Friendly Fire: Zelensky’s moment, Trump gets sleazy and gas tax exemptions


Can Americans still have a sensible and friendly political discussion beyond the partisan divide? The answer is yes, and we intend to prove it. Julie Roginskya democrat and Mike DuHaime, a Republican, are consultants who worked on opposing teams their entire careers but remained friends throughout. Here they discuss the week’s events with Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.

Q. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to Congress on Wednesday drew bipartisan praise. But many Republicans later criticized Biden as being too weak right now, with Sen. Mitch McConnell saying he “needs to step up his game now before it’s too late.” Is this a legitimate criticism or a political posture?

Julia: I’m old enough to remember when Mitch McConnell refused to peek as Donald Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine unless Zelensky dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. But I’m going to drop the hypocrisy for a moment and say I agree with McConnell on this. President Biden has gone further than any of his predecessors to rein in Putin’s aggression, but he can go even further. He must stop drawing lines in the sand telegraphing that NATO will not defend Ukraine, which is fighting the war NATO was created to fight. Ukraine is doing the work of the West for us. And despots like Putin won’t stop until we stop telling him preemptively that NATO won’t intervene militarily, even if he drops a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. Nor is it clear why we continue to allow Putin’s oligarchs to continue laundering money in the United States or even allow them and their families to stay here. It’s March in Moscow. It’s time for them to consider spending the summer at their dacha instead.

Mike: I’m with Julie in the big picture here. Biden telegraphed from the start that there would be no military intervention in Ukraine. In the end, that may be the right public policy, but it’s not the one we need to publicly broadcast to our enemies. Russian and European history suggests that Putin won’t stop with Ukraine, so the US and NATO should be ready to stop this sooner because we’ll deal with that later.

Q. Momentum is expanding to send Russian-made MiG29 fighters to Ukraine directly from the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Biden and the Pentagon oppose it, saying it risks escalation with little benefit. Do you expect Congress to force Biden’s hand on this?

Julia: On this one, I deeply disagree with you, Tom, and that’s because I watch Putin’s press conferences in Russian and understand that he’s completely lost track. The decision to send these MiGs should not be based on whether Putin will consider it a provocation. In his mind, the West is responsible for everything happening in Ukraine today and, more importantly, for the formation of a “fifth column” (his words, not mine) inside the Russian Federation. It can no longer be provoked. He’s a man who thinks Hillary Clinton was behind massive anti-government protests in Moscow, so trying to reason with him is like trying to reason with your uncle QAnon who thinks there’s a pedophile ring run out of a Washington pizzeria. We need to stop treating him like a rational world leader and start thinking of him as the cornered paranoid he has been for at least a decade now.

Mike: At the start of the Second World War, before our military intervention and when public opinion was still mistaken for isolationism, the United States ensured that the United Kingdom and other allies had arms and supplies . We should do the same now. It’s not a military intervention, and it’s the right thing to do. We must be prepared for an escalation, but for Julie, Putin may be looking to escalate, regardless of our actions.

Q. With gas prices soaring, Democratic Representatives Mikie Sherrill and Donald Norcross are pushing for suspend the federal gas tax, and Norcross also discussed a suspension of the state gasoline tax. Will these efforts succeed? And if so, how do we fund transit projects that rely on that revenue?

Julia: Rather than taking much-needed revenue from the Transportation Trust Fund, we should tell our good friend Mohammed Bin Salman that unless Saudi Arabia turns on the taps, the United States will start treating him like the terrorist thug he was for many years. We’ve long had a diabolical deal with the Saudis: They supply us with the fossil crack we’ve become addicted to, and we protect them militarily and politically, even as they foment holy war around the world and dismember American residents with chainsaws. the stranger. It’s time for them to pay the gossip.

Mike: Julie is on fire. I’m all for lower taxes, but I’m afraid that will have less material impact than the ebb and flow in oil prices right now. The price of oil is falling, and as that moves through the system, we will see relief at the pumps. What the crisis demonstrates is that we are far too dependent on foreign energy sources due to faulty energy policies here at home that have undermined our ability to be self-sufficient with our own abundant resources.

Q. The state Supreme Court has ordered the release of an investigation into the internal affairs of former Elizabeth Police Chief James Cosgrove, who resigned in 2019 after he was caught using a racist and sexist language. It’s a victory, but New Jersey remains one of the nation’s most secretive states when it comes to investigating police misconduct. Is there a political explanation for this?

Julia: There’s a political explanation for everything, and that’s that police unions are a very powerful political force in New Jersey.

Mike: Yes, police unions are politically powerful, but police officers are also personally popular. New Jersey is not politically a type of police funding state. Although there are incidents in every state, officers in New Jersey are better trained, better educated, and better paid than in most states, leading to a high quality force that the public generally supports.

Q. New York State filed a lawsuit to keep New Jersey out the waterfront commission, the bi-state agency created 70 years ago to keep mobs out of ports, arguing that mob infiltration is still a big problem there. Why is it Governor Phil Murphy fights fellow Democrat, Governor Kathy Hochul, about it?

Julia: If New Jersey wants to leave the Waterfront Commission, it should be able to leave the Waterfront Commission. I’m not a big fan of forced pacts.

Mike: Well, we wouldn’t want New York to leave the Port Authority. Overall, our partnership with New York on bi-state issues is positive for both states. In this specific case, maybe the state police can handle it, but we need to look at a broader partnership.

Q. In the past two weeks, three GOP contenders have followed Chris Christie’s lead and Shaded Donald Trump: Mike Pence said there was no place in the party for Putin apologists, Ron DeSantis criticized Trump’s handling of the pandemic and Tom Cotton said Trump’s criminal justice reform was a mistake. Is it a trend or just a trial balloon, and what are the consequences?

Julia: I can’t wait to see all those brave Republicans stoop to Trump again when he’s the Republican nominee.

Mike: Trump’s influence is shrinking every day. It’s natural when you go from being president to not being president, but it goes deeper than that. Trump’s praise of Putin, though followed by a few in Congress and FOX, was almost universally dismissed by Republicans. Republicans over 45 have come of age listening to Ronald Reagan speak of the Soviet Union as an evil empire. Our parents heard the same from Nixon, Kennedy and Eisenhower. It’s in our DNA to take sides against Russia. And this is not a matter of nuanced foreign policy. The entire free world has witnessed an unprovoked military attack which has now turned into indiscriminate shelling and the killing of civilians. Trump is on the wrong side of history here, which will forever tarnish him even with his fervent base.

Julia: How I wish more Republicans were like Mike and we still had a functioning center-right party. But more Republicans disapprove Biden than Putin, which tells you exactly how far the party has come since the days of Ronald Reagan.

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