Trump, Biden and Florida’s Gulf shore oil war

05-23-20 Trump boat parade 2Pro-Trump boaters take to the waters along southern Collier County on May 23.

June 6, 2020 by David Silverberg.

This year’s Memorial Day weekend began on Saturday, May 23 with hundreds of boaters in Southwest Florida launching a “Making Waves” boat parade to show their support for President Donald Trump and his re-election.

They had clear sailing on pristine waters from Naples Bay to Marco Island.

The irony is that if they get their wish and Trump is re-elected, those waters won’t be so pristine anymore.

That’s because if Trump is re-elected the eastern Gulf of Mexico will be opened to oil exploration and exploitation. In a second Trump administration, any future flotilla will have to dodge tankers, tugs, barges, tenders, lighters, shuttles, seismic testing boats and drilling ships among other vessels. Most of all, they would be maneuvering amidst immense drilling rigs. And the water will be slick with debris, pollution and—most of all—oil.

This is not fantasy or some conspiracy theory.

In 2019, after considerable confusion and mixed signals from the Trump administration whether the eastern Gulf would be opened to oil lease sales, Congress concluded, “the Trump Administration intends, if the President is reelected, to include the Eastern Gulf of Mexico in its final Five-Year Program and to hold lease sales in the Eastern Gulf as early as 2022.”

That’s stated in a July 16, 2019 report from the US House Natural Resources Committee. It goes on to say: “Given the widespread belief that a tweet from [Interior] Secretary [Ryan] Zinke declaring Florida off-limits to offshore oil and gas leasing was issued to support Florida Governor Rick Scott in his Senate race, the Committee is concerned that the Administration is playing similar games with its 2019–2024 program and intends to wait until after the 2020 presidential election, in which Florida may be a key swing state, before revealing an unpopular plan to lease off of Florida’s shore.”

Those are pretty strong words for a relatively obscure congressional report accompanying a piece of legislation.

What is more, they were not the statements of cranky Democrats taking potshots at Trump. In fact, they were issued to explain a piece of legislation introduced by a Republican.

And that Republican was Southwest Florida’s own Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.).

Rooney’s crusade

11-16-19 Francis_Rooney_official_congressional_photo cropped
Rep. Francis Rooney

On Sept. 11, 2019, the US House of Representatives voted 248 to 180 to pass the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019 (House Resolution (HR) 205)).

The bill is pretty simple: it “permanently extends the moratorium on oil and gas leasing, preleasing, and related activities” in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It prohibits sale of leases, oil exploration, drilling or extracting oil along Florida’s Gulf coastline in perpetuity.

That moratorium had been in place in one form or another since 1982, maintained by congressional action and presidential decisions, which applied not just in Florida but in a wide variety of waters around the North American continental shelf, including Alaska. However, in one of his earliest acts, in April 2017 Trump issued an executive order opening up American waters to oil exploitation. The order was challenged in court but the Trump administration proceeded with planning for the sale of oil leases beginning in 2022 when the current moratorium expires.

Rooney was elected in 2016 on the same platform—literally, they stood on the same stage—as Trump. What was more, Rooney and his construction companies had extensive ties to the oil and gas industry and much of his fortune resulted from work for it. One of his earliest political donors was the consortium building the controversial XL Pipeline. And even Rooney’s origins are in Oklahoma’s oil patch.

So perhaps Rooney had a better sense than most people of what was involved in offshore oil exploitation and how it would affect Southwest Florida’s tourism, hospitality, and retail businesses and overall quality of life. After all, he lives on the water in Naples’ Port Royal.

That’s why it was particularly interesting when, after Trump’s executive order, regardless of his other activities, Rooney began working to protect the Gulf coast from oil exploitation.

But in this effort Rooney was opposed by the oil industry, which wants the option to drill everywhere and anywhere, and his fellow Republicans, in particular the powerful Rep. Steve Scalise (R-1-La.), the Minority Whip in the House.

