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Progressives criticize MSNBC for canceling Mehdi Hasan show

Politico -

Progressive lawmakers, activists and advocacy groups voiced their outrage Thursday at MSNBC’s decision to cancel a show hosted by Medhi Hasan, claiming that the network was seeking to silence one of its most prominent Muslim on-air personalities.

“It is bad optics for MSNBC to cancel @mehdirhasan’s show right at a time when he is vocal for human rights in Gaza with the war ongoing,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) posted on X, formerly Twitter. “As a strong supporter of free speech, MSNBC owes the public an explanation for this decision. Why would they choose to do this now?”

Khanna’s tweet, which was retweeted by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), came as activists and advocacy groups cried foul on the network’s decision.

"@msnbc make this make sense. @mehdirhasan’s program has felt like an oasis on air and more needed than ever," Noura Erakat, a Palestinian American human rights lawyer, tweeted Thursday. “He should be amplified, not shut down.”

In a statement, Eva Borgwardt, a spokesperson for IfNotNow, a Jewish advocacy group that opposes U.S. support for the Israeli government, called Hasan “a vital voice holding those in power to account, providing a space for those questioning unconditional US support for Israel, and rigorously reporting on the news” and said it was “impossible to not see this cancellation as part of the sharp rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate over the last two months.”

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, also known as Bold Progressives, launched a petition Thursday calling on MSNBC to reinstate Hasan. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), a prominent progressive, posted on X that he is among the petition’s signatories.

Hasan, a prominent left-leaning commentator, joined NBCUniversal in 2020, first hosting a show on streaming platform Peacock. The show later moved over to MSNBC in March 2021, airing on Sunday evenings. The show averaged around 400,000 viewers a night, making it one of the lower-performing shows on the network. Hasan will remain with the network as an on-camera analyst and fill-in host.

Hasan could not be reached for comment. The news of Hasan’s show’s cancellation was first reported on by Semafor.

The news came as MSNBC has faced scrutiny for its treatment of Muslim on-air personalities since the outset of Israel’s war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Semafor reported that MSNBC had “quietly taken” Hasan, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi off-air in favor of more straight news coverage of the conflict. MSNBC has denied it was intentionally sidelining the trio.

The cancellation of Hasan’s show was part of a broader reshuffling of the liberal-leaning cable network’s weekend programming lineup. The network said that it would cancel a show hosted by Yasmin Vossoughian and expand a show hosted by Mohyeldin to two hours. Mohyeldin, like Hasan, is Muslim. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart’s Sunday show will move to the 6 p.m. block, and Alex Witt will be on air for three hours on the weekend.

MSNBC also announced the launch of a new weekend show called “The Weekend,” hosted by Alicia Menendez, Symone Sanders-Townsend and network contributor and former RNC chair Michael Steele. The show will premiere Jan. 13 and air on both Saturdays and Sundays. Menendez and Sanders-Townsend will no longer host their existing weekend shows.

Wyden to block Senate vote on new NSA, Cyber Command lead

Politico -

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pledged Thursday to block a vote confirming Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh as the new leader of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command until the NSA releases information on alleged surveillance of Americans.

The blockade comes amid growing debate around federal surveillance powers on Capitol Hill, and after Haugh’s nomination has already been held up for months by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on all military nominations.

Reasoning: Wyden — a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the NSA — said in a statement submitted to the Senate that he “regretfully” objects to any vote on Haugh, who currently serves as deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command. He complained that defense and intelligence officials have refused to make public information he received in 2021 about the NSA purchasing and using location data collected on Americans.

“The American people have a right to know whether the NSA is conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of Americans in a manner that circumvents the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” Wyden said, promising to maintain his blockade until the NSA released this information.

A spokesperson for the NSA did not respond to a request for comment. A official at the Department of Defense, granted anonymity to discuss the ongoing nomination process, said in a statement that the Pentagon "is aware" of the hold on Haugh's nomination, and that DOD "looks forward to working with Senator Wyden to address his concerns."

"This position plays a critical role in keeping our country safe, and we look forward to working with the Senate to confirm LTG Haugh, someone with deep experience and knowledge of cyber security, as soon as possible," the official said.

Background: Wyden’s move comes in response to Tuberville signaling he will back off his hold as soon as next week, after impeding hundreds of nominees since early this year in protest of the Pentagon’s policy of paying for service members to travel to obtain abortions.

Wyden had “hoped to come to a resolution” with the NSA on releasing the information before blocking Haugh’s nomination, according to his chief communications adviser, Keith Chu, who stressed that “this is not about … the lieutenant general himself, or his qualifications, just to make that clear.”

Surveillance in the spotlight: Wyden’s hold also comes ahead of the year-end expiration of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial spy tool that allows the U.S. government to collect the texts and emails of foreigners abroad. Wyden’s statement highlighted this looming deadline as a reason why the NSA needs to come clean about its data purchases.

“It makes it even more important when we're having that debate to have these kinds of basic facts available to the American people,” Chu said.

Impact: Haugh has received broad support in the Senate, including in both the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence panels. The hold means that Gen. Paul Nakasone, the current head of the NSA and Cyber Command, will continue to serve, with his term already past due.

The Weird, Dysfunctional and History-Changing Relationship Between Kissinger and Nixon

Politico -

Much will be written about the life and career of Henry Kissinger, the legendary — and deeply controversial — foreign policymaker who passed away this week at the age of 100. Revered by many on the establishment right as a preeminent conservative practitioner of realpolitik, and reviled by many on the left as a war criminal for his role in launching bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War, Kissinger left a legacy that is likely to remain hotly contested by historians and political scientists, diplomats and activists.

Policy aside, an intriguing part of the story is how a professor with little practical political experience managed to become one of the masters of the Washington, D.C., power elite by hitching his star to Richard Nixon, whom one White House aide, Bob Haldeman, deemed the “weirdest man ever to live in the White House.”

Though never close friends, both Kissinger and Nixon would later admit that they profited handsomely from their legendary political partnership. “The combination was unlikely,” Nixon acknowledged in his memoirs, “the grocer’s son from Whittier and the refugee from Hitler’s Germany. But our differences helped make the partnership work.”

From 1969 onward, Kissinger, a former Harvard professor and onetime advisor to New York’s liberal Republican governor, Nelson Rockefeller, served as Nixon’s national security advisor; after September 1973 he also served as Secretary of State. Together, Nixon and Kissinger notched a series of foreign policy triumphs, including withdrawing hundreds of thousands of American troops from Vietnam, broaching a new era of détente with the Soviet Union, and establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.

It was history’s cruel joke on both men that while their reputations would be forever linked, neither seemed to like the other very much. “I don’t trust Henry,” Nixon once confided to an associate, “but I can use him.” For his part, Kissinger called his former commander-in-chief a “lonely, tortured and insecure man,” both “monomaniacal” and “flawed.”

It was not a match made in heaven. But it worked, and for better or worse, it fundamentally changed the course of American foreign policy in the height of the Cold War.

