Tag: Congress

Congressional Compromise: The Partisan Stalemate Isn’t True

By Juan Ayala | United States

Most Would Say Congress Doesn’t Work

It would be very easy to say that Congress doesn’t work-sometimes it truly doesn’t. Moreover, it would be easy to infer that members of Congress also don’t work and are tainted with special interests; that’s the easy and ignorant way to look at it. To that effect, when was the last time you saw a story in the news that talked about bipartisan compromise, members working together, and a genuine sense of honesty amongst those in elected office? The answer most would say is very rare. Then, there are those such as myself that are quite deep within domestic politics. I am here to tell you that most members of Congress are trying to do the best they can.

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Mitch McConnell Takes on the Green New Deal

Michael Ottavio | United States

Senate Majority Leader and brilliant tactician, Mitch McConnell, is currently gearing up to take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” a proposed solution to climate change and a massive economic overhaul program, to the Senate floor for a vote.

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Walter Jones: A Hero to the Anti-War Movement

Kenneth Casey | United States

On Sunday, America lost one of their most principled and honorable members of Congress with the passing of Walter Jones, the U.S. Representative of North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. According to Fox News, Jones had suffered a broken hip at his home on January 14th and underwent surgery at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville the following day, which was just one of a series of ailments that Jones had faced.

The North Carolina politician first entered the cutthroat world of politics in 1983 after being elected as a representative of North Carolina at the state level, serving as a Democrat for the entirety of his tenure. After his father vacated his U.S. Congressional seat as a member of North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District in 1992, Jones decided to run for his father’s seat and did so successfully. While being a Democrat and serving his first term as so, he decided to switch his party affiliation to the Republican Party in 1994 and has remained a member of the party since.

For around a decade, Jones worked like most people in Washington. He flew under the radar, for the most part, not garnering much national attention. He often served as the standard Republican member of Congress by commonly voting in line with his party as most members of Congress do. The practice of rarely breaking party line and staying away from even the slightest hints of contrarianism is popular in Congress as it increases your chances of being re-elected. That’s why, just about every year, 90% or more of Congress gets re-elected. As long as you do your part and vote in line with your party on the most important issues, the party leadership will support your re-election bid and make the threat of a primary challenge extremely unlikely.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Jones did something that garnered widespread mainstream media attention. Unless you know Walter’s path of getting where he is today, what he did may just surprise you.

A Figure Emerges

Walter was one of the biggest supporters of the Invasion of Iraq back in 2003. His passion for the war was so strong that when France announced their opposition to the United States’ involvement in Iraq, Walter, along with fellow House Republican Bob Ney of Ohio, led the charge to alter a couple names of food choices on the House Cafeteria menu. “French Fries” were to be changed to “Freedom Fries”; “French Toast” was changed to “Freedom Toast”. Yes, Jones’ first real moment of prominence after 10 years a Congress was when he became known as one of the Republicans who bootlicked for the Invasion of Iraq so much that he made his disapproval of France’s stance on the issue known by removing the word “French” from the House Cafeteria Menu.

By the end of 2005, the number of American casualties had reached 2,181. It was around this time that Walter Jones drastically changed his views on Foreign Policy. He called on President Bush to withdraw from Iraq, stating he had “come to believe that there had been little reason to go to war, despite his earlier support, which had been based upon selective intelligence supplied to Congress.” Walter did something that we hardly ever see in politicians, and that is admitting that they are wrong. After coming to the realization of his past faults, he became one of the biggest non-interventionists in Congress, supporting peace every single chance he got and opposing war at all costs.

Because of his heroism among anti-war activists, he earned the label “Champion of Peace” by fellow non-interventionist Congressman Ron Paul. In the years following his change of heart towards the Iraq War, Jones has signed over 12,000 letters to families and extended families who have lost loved ones in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and has hung posters displaying the faces of the dead along the hallway leading to his congressional office in Washington D.C. “That was for me asking God to forgive me for my mistake,” Jones told the NPR in 2017.

An Enemy of War Hawks

Of course, whenever Jones defied the Republican and neoconservative establishment by advocating for non-interventionism and going against their mainstream ideology, they did not take kindly to that. In both 2014 and 2016, Jones a faced primary opponent who benefited from having received millions from neoconservatives, most notably Bill Kristol, who despised Walter for his foreign policy and didn’t think that he belonged in the modern day Republican Party. Even though his views didn’t exactly coincide with the majority of the Republican Party’s, he still managed to easily brush off his primary challengers both times from the hawkish right, with his constituents proving they wanted to keep their principled politician. This led to him being awarded another nickname from Ron Paul: The Neocon Slayer.

