OurWeek in Politics (October 16, 2019-October 23, 2019

Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:

1. US, Turkey Reach Temporary Cease-fire Agreement Regarding The Turkish Invasion of Northern Syria

Amid increasing international criticism, the Trump Administration this week worked to broker a temporary ceasefre between Turkey and the Kurdish forces in Northern Syria

On October 17, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US reached a temporary cease-fire agreement with Turkey to suspend its military operation in Syria to allow Kurdish forces to retreat from a designated safe zone. Pence said that Turkey will suspend its military operations for five days to let the Kurdish forces to leave the zone and that US forces will aid in the retreat. The agreement comes amid growing global concern over Turkey’s military incursion in Syria after President Donald Trump ordered American forces to withdraw from the country, leaving the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, a US ally in the fight against ISIS without support. “I’m grateful for the president’s leadership. I’m grateful for the more than five hours of negotiations with President Erdogan,” Pence said, adding that the parties “arrived at a solution that we believe will save lives.” President Trump told reporters ahead of an event in Texas that his unorthodox approach to the conflict helped make the deal possible, calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “very smart” and a “friend.” “Everybody agreed to things that three days ago they would have never agreed to, that includes the Kurds,” Trump said. “This is a situation where everyone is happy.”

The temporary cease-fire agreement appears to be a significant embrace of Turkey’s position in the conflict, giving the Turkish government what they had sought to achieve with their military operation. After the Kurdish forces are cleared from the safe zone, Turkey has committed to a permanent cease-fire but is under no obligation to withdraw its troops. In addition, the deal gives Turkey relief from sanctions the Trump Administration had imposed and threatened to impose since the invasion began, meaning there will be no penalty for the operation. Kurdish forces were not a party to the agreement, and it was not immediately clear whether they would comply.

The announcement of a cease-fire comes against the backdrop of the widespread condemnation from both parties of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of American troops from Northern Syria. On October 16, the House of Representatives passed a resolution 354-60 opposing the withdrawal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who sharply criticized Trump’s decision, said he wanted to pass a stronger resolution rebuking the move. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) attempted to pass a Senate resolution by unanimous consent, but it was blocked by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). At least one prominent Republican, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, blasted the administration following the announcement, casting the cease-fire as “far from a victory” and demanding public hearings over why and how the US pulled out of Syria and allowed Turkey to launch its military action. “Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?” Senator Romney asked in an impassioned speech from the Senate floor. Romney said that the administration’s “decision to abandon” the Kurds “strikes at American honor” and “will stand as a bloodstain in the annals of American history.”

2. Democratic Party Begins To Resign Itself To A Long And Drawn Out Impeachment Process Against President Trump

This week, the Democratic Party leadership began to realize that the impeachment process against President Donald Trump is expected to take longer than expected if they want to increase public opinion in favor of impeachment.

This week, House Democrats began to resign themselves to the likelihood that impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump will extend into the holiday season, as they plan a series of public hearings intended to make the simplest and most devastating possible public case in favor of removing President Trump from office. Democratic leaders initially hoped to move as soon as Thanksgiving to wrap up a narrow inquiry focused around Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, buoyed by polling data that shows that the public supports the investigation, even if voters are not yet sold on impeaching Trump. But after a complicated web of revelations about the President emerged from private hearings, Democratic leaders have now begun plotting a full-scale effort to lay out their case in a set of high-profile public hearings. Their goal is to convince the public and undecided Republicans that the President committed an impeachable offense when he demanded that Ukraine investigate his political rivals. “Just the facts baby,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “If we tell that story with simplicity and repetition, the American people will understand why the President must be held accountable. If we don’t, then there is great uncertainty, and in that vacuum, Donald Trump may find himself escaping accountability again.”

President Donald Trump, embittered by the impeachment inquiry, complained on October 21 that Republicans were not defending him aggressively enough. “Republicans have to get tougher and fight,” President Trump said during a rambling, hourlong question-and-answer session with reporters at a cabinet meeting. “We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election, which is coming up, where we’re doing very well.” In particular, Trump attacked Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), one of the only members of the Republican Party (along with Ben Sasse and possibly Croy Gardner, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski) who has signaled he may be open to impeaching Trump, underscoring how anxious the Senator’s defection has made him about possible cracks in support from his own party. President Donald Trump’s Congressional allies this week attempted to ramp up their defense of the President by forcing a vote in the House to censure Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is leading the impeachment inquiry. The vote, which failed in the Democratic-led chamber, was a display of Republican solidarity for President Trump.

Overall, there are some risks for the Democrats with a longer timetable for impeachment hearings, which could make it more difficult for lawmakers in politically competitive districts, who fear a backlash from constituents if they appear to be preoccupied with targeting President Donald Trump instead of addressing major issues such as gun control or health care. Additionally, the Democratic Party leadership is aware that President Trump has succeeded in the past in steering the subject away from allegations of misconduct on his part, as he did with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election conducted by Robert Mueller. This time, Democratic leaders hope to deny him the opportunity. They have issued subpoenas to a growing number of people, including Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s private lawyer who is at the center of the Ukraine pressure campaign, and have demanded documents from Vice President Mike Pence. They have invited or compelled Trump administration officials past and present to appear at Congressional hearings and cloistered them behind closed doors to extract testimony that backs up their case.

3. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Announces He Does Not Have Support To Form Coalition Government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week that he does not have the support to form a coalition government, turning over the responsibility for setting up a coalition government to his political rival Benny Gantz.

On October 21, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he does not have the power to form a coalition government form, handing the opportunity to his political rival Benny Gantz. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has weathered corruption charges, criticism of his hardline policy towards both the Palestinian people and Shi’a Muslims, and criticism of his close ties with political leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently saw his party lose its majority in the Israeli Parliament and has struggled to form a coalition government with rival political parties. As such, Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party will now be invited in an attempt to form a government.

Announcing the decision to abandon his efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that he had tried repeatedly to form a majority coalition but had been rebuffed. “I have made all efforts to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, all efforts to form a broad national unity government, all efforts to prevent another election. Unfortunately, time after time, he simply refused,” he said. Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, said he would give Gantz 28 days to carry out the same negotiations. Israeli Arab lawmakers pledged their backing, but Gantz, who leads a center-right alliance, remains more than a dozen seats short of the 61 seats he would need for a majority in the 120-seat Parliament. President Rivlin said he would try to avoid calling another election in a country that had already held two this year. If Benny Gantz also fails at forming a government, the Israeli Parliament could put forward a third candidate in a final bid to avoid another election.

The most recent Israeli Election saw Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party win 32 seats and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party 33. President Reuven Rivlin initially selected Netanyahu as the candidate with the best chance of successfully forming a coalition. Reacting to Netanyahu’s message, Blue and White said: “The time for spin is over and it’s now time for action.” Rivlin has suggested the two main parties form a national unity government. That arrangement could see Gantz as de facto prime minister, while Netanyahu holds onto the position in name only. Despite the prospect of a coalition government forming, most Israelis believe that a third election is the only way to break the ongoing political deadlock within the country.

4. In A Relatively Close Election, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wins Second Term

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one of the last remaining liberal world leaders, was re-elected this week by a narrow margin due to a fractured Conservative Party and lack of strong opposition political leaders.

In the Canadia elections held on October 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a second term as Canada’s leader, losing the majority but delivering unexpectedly strong results despite having been weakened by a series of scandals that tarnished his image as a liberal icon. Trudeau’s Liberal party took the most seats in Parliament, giving it the best chance to form a government. However, falling short of a majority meant the Liberals would have to rely on an opposition party to pass legislation. With results still trickling in, the Liberal Party had 156 seats, 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the 338-seat House of Commons. “Tonight Canadians rejected division and negativity. They rejected cuts and austerity. They elected a progressive agenda and strong action on climate change,” Prime Minister Trudeau said early on October 21. His address to supporters came, unusually, as his Conservative rival, Andrew Scheer, had just begun speaking to his own supporters, forcing networks to tear away from Scheer’s speech. But the prime minister struck a conciliatory note: “To those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you, we will govern for everyone,” Trudeau said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reasserted liberalism in 2015 after almost ten years of Conservative Party government in Canada, simply scandals combined with high expectations damaged his prospects. Perhaps sensing Trudeau was in trouble, former President Barack Obama made an unprecedented endorsement in urging Canadians to re-elect Trudeau and saying the world needs his progressive leadership now. Trudeau, son of the liberal icon and late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, is one of the few remaining progressive world leaders in the Trump era. On the other hand, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer is a career politician who was seen as a possible antidote to Trudeau’s persona, but it is now widely expected that he will resign from his position due to his party’s election loss. In his concession speech, Scheer said the results showed Trudeau was much weakened since his 2015 election. “Tonight Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” Scheer said. “And Mr. Trudeau when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready and we will win.” Trudeau also was hurt by a scandal that erupted this year when his former attorney general said he pressured her to halt the prosecution of a Quebec company. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the damage gave a boost to the Conservative Party.

Over the course of the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced immigration at a time when the US and other countries are closing their doors, and he legalized cannabis nationwide. His efforts to strike a balance on the environment and the economy have been criticized by both the right and left. He brought in a carbon tax to fight climate change but rescued a stalled pipeline expansion project to get Alberta’s oil to international markets. Trudeau also negotiated a new free trade deal for Canada with the US and Mexico amid threats by President Donald Trump to overturn the longstanding trade relationships between all three countries. President Trump, who has clashed with Trudeau over trade, environmental protection, immigration and many other political issues, Tweeted his congratulations early on October 21, saying, “Canada is well served” with Trudeau as its leader.

the author

Matt has been studying and analyzing politics at all levels since the 2004 Presidential Election. He writes about political trends and demographics, the role of the media in politics, comparative politics, political theory, and the domestic and international political economy. Matt is also interested in history, philosophy, comparative religion, and record collecting.

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