2019
November
12
Tuesday
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s edition our five hand-picked stories cover the reach of U.S. executive power on immigration policy, why Hezbollah lost respect in Lebanon, lawmaking in a time of impeachment, a retail challenge to the Salvation Army, and black culture in America according to author Darryl Pinckney.

First, why would a billionaire and the first black governor of Massachusetts each suddenly be pondering a run for president?

Well, Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick are probably looking through the lens of impeachment – a month or two from now. 

Rather than sensing that President Donald Trump will be weakened by the impeachment process, they may be concluding that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the real political casualty of impeachment. 

Mr. Biden hasn’t pulled away from the Democratic pack. In fact, he has fundraising woes

Now, look at who Republicans want to testify at the impeachment hearings: Hunter Biden, two people who would likely promote a theory – since debunked – that Ukraine was behind 2016 election interference, and the whistleblower.  

Remember, this is a political event. Democrats are trying to show that President Trump was involved in “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The GOP wants American voters to wonder if the Bidens did something wrong. They’ll want to create a moral equivalency – or reasonable doubt – between the Bidens’ behavior and the president’s actions with Ukraine. 

If they run, expect Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Patrick to position themselves as centrists. Mr. Bloomberg offers a businessman’s pragmatism. Mr. Patrick, with close ties to Barack Obama, could draw African American votes from Mr. Biden. But many observers say Democratic voters, especially progressives, aren’t looking for more options. Washington Post columnist David Byler says: “Real-life, non-million-dollar-donor Democrats are happy with the candidates they already have.”

Will that change after impeachment? 

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1. DACA recipients get their day at the Supreme Court

Should a U.S. president have the ability to adapt or abandon the policies of previous presidents? That question – and the futures of 700,000 people – lies at the heart of the DACA case.

David
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
Demonstrators hold signs outside the Supreme Court as justices heard oral arguments regarding the Trump administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in Washington, Nov. 12, 2019.

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The Obama administration implemented Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to protect from immediate deportation people who had been brought to the United States as children, had not committed crimes, and were students or in the military. An estimated 700,000 young people have benefited from the program.

In late 2017 the Trump administration moved to end DACA. Several lower courts have blocked the program’s termination, however, and Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the administration’s appeal of that ruling. The judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, has grown increasingly deferential to executive power in recent decades. 

The court’s decision could have major consequences both for presidential power and for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like Maria Valencia who have earned DACA status.

Ms. Valencia is studying nursing at the University of Houston. Whether the DACA recipient will be able to pursue a career in the U.S. after graduating is a question the Supreme Court will have to answer.

“Not only was I able to get a scholarship [because of DACA], I got a lot of jobs, internships. I got experience. I was able to give back to my community,” she says. “If it was taken away I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

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DACA recipients get their day at the Supreme Court

Like countless teenagers across the country, Maria Valencia is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. 

She knows she wants to help people. After caring for her sick mother and volunteering at a nursing home, she is now studying to become a nurse.

Five years ago, that wouldn’t have have been possible. But since applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and being granted deferred status from deportation, as well as temporary work authorization, Ms. Valencia has been able to navigate high school and college. She has been able to work, apply for internships, visit relatives, and spend a spring break cleaning up a North Carolina town ravaged by Hurricane Florence. 

The Obama administration implemented DACA to protect from immediate deportation people who had come as children, had not committed crimes, and were students or in the military – a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the executive branch, the administration argued at the time. An estimated 700,000 young people have benefited from the program.

In late 2017 the Trump administration moved to end DACA. Several lower courts have blocked the program’s termination, however, and on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the administration’s appeal of that ruling. The court’s decision could have major consequences both for presidential power and for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like Ms. Valencia who have earned DACA status.

She’s studying at the University of Houston. Whether she will be able to pursue a career in the U.S. after graduating is a question the Supreme Court will have to answer.

“Not only was I able to get a scholarship [because of DACA], I got a lot of jobs, internships. I got experience. I was able to give back to my community,” she adds. “If it was taken away I wouldn’t be able to do that.” 

Henry Gass/The Christian Science Monitor
Maria Valencia, a DACA recipient who is studying nursing at the University of Houston. The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this term on whether the Trump administration's termination of the DACA program, which shields certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, is lawful.

Immigration and administrative law

While a legal case about DACA may appear, on the surface, to be about immigration, this week’s case delves into the similarly murky realm of administrative law.

The first question, then, is whether the courts are able to review the Trump administration’s decision at all. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the idea that courts couldn’t, ruling that the government “may not simultaneously both assert that its actions are legally compelled ... and avoid review of that assertion by the judicial branch.

The second, and final, question is then whether the Trump administration’s decision to end the program was lawful. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a brief memo, which has been rejected by lower courts, that the government could not enforce DACA because of “constitutional defects.” 

The administration’s core argument that DACA is unlawful centers on a 2015 ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

In that case the appeals court ruled DAPA, a similar Obama-era program for unauthorized immigrants with lawfully present children, and a DACA expansion violated executive powers Congress delegated in the Immigration and Nationality Act. That statute, the Fifth Circuit wrote, applied to “narrow classes of aliens” and not those of “vast ‘economic and political significance.’” 

That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, but only eight justices decided the case and they could not find a majority. Their 4-4 ruling affirmed the appeals court ruling without addressing the merits. 

No court has ruled on the legality of the original DACA policy, but the Fifth Circuit’s decision “holding DAPA and the DACA expansion unlawful equally applies to DACA itself,” the Trump administration wrote in its petition to the high court.