It’s worth noting the unique role of Louisiana in this: politically, the state and the oil industry are virtually one and the same.  Offshore oil exploitation has brought great wealth and employment to the state and the people involved in the industry. However, it has also brought pollution and the occasional disaster, most spectacularly the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout and the subsequent nearly five month-long oil spill—really more of an oil eruption.

In Congress, Rooney couldn’t make headway on maintaining the moratorium and one day he confronted Scalise directly, as he related to a small group of constituents meeting at the Alamo gun range and store in Naples in 2018.

“I was on the House floor with Steve Scalise and I got in his face and I said, ‘You’re telling me that the industry won’t go for protecting the Eastern Gulf in Florida?  What industry are you talking about?  I’m talking about tourism. I’m talking about why we’re all here, okay? Just because Louisiana is a pit, doesn’t mean we want to become a pit. Okay?’” said Rooney.

Nor could Rooney make any headway with Trump’s Interior Department. He found that officials in the Department of Defense supported maintaining the moratorium because they trained pilots over the eastern Gulf. “…So the military is our ally on this,” he said. “The Department of the Interior is not.  They want to ‘drill-baby-drill.’  They are Republicans, right?”

While Republicans were in power, Rooney and the moratorium made no progress.

USCG photo oil rig cropped 11-7-17

Vessels service offshore oil rigs.     (Photo: USCG)

Enter the Democrats

Then, in 2018 the House changed hands and suddenly Rooney faced a new Democratic power structure and a new Speaker of the House—Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.).

On the first day of the session, Jan. 3, 2019, he introduced HR 205 with Rep. Cathy Kastor (D-14-Fla.), who represents Hillsborough County in the Tampa area, as his first co-sponsor. The legislation gained momentum, picking up other members of the Florida delegation from both parties as co-sponsors until by June he had nine Democrats and nine Republicans.

Pelosi agreed to move the bill forward and on Sept. 11, the same day he called on his Republican colleagues to acknowledge climate change in an essay in Politico magazine, Rooney also saw his bill passed in the House. All of Florida’s representatives, both Republican and Democratic, voted for it with only one dissenter, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-3-Fla.).

From there it went to the Republican Senate where it was introduced the next day by Florida’s two Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. There it has languished to this day.

Why? Because with Republicans in charge, the odds were stacked against it: Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wasn’t inclined to move it and the Trump White House threatened to veto it. The Interior Department, the fossil fuel industry, the offshore drilling industry and the Republican leadership are against it.

Rooney has kept working for its passage.

“I’ve been working with Senators Rubio and Scott, as well as others whose support will be needed to advance HR. 205 in the Senate,” Rooney stated in response to questions from The Paradise Progressive. “They’re making sure that the Senate realizes the military, economic, and ecologic significance of banning offshore drilling east of the Military Mission Line” (the geographic line in the Gulf where the military trains)

There are possibilities that the legislation could still advance: “We’re keeping all options on the table for ways to advance HR 205, as stand-alone legislation, or as a potential amendment to other legislation. I’m optimistic that we can still be successful in this congressional session,” he stated.


On May 29, The Paradise Progressive asked the following questions about HR 205 of Sens. Rubio and Scott in a message to their offices:

    1. Since its arrival in the Senate, have you taken any actions to advance this bill?
    2. Do you plan to take any actions to move this bill to full consideration by the Senate before the end of the year?
    3. If you plan to take any actions, what do you plan to do?

As of this writing, no response has been received.


Logic and illogic

Conventional political logic would dictate that if you’re a sitting president who must win the state of Florida to be re-elected, you do something that will make you popular in that state and gain you votes—like supporting HR 205. That would mean an endorsement from the president, breaking the legislation out of committee and getting it enacted into law before the general election on Nov. 3.

“The people of Florida have made it clear that they don’t want offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico,” stated Rooney. “It endangers our tourism and real estate-based economy, and it adversely affects military readiness. There will be a political price to pay if the will of the people is ignored. The Trump administration can move this forward if they want to protect Florida.”

True enough. But conventional political logic has not been a hallmark of the Trump administration and it’s not in evidence now.

Of course, there are bigger issues dominating the landscape at the moment than drilling for oil off Southwest Florida—like whether America will remain a democracy and whether racism can be uprooted. Still, oil is an issue that particularly matters to the people, the region and the environment.

