Friday, May 10, 2019

Overall, Who Is The Worst Democrat In The House? Hint: He Represents The Bada Bing Strip Club In Lodi, New Jersey


Many Americans are unaware of just how important an event in world history the French Revolution was. Before we talk about what Ryan Grim termed a counterrevolution for an The Intercept piece about reactionary Blue Dog and DINO Josh Gottheimer, let's remember, for a little context, that the French Revolution, gave hope to all Europe other than to the nobles, ecclesiastics, and some bourgeois (the 1%). The émigrés, who came from these groups, fought from outside France to defeat the revolution. They persuaded several monarchs to invade France to thwart Robespierre's Montagnards, who were determined to give the lower classes (the sansculottes) a greater share in political and economic power.

The counterrevolutionaries were eager to halt all efforts toward economic equality. In 2017 Paul Berman, wrote about counterrevolution in America for Tablet as an integral part of Trumpism. "What,' he asks, "has brought about the counterrevolution? Fear has brought it about-- a vague and unarticulated fear that life has spun out of control: a fear that assumes a different shape in each country, yet is visibly shared across half the world, such that people who experience the fear naturally feel a solidarity, even across the national borders. And what has brought about the fear? The liberal revolution itself has done this-- its aspirations, its successes, its failures, and the gap between aspirations and realities."
In economic matters, a fear, five times over: the fear that automation, computer efficiencies, and the globalized division of labor are replacing good jobs with bad jobs. The fear that an entire storied social class, the industrial working class, is being shrunk or eliminated, along with its social and political achievements, its privileges, historical sense, culture, and institutions. The fear that, amidst these developments, the aesthetic and spiritual qualities of skilled manual labor are being lost. The fear that, under the modern dispensation, the technocrats and bureaucrats who mandate these many developments have no sense of the human costs. The fear that trade pacts and other instances of economic planning are, on top of their other flaws, a lie, designed merely to benefit the tiny few, and not society as a whole-- as shown by, say, the European Union, whose policies, nominally in the name of the union, somehow conform to the interests of Germany and its banks, and not to Greece and other poor countries.

...The liberal revolution lasted 50 years before the undercurrents of counterrevolution began to sweep it away. How long will the counterrevolution go on? We only know that we do not know. Six months before the 2016 presidential election in the United States, not a single respected political analyst predicted the outcome with any accuracy. This does not mean that in the United States political analysts are stupid. It means that we have entered an era in which the analytic categories of the past do not reliably apply: one more occasion for fear.
Enter Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), one of the most corrupt and conservative Democrats in Congress. Grim wrote that "Not long after Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were sworn into Congress, they began hearing from their new colleagues that one member of the House Democratic caucus, Josh Gottheimer, had particularly strong views about each of them. Gottheimer, a second-term representative from New Jersey, has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel, while Tlaib and Omar are often critical of both Mideast governments."
So when Gottheimer reached out to meet with Tlaib, she was eager to take it, hoping that a personal connection would help bridge their differences. On the day of the meeting, February 6, Gottheimer arrived with a colleague, freshman Elaine Luria from Virginia-- and a white binder. Luria began by saying that she had met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks earlier, and Tlaib tried to break the ice with a joke: “How’s the two-state solution going?”

The joke fell flat. Gottheimer pulled out the binder, opening it to show Tlaib the contents. It was a collection of printed-out articles, with quotes and other lines highlighted. “He goes through them, ‘you said this, you said that,’ confusing me with other colleagues,” Tlaib said.

...Tlaib said she tried to reach Gottheimer on a personal level, telling him about her grandmother, who lives in occupied Ramallah. He wasn’t interested. “He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he’s a bully,” said Tlaib. “He had a goal of breaking me down. I left feeling exactly that way.”

Breaking down Tlaib, Omar, and their allies on the left has been one of Gottheimer’s primary goals since the November elections. He has worked assiduously to carve out a role in the Democratic caucus as something of an avenger, a centrist proud of his centrism and willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction. He even has a name for his handpicked adversaries: “the herbal tea party.”

His definition of too progressive is startlingly broad. As the Democratic chair of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, he led a push against Nancy Pelosi as she ran for House speaker last year. He has consistently voted against the party even on procedural motions, threatening to hand control over the House to the GOP. This spring, he was one of just a handful of Democrats at a private retreat on Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mingling with Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other Republican heavyweights. He was one of just six Democrats to break with the party on a push for the DREAM Act in 2018, and he publicly undermined the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) during a hearing in which he fawned over CEOs of the nation’s biggest banks.

