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A week like no other looms in American politics – CNN

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Within the space of three frenetic days this week, a trio of high profile events will unfold with the capacity to shake Washington and influence the course of November’s election.
After a brief respite over the weekend, senators will return to President Donald Trump’s Senate trial on Monday to hear closing arguments from Democratic House impeachment managers and the President’s legal defense team.
Hours later, and after months of exchanges on the campaign trail, Democratic voters finally begin their search for a candidate to make Trump a one-term President in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses.
The commander-in-chief will hit back the next night, weaving a narrative of prosperity at home and strength abroad, as his reelection pitch reaches new intensity in his annual “State of the Union” address.
And then after finally breaking their own enforced silence with speeches from the floor, senators will Wednesday undertake their gravest possible duty in voting on whether to make Trump the first impeached President to be ousted in US history. Spoiler: Republicans will ensure that Trump is acquitted of high crimes and misdemeanors and will leave it up to voters to decide his fate.
In its tumultuous national story, America has endured more consequential political earthquakes, including presidential assassinations, a Civil War brought on by slavery, epic conflicts abroad and the long march towards justice by the civil rights movement.
But it is unusual for three events with the potential to set the tone of a crucial campaign and the political year ahead to unfold in such a compressed time frame — one that encapsulates the sense-scrambling reality of Washington in the bewildering Trump era.
The next three days will reveal the political forces shaping the nation’s present — like Trump’s relentless dominance of the Republican Party and the desperation of Democrats to consign him to a single term.
They will also unleash chain reactions that will shape the run up to November’s election and will reflect divisions widened by impeachment. The identity of the next Democratic nominee and the way that the President behaves in the aftermath of his impeachment drama and up to and including the presidential election also have the possibility to set the country on one of several divergent courses. A Democratic President like Joe Biden might seek to return to a more conventional, bipartisan style of leadership. A President Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders could however take the country as far left as it has been in decades.
A second Trump term could prove just as challenging to the political establishment as his first and would give the President the chance to fundamentally reorder the state of national politics over two terms — especially with his appointment of conservative judges who are transforming American jurisprudence.

Bitter political battles

A fearsome day of pitched political battle Sunday emphasized the brittle political atmosphere and the still uncertain impact of impeachment on Democratic and Republican candidates in November.
Some Republicans reflected the pressure of their looming vote to acquit Trump despite an incriminating evidentiary record of his behavior in Ukraine, offering veiled criticism of his conduct that could anger some GOP voters.
But one prominent Republican however appeared to signal a campaign of revenge against political foes who brought the President to this point.
Democratic presidential candidates, especially senators who must return for the final stages of the Senate trial on Monday, made the most of the dying hours of the Iowa campaign.
Predicting the 5 most likely Iowa scenarios
And Trump appeared agitated by the possible threat posed by billionaire Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg down the road, The former New York mayor was only too happy to join an exchange of insults, jumping at the chance to get into the mix, given that he’s not even competing in the first four Democratic contests.
The President had the first shot at defining a critical week in politics during a softball Super Bowl pre-game network interview with one of his most vocal supporters, Sean Hannity of Fox News.
Trump says he would 'love to run against Bloomberg'Trump says he would 'love to run against Bloomberg'
“There’s a revolution going on in this country,” Trump said. “I made a positive revolution,” he added, expressing optimism about his reelection hopes.