“It’s my hope that our next representative will exhibit the same commitment and have the successes that we’ve had over these last four years in fixing our water and protecting our environment,” stated Rooney, who is retiring after this term.

But with all of the Republicans vying for his seat pledging their blind obedience to Donald Trump, that’s not likely.

However, one person who has paid attention to the topic of offshore drilling is Democratic presidential challenger former Vice President Joe Biden.

On March 15, Joe Biden debated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Washington, DC. In a discussion of climate change Biden said: “Number one, no more subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore, no ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.”

Subsequent analysis indicated that Biden meant no new offshore drilling; not that he would close down existing wells. But that was good enough for Florida’s Gulf coast.

However, this was not something that was going to be taken lying down by the offshore drilling industry.

On Tuesday, May 26, the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the organization of the offshore oil industry, hit back by releasing a study, “The Economic Impacts of the Gulf of Mexico Oil & Natural Gas Industry,” warning of dire consequences if there was no new leasing or permitting in the Gulf of Mexico. Projecting out to the year 2040 it predicted losses in oil extraction, jobs, industry spending, gross domestic product and government revenues. It pointed out that the industry is a pillar in the state economies of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

Florida is not yet on the list—but it is certainly in the industry’s sights.

And incredibly, like a raid deep into enemy territory, on May 27 an article reprinted from the Lafayette Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, La., of all places, appeared in Naples, Fla., in an across-the-page headline on the front of the Naples Daily News Business section: “Gulf drilling restrictions could prove damaging.” It put forward NOIA’s propaganda without comment or question.

With this the industry proved that it really did have a long reach—right into Rooney’s own eyeballs and the heart of the opposition.

03-15-20 Biden no more drillingJoe Biden at the moment in his debate with Bernie Sanders when he uttered the words “no more drilling, including offshore.”    (Image: CNN)

Analysis: Boatin’ for Biden

“I’m thankful that the Florida delegation, with the exception of one member, came together in a bipartisan way to pass HR 205 out of the House,” stated Rooney to The Paradise Progressive. “This shows the strong commitment that Floridians have to protecting our waters, our economy, and our military preparedness.”

Many Floridians do indeed have a commitment to Florida’s natural environment and they will keep working to protect it. But it’s also very clear that the only hope Southwest Florida—indeed, all of the Florida Gulf coast—has to protect its shores, its environment and its current economy is the election of Joe Biden as president.

Floridians of all political persuasions will get no succor or satisfaction on this issue from President Trump or his administration. He and his minions are just waiting for his re-election to pounce and then it’s “drill-baby-drill.” And the offshore oil and gas industry will certainly show no mercy.

So those in the flotilla of south Collier County boaters who took to the water on Memorial Day weekend should think very carefully about what they’re wishing for. If they really got their wish and Donald Trump was re-elected, the Florida waters and beaches they so enjoy will likely become a dystopian hellscape of oil rigs, ships and slicks.

But of course, that’s not the future that has to be. Perhaps just enough Floridians will realize that their best interests, the interests of their state, their country, their environment and their future lies in electing Joe Biden.

And then they’ll vote.

Offshore oil rigs 11-2-17

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

The hidden story of the Democratic presidential primary–and the party’s future UPDATED

04-08-20 Beto O'Rourke high school  04-08-20 Julian Castro high school cropped 04-08-20 Eric Swalwell high school 04-08-20 Pete Buttigieg high school

High school photos of Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Eric Swalwell and Pete Buttigieg.

April 9, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Updated 10:45 am with additional concluding analysis.

With the withdrawal yesterday of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Democratic presidential nomination is now in former Vice President Joe Biden’s hands; all that remains is an official party coronation.

But amidst the excitement and heartbreak of the Democratic presidential primaries there’s another story that needs to be told. It may be the biggest to come out of the presidential campaign to date—and the most overlooked and hidden.

The coming presidential battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is probably the last struggle of Baby Boomers over political power. Donald Trump is 73 and Joe Biden is 77. Sanders is 78 and, just to add them to the mix, Michael Bloomberg is 78 and Elizabeth Warren is 70.

