יום שבת, 29 ביולי 2017

Is Donald Trump Funny?

Iranian-American comic Maz Jobrani talks about the future of jokes in the Trump era.

Comedy has always had a political edge, but never like this.

On late-night shows, in stand-up routines and scripted sitcoms, the opposition to President Donald Trump is more intense than a rally full of pink pussy hats. He’s an endless source of material for joke-writers, but also a five-alarm crisis, with barely a voice in mainstream or alternative comedy that isn’t against him. Punchlines morph into earnest manifestos about diversity or health care. The jokes and jeremiads give Trump opponents the release they need—never mind how they might alienate Trump supporters on the receiving end. And they drive Twitter rages from a president who once felt all publicity was good publicity—until he became pop culture’s No. 1 whipping boy.

Maz Jobrani, the stand-up comedian and actor, has been trying to channel his own experience hating and protesting Trump into his work. Marching at LAX against the travel ban becomes one bit. Arguing with his mother about her saying she likes that Trump speaks his mind becomes another. But it’s hard to be funny when you feel like your country is going to hell, and everything starts to sound more shrill than amusing.

“He has emboldened racists. I say that. There’s no joke. There’s no punch line,” Jobrani told me, in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “But I think if you do that, you better have a punch line coming soon.”

But he quotes a line from the comedian D.L. Hughley: “Comedy is like giving people their medicine in orange juice. They don’t taste it.”

Stephen Colbert, who since the election dropped the pretense of playing it down the middle in his new role at CBS, has turned non-stop mocking Trump into skyrocketing ratings. Jimmy Kimmel turned a monologue about Obamacare into what amounted to a viral ad denouncing Republicans’ perceived cruelty. “Weekend Update” is coming back early, ahead of the new season of “Saturday Night Live,” which will have Alec Baldwin back in his Trump wig, though Sean Spicer’s departure will probably mean fewer Melissa McCarthy cameos behind her rolling podium.

Appearing on Colbert’s show on Wednesday night, satirical filmmaker Michael Moore—a cartoon of the left himself who nonetheless predicted Trump would win last year—argued that McCarthy should get the credit for taking down Spicer. “We need an army of satire,” he said. A few minutes later, James Corden opened his CBS show following Colbert in a top hat and tux, singing a parody mocking Trump’s tweeted transgender ban for the military.

Jobrani knows it’s all deepening the chasm between conservatives and the entertainment world—but he doesn’t care.

“Trump supporters or people on the right, whenever I’ve done—even under Bush, when I would do jokes, they felt like I was attacking them. And I’m not attacking you, I’m attacking this politician,” he said. “If you’re going to take it personally, like it’s your—like I’m making fun of your mother, then that’s an issue you have.”

Jobrani says that people who can’t laugh at Trump are just too invested in the president, and not invested enough in the free speech and critical thinking that to him is the whole point of democracy. He’s heard the response that comes back: “‘Well, then, why don’t you make fun of Obama?’ Because he just didn’t do a lot of stuff that was funny to me.”

Jobrani arrived in America when he was six, on a visa he may or may not have overstayed illegally: His father brought him and his sister on what was supposed to be a two-week trip for their winter break in 1978, but decided in the face of the Iranian Revolution not to go back—on such short notice that they’d left his baby brother behind with relatives. He recorded his new comedy special out on Netflix next week, Immigrant, on stage at the Kennedy Center in April with a giant photo of his Iranian passport picture projected above him, inspired by his reaction to Trump.

Click here to subscribe to the full podcast, to hear the full conversation with Jobrani, including how he developed and exaggerated a comment from his mother about liking Trump into an extended routine and the reactions his comedy gets from fellow Iranians.

Raised near San Francisco, Jobrani was in a political science Ph.D. program at UCLA before dropping out for a performing career that started out with many roles as a terrorist. But it’s the stereotyping he’s seeing going on now, in real life, that has him worried.

“No matter how American I am—I’ve been here for most of my life—there are people that still don’t consider me American,” Jobrani said. “It’s like, OK, if you’re going after green card holders, what’s next?”

His routine about the travel ban centers around how differently he and other darker-skinned marchers at LAX in February reacted to the police, compared with the white people who were there. In his joke, everyone’s in it together, marching, chanting, yelling—until the police show up, and he says the white people got right in their faces, while he and the other non-white people in the crowd quietly edged away.

That feeling is real, he said, accentuated by a climate Trump has encouraged.

“I feel, somewhere in the back of my mind, I would feel like they could take my citizenship away, and send me back to Iran,” Jobrani said. “I honestly do feel that there is a thing in my mind that my rights could be taken away at any minute. And not just my rights; anybody’s rights.”

Jobrani has been profiled by casting agents and TSA agents alike, but he said he doesn’t mind how that’s played into his current big role. On the CBS sitcom “Superior Donuts,” the Iranian-born actor plays an Iraqi, and one with a much stronger accent in English than he has in real life. He asked the writers about making the character, a dry cleaner, Iranian, offering to bring knowledge and a little Farsi to the role, but they saw the humor in lines that referenced living through a war. He noted to them that the Iran-Iraq War could provide that material, but they told him they didn’t think most Americans would be familiar enough with that.

It’s an awkward fact that playing around with ethnic stereotypes has boosted Jobrani’s career, as with so many comedians of color. Does that make him uncomfortable? Not really, he insists—but he’s thought about comedian Aziz Ansari’s plea to non-white actors to avoid playing up their accents and other stereotypes (a big theme of Ansari’s first season of “Master of None”). Jobrani sees his Faz as in the tradition of Danny DeVito’s Louie DePalma on “Taxi” and Rhea Perlman’s Carla on “Cheers.”

“To have a character with an accent making people in middle America, or wherever it is, laugh, I actually think that’s progress, because whether he’s like, saying ludicrous stuff, or some of his stuff is like sexist or whatever, I still feel that we are taking a step in the right direction,” Jobrani said. “It reminds you that there are people—immigrants—that are just businessmen, that are going to say stuff that is ridiculous. But I think it’s a drop in this big pond that goes in the right direction.”

Others in Hollywood have pushed for more. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a recent speech at the Creative Artists Agency, urged the crowd to channel their frustration with Trump and what’s happening into scripts and other ways of shaping the popular imagination.

“I want them to know that they have power,” Schwarzenegger said in his own recent Off Message podcast interview. “If they go out and they rally and they go and let their frustration be heard and go and join a movement or whatever it is, be involved and don't just sit there and look at the news and look at the news and look at the television and then complain. That’s not good enough.”

Like most comedians, Jobrani has left most of the material recorded in his special behind and is working on new bits. He’s trying to tell jokes about being a father, about his son and daughter, but up on stage, it’s the political stuff that ends up getting most of the laughs in spite of his best efforts.

“Even though I’m not trying to do Trump jokes, I end up doing Trump jokes,” he sighed. “But I’m exhausted of Trump jokes.”

יום שישי, 28 ביולי 2017

Generals Love Him. Top Democrats Despise Him. Can He Be President Anyway?

Seth Moulton, the junior congressman from Massachusetts, has a war record that appeals to voters and makes opponents nervous.

On the morning of November 9, five hours after Hillary Clinton conceded, Seth Moulton’s closest political adviser called him with a suggestion.

“You should run for president in 2020,” Scott Ferson told the 38-year-old, second-term congressman from the North Shore of Massachusetts—one of the least liberal areas of the famously liberal state.

“That’s ridiculous,” Moulton said.

Ridiculous? “Donald Trump was just elected president,” Ferson said.

“Fair point,” Moulton said.

Moulton has three degrees from Harvard, and he did four difficult, decorated tours as a Marine in Iraq. But he’s still a neophyte in the House of Representatives, and in politics. This is the first office of any kind he’s ever held. In the wake, though, of last fall’s terrain-altering election, Ferson detected an opening. “This,” he told me, “is a moment in time where he is the exact right person to run for president.”

This conversation—reported here for the first time—is precisely the type of talk that’s currently causing disgusted eye-rolling among significantly more tenured Democrats in Massachusetts and Washington. They dismiss Moulton, albeit never for attribution, as gratingly ambitious, a grandstanding backbencher who has advocated for the ouster of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to make way for new, younger standard-bearers—like himself. They see Moulton’s message of country over party as not so much admirable as annoying. “It’s the supercilious, sanctimonious Oh, golly gee,” one longtime political observer of his district said of Moulton’s assertions of selflessness. Some of the opinions on Capitol Hill are even more scathing. “I don’t think I’ve seen a more opportunistic, duplicitous person serving in the House,” said a senior Democratic aide, blasting Moulton as somebody who talks bigger than he plays and who pillories Pelosi while almost always voting the same way. “He doesn’t do anything around here,” the aide said. Other members who are more supportive are reluctant to say so publicly—cautious about being seen as “giving him a bear hug,” as one Hill staffer put it, “while he’s knifing the leader.”

