Political cage match


Staff & Wire Reports

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, speaks to a reporter as she and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk back into the West Wing after speaking to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, following a meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, speaks to a reporter as she and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk back into the West Wing after speaking to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, following a meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Pelosi gives Trump an earful, questions ‘manhood’ in private


Associated Press

Wednesday, December 12

WASHINGTON (AP) — In public, Nancy Pelosi lectured Donald Trump on the Constitution and wagged a finger at him for characterizing her “strength.” In private, she questioned his “manhood” — and her disdain for him became public, again, anyway.

“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” Pelosi privately told House Democrats after a combative, on-camera Oval Office meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. The account was described on condition of anonymity by an aide who was in the room but not authorized to discuss Pelosi’s remarks publicly.

In the space of a few hours Tuesday, the California Democrat nominated for her second stint as House speaker rolled out her approach to the Republican president as the two prepare for two years of divided government.

“It goes to show you: You get into a tickle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you,” she said after Tuesday’s meeting, according to the aide.

Pelosi is said to frown on truly blue language. But in public and private, she can be unsparing in her clapbacks, and never more so than during the Trump presidency. She questioned Trump’s “manhood” publicly in October at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, for example. And yet, she’s long counseled Democrats to not get into the muck, Trump-style, advising Democrats before the State of the Union address in January not to get in the way of his “slobbering self.”

On Tuesday, outside the White House, Pelosi predicted Democrats would stay “dignified.”

Pelosi hardly saved her disdain for Trump for the private audience, letting it rip in slightly more respectful tones a few hours earlier when the president invited journalists into the Oval Office for what were billed as talks over the national budget. What ensued was like a political cage match, with everyone except Pence jumping in with ripostes, setups, lectures and insults. The conflict between Trump and Pelosi dominated the scene, which was replete with gender politics.

The spectacle suggested a fierce, two-year struggle in which Democrats control one chamber of Congress for the first time in Trump’s presidency. The new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, and Pelosi is nominated for her second stint as speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession. That carries significant stakes for Trump, who faces oversight investigations into his presidential campaign and administration. Additionally, the House will include a record number of women elected in the #MeToo era — most of them Democrats — injecting gender into the discussion like never before.

In her opening comments in the Oval Office, Pelosi said failed budget talks would result in a “Trump shutdown” of government — a phrase that might have inflamed him. Instead, Trump said he’d take responsibility for any shuttering of government.

Trump alluded to the fact that Pelosi’s election as speaker is not assured.

“Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand, and I fully understand that,” Trump said.

Pelosi raised a hand, then wagged her index finger: “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”

She kept it clean through a post-Oval Office press conference, suggesting to reporters that she didn’t want to embarrass Trump over his misstatement of facts in front of the cameras.

Behind the scenes is another story. Out came her gibe about Trump’s masculinity.

On Tuesday, she told Democrats privately, “He said at the end of the meeting, he said, ‘We can go two routes with this meeting: with a knife or a candy. I said, ‘Exactly.’”

She went with the knife.

“I told him about Ronald Reagan,” Pelosi told the Democrats. “I said you probably don’t know who I spoke most about on the campaign trail — what president I spoke most about. He said, ‘Donald Trump.’ I said, ‘I never mentioned your name.’”

Later in private, she told the Democrats: “I was trying to be the mom.”

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

Trump prods McConnell on sentencing bill: ‘Go for it Mitch!’


Associated Press

Sunday, December 9

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reluctance to hold a vote on a popular criminal justice bill has angered top Republican senators and created an unusual rift with a longtime GOP ally, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. And on Friday, it also brought on a tweet from President Donald Trump.

“Hopefully Mitch McConnell will ask for a VOTE on Criminal Justice Reform,” Trump tweeted. “It is extremely popular and has strong bipartisan support. It will also help a lot of people, save taxpayer dollars, and keep our communities safe. Go for it Mitch!”

Minutes later Grassley tweeted that he and the president had spoken about “the growing support” for the legislation.

“Pres Trump told me he wants it done THIS CONGRESS,” Grassley tweeted.