But amidst the brawling debates and the stabbing sound bites, something else happened: a new generation of Democratic leaders emerged and these are the ones who will ultimately lead the nation in the years to come. They were all on display in the first rush of candidates to seek the presidential mantle. None of them succeeded—but they stepped into the limelight, no matter how briefly, and we all got a first look at them.

If the United States remains a democracy, continues to operate under its Constitution and has regularly scheduled elections as in the past—things that can’t be taken for granted if this president remains in office—then these under-50 Democratic leaders will be on the political stage for a long time to come. All are elected officials, all are now veterans of a presidential campaign and all are likely to be back in one form or another. It gives the Democrats a deep bench.

They’re worth looking at, each in turn and examining their electoral records, their prospects and—subjectively—what they might do next to further their political careers.

So, from oldest to youngest:

Beto O’Rourke

04-08-20 Beto_O'Rourke,_Official_portrait,_113th_Congress
Beto O’Rourke

Age: 47 years old, born September 26, 1972.

Education: Columbia University

Previous offices: El Paso City Council, 2005 to 2011; won US House Representative, Texas 16th Congressional District with 65 percent of the vote and served 6 years, 2013 to 2019.

In 2018 O’Rourke ran against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and came within 3 percentage points of defeating him, raising $80 million in the process, the most ever raised by a Senate candidate to that time. He also created enormous enthusiasm for his candidacy, appearing as a fresh, exciting candidate who appealed to younger voters

O’Rourke announced his candidacy for president on March 14, 2019. He never inspired the enthusiasm he had in his Senate race and he announced termination of his campaign on Nov. 1, 2019, well before the first primaries and caucuses. On Super Tuesday, March 3, he briefly made headlines when he dramatically endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president.

Next steps: Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) is up for re-election this year but last February O’Rourke flatly decided not to challenge him in order to concentrate on his presidential run. The next possible move is the Texas governorship, which opens in 2022. The current governor, Republican Gregg Abbott, could run for a third term and there are numerous other potential Democratic candidates (more below). When O’Rourke dropped his presidential bid there was talk among the punditry and party activists about his serving as Biden’s vice president, though Biden announced that a woman would be his running mate.

Analysis: If O’Rourke doesn’t go into the executive branch he needs to win the next election he enters to stay a credible prospect for higher electoral office.

Julian Castro

04-08-20 Julián_Castro's_Official_HUD_Portrait
Julian Castro

Age: 45 years old, born Sept. 16, 1974

Education: Stanford University, Harvard Law School

Previous offices: San Antonio City Council, 2000 to 2005 (at 26, the youngest person ever to hold that position); unsuccessful run for mayor of San Antonio, Texas, 2005; in 2008 elected mayor with 56 percent of the vote and served 2009 to 2014; US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama. He also gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and was considered as a vice presidential running mate for Hillary Clinton.

Castro announced his run for president on Jan. 12, 2019. Although he participated in several debates, his campaign never caught fire and he dropped out almost exactly a year after he started, on Jan. 2, 2020. He endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) four days later.

Next steps: If he seeks Texas office, Castro’s way forward could run into Beto O’Rourke as a rival for the Texas governorship in 2022 or he could take on Sen. Ted Cruz in 2024. Until Joe Biden announced that he would be selecting a woman as running mate, Castro was seriously considered as a vice presidential candidate. Depending on the outcome of the 2020 election, he could try another presidential run in 2024.

Analysis: With his past service in the executive branch, Castro is a real possibility for a Cabinet position in a Democratic administration. Clearly a politician of both electoral and administrative ability with appeal to the Hispanic community, he has numerous options and roads open to him.

Eric Swalwell

04-08-20 Eric_Swalwell_114th_official_photo
Eric Swalwell

Age: 39, born November 16, 1980

Education: Campbell University, NC, transferred in junior year to University of Maryland, College Park, BA; University of Maryland, Baltimore, JD

Previous offices: Alameda County deputy district attorney; city council, Dublin, Calif., 2010; US representative California 15th Congressional District, starting 2012.

