2020 Vision

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi has a long history of knowing when to play it safe and when to rock the boat

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JULY 12, 2019 • Politics

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N THE DAY Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born, 13 October 1989, Nancy Pelosi was two years into a Congressional career that would yield the highest ranking female politician of American history. Pelosi inherited a seat twice vacated by death, the first of Phillip Burton and the second of his wife Sala. From the former Pelosi also inherited a commitment to AIDS research and legislation, concerns which at the time set her apart from the Washington establishment and in particular the Reagan administration.

I begin here to remind the reader—should the reminder be necessary—there was a time Nancy Pelosi was something of an Ocasio-Cortez figure, pushing controversial and outside-the-box thinking on recalcitrant colleagues. As a San Francisco Democrat, Pelosi came to Washington from a district that had been consistently blue since she attended her first national convention in 1952. In the alchemy of these contradictory themes, of safety and boat-rocking, the career of Speaker Pelosi was forged.

No one survives even in the safest of districts without wits, and Pelosi is a sharp and shrewd politician. Obamacare could well and with good reason have been called Pelosicare, dependant as its passage was on her considerable skills. She is among the most competent and effective Speakers of the House of the past forty years. But longevity has its hazards. It wasn’t long ago that Pelosi held up the liberal end of the argument. Today we have the younger and more strident voices of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar—a fresh generation of Democrats keen to take on the President. Pelosi has now become the resistance, not of Trump but of the mavericks within her own party.

The President will not be removed from office by means of an impeachment vote. Pelosi’s calculation is that hearings will only aid Trump’s fortunes in 2020, by supplying fuel to his engine of paranoia and vindictiveness. She’s been around long enough to have noticed that impeachment is now (along with the special counsel) an all-weather political tool, drawn from the chest as a matter of routine business, a habit that does not exactly thrill the public. “You can’t impeach everybody,” she has said, when in fact her career seems to have taught her that you can’t impeach anybody—not even Bill Clinton, whose removal from office had the support of the House but not of the Senate.

The case for impeachment has two aspects, one political and one principle. On the political side one must calculate the electoral hazards, and who can doubt that Pelosi has done so. The principle aspect requires an answer to the question, Does the President merit impeachment? Pelosi’s rivals in the Democratic party have answered this question to their satisfaction. They want to exercise the oversight function of Congress and send a message that no President is above the law. Pelosi however appears interested only in the political calculation.

She believes the centre will hold and that Trump will succumb to something that she calls self-impeachment. The voters will decide. Perhaps in the meanwhile evangelicals will restrain the President in matters such as mass raids and deportations. Secretary Acosta’s illegal sweetheart deal with the child mass-rapist Jeffrey Epstein? The president’s call. There is no role for Congress. When presented a question touching upon the behaviour of the Trump administration, Pelosi spills the phrases I’m not focused on / don’t know much about / am not interested in that. “We have a great deal of work to do here for the good of the American people and we have to focus on that,” she says, without much by way of specifics. As for the mavericks in her party, “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.” Oof. Pelosi has gone beyond not wanting to rock the boat to not wanting to sit in it.

A year ago Joe Biden was the seasoned politician and the beloved Obama sidekick. He was untouchable until suddenly he wasn’t. Survive long enough and you will confront your own obsolescence. It may be that Pelosi is steps ahead of the rest of us, playing a Democratic version of Trump’s QAnon four-dimensional chess. Perhaps Trump will “self-impeach” and the world will be better for it. Perhaps the best course of action is to wait. Nancy Pelosi has a long history of knowing when to play it safe and when to rock the boat. She’s among the smartest politicians out there, until she isn’t. ⌾

The Rot At The Top

Alex Acosta

Was the President involved in the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein?

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JULY 8, 2019 • Current Events

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HEN FBI AGENTS crowbarred their way into the Manhattan home of Jeffrey Epstein, evidence of his crimes was uncovered in a cache of pornographic videos and photographs. No one informed in this topic need be surprised by the chutzpah of a registered high-risk sex offender with a child-porn stash. It’s not as if Epstein hasn’t all along believed in his own version of a Fifth Avenue shooting, that he can do what he wants in broad daylight and get away with it. So far he has, thanks to rich and powerful acquaintances.

At times it was as if he were flaunting. Early in 2003, the journalist Vicky Ward was a guest at Epstein’s home. He left out one book and one book alone for her to notice, The Misfortunes of Virtue, by Donatien Alphonse François, better known as the Marquis de Sade—author of The 120 Days of Sodom and Philosophy in the Bedroom. Well, I mean. The article submitted to Vanity Fair included rape allegations Ward had uncovered, a subject excised entirely by Graydon Carter, at Epstein’s request, from the published version, “The Talented Mr. Epstein.” Between the first and the final drafts, Epstein phoned Ward’s office to tell her how good she looked, before resorting to threats and personal attacks.

Of course the authors of puff-pieces like the preceding Vanity Fair example could not have known then what we know now. What they had were quotations such as this, recorded in 2002 by Landon Thomas Jr. for New York magazine:

I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years—terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it—Jeffrey enjoys his social life.

This speaker now happens to be President of the United States, and the phrase “on the younger side” now happens to be understood as a euphemism for child rape, sexual slavery (according to Vicky Ward, sex slave was a phrase used by Epstein) and what Daily Beast reporter Kate Briquelet has called “a pyramid scheme of predation.” Not only did Epstein rape children, he recruited and paid them to bring other children for him to rape and recruit. In doing so he destroyed many lives, a number of his victims having died of drug overdose and suicide. This week’s news means that the victims, of whom there are now thought to be in access of a hundred, will relive their agony. Epstein in the meantime has enjoyed his considerable wealth, even throughout a 13-month sentence that permitted him to go to his office every day and to travel by private jet (one of which, used by Bill Clinton, was nicknamed the Lolita Express) to his properties in Palm Beach, New Mexico, Paris, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Read the indictment of Jeffrey Epstein

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For over a decade the child rapist Jeffrey Epstein has been a registered high-risk sex offender. The list of people who have aided, enabled, and sheltered him both before and after this designation is likely long and will include names that are familiar to the reader. His long-time partner and enabler Ghislaine Maxwell is certain to figure in any credible indictment, and there should also be a reckoning for Alexander Acosta, who buried an investigation into Epstein’s crimes and shielded not only actual co-conspirators but theoretical and potential ones also. Only the tenacity of the victims, and the extraordinary work of journalists like Julie K. Brown, has made an eventual reckoning thinkable. At the very least Acosta—appointed Secretary of Labor by Donald Trump and made responsible for the country’s human sex trafficking laws—should be forced to resign.

Attorney General Bill Barr
Attorney General Bill Barr won’t recuse himself from Jeffrey Epstein case. Barr’s father, Donald, hired Epstein to teach at the Dalton School in New York. Epstein tutored the children of Bear Stearns Chairman, Alan Greenberg, and was later hired as an options trader.

Acosta’s resignation, much like the clean-up of which it would be a part, requires the steel of an administration that is crime-and-corruption averse. But of course what we have instead is a President whose adult life has been an elbow-rubbing and shoulder-slapping of conmen and crooks and thugs. Whatever the character of their relationship, Epstein and Trump are cut of the same cloth. Vicky Ward tells us that Epstein is “someone who wants to be known for the scale of his possessions” and who purchased Manhattan’s largest private residence (51,000 square-feet and nine stories) so there would be nowhere bigger to live. Epstein was a New York City-Palm Beach libertine who wanted to be known for his wealth and his pursuit of women. His modeling agency was itself modelled after Trump’s. So it’s reasonable to wonder how involved with Epstein, if at all, the President was. ⌾