His boldest bid for internal power, however, came amid the push for a congressional War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. As progressives in the House neared a historic achievement, Gottheimer organized behind the scenes to take the resolution down, in part by attempting to make it a referendum on support for Israel-- and very nearly succeeded.

The bill’s supporters out-organized him, and in April, Congress sent a War Powers Resolution to Trump’s desk. He vetoed their resolution, rejecting Congress’s demand that the president stop backing the Saudi-led war. Last week’s effort to override the veto failed in the Senate on a 53-to-45 vote.

Trump’s rejection of the resolution-- which was led in the House by Ro Khanna (D-CA) and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT)-- was expected. But for advocates who worked on it, Gottheimer’s intervention was unwelcome but not surprising. “He was counterproductive in a totally unnecessary way at a time when there was actually party unity on something really progressive and historic-- and that unity had been fought for a long time,” said Elizabeth Beavers, who was associate policy director at Indivisible during the Yemen fight. “This is a thing that he’s doing consistently, helping to organize against progress.”

Stephen Miles, head of Win Without War, which worked closely on the resolution, was befuddled by Gottheimer’s role. “It’s unclear what he’s trying to do, but the impact is causing discord within the Democratic Party, making it harder to end an immoral and unconscionable war,” he said. “He took an issue in which there’s a clear right and clear wrong, and he’s come down on the side of wrong.”

Gottheimer’s rearguard action against the Yemen resolution, and his attempt to link the issue to Israel, hasn’t been previously reported. It’s been perhaps the most aggressive move any Democrat has made against the caucus and its leadership this session-- and the intensity with which he approached it suggests that Gottheimer is working to establish himself as a leading player in the years to come.

Gottheimer's intervention in the effort to end the Saudi-led war in Yemen takes on new resonance in the context of his longstanding links to Saudi money. Gottheimer is a protege of Mark Penn, a notorious Democratic operative who has become a leading Trump cheerleader on Fox News. Penn’s companies, where Gottheimer has held senior positions over the years, have long been on Saudi Arabia’s payroll.

Gottheimer’s first big job out of college was as a speechwriter in the Clinton White House, where he worked closely with Penn, the president’s pollster. The two have remained close since. Penn became CEO of the consulting firm Burson-Marsteller, long one of the PR outfits working closest with Saudi Arabia, and in 2006, he hired Gottheimer as an executive vice president. Gottheimer worked at the consultancy firm, where he reported directly to Penn, until 2010. In 2008, Penn joined Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign as chief strategist, notoriously urging her to paint Barack Obama as un-American, and took Gottheimer with him.

Burson-Marsteller, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow once laid out, has been a reliable voice for the worst of the worst. “When Blackwater killed those 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, they called Burson-Marsteller,” Maddow said. “When there was a nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, Bobcock & Wilcox, who built that plant, called Burson-Marsteller. Bhopal chemical disaster that killed thousands of people in India, Union Carbide called Burson-Marsteller. Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu-- Burson-Marsteller. The government of Saudi Arabia, three days after 9/11-- Burson-Marsteller.”

She continued: “When evil needs public relations, evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed dial. That’s why it was creepy that Hillary Clinton’s pollster and chief strategist in her presidential campaign was Mark Penn, CEO of Burson-Marsteller.” (Penn, at the time still serving as CEO, disputed the characterization.)

The consulting firm has continued to do major business with Saudi Arabia, including by representing a Saudi-run alliance engaged in the Yemen war, a contract it inked in 2017. (Now known as BCW, the firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) One of Gottheimer’s earliest fundraisers in 2015 was hosted by Don Baer, an ex-Clinton aide who replaced Penn as CEO of Burson-Marsteller.

Gottheimer, a Harvard Law graduate, left Burson-Marsteller to work as a lawyer at the Federal Communications Commission in June 2010, and has remained close to Penn. In 2012, Microsoft hired Penn to build a guerrilla PR shop to battle rival Google in Washington, and Penn plucked Gottheimer from the FCC to join him. Gottheimer later became a consultant with the Stagwell Group, a Penn-owned private equity firm, according to a 2017 financial disclosure. Between 2015 and 2017, while Gottheimer was consulting for Stagwell, Saudi Arabia paid Targeted Victory, a digital company owned by Stagwell, more than $1 million to spread pro-Saudi information on Twitter. “The Congressman has never done any work for Saudi Arabia,” said Adams, Gottheimer’s spokesperson.