Every politician, of course, has enemies. But it’s Moulton’s allies who make him atypical—military leaders like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, experienced political minds like David Gergen. These people look at Moulton and see the face of the future of the Democratic Party, a social progressive who’s fiscally more moderate. They see somebody who could chip away at the intractable ideological conflict that is crippling this country and appeal to the sorts of voters who have turned away from the party. And these people don’t say this because of Moulton’s legislative accomplishments, which to this point are limited. They don’t say it because he has compared the president to Hitler and chastised him as “a serial liar” and “a draft dodger,” which does not make him unusual as a Democrat. They don’t even say it because of his position on Pelosi, which does. What excites his supporters the most is what Moulton did before he got to Washington—the four tours in Iraq over parts of five years, the two medals of valor, the special counterinsurgency team he served on that reported directly to Petraeus. In Moulton, they see the antithesis of Trump—a recipient of five Vietnam War draft deferments, considered by many to be the least service-oriented president ever.

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal (left) endorsed Rep. Seth Moulton (center) during Moulton's congressional bid in 2014. | Aram Bohosian

Moulton is hardly the first veteran to parlay military time into political promise—that one-two is as old as the country itself—but his service is more than simply a line on his résumé. It is the animating principle of his political identity, and it is a root of the reason he’s revered by some and disliked by others. Because if he’s a war hero, a characterization he says makes him cringe, he’s a complicated one. Part patriot and part rebel, Moulton in Iraq was committed to the war and also overtly critical of the way it was being waged—of the administration and the Congress that put him and his Marines there. And the more he fought, the bolder he got. Now, in Washington, a place that runs on fealty to tradition and deference to power, Moulton has planted himself in a familiar position—as an insider who’s an outsider, armed with intelligence and a self-assuredness that can border on self-importance, attacking the system from within.

“I don’t believe that I am the most-qualified person to do this, to lead this,” Moulton told me one morning this month, walking the halls of Capitol Hill, when I asked him about his contentious stance on Pelosi. “And I didn’t think I was the most talented Marine, but sometimes when, you know, we were in a situation in Iraq where someone needed to be a leader—and I was the only guy there. Or the only guy willing to do it. And I think that’s where we are right now.”

A generation younger than Pelosi and other party leaders struggling to find a new formula for electoral success, Moulton is not talking about yanking to the left or hewing more to the center—or much policy, period—so much as he’s stressing the philosophy of bipartisanship that undergirds the concept of national service. He has made himself the torchbearer of a crop of Democrats who are veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are ramping up to run for Congress in 2018, from New York to North Carolina, Texas to California. He recently got engaged to be married, and he proposed on the balcony of the office of Republican Paul Ryan, speaker of the House. The wedding is this fall, and the plan is to have on the guest list an even number of Republicans and Democrats from Congress. He’s still paying off student loans, and he’s still getting his health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs—facts he mentions often—and he has a book due out early next year. It’s called Called to Serve. All of this, depending on who’s doing the interpreting, is either calculated preparation for a run for higher office—unseating Ed Markey, the junior senator from Massachusetts, as some suspect, or Ferson’s go-for-broke bid for the White House—or simply the naturally occurring product of an uncommon combination of smarts, a sense of duty and a life story that could play well with a broad swath of the American population. What’s clear is that Moulton is not waiting for status or power bestowed by party bosses. He’s chasing something else.

“This is a man the Democrats ought to be recruiting and grooming for the White House,” said Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, another military man who’s become an enthusiastic Moulton advocate—a former chief of staff of Secretary of State Colin Powell and a former director of the United States Marine Corps War College who got to know Moulton by reading internal reports of his exploits in Iraq.

“I think Congress didn’t know what they were doing when they got us into Iraq,” Moulton told PBS Newshour in 2015. Above, Moulton is pictured on deployment in Iraq, then serving as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. | Courtesy of Lucian Reed

Now, outside, standing in the sun in front of the Library of Congress, I asked Moulton about the possibility.

He smiled.

“I’m not running for president, man,” he said.

Talking to people who know him, though, the conversations are different. Gergen likened Moulton to a young John F. Kennedy, whose mantra was “a new generation of leadership.” “I’m guilty of romanticizing Seth and his background,” he told me, “because I think he’s had a very brave and noble life.” He called the prospect of President Seth Moulton a "long shot" for now—but “tantalizing.” Tom Costin, the 91-year-old former mayor of Lynn, Massachusetts, was “very close” to JFK, he said, “but right now, Seth Moulton, with all he’s done, and his background, and his education—he’s farther along.” And when I reached Charles Ferguson, the Oscar-winning director of No End in Sight, a 2007 documentary on the invasion of Iraq in which Moulton played a featured role, Ferguson was frank about Moulton’s ambition. Based on discussions he had with Moulton over the course of years, Ferguson told me, Moulton has his eyes on the Oval Office. The only question is when he will run. “I am 100 percent certain that he intends to do that,” Ferguson said. “Unless there’s some very unexpected turn in the road, yes, he’s going to run for president.”


Seth Moulton is in Washington because he did something he wasn’t supposed to do: He challenged a nine-term incumbent. He ran against not only John Tierney—a reliably liberal vote for nearly 20 years, known as a workhorse, not a show horse—but essentially the leadership of the Democratic Party. Siding with Tierney were Pelosi, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the most prominent Massachusetts Democrats—from Elizabeth Warren in the Senate on down to the House. “I support incumbents unless they’re incarcerated,” Emily Cherniack, an informal Moulton adviser and the executive director of New Politics, said she was told by one seasoned Massachusetts politico. Joe Trippi, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, Howard Dean and others, was warned by establishment Democrats in Washington that he would “never eat lunch in this town again,” he said, if he went to work for Moulton. He did anyway. “This is exactly the kind of person we need in the party today,” Trippi said. Betsy Merry, a real estate agent in Salem, remembers introducing Moulton to people around town as “your next congressman,” she said, “and they would say, ‘There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell he’s going to beat John Tierney.” They weren’t far off. In March 2014, internal polling showed Moulton trailing Tierney by 54 points. Mark Mellman, the campaign’s pollster, told Moulton he might consider bowing out. Moulton heard the phrases “statistically impossible” and “no credible path”—and stayed in.

“Basically, he said, ‘Everybody’s told me it’s going to be really, really hard,’” Gergen recalled. “And he said, ‘It can’t be any harder than Iraq.’”

“I can’t remember many candidates who were in that situation and didn’t walk away,” Trippi said. “But Seth said, ‘I didn’t get into this thing to get out. … I’m going to go make my case.’ And he did.”

Moulton, photographed above in his office on Capitol Hill, believed that beating his nine-term incumbent opponent for the congressional seat couldn't "be any harder than Iraq."

At various stages of the campaign, Moulton called himself “a progressive Democrat,” “a pragmatic Democrat” and “a frustrated Democrat.” If his identity was still taking shape, his network of support from Andover and Harvard was more fully formed from the start. He brought in better than $350,000 in his first quarter ever as a candidate, and the figure rose from there. The crux of Moulton’s pitch: “I went, led my platoon and always ate last—after my Marines.” Personal sacrifice. “That really connected,” Ferson said.

That summer, though, with the primary some 60 days out, the outcome of his efforts was still very much in doubt. Moulton fired his campaign manager, shifting to highlight the heart of his appeal, installing a fellow Harvard graduate—and a fellow Marine, Jeff Phaneuf, 26, whose entire political experience was a three-month stint as Moulton’s driver. “I think,” Phaneuf told me, “a lot of people saw it as, ‘Well, Seth Moulton just threw his campaign away.’”

It’s not how Moulton saw it.

A mixture of old money and old factories, working waterfronts and struggling small cities, union halls and revitalizing downtowns, and with a strong presence of veterans throughout, Massachusetts’ 6th is almost a swing district by the standards of the state—a place in which Trump won 38.2 percent of the vote last fall, second only to the 41.8 percent he got on Cape Cod. To win the trust of its constituents, and then their votes, Moulton in 2014 acted as a kind of insurgent—cobbling together endorsements from lower-wattage local mayors, city councilors and area activists, presenting as a new voice and a fresh face. The pitch was generational more than political. He leaned on persona more than policies. “He had a life story,” said former Gloucester Mayor Bruce Tobey, “that grabbed me.”

“What’s needed in Washington,” Moulton told the Boston Globe, “is a sense of service, and you don’t have to be a veteran to have that. But I know all veterans have it.”

Gergen met Moulton when Moulton was a senior at Harvard. “He was serious, articulate and had a quiet passion about him,” Gergen said. And writing in the Globe five days before the primary about an up-and-coming crop of politically enterprising veterans, including Moulton, he acknowledged that people should be “willing to pay their dues. But if there is a bigger fear, it is the tendency of leaders of the political establishment, for all its talk about change, to cling to the status quo, giving too little help and encouragement to these young candidates trying to break through.” Gergen called out Warren for “reflexively” endorsing Tierney “with nary a tip of the hat to Moulton.”

But Moulton received endorsements from the Globe and also the more conservative Boston Herald—an almost unheard-of pairing—as well as McChrystal, the Army general who had led all forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010 before resigning over remarks critical of the administration in an article in Rolling Stone. He didn’t know Moulton from war—they met at an event at Harvard—and he had never endorsed a political candidate. For Moulton, though, he headlined a gathering at the Peabody Elks Lodge. “I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, I’m not an independent, I’m not any of that,” McChrystal told the crowd of a little more than 100 people, mostly veterans. This wasn’t about party politics, Moulton said. “I didn’t have a platoon of Democrats.”

