Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

Following a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Nov. 11, President Trump stated that Putin had again denied Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, adding that speculation on meddling was taking away from U.S. cooperation with Russia on issues such as North Korea, the Syrian Civil War and hostility in Ukraine (The New York Times, “Trump Says Putin ‘Means It’ About Not Meddling,” 11.11.2017).

Trump again took to Twitter on Nov. 12 to unload his frustrations after a week of travels in Asia, disparaging Hillary Clinton’s work on Russian relations and congratulating himself for his restraint in not calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “short and fat.”

White House Chief of Stagg John Kelly responded to the barrage, stating, “The tweets don’t run my life; good staff work runs it.” Following Trump’s speech in Seoul, in which he spoke of the brutality of Kim’s regime, North Korean officials described Trump as a “lunatic old man” (The New York Times, “After a Disciplined Week in Asia, Trump Unloads on Critics,” 11.12.2017).

In China on Nov. 9, Trump praised President Xi Jinping’s accomplishments and claimed he was confident that Xi could allay the threat from North Korea. While American officials stated that Trump pressed the Chinese leader on trade imbalances and putt pressure on North Korea, no tangible achievements were made apart from $250 billion of bilateral business agreements (The New York Times, “Trump, Aiming to Coax Xi Jinping, Bets on Flattery,” 11.09.2017).

Republican lawmakers face an uphill battle to rectify the differences between the tax plans proposed by the House and Senate. The plans diverge on key issues, including the number of income tax brackets, state and local tax deductions, mortgage deductions, cuts to the corporate tax rate, tax breaks for pass-through businesses, raising taxes on foreign revenue, slashing the estate tax and providing deductions for adoption, education and health (The New York Times, “House and Senate Have Big Differences to Bridge on Tax Plans,” 11.09.2017).

Democrats enjoyed sweeping victories in the Nov. 7 elections, including many races that were expected to result in Republican wins. Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) commented, “Voters are taking their anger out at the president, and the only way they can do that is by going after Republicans on the ballot.”

Among the candidates elected were the first transgender legislator in the country, the first Vietnamese-American legislator in Virginia, the first female African-American mayor of Charlotte, NC and the first Black statewide officer in Virginia in more than 25 years (The New York Times, “Suburbs Rebel Against Trump, Threatening Republicans in Congress,” 11.08.2017).

On Nov. 7, Trump opined that tighter gun restrictions could have increased the death toll in the Texas mass shooting on Nov. 5. The gunman, Devin Kelley, entered a church during a Sunday service and killed 26 people; upon exiting, he was shot by an armed bystander.

Trump did not address the fact that Kelley should have been barred from purchasing his gun due to domestic violence charges, which the Air Force evidently failed to enter into a federal database (The New York Times, “Trump Says Tougher Gun Laws Could’ve Worsened Texas Death Toll,” 11.07.2017).

In our backyard…

The ongoing debacle over Poughkeepsie’s failure to transfer its bus assets to Dutchess County may escalate as the end of the month approaches. On Nov. 3, the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) gave the city 30 days to come to a Common Council resolution and complete the transfer before the FTA “takes further action.” The warning letter also notes that the federal government has already frozen $595,000 in funds that Poughkeepsie would have received for running the bus system in 2015 and 2016 (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “FTA gives Poughkeepsie 30 days to transfer assets or pay penalty,”11.04.2017).

The Nov. 7 elections were deeply divided in Dutchess County, with the Democratic challenger for comptroller leading the incumbent Republican by slightly more than half a percentage point. However, Republicans won most town supervisor positions and held onto the majority in the county legislature.

In national as well as local politics, backlash against Trump is expected to influence 2018 elections; one politician affected could be Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican who is reportedly considering challenging Democratic Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Could this year’s election fallout shape 2018 races?,” 11.10.2017).

On Nov. 10, the Poughkeepsie Fire Department fêted firefighters at the annual awards ceremony held at the department’s headquarters on Main Street. Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison presented the awards along with Fire Chief Mark Johnson and Deputy Chief Joe Franco (Hudson Valley Post, “City of Poughkeepsie firefighters honored,” 11.10.17).

The awards presented included a Medal of Honor and three Life-Saving awards, presented for heroic actions at the site of two major fires earlier this year.

Rolison showered praise on the firefighters, saying, “We could have all brand-new equipment or we could have all aging equipment. It is you that get on those rigs and go out and do that job. That’s the most important thing” (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “City of Poughkeepsie firefighters awarded for life-saving actions,” 11.09.2017).

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

State Democratic victories on Nov. 7 improved 2020 presidential prospects for Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, who previously served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was a top fundraiser for the Clintons. The biggest win went to Ralph Northam, who will succeed McAuliffe as governor. Democratic Pollster John Zogby noted the “huge turnout, a record victory for the Democratic candidate, an electorate motivated by more than anything else a distaste for President Donald Trump,” but added that progressive voters on the left will not appreciate McAuliffe’s ties to the party establishment, namely the Clintons (Washington Examiner, “Terry McAuliffe’s 2020 bid looks stronger after Virginia election sweep,” 11.12.2017).

On Nov. 13, Former Vice President Joe Biden began touring for his new book, “Promise Me, Dad,” with a spot on NBC’s “Today” followed by an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” The apparently non-political book is about Biden’s relationship with his son Beau, whose death in 2015 inspired Biden to consider running for president and also to ultimately decide not to go through with the bid.

“I regret that I am not president because I think there is so much opportunity,” Biden reflected in an interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, but he added, “I don’t regret the decision I made because it was the right decision for my family.”

Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon told TMZ this week that he supports a 2020 presidential bid by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, as long as he runs as a Democrat and not a Republican. Cuban has stated to CNN that he’s “not committing to anything” as far as 2020.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was reelected on Nov. 7, making him the first Democratic mayor to be reelected since Ed Koch in 1985 and raising speculation about a possible 2020 presidential run. De Blasio’s achievements includes establishing universal pre-K schooling, instituting a rent freeze and ending stop-and-frisk.

On Nov. 17, the New Hampshire Democratic Party holds its annual Kennedy-Clinton dinner, with Representatives Tim Ryan (R- OH), John Delaney (D-MD) and Grace Meng (D-NY) as headliners.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shared on his social network that he met with DREAMers, undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, while in Oklahoma on Nov. 8. “A good reminder that we need to pass the Dream Act before the end of this year,” he wrote in the post (CNN, “#2020Vision: Biden prepares his media blitz; Macker’s moment; the Bannon-Cuban connection,” 11.10.2017).

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