How will the Democratic candidates reduce the risk of nuclear war?

Greg Thielmann grew up in Newton and worked for more than 30 years on nuclear weapons issues in the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Foreign Service, and the Senate Intelligence Committee. He currently serves as a board member of the Arms Control Association. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I was growing up in central Iowa during the Cold War, I sometimes found myself headed west on Interstate 80, imagining the way nuclear war would be likely to arrive in Iowa – a series of Soviet nuclear ground bursts in Omaha to destroy Strategic Air Command Headquarters, bathing Iowa in a heavy dose of radioactive fallout.

Now the Cold War is over, but not the nuclear threat. The Trump administration has abandoned the anti-nuclear deal with Iran and six other states. President Trump’s efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula have fizzled. The U.S. has pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and is dithering over Moscow’s offer to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the only remaining limit on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration proposes spending trillions of dollars to build new strategic weapons.

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Steve King's against tying a president's hands on war--unless it's Obama

The U.S. House voted on January 9 to block further military action against Iran without express authorization from Congress.

In a written statement, Representative Steve King (IA-04) thundered against what he called “bad legislation that seeks to tie the President’s hands,” adding,

I stand with letting President Trump, our Commander-in-Chief, make the tough calls and take the swift and certain actions that he determines are necessary to protect our nation, our citizens, and our interests from Iranian acts of hostility.

King was singing a different tune when House members of both parties passed a similar resolution in 2011 to limit President Barack Obama’s military engagement in Libya.

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Recognizing Bleeding Heartland's talented 2018 guest authors

The Bleeding Heartland community lost a valued voice this year when Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese passed away in October. As Mike Carberry noted in his obituary for his good friend, Kurt had a tremendous amount on his plate, and I was grateful whenever he found time to share his commentaries in this space. His final post here was a thought-provoking look at his own upbringing and past intimate relationships in light of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Friese was among more than 100 guest authors who produced 202 Bleeding Heartland posts during 2018, shattering the previous record of 164 posts by 83 writers in 2017. I’m thankful for every piece and have linked to them all below.

You will find scoops grounded in original research, commentary about major news events, personal reflections on events from many years ago, and stories in photographs or cartoons. Some posts were short, while others developed an argument over thousands of words. Pieces by Allison Engel, Randy Richardson, Tyler Higgs, and Matt Chapman were among the most-viewed at the site this year. In the full list, I’ve noted other posts that were especially popular.

Please get in touch if you would like to write about any political topic of local, statewide, or national importance during 2019. If you do not already have a Bleeding Heartland account, I can set one up for you and explain the process. There is no standard format or word limit. I copy-edit for clarity but don’t micromanage how authors express themselves. Although most authors write under their real names, pseudonyms are allowed here and may be advisable for those writing about sensitive topics or whose day job does not permit expressing political views. I ask authors to disclose potential conflicts of interest, such as being are a paid staffer, consultant, or lobbyist promoting any candidate or policy they discuss here.

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So the Iran Deal was bad but North Korea was good?

Ben Cobley: If Senator Joni Ernst is “excited about the opportunity” of a denuclearized North Korea, why does she not feel the same way about a denuclearized Iran? -promoted by desmoinesdem

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

In my previous writing about the Iran Deal, I called out Senator Joni Ernst on her hypocrisy regarding President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. I also called into question her understanding of diplomatic affairs and the consequences they have on the people of Iowa, the safety of our troops around the world and the future of a G-Zero world under President Trump.

Whether or not Ernst read my piece is unclear, but she seems to have doubled down on her ignorance with her comments on the Singapore Summit.

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A reasoned take on the Iran Deal and Senator Ernst's failure to lead

Ben Cobley is a Senior Digital Strategist at GPS Impact in Des Moines. He studied international relations at the University of Iowa and served as part of the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Before I go too far down the rabbit hole that is Middle Eastern foreign policy, let me explain how this post started.

A recent interaction on Twitter reminded me that when it comes to the public’s understanding of foreign policy decisions, simplicity isn’t always best. Such is the case with many of our media’s attempts at discussing the intricacies of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as “The Iran Deal.”

I don’t blame the media for this oversimplification. Their job isn’t to teach – it’s to inform. And while many outlets try to toe that line to give an unbiased report on political findings, they also have to deal with countless variables that push them towards oversimplifying topics to keep a reader engaged.

I don’t have to face quite as many variables, and thus this post will be longer and more detail oriented. I’ll do my best to limit myself when needed.

Still with me? Okay – let’s talk about Iran and President Trump.

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the “omnibus” budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the “tax extenders” and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named “On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566”), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders “opposed the tax package” but “did not whip their members against it.” Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He “has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October,” Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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