With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Marco Rubio regrets mocking philosophy majors.
“Going back to when I ran for president, one of the moments that people remember is when I talked about how we need more welders and less philosophers,” the senior senator from Florida said in an interview. “Since that time, I've actually been reading philosophy a little bit. Like the Stoics. I am, actually, maybe not so negative on philosophy anymore.”
Rubio said his underlying point about the importance of vocational education remains, but he’s come to recognize the need for a more intellectual approach to modernize conservatism and save the country. The senator argues that the primary purpose of capitalism is to provide for human dignity. He has concluded since losing the Republican nomination to Donald Trump in 2016 that corporate executives, by prioritizing shareholders above workers and quarterly profits above the national interest, have caused an existential crisis of confidence in the underpinnings of the free-enterprise system.
The senator has carefully picked his spots when it comes to airing public disagreements with the president. He’s largely gone along with the Republican zeitgeist, with some notable exceptions, such as voting to override Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to divert military construction money for a border wall. But, at just 48 and representing the quintessential battleground state, Rubio remains well positioned to chart a post-Trump future for the GOP and to make another run for the presidency down the road.
The senator shared with me a 17-page working draft of a lecture he’s preparing to deliver on Tuesday to business students at the Catholic University of America. He gets quite philosophical for a politician. For example, Rubio cites the Greek statesman Pericles (“When a man is doing well for himself but his country is falling to pieces, he goes to pieces along with it”) and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (“That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees”).
Rubio also leans on his personal faith while discussing his increasingly populist economic policy. He quotes four popes, including the past three. At the heart of his prepared remarks is a lengthy rumination on an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891. “Rerum Novarum,” as the encyclical was called, represented the Catholic Church’s response to the disruptions of the Industrial Revolution. Leo endorsed the right of workers to form unions so they can partake in the benefits that they create, while affirming the right to own private property. More broadly, the pope rejected socialism but also laissez-faire capitalism.
“The social doctrine of the church is not something that gets a lot of attention,” Rubio told me. “I mean, its teachings on issues like marriage and abortion and so forth get all the coverage. But there’s a very rich social doctrine that sometimes is misinterpreted and sometimes just not understood. And a lot of it is based on the importance and value of work, but also on the obligation of the employer and of the private economy to provide dignified work.”
Rubio said he believes the 128-year-old treatise from the Vatican takes on fresh urgency against the backdrop of America’s great power competition with China, which is antagonistic to Christianity and human rights. “China is undertaking a patient, well-designed effort to reorient the global order to their advantage, but how can we possibly take on this challenge … if we do not first confront our crises at home? Because we are in a competition with a near-peer adversary with three times our population, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind,” he plans to say in his speech. “As Robert F. Kennedy did in 1968, we must once again accept the indivisible tie between culture and economics.”
The senator will call for an embrace of what he calls “common-good capitalism,” in which employers and workers seek to cooperate more than they do in the pursuit of mutual benefits. “We've lost this concept in American life that all of us have a series of rights and obligations,” Rubio said. “I think we’re all well versed on our rights, but the concept of obligation has gone away and oftentimes people forget that this also applies to the business sector.”
He presents his proposal as a corrective to the excesses of both parties. “The belief that economic policy is solely about maximizing the rights of business and GDP growth became conventional wisdom on the political right, and the belief that economic policy is solely about defending the rights of the workers against the greed of business owners has become the conventional wisdom of the political left,” he said. “For almost three decades now, our economic debate has boiled down to a false choice between these two misguided positions. The result has inflicted tremendous harm on Americans.”
The senator blames what’s known as “shareholder primacy theory” for a host of ills. He links a decline in the availability of the kind of dignified work that his parents found when they arrived from Cuba in 1956 to weakened families and communities. After all, people need to work more hours to make ends meet and therefore have less free time to participate in civic or church life.
“When dignified work is unavailable, more families need Thanksgiving meals delivered, but fewer families have the money or time to provide them,” Rubio plans to say in his remarks. “When dignified work is unavailable, men are hit especially hard, because something that is core to being a man – providing for your family – has been taken away.”
