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D.C. Memo: As moronic as it is selfish

An unauthorized trip to Kabul, Angie Craig comes out against “Defund the Police,” and the corporate response to George Floyd’s death.

A screen grab shows people carrying an injured person to a hospital after an attack at Kabul airport on Thursday.
A screen grab shows people carrying an injured person to a hospital after an attack at Kabul airport on Thursday.
REUTERS TV/1TV/Handout

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me … in the North Star state itself! I’ve had a great time this week getting to see friends and family again, spending some time in the great outdoors and meeting my coworkers in person for the first time. I started this job remotely during the pandemic, so this is the first chance I’ve had to see anyone beyond the Zoom screen. But Washington doesn’t stop when I leave. In this week’s memo: An unauthorized trip to Kabul, Rep. Angie Craig comes out against “Defund the Police,” and the corporate aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

You’re not supposed to be there

A quick Afghanistan update, as conditions in Kabul are changing by the hour: There have been at least two confirmed explosions, which according to POLITICO were from ISIS-K suicide bombers, at a Kabul airport gate and a nearby hotel on Thursday. This came after warnings of a terrorist attack.

The U.S. is still attempting to extract citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans from the country, but efforts are starting to wind down as the situation gets more risky by the day. President Joe Biden said that Aug. 31 would be the deadline for getting people out of Afghanistan.

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U.S. Reps. Peter Meijer, R-Michigan, and Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, made an unauthorized trip to Kabul early Tuesday morning, leaving less than 24 hours later on a flight that was meant for evacuating U.S. citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans.

Predictably, the Pentagon and the State Department were pissed.

A senior administration official spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity to provide a frank and uncensored assessment of the trip:

“It’s as moronic as it is selfish,” the official said. “They’re taking seats away from Americans and at-risk Afghans — while putting our diplomats and service members at greater risk — so they can have a moment in front of the cameras.”

“We have been on the other side of this argument while we were serving and it just isn’t accurate,” Moulton and Meijer, both veterans who served in Iraq, said. “Trust us: The professionals on the ground are focused on the mission. Many thanked us for coming.”

If you’ve been keeping up with MinnPost this week (you are, aren’t you?), you’ll have seen that Meijer met up with Rep. Angie Craig in her home district recently as part of a congressional exchange program. I couldn’t get Meijer on the phone, with the explanation that he was busy with Afghanistan. I guess this is what his team meant by that.

Senate Democrats tee up votes on budget, infrastructure

I’ll keep this short, because we just published a detailed look at the infrastructure deal and the split among moderates and progressives where you can learn more about the nitty-gritty arguments happening among disparate groups within the Democratic Party.

At a broader level, here’s what you need to know:

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  • On Tuesday, members of the House of Representatives voted along party lines to approve the $3.5 trillion budget spending bill for consideration. This doesn’t mean the bill passed. It just gives lawmakers the opportunity to start drafting the legislative text of the bill, which will be a complicated process of everyone trying to throw their priority projects in.
  • This vote was an attempt to placate moderate Democrats who didn’t want to look at the budget before passing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill — now, Sept. 27 is the deadline for a vote to pass the bill.
  • The end of September is likely going to get wildly contentious as lawmakers from all parts of the political spectrum try to get their priorities into the massive spending bill before Sept. 27.

As for Minnesota’s Republican delegates: Most weren’t too happy about the budget. Seventh District Rep. Michelle Fischbach told Nancy Pelosi during the votes that the budget bill “provides for the consideration of two controversial, partisan bills … that strip away local control and add trillions to the national debt.”

Eighth District Rep. Pete Stauber also took issue with the budget bill, saying that it raised overall spending and the national debt, and that Congress needs to focus on different priorities: “Instead of spending ourselves into ruin, both sides of the aisle must begin to work together to find commonsense solutions to the many Biden-made crises, like soaring inflation, the chaos at our southern border, the dramatic rise in crime, and the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan,” Stauber said in a statement.

Angie Craig will not defund the police

Rep. Angie Craig released a statement this week showing her opposition to the “Defund the Police” effort in Minneapolis.

“There is much shared consensus around many police reforms across our communities and much work to do before all of our communities feel safe for everyone. However, I am strongly opposed to the Minneapolis Ballot Initiative, which I believe would jeopardize public safety and diminish accountability. The Yes 4 Minneapolis referendum is shortsighted, misguided and likely to harm the very communities that it seeks to protect,” Craig said.

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She also said it was “simply unimaginable” that the Yes 4 Minneapolis referendum could lead to the dismissal of Chief Medaria Arradondo “at a time when his sound, trusted leadership is needed more than ever.”

“Given the gravity of this situation and the implications that it could have on our great state and region, I feel a responsibility to speak out against this initiative, which would create confusion and uncertainty around public safety in the largest city in our state – while potentially undermining the safety and security of our communities,” Craig said.

In the context of the 2022 midterm elections, this is probably a smart move for Craig. Republicans are eyeing her seat, and national media outlets are linking the Minneapolis “defund” narrative as a significant liability for Democrats in suburban districts like Craig’s. She told me herself last week that her district is about a third Democrat, a third Republican and a third undecided. That’s dangerous ground for a Democratic representative in 2022.

Craig’s move here could be an early sign of more centrist Dems distancing themselves from progressives like Rep. Ilhan Omar. Craig’s district will be one to watch in 2022.

What we can learn from the corporate aftermath

Speaking of “Defund the Police,” The Washington Post published an analysis of another nationwide phenomenon that emerged from the police murder of George Floyd. Hundreds of companies, from big corporations to small businesses, made promises on social media that they were “listening and learning” and made broad commitments to racial justice.

The Post’s analysis shows that where and how these companies dedicated their money became “the most visible signs of their priorities.”

At first glance, the numbers look pretty good: To date, America’s 50 biggest public companies and their foundations collectively committed at least $49.5 billion since Floyd’s murder last May to addressing racial inequality.

Looking deeper, though, the Post found that “more than 90 percent of that amount — $45.2 billion — is allocated as loans or investments they could stand to profit from, more than half in the form of mortgages. Two banks — JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America — accounted for nearly all of those commitments.”

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So what does a commitment to racial justice really mean when it comes to a capitalist society? We probably won’t learn that from large companies, and it will likely come more from individual actions than it does from corporate do-gooding.

What I’m reading

  • Her name is not Honey Boo Boo, Teen Vogue. Do you remember the grip that 6-year-old child star had on society circa-2012? If not, this story probably won’t be too culturally relevant to you. But if you know, you know. Now on the brink of her 16th birthday, Alana Thompson is no longer the rambunctious child beauty queen that the world knew as Honey Boo Boo. In this article by author and journalist Rainesford Stauffer, Alana gets to talk about her life as a public high school student and her dreams for the future.
  • The secret bias hidden in mortgage approval algorithms, The Markup. Before reading this article, I’d heard of homeowners of color having a harder time selling their homes than their white counterparts, especially if family photos in the home showed nonwhite residents. This investigation by The Markup shows that similar inequities exist in the home buying process — nationally, loan applicants of color were 40-80% more likely to be denied a loan than their white counterparts.
  • Trying — and failing — to save the family of the Afghan who saved me, New Yorker. I don’t necessarily have the words to explain this article, and in some ways the headline says it all. Although thousands of people have made it out of Afghanistan in the last few weeks, so many are still left behind.

That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, concerns or  favorite ways to spend time in Minnesota to ahackett@minnpost.com, or find me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.