STATESIDE: Political grandstanding and distractions expected as US Congress grapples with debt and spending

SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-Wisconsin centre, with, Sens Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, talks about debt ceiling during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, yesterday. 
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-Wisconsin centre, with, Sens Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, talks about debt ceiling during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, yesterday. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

With Charlie Harper

THERE seems to be so many distractions in the US these days, even as an ominously deepening war in Ukraine threatens truly dire consequences.

In American politics, it looks like there will be a lot of fussing about and posturing in Washington about the US national debt ceiling.

House of Representatives Republicans will issue dire warnings about the profligate spending of the Biden administration, conveniently overlooking the profligate GOP spending under Donald Trump.

Since the US dollar serves as the world’s preponderant trade denominator, there will be alarms from all over the world. The problem is that the American congress must always exercise its fiduciary responsibility to appropriate enough money to finance the staggering debt the US accumulates in funding its annual federal budgets. So the door is wide open for political grandstanding.

Maybe the Republicans with their tiny House majority will launch a hundred different investigations into Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, Dr Anthony Fauci and other real and imaginary villains, all in service of convincing the American voters that Trump’s attempt to actually overturn the results of a legitimate American election was just business as usual.

The 2022 elections should have suggested to the GOP that such a strategy is not only risky but very likely to fail. We’ll see if they can shake off Trump’s legacy and mount a real challenge to Biden and Company next year.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had better not ignore the dire threats coming from the Trump camp these days. This ex-president can really hurt opponents, and DeSantis’ quirky personality makes it look like he might be particularly vulnerable to the acute, needling style of “The Donald”. And incidentally, when Trump boasts that he “made” DeSantis as a gubernatorial candidate half a dozen years ago, the record offers plenty of evidence to back up this boast.

In fact, at this point Trump should be favoured to beat almost any candidate from either major political party in the 2024 general election – except, of course, the one he is overwhelmingly most likely to face - the current White House incumbent. It’s highly doubtful that Trump will ever use this nickname for Joe Biden, but it’s apt: Biden is Trump’s Kryptonite.


UKRAINIAN servicemen attend combat training in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Photo: Kateryna Klochko/AP


GUNS, race relations, abortion, climate change, voting rights, immigration, inflation, Hollywood scandals, party politics, sports. These subjects will all vie for our attention in the months to come.

But there’s another story that is potentially much more significant than any of these because it is still developing day to day and its consequences are and will continue to affect us.

That story is the steady, continuing slide into direct confrontation in Ukraine between the US and its NATO allies on one hand, and Russia and perhaps Belarus on the other.

Every week, there are articles and reports in the national US media about the gradual, inexorable increase in the sophistication, sheer volume and increased lethal effectiveness of Western financial and military assistance to the heroic, embattled regime of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

At the beginning of this month, the US, UK, Germany and France announced that they were going to accede to long-standing Ukrainian requests for tracked, tank-like vehicles for enhanced battlefield effectiveness against the Russian invaders. This is another unmistakable escalation in the Western support effort.

Specifically, the Americans have now committed to providing 50 Bradley fighting vehicles.

These nimble battle field tracked vehicles are designed primarily to ferry infantry around safely with bullets flying all over the place.

The US Defense Department says the Bradleys have “mounted firepower” and “significant armor capability.”

DOD also announced that it will begin shipping to Ukraine 500 TOW missiles. These wire-guided anti-tank missiles are among the mostly widely deployed weapons of their kind in the world.

The TOW missiles, in use for 50 years, are produced by US defense giant Raytheon Corporation.

The Bradley fighting vehicles have been deployed for about 40 years and are produced by another giant military equipment manufacturer.

Both the TOWs and the Bradleys are reportedly becoming excess to needs for the US Army as newer systems are designed, developed and produced.

A defense expert told reporters earlier this month that “it helps that the United States has a large number of Bradleys to spare and that the army is planning to phase them out in a few years”.

The US will be offering training on these weapons systems to Ukrainian military personnel - not yet in Ukraine, but likely in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

But this new US commitment intensifies the American involvement in this protracted, bloody and thus far inconclusive war.

However, it’s not just the Americans who are ramping up their commitments to Ukraine.

Germany is sending as many as 100 Marder armored personnel carrier vehicles to Ukraine. The Marders, like the Bradleys and serving similar military purposes, have also been in service for 50 years.

There are reports that the Germans and even Poland are considering sending to Ukraine an unspecified number of Leopard-2 regular main battle tanks.

France is negotiating with Ukraine to provide a “light tank” called the AMX- 10RC, which was also developed in the 1970s and provides similar battlefield performance to the Bradley and Marder vehicles.

Britain has now pledged to provide at least 14 Challenger tanks.

This war is not the internecine Balkan conflict that broke out thirty years ago in the wake of the breakup of Yugoslavia. That conflict was localized in the region and Russia, whose Soviet empire had recently collapsed, was in no position to play a significant role.

Many of the assets now being donated to Ukraine were battle tested in the Balkans after Yugoslavia collapsed. Now they will be redeployed in a nearby Eastern European theatre with a newly aggressive Russian bear as the target.

US general and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley said recently that “this is one of those moments in time where if you really want to make a difference. This is that time. Ukrainian troops are getting a crash course in what American defense officials call “combat arms operations”.

Deputy US Defense Secretary Laura Cooper told reporters this month that “this is the right time for Ukraine to take advantage of its capabilities to change the dynamic on the battlefield”.

The Russians noticed. An official reportedly close to president Vladimir Putin reiterated last week the threat that “further Western provocations invite the possibility of nuclear war”.

The West won’t allow Ukraine to lose this war. The Russians and Putin remain all in. Something has to give.


LEBRON James dunks during a game against the LA Clippers Tuesday. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP


IN THE entertainment world, what about the latest adventures of those ABC Good Morning America lovebirds, Amy Robach and T J Holmes? They do look fantastically good together – as the two of them probably know all too well. Will they be fired from the popular morning show? If they are, will they sue the network? Will their impending divorces from other beautiful partners be out there in the spotlight for all of us to dissect?

In sports, there is a story, now just a ripple on the horizon that will gather momentum now until it becomes a tidal wave dominating the news everywhere in the country.

Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James, now 38 years old, has amassed over 38,000 points in the NBA and as of this morning is just a couple hundred points shy of breaking the all-time scoring record of legendary Bucks and Lakers centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

James’ story will be different than the home run pursuits of baseball legends Henry Aaron, chasing Babe Ruth’s career record of 714 home runs in 1974, and of Barry Bonds, chasing Aaron’s record of 755 homers in 2007. There were games when Aaron and Bonds didn’t even get a hit while pursuing their records. There won’t be games when James doesn’t score.

As he piles up 30 points every time he plays, James will hurtle toward his goal with tsunami-like speed. But when this wave nears the shore, watch out. You won’t be able to avoid it.

Super Bowl 57 also looms on February 12. There will plenty of time for you to digest about a million words about that over the next month.

But most of us will be watching. And furthermore, this weekend’s conference finals games should produce compelling previews for the big extravaganza to come not soon enough for fans.


GodSpeed 4 months, 1 week ago

Still can't write an article without talking about Trump I see.


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