Swalwell announced his candidacy on April 8, 2019 and made addressing gun violence the centerpiece of his campaign. His most prominent moment came in the first presidential debate when he observed that he was six years old when Joe Biden spoke of passing the torch to a new generation. His presidential campaign never caught fire, though, and he withdrew in July, before he could be disqualified for the next round of presidential debates.

Next steps:  A logical next step would be for Swalwell to pursue a US Senate seat. However, both of California’s Senate seats are held by fellow Democrats. The seat of Kamala Harris, who also ran for president, is up for election in 2022. Depending on the outcome of the 2020 election, Harris could either enter a Democratic administration or seek re-election in 2022. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has held her seat since 1992, may retire when her term is up in 2024. A run for governor in 2022 seems a stretch since current governor Gavin Newsom is a Democrat. If he seeks a second term it would be difficult for Swalwell to unseat him.

Alternatively, Swalwell could continue to build his career in the House of Representatives. He has graduated to increasingly important roles and committee assignments in his three terms to date as a representative and there may be party leadership openings in the future. He defeated two Democratic primary challengers in his congressional district on March 3 and is in a strong position to win re-election in November.

Though Swalwell did not go far as a presidential candidate, he appeared on the national stage as an intelligent and articulate politician. In the past he has proven an innovative campaigner. As a millennial himself, he made outreach to his generation a central pillar of his presidential campaign and that may pay dividends in the future. In 2015 he founded the Future Forum Political Action Committee, aimed at millennials and their issues. It raised more than $542,000 during the 2017-2018 election cycle — a significant jump from the $62,400 it raised in the 2016 election cycle, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Whatever he does in the future, Swalwell is definitely a Democrat to keep an eye on.

Pete Buttigieg

04-08-20 Pete_Buttigieg_by_Gage_Skidmore
Pete Buttigieg   (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Age: 38, born January 19, 1982

Education: Harvard University, BA, magna cum laude; Rhodes Scholar; Pembroke College, Oxford, UK, MA with a first in politics, philosophy and economics.

Military service: Joined US Naval Reserve, 2009 as ensign, promoted to lieutenant; 2014 deployment to Afghanistan, recipient Joint Service Commendation Medal.

Previous office: Mayor, South Bend, Indiana 2011-Jan. 1, 2020.

Analysis: Of all the candidates under 50, Buttigieg emerged as the media standout. He won the Iowa caucuses after a murky primary process and participated in numerous debates where he came across as very intelligent and articulate. His campaign lasted longest and for a time he seemed to have a real shot at the nomination. His options seem limitless.

Next steps: It’s doubtful that Buttigieg would have much of a political career in very conservative Indiana—then again, just becoming mayor of South Bend and going as far as he did as a presidential candidate seemed improbable. Both current Indiana senators are Republicans and their seats are not up until 2023 and 2025 respectively. The governor, Eric Holcomb, who took over when Mike Pence assumed the vice presidency, is up in 2020, but given his concentration on the presidency, Buttigieg showed no interest in pursuing the office and Indiana pundits think he would have a difficult time if he did.

Buttigieg might have a variety of possible positions in a Joe Biden administration or he could pursue a Democratic Party position.

Buttigieg came out as gay in 2015 and is married to Chasten Glezman, a sexual orientation that will certainly sway some voters against him. However, it didn’t seem to affect his presidential run much and it was never cited as a major issue by the other candidates—although it might have been had he stayed the front runner.

Of all the presidential candidates under 50 who ran in 2019 and 2020, Buttigieg’s star shown brightest. If the Democrats win the presidency and he stays healthy and politically involved, there’s no telling where Buttigieg might go.

* * *

Another Democratic presidential candidate was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, 38, of Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. A three-term representative with military service, Gabbard showed promise of political leadership despite some controversial actions, like meeting with Syria’s President Bashar al Assad.

But Gabbard really took herself out of the running for Democratic leadership when she voted “present” on the impeachment vote of President Donald Trump on Dec. 19, 2019, saying she could not in good conscience vote for either side. The animosity resulting from that stance has likely doomed any further advancement in Democratic Party politics. Gabbard also announced that she would not seek re-election to her congressional seat in order to pursue the presidency, leaving her without elected office.

