August 25, 2017
President Trump delivered yet another disappointment in his address on Afghanistan Monday night. During his campaign, I found myself agreeing with two points candidate Trump made over and over — the need to tame Wall Street and the need to get out of Afghanistan.
As soon as he made his first appointments, it was clear to me Trump would not govern as he had campaigned relative to Wall Street, even though I suspected this would be the case.
Monday’s speech shows Trump has now also abandoned his promises about Afghanistan. Instead of finding a way out, he committed the United States to remaining there during his entire Presidency, without any possibility of “winning” anything.
I voted to send American troops into Afghanistan in 2001 with a specific and achievable mission: to kill, capture and destroy the people who attacked America on September 11th — Al Qaeda. That mission was accomplished long ago as far as Afghanistan is concerned. No one ever suggested that America was embarking on a 20-year effort in nation building.
I know Al Qaeda and their off-spring and affiliates are not gone, but they have not been in Afghanistan in any large numbers for a long time. The war against terror is not a static war confined by geography. The enemy moves amongst countries, blends into various societies, and emerges where and when they choose. I am not sure how to finally defeat this enemy, but I know it will not be done with large standing armies occupying foreign lands.
I recognize that, if the United States leaves Afghanistan, we may have to go back someday to continue the war against terrorism. That may justify a fixed forward base in Afghanistan and maybe other countries as well. It does not justify a never-ending territorial deployment of our forces who are putting their lives at risk or the billions of wasted dollars every year.
I am open to any suggestion to win the war against terror, but I know we cannot do it by occupying every country where terrorists hide. I also know we cannot demand perfection against terrorists — otherwise we would be occupying England, France, Germany and virtually every country on earth.
Flexibility, tenacity, intelligence and commitment are the virtues we need to win THIS war — not tired old tactics that have been repeatedly proven failures.
It is long past time to bring our troops home and adjust our tactics and policies to address the realities of today’s war — not the history of yesterday’s wars.
A Note about President Trump Threatening a Government Shutdown
There is a whole volume of criticism to offer after President Trump’s rally in Phoenix Tuesday night. I’d like to focus on his threat to shut down the federal government if he doesn’t get money to build a wall along the Mexican border — despite declaring repeatedly on the campaign trail that Mexico would pay for this wall. The current federal fiscal year ends on September 30th. Republicans have made virtually no progress advancing legislation necessary to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1st.
This is not about immigration reform or debate over the most responsible way to secure our borders. This is about priorities. Trump is apparently willing to deliberately sabotage the government he was elected to lead if he doesn’t get his way. Make no mistake, this reckless threat prioritizes a border wall over health care, housing, transportation, community development, the Veterans Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and on and on and on. American families will be directly and negatively impacted by this — in every community in the country.
Ruggles Station Transportation Project
I participated in a groundbreaking celebration for the Ruggles Station Transportation Project. Ruggles Station is a key component of our public transit system where commuters can access public and private bus lines, the commuter rail and the MBTA’s Orange Line. Station upgrades include new platforms as well as new elevators and improved busway access. The project is being partially funded by a $20 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant. It’s a great example of how targeted federal dollars can make huge improvements in American communities. I am proud of my role in securing these federal dollars and look forward to celebrating again when the work is complete.
Greater Boston Fair Trade
I met with representatives of Greater Boston Fair Trade (GBFT). They are concerned, as I am, with the impact of trade agreements on human rights, including the right to organize and environmental safeguards. I made clear that I am not a protectionist and believe trade can be beneficial — but it must be fair — not simply “free.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was ratified before I was elected to Congress. I voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and would not have supported the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). I am open to negotiations with the European Union, whose laws and regulations are similar in most respects to our own. GBFT also raised important questions about dispute resolution and the protection of national sovereignty. They expressed serious concerns about the ability of investors to challenge local and national laws that protect workers and the environment. I appreciated their time and insight.
