The project is still getting caught up while simultaneously working on visualizations for the data; these will be posted soon and updated regularly. For now, it’s a “how soon we forget” sort of day.

Senator Marco Rubio’s latest thinking on Venezuela seeks to acknowledge that the United States was criticized for being “involved in some coups” during the Cold War. Here’s a political use of the past that can be called correct in the statement and wildly wrong in the understatement. The actual count varies widely, but most people would say it is more than “a few.” Historian John H. Coatsworth counts forty-one successful regime change efforts between 1898 and 1994: “That amounts to once every 28 months for an entire century.”

Talking Cold War
3/24/1986 President Reagan meeting with Elliott Abrams about trip to Central America with John Whitehead in the Oval Office. Reagan Presidential Library

Still, we should be glad Rubio brought this up. It’s good to be reminded that there was some criticism of the “heavy hand” the United States brought to the region, especially since the surge in today’s asylum-seekers can be largely traced back to many of those policies and actions. And history is returning in material ways as well. As Trump weighs his options he has brought in Reagan’s old adviser Elliot Abrams as special envoy in charge of Venezuela. Abrams supported strong-arm tactics during the long bloody interventions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, and was convicted deceiving Congress about arms sales to the Contras. He has been accused of giving tacit support, while serving George W. Bush, to the failed coup against Hugo Chavez. If Trump’s foreign policy takes a sudden interventionist turn in South America, it may have a lot to do with his advisers viewing the current crisis through the lens of Cold War history.

Cold War history is also appearing on the domestic side, with Senator Ron Wyden leading a line of attack against Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr. The nominee worked the edges of the Cold War shadows under the first President Bush, but Wyden wants to turn the clock back even further than Barr’s service to illustrate what his views of executive power might mean: “Before the reforms of the 1970s … the government committed one horrific abuse after another. It spied on hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans. It spied on Martin Luther King Jr.” All this, Wyden claims, because of “secret determinations made at the Department of Justice,” determinations that Barr is accused of supporting.

Meanwhile, rounding our our Cold War troika, Senator Jack Reed has dug up an old KGB manual to make the point that their “active measures”–covert propaganda and disinformation aimed at destabilizing democracy–have a long history but only became effective when combined with the speed and accessibility of the internet. In this and the statements above we hear history shaping our elected officials’ views as they craft a posture and attempt to prepare us for Cold War II.

This batch also includes further uses of the Founding Fathers to ask why Congress can’t settle their differences and why we permit abortion. The border continues to be a site of political history discussion, and the attacks on John F. Kennedy’s religion get a reference in relation to a Trump judicial nominee.

Sen. Marco Rubio: The US went from deep involvement in the Western Hemisphere during the Cold War to “the total opposite”--largely ignoring it

Marco RubioThere has been a lot of criticism historically over the US role in the Western Hemisphere. During the Cold War, the criticism was that we were supporting right-wing dictators, fighting off communism, but we were involved in some coups, and we had a heavy hand and got in and imposed ourselves. Then we went the total opposite way, and for many years–in fact, up until recently, no one talked about the Western Hemisphere, and to the extent we did, it was about migration and drugs.

–Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Venezuela, Senate Floor, January 24, 2019

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Sen. Ron Wyden: Trump's Attorney General nominee “would be taking us back 40 years,” to a time of an “abusive, out-of-control government”

Ron WydenAs Mr. Barr himself has made clear, he would be taking us back 40 years, to an era before the Church Committee, when neither Congress nor the courts had any role at all in checking or overseeing an abusive, out-of-control government. Before the reforms of the 1970s, as has now been well documented, the government committed one horrific abuse after another. It spied on hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans. It spied on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It spied on activists. It spied on Congress. When these abuses finally came to light, Congress acted by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to issue warrants against spies and terrorists. … How did these abusive and illegal programs get their start? With secret determinations made at the Department of Justice that the law didn’t matter and that the President can do what he wants.

–Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Nomination of William Barr, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Jack Reed: The blueprint for Russian information warfare largely mirrors Cold War KGB tactics, but now they get results virtually instantaneously

Jack ReedHistorically, informational warfare has long been a part of the Soviet and Russian arsenal. … During Soviet times, information warfare tactics were part of a broader collection of operations that were referred to as active measures. The State Department described active measures in a 1981 report as including “control of the press in foreign countries; outright and partial forgery of documents; use of rumors, insinuation, altered facts and lies; use of international and local front organizations; clandestine operation of radio stations; and exploitation of a nation’s academic, political, and media figures as collaborators to influence policies of the nation.” Active measures were run by the KGB, which at its height employed approximately 15,000 officers devoted to these tactics. The same State Department report described the strategic rationale for such operations, stating: “Moscow seeks to disrupt relations between states, discredit opponents of the USSR, and undermine foreign leaders, institutions and values.” … The irony is, these are the tactics the Soviets employed, but they have been supercharged because in a digital age, you can reach more people, you can be more effective. … For example, the Soviet-era KGB agents worked for years to get an information warfare campaign to “go viral” and be picked up in multiple news outlets. Today, GRU- and Kremlin-linked troll organizations spread propaganda and disinformation campaigns across social media platforms with ease–virtually instantaneously.

–Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Russian Hybrid Warfare, Senate Floor, January 24, 2019

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Sen. Doug Jones: “This government functions best when this body does what the Founders of the Constitution said we should do: Go to regular order; go to conference”

The deal we got today is going to reopen the government through February 15, and it will go to a conference. … This government functions best when this body does what the Founders of the Constitution said we should do: Go to regular order; go to conference. As Senator Bennet said on the floor yesterday, our Founders contemplated the fact that we are going to have disagreements.

–Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 25, 2019

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Sen. Michael Bennet: Founders believed that “through our disagreements, we would forge more imaginative and more durable solutions than any King or tyrant”

Michael Bennet The reason that is important is that we live in a democratic Republic, and the Founders of this country did two things that had never happened in human history: They led a successful armed insurrection against a colonial power in one generation, and they formed a democratic Republic whose Constitution was ratified by the people who would live under it. What they knew because they were enlightened thinkers–or I should say not what they knew but what they believed because they had only bad examples from which to draw when they sat there in Philadelphia writing that Constitution–but what they knew was that in a Republic, we would have disagreements. That was their expectation, and their belief was that out of those disagreements we would–and, by the way, they knew we would have disagreements because they had disagreements, and they had failed on some very important things. It has to be said. They perpetuated human slavery because they couldn’t come to an agreement about that, and other people, whom I think of as Founders–just as important, just as significant as those Founders–ended the enslavement of human beings in America and did other important things, such as make sure my daughters had the right to vote. … But what they believed at their core was that through our disagreements, we would forge more imaginative and more durable solutions than any King or tyrant could come up with on their own.

–Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 24, 2019

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the government shutdown: like Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right”

Amy Klobuchar On Monday, we celebrated Martin Luther King’s life. One of the things Martin Luther King once said was that “the time is always right to do what is right.” This is the right time. We can’t just keep waiting while government Agencies remain shuttered.

–Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 24, 2019

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Sen. Charles Grassley: “How soon people forget about the prolonged economic stagnation and high unemployment of the 1970s” due to high taxes

Charles GrassleyAt least one new Democratic Member has suggested bringing back top tax rates as high as 70 percent to pay for a wish list of far-left, Big Government programs. … While tax rates at 70 percent or higher may have been fairly common in the 1960s, today, not a single OECD country boasts such high rates. How soon people forget about the prolonged economic stagnation and high unemployment of the 1970s when we last had tax rates as high as 70 percent.

–Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Taxes, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Charles Grassley: Tax reform in the 1980s was bipartisan, and wouldn't have happened without Democratic support

Charles GrassleyI can remember the work of Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey–probably at least a moderate Democrat. He was probably as responsible as anybody in the 1980s for reducing these marginal tax rates, because Republicans didn’t have guts enough to do it, and we might not be where we are right now. So it is not just Republican thinking that got these marginal tax rates down. It is not just Republican thinking that has kept this red line where it has been for 60 years, at approximately 16 to 20 percent of gross national product–the amount of the economy that is coming into the Federal Government.

–Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Taxes, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Mike Lee: The March for Life is a continuation of the “story of our Nation standing up to oppression, of our coming to the defense of the vulnerable”

Mike LeeThe March for Life is often seen as the pro-life movement’s response to the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In truth, it is a continuation of the march of human dignity and equality that has defined American history since we first declared “that all men are Created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life”–yes, life–“Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” … The story of American history is the story of our Nation standing up to oppression, of our coming to the defense of the vulnerable in our laws and with our very lives. From Independence Hall to the Bill of Rights, from the abolition of slavery to universal suffrage, to the civil rights movement, to the triumph over nazism, fascism, and communism, the American people have fought through prejudice and pride to assert and to defend the equal dignity of every single member of the human family. For all the powerful forces arrayed against it, the right to life remains a part of who we are–a common heritage and, I believe history will prove, a common destiny.

–Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), March for Life, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Roy Blunt: This administration, “the most pro-life” in US history, is protecting what Jefferson called the right of conscience

Roy BluntI also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of what has become one of the most pro-life administrations in our Nation’s history. … They [Trump Administration officials] have passed regulations to further protect the right of conscience.

In a famous letter written in the last year of his Presidency, President Jefferson said that the right of conscience–the right to fervently believe what you believe is the right thing–should be the right we hold the most dear, and the President is trying to be sure that applies in every possible case to Federal law as well.

–Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2019, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Michael Bennet: For the second time in history, “We are actually having our deficit shooting through the roof while unemployment has fallen”

Michael BennetNow, for the first time almost in history–it happened once before during the Vietnam war–we are actually having our deficit shooting through the roof while unemployment has fallen. It has never happened before. These are the people who called Barack Obama a Bolshevik and a socialist at the depths of the recession, when we had a 10-percent unemployment rate, and didn’t lift a finger to do anything.

–Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 24, 2019

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Sen. Richard Durbin: December 2018 was the “worst December for the stock market since 1931, during the Great Depression”

Richard DurbinIf you happen to have a retirement account with investments in stocks, you noticed that December was a pretty horrible month. There was an 8.7-percent drop in the stock market in December–the worst December for the stock market since 1931, during the Great Depression.

–Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Ben Sasse: Asking a judicial nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus is “the same kind of garbage” thrown at John F. Kennedy

Ben SasseBrian [Buescher, nominated to become United States District Judge for the District of Nebraska] then got a letter from a Member of this body asking him if he would resign his membership in the Knights of Columbus if he were confirmed to the Federal bench to “avoid the appearance of bias.” … The clear implication here was that Brian’s religious beliefs and his religious affiliations–in this case, an affiliation with a Catholic organization that invests countless hours and millions of dollars annually serving special needs kids–Brian was supposedly therefore potentially unfit for Federal service. This is the same kind of garbage that was thrown at a Member of this body, John F. Kennedy, 60 years ago when he was campaigning for the Presidency. So today I have introduced a resolution–a 101-level, basic resolution–that simply reaffirms the belief of this body in American religious liberty.

–Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Expressing the Sense of the Senate that Disqualifying a Nominee to Federal Office on the Basis of Membership in the Knights of Columbus Violates the Constitution of the United States, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. John Barrasso: “Presidents Reagan through Obama have acknowledged the crisis” on the southern border

John BarrassoMeanwhile, the Democrats and media fact-checkers are out in force to attack President Trump. They insist there is no border crisis. … Presidents Reagan through Obama have acknowledged the crisis. In 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama said: “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked.”

–Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Border Security, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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Sen. Jeff Merkley: Like Nero, the Senate is fiddling while Rome burns

Jeff MerkleyIt is not a proud moment to have such dysfunction in the heart of the Senate. I am reminded of the historical reference: “While Nero fiddles, Rome burns.” It is a reference to the year A.D. 64, when Rome burned to the ground. The historian Suetonius records that Nero was responsible for the fire, and he watched it from a tower while playing an instrument and singing about the destruction of a different place–the destruction of Troy. Here we sit today with our leadership’s fiddling while our Nation suffers, while our leadership watches from afar from the tower, playing some fiddle for its amusement, instead of taking action here on the floor of the Senate.

–Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Government Funding, Senate Floor, January 16, 2019

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