The latest Wisconsin Retirement System newsletter reports that a recent Harvard University report on a stress test analysis of the largest public pension plans in 10 states cited Wisconsin as an example of how “strong funding policies can help to ensure that the public pension systems are sustainable and secure.” The WRS’ strong financial standing is a source of comfort for all those that receive pension benefits through it; its effective management, sound investment approaches and performance, and benefits formulae will hopefully continue to escape any effort by the Governor to try to “improve” it. [Perhaps he’ll be wise enough to stay away from the plan in order avoid having the hijinks that he has visited on so many other parts of Wisconsin government adversely affect his own pension ;)].
A letter I’ve just mailed [I cling to the old hard copy approach 🙂 ] to Mr. Pocan, the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s Second Congressional District:
Dear Representative Pocan:
I am writing to express my deep disappointment at your ill-considered introduction of a bill to terminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). While I abhor both the policy under which we separated parents and children at the border and our apparent treatment of many of those reaching our border as rabble rather than human beings, the fact remains that we need enforcement of our immigration laws. I’m confident that ICE agents undertake dangerous and difficult responsibilities on a daily basis that those of us in our ivory towers prefer not to think about. Your meat-axe approach seems to lack any substantive solution to the immigration enforcement challenges we face. I assume that you are feeling suitable embarrassment if, as The Wall Street Journal reports, you intend to vote against your own bill if the House Republican leadership submits it for a vote.
On a less important level, liberals seem determined to be their own worst political enemies. Our state and a number of other states and districts are closely divided. Judging by the President’s polling numbers, he’s lost support during his time in office. Today, it seems likely that few of those that voted for Secretary Clinton would vote Republican, while a significantly higher number of the more centrist voters that ultimately voted for the President rue their vote. Right now, Democrats are on the Republican side of the 50-yard line. While it may be exhilarating to strike a gesture for a party’s most ardent supporters by taking actions like you did, it’s not the way to win elections. There’s no need to stoke the enthusiasm of Democratic loyalists; their fervor against the President and Republican policies is so strong that they’ll come out and vote. What you and other Democratic office holders should do – if you wish to win, and not simply feel exhilaration — is focus on earning the confidence of those 2016 Republican voters that have developed misgivings about the Republican actions over the last 18 months. Many of these voters fear that their values no longer have a place in our country, have the impression that our immigration policies are too lax, fear crime, etc., etc. To vote for Democrats, they must be assured that their justifiable concerns will be taken seriously by Democratic office holders. If Democratic Party strategists advise that providing these sorts of assurances will require the party to renounce the societal openness it also champions … then the party needs new strategists.
In an early chapter in his book, The Best and The Brightest, David Halberstam wrote the following about John F. Kennedy’s assessment of his chances for winning the Democratic Party nomination in 1960:
“[The liberal intellectual wing of the party was] not only dubious of [Kennedy] but staunchly loyal to Adlai Stevenson after those two gallant and exhilarating defeats. That very exhilaration had left the Kennedys, particularly Robert Kennedy, with a vague suspicion that liberals would rather lose gallantly than win pragmatically, that they valued the irony and charm of Stevenson’s election-night concessions more than they valued the power and patronage of victory. [My emphasis].”
Although it is unusual for me to align with House Speaker Paul Ryan on domestic issues, I agree with his comment quoted in this weekend’s Journal: “[Democrats advocating abolishing ICE] are tripping over themselves to move too far to the left.”
Will it be exhilaration or pragmatism? Has the party learned anything over the last 60 years?
Two related items that shouldn’t be lost in the flurry of the holiday: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s issuance of findings on the Intelligence Community’s January, 2017, Assessment of Russian interference in our election process (the ICA) and … a trip currently being taken to Russia by a U.S. Senate delegation.
On July 3, the bipartisan Senate Committee issued a set of its findings on the reliability of the ICA. The findings are worth reading in their entirety — only 7 pages and readily found through an internet search. Although many are aware, it’s worth noting that this Committee contains one more Republican than Democrat, and that at least three of the Republicans on the Committee – Sens. Lankford, Cotton, and Cornyn – have been strong supporters of President Trump in other contexts.
First a recap of some of the ICA referred to in the Committee’s report:
- That Russia executed a “significant escalation” in its attempt to interfere in U.S. domestic politics in the run-up to the 2016 elections through multi-faceted cyber espionage and cyber-driven messaging via Russian-controlled propaganda platforms.
- That Russia’s activities were in furtherance of its longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.
- That Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election, intended to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.
- That President Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for then-candidate Donald Trump.
- That President Putin and the Russian Government aspired when possible to help Candidate Trump win by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.
The Senate Committee’s findings regarding the reliability of the ICA include the following:
- That the ICA was a “sound intelligence product.”
- That the ICA was supported by evidence reviewed by the Senate Committee.
- That the intelligence analysts that prepared the ICA were under no politically-motivated pressure to reach any conclusions.
- That the disagreement among intelligence analysts was reasonable, transparent, and openly debated, with analysts on both sides of the confidence level articulately justifying their positions.
- That the [Steele] [D]ossier did not in any way inform the analysis in the ICA.
Meanwhile, during the same days that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee was issuing these findings, we have a Senate delegation visiting Russia and conferring with President Putin and Russian officials. This group – entirely Republican – apparently includes Sens. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Kennedy (R-LA), John Thune (R-S.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), and … Wisconsin’s own Ron Johnson. Sen. Shelby has been quoted as saying during the trip, “[The United States and Russia] have a strained relationship, but we could have a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia because there’s some common interests around the world that we could hopefully work together on.”
While Sen. Shelby – for whom, along with Sen. Kennedy, I had a fair measure of respect before this episode – is literally correct – there are indeed areas in which we have common interests with Russia (e.g., the ISIS conflict) — his comment is largely akin to saying that you have a common interest in weed control with a neighbor trying to burn your house down.
I remain an unabashed Richard Nixon – Ronald Reagan follower in the foreign policy sphere. It is inconceivable that either of those Presidents, given the clear evidence of Russia’s interference in our election process – which Dick Cheney noted last year some would consider “an act of war” — would believe cozy conversations with the Russians at this time to be in America’s best interest. Both Presidents made clear, publicly and privately, that they understood that the Russians of their day – and Mr. Putin, cut from the cloth of the Cold War, is of their day — respond to strength and resolve, not amiable chatting. I would suggest that this delegation’s activities are at best well-intended blundering, and arguably a disappointing dereliction of their sworn duty to “… defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”