Rubio calls for government policies that disincentivize selfish corporate decision-making, such as imposing taxes on share buybacks, while rewarding investment in domestic manufacturing and new research. He also wants to change the tax code to expand the federal per-child tax credit and enact a paid family leave policy. Rubio said he’s trying to use his perch as chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to revamp the Small Business Administration to channel more financing toward small manufacturers rather than “lifeless corporate conglomerates.”
“Our number one objective in economic policy should not simply be GDP growth or the performance of the stock market,” he said. “Our number one priority in our economic policy should be the creation of dignified work for Americans because of all the things that come and flow from that.”
Tuesday’s speech will build on an article Rubio wrote in August for a journal called First Things, which focuses on the intersection of religion and public life, about the purpose of economics.
Rubio defended bringing his faith into a conversation about economics because he said it reinforces values such as respecting others, caring for the less fortunate, telling the truth and being courteous. He said Christianity and most other religious traditions instill “a lot of the things that people complain that we've lost in the crassness of this culture.”
In his prepared remarks, the senator makes a joke about the blowback that Attorney General Bill Barr received for a speech on religious liberty at the University of Notre Dame a few weeks ago. “I am here today fully aware that … nowadays if a Catholic public official speaks to a Catholic audience on the intersection between our faith and public policy, we’ll be accused of supporting a ‘religious theocracy’ right out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’” Rubio plans to say. “So in order to avoid controversy, I could have started my remarks by quoting from some mainstream acceptable sources of wisdom, such as Oprah Winfrey or some ‘woke’ entertainer. But, instead, I settled on focusing on the writings of a 19th-century Italian named Vincenzo Pecci.” (Pecci is Pope Leo XIII.)
When I asked whether his speech should be read as a critique of Trump, Rubio said his message is bigger than any single politician. “I don't know if it’s directed at Trumpism,” he said.
“There's no doubt that the election of Donald Trump has revealed things to people about the state of mind for many people in our country,” he elaborated. “For example, if you look at polling I’ve seen over the last couple of years, a growing number of Americans believe that those who are members of the opposite party aren’t just wrong. … They view them as a threat to the country. That sort of political tribalism I don't think is unique to Donald Trump. I think you see it on the other side as well. … It would be wrong to blame that on social media or the press, the president or the Democrats. The truth of the matter is that one reason why it’s happening is because a lot of Americans simply don't know people that are different than them politically.”
Rubio said he fears the impeachment process will only worsen these trends. “I think impeachment is a symptom of it, not the cause of it,” the senator said, referring to tribalism. “I do think impeachment is a traumatic experience for a country and in this environment, even more so. For those who truly don't like this president and would like to see him removed, that's what the ballot box is for. That doesn't mean impeachment is something you can never use, but I certainly think that, as part of this, you have to consider what's in the best interest of America.”
He said the president’s political success revealed the need for more systemic than cosmetic changes to the architecture of the American economy. “You have these economic numbers that ebb and flow,” Rubio explained. “Some of them are very good numbers, certainly, from a traditional perspective of what they mean. And yet you have this lingering sense that, you know, there's some sort of sickness that's taken hold, something that's deep into the culture and in society and in our economy that we have that's leaving people disconnected, separated, divided, anxious and so forth.”
Rubio was adamant that he’s not “triangulating” with the times. “Honestly, this is just a continuation of what we've been doing for five or six years,” he said. “When I ran for president, the theme was ‘A New American Century,’ and the central argument of it was that our policies were outdated and had not been adapted to the 21st century. I just think this is a continuing development of that thought process.”
He said his advocacy for “common-good capitalism” is partly driven by polls showing growing receptiveness toward socialism, especially among younger voters. “Some politicians today entice us to embrace socialism, with the promise that only the government can provide us these things, but in practice that’s never how it works,” he will say in his speech on Tuesday. “Because a government that guarantees you a basic income is also one that decides where you work and how much you make. A government that promises you free health care is also one that decides who your doctor is and what care you’ll receive. A government that promises free college is also one that decides what school you must go to and what you are taught.”