DACA is a popular policy – 87% of Americans support it, one 2018 poll found – but even among some supporters, the Trump administration’s arguments carry weight. 

“We affirmatively support [DACA] as a matter of policy,” write law professors Josh Blackman and Ilya Shapiro in a blog post, but not as a matter of law. “The president cannot unilaterally make such a fundamental change to our immigration policy.”

How much deference for executive power?

A core argument in support of DACA is that the policy is no different from any deferred action previous administrations have used in the past. 

The Ninth Circuit leaned on that history in ruling that the government’s decision to end DACA was “arbitrary and capricious,” writing that the reality “always has been” that the government doesn’t “have the resources required to deport every single person [unlawfully] present in this country.” 

“To date no one has really successfully questioned the legality of DACA. No court has found the policy to be unconstitutional,” says Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a professor at Penn State Law. “By contrast there’s a litany of legal authority, foundation, and history to support deferred action.”

The judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, has grown increasingly deferential to executive power in recent decades. The Trump administration has benefited from this on several occasions, notably when the court upheld the third travel ban from predominantly Muslim countries, in spite of evidence it was motivated by his campaign promise of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

The legal justifications for ending DACA are a similar smokescreen for political reasons, critics say – on this occasion, as leverage to obtain congressional approval to build a southern border wall, Mr. Trump’s signature campaign promise. (“The Democrats have been told,” he tweeted months after rescinding the policy, “that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the southern border.”)

In this sense, some experts believe the DACA case could mirror a decision the Supreme Court made just a few months ago: the ruling in June to strike a citizenship question from the 2020 Census. 

“The court was not willing to defer to the president in that circumstance,” says Steven Schwinn, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, John Marshall Law School. 

A month before that decision, documents found on a deceased Republican strategist’s hard drive directly linked a citizenship question to advantaging the GOP in redistricting. The DACA case doesn’t “raise the same kinds of concerns about executive decision-making,” adds Professor Schwinn, “but we have seen the court willing to push back against the president when things get outrageous.”

Justices under the political microscope

More than any executive branch in recent history, the Trump administration has sought emergency stays from the Supreme Court. Mr. Trump often has been successful, fueling a view that the high court – and its conservative majority, solidified with two of his appointees – is essentially his court.

The justices will be under the political microscope again with this case, even besides the fact that on a legal and human level, their ruling will have tremendous consequences. 

For one, the case could have major implications for executive power and the ability of a president to adapt or abandon the policies of previous presidents.

“The court doesn’t have to say DACA was illegal to rule for President Trump,” says Professor Schwinn. But “it doesn’t seem right that one president’s actions should hinder all future [presidential] actions, and my guess is we’re going to see language like that in the opinion.” 

A ruling in favor of the Trump administration, even if it doesn’t declare DACA unlawful, would almost immediately jeopardize the futures of hundreds of thousands of young people who have been living and working in the U.S. for almost their entire lives. 

“We can talk a lot about policies and legal briefs but ultimately this is about people,” says Professor Wadhia. “Many people with DACA are parents to U.S. citizens. Many people with DACA are teachers in American public schools.”

Ms. Valencia recently learned that two of her co-workers at Best Buy also are DACA recipients. She wants to finish her nursing degree, but if DACA is rescinded she won’t be able to get a job here. Would she go back to Mexico?

“No,” she says. “I don’t really know anything over there. Things are not good over there – a lot of shootings and stuff like that.”

“I just want to help people, I’ve always known that,” she says. “If [DACA] is taken out, of course I’ll be devastated. ... All the things that I like to do, they’ll just be taken away.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the co-author of a DACA piece. Prof. Ilya Shapiro cowrote the article with Prof. Josh Blackman.

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2. Inside Hezbollah: How Lebanon protests are breaking ‘fear barrier’

Our reporter finds that the loss of respect for Hezbollah – a group often seen as above corruption – is a particularly telling sign of change in Lebanon.

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For years Hezbollah basked in the glow of widespread respect in Lebanon for building a “society of resistance” against Israel. It provided services and support for its impoverished Shiite constituents. Its ideological rigor put it above politics and beyond the taint of corruption.

But a growing body count from its years of fighting in Syria has created growing, if muted, internal dissent. Now Hezbollah, a power-broker in today’s Lebanon, has found itself vulnerable to a broad national uprising focused on fighting corruption and rejecting the country’s sectarian power structure.

“The leaders are getting richer with corruption,” says a veteran Hezbollah fighter who requested anonymity. “I am willing to fight Israel, but … you die in Syria for nothing.”

Hezbollah has long kept a lid on displays of discontent. Which is why protests in its Shiite strongholds were taken as a sign by some. “When people in the south start going to the streets, that’s when you know the fear is gone,” says Nisrine Hammoud, a protester from the northern Sunni city of Tripoli. “That’s when we knew it was a real revolution.”

Says the Hezbollah fighter matter-of-factly: “Now the fear barrier is broken.”

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Inside Hezbollah: How Lebanon protests are breaking ‘fear barrier’

The veteran Hezbollah fighter can’t count how many times he has been to Syria, and vivid and gruesome battle videos on his phone testify both to his efficiency as a warrior and how effective his units could be in producing corpses of Islamic State and other jihadists.

But the fighter now refuses to return to Syria, and he curses the organization to which he has devoted his life.