In Washington, a handful of law and lobbying outfits are registered as agents on behalf of Saudi Arabia. In the last election cycle, Gottheimer was among the top recipients of cash from those firms’ lobbyists and lawyers, taking in more than $20,000 from them in 2017 and 2018, according to Ben Freeman, an analyst at the Center for International Policy’s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative.

That makes Gottheimer one of the top 20 biggest recipients of Saudi agent cash in either party, but that number is deceptive, as the rest of the list includes party leaders and veterans. “Almost everyone ahead of him was either up for Senate reelection or part of Party leadership. And he actually pulled more money from Saudi foreign agents than even some Senators up for re-election,” such as former Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, Freeman wrote in an email. Nobody as junior as Gottheimer comes anywhere close.

In 2016, Gottheimer flipped a northern New Jersey congressional seat that had been in Republican hands for more than two decades, representing a slew of Wall Street commuters, as well as more rural areas to the west. He played up his close ties to the Israel lobby, noting that he was a member of the most prominent Jewish fraternity in college and active with both the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and NORPAC. Donors connected to NORPAC, which advocates for Israeli interests, made up his largest source of campaign cash in the last cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He’s been a regular speaker at AIPAC’s annual conference and led the charge in the Democratic caucus to have Omar, D-Minn., condemned by her colleagues on the House floor for what he said were anti-Semitic remarks.

His ties to Penn have followed Gottheimer to Congress, where he co-chairs the Problem Solvers Caucus, which was established by the dark-money group No Labels, which Jacobson and Penn launched in 2010. (Jacobson still runs it, and Penn advises on strategy.)

No Labels launched “The Speaker Project” in June 2018, aimed at expanding the power of a small group of centrists if Democrats took power in the House of Representatives. The project pushed for a rules change that would give a clear path to a floor vote for any legislation that met a certain threshold of bipartisanship. It’s easy for K Street to round up small bipartisan groups, meaning the reform, if passed, would effectively hand control of the floor to corporate interests. “There’s a problem-solvers group that is looking to have some influence, if the result is close, in terms of changing the rules and naming the speaker,” Penn said in September on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News.

Meanwhile, No Labels deliberated making Pelosi, who was running for speakership, a “boogeyman” in its communications strategy, but ultimately decided against doing so. No Labels Chief Strategist Ryan Clancy argued that the time wasn’t right. The outfit “is probably going to go to war with Pelosi. And it probably should,” Clancy wrote in an email, published by the Daily Beast. “I don’t know that now is the time to do it, especially when we have a perfectly good villain to use in Bernie [Sanders].”

Gottheimer attempted to execute The Speaker Project in the run-up to the new Congress, organizing the Problem Solvers Caucus to withhold support from Pelosi. She made modest concessions and beat back his effort.

But Gottheimer is showing no signs of receding into the background. In the first quarter of 2019, he raised an astounding $830,000, almost none of it from small donors, giving him some $5 million cash on hand. Aside from the campaign cash he rakes in from the pro-Israel and pro-Saudi lobbies, he cultivates Wall Street openly. The tendency was on unusually obsequious display at an April Financial Services Committee hearing, where the CEOs of America’s major banks testified, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan, Goldman Sachs’s David Solomon, Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman, and Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat.

At the hearing, titled “Holding Megabanks Accountable,” Waters, the committee chair, showed a rotating series of slides highlighting anti-social bank practices. When it was Gottheimer’s turn to question the bankers, he borderline apologized to them.
Thank you all for being here today and for your work and for what you do for New Jersey. I’m very grateful. I wish we had also put up slides earlier today that looked more like this. One about how many jobs your firms have created, or slides showing how many entrepreneurs and small- and minority-owned businesses have been supported by your institutions. Or slides showing how many pensions and 401ks and homes and other finances you’ve helped people secure. Your firms currently employ more than a million people. You’ve doubled your small-business loans in the last decade from $44 billion to $86 billion, including supporting small businesses in my district to the tune of $471 million. Making the dream of homeownership possible, your firms have originated $1.8 billion in home mortgages in my district alone and I’m grateful. Unfortunately, there’s no slide up there about that either.
His questioning was no less fawning: “Mr. Dimon, can you describe some of the work that your firm has done in the small-business lending arena and how those loans are helping to facilitate small-business growth?”