Signs of Republican disquiet

The President has insisted all along that his pressure on Ukraine to dig dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and other Democrats — for which he was impeached by the House — was an example of “perfect” presidential behavior.
But there were some signs on Sunday that Republican senators who will keep him from office are concerned about the electoral impact of shielding the President among uncommitted swing voters.
Several argued that though his conduct fell short of an impeachable standard, the President shouldn’t have behaved in such a way, or may now have learned not to do so again.
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump’s pursued what she called corruption in Ukraine “in the wrong manner.” She added that his now notorious conversation with Ukraine’s President — in which he asked him to “do us a favor” — was “maybe not the perfect call.”
Joni Ernst defends Trump but says President handled Ukraine 'maybe in the wrong manner'Joni Ernst defends Trump but says President handled Ukraine 'maybe in the wrong manner'
Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival, are at the center of the President’s impeachment trial.
Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is retiring so he doesn’t have to face voters again, but might have been conscious of history in explaining his planned vote to clear the President.
“I think he shouldn’t have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I’d say — improper, crossing the line,” Alexander said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But Alexander added: “I think what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors. I don’t think it’s the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president.”
One of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, warned that Republicans would start to investigate the Bidens and the intelligence community whistleblower who first raised the alarm about the President’s conduct with Ukraine.
“We’ll deal with the whistleblower … we’ll deal with Joe Biden’s conflicts of interest. (The) Judiciary Committee will deal with all things FISA,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Let me tell Republicans out there — you should expect us to do this. If we don’t we’re letting you down.”
The top House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff argued meanwhile that signs of discomfort with the President’s behavior from some of Graham’s colleagues represented vindication for the Democrats’ impeachment tactics.
“You now have senators on both sides of the aisle admitting the House made its case. And the only question is, should the President be removed for office because he’s been found guilty of these offenses?” Schiff said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“I think it’s enormously important that the country understand exactly what this President did. And we have proved it.”
Schiff would not say whether House Democrats would subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton who according to a New York Times report about his forthcoming book has evidence that incriminates the President in withholding military aid for Ukraine.
Last week, the Senate voted by a narrow margin to decline to hear testimony from Bolton and other witnesses, prompting Democratic accusations that the GOP-led chamb er was indulging in a coverup to save Trump.

Last chance in Iowa

Democratic candidates made their final pitches to Iowa voters ahead of caucuses on Monday night that could help set the tone for their nominating season.
Biden downplayed expectations in a state that is far less diverse than his typical coalition — but left enough space to capitalize on a victory.
It's a cliché because it's true: It all comes down to turnout in IowaIt's a cliché because it's true: It all comes down to turnout in Iowa
“If we get out of Iowa with a win, I think It’s going to be not clear sailing but overwhelmingly smooth sailing from here on,” he said in a call with precinct workers that CNN obtained access to. “But if we get out of here basically viewed as a tie with two or three people at the top of the ticket, I think we’re clearly in the game.”
At and event in Cedar Rapids, Sanders all but predicted a win in a state where he came a narrow second to Hillary Clinton four years ago.
“We are the campaign of excitement and of energy,” Sanders said.

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Jason Kenney quits Alberta politics with critical letter on state of democracy

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Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney stepped down as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Lougheed late Tuesday afternoon.

“Thank you to my constituents for the honour of representing them in Parliament and the Legislature over the past 25 years,” Kenney said in a tweet also containing a statement.

The resignation came two hours after the throne speech for the Fall session was read inside the legislature, which Kenney was not present for.

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Kenney said he is proud of the work done while he was the leader but with a new government in place under Premier Danielle Smith — who replaced him as leader of the UCP in October — and a provincial election coming in May 2023, now is the best time for him to step aside as MLA.

“This decision brings to an end over 25 years of elected service to Albertans and Canadians,” he said.

“I would like to thank especially the people of south Calgary for their support over nine elections to Parliament and the legislature, beginning in 1997. Thank you as well to the countless volunteers, staff members and public servants who have supported me throughout the past two and a half decades of public service.”

Kenney said in the future he hopes to continue contributing to democratic life but chose to close his resignation letter with a scathing reflection of the state of politics.

“Whatever our flaws or imperfections, Canada and I believe Alberta are in many ways the envy of the world. This is not an accident of history.”

Kenney went on to provide the following statement:

“We are the inheritors of great institutions built around abiding principles which were generated by a particular historical context. Our Westminster parliamentary democracy, part of our constitutional monarchy, is the guardian of a unique tradition of ordered liberty and the rule of law, all of which is centred on a belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person and an obligation to promote the common good. How these principles are applied to any particular issue is a matter of prudent judgment.

“But I am concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institution and principles.

“From the far left we see efforts to cancel our history, delegitimize our historically grounded institutions and customs and divide society dangerously along identity lines. And from the far right we see a vengeful anger and toxic cynicism which often seeks to tear things down, rather than build up and improve our imperfect institutions.”

“As I close 25 years of public service, I do so with gratitude for those who built this magnificent land of opportunity through their wisdom and sacrifice. And I’m hopeful that we will move past this time of polarization to renew our common life together in this amazing land of limitless opportunity.”

Kenney announced his intention to step down as the leader of the United Conservative Party on May after he received 51.4 percent support in his leadership review vote.

Earlier Tuesday, Smith was sworn in as the new member for Brooks-Medicine Hat after winning a byelection for the seat earlier this month.