Later on in his congressional career, following the changes in his foreign policy beliefs, he lived by a mindset that he felt his father had failed to follow. That mindset was doing what he believed was right even if it resulted in his career ending abruptly ending. He noted in a 2005 interview that he remembered the worst day of his father’s career was when he had to vote for a financial bailout of New York City in 1970, something his father personally opposed but had to vote for because of “political reasons”.

A Legacy to Remember

If you asked Jones, prior to his death, how he feels looking back at the time in which he was known as the guy who was the reason for the Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast denominations on the House Cafeteria Menu, he most likely would have reacted by laying his cheek in his left hand. This was a habit he said he would “repeat dozens of times a day when lost in thought or sadness”. He would uncharacteristically say nothing, wishing to erase that point in his political career from his and everybody else’s memory. Sixteen years after his vote to send American troops into Iraq, Jones would still have been furious with himself and shaken that he reacted with the dramatic response to a problem much bigger than that, ashamed and regretful of his past votes and rhetoric. In a 2015 interview, he stated he would “go to his grave regretting that he had helped kill 4,000 American soldiers.”

In his later days, Walter ended up becoming so much more than what I previously described in this article: an unprincipled politician who really doesn’t have a person in Congress other than to be there as a yes-man. Walter ended up becoming something that is such a rare species. Some wonder if principled, honorable politicians are already extinct. The type of morality that Walter Jones displayed earns the amount of respect none of us are capable of giving. For that, he deserves to be recognized, honored, and never forgotten in our memories.

May he rest in peace.


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Tulsi Gabbard: The Ideal New Face of the Democratic Party

Ian Brzeski | United States

Both the Democratic and Republican parties need a change in leadership. They both need to break away from the establishment and become the parties they claim to be. There was a point in time where the parties stood for principles they truly believed in; however, this piece has long since passed. Though both parties are guilty of this, The Democratic party has specifically failed to live up to its promoted ideal of being the “anti-war” party.  Through the party leaders’ continual lying and corruption, the Democratic Party needs a fresh face to restore some of the party’s integrity, and that face should be Tulsi Gabbard.

The Democratic Party has failed when it has fallen under the control of those who think in terms of dollars instead of human values – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Once a party that seemed to care for the citizens, the Democratic Party has now become a joke due to deceitful politicians who have succumbed to the evils and temptations of the establishment. Power corrupts and money talks, and these colloquialisms are more relevant now than ever before.

The Democratic Party needs to replace the outdated and corrupt leaders of Pelosi and Schumer with the new. If they want to align with their boasted ideology they claim to have, they have to replace them with the likes of Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who care for the welfare of the people and maintain consistent values without compromise.

Of course, I am not saying you have to agree with Gabbard or Ocasio-Cortez on political issues. In fact, you could disagree with any one of them on virtually every single point they stand for. However, even feeling that way; you cannot dispute that they care for their constituents and seem to uphold values the Democratic Party claims to prioritize. I have respect for both, but Tulsi Gabbard is better suited to lead the party.

An Ideal Figurehead

Gabbard is a better fit than Ocasio-Cortez for a few reasons. First of all, Gabbard makes more of an effort to stress pulling out of Syria and Afghanistan. She also vehemently advocates for allowing Venezuela to maintain its sovereignty. Ocasio-Cortez does not make as much of an effort to talk about these issues, as she seems to focus her efforts on internal matters.

With people like Gabbard at the forefront, the Democratic Party would start to become more respectable by bringing back their “anti-war” values. Another reason Gabbard is a better fit is that she is more of a moderate Democrat while Ocasio-Cortez states that she is a democratic socialist. As intriguing as radical ideas are, they are not usually politically wise to promote. There would be more tension amongst people in the party. Most importantly, though, Gabbard holds steadfast to her beliefs and doesn’t succumb to pressure from political parties.

Values Over Party Politics

Tulsi Gabbard is not afraid to call Donald Trump out when he does something wrong, but she also is not afraid to praise him when she feels it is right to do so. People like her are next to impossible to come by today, not just in politics but also in everyday life.

Take, for instance, never Trumpers who will cry about every little thing he has ever done. Believe it or not, the man sometimes makes good decisions. You also have the people who worship Donald Trump in the same way that the poor people in Medellin worshipped Pablo Escobar. To them, the man can do no wrong. Famous conservative pundits who sometimes criticize Trump often suffer bitter blowback.

Many people in both groups here may not like Gabbard. She slams Trump often, so the latter group is likely to take issue. But she also applauds Trump sometimes. Thus, the former group also has reason to be wary. Regardless, Tulsi Gabbard is still able to maintain her values with her original thoughts. Without a doubt, we need more people like her representing the people of the United States. Whether you agree or disagree with them, the inherent value that comes from a genuine person who is committed to the betterment of society far outweighs any potential tiffs one may have over party affiliation.