A week before the primary, a poll showed Moulton behind Tierney by only 3 points. Tellingly, too, people thought Moulton had the better chance of winning in the general election against the waiting Republican, Richard Tisei, a moderate who had come surprisingly close to beating Tierney two years before. In the end, Moulton trounced Tierney by nearly 11 points. The victory party was at the VFW in Salem. Veterans staffed a cash bar.

The animus that exists between Moulton and powerful quarters of the Democratic Party today dates back to this initial race. It has been exacerbated by what he has said about Pelosi—whose daughter, Christine, was Tierney’s chief of staff, from 2001 to 2005. “Look, Leader Pelosi has achieved an awful lot,” Moulton told me in Washington. “But it’s time for a change. And the most important reason is that the American people are suffering because Democrats are not in power. We need to start winning again as Democrats. And maybe the attacks against her by the Republicans are unfair. Maybe the way that they tie candidates to Leader Pelosi and say she’s a San Francisco elitist … maybe that’s unfair. I think it is. I think that if you dive into the policy details she’s not nearly the extremist people make her out to be. But the reality is that we’re losing. And the American people out there are demanding a change.”

"American people are suffering because Democrats are not in power," Moulton said.
Moulton loyalists bristle when asked about this tension.“Why should Seth be a party guy?” said Jon Soltz, the chairman of VoteVets, a progressive organization that helps veterans run for office and supported Moulton’s 2014 campaign. “They didn’t help him”—at least not until he dispatched Tierney, at which point most of the high-profile Tierney endorsers and the DCCC flipped to assist Moulton with money, staff and time. “The D-trip sent people up to Boston to beat him—and we were saving them from a seat they would’ve lost!” Soltz said. Moulton unsettled them, he said, because he didn’t need them. “He had donors that weren’t on their team. He brought new donors to the fight.” And it’s still true, he said. “He’s not beholden to them.” He ran unopposed in 2016.

Back in September 2014, though, Moulton’s victory over Tierney made the general election practically anticlimactic. The Tisei campaign had been preparing to run against Tierney—with some of the staff hoping to run against Tierney. Moulton was, they thought, a rough-edged rookie, an oddly ill-at-ease physical presence and an uninspiring orator. Privately, Moulton’s own advisers didn’t disagree. He didn’t ooze empathy. He could be gruff. He had a lot to learn. But they suspected he could overcome all of this with his extraordinary biography.

Tisei staff scanned the long list of Moulton’s pre-politics media appearances, looking for ammunition, finding none. Moulton had been on CNN in November 2001 after he emailed Greta Van Susteren. “We have to be courageous and committed, just like the terrorists,” he told her. Moulton was the archetype of the scholar-soldier journalists love—educated, articulate, equally at home in the home of a tribal leader or an Ivy League lecture hall. NPR reporters had located him repeatedly in Iraq. In 2003, the Globe wrote about him twice—including an article that opened with Moulton at home on leave sitting at his parents’ piano playing Bach. In congressional testimony, meanwhile, military brass had talked about Moulton reverentially. “He is the model of the exceptionally intelligent, combat-tested and culturally savvy officer,” a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School said in 2005. In 2008, Wilkerson, the former Powell chief of staff, called Moulton “one of my heroes.” And in 2011, in Time, Joe Klein had written about Moulton in a long story headlined “The New Greatest Generation.”

That fall, Tisei tried to paint Moulton as a Wall Street elitist propped up by an array of rich supporters from his ultra-exclusive alma maters, but this strategy suffered after an investigative reporter from the Globe published a report two and a half weeks before the election saying military records revealed that Moulton had won two medals for valor. To earn the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation and the Bronze Star, Moulton had “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire”—and then hadn’t talked about it. In the campaign, only Phaneuf knew about the medals. Mellman didn’t know. Trippi didn’t know. Moulton’s parents didn’t know. “There’s a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories,” Moulton said at the time. He asked the Globe to please not describe him as a “hero.”

“That bastard,” said a Massachusetts Republican strategist familiar with the race. “He built the most perfect résumé of all time.”


The first meeting I had with Moulton was earlier this summer in Salem, Massachusetts, at the Ugly Mug Diner. He sat down for lunch and ordered a milk.

“Milk?” I said.

“I love milk,” Moulton said. “I always drink milk.”

He told me he used to down seven glasses a day in grad school. Now he just has it with every meal if he can. Moulton drank the milk and ate a tuna melt and outlined the beginnings of his “perfect résumé.”

He grew up in Marblehead, a picturesque, upper-middle-class coastal town steeped in Revolutionary War lore. The oldest of three children of a real estate lawyer and a hospital secretary—staunch liberals who protested the Vietnam War as students at Brown University—Moulton as a boy watched a Marine land a helicopter in the field where he played soccer. “You’re so lucky,” Moulton told the Marine. “I’m not lucky,” the Marine told Moulton. “I’m good.” Moulton, serious-minded even early on, checked out from the public library nothing but nonfiction, according to his mother, mostly how-to-books. He wired his house to create an intercom system through which he could talk from his bedroom to his parents downstairs and later built from scratch a sprinkler system in their yard. On a family ski trip, he told his sister she wasn’t pushing herself hard enough if she didn’t fall at least once every seven trips down the mountain. She was 7 years old.

At Andover, where the motto is non sibi, or not for self, Moulton was one of two sports editors for the weekly student newspaper, the Phillipian. He worked late on nights before it went to print, when his peers were ready to go study or sleep, and on sections that weren’t even his own. He was understated to the point of shy, “one of the least self-promotional people I knew,” said his friend, Sam Goodyear, but he had a reputation for being exacting and fastidious. He was respected for that, but some found it irksome at times. “He didn’t suffer fools or sloppy work,” said the other sports editor, Owen Tripp. Moulton was the captain of the varsity crew team and sat in the stroke seat for three years. “The guy in the stroke seat,” said Pete Washburn, Moulton’s crew coach, “is the one who sets the cadence, and everybody else has to follow.” Moulton, said Jeff Herzog, the coxswain on the team, was steady as “a metronome.” The stroke doesn’t have to be the best, biggest or strongest oarsman, Washburn said, but he does have to possess a certain mettle when the boat is behind. He needs to be able to keep his form and his head when it’s hard. At graduation, Moulton merited “special mention for distinguished scholarship” in chemistry, math and physics. In the 1997 Andover yearbook, he picked a Shakespeare quote: “To thine own self be true.”

Moulton grew up attending both Catholic and Protestant mass with his family and today attends a historically liberal Protestant church.

In the fall of his freshman year in college, he walked into Memorial Church in Harvard Yard and met the Reverend Peter Gomes, who would become the most influential person in Moulton’s life. Moulton’s father is Catholic and his mother is Protestant. He and his brother and sister went to both kinds of churches growing up. Even though he’s “not super-religious,” he now attends Marblehead’s Old North Church, affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a historically liberal Protestant denomination that emphasizes local autonomy and a personal relationship with God. In the short time he lived as an adult in Texas, he attended Highland Park United Methodist Church, which used to be George W. Bush’s church, he noted to me. But back in college, what he was looking for from Memorial Church wasn’t religion per se. Harvard’s Gomes, a gay, black registered Republican for most of his life who participated in the inaugurations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, preached humility, hope and grace—and, above all else, service. He and Moulton, Gomes later would write, had “many conversations about the large questions of value, virtue, worth, and vocation.” “Reverend Gomes,” said Liz Boardman, Moulton’s Georgetown- and Harvard-educated fiancée, “put a hand on Seth’s shoulder and guided him.” Inside Memorial Church, Moulton often looked at the long list of Harvard graduates who died in World War I and the long list of Harvard graduates who died in World War II and then the considerably shorter list of Harvard graduates who died in Vietnam. And he committed to memory the quote from former Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell that wraps around the walls in the foyer: “While a bright future beckoned they freely gave their lives and fondest hopes for us and our allies that we might learn from their courage in peace to spend our lives making a better world for others.”

It’s a lot to think about, Moulton told me at the Ugly Mug, but the main takeaway for him was this: “We ought to not just celebrate what they did but recognize it as a call to action ourselves.”

In May of his senior year of college, Moulton made the decision to join the Marines. His parents did not approve. “There was no career choice he could have made that would have made me more unhappy, except if he had chosen a life of crime,” his mother would say later. Moulton’s friends were puzzled, too. “Why would you do that?” they asked. One friend said he was going into investment banking because it was “a different kind of public service.” Another friend told Moulton going into the military was “fucking stupid.”

In June, Moulton was one of three student speakers at the commencement of Harvard’s Class of 2001. He said his generation was “undeservingly triumphant in our lives fraught with success” and living in a world “dominated by contentment, and threatened by mediocrity.” He challenged them to attempt to achieve “greatness.” “Greatness,” he said in his five-minute speech, “is accomplishing the unrequired—doing what is right beyond what is expected. … [I]t takes people who are bold and courageous, people who are willing to take extraordinary steps to an uncertain future.” Gomes was so struck by what Moulton said that he wrote about it the next year in the first chapter of a book he titled The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need.

