November 3, 2023

Thought of the Week:

I was raised Catholic, went to CCD,  took first communion, was confirmed, and attended St. Patrick’s Church in Rockville, MD, with my Italian grandparents nearly every Sunday. My wife is Jewish, attended Hebrew day school, became a Bat Mitzvah, and even lived briefly on a kibbutz in Israel. Neither of us would be described as religiously devout today. We celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, Yom Kippur and Easter. It was never confusing to our kids, we encouraged each of them to find their own spiritual way, and we’ve heard them describe themselves as “Jew…ish” or “Cashews.” The events of the last three weeks have shaken our family though. At my own alma mater, George Washington University, for more than two hours, on the campus’ main library, students projected phrases such as: “Glory to our martyrs” and “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.” At my wife’s alma mater, the University of Maryland, student groups advertised a walkout and protest on Halloween for Palestinian human rights. U.S. college campuses aren’t the only places we’ve seen protests and demonstrations. Pro-Palestinian protesters, some carrying signs such as “By Any Means Necessary,” shutdown the Brooklyn Bridge last weekend; demonstrators interrupted Secretary of State Blinken’s Senate testimony this week, calling him a “murderer” and holding signs saying “Free Gaza;” and we’ve seen local chapters of groups such as Black Lives Matter, which are supposed to be at the forefront of diversity, equity, and inclusion, post graphics, images, and statements condoning the Palestinian attacks and showing outward hatred to Jews. Even before October 7, attacks on Jews in the U.S. were increasing. The ADL found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. increased by more than 35% over the past year, from 2,721 in 2021 to 3,697 in 2022. And since the Hamas massacre, a significant spike in anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. has been recorded. Preliminary data indicates that reported incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault increased by 388% over the same period last year—a total of 312 anti-Semitic incidents from October 7-23, 2023, compared to just 64 over the same period in 2022. I work in politics, and I’m familiar with political grievances and protests. Political debate is healthy in a republic, and for that reason is ingrained in our Constitution as certain inalienable rights. In fact, the very first amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. In the latest expression of free speech on this subject we’ve seen here in the U.S., we have not heard debates over Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judicial reform plans nor even protests against Israel’s settlements in the West Bank. In fact, I find it difficult to interpret the many protests and words I’ve seen recently as anything other than supporting mass murder. What I’ve witnessed, by more than just a few fringe elements on the edges of society, is an expression of Jew hatred. My wife still has friends living in Israel, and we both know people who lost family and friends there last month. It was meaningful to us that Wada-san came out with a statement describing the violent attacks on innocent civilians as reprehensible and that his heart goes out to all of those affected. It’s a position that some companies, without established core values, have been hesitant to take.  

Thought Leadership from our Consultants, Think Tanks, and Trade Associations

Bloomberg Government Says Speaker Johnson’s (R-LA) First Clash will include Opponents in the White House, Democrats in the Senate, but also Fellow Republicans. It’s shaping up as a test of old-school GOP internationalism against newer America-first isolationism. Speaker Johnson is aiming for a House vote this week on more than $14 billion for Israel, a top priority for the majority of lawmakers in both parties after three weeks of House paralysis over the speaker vacancy. But Johnson is separating Israel aid from support for Ukraine, a contrast not just with President Biden but also Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY). McConnell, a hawk shaped by the Cold War, is forcefully pushing to back both Israel and Ukraine with cash, battling corners of his party increasingly skeptical of foreign aid generally, and Ukraine support specifically. Minority Leader McConnell wants aid to both countries delivered in one package. For McConnell, with global superpower status come global interests, warning that any weakened resolve to resist Russian aggression would embolden Russian President Putin, endanger European security, and threaten America’s national interest. By lumping Russia, China, and Iran together, McConnell espoused what was once GOP orthodoxy: America is stronger when it uses its muscle not just at home, but anywhere allies are threatened or enemies seek gains. That idea is losing traction in the Trump era, and while many Republicans support Israel, less are concerned about Ukraine or Russia. Speaker Johnson, and a growing number of Republicans, are demanding that any new money for Kyiv come with measures ensuring accountability and transparency. The contrasting approaches highlight a generational shift among Republicans—McConnell is 81 and almost certainly near the end of his time as Republican leader in the Senate; Johnson, 51, is just days into his leadership of the House. However this specific fight ends, it’s clear which way the trends are moving the GOP.

CapstoneDC Predicts that the West’s Climate Plans may be Stymied at the Ballot Box. As 2024 approaches, the U.S. presidential election campaign is picking up steam, and despite muted tones surrounding national elections outside the U.S., focus will soon tighten on upcoming races in the UK, Canada, Germany, and Japan. Following five years of unprecedented policy support for de-carbonization, all of these elections will have critical ramifications for the trajectory of energy policy going forward, and it would not be surprising if they end up becoming a rebuke of the climate-first policy approaches adopted over the past half-decade. Chief among the global energy market challenges facing incumbents will be rising prices on crude and refined oil products. Underpinned by underinvestment in upstream capacity globally, declines in refining capacity in North America and Europe, and the persistence of demand, rising crude oil and refined product prices, specifically, and energy prices more broadly, may play key roles in determining election outcomes in 2024 and 2025. Just as important to price setting will be geopolitical developments, which, at the moment, all seem to skew toward higher prices—potential escalation between Israel and Iran; the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict; the evolution of U.S.-Saudi relations; and the Azerbaijani-Armenian dispute. Front-of-mind for oil markets is the possibility of renewed hot conflict in the Middle East beyond Gaza. While the Israel-Hamas war’s impact on Middle East energy is negligible, the bulk of potential scenarios all lead to higher prices as the extent of oil and refined product infrastructure at risk in the event of renewed hot conflict in the Middle East is staggering. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2021, oil producers across the West were ostracized for contributing to consumer pain at the pump. Those responses foreshadow the extent to which incumbent policymakers may get directly involved in oil and refined product markets heading into national elections. Oil price increases and their resulting headwinds are blind to party affiliation, and troubled energy markets are problematic for any incumbent because, fairly or not, they are blamed for prevailing economic conditions. In the U.S. laying blame at the feet of President Biden would be made all the easier by his climate-focused record. The same can be said of Prime Ministers Trudeau and Sunak, and Chancellor Scholz. Looking 12 to 24 months ahead, the probability that oil markets will play a central role in determining election outcomes has risen markedly. Therefore, implications for climate policy as a derivative of that dynamic should be anticipated by companies and investors alike.

Eurasia Group Views Any Effort to Disqualify Trump from the Ballot as Unlikely to Succeed. A state trial in Denver will be the first foray into the question of whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits individuals who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding public office, can apply to former president Trump. Suits seeking to use the 14th Amendment to disqualify Mr. Trump have been filed by advocacy groups and private individuals nationwide, meaning any ruling in Colorado could guide state court judges as they decide similar cases across the country. Efforts to disqualify Trump from the ballot, however, remain unlikely to succeed, as the legal theory that underpins advocates’ arguments is untested and murky, and amnesties against former Confederates passed by Congress in the late 19th century may have essentially rendered the clause void. If Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee, he is highly likely to appear on the ballot in all 50 states. And even if the proceedings in state court result in disqualification from the Colorado ballot, an appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.  Out of concern for its political neutrality and a wish not to interfere in a presidential election, the Court would be unlikely to rule to disqualify a major party’s presidential candidate.  

“Off the Record”

According to Republican leadership, House Speaker Johnson’s preference is for a continuing resolution (CR) than runs into January. Although the Speaker has not committed to a specific date for a stopgap spending bill, multiple legislators have said that he wants something into 2024.

In Other Words

“We have made the decision that it’s Iowa or bust for us, and I’m looking forward to being there,” Sen. Scott (R-SC) laying it all on the line.

Did You Know

Through the end of October, in the 118th Congress: 

  • 9,269 bills have been introduced;
  • 1,757 bills have been considered by Committees;
  • 199 bills have been considered on the floor;
  • 181 bills have passed one chamber;
  • 20 bills have passed both chambers; and
  • 17 bills have been signed into law.

Graph of the Week

Amid a prolonged search for a new speaker that paralyzed the House of Representatives for three weeks while two U.S. allies were engaged in wars, Americans’ approval of Congress’ job performance fell from 17% to 13%. The decline ensured the lowest approval rating for Congress since October and November 2017, when it was also 13%, and is just four points above the all-time low from November 2013. While Americans had already viewed Congress quite negatively before the recent turmoil over the speakership, that drama further eroded Americans’ image of the legislative branch, primarily among Democrats. Congress’ actions over the next few weeks will help determine if it can regain some of the public trust it lost in the past month.

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