Grassley has spent years working to build a coalition around the bill and is pushing for a year-end vote. Grassley says more than two-thirds of the Senate supports it. But McConnell is refusing to bring the legislation forward in a standoff that’s dividing the Republican majority and putting President Donald Trump on the spot.

“We’ve done what needs to be done,” Grassley said about the overwhelming support for the bill. “So what’s holding it up?”

For the 85-year-old chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this is not the way the Senate is supposed to operate. Grassley was expecting some deference from McConnell after delivering on Trump’s judicial nominees — including two now on the Supreme Court. Despite Trump’s support for the measure, McConnell says it’s divisive. His reluctance to take up Grassley’s priority shows the limits of the Senate’s old-fashioned customs in an era of heightened partisan politics.

“What’s so irritating about this is, first of all, he and I have been hand-in-glove working to get the judiciary vacancies filled,” Grassley told Iowa reporters.

“I think I ought to have some consideration for delivering on tough Supreme Court nominees, and a lot of tough circuit court nominees and maybe even once in a while you get a tough district court nominee,” Grassley went on.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., intervened Friday, talking directly to Trump about attaching the criminal justice legislation to the must-pass year-end spending bill, which is already tangled in a separate fight over funds for the border wall with Mexico.

“Just talked with President,” Graham tweeted. “He strongly believes criminal justice reform bill must pass now. He also indicated he supports putting criminal justice reform bill on year-end spending bill which must include MORE wall funding.”

Trump has called senators about the bill and spoke briefly about it Friday at an event on safe neighborhoods in Kansas City.

The bill is a project of Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and would be the biggest sentencing overhaul in decades. It would reduce mandatory prison terms for certain drug crimes and give judges in some cases more discretion on punishments. It would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty. It also includes provisions to encourage education and workforce training in prisons.

Roughly 90 percent of prison inmates are held in state facilities and would not be affected by the legislation.

While Kushner has been meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Trump is also hearing from allies who are against the legislation. Chief among them is Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is warning senators that Republicans will be blamed if criminals are released and commit new crimes.

“Only thing worse than early release from prison of thousands of serious, violent, & repeat felons is to do that in a spending bill with no debate or amendments, forcing senators to either shut down government or let felons out of prison,” Cotton tweeted Friday. The spending bill will need approval by Dec. 21 to avoid a funding lapse days before Christmas.

Cotton and others, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, No. 2 Senate Republican, insist there is not as much support for the bill as Grassley claims. Cotton says senators may tell the chairman they’re in favor of it when actually they’re not.

The bill has support from several conservative and liberal advocacy groups, uniting such disparate partners as the influential Koch network and the American Civil Liberties Union, but it splits law enforcement groups. It is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police but opposed by the National Sheriff’s Association.

Amid this divide, McConnell has been choosing caution, saying there’s just not enough time to push the bill forward in the remaining days of the Congress.

“The question is, can you shoe-horn something that’s extremely controversial into the remaining time?” he said Monday in an interview at a Wall Street Journal forum.

Criminal justice reform has traditionally been a Democratic priority, as Republicans prefer a more tough-on-crime approach. And McConnell acknowledges it’s “extremely divisive” among Senate Republicans. Leaders tend to protect senators from taking tough votes that could have political blowback.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday that bill backers are making a last-push to attach it to the spending measure and picking up new supporters. But he acknowledged the package’s chances are slipping with each passing day. “We’re still lobbying Sen. McConnell — he has all the power to allow it or not allow it,” said Paul.

McConnell and Grassley have worked side by side for decades. When then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in early 2016, Grassley stood by McConnell’s decision to keep the seat open during the election year for the new president to decide. He’s ushered in 84 Trump judicial nominees, including a record number of circuit court judges.

But their split over criminal justice reform is testing not just their partnership but also the longstanding norms of the Senate.

“What’s holding it up is our leader, the majority leader,” Grassley said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t come up.”

Associated Press writer David Pitt in Iowa contributed to this report.

