The Signal: Congressman Elijah Cummings died yesterday. Since he was chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, his death will, obviously, affect the impeachment inquiry. But the far more important loss is his voice—his ability, in a few tightly wound sentences, to explain the moral and historical stakes of the moment.
This was Cummings, after Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony earlier this year: “Our president has made at least 8,718 false and misleading statements. That’s stunning. That’s not what we teach our children.… The president called you a rat. We’re better than that. We really are.” Cummings had Trump’s number, and he knew that oversight of every facet of this lawless administration was vital.
Other Signals: Even as the impeachment inquiry expands, the administration continues to sabotage regulatory agencies and attack immigrants.
Witness: The Bureau of Land Management formulated a plan to split up the team that carries out environmental assessments of projects on public lands, forcing staff to relocate to seven different sites around the country. As with recent similar efforts in other agencies, critics believe this is a blatant attempt to drive qualified personnel out of government service.
The Interior Department’s Orwellian-named “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee outlined a strategy to begin privatizing parts of the National Park Service, handing over parks to corporations, many of whom have donated to the Trump campaign and lobbied heavily for such contracts.
The EPA announced plans to delay by up to 20 years mandated replacements of drinking water pipelines that are contaminated with lead and copper and that deliver water to more than 6 million homes nationwide.
And the ACLU reports that the Census Bureau, having been barred by the Supreme Court from including a citizenship question on next year’s Census, is now attempting to comb state driver’s license records to compile lists of noncitizens.
Beyond the catastrophic events in Syria, big things are happening globally: In both Poland and Hungary, far-right governments were handed significant electoral setbacks this week. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be returning to Parliament over the weekend to seek approval for his last-minute Brexit deal with the EU. If he doesn’t get the votes, which is by no means assured, stand by both for his government to fall—as opponents scramble to prevent a no-deal hard Brexit from kicking in at month’s end—and for a possible second referendum on Brexit later this year.
And the Noise? An endless drip of blather from Trump: boasts about his “strategic brilliance” in throwing the Syrian Kurds under the bus, a loony word salad about the Syrians and Russians playing in the desert sands, the publication of a letter to Turkish President Erdogan warning him not to go down in history as the devil, a tantrum thrown in a meeting with congressional leaders.
Filter out the madness and pay attention to what’s really going on. As Cummings thundered at the end of his statement cited above: “I’m hoping that all of us can get back to this democracy that we want and that we should be passing on to our children.… When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: In 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing?”