Tlaib, sitting in front of Gottheimer at the hearing, was startled. “I had to pause because he was on our side of the aisle,” she said. “I was taken aback by his strong stance for megabanks. There’s a way to do it that doesn’t undermine the leadership of the committee.”
Gottheimer, the most aggressively anti-progressive Democrat in Congress, is constantly at war with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He hates CPC co-chair Mark Pocan and goes out of his way to undermine him. Although Gottheimer isn't officially a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, that is exactly what he is. They figure out ways to funnel money for him and he does their dirty work in Congress. He certainly spends far more time and energy on the problems of Saudi Arabia than on the problems of Bergen, Passaic Sussex or Warren counties. He does far more for Riyadh than for West Milford, Paramus, Hackensack or Mahwah, that's for sure. When he tried to stop the push in Congress to end U.S. participation in the Yemen genocide, he tried making it about anti-semitism. He failed and the only Democrats who voted with him were fellow DINOs Jeff Van Drew (Blue Dog), a machine politician and freshman from New Jersey; Elaine Luria (New Dem), a DCCC-recruited former naval commander; New York freshman Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog); and South Carolina freshman Joe Cunningham (Blue Dog). Grim ended his piece by conveying a chat he had with Madeline Trimble, a steering committee member for the main Indivisible chapter in Gottheimer’s district. She told him that "local activists’ hard work to elect a Democrat in the seat wasn’t paying off. 'Many of our members actively supported Josh Gottheimer’s re-election efforts because we believe in the Democratic Party platform. Some of us are concerned that sometimes it seems like Congressman Gottheimer is working at odds with that platform,' she said. 'We understand this is a purple district and we’re not expecting an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in NJ-5; we just want him to meet us halfway and act like a normal Democrat who believes in the party.'"

Gottheimer didn't have a primary opponent last year and it looks like he won't have one next year. I called 5 members of Congress-- Pocan not being one of them-- and asked them if they would support a primary opponent for him. None were willing to go on the record but they were all positive about the idea of a primary that discussed the core Democratic issues and values he opposes. Like these:
There are 204 Democratic cosponsors for H.R. 860, John Larson's Social Security 2100 Act. Gottheimer is an opponent.
There are 123 Democratic cosponsors for H.R. 1046, Lloyd Doggett's bill to lower prescription drug prices. I bet Bergen County Democrats would like that. Gottheimer is an opponent.
There are 108 Democratic cosponsors for H.R. 1384, Pramila Jayapal's new and improved Medicare-For-All Act. Gottheimer is an opponent.
There are 93 Democratic cosponsors for H Res. 109, AOC's Green New Deal resolution. Gottheimer opposes it, even though Bergen County Democrats overwhelmingly favor it.
NJ-05 needs a new congressman. Progressive Punch rates Gottheimer an "F" and his lifetime crucial vote scores is 40.51%. The only Democrats with worse scores are Collin Peterson, Henry Cuellar, Anthony Brindisi, Ben McAdams, Joe Cunningham and Jeff Van Drew, all fellow Blue Dogs. And when you look at just votes in the 116th Congress (the current session), Gottheimer's crucial vote score-- 28.57%-- is the very bottom of the barrel... the worst of any Democrat and in fact, Michigan libertarian Republican Justin Amash has a much more progressive score-- 42.86-- and is far more likely to support progressive legislation than Gottheimer is. His Trump adhesion score, 55.2%, is very high for a Democrat. In fact, the only Democrats who have voted more often with Trump than Gottheimer are Collin Peterson (56.1) and Henry Cuellar (55.5%).

Photo by Mark Pocan

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At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So when does Gottheimer reveal his Mafia connections? It seems that just about every so-called democrat from New Jersey has them.

And what of Pelosi the Capitalist? Why does she allow Gottheimer to go about bullying other members of the caucus unless his doing so serves a purpose which she supports?

With enough of this kind of democrap, the GOP shouldn't have too much trouble retaking the House next year and resume the formation of the Holy Fourth Reich of Gilead.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He may be awful, but he is just as valuable to the democraps as is AOC. He warms a seat allowing nancy to be the house whore, coward and tyrant. Replace that pos with someone even as optically good as AOC and nancy is still the house whore, coward and tyrant. no diff.

The effect of the worst 230 is the same as the best 5. they give nancy the gavel and nancy's servile acolytes the chairs of committees. Beyond that, they don't mean shit.


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