After spending the first year of the pandemic generally staying quiet about President Donald Trump’s downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic, comparison to the flu, calling it the “China virus,” opposing masks and social distancing, promoting hydroxychloroquine and other fake “cures,” refusing to invoke the Defense Production Act, and using the pandemic as a way to get on TV every day while spreading false information, former Trump Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams is “uncomfortable” with the Biden administration supporting a private company’s free beer incentive, and wonders, “Are cigarettes next?”
“Do public health advocates who’ve tried to raise the alarm about the health complications of increasing alcohol consumption really not have a problem with a federally sanctioned beer giveaway?” Dr. Adams, a former Vice Admiral, asked on Twitter Tuesday.
That “federally sanctioned beer giveaway” comes courtesy of Anheuser-Busch, which has “partnered with the Biden White House to give every American a free beer if 70% of Americans are vaccinated with at least one shot by the Fourth of July,” according to Fortune.
Americans are not given a COVID-19 vaccine shot and then a beer chaser at their local CVS, Walgreen’s or hospital or health clinic.
It’s merely one way to get more people vaccinated.
Given that the Trump administration is responsible for what the media generously calls “vaccine hesitancy,” it’s stunning the top health official who sat back and said little as Trump spread falsehoods – literally creating the situation we now see, where 41% of Republicans say they will never get vaccinated – is “uncomfortable.”
“I’m all for incentives/ rewards, and I’m not against people making personal choices to drink, but even the current Surgeon General put out a report warning about the health effects of alcohol consumption. Donuts, gambling (lottery tickets)… Are cigarettes next? Just me?” Dr. Adams asked.
He then suggested he had tried to take the high road, but just could not stand by any longer.
“I’m just really starting to get uncomfortable with the public health trade offs here,” he said, which would be trying to unite America by motivating people to get their friends and family members who refuse to follow the science and get vaccinated to save their lives and the lives of those around them, vaccinated. “And the messages we’re subtly sending our youth. Is it really worth it?”
I’ve tried to hold off as I know my message is likely to be seen by some as attacking the administration, but I’m not. I’m just really starting to get uncomfortable with the public health trade offs here. And the messages we’re subtly sending our youth. Is it really worth it? 🤔
— Jerome Adams (@JeromeAdamsMD) June 8, 2021
Many argue that, yes, it is. Some agreed with Adams. Some criticized him for his performance as Surgeon General.
And some asked why he didn’t have a problem with the gun giveaway.
1) They aren’t giving beer away. It’s a cash gift card payed for by Budweiser. 2) Krispy Kreme decided themselves to give donuts away and it’s not a program from the government. 3) why not mention the rifles and shotguns being given away by WV?
— Frederick Augustus Olds (@fredaolds) June 8, 2021
(1) Some vice-based incentives are worth it, if it gets more people vaccinated (2) You, as Surgeon General, mocking COVID-19 (and blasting Democrats who were trying to take the response seriously) to get Trump to like you: now that probably killed a lot of people.
— David Rothschild (@DavMicRot) June 8, 2021
Jerome, I hear you. Wonder where the concern was when your boss was telling people to inject bleach and not wear masks or that testing was the only reason we had cases. Agree with your concerns on incentives, but would be more credible if you called out BS consistently
— Ariel Berger (@ArielBerger5) June 8, 2021
They wouldn’t have to beg if there wasn’t people continuously downplaying the vaccine or virus
— Camille (@clt_luv) June 8, 2021
If only the people from the Trump administration (and Trump) had been consistent in their message about ways to fight Covid (masks, social distancing, washing hands, vaccination, etc.) and hadn’t made it a political, partisan issue from the very beginning….. If only.
— Michele (@ourroseylife) June 8, 2021
The sad part of all this is that it had to come to “bribes” for people to take the vaccine. The Right spreads the lie that the vaccine is not safe and why they won’t take it, not even considering the truth of the matter….that Covid was politicized and the vaccine along with it!
— truth hag (@HagTruth) June 8, 2021
Any problem with gun incentives or nah?
— RudyTheBold (@BoldRudy) June 8, 2021
After your obsequious ass kissing of trump, while abetting the misinformation & negligence during the early days of the pandemic, you really should sit this one out, champ.
— Inept Sloganeer (@EliotGreenspan) June 8, 2021
Image: Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen via Flickr
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House Republican’s Bill Aims to Put LGBTQ Children in Adoption and Foster Care at Risk
In September, the Biden administration’s Dept. of Health and Human Services announced new proposed rules to protect LGBTQ youth in foster care or adoption agencies, and included the basic requirement that any child who identifies as LGBTQI+ be placed in a supportive environment, “free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse.”
Now, a far-right MAGA Republican Congressman, Jim Banks of Indiana who is running for the U.S. Senate, has proposed legislation that could harm not just LGBTQI+ kids but all children awaiting foster care or adoption, by stripping federal funding from agencies that abide by the Biden administration’s protections for those children.