The Shiite militia founded to fight Israel has, he says, diluted its brand as it has expanded to battlefields as far away as Iraq and Yemen, lowered recruiting standards, and now faces a cash crunch that has kept its bedrock supporters poor.

Indeed, by one count 1,250 Hezbollah fighters have lost their lives in Syria, with some estimates more than double that. If so, more have returned from Syria in coffins than lost their lives battling Israel since the “Party of God” was founded in 1982.

“We drowned with their lies,” says the fighter, speaking on condition of anonymity amid Hezbollah rules forbidding contact with the media, his tired eyes set in a face thick with stubble. “The leaders are getting richer with corruption. I am willing to fight Israel, but … you die in Syria for nothing.”

His unhappiness is reflected in the choice of many Shiites from traditional Hezbollah strongholds to join a nationwide uprising against endemic corruption, sectarianism, and chronic lack of services, which is calling for removal of a political system in which Hezbollah has grown to play a dominant part.

An eroding base?

Gone are the days when Hezbollah basked in the glow of widespread respect in Lebanon for building a “society of resistance” against Israel, when it provided services and support for its long-neglected, impoverished Shiite constituents, and when ideological and religious rigor put it above politics and beyond the taint of corruption.

“Now Hezbollah are punishing themselves [because] they know they made a big mistake expanding into Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, because they are losing their base of support,” says the fighter, who wears camouflage while talking in his shop, his two military radios and a pistol on the countertop, and several assault rifles tucked out of sight.

“The most important thing is, if a person cannot feed and support his family, what is he doing with Hezbollah?” asks the fighter, saying that the $600 per month salary is not worth dying for in Syria.

“We can do nothing with that in Lebanon. And they [leaders] drive Range Rovers, very rich, don’t care about anybody. It’s a big problem,” he says. “People can’t take it anymore.”

Such grumbling against Hezbollah has grown quietly for years behind closed doors. But when street protests erupted Oct. 17 – sparked by government plans to tax free social media calls – the Arab Spring-style uprising attracted Lebanon’s disgruntled Shiites as much as every other sect.

“Now the fear barrier is broken,” adds the Hezbollah fighter matter-of-factly. “People see the reality on social media; they can’t lie anymore.” Mobs loyal to Hezbollah and the Shiite Amal movement attacked protesters in late October with sticks and pipes, and destroyed some tents, in a failed attempt to intimidate them.

But Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, has since sought to strike a careful balance, making clear the organization embraces the “legitimate” demands of the protesters – against corruption and for better lives – while saying that toppling the government is not the solution.

Bilal Hussein/AP
Hezbollah supporters clash with Lebanese riot policemen in Beirut on Oct. 29, 2019. Beirut residents and Hezbollah supporters had scuffled with Lebanese protesters blocking a main thoroughfare, prompting the riot police to intervene.

Sheikh Nasrallah said foreign hands were directing the protests, as were tainted pro-West parties “looking for political revenge and settling of accounts.”

But there is no hiding the fact that benefits to both Hezbollah fighters and the party’s supporters – underwritten for decades by volumes of cash from Iran – have shriveled in recent years, as both Iran and Hezbollah have financed expensive military deployments, especially to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and been stung by tough American sanctions.

Watershed moment

“Hezbollah is experiencing a paradox at the moment,” says Nicholas Blanford, a Beirut-based fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of “Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel.”

Though Hezbollah has never been stronger militarily or politically, he says, “at the same time they are facing a host of vulnerabilities that they haven’t had to deal with before.”

One reason is the vast and speedy expansion to perhaps 25,000 fully trained combatants after Hezbollah fought Israel to a standstill in mid-2006 after 33 days, in a devastating conflict Mr. Nasrallah called a “divine victory.” Until then, for many years, the group fielded just 3,000 to 5,000 fighters, who often had one or two years of religious training before they were allowed to pick up a gun.

By contrast, since Hezbollah began its Syria intervention in 2012, recruits often get a month of military training before being sent to Syria, where they are meant to absorb Hezbollah’s ideology on the job.

Another vulnerability is the shortage of cash, due to U.S. sanctions targeting Iran and Hezbollah and the high cost of fighting abroad, which by one count cost Hezbollah upward of $20 million per month in Syria. On the streets, protesters have told Mr. Nasrallah: “Lebanon is more important than Syria.”

Yet another Hezbollah vulnerability is its political power-broking with ruling Christian, Sunni, and Shiite Amal factions renowned for their sectarianism, corruption, and failure to provide services like water and electricity.

The overall result may be a watershed moment for the Shiite militia, which looks to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as its top religious guide. Aside from military and fiscal overreach, Hezbollah is now part of an entrenched government structure it long despised.

“I don’t really see how Hezbollah can reverse this,” says Mr. Blanford, who has been reporting as a journalist on the group since the mid-1990s. “I think Hezbollah has reached its peak. It’s got too big for a small country like Lebanon.”

Layers of devotion

Still, there are plenty of believers in the Hezbollah cause. One 25-year veteran of Hezbollah, a unit commander with multiple tours in Syria and one in Iraq, waves off the dangers of popular unrest and says the group has never been stronger.

“If Hezbollah opened fire on people [who are] against them in Beirut, it would not affect the base support of Hezbollah,” asserts the stocky fighter with penetrating eyes, who gave the name Ali. “Why? Because I can assure you that Hezbollah supporters will not budge. We went through worse than this, and the resistance still had support.”

He says any fighter that thinks his $600 monthly salary is too small is free to go.