On Twitter follow Lisa Mascaro at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and Kevin Freking at https://twitter.com/kfreking


Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA

by Laura Finley

That the U.S. is divided on political issues is old news. Both the Left and the Right are deeply entrenched, resulting in distrust, animosity, and political gridlock. One troubling example is with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization of 2018. Sadly, it isn’t the first time that Republicans have attempted to block VAWA, literally using women’s lives as a bartering tool.

The original VAWA was introduced by Senator Joe Biden in 1990. It took four years before VAWA passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed by President Bill Clinton. This is in large part due to a provision that allowed victims the private civil rights remedy of suing their attackers. Chief Justice William Rehnquist was a vocal opponent, asserting that the provision would bring so many cases before the courts it would overwhelm them, and the Supreme Court declared that portion of VAWA to be unconstitutional in 2000. Interestingly, the Court said that Congress did not have the right to enforce the civil remedy under the Commerce Clause because domestic violence is not “economic” in nature, despite evidence that it costs taxpayers between $5-10 billion a year in healthcare and law enforcement costs, lost productivity, and more. Yet the other provisions remained, and VAWA has helped hundreds of thousands of victims. It provides funds for training law enforcement, court officials, victim advocates and healthcare professionals.

VAWA was reauthorized again in 2000 and 2005. The 2000 version improved provisions for immigrant victims, victims of sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. The 2005 reauthorization extended benefits to underserved populations and prohibited requirements that sexual assault victims take polygraph tests before an investigation into their reports ensues. The 2012 renewal was also contentious, as conservatives opposed extending VAWA’s provisions to same-sex couples. Great debate also surrounded extending the protections of VAWA to Native American women, as this brought up the typical jurisdictional battle that occurs with crime-related topics on tribal lands. Further, conservatives opposed extending VAWA’s provisions to undocumented immigrant victims through the U Visa program. After expiring with the adjournment of the 112thCongress, VAWA was again reauthorized with all of the contentious provisions included in 2013.

The latest reauthorization was originally scheduled to occur by September 30 but has been extended to December 7 and December 21. It is temporarily reauthorized, but as of now, it appears Republicans intend to block the reauthorization before the year’s end, and out of 173 co-sponsors of the bill proposed by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), none are Republicans. In all likelihood, the influx of women who were elected in the 2018 midterms in January 2019 would result in VAWA being reconsidered, but it is horrifying to see that once again there’s even debate about supporting resources for victims. While no federal legislation is perfect, and VAWA can be legitimately critiqued for focusing too much on criminal justice and less on root causes of abuse, the 2018 reauthorization is still important. Jackson Lee’s bill increases funding for sexual assault centers and expands the law related to removing guns from convicted abusers.

We should all implore Congress to act on the reauthorization of VAWA. As it becomes clearer that, according to a new study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the least safe place for women globally is in the home, it is essential that our politicians take seriously the issues of domestic and sexual violence and not let political division disrupt these much-needed services.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology.

The Conversation

Cannabis use in teens not a gateway to conduct problems, study suggests – but risks still exist

December 12, 2018


Dan Romer

Research Director, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania

Disclosure statement: Dan Romer has received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But this commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of NIDA.

With the legalization of cannabis for adults becoming increasingly widespread, more adolescents will be trying the drug. And parents will be wondering what the consequences will be for their teens should they try and continue to use marijuana.

A few decades ago, there was considerable concern that cannabis use was a gateway to more serious problems, such as socializing with drug-using peers and delinquent behavior. In fact, a study of a large cohort of youth in New Zealand in the 1990s suggested just such an outcome.

More recently, my research colleagues and I were able to ask whether this applied to teens today in the U.S. Our study involved following 364 adolescents living in Philadelphia over eight years, starting when they were between 10 and 12 years old. We conducted five annual surveys and a final follow-up survey when they turned 18 and 19. Using a more sensitive statistical methodology than had been used in the past, we were able to disentangle the effects of which came first: conduct problems or marijuana use. And we found some interesting patterns.

Our study showed that users of marijuana do not seek out other users. In addition, we found no evidence that use of cannabis led to greater problem behavior. Instead, we found that the teens who reported changes in their problem behavior were more likely to subsequently increase their use of cannabis. And they were also more likely to begin associating with peers who also used the drug.

