News Sips 1/9: Streep, Rafsanjani, Farewells, and Sessions
News Sips: Four hot takes before you finish your coffee. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today:
1. Hollywood and Trump
The top trending story of the morning, despite a terrorist attack in Jerusalem and the sudden death of a former Iranian President, is the back-and-forth between Hillary Clinton supporting actress Meryl Streep and incoming President of the United States, Donald Trump. As we all know, there’s little love lost between Hollywood and “Middle America.” The telling response to a tweet last week, paraphrased: “Do journalists know anyone with a pickup truck” highlighted a disconnect between “opinion-shapers” and “average Americans.”
Obviously the actors and actresses at the Golden Globes live in a world where many of the people they are around on a daily basis share their worldview and outlook. It’s a shame that so few have been exposed to the ideas and values that have come to define the nation. Though fostering a diversity of thought has merit on its own, from a cynical standpoint, understanding where consumers of media are coming from makes sense from a marketing angle as well.
It seems that the “status quo” of, boiled down, “East Coast Elites v. Real Americans” is set to continue indefinitely. The only difference now is that the “average Joe” has someone coming into the White House who’s not afraid to fire back at insults from self-important celebrities. For good or for ill, Donald Trump’s decision not to allow himself to be slighted on national television without a response is indicative of what “normal folks” voted for and wanted to see: someone who represent them.
There is no way that Mr. Trump will change this pattern when he is sworn-in in 11 days.
2. The End of Rafsanjani
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the fourth President of Iran, and a powerful voice in the politics of the Islamic Republic, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 82. Rafsanjani had been instrumental in the Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979 but had roundly developed a reputation as a moderating influence on some of the hardliners in the government of Iran. A behind the scenes power broker in recent years, Rafsanjani had occasionally run afoul of the arch-conservatives by being a bridge between the Revolution and reform.
Rafsanjani’s death comes at an obvious time of stress for Iran with Donald Trump taking office in the United States and the Iranian Presidential Election set for later this year. Rafsanjani’s death will likely break some bridges for reformers in Iran and could embolden the hardline conservatives in the Islamic Republic’s government. However, only time will tell whether a crackdown is imminent or whether cooler heads will prevail.
3. Farewell Incoming
On January 10, President Obama will be giving his Farewell Address. Most Presidents use this opportunity to reflect on the office, on achievements, and on the American condition. Mr. Obama will be making the speech in Chicago at 9pm EST. The Address gives the President an opportunity to begin to craft the narrative of his legacy. Some of the most well-known Presidential doctrines and warnings come down to us from Presidential Farewell Addresses (Washington’s “Entangling Alliances”; Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex”).
Giving credit where it’s due, President Obama is a very effective speaker, so expect this speech to be one of the best of his career. He knows that this isn’t just meant to be a parting shot at his successor, but rather one of the lasting marks of his Presidency.
4. Senate Sessions on Sessions
Senator Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s candidate for Attorney General, will be the first of the President-Elect’s cabinet appointees to get a Senate hearing. Senator Sessions will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 11. This officially kicks-off what will be one-of-many Senate hearings on Mr. Trump’s appointees.
Senator Sessions is expected to get some pushback from Democrats, though mostly just nominally putting on a show for their constituencies. It has been widely reported that Senator Sessions is, despite being one of the most conservative Senators, widely liked by his peers. While this will not prevent Democrats from voting for Senator Sessions’ confirmation, it is likely that certain punches may be pulled to avoid humiliating the man. Likewise, because the Democrats get rid of the filibuster on most Presidential appointments, Senator Sessions only needs to clear a majority of the Senate to be confirmed. While the GOP’s majority is only 52-48, there are no expected defections from the Republican side of the aisle (notably Senator Sessions is being shepherded through the confirmation process by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the moderate-to-liberal Republican Senators who would be most-watched to defect on an appointment).
There are, of course, a lot of other things happening in the world, but these are four that give you some sense of what’s up and what folks are talking about. Be sure to check back for more