National News Update: November 27, 2019

This past week saw a lot happening in the political world. From controversial pardons to another Democratic debate, there was something for everyone to discuss and/or argue. 

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer has resigned upon the request of the Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper.  This resignation comes after Spencer had attempted to negotiate a secret deal with the White House behind the back of Esper to protect a soldier convicted of several crimes related to posing with the body of a dead prisoner.  

The SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, was arrested in 2017 and charged with the murder of an Islamic State prisoner and crimes related to posing with the dead body.  He was acquitted of the murder charge but convicted of other lesser crimes and demoted. President Trump intervened in November against strong objection from Pentagon officials, reinstating the rank of Gallagher and pardoning other former soldiers convicted of murderer.

Spencer had attempted to reach a deal with the White House in which Gallagher could retain his status as a SEAL in exchange for President Trump staying out of the case.  Upon learning of this exchange, Secretary Esper stated he was “flabbergasted” at the deal and asked for Spencer’s resignation.  

Gallagher had been called an “Ultimate Fighter” by President Trump, who ordered Secretary Esper to ensure his status as a SEAL was left untouched before he retired.  This comes on the heels of two other controversial pardons by the president of military members charged with or convicted of war crimes. These pardons were against the strong objection of military leaders who claimed they would upset unit order and discipline, the military justice system, and upset U.S. allies.

This story is ongoing.


November Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

The fifth 2020 Democratic primary presidential debate occurred on November 20, 2019.  This debate helped to upturn the previous election landscape, seriously hurting previous front runners and sending new ones to the top of the pile.  The race now continues as the candidates inch closer to the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary.  

The debate saw candidates sparing over different perspectives on numerous different issues: healthcare, marijuana, taxes, and foreign policy. But, the one thing the candidates seemed to agree on was Donald Trump – He has to go.

Here are the takeaways from this past debate:


Mayor Pete Buttigege

“Pete Buttigieg” by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mayor Pete Buttigege was arguably the biggest winner of the debate.  Buttigege presented himself as a moderate candidate who could relate with members of smaller rural communities, something the Democrats failed at in 2016.  He focused on his ability to appeal to moderates, both Democrat and Republican, stating his opposition to a single payer healthcare system. Buttigege has seen massive bumps in the polls the last few weeks, specifically in Iowa, but according to several new outlets, what he makes up for in older rural voters, he certainly lacks in African American and southern voters.


Vice President Joseph Biden

“DSC_0449” by KentonNgo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Put simply, Vice President Biden was not a winner.  His slow and stumbling answers appeared as though he was out of touch, not fully prepared, and not able to keep up with the fast paced debate.  Biden’s opposition to the legalization of marijuana and opposition to a single payer healthcare system did not play well with many of the other candidates.  That said, Biden did give his standard answers of his qualifications and his ability to win, a hot topic of the debate. Biden has held strong in national polls but is falling in Iowa, where he has been surpassed by Buttigege and other candidates. 


Sen. Elizabeth Warren

“Elizabeth Warren” by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sen. Warren had a strong showing at the debate.  Her consistency as a hard hitter and a strong performer in this debate and previous has made her popular across the country.  Warren spent much of the debate focusing on her infamous plans and how she would pay for them. She was attacked by multiple other candidates when  she took on the American uber wealthy, but stood her ground quite confidently and composed. Warren has been making slow but steady gains in the polls for the last few months, and the debate seems to have continued her momentum.


Sen. Bernie Sanders

“Bernie Sanders 2016” by photogism (CC BY 2.0)

Sen. Sanders also had a decent performance in this debate, but a change of pace.  Although he still had the same level of intensity and policy driven speech at times, Bernie appeared to have calmed down his usually aggressive rhetoric.  He offered many personal anecdotes and appeared as though he was trying to appeal to voters not just from policy. He did take on foreign policy rather aggressively, offering sharp criticism of the president and presenting some of his ideas on North Korea.  Sanders’ poll numbers remain largely unchanged nationally, but like many other popular candidates, he has taken a hit in Iowa.  


Sen. Kamala Harris

“Kamala Harris” by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sen. Harris was on offense during the debate, and it proved moderately successful.  She went after almost every candidate on the stage on everything from policy to past decisions and allegiances.  Perhaps her most important moment was not even brought up by her. It came when Vice President Biden referenced endorsing the only African American woman ever to be elected to the senate, only he wasn’t talking about Harris, and Harris is African American.  Harris offered a stirring performance that might not have gained her any new supporters, but most likely solidified her current ones.


The debate featured ten candidates, and while we only chose to cover the five in the lead, it is important to remember those who shared the stage.  Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnisota and Andrew Yang both helped make a name for themselves by taking on the front runners during the debate and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey ensured the issue of marijuana legalization was talked about in depth and offered many of his opinions.  Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Thomas Steyer both came up short, often failing to comprehensively offer policy or a response to attacks. The next debate is on December 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California