“When I started listening to Reverend Gomes and his message of service,” Moulton explained at the Ugly Mug, “I was not able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done a lot.’ I would look back and say, ‘God, I’ve benefited from other people’s service.’ … And what have I done? What have I done to give back?’” He considered the Peace Corps. He considered teaching abroad.

“But at the end of the day,” he said, “I just had so much respect for these 18- and 19-year-old kids who put their lives on the line for our country. And that’s also why I wanted to be in the infantry. If I was going in because of those guys, I didn’t ever want to be riding around in a tank when some 18-year-old kid, younger than me by that point, was slogging through the mud next to me. I don’t know. I just feel that to my core, like, um …”

Tears welled in his eyes.

“I’m just, I’m just—there’s nothing I’m more proud of in my whole life than serving with those guys,” he said. “Of being a grunt.”

He picked up a paper napkin and wiped his face.


Moulton says he would not be in Congress if not for his time in the Marine Corps, if not for the specific war in which he served, and if not for the way that war was mismanaged.

The first time he went to Iraq in early 2003, he was at 24 years old the commander of the 2nd Platoon of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, fighting north from the Kuwait border. That April, in Baghdad, according to military records I reviewed, he rushed to the aid of one of his men who was critically wounded by friendly artillery fire—despite a threat of another barrage directed at the same target. This is what he won the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for. “Without regard for his personal safety,” says the citation.

The second time he went to Iraq, he led his platoon and allied Iraqi soldiers in the Battle of Najaf against the Mahdi militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. For 22 days in August 2004, in fierce urban combat, and with little sleep, water or food, and in temperatures that reached 135 degrees, according to military records, Moulton coordinated tank attacks, counter-sniper operations and perilous fighting in a cemetery swarming with machine-gunning, mortar-firing insurgents. From there, his platoon continued into the city, besieging a Mahdi-controlled shrine and buildings in which militants rolled grenades and sprayed bullets down stairs. This is what he won the Bronze Star for. “Continually exposed himself to enemy fire,” says the citation.

In Moulton’s third and fourth tours, he worked directly for Petraeus, who had first spotted Moulton at a briefing in Najaf. “I thought, ‘Man, this guy is sharp,’” said Petraeus, whose focus on counterinsurgency tactics is widely credited with stabilizing Iraq, when we talked this month. “And he was forthright. He wasn’t pulling any punches.” He worked for Petraeus in 2005 and then in 2007 and 2008—after he had been off active duty and could have stayed stateside. But he and two other handpicked Marines returned to a country that had become a hornet’s nest of sectarian strife. Living in remote, bare-bones buildings spray-painted with warnings of “Americans Go Home,” Moulton was tasked with getting different tribal heads to work together, to persuade Iraqis to fight rebels instead of joining them. Along with Alex Lemons and Ann Gildroy Fox, the other two members of Petraeus’ select “Team Phoenix,” Moulton’s efforts frequently consisted of day-and-night, door-to-door foot patrol—face-to-face diplomacy rather than sheer force. “You can’t kill or capture yourself out of an industrial-strength insurgency. You have to try to get them on your side. You have to serve where they live,” Petraeus explained to me. “And I needed him to show that was viable, and survivable.” How to earn their trust? “We traveled alone with Iraqis, sometimes in very soft vehicles, to demonstrate our willingness to lose our lives with them,” Fox said. “When you put yourself in these vulnerable positions, it shows people you believe in what you’re doing. And he did that all the time.”

“There was no career choice he could have made that would have made me more unhappy, except if he had chosen a life of crime,” Moulton's mother said about his decision to join the Marines. Above, Moulton is photographed on deployment in Najaf, Iraq. | Courtesy of Lucian Reed

Moulton had a way about him, though, that rankled “a lot of people with a lot of rank on the collar,” as Fox put it. “There were times,” Petraeus acknowledged, “when he got crosswise with people.” Years after the late nights in the office of the Phillipian at Andover, and years before he would ruffle feathers on Capitol Hill, Moulton in Iraq could present as confident or cocky, impressive or insufferable. “The Iraqis that we worked with, high-ranking, low-ranking, they absolutely loved Seth,” Fox said. “It was our own establishment that would stand in his way and work within the system to get accolades or credit for themselves to promote their careers. And Seth just blew right through them.”

Moulton became less and less hesitant about voicing his opinions, even if they were unpopular. While supporting the mission, he criticized the methods. And he questioned the commitment of the United States as a whole—of the majority of its citizens, who weren’t serving and sacrificing the way he was. By late August 2004, toward the end of the Battle of Najaf, he hinted at his dissatisfaction in an interview with a radio reporter. Back in the U.S., President Bush had stood in front of a banner that said “Mission Accomplished,” some 15 months before—and here was Moulton, in the midst of the most ferocious combat he had experienced. “We will do whatever our commander in chief tells us to do and will go to the ends of the earth for him,” Moulton said on NPR—before suggesting he wouldn’t be supporting Bush that November in his reelection campaign against John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran. “There’s one thing that he can’t order us to do, and that’s how to vote in November.”

Military Service in the 115th Congress

The number of military men and women serving in Congress is currently at an all-time low.


Dan Sullivan (R-AK) – Marine Corps, 1993-1997; Marine Corps Reserve, (1997-present)
Tom Cotton (R-AR) – Army, 2004-2009
John McCain (R-AZ) – Navy, 1958-1981
Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) – Marine Corps Reserve, 1970-1975
Tom Carper (D-DE) – Navy, 1968-1973; Navy Reserve, 1973-1992
William Nelson (D-FL) – Army, 1968-1970; Army Reserve, 1965-1968 and 1970-1971
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) – Georgia Air Guard, 1966-1972
Joni Ernst (R-IA) – Iowa Army Guard, 2001-2015; Army Reserve, 1993-2001; Kuwait, 2003-2004
Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) – Illinois Army Guard, 1996-2014
Todd Young (R-IN) – Navy, 1990-1991; Marine Corps, 1995-2000
Pat Roberts (R-KS) – Marine Corps, 1958-1962
Ed Markey (D-MA) – Army Reserve, 1968-1973
Gary Peters (D-MI) – Navy Reserve, Persian Gulf (Operation Southern Watch) 1993-2005
Thad Cochran (R-MS) – Navy, 1959-1961
Roger Wicker (R-MS) – Air Force, 1976-1980; Air Force Reserve, 1980-2004
James M. Inhofe (R-OK) – Army, 1957-1958
Jack Reed (D-RI) – Army, 1971-1979; Army Reserve, 1979-1991
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – Air Force, 1982-1988, 1990; South Carolina Air Guard, 1989-1994; Air Force Reserve, 1995-2015
Mike Enzi (R-WY) – Wyoming Air Guard, 1967-1973


