Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

President Trump criticized NFL players who kneel in protest during the National Anthem and said that they should be fired. This inspired players across the country to demonstrate in defiance during the anthem on Sept. 24. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stated, “We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify” (The New York Times, “N.F.L.: Seahawks and Titans Skip National Anthem After Trump Comments,” 09.24.17).

Iran announced on Sept. 23 that it had successfully tested a new ballistic missile, raising concerns that the country’s activities violated a United Nations resolution endorsing the 2015 deal that restricts the country’s nuclear program (The New York Times, “Iran Tests Ballistic Missile and Rejects ‘Threats,’ ” 09.23.17).

Trump is replacing his travel ban, which barred visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, with restrictions on visitors from nations he has determined do not do enough to prevent terrorists and criminals from entering the States (The New York Times, “Trump’s Travel Ban to Be Replaced by Restrictions Tailored to Certain Countries,” 09.22.17).

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has requested documents relating to controversial actions by Trump, including the dismissals of former FBI Director James B. Comey and former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and an Oval Office meeting between the President and Russian officials (The New York Times, “Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President,” 09.20.17).

Retaliating against Trump’s threats to destroy North Korea at the United Nations’ General Assembly, Kim Jong-un called the President a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” on Sept. 22. The next day, the Air Force flew warplanes close to North Korea’s coast, prompting the country’s foreign minister to say on Sept. 25 that the North has the right to shoot down American warplanes, even those outside of its airspace (The New York Times, “North Korea Calls Trump’s Comments a ‘Declaration of War,’” 09.25.17).

Senate Republican leaders found themselves short of votes to pass the farthest-reaching health-care proposal yet, written by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) effectively doomed the bill by declaring opposition on Sept. 25, and it was scrapped the next day (The New York Times, “McConnell Says Republicans Are Giving Up on Health Bill,’” 09.26.17).

In our backyard…

Trump’s professed desire to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts hits close to home in Dutchess County, where $125,000 in annual NEA funding feeds arts initiatives such as the Jazz in the Valley festival, the Bard Music Festival and Spark Media Project’s DROP Studios. The arts are a crucial aspect of the Dutchess tourism industry, bringing in 600,000 visitors and generating $62 million annually. Should the NEA be nixed, arts organizations would face steep competition for grants; some, like the dance troupe Vanaver Caravan, say they would utilize online fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter. NEA funding is currently guaranteed only until Dec. 8 (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Trump threat to arts resonates loudly in Dutchess,” 09.22.17).

Fourth-grader MoNahjae Dickens celebrated the beginning of her term as first president of Poughkeepsie’s Morse Elementary School on Sept. 21. Along with her best friend and vice president Emani Ferzan, Dickens was sworn in at Poughkeepsie City Hall by Judge Thomas O’Neill. The election process was facilitated by Morse Elementary School teaching assistant Carol Melton and her Young Citizens after-school program, funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. “I want more children to be involved in improving not just the school, but the entire community,” remarked Dickens during the ceremony. “I have so many goals and dreams I want to complete.” This school year, the Poughkeepsie district stopped receiving the $1.2 million annual funding that supported the after-school program, and is searching for other grants to keep it afloat (Poughkeepsie Journal, “Poughkeepsie’s first elementary school president, VP, sworn in at City Hall,” 09.22.17).

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

New Jersey native Booker began his political career as senior class president at Stanford University, and went on to attend Yale Law School, where he operated free legal clinics for low-income residents of New Haven.

In his first NJ political role on the Newark City Council, he lived in a tent and went on a 10- day hunger strike to bring light to the city’s drug and violence problems. Booker lost his mayoral bid in 2002, but after working to better the community by establishing nonprofit organizations, he ran again in 2006 and won.

As mayor of Newark, Booker overhauled the police department, fixed Newark’s financial deficit, lowered the crime rate, implemented pay cuts for top earners (including himself) and earned a reputation as an overachieving leader with a remarkable dedication to his constituents.

In 2013, Booker became New Jersey’s first Black senator, and in 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton considered selecting him as her running mate (Biography, “Cory Booker”). Recently, Booker co-sponsored the universal health care bill presented by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

On Sept. 24, asked by MSNBC’s Al Sharpton about the possibility of a 2020 run, Booker demurred, saying, “I’ve got to focus on what New Jersey elected me to do. That’s three years away. I’m going to be the best senator I can be and not be afraid to call out injustice when I see it, no matter what happens” (The Washington Free Beacon, “Booker Dodges Question on Whether He’s Running for President: ‘That’s Three Years Away,’” 09.24.17).

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