Born in Bavaria in 1923, Kissinger fled Nazi Germany in 1938 with his family and relocated to Washington Heights, a neighborhood in northern Manhattan that was host to a vibrant German-Jewish community. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he used his G.I. Bill benefits to attend Harvard University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. in political science.

With a tireless work ethic and brash intellect, Kissinger made a strong impression on his academic advisors and fellow graduate students. His relentless charm offensive — a precursor to later displays of the same extreme obsequiousness that would become the stuff of White House legend — prompted some of his colleagues to dub him Henry Ass-Kissinger. “One heard an enormous amount about him,” a graduate school peer later remembered, “what an extraordinarily arrogant and vain bastard he was.” Kissinger’s doctoral dissertation, entitled “Peace, Legitimacy and Equilibrium: A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Meternich,” was a bold reinterpretation of the Congress of Vienna of 1814-15, which saw the major European monarchies re-impose continental stability in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars at the cost of stifling national and liberal forces unleashed by the French Revolution. Arguing for “stability based on an equilibrium of force,” Kissinger’s dissertation betrayed a decidedly conservative realpolitik — a concern with order over justice that, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding (“Metternich is not my hero!” he swore time and again), informed his later career as an architect of American foreign policy.

After earning his Ph.D., Kissinger rose steadily up the ranks as a Harvard faculty member, from instructor to tenured professor. He also served as a consultant to the RAND Corporation, the State Department, and Nelson Rockefeller. By the eve of his selection as national security advisor, Kissinger was widely regarded as a thoughtful voice on arms policy and a skeptic on the Vietnam War. But he had little applied political or governmental experience.

In late 1968 he wrote an article for Foreign Affairs which argued that the United States had probably overestimated the stakes in Southeast Asia early in its involvement there. He essentially suggested working out a formula by which the U.S. could pull out of Vietnam, so long as the American-backed government in Saigon remained viable for a reasonable length of time. This strategy was in line with Kissinger’s private ruminations in 1968, when he repeatedly told colleagues and students that America should aim for a “decent interval” of about two years between a U.S. withdrawal and a Communist takeover in South Vietnam.

At first, it was hardly clear that Kissinger’s Vietnam policy made him a good fit for the Nixon administration. In the years immediately preceding his election as president in 1968, Nixon had positioned himself as an outspoken hawk, certainly more strident than his incoming national security advisor. But as president, Nixon faced hard realities. When he took office the war was costing American taxpayers roughly $30 billion annually. The United States had already lost almost 40,000 soldiers, marines and airmen and still had 536,000 troops stationed in southeast Asia. Vietnam had become an unaffordable and tragic excess of the Cold War — one that Nixon was determined to draw to a close. In that sense, Kissinger was a natural fit as his national security advisor.

For all the hours they spent huddled together in close conversation or plotting strategy over the telephone, Kissinger and Nixon enjoyed what might be generously described as a highly dysfunctional relationship. Sharing both a common distrust of each other and a general paranoia about the rest of the world, both men eavesdropped on themselves — Nixon, by recording his own Oval Office phone calls, and Kissinger, by planting an aide at a silent, “dead key” extension and having him transcribe or take notes on his phone conversations.

Kissinger routinely entertained his NSC staff by referring to Nixon as “the madman,” “our drunken friend,” and “the meatball mind,” warning that “if the president had his way, there would be a nuclear war each week!” When Nixon broke into angry rants or slurred his words badly — something he generally did when he consumed more than two cocktails, which as his presidency wore on, was more often than not — Kissinger would encourage aides to listen in on the dead-key extension and share in the spectacle.

Pete Peterson, then a Nixon White House aide, noted that “the contrast was striking between how [Kissinger] talked about Nixon to his friends and how he acted in Nixon’s presence.” On the Georgetown dinner party circuit, he could be merciless in his assessment of the president, but in their direct exchanges, Kissinger brought new meaning to sycophancy. “He was obsequious naturally,” John Ehrlichman later claimed. “He would lard things unbelievably. Nixon would make an outrageous statement, and instead of humming and staring at the ceiling like I would do, Kissinger would eagerly rumble in with, ‘Yes, Mr. President, your analysis is absolutely correct and certainly very profound.’ I would cringe.”

Kissinger showered Nixon with praise, calling him “genuinely heroic,” telling him that his performance with the Soviet ambassador was “extraordinary! No president has ever laid it on the line to them like that.” When Nixon delivered a major address on Vietnam in 1971, Kissinger told him that “free people everywhere will be forever in your debt. Your serenity during crises, your steadfastness under pressure, have been all that have prevented the triumph of mass hysteria.” Sensitive to his reputation as a world-class sycophant, Kissinger often tried to defuse criticism with dry humor. When his direct line to the Oval Office lit up during a meeting with a reporter, Kissinger quipped, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea just because I was on my knees when I answered the phone.”

For his part, Nixon seemed to enjoy unnerving his national security advisor. “Nixon would talk about Jewish traitors,” recalled Ehrlichman, “and he’d play off Kissinger, ‘Isn’t that right, Henry? Don’t you agree?’ And Henry would respond, ‘Well Mr. President, there are Jews and then there are Jews.’” Once, when Nixon phoned with a particularly crude rant, a top NSC aide, asked, “Why didn’t you say something?” “I have enough trouble fighting with him on the things that really matter,” Kissinger sighed. “His attitudes toward Jews and Blacks are not my worry.”

Years later, Kissinger bumped into John Ehrlichman on the street and said, “Sooner or later, those tapes are going to be released, and you and I are going to look like perfect fools.” Ehrlichman disagreed. If anyone was going to seem foolish, it was Kissinger.

But during their time in office, the two men became close collaborators. Despite his roots as a Cold War hawk, Nixon was fundamentally a pragmatist, both in foreign and domestic politics. He also shared Kissinger’s detached and fundamentally amoral approach to foreign policy. “If I had to choose between justice and disorder, on the one hand, and injustice and order, on the other,” Kissinger had said during his days as a graduate student, “I would always choose the latter.”

In their approach to matters as far and wide as China (Nixon, the hawk, normalized relations) and Israel (the U.S. came to Israel’s rescue during the Yom Kippur War but forced the Jewish state to forego a total victory in order to placate oil-producing Arab states), they chose order — or the illusion of order — over dogma or morality.

Nowhere was that more true than Vietnam, where through a process of “Vietnamization,” they drew down troop levels to less than 25,000 within four years but also launched a ruthless bombing campaign whose death toll ranged as high as the hundreds of thousands.

The more influence he enjoyed with the president, and the greater his celebrity grew among Washington’s Georgetown elite, the more outrageous Kissinger became in his conduct. Ever the college professor, he was notorious for running hours behind schedule and keeping a chaotic office. “In the first year it was like a Moroccan whorehouse, with people queuing up outside his door for hours,” remembered one of his senior assistants. He screamed at his staff, hurled papers and books at them, berated them in public.