The other  bright young star in the Democratic firmament is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 30, of New York’s 14th Congressional District. AOC, as she is widely known, will first be eligible to run for president in the 2028 presidential election. Before she does that, however, she must win re-election this year to a second term in her home district.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

National spotlight focuses on Rooney as he breaks Republican ranks on impeachment

10-18-19 Poppy Harlow and Francis RooneyCNN’s Poppy Harlow interviews Rep. Francis Rooney yesterday.

604 days (1 year, 7 months, 27 days) since Rep. Francis Rooney has faced constituents in an open, public town hall forum.

Oct. 19, 2019 by David Silverberg

The national political spotlight shifted to Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) yesterday, Oct. 18, as he broke ranks with the near-solid unanimity of his House Republican colleagues and stated that President Donald Trump may have committed impeachable offenses. Rooney said he would be open to voting for impeachment if warranted—although he’s not yet convinced it’s warranted.

Rooney made his remarks following revelations by Mick Mulvaney, White House chief of staff, that Trump did indeed press Ukraine’s president for a political quid pro quo in exchange for US military assistance.

In a 10:20 am interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Rooney stated:

“Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear right now, that the actions were related to getting someone in the Ukraine to do these things. As you put on there, Senator Murkowski said it perfectly: ‘We’re not to use political power and prestige for political gain.’” (The reference is to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who had stated, “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative.”).

(The full Rooney interview can be seen at “GOP lawmaker on quid pro quo: It’s serious and troubling.”)

Rooney, who has served as a US ambassador, was careful to say that he wanted more information before deciding that impeachment was warranted.

“I don’t know. I want to study it more,” he stated. “I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple more ambassadors. But it’s certainly very, very serious and troubling.”

Rooney also drew a telling parallel to Watergate, which President Richard Nixon had denounced as a witch hunt.

“I don’t think this is as much as Richard Nixon did,” Rooney said. “But I’m very mindful of the fact that back during Watergate everybody said it’s a witch hunt to get Nixon. Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt but it was absolutely correct.”

He also acknowledged that House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) “had a point” when she told Trump in a meeting that “with you all roads lead to Putin.”

“I was skeptical of it, like most Republicans,” he noted of Pelosi’s remarks. “But I have to say this business about the Ukraine server, which no one heard about until it was mentioned recently, tells me what—are we trying to exculpate Russia, who all our trained intelligence officials have consistently corroborated that Russia was behind the election meddling, not the Ukraine?”

Rooney’s openness and independence from the Trump line generated headlines in the political media.

I didn’t take this job to keep it’: GOP Rep. Rooney hints he’s open to impeachment,” said a headline in the Washington Post. “GOP Rep. Rooney Won’t Rule Out Impeachment: It’s ‘Certainly Clear’ There Was Quid Pro Quo,” stated The Daily Beast.

Rooney further broke Republican-White House ranks when, as Politico put it: “First Republican calls for Rick Perry to answer House subpoena.” Rooney had called on the Energy Secretary to comply with the House impeachment investigation.

“Everybody that can bring any information to the table ought to testify, so that some huge mistake is not inadvertently made,” Rooney told Politico. “I’d like to see any evidence that needs to be adduced brought up and made available to people.”

Rooney’s remarks and his low fundraising totals for the past quarter have fueled speculation that he may not run again in 2020. However, his office denied this to NBC2 reporter Dave Elias in a report broadcast Thursday, Oct. 17: “Despite low fundraising, Congressman Rooney will run for office again.”

As of this writing, a query on this topic to Rooney’s office by The Paradise Progressive has not received a response.

Analysis

Under normal circumstances, Rooney’s careful, cautious expression of openness to the evidence and independent thought might not be extraordinary—but these are no ordinary times.

By simply, carefully expressing a willingness to consider the evidence and where it might lead, Rooney broke the largely solid Republican phalanx protecting the President.

