Dave Begley: Live from Council Bluffs

Did you know that California Rep. Eric Swalwell is launching a presidential campaign? Yesterday he came to Council Bluffs. We had Dave Begley on hand to cover the festivities for us. Dave is a Nebraska attorney practicing elder law and estate planning in Omaha. He is also our occasional presidential campaign correspondent. Dave has filed this report on Swalwell in Council Bluffs (thumbnail photo and photo below by Dave):

The Pottawattamie County Democrats invited Rep. Eric Swalwell to speak at (Abe) Lincoln’s Pub in Council Bluffs that sells West O(maha) beer brewed in Milford, Iowa. Sitting next to me at the bar was a union guy with an earring and wearing a kilt. It was 19 degrees outside.

Swalwell has one real talent: He gets himself on TV a lot. That is a function of giving the cables what they want: vocal criticism of Trump and the ability to speak from his position on the House Intelligence Committee.

Think about it. He gets more face time than Minnesota’s senior Senator and presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. Senator Klobuchar projects a Minnesota nice persona, wins big majorities in her home state, and puts on a winning public smile. Until recently, however, she hasn’t done much national television.

When Swalwell is on TV, I don’t listen. He talks but says nothing other than something predictably outrageous about Trump. He gives me the smarmy and sleazy politician vibe. Think Senator Geary in Godfather, Part II. (“I want your answer and the money by noon tomorrow. And one more thing. Don’t you contact me again. Ever. From now on, you deal with Turnbull.”)

Swalwell hasn’t announced, but he’s running. After his stump speech one astute questioner asked what makes him stand out in what will be a large field. He said he is connected to everyday people. In support of that he cited his $100,000 in student loan debt and the fact that he is the first in his family to go to college. He pitches himself as an opponent of incrementalism. He wants to take bold action. He also presented himself as a considerably younger than the likes of Biden and Sanders. He thinks it’s time to skip a generation.

We will see lots of Trump hatred on the Democrats’ campaign trail. It responds to a strong demand in the Dem base. Swalwell started his stump speech saying that “when Trump loses, America wins” and that there will be “more losses for the President in the next two years.” He places Trump on the back nine.

Swalwell has a local Iowa connection. He grew up in Sac City, Iowa (and Dublin, California). His dad was a cop. After law school, he worked as a prosecutor in Oakland. He cited the abundance of liquor stores and rundown schools in the area; they don’t fulfill the promise of America. But haven’t the Democrats been in charge of Oakland and California for at least the last 25 years?

He wants us to rejoin the Paris Agreement. He favors the Democrats’ laundry list of free goods and services including Medicare for all. Freedom stops with political speech (i.e., he wants to end Citizens United). He wants higher estate taxes, higher income taxes and a wealth tax. He is the generic Democratic candidate vintage 2020.

At the end he asserted that Trump divides the country. After he is out in 2020, the Dems will unite us. His line is that he is for multiplication and addition rather than division and subtraction. Not exactly Ted Sorensen.

I asked about making student loan debt dischargeable in bankruptcy. This is a sleeper issue. Swalwell was plugged into it and said he had co-sponsored a bill to that effect. Left unsaid is that it is unlikely the Speaker will allow a vote on it.

Swalwell made one astounding accusation. He said that after the election the President’s company secured a $500 million dollar hotel loan from China and in a quid pro quo certain sanctions were lifted on a Chinese telecom company. That’s a bold claim of effectively a bribe paid and received by the President. Maybe the Dems can add that to their Articles of Impeachment. Not!

The kilt guy said that Trump doesn’t want a wall and, if it is built, it wouldn’t be effective. The illegals and the drug traffickers would find a way to defeat it. He claimed that walls have never worked. The kilt guy may be ripe for Beto O’Rourke.

Running for president from his perch in the House, Swalwell shows his ambition. He’s not going to win, but his campaign will raise his profile and position him for the Senate or a Cabinet spot if Trump loses.

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