“As devoted fighters with paychecks, we really weren’t affected much. But our supporters did suffer,” says Ali. “Ideology plays a big role here. Even supporters – yes they are hurting, yes they are below poverty level – but at the end of the day you have to understand that Hezbollah worked hard through the years on the ideology, [which] is strong, strong, strong.”

But that distinctly Shiite belief structure, which idolizes resistance and jihad as a religious obligation, runs thinner in newer recruits.

“Now we are recruiting a different quality of people, a second tier, because we need them,” says Ali. “They are not as devoted as we are, but we need them, and we are working on them very hard, as far as discipline and ideology.”

Hezbollah’s influence over its Shiite strongholds has long kept a lid on public displays of discontent. Which is why protests erupting in them in mid-October – as they did across the nation – were taken as a sign by some.

“When people in the south start going to the streets, that’s when you know the fear is gone. ... That’s when we knew it was a real revolution,” says Nisrine Hammoud, a protester from the northern Sunni city of Tripoli.

Even when Sheikh Nasrallah asked supporters not to join the protests, Shiite followers like Alaa, from the eastern city of Baalbek where Hezbollah has a strong presence, chose to persevere.

“[Nasrallah’s] priorities are different from our priorities,” Alaa told the Al-Monitor news website. “We want to change the system, get ourselves a better life … while Hezbollah’s priorities are keeping the system and making sure they are on good terms with their allies.”

Resistance vs. politics

That means Hezbollah may be at a historic crossroads, as it weighs its reaction to the uprising.

“Hezbollah is very good at resistance, but they are not very good at politics,” says Rami Khouri, a professor at the American University of Beirut.

“It is a moment when they have to reevaluate how they engage in politics based on the sectarian-anchored consensus model. They’re central players – even the kingmakers – in that,” says Professor Khouri. “Therefore, they get a lot of the blame for all of the bad governance that’s happened, even though they weren’t ruling themselves. And they’ve deserved a lot of the blame, because they’ve allowed their partners to be very corrupt and very inefficient, and to treat citizens with disdain.”

That association is rubbing off on a military force that for many years could do no wrong.

“Hezbollah is very good when it’s feeling comfortable and secure. Then they can be quite magnanimous,” says Mr. Blanford, the Hezbollah expert. “But when they come under threat, they’re not very good at dealing with it. They tend to use a fist rather than kind words. And people begin to bristle. They feel the weight of Hezbollah on their shoulders.”

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3. Beyond impeachment, is Congress getting anything else done?

American lawmakers are struggling to make progress on spending, trade, and other priorities. Our reporter finds the impasses would likely have existed even without an impeachment inquiry – but it isn’t making compromise any easier.

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History shows it’s possible for Congress to accomplish other things during impeachment hearings. 

Between the start of House impeachment proceedings in October 1998 and acquittal by the Senate the following February, President Bill Clinton signed nearly 150 bills into law. In today’s extreme partisan era, however, Congress has become far less productive – even without impeachment. Just under 70 laws have been signed in the 10 months that the 116th Congress has been in session.

Funding for the government is currently set to expire in a little over a week. And while lawmakers appear poised to pass a stopgap measure, they’re far from resolving the thorny details needed to avert a shutdown before year’s end. 

What’s likely to dominate lawmakers’ attention this week are the testimonies of three State Department officials, whose appearances on Wednesday and Friday will be the first to be televised in the House’s month-and-a-half-long impeachment probe. It’s hard to imagine much bipartisan compromise taking place in that environment.

“The incentive for cooperation and dealmaking is very low,” says Bill Schneider, a professor of government at George Mason University. Impeachment “absorbs all the attention.”

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Beyond impeachment, is Congress getting anything else done?

As the House impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump launches into high-profile public hearings, Congress is facing another key test: whether it can accomplish anything else in the current environment. 

Funding for the government is currently set to expire in a little over a week. And while lawmakers appear poised to pass a temporary stopgap measure, they’re far from resolving the thorny details needed to avert a shutdown before year’s end.

So far, none of the 12 must-pass appropriations bills for 2020 have made it through both the House and Senate. The biggest sticking point: money for President Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the same issue that last year led to the longest government shutdown in United States history. 

Yet what’s likely to dominate news cycles and lawmakers’ attention this week are the testimonies of three State Department officials, whose appearances on Wednesday and Friday will be the first to be televised in the House’s month-and-a-half-long impeachment probe.

The hearings could intensify the deep partisan divide already aggravated by the impeachment inquiry. Congressional Republicans have mostly stood behind the president, either asserting that Mr. Trump did not engage in a problematic “quid pro quo” with the Ukrainian government or insisting that such an action wouldn’t be impeachable anyway. Democrats say their constitutional oaths demand they hold the president accountable for behavior that, in their view, amounts to leveraging U.S. foreign policy for personal political gain.

It’s hard to imagine much bipartisan compromise – crucial to passing a budget – taking place in this environment.

Neither party has much to gain politically from a shutdown, providing some impetus for lawmakers to try to avoid one. Still, “the incentive for cooperation and dealmaking is very low,” says Bill Schneider, a professor of government at George Mason University. 

Impeachment “absorbs all the attention,” he adds. “It escalates the bitterness, anger, anxiety, tension. Unless there’s a terrible crisis, nothing else happens.” 

The Clinton example

History shows it’s possible for Congress to be productive during impeachment hearings. 

By the time the House voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in December 1998, the Republican-held Congress had already passed the next year’s budget. Between the start of House impeachment proceedings in October 1998 and acquittal by by the Senate in February, President Clinton signed nearly 150 bills into law.

