The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

It’s Awards Season in Washington, Too

It’s Awards Season in Washington, Too

As the Obama administration draws to a close, Defense Secretary Ash Carter awards to President Obama the Medal of Distinguished Public Service . . . 

 . . . and Obama gives Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Could anyone say, “You know, I really appreciate this generous gesture, but there are other people who deserve this more than me”? Yes, I know George W. Bush and Bill Clinton received the Department of Defense medal before. It looked bad then, too. If a federal department wants to award a president, at least let it be awarded by a secretary not appointed by that president.

Past winners of the Presidential Medal of Honor include the crew of Apollo 13, Mother Theresa, and Stephen Hawking.

Joe Biden’s a good man who has endured tragedies no human being should ever have to experience, and offered a role model on how to go on when life gives you some of the worst possible tragedies. But the whole thing seems a little too self-congratulatory as the Obama administration comes to a close.

Go Figure, Jeff Sessions Looks Likely to Be Confirmed This Month

It was easily missed, but this more or less wraps up the confirmation for Jeff Sessions to be attorney general: West Virginia Democrat senator Joe Manchin reaffirmed that he will vote for Sessions this week.

Fifty-two Republicans, plus Manchin, means Sessions has 53 votes. Traditionally, senators nominated to the cabinet don’t vote for themselves; they vote “present.” Take away Sessions and the vote looks like 52 in favor, 47 against, one present.

So if three Republican senators flipped, the vote would be 49 in favor, 50 against, 1 present. Under that scenario, maybe Sessions wouldn’t vote present, and would vote for himself. (No law bars this.) In a 50-50 split, Vice President Mike Pence would break the tie. Sessions would be confirmed, 51 votes in favor, 50 votes opposed.

So Sessions opponents really need four Republicans to oppose Sessions. So far, no Republican has indicated they will vote against him. When the most high-profile opposition to him comes from the incoherent shouting of Code Pink and the camera-hugging grand-standing of Cory Booker, how do you think most Senate Republicans are going to vote?

There was a small window of opportunity for Sessions foes, but that would have required Senate Democrats to make an argument against the Alabama senator that appealed to the worldview of Senate Republicans. Sessions is a big fan of civil forfeiture, a process that allows law enforcement to take private property that more than a few conservatives contend is widely abused and has become “a cash cow for state and local police and prosecutors.” His support for drug prohibition isn’t by itself a glaring problem, but quite a few Republicans aren’t sure the War on Drugs is working out the way it was supposed to, and Sessions doesn’t appear to have doubted its effectiveness one bit. A lot of conservatives are taking a long look at sentencing reform, wondering if our prisons and jails are just taking the bad and making them worse. Sessions is wary at best about these efforts, fearing they will release violent offenders back on the streets, and he blocked legislative efforts last year.

Had the argument against Sessions focused primarily on those areas, maybe you could have shaken loose a few Republican senators. But hey, Code Pink wants to shout, so . . .  go ahead, guys. Have at it.

The Davos Man Suddenly Realizes He Might be Out of Touch

Hey, maybe the folks at Davos are starting to get it:

For the 3,000 people who will convene in the small Swiss town from Jan. 17 to 20, the 2017 event could be a moment of reckoning. At speakers’ podiums, coffee bars, and the ubiquitous late-night parties, they’ll be asking themselves whether Davos has become, at best, the world’s most expensive intellectual feedback loop—and, at worst, part of the problem. “Since the recession, the boom has benefited the upper-income earners and done little for those in the middle or on less. That’s the backlash,” says Nariman Behravesh, the chief economist for research provider IHS Markit. “The Davos vision of the world has not delivered a broad-based economic recovery.”

Then again, maybe we’re about to get a broad-based economic recovery here in the U.S.; it sounds like companies are going on a hiring spree to avoid the wrath of Trump:

Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday said it plans to create more than 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. within the next 18 months, leveraging plans already in the works in part to patch up its contentious relationship with President-elect Donald Trump.

The additional jobs would swell Amazon’s U.S. workforce to 280,000, compared with 30,000 in 2011.

Amazon said many of the new positions will be at already-announced warehouses under construction in Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey. Others will be in areas such as cloud technology, machine learning and advanced logistics—some of which eliminate jobs, experts say.

ADDENDA: I didn’t believe in that Friday the 13th stuff, but right now I’m the only one in the house who doesn’t have the flu. Thanks to the good folks at WMAL for putting up with my last-minute cancellation.

The epic 100th episode of the pop culture podcast is slated to be taped next week.

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