Rep. Banks is a far right-wing extremist who forged multiple congressional documents sent to federal agencies and voted to not certify the 2020 election. He is also an anti-LGBTQ activist and anti-science climate change denier who opposes a woman’s right to choose, Obamacare, and same-sex marriage.
“For too long,” the Dept. of Health and Human Services said in its announcement, “LGBTQI+ children have faced significant disparities in the child welfare system. LGBTQI+ youth are overrepresented in foster care, but face worse outcomes, including poor mental health, higher rates of homelessness, and discrimination just because of who they are in some foster care settings.”
“LBGTQI+ children often have unique needs and deserve care that affirms their identities,” HHS noted, stating its proposed rule “would require that child welfare agencies ensure that each child in their care who identifies as LGBTQI+ receive a safe and appropriate placement and services that help them thrive.”
It would also “protect LGBTQI+ youth by placing them in environments free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status,” and “would require that caregivers for LGBTQI+ children are properly and fully trained to provide for the needs of the child related to the child’s self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”
Fox News reports, “Banks’ bill, the Sensible Adoption for Every (SAFE) Home Act, would prevent child welfare agencies and related groups that receive federal funding from getting those funds if they refuse prospective parents who insist against the child’s stated LGBTQ status.”
That means parents could foster a 14-year old girl or boy who identifies as lesbian, bisexual, or gay and force they to say they are straight. They could adopt a 15-year old transgender boy, block him from any medication or counseling he might have been receiving, and force him to wear clothing that does not conform to his gender identity. Depending on state law, they could force an LGBTQI+ child into dangerous so-called conversion therapy that has been likened tom torture.
Congressman Banks told Fox News the “Biden administration is cruelly preventing countless children in the foster care and adoption system from going to loving homes just because parents are opposed to irreversible sex change procedures on kids,” falsely suggesting all LGBTQI+ kids are transgender and falsely suggesting all gender-affirming care involves “irreversible sex change procedures.”
“This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. This is just plain wrong, and every sane person knows it,” Banks added.
‘Hardball? You Bet’: Dems ‘Need to Be Prepared’ After McCarthy Exit Urges Top Political Scholar
The American voters sent 222 Republicans and 213 Democrats to the House of Representatives in the 2022 elections, the exact same margin, but flipped, as the 2020 election. But today, with the announcement that ousted, former GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is not only not running for re-election but is quitting Congress at the end off the year, Republicans have a big majority crisis — because of their now tiny majority.
It’s no longer 222 to 213.
After McCarthy’s exit, and with the recent expulsion of now-former Congressman George Santos (R-NY) Republican Speaker Mike Johnson will have a very slim majority.
“The party’s margin in the House fell to three seats from four with the expulsion of Representative George Santos of New York last week,” The New York Times explains. “That leaves almost no wiggle room for Mr. Johnson, who is already dealing with a revolt from the far right for working with Democrats to keep the government funded and faces another pair of shutdown deadlines in mid-January and early February.”
“When the House returns in January,” The Washington Post adds, “Republicans can lose only two votes from their ranks to pass any legislation at a time when the chamber faces major decisions on government spending and foreign aid. That dynamic could force Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who assumed the post after a tumultuous three weeks following McCarthy’s ouster, to work with Democrats to avert a partial government shutdown as soon as mid-January.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) has announced he will retire and exit Congress early next year.
But possibly even before that, Speaker Johnson’s tiny majority could at some point become an opening for Democrats, according to a top political scientist and scholar, Dr. Norman Ornstein.
“Democrats need to be prepared to act swiftly and decisively if the numbers drop below 218– even if only for a day. Quick motion to vacate, [Hakeem] Jeffries as Speaker, immediate agenda,” writes Dr. Ornstein, a senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), “where he has been studying politics, elections, and the US Congress for more than four decades.”
Ornstein offers more opportunities should Democrats be able to take the majority back soon.
“Reconciliation bill to secure robust spending, eliminate debt limit permanently, taxes on rich to pay for permanent child tax credit.”
He adds, the number of Republican members “would need to get down to 213. But any set of problems– a Covid outbreak, for example– could bring those numbers down, if only for a day or two. Have a plan ready! Hardball? You bet.”
David Rothkopf, the noted foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator, responding to Ornstein’s remarks appeared to urge Republicans to join with Democrats to elect a Democratic Speaker, or even to switch parties:
“This. C’mon you GOPers from purple districts. Trump will have you purged and sent to Siberia. We just need 2 of you. You can be unloved by the GOP or heroes to the rest of America! Make your move now.”
Of course, special elections will be held to replace both Santos (scheduled for February 13, 2024) and McCarthy (likely summer, according to The Post), and at some point Johnson.
But with the extremely large number of members of Congress who have exited or will be, as Ornstein says, Democrats need to be ready.
How Mike Johnson Spent the Day Protecting Mike Johnson
Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made two major statements Wednesday at a press conference on his Biden impeachment inquiry, both of which serve to protect not the rule of law, the public’s faith in the credibility of Congress, or American democracy, but Mike Johnson.