In today’s era of extreme partisanship, however, Congress has become far less productive – even without impeachment. Just under 70 laws – including eight that renamed post offices – have been signed in the 10 months that the 116th Congress has been in session, a figure that reflects years of declining legislative activity. A 2018 analysis by The Washington Post and ProPublica shows that as the political center has shrunk, and as lawmakers increasingly respond to the demands of their base, Congress’s capacity for deliberative dealmaking has withered. 

“The Congress we’re working with is a completely different institution in many ways than the Congress that faced the Clinton impeachment,” says Aubrey Neal, who manages federal government affairs at the R Street Institute, a center-right think tank. 

Mr. Clinton actually made attention to his “day job” a key component of his political strategy. In public appearances, he pointedly ignored the impeachment effort and focused on the business of governance. 

“He didn’t use it to rally his party; he didn’t use it to defend himself,” says Professor Schneider, who at the time was a political analyst for CNN. “He made it clear that it wasn’t distracting him.”

Even after the House voted to impeach him, Mr. Clinton kept to his message, vowing to continue to work on behalf of the American people. “It’s what I’ve tried to do for six years,” he said. “It’s what I intend to do for two more until the last hour of the last day of my term.”

President Trump’s strategy has been markedly different. Instead of trying to ignore impeachment, he has tended to focus the spotlight directly on it – counterpunching on Twitter and in public statements, and attacking House Democrats and the witnesses testifying against him as motivated by partisanship. 

The day the House voted to formalize impeachment proceedings, he called the inquiry “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History.” He’s questioned the credibility of the whistleblower who first drew attention to the now-famous July 25 call between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and declared the whole investigation a “hoax” perpetrated by the “fake news media” and Democrats – especially Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. “It is a Pelosi, Schiff, Scam against the Republican Party and me,” the president tweeted

The effect has been to intensify partisan divisions, with his allies in Congress echoing his language. 

At a Trump rally in his state Wednesday night, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy criticized Speaker Pelosi for moving forward with the probe. “I don’t mean any disrespect,” Senator Kennedy said, “but it must suck to be that dumb.” (The senator later defended his comments, saying that Speaker Pelosi’s decision “takes American politics to a new low.”) 

“Impeachment is the ultimate partisan exercise,” says Mark Strand, president of the Congressional Institute. “As a result, it’s going to shut progress down.” 

Work behind the scenes

Despite all the vitriol, there’s at least some bipartisan work going on behind the scenes. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Mr. Trump’s signature trade deal, is in the “last mile” of negotiations, Ms. Pelosi said at the end of October. Lawmakers are reportedly looking to announce a deal by Thanksgiving and could even hold a vote before year’s end. Across-the-aisle discussions are also underway in both chambers over several measures meant to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

There’s also been plenty of activity on a one-sided basis: The Democratic-controlled House has, over the past 10 months, passed hundreds of bills that were never taken up by the GOP-held Senate, which in turn has confirmed a record number of federal judges with almost no Democratic support. 

Although a shutdown is still possible – with border-wall spending just one of many issues lawmakers are stuck on – neither House Democrats nor Senate Republicans want to be on the hook for such a crisis heading into a big election cycle, notes Steven Smith, political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis, in an email.

Ms. Pelosi has been determined to show that House Democrats can simultaneously conduct an impeachment inquiry and address key legislative issues, while Republicans remain sensitive to having taken much of the blame for past shutdowns. The usual legislative stalemates would have existed whether or not impeachment was a factor, Professor Smith points out. 

“Political calculations are proving more important to the legislative agenda than the time taken to consider impeachment,” he writes. 

On the other hand, even if lawmakers do strike a deal in time, the president hasn’t ruled out the possibility of vetoing it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York expressed concerns last week that Mr. Trump might use a shutdown as “a diversion away from impeachment.” 

“I’m not expecting a shutdown,” says Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “I would expect that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell would really try to convince the president that this was just one other problem he doesn’t need right now.”

“On the other hand, the president seems to enjoy rejecting the advice of other people in his party,” she adds. “Republicans telling him that may cause him to do exactly the opposite.”

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4. Why Salvation Army is shuttering some ‘last chance’ rehab centers

The charity’s long-term drug treatment programs are mostly funded by their thrift shops. But as other retailers jump into that recycling niche, a compassionate mission could be undermined.  

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Most residential treatment facilities for drug and alcohol addiction limit stays to 15 to 30 days. The Salvation Army’s six-month program provides a chance for participants to decelerate for long enough to rediscover a purpose greater than chasing the next high.

But finding a long-term treatment program has grown more difficult in recent months with the closing of several Salvation Army rehab centers across the country. The moves come as the organization retrenches and shuts down dozens of its signature thrift stores that generate most of the funding for its rehab facilities and other programs. The growth of secondhand stores, driven by millennial and Generation Z shoppers looking to save money and spare the planet, has crowded the retail niche that the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries once dominated.

“In the broad scope of recovery, the longer and more intensive the program, the better you do,”  says George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Many Americans think the recovery period from alcohol use disorder – and addiction in general – is 28 days. But that’s just the beginning for any treatment.”

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Why Salvation Army is shuttering some ‘last chance’ rehab centers

Michael Oliver describes the slow-motion collapse of his life from heroin addiction with dark humor. “Looking back,” he says, “it’s pretty much like a country song.”