Because he’s speaking to an audience of students, Rubio said he wants to express sympathy about the challenges that they will face. “They are angry at a system that has been rigged against them by the very people who created these problems,” he said. “The people who enjoyed cheaper college themselves, but then turned around and raised tuition. The people who brazenly adopted the motto ‘greed is good’ in the 1980s but then caused a catastrophic financial crisis and left them with this disordered economy. It is a truth recognized in both ancient and contemporary times that no nation can be strong if the whole nation does not benefit from its strength.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- McDonald’s fired chief executive Steve Easterbrook after the fast-food giant’s board of directors found that he “demonstrated poor judgment” in a consensual relationship with an employee. Hannah Knowles reports: “The board voted Friday to oust Easterbrook following a review, concluding that he violated the company’s policy against manager relationships with direct or indirect reports … Easterbrook called his recent relationship with an employee ‘a mistake’ in an email to McDonald’s employees. ‘Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on,’ he wrote. … McDonald’s has not shared further details of the relationship that led to the firing. Easterbrook, a former head of the company’s U.K. operations, is divorced.”
- The company’s announcement last night said details of Easterbrook’s severance package will be disclosed in an SEC filing by Tuesday. Last year, he made $15.9 million.
- Trend: Companies have been implementing stricter rules about dating subordinates in the #MeToo era. Last year, for example, Intel’s CEO was forced out for breaking his company’s rules by having a consensual relationship with an employee.
IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY LATEST:
-- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s allies in the administration don't plan to cooperate in the impeachment inquiry, some to ingratiate themselves with Trump. Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Erica Werner report: “Russell Vought, a Mulvaney protege who leads the White House Office of Management and Budget, intends a concerted defiance of congressional subpoenas in coming days, and two of his subordinates will follow suit — simultaneously proving their loyalty to the president and creating a potentially critical firewall regarding the alleged use of foreign aid to elicit political favors from a U.S. ally. The OMB is at the nexus of the impeachment inquiry because Democrats are pressing for details about why the White House budget office effectively froze the Ukraine funds that Congress had already appropriated. ...
"Vought, who serves in an acting capacity in the job Mulvaney once held, has sought to build a relationship with the president for some time and sees standing firm against the impeachment inquiry as a way to bolster it, according to two White House officials. … Trump has grown enraged that so many of his ‘employees,’ as he refers to them, are going to Capitol Hill and testifying, said a person who regularly talks with him … The president has asked for copies of witness statements so he can decide how to criticize them, complained that his lawyers are not doing enough to stop people from talking, and even encouraged members of Congress to question the credibility of people working in his own administration, current and former officials said. ‘He is the war room,’ press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News."
"Congressional Republicans are also predicting that Mulvaney’s deputy, Robert Blair, will refuse to show for his scheduled Monday appearance before impeachment investigators — though a White House spokesman and Blair’s attorney, Whit Ellerman, did not respond to questions about his plans. Blair was on the July 25 phone call when Trump asked Ukraine’s president for a ‘favor’ ... Michael Duffey, one of Vought’s subordinates who has also been called to testify on Tuesday and who controls foreign aid decisions in the OMB, signed the OMB document freezing the Ukraine aid, according to the administration officials. … [Duffey is the former executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.]
"Trump suggested on Sunday he could continue exerting his prerogative over OMB when he told a reporter that he wouldn’t rule out directing another government shutdown later this month if negotiations with Democrats don’t lead to the results he wants. … Beyond Vought, Blair and Duffey, impeachment investigators have summoned Brian McCormack, OMB associate director for natural resources, energy and science, to appear on Monday."
-- Also not expected to show up for their depositions are National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, another lawyer in the White House counsel’s office. (ABC News)
-- House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN that transcripts from the impeachment inquiry’s closed-door interviews could become public as early as next week.