National Fire Protection Association
I met with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) President Jim Pauley and other organization members. The mission of the NFPA is to reduce fire related deaths and injury through training, education, research initiatives and other tools. The NFPA also explores ways to minimize the property damage and economic hardship that fires cause. We talked about several initiatives including one featuring Sparky the Fire Dog that helps teach children about fire safety. I also learned more about the organization’s work educating the construction industry on ways to improve workplace safety to better manage the risk of a fire. Their knowledge and dedication impressed me.
Iora Primary Care
I met with staff, patients and community members in the offices of Iora Primary Care in Hyde Park. They invited me for a coffee hour discussion to talk about what is happening in Congress. Iora Primary Care is a network of offices servicing patients 65 and older. Not surprisingly, we had a lengthy conversation about health care and the future of the Affordable Care Act. There is great concern that the push for full repeal will be revived once Congress goes back into session. I share that concern and am working with my colleagues to protect access to affordable care. Staffers shared their experiences with the ACA, both from an administrative perspective and through their work with patients. I also heard from patients about their experiences. Our discussion expanded to cover other work that Congress is focusing on, including the budget and transportation. I thanked them for their time and hospitality.
Greater Boston Food Bank
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) invited me to join them at the Ralph and Jenny Senior Center in Somerville where they operate the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). The CSFP is a federal Department of Agriculture program that provides income eligible seniors with nutritious food. Many seniors who are on fixed incomes often have difficulty meeting their monthly budget and the CSFP helps ease the burden of their grocery bill. I helped distribute grocery bags and talked with GBFB staff about their work. I also talked with local seniors who are benefiting from this program and are concerned that the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts will jeopardize it. I assured them that I would do everything I can to preserve the CSFP.
I had a lengthy meeting with members of the activist group, Our Revolution, to talk about their legislative priorities. Constituents from almost every community in the 7th Congressional District came to discuss ways to advance a progressive agenda in these difficult times. They are working to build support for several bills introduced in Congress this session. They thanked me for supporting legislation establishing single-payer health care, raising the minimum wage and reforming the federal prison system. After discussion with group members, they convinced me to also support making “motor-voter” registration federal law, to thwart any efforts anywhere in the nation to suppress the vote in communities of color. Members also advocated for legislation to make public higher education free. While I certainly support this goal in principle, the legislation does not include a revenue source for what would be a multi-billion dollar expenditure. We had a frank and far-ranging discussion about our shared principles: freedom and justice, wider civic participation and equal opportunity for all our people. I thanked them for their commitment and their advocacy.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- On August 21, 2017 the Washington Post reported that so far in 2017 Republican political organizations, including the Republican National Committee, have spent almost $1.3 million dollars in Trump owned entities. The Trump International Hotel in Washington has been a big beneficiary of this money. Once again, this raises conflict of interest questions for the President, who refuses to divest from his businesses.
- Sam Clovis, who is President Trump's nominee for the Agriculture Department’s Chief Scientist position does not appear to have any actual scientific experience. In addition to being concerned over his apparent lack of qualifications, Clovis also holds very troubling views on homosexuality. CNN reported in August of 2017 that just 5 years ago, Clovis was insisting homosexuality is a choice and LGBTQ individuals shouldn’t have the right of equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. He further argued that by legalizing same sex marriage, it was logical to project that pedophilia could be legalized. Clovis was a talk radio host and CNN reviewed his broadcasts as well as other primary source material as part of their report.
- In August of 2017 the Department of the Interior directed the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to stop work on a study assessing the health effects of coal mining on residents in Central Appalachia communities. There is broad scientific agreement that coal mining is damaging to the environment and has adverse health impacts. Interior Department officials stated that the termination of the study was related to Trump’s proposal to cut the department’s budget by 13%. Trump has long called for a revival of the coal mining industry. This decision ignores the impact of the coal mining industry on the environment and health of some of the poorest rural communities in the country.