It was her first time back on the floor of the legislature chamber since the spring of 2015.

At that time, Smith was with the Progressive Conservatives, having led a mass floor-crossing of her Wildrose Party months earlier. She failed to win a nomination for the PCs in 2015 and returned to journalism as a radio talk show host for six years.

Kenney remained a backbencher UCP legislature member until his resignation. It’s not yet known when a byelection will be held in Calgary-Lougheed.

Kenney joins a long list of Alberta conservative leaders sidelined following middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 percent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 percent in their reviews but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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Murray Mandryk: Today’s partisan politics abandons all common sense

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Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Politics: The art of abandoning all manner of common sense and principle in favour of convincing your own supporters what you’re doing is just and true while what your opponent promotes simply isn’t.

That’s probably cynical and unhelpful.

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Sadly, though, it’s neither as cynical nor as destructively divisive as much of what we see every day from politicians themselves whose only interest is in catering to their respective bases.

Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Today’s politics is tribalism and, sadly, this cuts across party lines…although that observation is, evidently, now considered offensive to members themselves.

We’re not like that — they are.

Let us review, beginning with the latest from the federal Liberals. By definition, liberals (small l) are supposedly respectful and accepting of behaviour and opinions different from their own, open to new ideas and, promote individual rights, civil liberties, democracy and free enterprise.

Unless, of course, there are political points to be scored with your large urban base.

Consider the last-minute amendments to the latest federal gun-control bill that stands to criminalize millions of firearms now used by Canadian hunters.

The amendment would ban “a firearm that is a rifle or shotgun, that is capable of discharging centrefire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that is designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed.”

For those unfamiliar, that’s pretty much all hunting rifles and shotguns that aren’t pump, bolt or lever-action.

Essentially, this would ban all forms of semi-automatic firearms except for tube-style duck hunting shotguns — far in excess of the how Bill C-21 was pitched as a targeting of the sale of Canadian handguns (no mention of long guns was even in the initial draft bill).

This goes much further than the Liberals’ failed gun registry of 30 years ago, angering hunters, target shooters and of course, conservatives. It’s almost as if irritating the latter was the point.

The changes drew the expected angry response from Western Conservative politicians including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe — which only seems to fortify the Liberal notion that somehow what they are doing is right.

But what happens when they are not?

The ongoing problem with illegal guns crossing the U.S. border, 3D printers capable of producing all manner of weaponry and light sentences for violent crimes would seem far bigger threats than a hunting rifle locked up for 364 days a year.

But in today’s tribal political world, it’s not about common-sense solutions. It’s about the virtues you are signalling to your base, which takes us to today’s conservatives defined by preserving traditions, institutions and following rules of law.

Or at least until it’s their ox being gored as we are seeing at the Emergencies Act inquiry. Then it becomes about justifying all behaviour and lawlessness … as long as it was aimed at the Liberal government.

It was bad enough that we saw in January elected politicians like Moe writing letters of support to Freedom Convoy organizers — some of whom were subsequently criminally charged.

But the same Conservative politicians who cavorted and emboldened protester organizers are now eagerly engaging in political revisionism. To hell with what the people of Ottawa endured. Senator Denise Batters claims she “personally never felt safer.”

And those criminally charged with obstruction? The plethora of other actions meritorious of criminal charges and the very real threats at border crossings? A figment of Liberal and/or RCMP imaginations?

Of course, that has now been superseded by the battiness of convoy protest lawyer Brendan Miller being sued for accusing someone of being al Liberal provocateur who waved a Nazi flag just to make the protesters look bad.

But this, too, is easily justifiable when you can view everything through a lens of extreme partisanship rather than common sense that’s seemingly no longer required in politics.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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The U.S. and Iran beef is what politics has become at the World Cup

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United States head coach Gregg Berhalter and Tyler Adams attend a press conference on the eve of the group B World Cup soccer match between Iran and the United States in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 28.The Associated Press

Over the weekend, U.S. Soccer sent out social-media posts containing an altered Iranian flag. Two lines of Islamic script and the country’s emblem had been stripped from it. A spokesperson for the American team said the change had been made to show support for Iranian women.

Iran has had a torrid first week in Qatar. Its Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, devotes huge chunks of his near-daily remarks to alternately lashing the team’s critics and begging them to back off.

Here was a main chance to change the story, courtesy of their old enemy. The fight is so silly, you’re tempted to think the two teams – who play each other on Tuesday – cooked it up together.