-- An attorney for the whistleblower who first drew attention to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine said Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee can submit questions directly to his client instead of going through the panel’s Democratic majority. Jacqueline Alemany, Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez report: “Mark Zaid confirmed his client’s offer to the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes (Calif.), to answer written questions under oath and with penalty of perjury, while also protecting the individual’s identity. In recent days, Trump and his allies have ramped up efforts to expose the whistleblower’s identity, amplifying theories regarding the person’s motives. Questions ‘cannot seek identifying info, regarding which we will not provide, or otherwise be inappropriate,’ Zaid tweeted, adding that the offer reflects his client’s desire to be seen as nonpartisan. ‘We stand ready to cooperate and ensure facts - rather than partisanship - dictates any process involving the #whistleblower.’” (Remember: Trump only responded to written questions from the special counsel, and that seemed good enough for Nunes.)
-- Internal documents from Bob Mueller’s probe show that Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, suggested as early as summer 2016 that Ukrainians and not Russians may have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee. Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu report: “Newly released documents show that Manafort’s protege, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, told the FBI of Manafort’s theory during interviews conducted as part of [Mueller’s investigation]. Gates told the FBI that Manafort had shared his theory of Ukrainian culpability with him and other campaign aides before the election. The new information shows how early people in Trump’s orbit were pushing the unsubstantiated theory about Ukraine’s role. And it illustrates a link between Mueller’s investigation, which concluded in March, and the current House impeachment investigation of Trump. …
“The documents show that Gates told the FBI that Trump adviser Michael Flynn had been ‘adamant’ the Russians were not responsible for the hacking. … Regarding Ukraine, a summary of an interview with Gates conducted in April 2018 shows that Gates told the FBI that Manafort citing Ukrainians for the hacks ‘parroted a narrative’ that was also advanced at the time by Konstantin Kilimnik — an employee of Manafort who the FBI has assessed to have ties to Russian intelligence. … The documents show that the Trump campaign struggled at times to decide how to respond to the growing evidence that Russia was interfering with the election. As reports of the Russian effort mounted leading to Election Day, Erik Prince, a military contractor and informal adviser to Trump’s campaign, emailed [Steve] Bannon suggesting that the campaign create ‘an alternative narrative’ about Russia’s efforts — and that the Kremlin wanted Clinton, and not Trump, to win.”
-- In a “60 Minutes” interview, Maria Butina, the Russian agent who just got out of prison and has now returned to her home country, said it is “nonsense” that she tried to infiltrate the National Rifle Association. “You traveled across the United States attending NRA meetings. The U.S. government says that you were making connections with Republicans so that you could influence U.S. policy, and you were doing it slowly but deliberately,” Lesley Stahl said during an interview in a Florida federal prison. “If I were not Russian, that would be called social networking,” Butina answered.
-- Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, rivals for the affections of the left, are increasingly making careful but unmistakable efforts to distinguish themselves from each other. “Sanders’s campaign is seeking to find a balance, voicing differences with Warren while refraining from overly sharp attacks. Unlike Sanders’s disagreements with Joe Biden, which his aides are eager to amplify, they are treading more carefully around Warren,” Chelsea Janes, Sean Sullivan and Isaac Stanley-Becker report.
In an interview with ABC News, Sanders criticized Warren’s recently released plan for funding Medicare-for-all, which aimed to separate her from him by avoiding the middle-class tax hikes that he admits his plan would require. Sanders said his approach is "far more progressive" than Warren’s method. He took issue specifically with Warren’s proposal that businesses would redirect their current health-care payments to the Medicare program, which Sanders said would hurt job growth. Asked about Sanders’s criticism during a gaggle, Warren sought to reaffirm their shared outlook. But she disputed Sanders’s contention that her plan would hurt employers, saying they would pay slightly less than they do now and would save on human resources costs associated with wrangling with insurance companies.
Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg backtracked somewhat on Sunday from his comment that the race is now between him and Warren, but the South Bend, Ind., mayor continued to train much of his fire on the senator from Massachusetts. "I think Medicare-for-all is unpopular because it’s not the best policy," Buttigieg said on a bus tour, touting his plan of "Medicare for all who want it."