Johnson, elected Speaker by every House Republican just five weeks ago, was widely described as a “back-bencher,” (a British term Americans have co-opted to refer to a low-profile or lower-level member of Congress,) yet he was anything but. While not well-known by the American people, Johnson had made his mark during the 2020 election, leading The New York Times recently to call him “a key architect of his party’s objections to certifying President Biden’s victory.”
“Mr. Johnson played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the results” of the 2020 presidential election, The Times reported. “In December 2020, Mr. Johnson collected signatures for a legal brief in support of a Texas lawsuit, rooted in baseless claims of widespread election irregularities, that tried to throw out the results in four battleground states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr.”
In an opinion piece last month, The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie declared, “Mike Johnson Is a Right-Wing Fever Dream Come to Life.”
In addition to Johnson’s far-right wing views on religion and social issues, Bouie pointed to the Speaker’s “tireless advocacy on behalf of Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”
He noted: “Johnson wrote one of the briefs purporting to give a legal justification for throwing out the voting results in several swing states. He advanced the conspiracy theory that Venezuela was somehow involved with the nation’s voting machines. On Jan. 6, 2021, he urged his Republican colleagues to block certification of the election on the grounds that state changes to voting in the face of the pandemic were illegitimate and unconstitutional. When questioned, during his first news conference as speaker, whether he stood by his effort to overturn the 2020 election, he ignored the question, and his fellow Republicans shouted down the reporter who asked it.”
Johnson “is, in short, an election-denying extremist who believes that his allies have the right to nullify election results so that they can impose their vision of government and society on an unwilling public.”
On Wednesday, Speaker Johnson falsely described both impeachments of Donald Trump as “meritless.”
It was an important statement for him to make, for Mike Johnson.
“I’m a lawyer. I’m a constitutional law attorney,” Speaker Johnson told reporters Wednesday, a statement he frequently uses to remind people of his status. “I served on President Trump’s impeachment defense team twice. And we lamented openly, we decried how the Democrats politicized that process, they were brazenly political, and how they brought those meritless impeachment charges against the president.”
Donald Trump was impeached the first time for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after “Trump froze military assistance for Ukraine,” NPR reported in early 2020, “at the same time he sought investigations that he thought might help him in the 2020 campaign.”
The second time Trump was impeached, in January 0f 2021, was for “incitement of insurrection.” Speaker Johnson calling that meritless is in direct contradiction of a Colorado judge’s recent ruling that Trump did, in fact, “engage in insurrection.”
“This, what you’re seeing here, is exactly the opposite,” Johnson continued on Wednesday, referring to his committee chairmen’s impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. It is an inquiry that Republicans have been forced to admit, even while on Fox News, they have no actual proof of any impeachable offense.
“We are the rule of law team,” Johnson continued. “The Republican Party stands for the rule of law. And the people in charge of this are doing this thoroughly, carefully. methodically. They’re investigating and gathering all the facts and to do this appropriately and to do it in a manner that upholds our constitutional responsibility. requires time, it requires a sound process. You don’t rush something like this. You can’t.”
Speaker Mike Johnson during a news conference dismisses both of Trump’s impeachments as “meritless” pic.twitter.com/twXn3ztSh2
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
It was critical for Johnson to mischaracterize and demean Democrats’ impeachments of Donald Trump, especially Trump’s second impeachment over his “incitement of insurrection.”
Remember, as The Times noted, Johnson was a “key architect” of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. The insurrection was part of that effort.
Two weeks ago NCRM noted the stakes for Johnson “are simple: his three-vote majority is already razor-thin. Speaker Kevin McCarthy made clear Santos would be allowed to stay as long as possible. Will Johnson direct his leadership team to actively whip to expel Santos, knowing his majority will slip even further?”
Johnson answered that question on Wednesday. Despite having just called his House Republican caucus “the rule of law team,” Johnson effectively declared he opposes Republican efforts to expel U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who is facing 23 federal felony charges, and a damning Ethics Committee report.
Johnson’s tiny majority would become even smaller, should the House expel the embattled New York GOP lawmaker. And early next year it could shrink even more, given the announced upcoming resignation and exit of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), not to mention the other “House Republicans who may head for the exits.”
Dana Houle, a former chief of staff for a Democratic Congressman noted, “Ohio law is murky, but it’s possible [Bill Johnson’s] (overwhelmingly Republican) seat will remain open until November. It’s a reason why Santos won’t be expelled; if Santos’ & Johnson’s seats are vacant the GOP will have only a two seat majority.”
And that’s likely another reason why Speaker Johnson on Wednesday declared, “we’re going to allow people to vote their conscience” on the Santos expulsion vote, expected Thursday. “We’ve not whipped the vote and you wouldn’t I trust that people will make their decisions thoughtfully and in good faith. I personally have real reservations about doing this. I’m, I’m concerned about a precedent that may be set for that.”
Speaker Johnson says he has “real reservations” about expelling George Santos pic.twitter.com/JyaluKfVET
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 29, 2023
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