Steve Womack (R-AR) – Arkansas Army Guard, 1979-2009
Don Young (R-AK) – Army, 1955-1957
Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (R-AR) – Army, 1985-1989
Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) – Marine Corps, 2000-2006
Martha McSally (R-AZ) – Air Force, 1988-2010
Salud O. Carbajal (D-CA) – Marine Corps Reserve, 1984-1992
Stephen Knight (R-CA) – Army, 1985-1987; Army Reserve, 1987-1993
Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) – Navy Reserve, 2003-2011
Mike Thompson (D-CA) – Army, 1969-1972
Duncan Hunter (R-CA) – Marine Corps, 2001-2005; Marine Corps Reserve, 2005–present
Paul Cook (R-CA) – Marine Corps, 1966-1992
Darrell Issa (R-CA) – Army, 1970-1980
Jeff Denham (R-CA) – Air Force, 1984-1988; Air Force Reserve 1988-2000
Ted Lieu (D-CA) – Air Force, 1995-1999; Air Force Reserve, 2000-present
Mike Coffman (R-CO) – Army, 1972–1979; Marine Corps, 1979–1994; Iraq 2005–2006
Ron DeSantis(R-FL) – Navy and Navy Reserve, 2005-present
Neal Dunn (R-FL) – Army Reserve, 1974-1979; Army 1979-1990
Brian Mast (R-FL) – Army, 2000-2012
Vern Buchanan (R-FL) – Michigan Air Guard, 1970-1976
Thomas Rooney (R-FL) – Army, 2000-2004; Army Reserve, 2004-2008
Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) – Air Force, 1984-1992
Doug Collins (R-GA) – Air Force Reserve, 2007-present
Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA) – Army, 1969-1971
Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) – Hawaii Army Guard, 2003-present
Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) – Army, 1963-1968
John Shimkus (R-IL) – Army, 1980-1985; Army Reserve 1985-2008
Mike Bost (R-IL) – Marine Corps, 1979-1982
Jim Banks (R-IN) – Navy Reserve, 2012-present
Larry Bucshon (R-IN) – Navy Reserve, 1989-1998
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) – Illinois and Wisconsin Air Guard 2003-present
Roger Marshall (R-KS) – Army Reserve, 1984-1991
Harold Rogers (R-KY) – Kentucky and North Carolina Army Guard, 1957-1964
Brett Guthrie (R-KY) – Army, 1987-1990; Army Reserve 1990-2000
Ralph Lee Abraham (R-LA) –Mississippi Army Guard, 1986-1989
Clay Higgins (R-LA) – Louisiana Army Guard, 1988-1992; Reserve, 1994-1996
Seth Moulton (D-MA) – Marine Corps, 2002-2008
Anthony G. Brown (D-MD) – Army and Army Reserve, 1989-2014
Andy Harris (R-MD) – Navy Reserve, 1988-1990, 1991-2010; Navy active duty 1990-1991
Jack Bergman (R-MI) – Marine Corps, 1969-2009
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) – Michigan Army Guard, 1948-1950; Army and Army Corps of Engineers, 1950-1954; Army Reserve, 1954-1957
Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) – North Dakota Army Guard, 1963-1969
Timothy J. Walz (D-MN) – Minnesota and Nebraska Army Guard, 1981-2005
Trent Kelly (R-MS) – Mississippi Army Guard, 1986-present
Steven M. Palazzo (R-MS) – Marine Corps Reserve, 1989–1996; Mississippi Army Guard, 1997-present
Walter Jones (R-NC) – North Carolina Army Guard, 1967-1971
Don Bacon (R-NE) – Air Force, 1985-2014
Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) – Army, 1961-1962; Army Reserve 1962-1967
Stevan Pearce (R-NM) – Air Force, 1970-1976
Gregorio K.C. Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands) – Army Reserve, 1981-1986
Mark E. Amodei (R-NV) – Army (Lawyer, Judge Advocate General Corps), 1983-1987
José E. Serrano (D-NY) – Army Medical Corps, 1964–1966
Lee M. Zeldin (R-NY) – Army, 2003-2007; Army Reserve, 2007-present
Peter T. King (R-NY) – New York Army Guard, 1968-1973
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) – Army, 1969-1971
Steve Stivers (R-OH) – Ohio Army Guard, 1985-present
Brad R. Wenstrup (R-OH) – Army Reserve, 1998-present
Warren Davidson (R-OH) – Army, 1988-1991 and 1995-2000; West Point 1991-1995
Bill Johnson (R-OH) – Air Force, 1973-1999
Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) – Navy 1998-2007; Navy Reserve, 2010-present
Steve Russell (R-OK) – Army, 1985-2006
Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR) – Air Force, 1967-1971
Tim Murphy (R-PA) – Navy Reserve Medical Service Corps, 2009-present
Scott Perry (R-PA) – Pennsylvania Army Guard, 1980-present
Joe Wilson (R-SC) – Army Reserve, 1972-1975; South Carolina Army Guard Reserve, 1975-2003
Mark Sanford (R-SC) – Air Force Reserve, 2003-2011
John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) – Tennessee Army Guard and Army Reserve, 1970-1987
David P. Roe (R-TN) – Army Medical Corps, 1973-1974
Ted Poe (R-TX) – Air Force Reserve, 1970-1976
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) – Army, 1978-1982
Sam Johnson (R-TX) – Air Force, 1950-1979
Brian Babin (R-TX) – Texas Army Guard, 1969-1971; Army Reserve, 1971-1975; Air Force, 1976-1979
K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) – Army, 1970-1972
Pete Olson (R-TX) – Navy 1989-1998; Navy Individual Ready Reserve 1998-2008
Chris Stewart (R-UT) – Air Force, 1984–1998
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) – Army Reserve, 1970 – 1974; Massachusetts Army Guard 1974-1976
Scott Taylor (R-VA) – Navy, 1997-2005
David G. Reichert (R-WA) – Air Force Reserve, 1971-1976
Mike Gallagher (R-WI) – Marine Corps, 2006-2013

Sources: Member's offices; The Almanac of American Politics, 2016; Ballotpedia

In 2006, in between his third and fourth tours, Moulton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times. The situation in Iraq was deteriorating, and militias were spreading, because American troops were retreating—“as advocated by several members of Congress,” he said. And too many of the troops who were there, he argued, weren’t being used properly. “We can’t win this war from the Burger Kings and rec centers of our biggest bases,” he wrote.

And by 2007, in No End in Sight, the documentary by Ferguson, Moulton let loose.

He criticized the lack of planning and foresight of the politicians who used their power to put him there. “After the fall of Baghdad, we had no idea what really was going to happen, and there certainly didn’t seem to be much of a plan,” he said. “Personally, I feel the war would be going differently if you had, um, leadership that really understood, No. 1, what it’s like to be on the ground, had actually served in the armed forces—and, No. 2, really had a good managerial grasp of making this thing work.” He lambasted the dispiriting lack of armored Humvees and “short-sighted” civilian contractors—people who were there, after all, only because there weren’t enough actual troops.

Ferguson gave him the last word of the film.

“And are you telling me that’s the best America can do?” said a stern-faced Moulton. “No. Don’t tell me that. Don’t tell the Marines who fought for a month in Najaf that. Don’t tell the Marines who are still fighting every day in Fallujah that that’s the best America can do.” Moulton shook his head. His chin quivered. “That makes me angry,” he said. The screen went black.

The premiere of No End in Sight was at the Sundance festival in Park City, Utah, where a mostly liberal crowd of some 1,500 gave it a standing ovation. Ferguson walked to the front of the auditorium. He introduced the people from the film who were present. “And when I introduced Seth, there was just this thunderous applause. It was astounding,” Ferguson told me this month. “That’s the first time I thought, ‘Hmm, this is a guy who could end up going someplace in public office.’”

There is a story that has congealed around Moulton that goes like this: He was working as the managing director of the Texas Central Railway, trying to develop high-speed rail between Dallas and Houston, when Gergen mentioned him at a donor breakfast in Boston, and Cherniack and Ferson were there, and they were intrigued and called him and urged him to move back and run for Congress—and that this was the first time he had considered the idea. All of that is true—except the part about how he hadn’t thought about it before. In 2004, in Najaf, fighting in that cemetery, losing Marines, one of his men told him, “You know, Sir, you ought to run for Congress someday so that this shit doesn’t happen again,” Moulton would say more than a decade later. And in early 2008, Moulton and Lemons and some other Marines were making frozen hamburgers on the roof of their barracks in southern Iraq, talking about exit plans. Moulton was going back to Harvard, pursuing graduate degrees at the business school and the Kennedy School of Government. After that, though, he might run for Congress, he said.

“Seth said, ‘Guys, I don’t want this to happen to the next generation of guys in the Marine Corps,’” Lemons told me—sent to a war that shouldn’t have been started and wasn’t run right once it was. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I get this. I could see you doing this.’”

Lemons’ voice crackled with conviction. “Many people who had power to speak up didn’t,” he said. “And it led to disastrous consequences.”


He’s not like that, not like the people with power who don’t say what needs to be said, Moulton was telling me now. We were in the back seat of a Honda Accord. A staffer was driving him from Salem to Ipswich for a roundtable with local business executives.

“I genuinely believe that Congress would be better and more effective if we had more service-oriented people in Congress, because I think that a lot of my colleagues—you know, many of whom I love and respect—make pretty self-interested, politically self-interested decisions, when they decide how to vote on things and what policies to support or whom to support in campaigns,” he said. “Anecdotally, I have found that newer members of Congress, younger members of Congress, and especially veterans in Congress, just tend to be more more bipartisan, tend to be willing to rise above the party rhetoric and say, ‘I don’t care what the Democratic position is or the Republican position is on this issue—like, I just want to do what’s right for the country.’

“Because there are a lot of members of Congress who know what the right thing to do is,” he said, “and yet they just get scared and vote the way that they are expected to vote politically.”

Moulton then told me a story about an experience at Officer Candidate School, in Quantico, Virginia. Before Moulton and the other aspiring Marine officers ran through mud and up and down hills with a long, heavy log on their shoulders, the platoon commander asked them about the first rule of this exercise. “Safety,” they said. Wrong. “If safety was the first rule,” the commander shot back, “we wouldn’t be running through a swamp with a log on our shoulders.” The first rule of the log run was teamwork. And the only objective was accomplishing the mission.

Vice President Joe Biden (left) and Moulton shake hands. | Courtesy of Rep. Seth Moulton’s Office

It should be the same way in Congress, Moulton said. “Self-preservation shouldn’t be the first instinct in politics. It should be doing the right thing for the country. That’s why you’re fucking there.”