Sanders campaigned last night in Minnesota before a crowd of more than 10,000 with one of his prize endorsers, Rep. Ilhan Omar. Sanders plans to travel to Iowa next weekend with another member of the Squad: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Warren was introduced yesterday by another liberal freshman member of Congress, Katie Porter (D-Calif.), in Davenport, Iowa. Porter was one of Warren’s students at Harvard Law School.
-- Three months before the Iowa caucuses and one year before the general election, new polling released on Sunday shows the race for the Democratic nomination remains both competitive and fluid.
Warren and Buttigieg are steadily rising. Along with Biden and Sanders, they poll well above the dozen other Democrats mired in the low single-digits. From The Post-ABC News national poll: “Democrats see [Biden] as the strongest leader among the top candidates and also say he has the best chance of defeating [Trump.] But he holds no advantage on five other attributes, including policy issues, bringing needed change and being mentally sharp. He remains atop the field, with [Warren] and [Sanders] trailing, Warren within the margin of error. Meanwhile, the poll finds significant concerns about Sanders’s fitness in the wake of his heart attack last month, with more than 4 in 10 Democrats saying he is not in good enough health to serve as president. A majority of Democrats say they have not firmly made up their minds on whom to support, with about 1 in 10 having no current preference and about half of Democrats who do support someone saying they would consider supporting another candidate.”
- Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning registered voters, 28 percent would support Biden if their state’s primary or caucus were held today, while 23 percent would support Warren and 17 percent would support Sanders. About 4 in 10 Democrats say Warren is their first or second choice for the nomination, roughly matching Biden at 40 percent and slightly higher than Sanders at 34 percent.
- Biden continues to lead on the question of electability, with 42 percent saying he’s the best chance Democrats have to defeat Trump, compared with 17 percent who say the same for Warren and 16 percent who say so for Sanders.
- Asked which candidate “best understands the problems of people like you,” Sanders leads with 30 percent, compared with 22 percent for Biden and 20 percent for Warren.
-- Meanwhile, a Fox News national poll found that Biden leads the race with 31 percent of Democratic primary voters, followed by Warren with 21 percent and Sanders at 19 percent. Buttigieg received 7 percent. The Fox poll found that:
- Biden benefits from 80 percent of Democratic voters saying it is extremely important their nominee can beat Trump. Sixty-eight percent believe he can do that, while 57 percent feel the same way about Warren and 54 percent agree about Sanders.
- More than 1 in 4 Democratic primary voters said they wish they had other options. That includes 26 percent of Biden supporters and 27 percent of Warren supporters.
- Seventy-eight percent of GOP primary voters want to keep Trump as their nominee.
-- And an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that Biden leads Trump by nine points and Warren leads the president by eight points among registered voters:
- Forty-six percent of registered voters said they are certain to vote against Trump in 2020, compared to 34 percent who say they are certain to vote for him.
- Nearly half of all Americans – 49 percent – support impeaching Trump and removing him from office.
-- A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll found that Trump trails Biden in the six closest states that went Republican in 2016. Warren and Sanders trail behind. The poll also found that:
- The president’s advantage in the Electoral College relative to the nation as a whole remains intact (or might have even grown) since 2016.
- The president’s lead among white, working-class voters nearly matches his 2016 advantage.
-- None of the top Democrats vying for the nomination would beat Trump in Texas if the general election were held today, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found. Biden and Warren are running 7 percentage points behind Trump in Texas, while Sanders falls 5 percentage points short in a head-to-head with Trump among Texas voters.
-- Trump was met with boos and cheers at a mixed martial arts event on Saturday night in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Cindy Boren and Felicia Sonmez report: “In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump sought to highlight the positive, congratulating Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White for a job well done and likening the atmosphere at the event to a campaign rally. … Unlike at a campaign rally with enthusiastic fans, however, the reception Trump received Saturday night as a spectator at a sporting event was decidedly mixed. … Both boos and cheers can be heard in videos of the event, but the president and his adult sons disputed reports of the negative reception.”
