Here is a summary of the top 5 political issues making headlines this week.
1. Biden Repays Buttigieg for Helping Finish Off Bernie in the Primary
On Tuesday President-Elect Biden announced that he would be nominating 38 year old former rival Pete Buttigieg to be transportation secretary in his new administration. The decision to elevate this rather inexperienced individual, his only political experience has been as mayor of a town of roughly 100,000 people, may seem irresponsible however this nomination will serve two crucial political needs.
One, Buttigieg is largely seen as an up and coming politician in the Democratic Party in need of a greater platform as last year he went from a relative unknown to a serious candidate in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. The first openly gay candidate for president, Buttigieg is finding himself boxed out of future political office in his deeply conservative state of Indiana. He can’t mount a serious bid for governor or senator. As a result, Democratic power brokers have likely influenced Biden to name Buttigieg transportation secretary to give him a greater political platform should he want to pursue higher office in the future.
The other main reason for Buttigieg’s nomination is simply payback. Last winter Biden had been trailing Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination and needed moderate Democrats to rally around his campaign after a crucial win in the South Carolina primary.
In order for Biden to build on his momentum all of the other moderate candidates for the nomination needed to drop out and endorse him which, with the help of former President Obama, they did. Buttigieg and several other candidates dropped out of the race on March 1st and virtually overnight threw their support to Biden, solidifying Biden’s control over the race and propelling him to victory.
Many speculated that the last second endorsements of Buttigieg and other candidates came with promises of future positions in a Biden administration, which looks to be accurate.
While rather inexperienced, Buttigieg should fare well garnering enough votes for confirmation in the Senate as he is a political moderate and inoffensive to Republicans.
2. Surprise, Surprise: Fake Republican Steve Schmidt Finally Becomes a Democrat
After spending several years of criticizing President Donald Trump and Republican leaders, former Republican strategist and news pundit, Steve Schmidt publicly switched parties and registered as a Democrat. During a podcast on Tuesday Schmidt outlined his reasoning for switching his registration after nearly three decades as a Republican.
“I spent 29 years as a Republican, I’ve spent two and a half as an independent, and later this afternoon I will register as a member of the Democratic Party,” Schmidt told listeners. “Because in America today, it’s only the Democratic Party—which is the oldest political party in the world—that stands for the ideas and ideals of American liberty.”
While this may seem to be shocking at first, after all Schmidt was the campaign manager for Republican Senator John McCain’s presidential bid a little more than a decade ago, Schmidt had long been an outsider in the Republican party as it lurched toward nationalism and Trumpism. Perhaps ironically, it was Schmidt who suggested that McCain pick former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. Palin in turn proved to be a woefully unprepared Vice Presidential nominee and introduced many of the nationalistic rhetoric that Donald Trump would then co-opt years later in his successful run for the presidency.
While Schmidt might have fit in well in your father’s Republican party he failed to realize that Trumpism is here to stay in the GOP and moderates like him are no longer welcome. Schmidt has spent the last several years lambasting Trump and Republicans every chance he got.
During the 2020 election, Schmidt served as a co-founder of The Lincoln Project which is a political action committee made up by former Republicans trying to get Democrats elected.
3. Democrat Congressman and Former Presidential Candidate Embroiled in Chinese Spy Controversy
Last year California Congressman Eric Swalwell believed that his youth and Kennedy-esque good looks could propel him to the Democratic nomination for president. However, his campaign only lasted several weeks and he was out of the race shortly after it began. Now, Swalwell is embroiled in a scandal pertaining to his involvement with a woman who is believed to be a Chinese spy. Naturally, Republicans are eager to capitalize on the scandal by calling for his removal from the House Intelligence Committee.
Some of the details thus far have been hazy but this much is clear, for several years Congressman Swalwell has been in close contact with a Chinese Ministry of State Security Agent and spy by the name Christine Fang. Fang had been a political donor for Swalwell since 2014 and helped place an intern in his office.
Swalwell announced that he had severed contact with Fang after being alerted by federal authorities of her actions. However, Congressional Republicans are concerned he did not report his professional relationship with Fang while sitting on the very vital House Intelligence Committee.
Christine Fang has reportedly been forced to leave the county.
Thus far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not called for Swalwell to be removed from his committee post and has defended him publicly. However, it is clear that after several years of “Russian collusion” accusations made against the Trump administration that Republicans are not going to let this scandal quietly dissipate.
4. Biden Set to Inherit the Political Benefits of the Vaccine
The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the United States this week, a massive milestone in the collective battle against the deadly disease that has ravaged the globe. For months, pharmaceutical companies, medical researchers, the CDC and the FDA have been working tirelessly to produce several vaccines in order to protect Americans from the virus and get life back to a semblance of normalcy.
It could not have come at a better time for President-Elect Joe Biden.
The vaccine is the culmination of the work of “Operation Warpspeed”, a $12.8 billion public-private partnership that began under the current administration to accelerate and fast track the production and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The first successful distributions of the vaccine to first responders and medical staff are the result of this effort that will have massive political benefits for the Biden administration.
When Joe Biden takes office next month the nation and the world will be in the full swing of distributing the vaccine to millions of people. With a light at the end of the tunnel, markets and personal moods will rebound on the newly felt optimism echoing around the world. The benefits of Operation Warpspeed will likely lead to high approval numbers for the incoming president although it was not his administration that oversaw it.
The political timing and frankly good luck of this development may allow the new president to pursue grander political proposals should his approval numbers skyrocket thanks to his predecessor’s vaccine program.
b. Giving Trump credit for the vaccine is the best way for Biden to unite the country – The Washington Post
5. U.S. Government Hacked by Russian Operatives
While the Russian government has long tried to hack the election systems of the United States, with debatable success, it is clear that Russian operatives were recently able to hack several U.S. government agencies through third party security vendors. This represents the most recent cyber attack by the Russian government on the United States.
It was reported earlier this month that the Commerce Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the Treasury Department, the U.S. Postal Service and the National Institutes of Health were all hacked by Russian infiltrators in order to access U.S. networks.
The Russian government has formerly denied any wrongdoing.
The Russian hackers were able to gain access through third party network vendor SolarWinds, which is a computer monitoring product for several U.S. government agencies. It is unknown of the extent of the damage that was inflicted by this recent hack.
This story is developing.