This was different from other marijuana users who did not develop new friends who used marijuana. They were more likely to start using marijuana if their friends already used it, which was not a surprise. But there was no evidence that marijuana use led to the development of potentially deviant peer relationships with youth likely to engage in problem behavior.

Teens and cannabis use

The study tracked subjects’ use of cannabis as well as other drugs. In addition, the study asked them about whether they engaged in various types of problem behavior, such as stealing and skipping school. We also asked about their friends’ drug use, and at the final follow-up, we probed for symptoms of substance use disorder stemming from their use of cannabis and other drugs.

At the final follow-up, about 40 percent of the adolescents who continued to use marijuana reported having developed a mild cannabis use disorder, showing signs of two or three symptoms, such as craving the drug and feeling the need to use it. We were not surprised that the teens who had behavior problems were more likely to develop the disorder, and our cohort was more likely to include this high-risk group than nationally representative samples. Thus, the likelihood of acquiring even a mild disorder from marijuana use is probably much lower.

But even the teens without behavior problems were susceptible to developing the disorder.

Nevertheless, there was no evidence that use of cannabis led to the development of conduct disorder or to more serious use of other drugs; all of the evidence pointed to the reverse.

This suggests that the prior findings may have been due to the failure to examine the effects of problem behavior on cannabis use. It may also reflect changes in how the drug is used in today’s more accepting environment.

Cannabis not the risk some fear?

In one sense, these findings are reassuring. They suggest that greater access to cannabis need not have the deleterious effects once feared.

Yet cannabis is still a potentially addictive substance, just as alcohol and tobacco, the other drugs that many adolescents are likely to try. And despite the use of these popular drugs, there was very little evidence of gateway effects to harder drugs, such as heroin or other opioids. The gateway hypothesis regarding adolescent drug use has lost a lot of its credibility following more careful research on the effects of the drugs that adolescents are likely to try. Indeed, youth who use one drug are also likely to use others, as opposed to one leading to another. And as we found, substance use disorders tend to cluster across drugs.

As noted above, teens with friends who used cannabis were also more likely to start using the substance. This suggests that as the drug becomes more available, it is likely to spread through peer networks, just as alcohol does now despite it being restricted in sales to those over age 20.

And this further suggests that there will likely be more cases of substance use disorder attributed to cannabis. Based on our teenage cohort’s experience with alcohol, we estimate that less than 25 percent of youth who use alcohol consistently will develop a mild case of alcohol use disorder. It would not be surprising if the same thing happens as cannabis becomes more available.

Cannabis not harmless

Our findings suggest that cannabis is not a harmless drug, and policymakers and parents should proceed with this awareness as it becomes more available. Youth who are susceptible to psychosis are playing with fire when using strong doses of the drug. And parents may not know if their teen is susceptible.

Evidence to date in the states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use suggests that motor vehicle fatalities due to crashes do not increase post-legalization. However, there is some evidence that it may lead to more non-fatal crashes.

On the other hand, cannabis is increasingly recognized as an effective pain killer for many who suffer from chronic conditions, and the states that have legalized medical marijuana have experienced a decline in prescriptions for opioids.

But the connections between cannabis and opioid use are complex. There is some evidence that use of cannabis in adults can lead to greater use of opioids, but this too is older research which may not reflect the medical use of the drug. Determining the overall benefits of cannabis will continue to be a subject of research.

All of this evidence points to the increasing recognition that cannabis is incorrectly labeled as a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S. government, along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. This classification designates cannabis as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Considerable experience along with the growing consensus of the medical community suggests that this conclusion is no longer tenable.

Our study also suggests that fears about the drug’s potential gateway effects in causing harms for adolescents have been exaggerated. A sound policy going forward will require a balanced appraisal of both its benefits and harms.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, speaks to a reporter as she and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk back into the West Wing after speaking to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, following a meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/12/web1_121945525-de4c094056f2408090dd5f331aaba1fb.jpgHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, speaks to a reporter as she and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, walk back into the West Wing after speaking to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, following a meeting with President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Staff & Wire Reports