He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.
WASHINGTON — Democrats are betting they already have the key to success in the 2022 midterm elections: the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that President Joe Biden is poised to sign into law.
The House plans to give final passage to the Senate-approved legislation Wednesday, enabling Biden to start pushing money out the door. That includes $1,400 checks, $300-a-week federal jobless benefits, and funds for vaccine distribution.
It was a grueling task for Democrats to keep enough members in line to pass the bill. But the next part will be even harder: persuading voters to reward them, and beating back a determined Republican campaign to undermine it after they unified to vote against it.
History favors the GOP as the party in power usually loses congressional seats in midterm elections.
New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said selling the Covid-19 aid bill will be “a big piece of the puzzle” to hold the House majority.
“Anytime you’re delivering for the American people, you’re strengthening your position politically. So this is going to strengthen us because it’s good policy,” he said in an interview. “We should shout it from the rooftops that we are passing historic legislation that will reboot the economy and end the pandemic.”
The legislation includes a per-child cash payment of at least $3,000 for one year and an expansion of “Obamacare” subsidies for two years. The 2022 elections will directly affect the fate of those provisions: Democrats want to extend them, but Republicans may have other ideas if they seize control of Congress.
“They’re always ready to help a big corporation or a rich person, but when a working family needs help, the Republicans tell them to drop dead,” Maloney said, accusing the GOP of showing “a callous disregard for the urgency of this crisis.”
GOP operatives say they intend to highlight the bill’s flaws and turn voters against it, which could make it a defining issue as Democrats face major hurdles in passing other parts of their legislative agenda.
Republicans will accuse Democrats of using a virus emergency package to “pass a bunch of unrelated liberal spending,” said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which needs a net gain of one seat to win control.
“Nobody denies that there’s some stuff in the bill that’s popular,” he said. “But the cons of this bill have more staying power than the pros of this bill.”
Hartline said the party will run ads against vulnerable Democrats who voted down GOP amendments such as approving the Keystone pipeline, tightening restrictions on money going to anyone in the United States illegally — which Democrats say the bill already prohibits — and punishing schools that allow transgender athletes in girls sports.
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 62 percent of Americans generally support the $1.9 trillion plan, including 33 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of independents. But the messaging war has just begun: Fifty-two percent said they’ve heard “a lot” about the plan while 47 percent have heard “a little” or “nothing at all” about it.
An Associated Press poll showed 70 percent of U.S. adults approve of Biden’s handling of the pandemic.
“Who wouldn’t be in favor of the government depositing free money into their bank accounts?” said one Republican operative who works on campaigns and wasn’t authorized to concede that publicly.
The operative said Republicans will hit Democrats for failing to condition school money to reopenings, and criticize figures like Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., for voting for a $15 minimum wage, which was forced out of the package under Senate rules.
Privately, some Republican strategists downplay how decisive the relief bill will be in the 2022 election. Others lament that their party’s messaging has been incoherent — a far cry from the laser-focused attacks on the 2009 stimulus bill or Obamacare that fueled an avalanche of GOP midterm victories.
Still, Democrats have the ongoing task of justifying the $1.9 trillion price tag. Some strategists warn that it would be disastrous for the party if voters see the government spending heavily and don’t experience a meaningful improvement in their lives.
And the party knows it faces other challenges, too.
“With redistricting stacked against Democrats and decades of history showing voters delivering divided government during a president’s first midterm, we need to pitch a near perfect game,” said Tyler Law, a consultant and former aide to the Democratic House election arm.
The price of humility
The financial benefits in the Covid-19 relief bill are more immediate and tangible than the 2009 stimulus package. And now, unlike 2009, there is little grassroots enthusiasm against the Democratic push, with many conservatives more fired up over cultural issues. Some Republican lawmakers and activists are highlighting controversies over racist imagery in Dr. Seuss books to rally a disaffected base.
“We help people, they complain about irrelevant s—,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, countered.
In a March 6 memo to senior staff that was obtained by NBC News, top White House advisers Anita Dunn and Brian Deese called the Covid-19 relief bill “one of the most consequential — and most progressive — pieces of legislation in American history.”
“There’s still much more to be done, and absolutely no room for complacency,” they wrote, telling staffers that “the real work will begin” after Biden signs it into law and implements it.
The memo came days after Biden conceded that Democrats blew it in 2009, the last time they had power and had to deal with a crisis. He said then-President Barack Obama, his boss at the time, should’ve bragged more about his stimulus package.
“We didn’t adequately explain what we had done. Barack was so modest,” Biden told House Democrats. “I kept saying, ‘Tell people what we did.’ He said, ‘We don’t have time. I’m not going to take a victory lap.’ And we paid a price for it, ironically, for that humility.”
But Biden is forgoing one means of self-promotion his predecessor used: The White House said his name won’t appear on the $1,400 stimulus checks to be sent by mail.
Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say
When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.
“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.
“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”
Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”
Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.
“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.
He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”
Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.
Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.
Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.
“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.
She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”
What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.
“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”
Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.
Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.
“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.
For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.
“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.
Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.
At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.
One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.
“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.
“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”
Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.
“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.
After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.
“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.
“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.
McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.
The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.
In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.
“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”
Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”
McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”
“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”
Source:- NBC News
Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics
(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.
Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.
“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”
In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.
The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.
The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.
The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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