Sitting in the Accord, on the winding roads of the North Shore, listening to Moulton call his colleagues in Congress “self-interested” and “scared,” I practically could hear the tut-tutting from down in D.C. “Not well-liked.” “Looks out for himself.” “Pompous.” And so ambitious—even by the standards of a city in which ambition is lifeblood. Moulton’s anonymous detractors cite the effusive thank-you note he wrote Pelosi last year, according to reporting in the Globe last month, as evidence of his two-facedness—one posture when nearly everybody expected the Democrats to keep the White House and win back the House of Representatives, and then the opposite when that didn’t happen. Moulton defended what he had written to Pelosi as standard civility. But his critics saw the latest part of a pattern. They point to his brief time with the railroad in Texas and with a health care startup in Massachusetts as quick-hit résumé-padders. They surmise he moved not to his hometown but to Salem—where he lives in a brick condominium just off the central common—because it would have been harder to appeal to the district’s blue-collar voters with an upper-crust Marblehead address. They say his signature achievement, the bipartisan “Faster Care for Veterans Act of 2016”—which hangs on the wall of his office in Washington, under a set of oars from crew—was an obvious, easy legislative “layup.” He doesn’t even want to put himself out there and actually run to take Pelosi’s place, either, they grumble—he just wants her to step aside. And to the senior Democratic aide who sees him as “duplicitous,” the idea of Moulton running for president is “preposterous.” “You can’t just run on the fact that you have a bunch of degrees from Harvard and you served in the military,” the aide said.

Moulton’s advocates insist these people on Capitol Hill have pegged him wrong.

“Washington missed it the first time,” said Trippi, referring to the 2014 race, “and they may be missing it again. … And I think one of the reasons they keep misreading him is that he really is different. He’s not the politically calculated guy that a lot of them are.”

How, ask Gergen, Petraeus and McChrystal, can Moulton be stamped as some rank opportunist, when he went to Iraq four times—including after his active-duty obligation was over? “If you’re just checking a box,” McChrystal said, “there are easier ways to do it.”

And the idea that he would run for president, said Ferson, his adviser who made the call on November 9, “is no more ridiculous than me asking to meet him to urge him to run against an incumbent congressman in Massachusetts—but that’s what we did.”

The eight Moulton-endorsed Democratic veterans who are running for Congress consider him a mentor and a model for what they’re trying to do, which is unsurprising. But Moulton does have allies, too, who are already in the House, and in both parties.

“He has a moral compass,” Republican Representative Will Hurd of Texas told me, “where he’s willing to do what’s right over what’s political.”

“I love the guy,” said Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, another of the leading anti-Pelosi Democrats. “He’s the kind of guy we need to have around, pushing us to think differently about things, whether you agree with him or not.”

“Some of the most controversial things I’ve said about President Trump, I’ve heard from Republicans,” says Moulton. |

In the Accord, nearing Ipswich, I asked Moulton whether he thinks he can get away with saying what he says—about Trump, about Pelosi, about his colleagues, all the way back to what he said about the war—because he served the country when so many Americans did not. When so many members of Congress did not.

“No—because I think everybody can get away with the truth,” he said.

“Some of the most controversial things I’ve said about President Trump, I’ve heard from Republicans,” he continued. “But it’s just that I’ve heard them in the locker room. That’s what people actually talk about in the locker room—how terrible our president is.”

The car pulled into the parking lot. He asked the staffer to pull up and out of view so he could put on his tie.

“We all know that Leader Pelosi has a lot of allies, right?” Moulton said. “Do you know how many of them have come up to me and said, ‘Stop doing what you’re doing’? Exactly zero. Do you know how many people who even voted for her”—in last fall’s caucus tally—“have come up to me and checked to make sure no one’s listening and then patted me on the back and said, ‘Keep it up’? And that’s not because I came up with some brilliant idea that we need new leadership. All I did was just say publicly what everybody else is saying privately, and stand by it, and defend it. ... I’m no genius for thinking we need new Democratic leadership. I mean, I hear that back home all the time. So I think the point here is that we just need more people in Washington to speak the truth.”

Moulton pivoted to the president. “When people say Donald Trump ‘tells it like it is,’ it’s a crooked way to get at the same thing,” he said. “Like, they’re so anxious for somebody who will just be honest as a politician that they voted for a guy who’s absolutely dishonest but he just says things in a sort of, quote-unquote ‘real’ way. Right? That’s what people are yearning for. ... Of course, you should expect your leaders to tell the truth. When I went through [Officer Candidate School], you could fail a test, you could fail an academic test, an athletic test—like, they give you a second shot. But if you lied about anything, you were gone immediately. Pack your bags and you’re out. And by the way, when you fail out of OCS, you don’t go in to be an enlisted Marine—you just go home. Like, that’s how important integrity is. And so we just need more of that. And people in America know that.”

Tie tied, Moulton opened the door, stepped out of the car and started shaking hands.

Week 10: Donald Trump, Lion King

Aude Guerrucci

The president plays with his food.

Our leonine president spent the week pawing and poking his downed prey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, licking the little man’s fur in great slurps with appetite-whetting tweets as he dillydallied about delivering the death bite and devouring his catch.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted on July 25. “Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend,” Donald Trump tweeted in a damning two-parter the next day. “I am disappointed in the attorney general. He should not have recused himself,” the president said at a news conference a couple of hours later.

Was it human sadism at work, an indication of how frustrated Trump has become at blunting the investigation into the scandal with no name? Or was it just Trump obeying the law of the savanna, which dictates that the strongest, largest cat with the most tufted mane and the most prolific seed shall dominate the pride at his leisure? According to Newt Gingrich, another subservient member of the Trump pride, the president doesn’t like to deliver the dispatching blow himself. “I think Donald Trump doesn’t like to fire people, period,” Gingrich told Fox News on July 25. Trump’s squeamishness about sacking people and his insistence that others do the deed has been long acknowledged, most saliently by my colleague Michael Kruse. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman asked two Trump insiders why he insisted on toying with his attorney general. “Because he can,” both said.

Trump prefers the suicide of resignation—provoked by nonstop, continued public humiliation—over actually sacking staffers. The younger lions in the Trump pride, watching from the short grasses, have taken to mimicking their leader’s displays of dominance. Anthony Scaramucci (who will first dare call him “Scar”?) has been playing a slightly less effective game of catch-torture-and-release, catch-torture-and-release, with his quarry, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Scaramucci used Twitter to threaten Priebus with an FBI and Department of Justice investigation, then deleted the tweet, denying Priebus would be targeted. In a profanity-laced conversation with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, Scaramucci made the vulgar Trump sound like a parson in comparison. He both promised bulk firings at the White House and used so many expletives to describe chief strategist Steve Bannon and others that newspapers and cable-news chyrons exhausted their hyphen stockpiles as they attempted to censor him. Scaramucci also accused Priebus of “cock-blocking” him—a new one to me, requiring a visit to the Urban Dictionary. I hope Mooch meant it metaphorically.

His hairdo matted with lion spittle, Sessions temporarily escaped to El Salvador for a photo-op about deporting MS-13’s bad hombres. He quivered like a baby wildebeest suffering PTSD when Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson caught up with him to inquire about the president’s scolding. Trump’s steady disparagement was “kind of hurtful,” a humbled Sessions squeaked, “but the president of the United States is a strong leader.” Beyond saying his decision to recuse himself from the Russia business was the correct one, Sessions offered nothing that would provoke renewed Trump attacks.

The Sessions and Scaramucci dramatics muted any news about the slow-moving investigation in Russian meddling into the 2016 election, of which there was very little this week. The leader of the pride’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, gave closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill in an attempt to untangle himself from the scandal. He told cameras afterward that he had never colluded with the Russians. What then, pray tell, was that Trump Tower meeting with four Russians, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort in which Russian kompromat to “incriminate” Hillary Clinton was on offer? So boring, he arrived late and sought an excuse to leave early, Kushner said in a statement.

Lost in the week’s histrionics was an NBC News piece sourced to the Department of Justice that connected former Trump campaign boss Manafort to an “upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime,” a connection Manafort denied. The Guardian made a similar effort to link Russian money to the Kushner real estate empire. At the Atlantic, Julia Ioffe stirred the scandal stew looking for meat, and found a pot roast hidden in plain sight as she tallied the many overtures Russians have made to those in the Trump pride. This is how Russian intelligence works, sending tendrils into cracks and expanding.

The New Yorker’s Lizza, who deserves some sort of bonus or promotion, hustled another bracing quotation this week, in a piece that complements Ioffe’s. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA chief, essentially told Lizza that Kushner’s Trump Tower confab was more like richly marbled antelope steak than nothing-burger. Through Hayden’s eyes, the meeting looked precisely like a Russian intel op—part of a patient, step-by-step effort by agents of influence, cutouts and front organizations to penetrate and compromise its target. If Hayden is right, his analysis helps explain why the Lion King roared so vehemently at little Jeff Sessions over the AG’s recusal this week.

Inside the end of the Priebus era

Trump’s chief of staff struggled to assert his authority starting on his first day in the West Wing.

Reince Priebus, in an interview on CNN Friday evening, tried to downplay his tensions with President Donald Trump, while saying it was his decision to resign.

Reince Priebus spent his last day as White House chief of staff like nothing was out of the ordinary.

He held his regular morning meeting, where he talked about the failure of the GOP health care reform to pass the Senate early Friday morning, after a fatal no vote from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain.

On Air Force One up to Long Island, where President Donald Trump gave a speech about the MS-13 gang, Priebus sat at the conference room table going over the top issues of the day. “We were talking about the speech in New York, North Korea, health care, tax reform,” said New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who accompanied Trump. “He was talking, we were talking.”