But Trump is demanding what’s nearly impossible in a free, independently thinking society. He wants absolute, mindless loyalty to whatever he’s spouting at the moment, which, like the Ministry of Truth in the novel 1984, can suddenly and unexpectedly shift to its polar opposite.

After the President’s emphatic insistence that there was no quid pro quo, the White House completely altered its stance and Mulvaney said that even if there was a quid pro quo, it was no big deal.  Then the White House reversed direction again and denied Mulvaney’s original statement.

All that was clearly more than Rooney could swallow.

“The president has said many times there wasn’t a quid pro quo . . . and now Mick Mulvaney goes up and says, ‘Yeah, it was all part of the whole plan,’” Rooney complained to a reporter according to Politico.

Asked by a reporter if he didn’t buy the White House walk-back on Mulvaney’s remarks, Rooney replied, “What is a walk-back? I mean, I tell you what, I’ve drilled some oil wells I’d like to walk back — dry holes.”

Several factors make Rooney’s heretical receptivity to impeachment even more significant.

  • First, prior to his 2016 election and all through his first term in the House, Rooney was a staunch and outspoken Trumpie, going so far in 2017 as to call for a political purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to fill it with Trump loyalists. When Trump came to Fort Myers on Halloween, 2018, he praised Rooney’s active defense of him. “He’s brutal,” Trump said of Rooney. “He gets the job done.” For such a past loyalist and self-described conservative to now admit doubts is truly seismic.
  • Second, pro and anti-Trump partisans are intensely scrutinizing Republican House members for any sign of change in their positions. “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” the president hysterically tweeted late yesterday. For Rooney to even admit that the evidence may lead to impeachment when the President insists on a near-Papal infallibility and unquestioning loyalty is major heresy indeed. In the media, writers are using the metaphor of a dam to describe the Republican position. Rooney may be the first crack.
  • Third, in a Florida Republican congressional delegation whose attitudes are marked by the extreme Trumpism of Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-1-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), Rooney’s doubts shake the very redness of the Sunshine State. With Florida an absolute must-win for Trump in 2020, if there are defections in Republican ranks, which is based on a razor-thin majority anyway, the state could go blue in 2020, ensuring a Republican presidential defeat.

Late last night, Rooney attempted to clarify his position using the current political lingua franca, a tweet: “I am in favor of finding out all of the factual information available in this process that is already underway. I did not endorse an impeachment inquiry,” he tweeted.

But at a time when the concept of “factual information” itself is in dispute, even the idea of pursuing truth makes Rooney a revolutionary.

Liberty lives in light

©2019 by David Silverberg

US House passes bill condemning Trump’s Kurdish decision; Diaz-Balart, Steube split, Rooney absent

10-16-19 Pelosi vs. TrumpHouse Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi confronts President Donald Trump over his Syrian withdrawal decision at a White House meeting.              (Photo: White House)

Oct. 17, 2019 by David Silverberg

In a definitive, bipartisan, overwhelming vote, the US House of Representatives yesterday condemned President Donald Trump’s precipitous withdrawal of US forces and betrayal of its Kurdish allies.

The bill, House Joint Resolution (HJRes) 77, “Opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria” required a two-thirds vote to pass and did so decisively by 354 to 60 votes.

Southwest Florida’s congressional delegation split on the motion. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) joined 128 other Republicans in voting for the bill. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) joined 59 other Republicans in opposing it. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent.

As of this writing, none of the congressmen had issued statements explaining their actions or absences.

In addition to opposing Trump’s decision and calling for an end to Turkish operations the bill also called on the administration to aid the Kurds with humanitarian assistance and restrain the Turkish military. Lastly, it called “on the White House to present a clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

The bill has now gone to the Senate for consideration.

Following passage of the bill, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Democratic lawmakers went to the White House to discuss the Syrian situation. That meeting devolved into a stormy confrontation between Pelosi and Trump, with Trump calling her a “third rate” or “third grade” politician and Pelosi telling Trump: “all roads with you lead to Putin.” Both sides characterized the other’s behavior as a “meltdown.” (An in-depth account of the meeting as reported by The New York Times can be read here.)

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg