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November 19th, 2021: Infrastructure Week, A Censured Congressman, and Trouble with China

This week, Paul Brandus wraps up the week's news, including the approved infrastructure bill, Rep. Paul Gosar's censure in Congress, China's increasing threat to the U.S, a look ahead at Donald Trump and the 2024 election, and more. Featuring special guests defense analyst Elbridge Colby and presidential and constitutional scholar Barbara Perry.

Finally - it’s infrastructure week

The China threat grows —

And one dire outlook - IF Trump wins in 2024.

I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports— it’s Friday, November 19.

The last time there was an infrastructure bill on this scale — Dwight Eisenhower was president. June 1956 to be exact — when he signed the interstate and defense highways act. A huge bill to build roads from coast to coast Canada to Mexico.

Two-thirds of a century ago — so Monday’s signing of an infrastructure bill — more than a trillion dollars — is a big deal.

So — I’m a history guy, and here’s a history lesson for you. The last time Congress approved a major renewal of federal highway and other transportation programs, the votes were 359-65 in the House and 83-16 in the Senate. Big majorities of BOTH parties.

But now, roads, bridges, clean water and all the rest seem controversial. Two-hundred and six Republicans voted against these things — just 13 Republicans voted for them. Their reward: Vicious attacks from President Trump — and accusations of being traitors. One Republican who voted FOR clean water and voted FOR better roads and bridges says he got a death threat. The Congressman who got that threat — Michigan’s Fred Upton says — quote — “this madness has to stop.”

I’ll have more on former President Trump — and what 2024 could hold — in a few minutes.

Question: What if you had a colleague at work who you couldn’t stand — and your hatred and contempt was such that you felt compelled to make an animated video showing you murdering that colleague? Well, that’s what Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar did. He’s a Republican — abd his video depicts the murder of a Democrat — New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The video ALSO depicted a physical attack on President Biden

Democrats, who hold a thin majority in the House voted to censure Gosar — the first time that’s happened in more than a decade. What does — censure — mean? It means Gosar will be stripped of his committee assignments.

Republicans are outraged — they call it a free speech issue, and say it’s just a distraction. Here’s House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

In response, Ocasio-Cortez — the target of the attack, said this:

Again — what if YOU had done this to a colleague at work — just because you disagreed with him or her over the issues? It’s another example of the breakdown in civility and decency in our Congress — the people’s house.

It’s fair to say that China is now America’s biggest rival. Economic, technological, military and more. But a rivalry is one thing. What about China being a threat to our security?

President Biden and China’s leader Xi-jin-ping, met for several hours this week — the presidential equivalent of a Zoom meeting, only fancier. I spoke with Elbridge Colby about it. He’s the co-founder and principal of The Marathon Initiative — which focuses on preparing the U.S. for an era of sustained great power competition. He’s also a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense — and the author of an important new book — “The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict.”

Colby sums up by saying that the most pressing risk is that China may see an advantage in starting a war — and that the United States must convince China that it will not gain from being the aggressor. My thanks to Elbridge Colby - and again the book: “The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict.”

Other news — we all know that the price of essentials like gasoline and food are up sharply from a year ago — the pandemic and global supply chain continue to cuse problems.

Inflation is one reason most Americans tell pollsters that the country’s in bad shape. But get this: a new survey from MassMutual — the investment firm — shows that 73% of Americans feel optimistic about their finances - also up sharply this year — AND that they plan to spend big this holiday season — that’s according to the MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index).

Meanwhile — here’s something you DON’T want this holiday season — Covid. It’s on the rise yet again — daily cases were over 100-thousand Thursday — with the seven-day average now 94-thousand. About two-in-five Americans remain UN-vaccinated — according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hey — I wanted to tell you about something new — my new West Wing Reports app — download it on your phone — there’s a button called “What’s on your mind?” Just push it, talk and send. I want YOUR opinions — and I might use them in a future show. Please leave your name and town — and keep it civil. Again — the app — WestWingReports.

The name Michael Flynn might ring a bell — he was the first former national security advisor to then-President Trump. Trump fired him after just three weeks on the job — Trump said Flynn lied to the FBI and then- VP Mike Pence about his dealings — Flynn’s dealings — with the Russians.

Flynn’s been back in the news in recent days — for calling for an America with just one religion.

Obviously the disconnect here is that America is based on freedom of religion. Christian, Jew, Islam - etc. The Constitution — the very first amendment forbids the government from promoting one religion over another — AND it forbids the government from restricting individual religious choice.

Flynn has always claimed to respect the Constitution — and has sworn to defend it. You can’t call for a country with one religion while claiming to respect the Constitution. It’s as simple as that.

The Constitution — and the presidency were the subjects of a recent chat I had with Barbara Perry of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center — she’s a scholar on both topics. She worries that the disrespect to the Constitution shown by Flynn’s comments and, more notably, by the January 6th attack on the Capitol — YOUR Capitol — is a very worrisone sign of what COULD be on the horizon.

In 2020 — a swing of about 43,000 votes in a handful of states would have meant re-election for President Trump. Perry says that between voter suppression laws, and action taken by Republican legislatures to have a say in who wins a vote — could easily put Trump over the top in 2024 — should he choose to run — and it certainly looks like he will.

I’ll open up the history vault in just a second — first, let's hear about ANOTHER Evergreen podcast — that I know you'll enjoy”

Welcome back — let’s open up the West Wing Reports archives — and take a look at what made history this week in the past:

1863 — arguably the greatest of all presidential speeches: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was only 272 words — took less than three minutes to deliver, but those words have echoed across time ever since.

Lincoln described America as a nation - quote - “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Unquote — He said the Civil War was a test that would determine whether such a nation could endure. He ended by looking out over the battlefield at Gettysburg - and paying tribute to the sacrifices made by Union soldiers in defense of those principles.

We resolve, he said — Quote — that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Now fast forward 110 years:

Richard Nixon — at a November 1973 news conference in which he denied any involvement in the Watergate coverup — also denied profiting off the presidency. He resigned, of course, nine months later.

1990: George H.W. Bush signed the Clean Air Act, aimed at reducing acid rain and smog, as well as banning the use of leaded gas in cars by the end of 1995. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed bills that contained the bulk of Bush’s proposals. Overwhelming bipartisan support — imagine that. A time when Republicans and Democrats — both parties worked together to get things done in a civil and decent manner.

Want more history? Check out my books on Amazon — I’ll sign ‘em for you too — just shoot me an email: [email protected]. And need a speaker for your event? I do that too — current events, economics, analysis — history — I connect the dots — would love to hear from you.

I like to end each week with a quote — something you might find thoughtful: This week: it’s from Andrew Jackson — our seventh president:

Quote — It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes — unquote.

It seems that some things never change.

That’s all for this week. Again — download my app — West Wing Reports — available everywhere — and send me an audio comment.

West Wing Reports is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.

Special thanks to CSPAN for the audio clips.

Our producer and sound designer and engineer: Noah Foutz

Executive producers: Michael D’Aleoia and Gerardo Orlando.

Thanks so much for joining us — no show next week — have a a happy Thanksgiving — and I’ll see you in two weeks.

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