By 4:49 p.m., it was over. “I am pleased to inform you that I have just named General/Secretary John F Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” Trump tweeted from the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, where Priebus still sat waiting in a black SUV. Other aides riding with him hopped into a different car once the tweet posted. His SUV separated from the motorcade and went on a rainy ride through Washington alone.

Priebus, in an interview on CNN Friday evening, tried to downplay his tensions with Trump, while saying it was his decision to resign. “This isn’t a situation with a bunch of ill-will,” he said. “I think the president wanted to go in a different direction. I support him in that.”

It was an ignominious close to an operatic six months during which Priebus was sidelined from the outset, first by chief strategist Steve Bannon, then by Trump’s children and finally by Anthony Scaramucci, whose arrival last week as communications director heralded the imminent end of Priebus’ tenure.

But finally it was the absence of progress on Trump’s legislative agenda—health care, taxes, infrastructure—that prompted the president, in consultation with his family, to finally tell people around him it was time “to try a different approach,” said one senior administration official.

“It’s hard to overstate how much the family had to do with this,” this person added.

Over the past week, multiple West Wing aides and people close to the White House have described new levels of dysfunction.

The day Scaramucci was named, Priebus tried to convince others the two men were friends, but no one in the West Wing believed it. Press secretary Sean Spicer quit, but Priebus stayed, determined to make it a year. Other senior officials said Trump wanted Priebus to get the hint and leave on his own.

After Scaramucci shredded Priebus in a vulgar rant to the New Yorker, published Thursday just as the health care debate was coming to its fruitless end, Priebus expressed his frustrations inside the White House. But the president took Scaramucci’s side—and Spicer’s successor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, went on television to excuse the comments.

One White House official said Priebus had become so marginalized in the West Wing that people had started questioning his ability “to even perform basic tasks.”

The official said Priebus’ departure wasn't about any one issue, but a pile-up of sorts. “It was only a matter of time but Trump just wouldn’t pull the trigger,” the official said.

An aide said Priebus wasn’t available for comment.

Trump thrived on rivalry and drama in his campaign, and he guaranteed it would continue into his administration when he decided last November to jointly announce that Priebus and Bannon would be joining his West Wing.

From the start, Priebus—whose presence was intended to give the Establishment wing of the Republican Party a line into the White House, and to smooth Trump’s relations with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders on Capitol Hill—was hemmed in, with senior advisers like Bannon, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Kellyanne Conway reporting directly to the president.

Known for being a well-organized taskmaster at the Republican National Committee, Priebus was perplexed by his famously mercurial boss, who can make spur-of-the-moment decisions based on hallway conversations, associates say.

The unpredictable nature of the information flow in the White House made him uneasy, several administration officials say. He lost his cool when other West Wing staffers knew things that he didn’t, and he would call people who had spoken to the president to ask them what Trump had told them. He would run from meeting to meeting trying not to miss anything. He would corner people who criticized him publicly and ask them to stop – but admit the criticisms were close to accurate.

He would rarely leave Trump's side and rush into the Oval Office when he saw others were in the room. "He would literally sprint," one West Wing official said back in the spring.

He also tried to control some of the president’s media consumption, to little effect.

Trump never seemed to fully trust Priebus, who called for him to drop out of the presidential race after the Access Hollywood tape emerged in October, even recalling the episode in front of senators at the White House in March. And he never fully empowered him, softly undermining him by calling him “Reince-y” and making strange asides, officials said. At one point, he told associates that Priebus would make a good car salesman. At another, he mocked him for expressing excitement when he spotted his house from Air Force One, flying over Wisconsin.

Trump exacerbated Priebus’ status by frequently complaining about him to other staffers and outside advisers to whom he would ask, “What do you think of Reince?”

As Priebus’ stock fell, Trump was growing increasingly enamored of Kelly, his secretary of Homeland Security, a retired general who first landed on the administration’s radar after Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who has a friendly relationship not only with Priebus but also with Bannon and Kushner, recommended him early in the transition “for any high-level cabinet role,” according to a Cotton aide.

Kelly stepped up to implement the president’s controversial travel ban executive order in January, despite the chaos it created at airports around the country, and has praised Trump for his efforts to clamp down on illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico.

In May, when Trump was under fire for his abrupt dismissal of FBI director James Comey amid the growing investigation into whether any Trump campaign associates played a role in Russian meddling during the 2016 election, Kelly signaled his support for the president against the media during a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy. “Use that on the press, sir,” Kelly told Trump, who was given a ceremonial saber.

יום חמישי, 27 ביולי 2017

Scaramucci: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock”

Scaramucci declares war on Priebus, Bannon

The newly appointed communications director is intent on ‘fixing’ the West Wing — and ousting other top aides.

One person who talked to Anthony Scaramucci said he talks openly about getting rid of Reince Priebus.

Anthony Scaramucci, the flashy and sometimes profane Wall Street financier, was brought on as White House communications director last Friday. It’s already clear he’s a lot more than that.

In six days, he has launched a brutally edged campaign to identify White House leakers, threatened to “fire everybody” in the communications shop, and has declared war on chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Scaramucci, who boasted that he reports directly to President Donald Trump, has described his role as “fixing the place,” said one person who spoke with him this week.

And he’s wasting no time.

In a vulgar interview with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza on Wednesday night, Scaramucci laced into Priebus for trying to “c--- block” him from a job in the White House, called him a “f------ paranoid schizophrenic,” and questioned Bannon’s loyalty.

“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c---,” he said.

One person who talked with Scaramucci said he talks openly about getting rid of Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman whose job has appeared to be in jeopardy for months.

"He's got to go," this person said, summarizing Scaramucci’s comments about Priebus.

It’s unclear how the New Yorker interview will impact Scaramucci’s standing with Trump, but the president has already praised Scaramucci’s brawler instincts, including his ability to get a retraction from CNN on an article that linked Scaramucci to the Russia investigations. But his attacks on fellow aides are sure to draw some condemnations and questions about his own future in the West Wing.

Scaramucci suggested in a tweet on Thursday evening that he would pull back on the profanities, but he did not apologize. "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA," he wrote.

Later in the evening, he appeared to push some of the blame on Lizza. "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again," he tweeted.

Lizza, however, wrote in his piece that Scaramucci did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.

One White House official described the incident as a bump in the road for Scaramucci — and said that there was no expectation that he would be fired or punished for the interview. Nor any expectation that Trump will be inflamed by it.

"He didn't say anything negative about Trump," this person said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a defense of Scaramucci on Fox News on Thursday evening, saying he's someone who's "very passionate" about Trump.

"This is a guy who sometimes uses colorful, and in many circles probably not appropriate language," Sanders said. "He's very passionate about the president and the president's agenda, and I think he may have let that get the best of him in that conversation."

Scaramucci’s arrival was described by one adviser as “a cannonball from a diving board into a pool.” With his brash outer-borough New York ethos and flair for showmanship, Scaramucci is perhaps more like Trump himself than anyone else on the White House staff — and his appointment is a clear signal that the president is walking away from his initial embrace of establishment Republicans familiar with Washington.

Instead, Trump is choosing the gut-driven approach that won him the presidency. And that especially doesn’t bode well for Priebus.

The chief of staff has seen his power base steadily erode, losing first his deputy Katie Walsh, who departed the administration in March and recently returned to the RNC, and then press secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned after it was clear that Scaramucci would be above him in the West Wing.

Some in the West Wing had thought it would be Priebus who would leave once the news of Scaramucci’s hiring broke.

In a potentially ominous sign, Priebus’ usual defenders in the White House seemed subdued on Thursday, a noticeable shift from earlier in the administration, when public criticism of the chief of staff was met with a rapid response. No one seemed empowered to defend Priebus, unlike in the early days, when two paragraphs in a story about him could prompt six or more phone calls.

One person who spoke with Priebus over the weekend said he’d wanted to make it to one year in the White House, but has settled for staying “at least through health care.”

One reason Priebus and his allies opposed Scaramucci coming on board was that they knew “he wouldn’t just be a comms person going on TV,” one West Wing official said.

Priebus has begun calling allies and asking for advice on whether he should stay in the job and how he should handle the situation, according to people familiar with the talks. One such call went to Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this week, who advised Priebus to stay and that the president needed him. “They speak often,” said Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman, who declined to comment further.

How Paul Singer defeated Argentina

יום שלישי, 25 ביולי 2017

Cities Fear Obamacare Repeal, Warm to Single-Payer


America’s mayors, a mostly liberal bunch, are moving left on health care as Republicans in Congress try to shift to the right.

By Sarah Gamard

Trump asks appeals court to shut down protesters’ suit

The endless saga to repeal and replace Obamacare now playing out in Congress is causing deep anxiety among an overwhelming majority of America’s mayors, 86 percent of whom say they are “greatly concerned” that doing away with the insurance program would leave their citizens more vulnerable to health crises like opioid addiction and obesity.

And a majority doubt that President Trump, who made dismantling the signature policy of the previous administration one of his top campaign promises, has a clear plan to replace Obamacare if Congress manages to repeal it. If they had their way, most say they would prefer a single-payer plan.

