this coming. But selling this as a step forward for Israeli-Palestinian peace is more than a bit deceitful.


Your questions, answered.

Reminder: You can ask questions, too. All you have to do is reply to this email and write in — you can reach me anytime!

Q: Who is Jo Jorgenson? What are her strengths, weaknesses, and qualifications? Do you see her as a bigger issue for Trump or Biden (assuming she has no chance at winning)?

— Chris, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tangle: Jo Jorgenson is the Libertarian candidate for president this year. I’ve actually been pinging her campaign to try to set up an interview for a special Friday edition, but we haven’t been able to work out a time yet (same goes for Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who many speculated would be the Libertarian candidate this year).

Jorgenson has been in the Libertarian party spotlight for some time. She was chosen to represent the party this year, but her first run was in 1996 as vice president to then candidate Harry Browne. Her running mate this year is the podcaster Jeremy “Spike” Cohen. Cohen is the first Jew on a VP ticket since 2000 and the first millennial ever on a presidential ticket. He has a pretty strong Jewish identity and spoke recently about how it drives his politics in an interesting interview with the Times of Israel. For what it’s worth, the Libertarian party selects its vice president in a process I really like: they choose the VP separately from the presidential candidate. So Cohen wasn’t Jorgenson’s pick, but they are running mates nonetheless.

I think it’d be fair to describe the Jorgenson-Cohen ticket’s qualifications as scant. Neither has any experience governing of any kind. Jorgenson has a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and she currently lectures at Clemson University. She also has an MBA, has started her own software sales company, and now helps run a business consulting firm.

I would say their positions are probably a bit more intriguing to left-leaning voters than right-leaning voters. The major issue on the Jorgenson-Cohen ticket is ending wars. They have proposed the radical idea of ending all foreign aid, in its entirety, with no exceptions. Along with decoupling from war and foreign involvement, they put a premium on criminal justice reform. Jorgenson has said that if she were elected, she would pardon all non-violent criminals or criminals who committed “victimless crimes.” She has also said she would end civil asset forfeiture prior to conviction, the process by which law enforcement officers take assets from people suspected of crimes.

Like most Libertarians, Jorgenson and Cohen are emphasizing a transition to small government. This is the featured excerpt on their website:

Generations of Republican and Democrat politicians have failed the people of America. Together they’ve given us:
  • Over $26 trillion in debt, trillion-dollar deficits, plus trillions more in unfunded liabilities
  • Non-Stop Involvement in expensive and deadly foreign war
  • Skyrocketing health care costs
  • The highest imprisonment rate in the world; even higher among racial minorities and the poor
  • A broken retirement system unable to pay promised benefits
  • Tariffs that are destroying markets for American farmers
But there’s a lot for conservatives in their platform, too.

On COVID-19, Jorgenson has been critical of the federal government’s response, saying it amounted to a huge federal overreach. She’s advocated reopening schools and disposing of mask mandates. “We need to put the decision-making power back into your hands, because you know what’s best for you,” she said at a recent rally. "We're all adults, and it shouldn't be against the law to be stupid.” Jorgenson has argued that private businesses are doing enough to ensure people wear masks to enter their establishments. She’s also argued that government regulation slowed down mass testing.

"We lost tens of millions of jobs," she says. "If we had the testing out there, if we didn't have the FDA obstacles, if we didn't have so many other government obstacles, we could've had widespread testing. And then we could have known which people should have stayed home and which could go out."

She’s called for defunding the police at the federal level and defunding Planned Parenthood. She opposed the impeachment of President Trump, supports fewer restrictions on gun purchases and has expressed support for the Black Lives Matter protesters against police brutality. She’s said she believes less government will accomplish BLM’s goals and has said she’s happy the protests are happening.

Despite the seeming legitimacy of the campaign, it’s been a bit of a rough go for Jorgenson-Cohen. The biggest news they made was when Jorgenson was bitten by a bat and had to skip a campaign stop to get a rabies shot. Cohen has also been excoriated for not running a serious campaign and New York Magazine described him as “a joke.” That stemmed from Cohen’s offer of “free ponies” and a “Waffle House on every corner” in official campaign material.

Cohen defended that language, saying satire is a way to bring people in, engage an audience and get them to let their guard down. He’s insisted the campaign is, in fact, serious — and that having a little fun is a good way to get attention. But anytime you have to confirm your campaign is not a joke in interviews with the press, I think it’s fair to say you’ve had some bumps.

As for their impact on the race, it’s really tough to say. A poll from July had Jorgenson polling at about 2%. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld received about 4 million votes in 2016, which was historic. The Jorgenson-Cohen team thinks that they’ll get more than that given the hatred of Trump and apathy toward Biden, but the data doesn’t support their beliefs. At this point in 2016, Johnson was polling around 9% — Jorgenson-Cohen are barely registering with voters. I think a lot of people voted third party or sat out in 2016 because they did not think Trump had a chance, and I think there will be far more team-choosing in 2020 than in 2016.

That being said, any third-party candidate is likely to hurt Biden’s odds more than Trump’s — hence the Trump campaign working to get Kanye West on some state ballots. Supporting Trump seems most akin to loving a football team right now, and very few of his supporters are going to jump ship in 2020. What will win the election for Democrats is more turnout and enthusiasm than there was for Hillary.

Any chance of picking up some moderate or now never-Trump Republicans who voted for him in 2016 could only be negatively impacted by a successful Libertarian campaign, so I think it’s a net positive for Trump to have Jorgenson in the race. Right now, the “double-haters,” or voters who dislike both Trump and Biden, are breaking strongly for Democrats. A successful third-party campaign could threaten that, but I don’t think that’s the third-party campaign we have right now.


A story that matters.

Health care experts are pleading with the American public to get their flu shots this year, saying they fear a “twindemic” of flu outbreaks and COVID-19 outbreaks across the country. “Even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already coping with Covid-19 cases,” The New York Times reports. “And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to anticipate this year, they are worried large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, increasing the risk of widespread outbreaks.” The unusual double threat has left experts at the CDC pushing for people to take the flu shot even before its available, ramping up a public health campaign to help beat back what could be a disastrous winter if the public doesn’t get vaccinated at usual rates. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson began his own pro-flu shot campaign as well.


Numbers.

  • 17%. The percentage of Americans who say it is appropriate for President Trump to call for a delay in the 2020 election.
  • 10%. The percentage of Democrats who say it is appropriate for President Trump to call for a delay in the 2020 election.
  • 28%. The percentage of Republicans who say it is appropriate for President Trump to call for a delay in the 2020 election.
  • 47%. The percentage of Americans who strongly disapprove of President Trump’s effort to block funding for the postal service to prevent mail-in voting in the election.
  • 16%. The percentage of Americans who strongly approve of President Trump’s effort to block funding for the postal service to prevent mail-in voting in the election.
  • 56%. The percentage of Americans who support raising the federal minimum wage from its current level ($7.25 per hour) to $15 per hour.
  • 27%. The percentage of Americans who oppose raising the federal minimum wage from its current level ($7.25 per hour) to $15 per hour.
  • 54%. The percentage of Americans who are satisfied with the way women are treated in society.
  • 83%. The percentage of Republican men who are satisfied with the way women are treated in society, the highest of any demographic.
  • 26%. The percentage of Democratic women who are satisfied with the way women are treated in society, the lowest of any demographic.

Help me.

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Have a nice day.

In the rural Eastern Plains of Colorado, the dominant economy is agriculture. So when the government-mandated shutdown hit, many Colorado residents continued to go to work at jobs that were deemed essential. But local businesses, including restaurants, were forced to shut down. That prompted residents in Phillips County to take action. Over 160 residents pooled together their stimulus checks, some savings and spare change to raise more than $115,000 that went to 29 businesses across the county. The money was used to support furloughed employees, purchase PPE and help the businesses stay afloat for a few more weeks. “I just think that your neighbors are not just the people across the street and next door to you, they’re everybody in the county,” the county’s economic developer said. “You support everybody, because if you don’t support one business, how are you going to survive?”

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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Buck County, PA — one of the most politically divisive counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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