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Iran saw the provocation from the U.S. and raised it. It demanded FIFA suspend the American team for 10 games – effectively eliminating it from the World Cup. FIFA ignored it.

On Sunday, in the midst of a U.S. news conference, an Iranian journalist scolded America’s media operation, telling it to “respect international media.”

“This is World Cup, not MLS Cup,” he said.

The presser was cut short.

By Monday, Iranian journalists were pressing American manager Gregg Berhalter to move the U.S. Fifth Fleet out of the Persian Gulf. Shockingly, Berhalter doesn’t have any juice with the Navy.

Berhalter explained that neither he nor his players knew anything about the flag flap, but still apologized for it. No one wanted to hear it. This is what happens when athletes become political advocates. Everyone ends up looking clueless.

FIFA has spent years trying to strip the World Cup of its political symbolism and replace it with a commodified, pop-culture, politics-lite. That would be the sort of politics that gooses viewership, but doesn’t upset anyone.

It hasn’t helped itself by placing the event in military autocracies (Argentina 1978), functional dictatorships (Russia 2018), and developing nations that can’t afford to host it (a few).

A high-water mark for political tensions created by soccer goings-on was the 1982 semi-final, France vs. Germany. The two nations didn’t like each other going in. They liked each other much less after watching their countrymen kick the tar out of each other for 120 minutes. At one point, the German goalkeeper delivered a flying knee to an onrushing French player, knocking out several teeth.

Afterward, the German – Harald Schumacher – was told about the missing teeth. “I’ll pay for the crowns,” Schumacher said, glibly.

That went over as well as you’d imagine. Tensions mounted to a postwar high. The Germans learned the French hadn’t really forgiven them, and the French figured out they were still piping hot over it.

The situation was only defused when the then German chancellor publicly apologized to his French counterpart. The incident – referred to as ‘The Tragedy of Seville,’ after the city in which the match was played – remains a potent touchstone in both countries.

That was back when politics in sports had guardrails. You only went so far, for fear that a shouting match might become a shooting match.

Those limits have come off in recent years. People feel perfectly entitled – compelled, even – to show up at events such as this and start delivering speeches and tossing around insults.

As usual, FIFA is mostly to blame. By inveigling teams to engage in soft advocacy, it has persuaded the human brands in its temporary employ to speak the sort of truth that makes sponsors comfortable. But once the complaints get anywhere near the money, FIFA becomes a stickler for rules as written.

So, ‘OneLove’ armbands? Out. ‘No Discrimination’ armbands? In.

What does ‘no discrimination’ mean? Who, exactly, are these people who are for discrimination? When’s that press conference, because I’d like to attend it.

‘No discrimination’ means less than nothing, because it pretends to be something. Proper protest is organic. It isn’t approved by the marketing department, then sent off to the printers to be colour-matched and sized for overnight delivery.

After FIFA nixed the armbands, Germany came up with its own stunt. During the prematch team photo ahead of its first game, German players put their hands over their mouths. Presumably, this means they can’t speak their minds. Who exactly this is a shot at – FIFA? The state of Qatar? The World Cup writ large? – wasn’t defined.

And yet, they can speak. They’ve got cameras on them every hour of the day. People are itching to tell their stories. The German players haven’t been prevented from speaking. They’ve opted not to speak because they fear sanction.

So what is it? You’re taking a principled stand, or you’re doing a photo op? You can’t have both.

Now you’ve got USA and Iran taking pops at each other for kicks, hoping a few callbacks to the bad old days will jazz up their current sports chances.

Is it now totally out there to say this stuff ought not be taken so lightly? You want to start an international slapping contest with a sovereign country? Maybe your foreign service should be the one doing that, rather than the guy who runs the Instagram account at U.S. Soccer.

If you’re the United States of America, maybe don’t do that at all. You’re in no moral position to lecture anyone else.

But stripped of actual menace, that’s what politics has become at the World Cup (as well as the Olympics). It’s gamesmanship. It’s theatre. It’s for funsies.

And it can be fun. Until one day, something silly that happens here leaks out into the real world, where everyone doesn’t slap hands and trade jerseys when the game ends.

You feel like protesting the injustice inherent in staging this World Cup in this place? Or how your opponents comport themselves? How about not coming?

Why not apply the same standards of total commitment to your protesting that you do to your play? Otherwise, make room for serious people willing to take actual risks.

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