Ever jealous of prerogatives and power, he forbade them to use the White House mess, thus cutting off their independent access to key White House aides. Nixon aide Bryce Harlow’s office stood between Kissinger’s and Haldeman’s and contained the only private bathroom on the ground floor of the West Wing, other than the president’s. According to one White House insider, after a brief absence from Washington, Harlow returned to find the door to his washroom plastered over. Kissinger had ordered workmen to cut a new entrance from his own suite.

The charge most commonly directed at Kissinger was deceit. “Kissinger doesn’t lie because it’s in his interest,” said a former aide. “He lies because it’s in his nature.” Ron Nessen, who later served as Gerald Ford’s press secretary, added that “the Kissinger trait that troubled me most was his lack of commitment to the truth as a matter of morality. Kissinger bent the truth to serve what he believed were worthwhile foreign policy maneuvers.” Part of this reputation for duplicity was Kissinger’s desire to be all things to all people. However disparaging he may have been of the ivory tower when in Nixon’s presence, he had committed the better part of his life to Harvard, and he cared deeply what his Cambridge colleagues — many of them Cold War liberals who had turned against the war, and who held no brief for Richard Nixon — thought about him.

Likewise, he assiduously courted Washington’s opinion-making elite — the journalists, wise men and socialites who gravitated to the Georgetown dinner circuit. “We knew Henry as the ‘hawk of hawks’ in the Oval Office,” Bob Haldeman wrote. “But in the evenings, a magical transformation took place. Touching glasses at a party with his liberal friends, the belligerent Kissinger would suddenly become a dove — according to the reports that reached Nixon.” Frank Shakespeare, who ran the U.S. Information Agency, noted with less derision that “Kissinger can meet with six different people, smart as hell, learned, knowledgeable, experienced, of very different views, and persuade all six of them that the real Henry Kissinger is just where they are.”

Some of this criticism was fair. As David Keene, who served as Spiro Agnew’s chief of staff, noted, Kissinger “had one line for liberals, one for conservatives, and all the time he’d swear you to secrecy — ‘what I’m about to tell you is the highest-classified information’ — and he’d give you some bullshit, and he’d give somebody else the opposite.” On the other hand, for all his strategic flexibility and posturing, Kissinger genuinely reached out to war critics, going so far as to initiate friendships with prominent peace activists.

Unlike most members of Nixon’s inner circle, Kissinger, ever the Harvard scholar, welcomed intellectual dissent and encouraged his staff members to challenge both conventional wisdom and administration doctrine. In the end analysis, Kissinger often tailored his policy recommendations to Nixon’s personality. But when it came to assimilating the work and opinions of his staff, he did listen.

At about 9 p.m. on Wed., August 7, 1974 — a day and a half before he left the presidency — Nixon summoned Kissinger to the Lincoln Sitting Room, a small alcove on the second floor of the southeast side of the White House. It was clear to Kissinger that Nixon had been drinking heavily.

“Will history treat me more kindly than my contemporaries?” the president asked his Secretary of State. Kissinger nodded yes and joined Nixon in a long recitation of the administration’s foreign policy achievements. Weeping into his cocktail glass, Nixon asked Kissinger why life had dealt him such a terrible blow.

Around 10:30, the meeting ended. Escorting Kissinger out of the room, the president stopped in front of the Lincoln Bedroom and beckoned him inside. “Henry,” he pleaded, “you are not a very orthodox Jew, and I am not an orthodox Quaker, but we need to pray.” Kissinger would rather have not, but when the president dropped to his knees, he had little choice but to follow. When the president seemed finished with his prayers, Kissinger began slowly to rise to his feet. But Nixon remained low to the ground, sobbing and pounding his fists against the bedroom carpet, crying “What have I done? What has happened?” Kissinger crawled over to his grief-stricken leader, embraced him in his arms, and helped him to his feet. Several interminable moments passed before Nixon regained his composure.

At least, that’s how Kissinger remembered the story, according to journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, who interviewed sources in whom the Secretary of State confided shortly after leaving Nixon’s side.

The history of academics-turned-White House aides is checkered. Franklin Roosevelt packed his White House with professors, many of whom proved masters of Washington, D.C., politics and federal bureaucracy. Other academics like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Eric Goldman, who worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, respectively, were disappointed to find themselves window dressing — marginal figures whose presence on staff was more ornamental than substantive.

A force of nature, Henry Kissinger willed himself to relevancy. For two years he even managed to occupy the positions of national security advisor and Secretary of State. And then, thanks in no small part to the entry he gained through his partnership with Nixon, Kissinger stayed on as Secretary of State for President Gerald Ford, outlasting his mentor at the highest ranks of government. In his post-governmental life, he became a corporate board member, strategic advisor to companies and presidents and prolific writer, sought after for his advice even as his mentor lived out his days largely in disgrace.

None of it would have been possible but for the unique and arguably singular relationship he forged with Nixon.

‘My Mother Told Me Not to Speak Ill of the Dead’: Political Experts on Henry Kissinger’s Legacy

Politico -

The death of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at age 100 yesterday marked the end of one of the most impactful — and most controversial — careers in American politics. Loathed and loved, reviled and revered, hailed as a brilliant statesman and condemned as a shameless war criminal, the German-born academic inspired fierce debate for decades. Which raises the question: How should we consider his legacy?

POLITICO Magazine reached out to political thinkers, academics and historians for their thoughts on how we should look back on Kissinger’s life and work. Some focused on his influence over the Vietnam War. One called him “overrated.” And another scholar noted, simply: “My mother told me not to speak ill of the dead, which pretty much precludes me from saying anything at all about Henry Kissinger.” Their answers paint a nuanced portrait of a statesman who — right or wrong, good or evil","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/henry-kissinger-history-legacy-213237/","_id":"0000018c-2285-d9c1-a5dc-bfd7441e0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"0000018c-2285-d9c1-a5dc-bfd7441e0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">good or evil — left a lasting mark not just on Washington, but the world.

‘Kissinger always saw himself as akin to adviser to kings’ BY ARASH AZIZI

Arash Azizi is a senior lecturer in history and political science at Clemson University.

Henry Kissinger fancied himself after Metternich, the legendary Austrian chancellor of the 19th century and a subject of his 1954 doctoral dissertation at Harvard. Alongside the Russian Tsar Alexander and other European statesmen of their era, Metternich had helped build up the reactionary order that held Europe together following the shock of the French and other Atlantic revolutions.

In a sense, Kissinger always saw himself as akin to adviser to kings and not a diplomat subject to democratic oversight of the people. He would have more properly belonged to the pre-democratic era. In the same vein, he approached diplomacy as a game of great powers with little care for ex-colonial states that were coming to their own in the rapidly decolonizing world of 1960s and 70s, or millions of people whose lives would be affected by the decisions of the ‘great men’ he admired all his life.