He lost his home, his job, and his car. He stole from family, friends, and strangers. He spent brief stints behind bars and long stretches on the streets. Over the years, he tried to detox a time or two and made countless promises to himself and others to get clean. Heroin always won.

The soundtrack of misery stopped last year as Mr. Oliver faced a return to jail on home invasion and burglary charges. Seeking to show the court he could change, he enrolled in a recovery program at a Salvation Army adult rehabilitation center in Southern California.

Most residential treatment facilities for drug and alcohol addiction limit stays to 15 to 30 days. The Salvation Army’s six-month program provides a chance for participants to decelerate for long enough to rediscover a purpose greater than chasing the next high.

“The process builds your character,” says Mr. Oliver, who “graduated” from the center in February. He now works as a residential manager at another Salvation Army facility in the region while he repairs bonds with loved ones. “You can remember who you were before drugs took over everything.”

But finding a long-term treatment program has grown more difficult in recent months with the closing of several Salvation Army rehab centers across the country. The moves come as the organization retrenches and shuts down dozens of its signature thrift stores, which generate most of the funding for its rehab facilities and other programs.

Officials with the Christian charity attribute the restructuring to rising operating expenses and slumping thrift shop revenues. In the West, the Salvation Army has closed rehab centers in Portland, Oregon; Sacramento, California; and Tucson, Arizona. The loss of the facilities occurs as the need for addiction treatment remains high: federal data show that only 3.7 million out of 21 million people with a substance use disorder received care last year.

The opioid epidemic, the resurgence of methamphetamine use, and the persistence of alcohol abuse have exposed a national shortage of residential treatment programs that last beyond 30 days. Some 80% of the country’s recovery facilities lack extended inpatient services in large part because of surging health care costs. The scarcity of such programs concerns George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“In the broad scope of recovery, the longer and more intensive the program, the better you do,” he says. “Many Americans think the recovery period from alcohol use disorder – and addiction in general – is 28 days. But that’s just the beginning for any treatment.”

Crowded retail niche

The relative dearth of long-term residential facilities contrasts with the glut of thrift shops in large cities and small towns alike. The growth of secondhand stores, driven by millennial and Generation Z shoppers looking to save money and spare the planet, has crowded the retail niche that the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries once dominated.

In September, the Salvation Army closed four thrift shops in and around Sacramento, along with its 90-bed rehabilitation center in the state capital. The facility’s age and lagging sales at the stores prompted officials to shut down the recovery program.

“Some of our buildings are just getting tired,” says Henry Graciani, who oversees the organization’s network of more than 100 treatment centers. “They’re old, and it would take millions of dollars to get them renovated.”

He adds that money from the sale of its facilities will enable the charity to enhance other programs. In Northern California, the organization plans to expand its 80-bed treatment center in Stockton, about an hour’s drive from Sacramento. 

Mr. Graciani casts the changes as necessary to ensure that the Salvation Army can sustain the adult rehabilitation ministry it founded in 1881. In modern times, the program has earned a favorable reputation among case managers, social workers, and therapists for embracing indigent individuals spurned by other facilities.

For-profit and nonprofit rehab clinics rely on public funding, including state and federal health care programs that allow reimbursement for substance abuse treatment for low-income patients. The abundance of red tape leads to long waiting lists and has tilted recovery services toward an outpatient model to hold down costs.

The Salvation Army’s self-financed centers bypass most of the bureaucratic hurdles. The organization enrolls participants with little delay and emphasizes long-term care – two coveted program traits in California, where fewer than 5% of the estimated 2.6 million people with a substance use disorder received treatment in 2017.

“I wish we had more of those types of programs,” says Lori Miller, who manages the alcohol and drug services division of Sacramento County’s Department of Health Services. “We have a lot of people waiting for treatment.”

Mary Taylor, program manager of the King County drug diversion court in Seattle, echoes the lament. The court provides an alternative to jail for nonviolent offenders by enrolling them in recovery programs, and finding an available slot for those with the most severe drug or alcohol problems poses a constant dilemma for case managers.

The Salvation Army’s 120-bed rehab center downtown had proved a reliable option since the court’s inception in 1994. “We had a lot of people who were going there as their last chance,” Ms. Taylor says. “So it was ‘Salvation Army or bust’ – and they would end up making it.”

The charity sold the property that housed the center last month and moved the rehab program to another site with 80 fewer beds. The reduced capacity worries Ms. Taylor, given that last year King County recorded 415 alcohol- and drug-related deaths, an increase of a third from a decade ago.

“It’s a blow, for sure,” she says. Without the downtown center, “our job will be that much tougher.”

“I have a purpose again”

Research suggests that a six-month period of sobriety improves the odds of neurocognitive recovery for people coping with chronic substance use disorders. For Patricia Judd, program director of the addiction recovery and treatment program at the University of California, San Diego, the studies confirm what she has observed in her clinical work.

“Ninety days is the minimum people need to clear the brain and see the world – and their place in it – in a new way,” she says. “They need that length of stay to figure out who they are.”

The Salvation Army’s rehab centers offer an array of supportive services in addition to substance abuse treatment. Residents receive job training, housing assistance, and financial planning guidance.

The inclusion of religious services and Christian teachings in the charity’s recovery model creates wariness among some advocates and potential participants. Yet Ms. Taylor points out that the doubts tend to fall away for a person appearing before a judge.

“When people are in custody and they could be going to jail, it can change their perspective,” she says. “And the Salvation Army has had the ability to reach certain people that other programs couldn’t or wouldn’t.”

