Bill Owens: Confused By The News

Dec 27, 2018

Here are a few observations that likely won’t lessen your confusion.

Mrs. May survived a no confidence vote in Britain, although she likely does not have the votes to support her Brexit Plan and the British government issued advice and warnings about a no deal Brexit exit; Mrs. Merkle’s Premiership is in trouble in Germany, and she has said that there will be no further negotiations of Britain’s withdrawal; the general counsel to the EU has opined that Britain could withdraw its withdrawal without the consent of the rest of the EU – Is this the final word?;  France is suffering from riots by the far left, potential capitulation by Macron and the latest terror attack in Strasbourg; China is enraged by the Huawei arrest, although their executive is currently out on bail; China has arrested two Canadian citizens in a clearly retaliatory move; the United States says that the Huawei arrest and trade negotiations are not tied together; Does anyone really believe that, especially the Chinese? The recent Whitehouse meeting with Leader Pelosi (soon to be Speaker Pelosi), minority leader Schumer and POTUS was an entertaining display, maybe the most in recent weeks, maybe months.  It struck me that the strongest person in the room was Leader Pelosi.

As she appeared composed and in control, while Senator Schumer seemed less direct and POTUS angry and confused; The stock market continues its rollercoaster ride. 

We have the continuing saga of the Mueller investigation with POTUS, Mr. Cohen and all the other players on that stage.  The Flynn sentencing ended in chaos; Judge Suillivan should recuse himself- very embarrassing performance; What will 3 more months of cooperation provide to Mueller; I originally thought that Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen would give POTUS up for money laundering or other financial crimes;   The payments to Mr. Trump’s paramours appear to be federal election campaign violations, and Mr. Giuliani says they’re small crimes- small crimes?   Deutsche Bank where POTUS did most of his banking for many, many years has received and responded to numerous Subpoenas.   Will Mueller deliver incrementally bad news for the President, including the indictment of Donald Jr.? 

One cannot help but be tantalized by Mr. Mueller’s approach of providing pieces of information that never quite complete the jigsaw puzzle.

The Senate votes to withdraw our participation in Yemen and condemns the Crown Prince, both, substantial rebukes to POTUS. Defeated and retiring Republican members of the House aren’t showing up to vote (on December 19, 70 didn’t show up- 20 more than Democrats in 2010).

As we launch 2019, there will be an array of issues to be on the lookout for, particularly as it relates to our region.  The implementation of the farm bill should provide at least some stability to our dairy farmers.  The question of whether the US, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) is passed by Congress, and whether President Trump terminates NAFTA as a negotiating tool will develop in early 2019.  We will need to watch carefully.  If President Trump unilaterally determines he will terminate NAFTA, how will Congress respond?  Leader Pelosi announced that she had concerns with the USMCA which clearly will not get a vote before the New Year and new Congress.

Will the nightly news be cluttered with investigations, which unfortunately will only mirror Congressman Issa’s and Congressman Gowdy’s approach during the Obama administration?  Will the economy continue to grow and create new jobs?

The average citizen has always been, and is today, concerned about the economy and their pocketbook.  Is their quality of life improving which is primarily impacted by their economic opportunities, or is it moving in the other direction?  Corporate profits are way up, but wages only slightly.

Will the Presidential campaign begin in earnest in 2019?  I think so.  Democrats will have a field of candidates to vet and whittle down, while Republicans will wrestle with whether or not POTUS can be re-elected, and if the answer to that question is “no”, then how does that impact the downstream ballot, at the federal, state and local levels.  This will, no doubt be an interesting year.

May I suggest an idea. Our New Year’s resolutions should include watching and listening to less talk TV and radio, agreeing to listen to the opposing opinions on television and radio at least 5 minutes every day, and to read more factual information. We should be making constructive comments to our Legislatures at every level, and offering to support thoughtful processes by them, as opposed to only supporting those who follow our ideology. 

Happy New Year.

Mr. Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford Owens in Plattsburgh, NY and a Senior Advisor to Dentons to Washington, DC.

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