-- Realignment watch: As Andy Beshear campaigned through eastern Kentucky this weekend, the Democratic candidate for governor seemed well aware he didn’t have much time to deliver his message before Trump arrives for a rally and attempts to suffocate it. Tim Craig and Seung Min Kim report: “In speech after speech, in rural counties where Trump received as much as 80 percent of the vote just two years ago, Beshear delivered his closing message to voters in less than five minutes. He promised to expand health care, support teachers and public education, and stop the hard-edge, divisive politics that have consumed Kentucky and the nation over the past several years. He did not mention Trump or the impeachment inquiry targeting him. … [In case you missed it, I wrote about the impeachment dynamic in the race for Friday's edition of the 202.]
“Trump will campaign for Beshear’s Republican opponent, Gov. Matt Bevin, on Monday night, just hours before Kentucky voters go the polls. ... On Saturday in northern Kentucky, more than 100 supporters showed up to support Bevin and other statewide GOP candidates at an event in Vanceburg, a small industrial town wedged between the Ohio River and a set of railroad tracks. After a uniformed sheriff’s deputy opened the event with Christian prayer, Bevin said the election was in part a referendum on Trump’s impeachment. … Since late September, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment investigation, Bevin’s internal numbers have steadily ticked upward, according to two Republican operatives familiar with the race. Now Bevin, who was down by double digits in his own polling shortly after his May primary, has pulled about even in his internal figures …
“A Beshear campaign adviser … said their internal poll shows them with a consistent lead that is ‘growing’ in the final days of the campaign because of a ‘double-digit advantage among those who are most excited about this election.’ Democratic strategists say Beshear’s path to victory relies heavily on boosting turnout in Louisville and Lexington, which is home to the University of Kentucky, while replicating the gains Democratic made nationwide last year in the suburbs, including outside Cincinnati. But Beshear, who is backed by an army of teachers who strongly opposed Bevin’s efforts to change their pensions, also believes he can win back some working-class rural voters."
-- Biden joined former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe and local Democratic officeholders for an election-eve rally in Sterling, Va. Patricia Sullivan reports: “Democrats are hoping to take majorities in the House of Delegates and state Senate. All 140 seats are on the ballot, with Republicans protecting paper-thin majorities of 51-48 in the House and 20-19 in the Senate; each chamber has one vacancy. ‘As Virginia goes, so goes the nation,’ Biden had told the crowd earlier. He mentioned the National Rifle Association headquarters, a short distance from the rally. ‘It’s going to be so sweet when you beat them. … The NRA is one of the reasons we’re losing our soul in this country.’
“Gun policy was named by voters as the top overall issue this election year in a recent Washington Post-Schar School poll. The state suffered a mass shooting in Virginia Beach in May, prompting Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to convene a special session of the General Assembly to take up gun control. But Republicans who control the legislature shut down the July session in 90 minutes without taking up a single piece of legislation, handing Democrats a campaign issue that they have been running on ever since ...
“Biden’s appearance at the rally on Sunday came a day after Vice President Pence appeared before a crowd of 900 in Virginia Beach to urge Republicans to turn out on Tuesday. As he introduced Biden, McAuliffe noted Pence’s Saturday appearance and the absence of President Trump, whose favorability ratings in Virginia are underwater. ‘Guess who has not come to Virginia even though the White House is only 1.4 miles from Virginia?’ McAuliffe asked. ‘He may golf here, but he doesn’t come here for votes.’”