Mr. Oliver’s six-month stay in a Salvation Army rehab center in Southern California reversed his unwinding. He avoided jail and steep fines, and in the past several months, he has reconnected with his young son and his parents.

In his job with the charity, Mr. Oliver works with men attempting to climb out of the abyss of addiction, guiding them upward from despair and dysfunction. He knows the struggle. He gains strength from their journey.

“I feel I have a purpose again,” he says. “It’s not just a 9-to-5 job, not just a paycheck. There’s a feeling that I’m having an effect on guys. But the truth is, they help me more than I help them.”

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Books

5. Q&A with Darryl Pinckney: The paradox of black visibility

As black culture moves mainstream, questions of ownership and visibility surface. Our reporter spoke with writer Darryl Pinckney, who argues America’s enduring racism has to do with fear.

David
Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers and Dominique Nabakov

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From his examination of race relations during Barack Obama’s presidency to his nuanced analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement, Darryl Pinckney is one of the most vital intellectuals of our time. His latest literary compilation places a historical lens on the most pivotal moments in black America. 

Monitor correspondent Candace McDuffie recently spoke with the writer about the mainstreaming of black culture. The pair also tackled “Afro-pessimism” – a deliberate retreat from political and social consciousness by black people. 

Mr. Pinckney sees Afro-pessimism as a verdict on American institutions, as well as a type of armor to shield against disappointment. He traces its roots to how black people have felt “excluded, exploited, and oppressed” in the West.

Asked why black people continue to wrestle with racism and stereotypes, Mr. Pinckney frames the issue as a response to black anger. 

“White people have always divided black people into two categories: black people they’re afraid of and black people they’re not. There’s the insult of that underneath it all,” he says.

As tiring as it is, he adds, “I don’t think I’d want to experience life on their side ... not at all.”

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Q&A with Darryl Pinckney: The paradox of black visibility

Darryl Pinckney’s latest literary compilation places a historical lens on the most pivotal moments in black America. From his examination of race relations during Barack Obama’s presidency to his nuanced analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement, Mr. Pinckney’s vast knowledge and critical dexterity make him one of the most vital intellectuals of our time. He spoke recently with Monitor correspondent Candace McDuffie.

In the book, you discuss the notion of invisibility. Do you ever think that black people oscillate between invisibility and hypervisibility?

It’s a very strange and paradoxical situation because of course, in the culture itself, black people are very visible. It’s not that we’re merely invisible or even hypervisible – it’s that we’re confined, and then [we’re] troubling when we break out of these confinements, whether it’s physical or psychological. There’s always something about us that has to be “coped with.” I also don’t think hypervisibility is a fair term; I come from a generation that feels visibility has its own importance because it demonstrates that it’s possible. 

You tackle “Afro-pessimism” – the deliberate withdrawal of political and social consciousness by black people – in your book. Do you think it’s a coping tool?

Afro-pessimism can be described as an immediate verdict on American institutions, American systems, American history. It is a very fierce kind of judgment as well as a kind of armor: “I cannot be hurt. I can’t be disappointed.” It’s one thing to understand the mood of Afro-pessimism, but you have to put it in a larger context. It’s about how different the world is. In this era of climate change and underlying anxiety about resources, people are uneasy because certain traditional reliances are not there and democracy is slipping away. There needs to be a category that fits with the sense that all’s not right with the world – let’s not fool ourselves. 

But why is this attitude so endemic in the black experience?

It’s a deep thing and it has its roots in how black people have felt excluded, exploited, and oppressed not just in relation to the U.S. but the West in general. There were civil rights movements for the past century that went with ideas of growth, development, transformational possibilities, a general sense that society moves forward by the measures of advancement – but that’s pretty much gone. If you think about it, late [James] Baldwin is a kind of Afro-pessimism where he’s sort of “the scales have fallen from my eyes.” But Afro-pessimism is a bit like passing [as white] – it solves your problem but it doesn’t solve the problems of black people. 

What do you think about white authors writing about black culture?

There are so many voices that I wouldn’t be in favor of denying or stifling any of them – especially because I do know some white writers who know a lot about certain black things as anthropologists, musicologists, and historians. It’s also a feature of black culture; Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes were really frustrated that white writers could use black folks’ material and get their plays produced or their novels published while they struggled with the same material. They felt like [their culture] was being taken away.

But isn’t that still a valid concern?

We are getting past this utilitarian view of black culture, which is part of the pain of it entering the mainstream. The sense that we’re losing it, or its purity is at risk, or it’s going to be misunderstood, or people who have no business talking about it are going to start talking about it. There are two things going on: One is an ownership question and the other is a freedom of creativity question and the two can’t really be reconciled. A hundred years ago, slave narratives were not admitted or valued as historical evidence because they were biased. Accounting for bias, overcoming bias, or explaining it is the duty of the writing itself. There is good writing and bad writing; I would look for the good writers and not care about the ones who are bad. Bad writing has a falseness to it.

Despite all of our struggles and our advocacy and our resistance, black people are constantly stereotyped and subjected to racism. Why is this still happening? 

It’s black anger people are still frightened of. Even Obama did that thing of tamping down the anger. But there’s bound to be more of it – I mean look where we’re headed. I think that ... people are afraid even after a black president. White people have always divided black people into two categories: black people they’re afraid of and black people they’re not. There’s the insult of that underneath it all. I’m tired of it, too, and there is no time off from it. But I don’t think I’d want to experience life on their side ... not at all. It’s an easy thing to say and a hard thing to explain.