With such an approach, it's not surprising that he aided and abetted in a long list of grave crimes: bombing of Cambodia, opening up to its murderous Maoist government just because it was anti-Soviet, green-lighting Argentina's gruesome anti-communist torturing and killing of its own civilians, helping to overthrow the democratically elected socialist government of Chile in 1973 and approving of Pakistan and Indonesia's killing campaigns as they attempted to suppress the independence of the newly rising nations of Bangladesh and East Timor. These weren't random acts of violence but, so long as they served Kissinger's ideas of great power interests, they didn't bother him.

‘His world view … left no room for small powers’ BY LIEN-HANG T. NGUYEN

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen is a Dorothy Borg associate professor in the history of the United States and East Asia at Columbia University. 

Although dealt a difficult hand with regard to Vietnam, Kissinger managed to execute the opposite of Nixon's aim to achieve "peace with honor" ending American military intervention in Southeast Asia. His worldview, which rested on great power politics to manage international affairs, left no room for small powers. The enemy and the ally in Vietnam, then, were relegated to the margins in deciding their fate under Kissinger's handling of the peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War. The result? The Paris Agreement to End the War and Restore the Peace managed to do neither in early 1973. The war dragged on for two more years, countless Vietnamese lives lost and America's reputation tarnished.

‘Like the Tin Man, he seems to have lacked a heart.’ BY KELLEY BEAUCAR VLAHOS

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is the editorial director of Responsible Statecraft and senior advisor at the Quincy Institute.

Kissinger’s reputation seems to have gotten better with age. That is not to say there aren’t plenty of commentators today who are palpably disgusted by his legacy, rightly pointing to his hard-nosed realism, a Machiavellian approach to statecraft and strategy that laser-focused on national interests rather than ideology, balancing and containing rather than messianic values promotion and humanitarian intervention. His approach in several well-documented cases left scorched earth and human destruction behind, namely in Indochina, Bangladesh, Latin America. For that he has been called a war criminal and monster.

But generations have been born and grown since Kissinger whispered and plotted with Nixon and coldly moved pieces around the global chess board. His legacy as the maestro of detente with China in 1973 may be overstated (Nixon deserves some credit) but students of statecraft and realism today say that in the intervening years, the pendulum has swung the other way, with ideological pursuits driving decision-making at the highest levels of Washington, resulting in hot wars and mass destruction. Some yearn for Kissinger's intellectualism and steely-eyed realism that kept national interests at the forefront and crusades at the other end of history. What they should acknowledge is that Kissinger lacked his own “balance” in regards to the human component in foreign policy. Like the Tin Man, he seems to have lacked a heart. Maybe that is what he will be best known for.

‘He had a point of view: order before justice.’ BY JOSHUA ZEITZ

Joshua Zeitz is a historian and POLITICO Magazine contributor.

Whatever one thinks of Henry Kissinger — mastermind or schemer, realist or war criminal — he had a point of view: order before justice.

His doctoral dissertation, entitled “Peace, Legitimacy and Equilibrium: A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich,” earned high praise for its bold, synthetic reinterpretation of the Congress of Vienna of 1814-15, which saw the major European monarchies reimpose continental stability in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, at the cost of stifling national and liberal forces unleashed by the French revolution. In later years, Kissinger would loudly protest to anyone who’d listen, “Metternich is not my hero!” But Metternich’s style of politics informed his later career as an architect of American foreign policy. “If I had to choose between justice and disorder, on the one hand, and injustice and order, on the other,” Kissinger told a fellow grad student, “I would always choose the latter.”

So it was that Kissinger oversaw a three-part strategy to end America’s war in Vietnam. The first part was linkage — convincing North Vietnam’s Soviet sponsors to reduce their commitment to their client state in exchange for more open economic markets with the West. The second part was Vietnamization — handing the war over to the South Vietnamese. That worked, inasmuch as it meant the end of the war for most American families. During Nixon’s first term, the number of American ground troops in Vietnam dropped from 475,000 to just under 25,000.

The last part, of course, was force — a brutal, unrelenting air campaign, particularly in Cambodia and Laos, with code names like MENU, Operations Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Supper, Dessert, Snack and so on. That killed untold numbers of civilians and cemented Kissinger’s reputation as a soulless war criminal.

Kissinger’s legacy is a complicated one. Whether he actually achieved order at the expense of justice is a topic we’ll continue to debate for time immemorial.

‘Some of his most celebrated ideas … look a bit nutty and more than a bit reckless in retrospect.’ BY RAJAN MENON

Rajan Menon is the director of the Grand Strategy Program at Defense Priorities.

Was Henry Kissinger among the greatest secretaries of state in the history of the United States — or was he an infamous war criminal whose policies claimed millions of lives in such places as Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)? If you’re seeking a definitive answer, you won’t find it. In the United States and much of Europe, Kissinger will be feted as a towering figure: a brilliant strategist, a diplomat with few equals and socialite par excellence. Some of his most celebrated ideas, such as proposing the use tactical nuclear weapons if NATO proved unable to stop a Warsaw Pact advance, which he spelled out in his 1957 book Nuclear Weapons and American Foreign Policy, though hailed by many at the time, look a bit nutty and more than a bit reckless in retrospect. Perhaps his most important achievement was the role he played, alongside President Richard Nixon, in opening a new chapter in the United States’ relationship with China, a country with which he remained all but smitten until his death this month.

In part Kissinger’s larger-than-life reputation in the United States owes to his adeptness in cultivating the media. Reporters were flattered by his attention, even if some understood that he was using them to push narratives that placed him in the limelight or to leak information to embellish his reputation and damage that of rivals. Nixon he treated with craven flattery in his presence but scorn, even pity, behind his back. Kissinger, the epitome of realpolitik, believed that states do, and should, act with cold calculation and self-interest and never be swayed by sentimentality — and that the United States in particular should jettison what he regarded as its ingrained inclination toward idealism. But he applied that maxim with particular diligence when it came to palace politics, notably as Nixon’s national security advisor and, later, his secretary of state.

In much of what’s now called the Global South, Henry Kissinger will be remembered for his willingness to truck with dictators, even those who committed mass atrocities and loathed democracy. One example was Pakistan president Yahya Khan, whose 1971 butchery in East Pakistan Kissinger enabled because Pakistan was facilitating his secret trip to China to lay the groundwork for Nixon’s opening to that country. To Kissinger, it did not matter in the least that the East-Pakistan-centered Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had won the December 1970 election, beating Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People Party. He either believed Yahya's claim that Mujib wanted more than autonomy and in truth was a Bengali separatist, or didn’t care, so long as Yahya was willing to help with his mission to Beijing. The Pakistani military’s pitiless crackdown killed between 1 and 3 million Bengalis, displaced as many as 17 million internally and drove millions more into India as refugees. To reassure Yahya against a countermove by Soviet-backed India, the Nixon administration sent the USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal in December 1971. Kissinger was always more comfortable with military-dominated Pakistan than with democratic India, whose leader, the imperious Indira Gandhi, he loathed, if only because she brought his well-hidden insecurities to the surface.

Pakistan 1971 is but one example of Kissinger’s blood-soaked realism. People in other parts of the Global South will have their own remembrances of this side of Kissinger. Thus it is that in death as in life, he will be a figure revered by millions and reviled by at least as many, including critics in his own country.

‘My mother told me not to speak ill of the dead’ BY ROSA BROOKS

Rosa Brooks is an associate dean for Centers and Institutes and Scott K. Ginsburg professor of law and policy at Georgetown University.

My mother told me not to speak ill of the dead, which pretty much precludes me from saying anything at all about Henry Kissinger. (Feel free to publish that!)

‘It’s on the myth more than the man that we must focus’ BY MARIO DEL PERO

Mario Del Pero is a professor of international history at Sciences Po and author of The Eccentric Realist: Henry Kissinger and the Shaping of American Foreign Policy.

The global wave of interest, emotion, passion (critical or celebratory) that the death of Henry Kissinger has stirred speaks volumes about the power and even resilience of the Kissingerian mythology. Because it’s on the myth more than the man that we must focus. The latter — as an intellectual, scholar, statesman, adviser to various princes — has been way more conventional and orthodox than many hagiographers want us to believe. With ups and downs, glorious moments and temporary setbacks, the myth has however resisted and even enjoyed a sort of second youth in recent times.

What myth? one might ask. A dual one, I’d argue, itself an example of the many contradictions of Henry Kissinger and his life: an American myth, destined primarily to the international public; and a European myth, whose audience was instead mostly domestic. The myth of an inclusive and diverse America, which speedily integrated and “Americanized” the young German Jew by way of World War II and the Cold War, and then propelled him to the higher echelons of power. And the myth of a Europe, now absorbed within a capacious West led and guided by the United States, still capable of providing the new hegemon with the knowledge and acumen necessary to its role. Kissinger has often played on this latter aspect: on representing itself as the astute, omniscient, no-nonsense European lent to immature and naïve America to tutor it to the perennial rules and complex arcana of world politics.

With his thick German accent, often opaque prose, aphorisms and cynical irony, Kissinger has actively built his image of the erudite European realpolitiker teaching, as he once said, the United States to “learn to conduct foreign policy as other nations had to conduct it for so many centuries — without escape and without respite.”","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v38p1/d71","_id":"0000018c-2285-d9c1-a5dc-bfd7441e0002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"0000018c-2285-d9c1-a5dc-bfd7441e0003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}">“learn to conduct foreign policy as other nations had to conduct it for so many centuries — without escape and without respite.” His has often been a “discourse of crisis”: a narrative and a public pedagogy particularly effective when traditional internationalist codes and strategies were contested and the domestic consensus around them appeared to crumble. And this also explains the recent return with a vengeance of the myth of Henry Kissinger.

‘If there’s a single word I’d apply to Kissinger, it’s ‘overrated.’ BY DAVID GREENBERG

David Greenberg is a professor of history and journalism & media studies at Rutgers and a contributing editor at POLITICO Magazine.

There’s no question that Henry Kissinger was one of the most important foreign policy officials of the postwar era. But the greatest? Hardly. Kissinger worked with Richard Nixon during a time of immense change in international affairs, with the Cold War winding down even as the Vietnam War raged. But Kissinger was overrated as a foreign policy visionary: The vision of détente with the Soviet Union originated under John F. Kennedy, and Nixon would have pushed the opening to China no matter who his national security adviser was.

In fact, if there’s a single word I’d apply to Kissinger, it’s “overrated.” He was overrated as a scholar (famous mainly for writing a very long dissertation). He was overrated as a strategist (he often gave bad advice, as he did in urging George W. Bush not to withdraw troops from Iraq). He was even overrated as a villain — the Christopher Hitchenses of the world loved to call him a “war criminal,” but this was a fundamentally unserious charge. The Defense Department, not the State Department, prosecutes wars, and the president oversees it — but the Hitchenses preferred to go after Kissinger than Mel Laird or James Schlesinger or even Nixon. Ironically, his critics tended to let him off the hook for what was obviously his worst crime: his involvement in Watergate.

‘Overall, the scorecard is not impressive.’ BY FREDRIK LOGEVALL

Fredrik Logevall is a Laurence D. Belfer professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, professor of history at Harvard University, and author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam. 

Kissinger’s legacy is jumbled and contradictory. He and Nixon (whose own role should not be understated) achieved important results in relations with the Soviet Union, for example, and there can be no doubt that the opening to China — about which Kissinger was initially skeptical — stands as a high point of their diplomacy. Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy following the October 1973 war persuaded Egypt and Israel to commence direct negotiations and make genuine concessions. Underneath these efforts was a pronounced confidence on Kissinger’s part about what vigorous and good-faith diplomacy can yield, even among and between staunch adversaries. On this he was surely correct; it’s a lesson today’s policymakers should remember. But there’s also the darker side of Kissinger’s years in power. His unshakable concentration, great-power politics and his predisposition to ignore smaller countries or to see them as inconsequential led him to pursue policies with often calamitous consequences — in all corners of the globe. On the war in Vietnam, there is room for disagreement about the options that he and Nixon had or did not have in 1969, about whether and when they adopted a “decent interval” strategy, and about whether the deal that resulted in the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 could have been had sooner. But overall, the scorecard is not impressive. Notwithstanding Kissinger’s repeated claim that no responsible statesman would ever let domestic political concerns interfere with the conduct of foreign policy, the evidence (including from the White House tapes) makes clear that he and Nixon considered all Vietnam options through the lens of partisan politics and, later, the 1972 presidential election.

‘It is fairly clear that Kissinger did in fact nimbly shift tactics to suit the basic strategy of maintaining American power and supremacy.’ BY ZACHARY KARABELL

Zachary Karabell is a contributing writer at POLITICO Magazine and the author of many books including Architects of Intervention: the United States, the Third World and the Cold War.

Henry Kissinger has long been held as an icon of realpolitik, a fancier word than realism to connote an approach to foreign affairs that is dictated by doing whatever the moment demands to maximize advantage rather than looking to grand philosophy and morality. Over the years, that notion of Kissinger as the arch-realist has been challenged, refuted, rebutted and defended. But looking back at his time shaping policy from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s (though arguably he continued to shape policy till his dying day as an adviser and wise man), it is fairly clear that Kissinger did, in fact, nimbly shift tactics to suit the basic strategy of maintaining American power and supremacy.

It may be that Kissinger’s realism was only one facet of a complicated man, driven by his own ambitions and perhaps by a genuine desire for peace in the world even as he supported policies of great violence in Chile, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. But in practice, his pragmatism and nimbleness (or to some duplicitousness) stand out. That was nowhere more evident than in the years of “shuttle diplomacy” following the Arab-Israeli War of October 1973. While Israel was already an unequivocal ally of the U.S., Kissinger understood that a bear-hug embrace of Israel would deeply undermine American security by shattering American influence in the Arab world. As the Saudi led OPEC oil embargo demonstrated, the United States and Western Europe were too dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and the domestic consequences of soaring energy prices could not be ignored. Support for Israel had to be balanced by cultivating the Arab States; given the surfeit of maximalist demands in the region, that was no easy balancing act. Kissinger’s nearly two years of shuttle diplomacy stabilized the conflict, paved the way for the treaty between Egypt and Israel and may have prevented the next world war from starting.

The lesson for American leaders today is evident: moral and material support for Israel must be entwined with assiduous diplomacy and tangible measures to address both the demands of the Arab states and of the Palestinians. Whether one agrees with that morally is immaterial, because only if that is done will there indeed be anything approaching a lasting peace rather than the phony peace of the past decade. Call that realism or cynicism or idealism. It doesn’t matter what the label is; it matters, as Kissinger would have recognized, only that total war is prevented, American power and prosperity are intact and the global system remains stable. And all of those are necessary preconditions to a world where more people prosper and fewer suffer.

Florida Democrats plan to cancel presidential primary, enraging Dean Phillips’ campaign

Politico -

Florida appears poised to hold no presidential primary election for Democrats this cycle after the state party submitted only President Joe Biden’s name as a candidate up for the nomination.

The move to leave Rep. Dean Phillips off the primary ballot left the Minnesota Democrat enraged on Thursday. In a statement first provided to POLITICO, Phillips, who has launched a longshot primary bid against Biden, accused Florida Democratic Party officials of rigging the primary. He threatened a lawsuit and a convention fight if he didn’t win ballot access in the state.

“Americans would expect the absence of democracy in Tehran, not Tallahassee,” said Phillips. “The intentional disenfranchisement of voters runs counter to everything for which our Democratic Party and country stand. Our mission as Democrats is to defeat authoritarians, not become them.”

The Phillips campaign’s complaint is rooted in the process by which candidates can get on the ballot in Florida. Under state law, it is left up to the parties to decide who makes the primary ballot. The deadline for parties to submit a list of approved candidates to state election officials is Thursday.

But Florida Democrats acted before then, sending a notice on Nov. 1 to the state that had Biden as the only primary candidate. Phillips had entered the race a few days earlier, and self-help guru Marianne Williamson had been campaigning for months by then. Under state law, if a party only signs off on one candidate for the primary ballot, the contest is not held.

Florida’s primary is held March 19, which puts it in line behind Super Tuesday and several other large states such as California and Texas. It is expected to allocate 250 delegates.

In his statement, Phillips called the handling of the process by the Florida Democrats a “blatant act of electoral corruption” and demanded Biden “condemn and immediately address” it.

The Biden campaign did not provide a comment for this story.

Nikki Fried, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party, contended the party followed its “standard process” that was outlined on its website.

“We are dismayed by Dean Phillps’ conspiratorial and inappropriate comments comparing the state of Florida to the Iranian regime as part of his knee-jerk reaction to long-established procedures,” Fried said. “This is unbecoming of someone running for higher office.”

The delegate selection plan cited by Florida Democrats does not spell out an exact deadline for candidates to ask to be placed on the primary ballot.

An initial version of that plan from early April said the party would prepare and approve a list of “recognized” candidates. A revised version, submitted to the state on Nov. 1, was changed to say the list would be approved at the state party convention. That convention began Oct. 27, the day Phillips launched his campaign, and ended Oct. 29, which is when the state party approved Biden as the only candidate.

Phillips’ campaign said the representative first sent two letters to the Florida Democrats on Nov. 7 in which he provided staff contact information and stated that he was writing “to emphasize my personal commitment to encouraging full participation by our supporters in Florida’s delegate selection process.”

Eden Giagnorio, a spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party, provided a different timeline. She said that Phillips’ campaign first reached out to the state party on Nov. 22 requesting a conversation. Two days ago, she said the campaign spoke with the party’s executive director and “we learned for the first time that they were asking about this, which is not enough time because we have to give our state executive committee 10 days’ notice to convene them to vote.”

However, Giagnorio acknowledged, “There’s no requirement for presidential candidates to do anything to get on the ballot.” She said there are no plans to add additional names to the list of approved candidates by today’s deadline.

In addition to considering a lawsuit against the Florida Democratic Party, Phillips’ campaign said that it is planning to take its fight to the Democratic National Committee.

The representative’s aides argue that Florida Democrats are in violation of the national party’s rules that require delegates to the Democratic National Convention “be allocated in a fashion that fairly reflects the expressed presidential preference or uncommitted status of the primary voters or, if there is no binding primary, the convention and/or caucus participants.”

A DNC spokesperson said the committee offered to provide guidance to the Phillips campaign on state party processes weeks ago, but that the campaign did not take up the offer, and continues to be available to him and other Democratic candidates.

Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Phillips, said, “That’s very kind. I’m sure they would not have conceived of a situation where Florida would violate the party’s rules.”

If the DNC is unpersuaded to make a change, Phillips’ team said that it will escalate its fight up to the convention, where it will “contest the credentials of each and every delegate” from Florida, including superdelegates.

Phillips’ approach of attacking the primary process is reminiscent of the tactic adopted by insurgent presidential candidates in the past, most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

In 2016, Sanders’ team claimed the primary process was rigged against him. Many Democrats felt those accusations soured some young and liberal voters on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, in the general election. Sanders’ aides and allies have long argued that he did everything he could to campaign for Clinton after the primary ended.

Earlier this month, Phillips apologized to Sanders on X, formerly known as Twitter, writing: “I had long dismissed his complaints about the rigged Democratic Party primary system. But you know what? He was right.”

Weaver, who managed Sanders’ 2016 campaign, laid into the Florida Democratic Party in a statement.

“The Florida party is engaging in the politburo politics of places like Cuba or the old Soviet Union. Communist Party insiders make the decision instead of the people,” said Weaver. “After all that has been done to erode confidence in the democratic process since 2020, does our party really want the legitimacy of our nominee to be put in question by this corrupt, rigged process?”

The process for getting on a state-run presidential primary ballot varies. In some states, it’s like running for any elected office, with requirements for voter signatures and a filing fee paid to the government. Other states just pull the names of active candidates and place them on the ballot. And still others outsource the process to the respective state parties.

The situation in Florida stands in contrast to one of its neighbors that uses a similar system. The Georgia Democratic Party’s executive committee voted last week to place three names on that state’s March 12 primary ballot: Biden, Phillips and Williamson. A press release at the time noted that the state party “followed an open process, publicized the plan on the party’s website, and considered all candidates who submitted their written request to be included.”

Steve Shepard contributed to this report.

Police investigating Florida Republican Party chair over alleged sexual assault

Politico -

MIAMI — The Sarasota Police Department is investigating Florida Republican Party Chair Christian Ziegler, whose wife co-founded the conservative parents group Moms for Liberty, following allegations of sexual assault.

According to a heavily redacted police report obtained by POLITICO through a public records request, the alleged incident took place on Oct. 2 at a home in Sarasota and the victim filed a complaint two days later. The documents omit details about the victim's statement to authorities but include the words "rape" and "sexually battered."

The Florida Trident, the news platform for the open government watchdog Florida Center for Government Accountability, was first to report on the news.

Ziegler, through his attorney, acknowledged the police were investigating him and said he'd been "fully cooperative with every request made by the Sarasota Police Department."

"We are confident that once the police investigation is concluded that no charges will be filed and Mr. Ziegler will be completely exonerated," his attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, public figures are often accused of acts that they did not commit whether it be for political purposes or financial gain. I would caution anyone to rush to judgment until the investigation is concluded."

Ziegler is married to Bridget Ziegler, a school board member in Sarasota County and Moms for Liberty co-founder. The group has risen to prominence in Florida under the DeSantis administration, which emphasizes rooting out any traces of liberal “indoctrination” — particularly on the issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and race.

Bridget Ziegler did not respond to requests for comment.

The Trident article quotes anonymous sources who say the Zieglers were in a consensual three-way sexual relationship with the victim but that Bridget Ziegler wasn't there when the alleged sexual assault happened. POLITICO was not immediately able to substantiate the claims.

Moms for Liberty on Thursday indicated that it was standing by Bridget Ziegler, saying in a statement that “we are confident she will get to tell her side of things to those who are interested in more than click bait.” The group added that Bridget Ziegler stepped back from the organization’s board in 2021.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and other top leaders, including Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., met with Moms for Liberty this year to plot out local school board candidates to oppose in 2024, following up on scores of endorsements and nominations in the 2022 cycle. Moms for Liberty has a growing national presence, with close to 300 chapters, while reporting more than $2 million in revenue for 2022.

DeSantis also appointed Bridget Ziegler to be one of the chairs for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, the governing board that DeSantis tapped to oversee the district surrounding Walt Disney World after a heated fight about LGBTQ+ topics in public schools.

News of the alleged incident broke just hours before DeSantis was set to appear in a highly advertised debate on Fox News against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, who has criticized DeSantis for his policies on schools.

The Republican Party of Sarasota County said in a statement that it was "shocked and disappointed" about the reports regarding the Zieglers.

“We are shocked and disappointed to hear of the reports concerning Republican Party of Florida Chair and Sarasota County State Committeeman Christian Ziegler, and his wife, Sarasota County School Board Member Bridget Ziegler,” said the group's chairman, Jack Brill. “The Republican Party takes all such allegations of potential criminal conduct very seriously and will fully cooperate with investigators.”

Nikki Fried, who chairs the Democratic Party of Florida, said the accusations against Ziegler "should be taken seriously" and called on him to immediately resign.

Five members of the Republican Party of Florida told POLITICO they'd seen the allegations in news stories but hadn't heard from party leaders directly.

In a text to POLITICO, Ziegler said he’s still the head of the GOP in Florida.

Ziegler recently attended an event at Mar-a-Lago that former President Donald Trump hosted to honor Republican Party of Florida county leaders. He also organized a "Freedom Summit" fundraiser in Kissimmee, Fla., where both Trump and DeSantis spoke.

Talks of a border deal have unusual allies: Democratic cities and states

Politico -

Members of Congress working on a bipartisan immigration deal are getting help from an unexpected corner: blue cities and states facing a surge in new migrants.

The pressure on the Democratic mayors and governors to provide shelter and services to hundreds of thousands of newcomers has created an unusual bloc of support for Republican-driven changes to migration-control policy.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey have urged Congress to impose stricter immigration policies such as bolstering border security — a familiar position for many GOP leaders.

The lobbying from local Democrats comes as Republican lawmakers have said they want a border agreement attached to a sweeping deal on aid for Ukraine and Israel. But it's not clear that the unusual coalition will be enough to break through the long-running thicket of political pressure that's taken down multiple past attempts at a bipartisan immigration package.

Lawmakers are weighing President Joe Biden’s request for billions in assistance for the two countries as early as next week, and there's already pushback from progressive Democrats that Republicans want to go too far with limiting people coming into the United States.

“Certainly, we could add more border security. We need more judges, more staffing, more technology — certainly that could be something we could consider. But again, it all depends on the framework of the negotiations,” Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) said.

“There's legitimate issues that have to be addressed, but as long as they're done appropriately and not from a xenophobic approach.”

Democratic senators and House members said they are increasingly open to including some border changes in the package as they are being pressed back home to take action.

“Along with funding for cities, I think there needs to be something to address the massive immigration backlogs. And to do that, we need more immigration judges and hearing officers,” Chicago Democratic Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia said.

The pressure from municipalities is urgent. New York City is cutting new police hires, library hours and other services because the migrant crisis is busting its budget. Chicago and Massachusetts have run out of shelter space as winter weather arrives in earnest.

“We could absorb this better if we had a decompression strategy,” New York Mayor Eric Adams, who has sought to manage more than 120,000 new arrivals since last year, told reporters Tuesday.

His Chicago counterpart Brandon Johnson, who has had to manage 25,000 asylum-seekers in over the past year, said he wants more federal funding and “better coordination” out of Washington to manage what he calls an “international crisis.”

Johnson called the current action of loading migrants on buses and sending them to Chicago and other blue states “a raggedy” process instituted by “right-wing extremism” that has targeted Democratic-run cities led by people of color.

“Their whole motivation is to create disruption and chaos,” he said Tuesday.

Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Johnson at a West Side church the same day for an announcement on expanded migrant services through area churches because of the lack of shelter space. Jackson, who has long advocated for migrant rights, too urged more action out of Washington.

“Laws need to be enforced at the border,” Jackson said, and “more resources” are required for cities like Chicago.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would hope to have a votenext week, putting pressure on lawmakers to reach a deal.

New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Staten Island Republican, charged that Democrats for too long have shied away from stronger border policies and now it has landed on the doorsteps of the nation’s largest cities. She has been fighting against new migrant shelters in her district.

“I'm hopeful that Senator Schumer and the Democrats who represent these cities will listen to these mayors of their own party who are telling them this is destroying and bankrupting their cities,” she said in an interview Thursday.

Dan Koh, White House deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, said Thursday at a migrant-related event near Boston: “We need more funding to execute on our border security management strategy, including enhancing our enforcement measures and supporting communities who are hosting recently arrived migrants.”

He added, “We want to be able to do more in terms of funding. Unfortunately, we have a bill in front of Congress that’s sitting there.”

Some Democrats recognized the immediacy of the border problems, but also warned of Republicans pressing for migrant policies that are too exclusionary. POLITICO reported that talks have centered around stricter asylum standards, while Republicans want to keep more migrants out of the United States.

“Clearly what we need is comprehensive immigration reform. If the Senate is working on something about that in the short term anyway that is reasonable, I'm certainly open to seeing that,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said.“But what the House Republicans are doing, I think, is really just punishment. They're anti-immigrant, and they want to show their stripes.”

Republicans said any spending deal needs to address the border problem.

“My state is on the front line of the Biden border crisis, and it is getting worse by the day,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said on the Senate floor Monday.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the Brooklyn Democrat, has been relatively quiet about the migrant issues facing his home city. But he noted Tuesday the need to address an array of issues in the spending plan.

“Let's see where the discussions lead,” he said. “I think it's important out of all of the challenges facing the American people that we can come to an enlightened bipartisan resolution. And we'll see where it lands hopefully sooner rather than later.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Healey of Massachusetts both put out calls for Congress to pass Biden’s request and address border policies. So too did Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

Pritzker, in a statement to POLITICO, said in addition to additional aid, the federal government needs to “coordinate the flow of migrants coming in from the southern border instead of allowing their final destinations to be selected by politically motivated Texas politicians.”

Nearly 140 members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors signedon to a letter calling for the same.

“It's up to Congress to fix our nation's broken immigration system,” Hochul spokesperson Avi Small said in a statement. “We need a comprehensive, balanced approach that includes expanding Temporary Protected Status, increased border security and a national decompression strategy.”

The proposal on the tableincludes a $106 billion supplemental aid package with money for Ukraine, Israel, the southern border and Taiwan. Republicans have insisted that any large-scale plan encompass border policy changes.

It also includes $1.4 billion for the Department of Homeland Security Shelter and Services Program, which provides funding for services that can be used to assist asylum-seekers. The letter from the Conference of Mayors describes cities across the country struggling with the influx of newcomers.

“While we welcome migrants to our cities, we need more help to provide them with food, housing, services, and access to employment,” the letter read.

In Massachusetts, Healey said the state ran out of room this month to house migrant and homeless families in its emergency shelter system, furthering her case for more federal aid. The state recently capped its emergency shelter system at 7,500 families. Families who arrive when there is no shelter space are being triaged for medical and safety risks and put on a waitlist.

New York City also took recent measures to limit stays to 30 days and 60 days at its emergency shelters. Adams noted that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, may have similar calls for updated immigration laws, but “he’s on a different book than I am.”

He added, “We’re never going to reach the point where we’re going to treat people in an inhumane way,” he said, referring to Abbott’s initiative of busing migrants to Democratic-led or sanctuary cities and states.

The needs of cities are being heard through the halls of Congress, lawmakers said.

“We have to do something and no one can look at this situation at the border — whether it's the humanitarian aspect or the cartels or just the chaos and the financial costs and every other piece of it and think that it's working. It's not working,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said.

Lisa Kashinsky, Anthony Adragna, Daniella Diaz, Nick Wu, Joseph Spector and Jeff Coltin contributed to this report.

Latimer visits Israel ahead of potential run against Bowman

Politico -

ALBANY, N.Y. — Westchester County Executive George Latimer toured Israel this week in advance of an announcement on whether he will launch a heavyweight Democratic primary challenge against Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

While many area Democrats expect Latimer to run, he didn’t confirm his plans late Wednesday in a call from Israel. But he did say that if he does launch a bid, his campaign message would focus on his record as “the most progressive” county official in New York.

Latimer has been planning to announce a final decision in early December, and he said he’s sticking to that timing — while offering a sharp contract with Bowman on policy and the Israel-Hamas war in a district with one of the most heavily Jewish populations in the nation.

Bowman “has been in Congress for three years, and I’ve done a bunch of things over the past three decades,” Latimer said in an interview with POLITICO.

“We’ve cut taxes and reduced crime, but we’ve also made the buses environmentally friendly,” Latimer said. “We’ve done Black maternal health; we’ve built recreational communities in the heart of poor communities. I’ve done a ton of things that represent progressive government”

He added, “Right now in Congress, a lot of it is showtime down there. A lot of it is posturing and culture wars.”

Latimer’s trip came as Bowman, a former Democratic Socialist and a member of the liberal Squad, faces criticism locally for not being strong in his support of Israel, including calling for a ceasefire and not signing a resolution in support of Israel last month.

The county executive and former state lawmaker said that his time with Israelis, such as meeting with President Isaac Herzog, taught him that there is “no animosity directed toward the Palestinian people.”

“There’s people that are protesting that they’re pro-Palestine, as if the Israeli position is anti-Palestinian,” he said in an interview while waiting to board his return flight at Ben Gurion Airport.

“There wasn’t a ‘let’s go get those bastards’ kind of mindset,” he said. “The anger and fear is directed at Hamas as the terrorist organization that runs the country and that’s a differentiation you don’t often pick up.”

Bowman has been one of the members of Congress most closely identified with a pro-Palestinian position. Dozens of rabbis publicly urged Latimer to challenge him in October, citing actions such as Bowman’s boycotts of a speech by Herzog last July.

A challenge against Bowman would be one of the highest-profile primary battles in New York’s history. Latimer, who has won every election he’s been in since 1987 while often being one of New York Republican’s top targets, would face off against an incumbent who has been a star of the left since he ousted longtime Rep. Eliot Engel in 2020.

And the race would instantly be treated as the national measuring stick of whether Democrats have any room to deviate from the party’s traditional full-throated support of Israel.

If Latimer does launch a campaign in the next few days, Israel will be a “big issue” but “not the whole issue,” he said.

Latimer said that much of his messaging would be on his record in state and local offices.

“I don’t think you’re going to see me on MSNBC a whole lot, but I think you will see me doing the kind of grunt work that effective legislators do,” he said.

Latimer spent most of Monday through Wednesday in Israel. He was joined by a delegation of area officials that included Assemblymember Amy Paulin and New Rochelle Mayor-elect Yadira Ramos-Herbert.

“Sadness, not exuberant war fever” was the mood he encountered most, he said.

But the Israeli officials he spoke with made clear that this sadness still means that “wiping out Hamas” is an essentiality.

“The case they made is kind of straightforward,” he said. “If the enemy was sitting in Connecticut and they came over the border and killed a bunch of people in your border communities, how would you react to it?”

A permanent ceasefire — like the one supported by Bowman since October — can’t work as long as Hamas keeps hostages, Latimer said.

“You can’t take hostages, keep them, then say ‘OK, let’s negotiate now, let’s be nice, let’s have peace now,’” he said. “I don’t have the George Latimer Peace Plan, it just seems logical to me the first thing you’ve got to do is release hostages. You took hostages.”

Bowman’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Latimer pointed to the history of Ireland as a goal for the Middle East: “Northern Ireland was intractable by any outside observation, and yet somehow they figured out how to get peace. And I think the critical element of that was the necessity of both sides to put terrorism aside.”

Peace is a possibility if something similar happens, but “it’s not going to happen with a ceasefire now” as long as Hamas supports terrorism.

“I’m not a secretary of state level guy,” he said.

But, he added, “I’m thinking about national issues more than I have before.”


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