“It seems unlikely that the President has any significant understanding of, or interest in health policy,” said Democratic Mayor Noam Bramson of New Rochelle, NY. “He will support whatever plan (if any) emerges from the Republican Congress and declare it a ‘win.’”

Chief among the mayors’ concerns are potential cuts to Medicaid, which, under most of the proposed, but so far unsuccessful replacement plans circulating on Capitol Hill, would cut the deficit by $473 billion and leave more than 20 million people uninsured within a decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Sixty percent of mayors said Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has been “very important” to their cities. And mayors were nearly unanimous in their concern (95 percent said they were either “very or moderately concerned”) that any cuts to Medicaid would exacerbate the opioid crisis that plagues so much of America.

Fifty-seven mayors participated in the anonymous and non-scientific survey, the tenth in POLITICO Magazine’s award-winning What Works series. Just under 80 percent of mayors who responded to the survey in the 10 days after the July 4 holiday, were Democrats, a response that matches the generally liberal tilt of city halls across the country. Six of the 57 surveyed are Republican, while four identified as non-partisan or independent.

Though the outcome of the Congressional maneuvering remains in doubt, mayors aren’t sitting idle in their executive suites waiting for the hatchet to drop. Mayors on average estimated that between 75 and 80 percent of their residents have health insurance; they expect that a repeal of the ACA would cut that number by over 10 percentage points. That’s not a prospect they take lightly.

Most mayors are trying to stave off disaster by lobbying their congressional delegation. Many are mobilizing either constituents or local non-profits. A few are taking more creative approaches. One city has already created a small fund in case of federal cuts. Another city has proposed a $50 million reserve in its budget to soften the impact of more uninsured citizens.

A majority of mayors believe the real solution to the nation’s health care mess is one that Congress isn’t even contemplating: a single-payer system. Nearly two-thirds said a single-payer plan offered in their state “sounds better than the current system.” A handful would only support adopting single-payer if Congress repeals Obamacare. Eleven of the 57 mayors surveyed said they didn’t think an entirely government-funded plan “would work in my city.”

Single-payer is an issue that unites Democrats from the most progressive to the most conservative. In California, state lawmakers are pushing a $400-billion-per-year single-payer bill for the state’s 40 million residents that relies predominantly on state and federal funds currently dedicated to Medicare and Medicaid services. Trump said publicly Wednesday that a nationwide single-payer program would “bankrupt” the U.S. and force citizens to “wait in line for weeks to see a doctor.” On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated that single-payer could be a centerpiece of a bolder economic fairness message from the Democrats.

Generally, the mayors surveyed were not placated by the Senate GOP’s attempt to compensate for Medicaid cuts by sending $45 billion to states especially plagued by the opioid epidemic. In fact, two-thirds of mayors also said the most helpful thing to tackle to opioid crisis would be more funding for treatment programs not less. A dozen mayors want more regulations to prevent over-prescription by doctors.

The Kaiser Foundation estimates that over 90 Americans die per day from overdosing on opioids such as heroin and prescription painkillers. The ubiquity of opioid use and dependency costs the U.S. an estimated $78.5 billion per year and has prompted action in cities across the country. For example, residents of Baltimore (whose mayor did not participate in the survey) were issued a blanket prescription for the overdose antidote by the city health department in 2015.

While mayors are predominantly worried about opioids, mayors also said obesity and gun violence (roughly a fifth of those surveyed for each) were the major health concerns in their cities. A few named viruses such as HIV and Zika as his or her city’s biggest health epidemic.

Approximately one-third of adults and one-sixth of children in the U.S. are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Under Obamacare, insurers are banned from charging people more or denying coverage because of existing medical conditions, including obesity. Under the latest Senate GOP proposal, that would remain law. But the latest Senate bill would change the Obamacare mandate to now allow states to waive insurance rules, such as minimum contributions insurers must pay toward medical bills.

Six months ago, Trump’s Obamacare repeal rhetoric had mayors openly fearing catastrophe. Since then, the position of city bosses doesn’t seem to have shifted. The vast majority of mayors are skeptical of the president’s promise of a “great” Obamacare alternative that will “end in a beautiful picture.” Mayor Walter Campbell of Coral Springs, Florida believes the administration is dangerously “winging it.”

Trump promised Wednesday that any GOP healthcare replacement would give coverage to low-income citizens and maintain coverage for pre-existing conditions. He claimed the latest draft of the bill would allow insurance purchases across state lines. He also said that he wanted to let Obamacare fail and that he didn’t want to “own it” when it did.

“It appears that the current leadership did not expect to be in a situation where they would actually have to vote on a ‘repeal and replace’ bill,” said Democratic Mayor Helene Schneider of Santa Barbara, California. “Now they are acting like the dog who finally caught the bus and don't know what to do with it.”

Republican Mayor Acquanetta Warren of Fontana, California was one of the few surveyed who believe there is a plan. She said the president wants to move federal government “out of the way” and let states tackle health care based on their own needs—something Trump has explicitly pushed for. “If [you are] in California that's scary based on our legislative climate,” she said.

“The biggest mistake Trump made was promising to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare instead of simply ‘fixing’ it,” said Mayor Paul Dyster, a Democrat, of Niagara Falls. “If he had done that instead, there would still have been fierce debate on both philosophical and technical issues, but he would have found many Dems eager to help ‘make improvements.’”

While most mayors think Trump’s biggest healthcare priority should be either keeping Obamacare in place, further expanding Medicaid or making healthcare more accessible and affordable, a handful want him to prioritize the fight against the opioid crisis. Others suggested infrastructure spending to include parks and walking or biking paths. Some said the administration should allow insurance purchases across state lines, make Medicaid reimbursement rates competitive with neighboring states, or adopt universal or single-payer coverage. Some prioritized increasing preventative care, housing and behavioral health services. One mayor simply suggested the administration should prioritize bipartisanship. "All factions should have a voice in the creation of a comprehensive health care plan," he said.

Over a third of mayors think they should help their residents individually adopt healthier lifestyles, especially to combat obesity. Youth access to sports, smoking cessation, cleaner diets and expanding pedestrian forms of transportation were all repeatedly listed. More affordable and accessible healthcare was second on the list. Tackling gun violence and the opioid epidemic were each mentioned by several mayors as top priorities in their cities. So was combatting lead poisoning. One red-state mayor said shutting down their city’s coal plant would foremost improve residents’ health.

Anxiety over health care is tempered somewhat by a generally rosier outlook on the economy. Mayors said they feel better about their city’s economy now than they did six months ago: 88 percent feel either more or equally optimistic about their city compared to the time of Trump’s inauguration. Unemployment has dropped several tenths of a percent to 4.4 percent since late January – the lowest it’s been in a decade. This optimism is a notable increase from the most recent survey in April, when less than 70 percent of surveyed mayors reported equal or increased optimism. In January, that number was about three-quarters.

Most attribute their city’s economic state to either normal factors beyond presidential control or work by the previous administration. Only two believe measures enacted by the Trump administration account for the change.

Mayors who participated include: Denny Doyle, Beaverton, OR; John Marchione, Redmond, WA; Paul Soglin, Madison, WI; Mike T. Huether, Sioux Falls, SD; Nan Whaley, Dayton, OH; Steve Adler, Austin, TX; Barbara Halliday, Hayward, CA; William Capote, Palm Bay, FL;Jeri Muoio, West Palm Beach, FL; Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, TN; Acquanetta Warren, Fontana, CA; Ed Pawlowski, Allentown, PA; Noam Bramson, New Rochelle, NY; Andy Berke, Chattanooga, TN; Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg, FL; Walter Campbell, Coral Springs, FL; Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara, CA; Chuck Bennett, Salem, OR; Tom Tait, Anaheim, CA; Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu, HI; Tom McNamara, Rockford, IL; John Cranley, Cincinnati, OH; Andrew Gillum, Tallahassee, FL; Bob Buckhorn, Tampa, FL; Joseph Petty, Worcester, MA; Carolyn Goodman, Las Vegas, NV; Larry Wolgast, Topeka, KS; Wayne Messam, Miramar, FL; Patrick Furey, Torrance, CA; Ed Lee, San Francisco, CA; Paula Hicks-Hudson, Toledo, OH; Jim Kenney, Philadelphia, PA; Bruce Whitaker, Fullerton, CA; Jon Mitchell, New Bedford, MA; Steve Hagerty, Evanston, IL; Jim Darling, McAllen, TX; Edward Murray, Seattle, WA; George Van Dusen, Skokie, IL; Adrian Mapp, Plainfield, NJ; Stephanie A. Miner, Syracuse, NY; Lyda Krewson, St. Louis, MO; Toni N. Harp, New Haven, CT; Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary, IN; Allison Silberberg, Alexandria, VA; Steve Benjamin, Columbia, SC; Andrew J. Ginther, Columbus, OH; Debra March, Henderson, NV; Mark Stodola, Little Rock, AK; Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, IN; Suzanne Jones, Boulder, CO; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles, CA; Paul Dyster, Niagara Falls, NY; Sly James, Kansas City, MO; Mitch Landrieu , New Orleans, LA; Mark Mitchell, Tempe, AZ; Betsy Price, Fort Worth, TX; Sean Wright, Antioch, CA.