Warranted Criticisms

I support Tulsi Gabbard simply because she is the best option for the DNC. Despite this, many people have claimed she is not who she seems. One common criticism is that Gabbard is not truly anti-war and really is in fact quite hawkishEvidence of certain statements she has made as well as evidence from her voting records supports this notion. Thus, it appears she is not unilaterally opposed to war.

However, she is better than the other democrat representatives. She has some foreign policy opinions that I feel hold weight. Tulsi brings a kind of non-interventionist background with her, unlike most Democratic leaders, and I think that this is what the DNC needs more of.

I am not a Democrat and I don’t agree with Tulsi Gabbard on many of her claims. Certainly, she is not my ideal candidate. Despite those things, because of her passionate emotional and logical appeals to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Syria and her unwillingness to back down when faced with pressure from those in and outside of her party, she has garnered my respect.

She is not afraid to critique people she historically agrees with when she truly believes they are wrong. She is certainly not one to shy away from praising her opponents when they deserve it. We need more of this in politics if we ever hope to diminish the hatred that comes with political polarization. Therefore, Tulsi Gabbard should be the new face of the Democratic Party.


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The American Constitutional Upside Down

Glenn Verasco | Thailand

If you’re not familiar with Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things, don’t worry; I won’t reveal any major spoilers. A central theme of the show is that a portal into a parallel dimension opens. The terrors that lurk there are spilling out into a small town in our own world. Once the main characters discover this, they refer to the parallel universe as “The Upside Down.”

The Upside Down States of America

A bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators recently decided that America needs a taste of The Upside Down, too. By a 68-23 margin, the Senate affirmed a resolution to block any of Trump’s attempts to remove American troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

The vote comes amid repeated announcements and tweets by the president that he will fulfill one of his central campaign promises by ending some of the U.S.’s endless wars abroad, particularly in Syria. This would fit in well with his America First slogan. Bringing our troops home would allow the government to focus on the country it presides over. Moreover, it enables it to respect the autonomy of the globe’s many states.

When the president began talking withdrawal, establishment members of both parties and a hostile mainstream media scoffed and presented lame justifications for our presence in both countries. Many claimed that Turkey, our NATO ally, would “slaughter” our Kurdish allies if the mere 2,000 US troops still in Syria went home. The Kurds and Turks admittedly have their differences. However, this would be a first in their shared history, not to mention the fact that Kurds are rough and tough; nobody will slaughter them.

Weak Reasons to Remain Abroad

It’s also worth noting that many of the same people who claim we need to protect the Kurds from Turkey lost their minds when Trump suggested the U.S. should leave the outdated and useless bureaucratic leviathan we call NATO. In a transparent display of idiocy, they simultaneously claim (1) we can’t leave NATO because it would be a betrayal of our NATO allies and (2) we can’t leave Syria because it would be a betrayal of our Kurdish allies who our NATO allies would slaughter. Talk about Stranger Things…

Other purported reasons to remain in Syria and Afghanistan are that leaving these aimless 10 and 17-year missions, respectively, would be “precipitous”. And of course, something, something, something, Russia.

Despite the contradictions and hollow fear-mongering, the real reason the situation is so upside down is that Congress never authorized the wars Trump is trying to end. On the other hand, the commander-in-chief’s power to withdraw troops requires no authorization at all.

Presidential Powers

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to declare war”. Article II, Section 2 names the president “commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States”. To me, “commander-in-chief” sounds pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps the Founders would have had to have written “Total Super Ultra Mega Boss of the Military” to get it through the thick skulls of today’s Democrats and Republicans.

It is true that Congress authorized former President George W. Bush to use military force against those responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Despite this, he did not get permission to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely for whatever reasons he and his successors could conjure up. The language in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists is admittedly vague. Thus, it might be fair to say that Congress and a gullible public are to blame as much as the executive.

On the other hand, President Barack Obama was outright denied authorization to invade Syria in a bipartisan fashion, but he did so anyway. Nice one, Barry.

Make Ending Wars Easy Again

Going to war should not be this easy, and ending wars should not be this hard. Our Founders were right to warn against entangling alliances and sticking our noses in other nations’ business. Engaging in either of these endeavors drains American lives, liberty, and treasure. It also prevents our neighbors abroad from learning to develop themselves. Neoconservatives can spend hours explaining why dependency upon welfare undermines an individual’s ability to develop. For some reason, they are too blind to see that dependency upon a foreign militia has the same result on nations.

However upside down our government is, President Trump cannot blame the potential failure to end the wars in Afghanistan and Syria on Congress. He has unquestioned authority to command the armed forces. No one can stop him from exercising his powers but himself. Playing politics by waiting a little while to accomplish this goal could be a forgivable strategic maneuver. But Trump will deserve total and complete blame if this promise is broken.

Mr. President, it’s time to grow a pair and order things right-side up.

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