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The Monitor's View

Latin America’s civic awakening

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Until October, both Chile and Bolivia ranked among the lowest in Latin America for political participation. In recent weeks, however, this lowly status has all changed. In Bolivia, hundreds of thousands of protesters have ousted President Evo Morales after a rigged election. In Chile, more than a million protesters took to the streets, triggered by a subway fare hike but with a new focus on broadening the voices of citizens.

This civic awakening in both countries may reflect a wider trend in Latin America toward citizen activism. It is driven by the region’s high proportion of young people and by the fast growth in internet users. Young voters are more aware of their countries' conditions and better able to connect with each other to form activist groups.

In Chile, political leaders now promise a national dialogue to address the protesters’ concerns. In Bolivia, lawmakers are scrambling to arrange another vote and prevent another rigged election. In both countries, citizens are more awake to the right of self-governance. Their leaders are being forced to follow them.

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Latin America’s civic awakening

Until October, both Chile and Bolivia ranked among the lowest in Latin America for political participation of its citizens, according to an Economist survey. In a survey of the world’s wealthier democracies, Chile ranked last in civic engagement, notably in low voter turnout. In recent weeks, however, this lowly status has all changed.

In Bolivia, hundreds of thousands of protesters have ousted President Evo Morales after a rigged election on Oct. 20. In a “civil strike,” they were able to close down dozens of state institutions, putting up signs on doors that read “closed by democracy.”

In Chile, more than a million protesters took to the streets, triggered by a subway fare hike under President Sebastián Piñera but with a new focus on broadening the voices of citizens. Hundreds of local discussion groups, called cabildos, have been organized to collect ideas about ways to improve participatory democracy.

This civic awakening in both countries may reflect a wider trend in Latin America toward citizen activism. It is driven by the region’s high proportion of young people and by the fast growth in internet users. Young voters are more aware of their countries conditions and better able to connect with each other to form activist groups. In Chile, according to one poll, only 19% of the population identifies with a traditional political party, down from 80% a quarter century ago.

Yet better civic engagement also represents a stronger desire for government that is honest, transparent, and more egalitarian. In Chile, political leaders now promise a national dialogue to address the protesters’ concerns. In Bolivia, lawmakers are scrambling to arrange another vote and prevent another rigged election. In both countries, citizens are more awake to the right of self-governance. Their leaders are being forced to follow them.

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A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Overcoming, not succumbing to, stress

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Even when we have many things going on at once, we have a God-given ability to take effective, harmonious steps forward – without feeling swamped.

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Overcoming, not succumbing to, stress

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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A work-related call coming in. A frustrated kindergartner yelling next to me. A family activity coming up soon. Certainly a recipe for stress! I didn’t want to add dealing with stress to my already full plate. But what could I do?

Amid that tough start to the day, I realized that rather than simply succumbing to stress, I could start from a different premise entirely.

Imagine that you’re a product maker, armed with the best 3D printer on the market, and you’re designing a new product with several moving parts. Are you going to make that product so that the moving parts rub and scratch against each other, literally causing stress to the whole system in the course of its natural activity? Of course not; you’re going to make sure that everything works smoothly.

We have been made, created, with that same care and refinement. The very first chapter in the Bible records the creation of all things being deemed very good, unfailingly representative of the very nature of God. Christ Jesus’ world-shaking ministry and promise of present salvation harks back to that primal, divine assessment of creation as wholly good. Jesus demonstrated through his healing and his teaching that simply being willing to start from God’s viewpoint, instead of willfully trying to straighten things out all by ourselves, can make all the difference.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded The Christian Science Monitor and reintroduced the world to the immediate and practical relevance of Jesus’ ministry, stated bluntly the impossibility of God’s children being created to be inharmonious: “To suppose that God constitutes laws of inharmony is a mistake; discords have no support from nature or divine law, however much is said to the contrary” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 183).

So that morning, I closed my eyes, praying quietly with these ideas for a few moments. I found myself saying out loud the inspiration that came to me: “There is not too much going on.” Starting with this God-decreed premise instead of trying to wade through the mess, I was able to effectively conclude my work call, help my son, and embark on a happy day.

Since then, that simple premise, “There is not too much going on,” has been a very gentle, clear reminder for me of the harmony God expresses throughout all creation. We have the right to start with this spiritual reality, with the promise of God’s harmony rather than the premise of stress as inevitable – no matter how late we’re running, how many erratic drivers are on the road, or how many tasks we need to get done.

This doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes have many things going on at once, but it empowers us to take effective steps forward without feeling swamped. We can confidently follow the loving counsel given to Job in the Bible: “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14). Consider the works of God, instead of getting bogged down by all the stuff around you. Consider that you too are the work of God.

Harmony, not stress, is the natural state of all God’s children – the representatives, the very image and likeness, of the divine Principle of the universe. Realizing this enables us to respond and move with peace instead of stress.

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Viewfinder

Golden anniversary

Prabhjot Gill/AP
Sikh devotees light candles at the illuminated Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, in Amritsar, India, Nov. 12, 2019. Sikhs across the world are marking the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
( The illustrations in today's Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )
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In Our Next Issue

( November 13th, 2019 )

David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

Thanks for joining us. Come back tomorrow: We’re working on a story about two boys who are selling socks to save blue-footed birds in the Galápagos Islands.

Monitor Daily Podcast

November 12, 2019
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