Background Briefing: February 19, 2019


Trump Conflates Chaos in Venezuela with Socialism in America

We begin with President Trump’s campaign rally in Miami on Presidents Day at which he fired up Latino voters with his attacks on Venezuela’s Maduro, conflating Maduro’s disastrous impoverishment of an oil-rich country with what he is trying to portray as the socialist “menace” here at home advocated by Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders. Michael Shifter, president for policy and director of the Andean Program at the Inter-American Dialogue joins us to discuss Trump’s Miami visit aimed at stoking fears of socialism to wins elections, and how the Democrats have been caught flat-footed in the key 2020 re-election state of Florida. We will assess how much the chaos in Venezuela is helping Trump in the absence of a narrative from the Democrats on how best to deal with Maduro who is blocking aid shipments into the country while threats of military intervention by Trump only serve to help Maduro cling to power. With Latinos largely supporting Democrats due to Trump’s border policy and racist remarks against Mexicans, could events in Venezuela help Republicans make inroads with Latino voters? And what strategies could the divided Democrats adopt in Florida to avoid being pegged as the party who would bring you an American version of Cuba and Venezuela.


Bernie Sanders Enters the 2020 Presidential Race

Then, with Senator Bernie Sanders’ announcement today he is running for president in 2020, we speak with Eric Levitz who writes for New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer and has covered Senator Sanders extensively. He joins us to discuss Bernie Sanders’ strength having aroused a youthful populist base on the American left and whether the division between centrist Democrats and progressives that Wikileaks and the Russians exploited in 2016 will be inflamed in the 2020 primaries among Democratic hopefuls trying to get noticed in a crowded field.


Mounting Scandals Ahead of the Pope’s Sex Abuse Prevention Summit

Then finally we investigate the almost daily scandals erupting in the Catholic Church with revelations about a secret Vatican department’s procedures to deal with children fathered by priests, the defrocking of a prominent American Cardinal and a homosexual network within the Church’s hierarchyKenneth Briggs, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter and is the former religion editor at The New York Times, joins us to assess how the Pope can deal with these long-standing and mounting problems in his upcoming sex abuse prevention summit.