-- Connecting the dots: All politics used to be local. Then along came Trump, writes columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.: “You can make a case that all politics are national now, thanks both to President Trump and to overarching issues that transcend state boundaries. In the case of two of the contests — gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi — Trump and his party are praying that the national overwhelms everything else to save weak Republican nominees. The president campaigned in Mississippi on Friday and is scheduled to be in Kentucky on Monday. He hopes to show GOP politicians that, when it comes to the base, he is still magic. This could matter a great deal if the House impeaches him and Republican senators have to decide whether to remove him from office.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- If you read one story today, make it this: “In China, every day is Kristallnacht,” by editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. “Eighty-one years ago this week, in what is also known as the ‘Night of Broken Glass,’ hundreds of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Nazi Germany were damaged or destroyed, along with thousands of Jewish-owned businesses. It was in a sense the starting gun for the genocide that culminated in the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka. In western China, the demolition of mosques and bulldozing of cemeteries is a continuing, relentless process.
“In a cultural genocide with few parallels since World War II, thousands of Muslim religious sites have been destroyed. At least 1 million Muslims have been confined to camps, where aging imams are shackled and young men are forced to renounce their faith. Muslims not locked away are forced to eat during the fasting month of Ramadan, forced to drink and smoke in violation of their faith, barred from praying or studying the Koran or making the pilgrimage to Mecca. And — in possibly the most astonishing feature of this crime against humanity — China has managed to stifle, through 21st century repression and age-old thuggery, virtually any reporting from the crime scene.
“Which makes all the more significant the publication last week of a heartrending compendium of evidence: ‘Demolishing Faith: The Destruction and Desecration of Uyghur Mosques and Shrines,’ by Bahram K. Sintash. Sintash, 37, lives in the United States but grew up in what is now, he says, ‘a police surveillance state unlike any the world has ever known.’ Sintash knows: Chinese police took his father into custody in February 2018, and Sintash has not heard from him since. … Based on satellite imagery and interviews with recent exiles — escapees might be an apter term — Sintash estimates that 10,000 to 15,000 religious sites have been destroyed … Sintash himself says he fears this is China’s ‘final solution’ to destroy the Uighur people. ‘I don’t know if my father died or is alive right now,’ he says. ‘But I can see the mosque where we prayed is gone.’”
-- China’s Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, are trying to create a new hero for the masses. Anna Fifield reports: “She was a selfless patriot who worked tirelessly for the motherland. She wasn’t interested in enriching herself but in helping others escape from poverty. And she still found time to care for her ailing father, until she became a martyr for the Communist cause this summer. She is Huang Wenxiu, and the Communist Party is making her into a modern-day hero for an increasingly anachronistic China. … Heroes have a special place in the Communist Party’s mythmaking around its construction of legitimacy, said David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project. … Under Xi, the party has made extra efforts to protect the aura around its heroes, including enacting a law that makes it illegal to defame heroes and martyrs. Xi could hardly hope for a better embodiment of his ideology than the smiling young Huang, whom the party is revering as a 21st-century incarnation of Lei Feng, the possibly fabricated cultural icon of Mao Zedong’s times.”
-- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other American officials are trying to showcase the U.S. commitment to Asia during a gathering that Trump decided to skip. From the AP: “Ross told a gathering of about 1,000 people at the privately led but government-supported Indo-Pacific Business Forum on Monday that the Trump administration is ‘extremely engaged and fully committed to this region.’ Trump sent his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, as his special envoy to the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He read a letter Monday at an ASEAN-U.S. meeting, attended mostly by foreign ministers and host Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, inviting ASEAN leaders to the U.S. for a special summit next year.”
-- In India, air pollution levels have become “unbearable.” From the BBC: “In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the ‘hazardous’ category, with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses. Low visibility caused more than 30 flights to be diverted on Sunday. Rules have now gone into effect allowing only cars with odd or even number plates to drive on given days.”
-- Related: The Environmental Protection Agency will scale back federal rules that restrict waste from coal-fired power plants. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “The proposals, which scale back two rules adopted in 2015, affect the disposal of fine powder and sludge known as coal ash, as well as contaminated water that power plants produce while burning coal. Both forms of waste can contain mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals that pose risks to human health and the environment. The new rules would allow extensions that could keep unlined coal ash waste ponds open for as long as eight additional years. The biggest benefits from the rule governing contaminated wastewater would come from the voluntary use of new filtration technology.”
-- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his country’s military are engaged in a public spat over the botched attempt to arrest the son of El Chapo. Mary Beth Sheridan reports: “Gen. Carlos Gaytán blasted the president just days after cartel gunmen swarmed the city of Culiacan to block the arrest of the son of imprisoned former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. Military forces had detained 28-year-old Ovidio Guzmán López but then released him on orders from political leaders who feared a massacre. The operation has turned into one of the biggest crises for López Obrador since he took office in December. ‘We are worried about today’s Mexico,’ Gaytán said in a speech on behalf of retired officers at the Defense Ministry. ‘We feel aggrieved as Mexicans and offended as soldiers.’ The transcript was leaked last week to the newspaper La Jornada — an unusual development, given the armed forces’ traditional secrecy.”
-- The E.U. spends $65 billion a year subsidizing agriculture, and a large chunk of that money goes to strongmen, politicians and corrupt deals, the Times reports: “Across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. The prime minister of the Czech Republic collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies just last year. Subsidies have underwritten Mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria. Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within. This is because governments in Central and Eastern Europe, several led by populists, have wide latitude in how the subsidies, funded by taxpayers across Europe, are distributed — even as the entire system is shrouded in secrecy. … Europe’s machinery in Brussels enables this rough-hewed corruption because confronting it would mean changing a program that helps hold a precarious union together. European leaders disagree about many things, but they all count on generous subsidies and wide discretion in spending them. Bucking that system to rein in abuses in newer member states would disrupt political and economic fortunes across the Continent.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump lashed out against the governor of California and criticized the way he has handled the state's fires:
The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must “clean” his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2019
....putting these massive, and many, fires out. Great firefighters! Also, open up the ridiculously closed water lanes coming down from the North. Don’t pour it out into the Pacific Ocean. Should be done immediately. California desperately needs water, and you can have it now!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2019
“We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full on assault against the antidotes,” the governor said in response. (Kim Bellware)
Trump also lashed out against Democratic leadership in Virginia, ahead of the state's Tuesday election:
The state’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and both US senators are Democrats... https://t.co/blvMEiop0z— Matt Viser (@mviser) November 3, 2019
After Trump threatened to shut down the government to slow down the impeachment investigation, some wondered what his true motivations are:
This threat is illustrative of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry: Is Trump acting in the interests of the American people, or of Trump personally? https://t.co/vB26lFezck— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) November 3, 2019
The Trump campaign listed denuclearization with North Korea as one of its successes. The Post's fact-checker had something to say about that:
Totally false. Zero “denuclearization” has been initiated. https://t.co/aREJb4Beho— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 3, 2019
Urban Dictionary has a new definition that may hit too close to home for some Brits:
The Russian flag has replaced the American flag in a Syrian camp:
Russian flag replaced the US flag at this base in Ain Issa. pic.twitter.com/aVPKIILDO5— Lindsey Snell (@LindseySnell) November 3, 2019
Trump promised evidence on how one of the officials who testified against him is a "Never Trumper," a claim that has, so far, gone unproven:
POTUS reiterates he's going after Vindman, via pool:— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 3, 2019
"Asked what evidence he has that Colonel Vindman is a Never Trumper, POTUS replied: 'We'll be showing that to you real soon, OK?'"
And Trump called on reporters to unmask the whistleblower:
First time I can recall a president encouraging the news media to publish confidential information about his own government. https://t.co/fc36Rixllp— Greg Jaffe (@GregJaffe) November 3, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “On some level, you could say that the stakes right now, the level of crisis we’re facing, is so great that it’s almost impossible to speak to it through a traditional political process like a campaign,” said Pete Buttigieg, explaining why the presidential candidates don't talk about impeachment on the campaign trail. “In many ways, we may yet be underreacting.” (The Atlantic)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
A version of one of Trump's favorite rally chants is becoming popular among Democratic voters:
John Oliver looked into electronic voting machines and the problems they bring:
"Saturday Night Live" paid homage to the dog, Conan, that was involved in the operation that led to the death of the founder of the Islamic State: