Sexual Assault: Only Democrats Take it Seriously
Nobody feels sorry for Andrew Cuomo, and nobody defends him. We knew the final report into allegations of sexual assault against him would be bad. We didn't know it'd be such a disaster: explicit details of sexual harassment and assault against 11 women over several years. Given that documented barrage of unacceptable and, most likely, illegal behavior, there's no way Cuomo can continue as governor. He should resign immediately - or become only the second governor in New York's history to be impeached.
But notice the chorus of voices demanding the Democratic governor's resignation: New York attorney general, Democrat Tish James; speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi; Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Democrat Chuck Schumer; every Democratic member of the New York congressional delegation; and president of the United States, Democrat Joe Biden.
What a contrast with the way Republicans handle accusations of sexual assault. The difference is clear: Democrats take sexual assault seriously; Republicans do not. Democrats are quick to condemn the actions of one of their own; Republicans are quick to defend their own. Democrats cast sexual predators out. Republicans elevate them to the highest levels of government: the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Oval Office itself.
Consider Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. He's under criminal investigation by the Justice Department for alleged sex trafficking, recruiting women online and offering them lavish gifts in exchange for sex, including sex with a 17-year-old girl. His associate Joel Greenberg has already pleaded guilty to the same charges and is reportedly cooperating with authorities in the Gaetz investigation.
Sex trafficking. Lavish gifts for sex. Sex with a minor. Serious stuff. But have you heard any leading Republican demand that Matt Gaetz resign? No way. Instead, he's out there with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's blessing, holding frequent news conferences, as one of the most outspoken Members of Congress downplaying the insurrection of January 6 and defending terrorists who attacked the Capitol as "patriots."
How about Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan? According to USports, eight members of the Ohio State University wrestling team in the '80s have reported that they informed Jordan, then an assistant coach at OSU, of sexual abuse by team physician Richard Strauss - but that Jordan did nothing about it. It's the same charge of cover-up that brought down Penn State's legendary Joe Paterno.
But Jordan's still riding high. As ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, Jordan's one of the most powerful Republicans in Congress. Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Leader McCarthy tried to make him a member of the Select Committee on January 6.
And we'll never forget the way Republicans rallied behind Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Shortly after his nomination, Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, later telling the Senate Judiciary Committee how a drunken young Kavanaugh had pinned her down on a bed, groped her, and tried to remove her clothes at a high school party. Two other women came forward with similar complaints of sexual assault.
In response, the FBI spent one week in a perfunctory investigation of the charges, during which they later admitted receiving over 4,500 tips, which they dutifully relayed to the Trump White House, Kavanaugh's principal backer! After receiving the FBI's non-conclusive report, the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh 50-48. Every Republican senator (and one Democrat, Joe Manchin) voted to confirm him.
The worst case is the Republican Party's embrace of serial sexual predator Donald Trump. Let's not forget. Donald Trump was accused of far worse crimes than Andrew Cuomo - and by twice as many women. On the "Access Hollywood" tape, Trump even bragged about assaulting women, insisting he could get away with grabbing their private parts because he was a celebrity. And it's not over. To this day, two different sexual abuse lawsuits against Trump, filed by E. Jean Carroll and Summer Zervos, are still underway in New York courts.
And yet, rather than reject sexual predator Trump, Republicans accepted his behavior, nominated him for president, defended him for four years, and now even want him to run for re-election. They make a mockery of the entire #MeToo movement.
Of course, Republicans talk a good game. They're quick to condemn every allegation of sexual assault - as long as it's directed against a Democrat. But on this issue of such paramount importance, the respectful treatment of women, Republicans have zero credibility - until they stop putting their own predators on a pedestal.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
On Team USA: Give Nancy Pelosi a Gold Medal!
Even without crowds in the stands, it's still exciting to watch the Summer Olympics. Despite disappointments like in women's gymnastics, at least we've seen intense competition. Unlike Washington, D.C.
Take the House of Representatives. In the Summer Games between House Republicans and Democrats, there's zero competition. And it all boils down to this: Nancy Pelosi is the smartest leader in the history of the House. And Kevin McCarthy is the dumbest. Absolutely. Amazingly. Frighteningly. Dumb as a fence post. It's hard to imagine how McCarthy could have mucked up the Republicans' response to January 6 worse than he has. Is he really the best the Republican Party has to offer?
From the moment polls closed on November 3, 2020, McCarthy decided that the best bet for Republicans would be to put loyalty to Trump over loyalty to democracy. On Thursday, November 5, like the Trump puppy dog he is, McCarthy went on Fox News to declare: "President Trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet."
He then led 126 House Republicans in supporting the Texas attorney general's zany request that the Supreme Court invalidate the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Wisconsin. And on January 6, even after Trump's armed mob had forced McCarthy, along with every other member of Congress, to run for his life, he nevertheless voted to decertify Arizona's electoral votes and overturn the election.
Immediately after the insurrection, a shaken McCarthy lashed out. "The President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," he said at the time, in a rare moment of sanity. But within days, doubtlessly after a tongue-lashing by Trump, McCarthy was back to his subservient self. "I don't believe Trump provoked, if you listened to what he said at the rally," McCarthy told reporters on January 21.
Again, albeit so briefly, McCarthy rallied, supporting a bipartisan, September 11-like commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He appointed New York Republican John Katko to hammer out a deal with Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the Homeland Security Committee. But even after Katko got everything the Republican leader demanded, McCarthy - no doubt after checking in again with Trump - made his most stupid mistake of all. He pulled the rug out from under Katko and refused to participate in a bipartisan investigation - thereby giving up any power he once held and handing the entire matter over to Speaker Pelosi.
At which point, Pelosi, again showing her leadership mastery, did what the times demanded. Named a select committee to investigate January 6, which she would control, but in which Republicans, now subject to her veto, were invited to participate. Again, she set a trap for the hapless McCarthy, who walked right into it by appointing Trump sycophants Jim Jordan and Jim Banks - whom Pelosi immediately vetoed. In their place, she nominated conservative truth-seekers Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL).
All of which led to this week's dramatic hearing, where four police officers related their horrific experience of being brutally assaulted, beaten, tased, and gassed in the Capitol on January 6 by armed Trump supporters wearing military gear and Trump campaign clothing, all insisting that they were invading the Capitol because Trump told them to.
Called "traitors" by the mob, the officers were lucky to survive. Yet every one of them said that, even worse than the physical abuse they suffered was the fact that so many of the people they put their lives at risk to defend are downplaying or outright denying what happened. "I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room," said Officer Michael Fanone, "but too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist or that hell isn't that bad."
At the end of the day, Nancy Pelosi showed that Democrats were clearly embarked on a serious, historic, bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6. Meanwhile, thanks to Kevin McCarthy, House Republicans were exposed as anti-police, anti-law and order, anti-learning the truth, and anti-democracy. With the exception of Cheney and Kinzinger, Republicans, who used to be the party of law and order, lined up against police officers and on the side of terrorists.
What can you say about a so-called leader who put Republicans in such a suicidal political position? Ask Speaker Pelosi. When asked her reaction to Kevin McCarthy's bizarre behavior, she said it best: "He's such a moron."
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Earth Burns While Billionaires Take a Joy Ride
Watching two billionaires blast off into space this month was both impressive and maddening. Impressive to see the perfect execution of Virgin Galactic's mission to near-space, with founder Richard Branson on board. And even more impressive, just a few days later, to witness Blue Origin's flawless leap into space, with founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, along for the ride.
But it was also maddening to think of how much money the two missions cost and what good purpose those funds could have been used for back here on terra firma: paying off all student loans; providing housing for the homeless; finding a cure for cancer; or fueling the fight against climate change.
Before either mission launched, in fact, critics tried to shoot them down. Financial analyst Ken Herbert derided Virgin Galactic as "Disney for the 1 percent of the 1 percent." And Bezos was blamed for a giant ego trip that was nothing but a "joy ride for rich guys," - an image not helped when it was revealed that one fan had paid $28 million for a seat on the New Shepard space craft, only to bow out at the last minute over an unknown "scheduling conflict."
One thing for sure: It's a far cry from May 1961, when President John F. Kennedy challenged America to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade: a goal achieved by Astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969. For decades thereafter, America's space program was government's finest achievement: led by the White House, carried out by NASA, and proudly supported and tax-funded by the American people. Today, NASA's no longer in the pilot's seat. Space travel is now a for-profit enterprise, led by three billionaires: Branson, Bezos, and Elon Musk, founder of Space X, where anybody can hitch a ride into outer space, as long as you have a spare $28 million.
All of which has renewed a lively debate, first raised in the '60s, on two big questions: Who should be leading America's space program, the government or the private sector? And how should America's wealth be spent, exploring space or improving life on planet Earth? That debate's stirred up a lot of controversy this week. Bezos, particularly, has come under criticism for spending more on leaving Earth than improving it. But, in truth, the debate's a phony one. Because the only answer to both questions is: "Both!"
Yes, government should have the primary role in space exploration. It always has, and always will. Neither Branson nor Bezos could have achieved so much, so fast, without the pioneering work in space exploration technology developed by NASA and military engineers - and paid for by American taxpayers. Regardless of the billionaires' success in space tourism, NASA will continue to lead America's space program with its dual mission of landing Americans on Mars and establishing a human colony on the moon in the next seven years.
Indeed, this is nothing new. In almost every endeavor, private enterprise has always led the way. European merchants paid for the first trade routes to Asia. As detailed by Andrea Pitzer in her new book "Icebound," Dutch investors bankrolled the first polar expeditions. Henry Ford made automobile travel affordable. Industrialist Henry Flagler built the Florida railroad. And, more fittingly, two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, pioneered today's vast world of commercial air travel. In many ways, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are today's Orville and Wilbur Wright.
Nor does spending on space conflict with spending to solve problems on Earth. Throughout history, civilizations have always felt the urge and recognized the need to explore the new frontier. Otherwise, there'd be no Straits of Magellan, no Northwest Passage, no discovery of America, no Lewis and Clark, no deep-sea exploration, no International Space Station. We are not built to remain static.
Shortly after returning to Earth from his 10-minute, 20-second taste of space, Bezos responded to critics for spending so much money on space when there are still so many problems at home. "They're largely right," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "We have lots of problems here on Earth and we need to work on those. And we always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both."
Bezos is already putting money where his mouth is, recently giving $200 million to the Smithsonian and $100 million each to chef Jose Andres and activist Van Jones. That's a good start. Now if Bezos would only pay his fair share of taxes.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
America Loses Another War
When it comes to war, we Americans can't seem to make up our minds. We say we don't like war yet cheer our troops in battle like a high school football team. We vote for presidents who vow to end wars, yet still re-elect them when they don't and rally behind them when they start another one. We don't like starting wars, but we never want to admit we lost one, either.
Stop right there. Whatever else you think of him, give Joe Biden a lot of credit for finally pulling the plug on the war in Afghanistan. It took guts. Biden had the courage to do what George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump did not: To recognize there was no way America was ever going to win the war in Afghanistan, to admit we'd lost the war - and to get the hell out.
If there were ever a war not worth fighting, it's the war in Afghanistan. Its initial mission was fine: to roust out Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, who'd planned and carried out the September 11 attacks against the United States. But that mission was over in weeks. In effect, we lost the war in Afghanistan once we didn't pull out right then and there. Everything after that was a disaster.
The war in Afghanistan dragged on for 20 years, longer than any war in our history. Longer than World War I, 1.6 years; World War II, 3.7 years; the Civil War, 4 years; the Revolutionary War, 8.4 years; and the war in Iraq, 8.9 years.
According to the Costs of War Project of Brown University, the war in Afghanistan cost $2.6 trillion, with no new taxes to pay for it, all added to the deficit. That does not include $1.8 trillion for health care and disability payments to veterans, nor $6.5 trillion in interest on that debt by 2050. By contrast, the entire Marshall Plan after World War II cost only $13 billion (over $100 billion in 2021 dollars), for which we gained a rebuilt Western Europe. For over $2 trillion in Afghanistan, we gained a weak, corrupt, central government that'll probably collapse within six months.
Finally, as calculated by Harvard's Kennedy School, the war in Afghanistan also cost the lives of 2,448 American military; 3,846 American contractors; 66,000 Afghan military; and 42,245 Afghan civilians. And what did we get for it? Nothing. It's tough to admit that American sons and daughters killed in Afghanistan died in vain, but they did.
In so many ways, the war in Afghanistan is a repeat of the war in Vietnam, the last war we lost. It's all spelled out in the Afghan Papers, a trove of 400 interviews of top officials in Afghanistan conducted by the Pentagon's Special Investigator from 2014 to 2018, but - like the Pentagon Papers - kept secret until published by the Washington Post in 2019.
The Post summed up 2,000 pages of documents in four points: (1) Year after year, U.S. officials failed to tell the public the truth about the war; (2) U.S. officials admitted the mission had no clear strategy; (3) Many years into the war, U.S. officials still did not understand Afghanistan; (4) the U.S. wasted vast sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan and bred corruption in the process. Sound familiar? Vietnam! Been there, done that.
No doubt, America's departure from Afghanistan will create problems. Afghan civilians who helped American troops could be targeted. Afghan women risk losing all the gains they've made. The Taliban could topple the weak central government. But to those who cite those factors as a reason to continue the war, President Biden asked the right question: "Let me ask those who want us to stay: "How many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons, were you willing to risk?" The answer is: None. It's just not worth it.
What lesson did we learn from Afghanistan? The same lesson we should have learned in Vietnam. Joe Cirincione, former head of the Ploughshares Fund, told me on my podcast this week: "We once again learned that America is not good at empire building, and that Afghanistan really is the place where empires go to die."
This week, President George W. Bush, who started the war 20 years ago, called Biden's Afghanistan pullout a "mistake." No, Mr. President. Your mistake was invading Afghanistan in the first place, with no clear mission and no clear timetable for getting out. For better or worse, only Afghans can determine their own future.
Latest GOP scare tactic: Critical race theory
It's one of the oldest, most cynical games in politics: When you're falling behind, make up some phony threat to change the subject and scare the bejesus out of people. Republicans are good at that.
A few years ago, to justify the outright racism of Trump's Muslim ban, Republicans raised the alarm of "sharia law." This extreme form of Islam, they warned, was sweeping the country, resulting in a flood of 200 anti-sharia bills in 40 states -- when, in effect, not one city or state had even proposed adopting sharia law. Within months, a nonexistent problem had been whipped into a national crisis.
Today, Republicans are doing the same thing with "critical race theory," or CRT, even though most people, including those sounding the alarm, have no idea what it is. Nonetheless, Republicans warn, if we don't immediately ban CRT, it'll poison white children's minds, make them ashamed of their race, join the Black Lives Matter Movement, burn the American flag, and refuse to stand for the national anthem. According to Media Matters, in the last 3.5 months, Fox News alone has broadcast 1,300 stories warning about the danger of teaching critical race theory in public schools.
And those scare tactics are working. Since 2020, when Donald Trump ordered OMB to cease federal funding for diversity training or critical race theory, legislation banning teaching CRT in grades K-12 has been introduced by Republican legislators in 22 states and already signed into law in Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Some even propose requiring teachers to wear body cameras to make sure they don't say anything that might make white kids "feel bad about themselves." Another nonexistent problem whipped into a national frenzy.
Make no mistake about it. This whole critical race theory craze is a manufactured crisis. It's the latest manifestation of the white nationalist sentiment ignited and fueled by Donald Trump. It's one more desperate attempt by white supremacists to wrap their racism in the cloak of patriotism, which, as Samuel Johnson noted long ago, is "the last refuge of a scoundrel."
Relax. Critical race theory is no threat to anybody, young or old. For starters, it's not generally taught in elementary or high school. It's the study, first introduced in graduate schools some 40 years ago, of how racism has influenced and infiltrated American law and institutions from our very founding.
In other words, it's a critical history of the United States, warts and all. That the history of the United States actually began in 1619 with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in colonial Virginia, not in 1620 with the arrival of the Pilgrims. That the Constitution, written by slave-owners, promised equality for all Americans, but only guaranteed the vote to white males. That the Civil War ended slavery, only to have it replaced by segregation, Jim Crow, and the brutality of the KKK. That, even today, Republican legislators are passing laws to make it more difficult for people of color to vote.
That history is indisputable. It's not un-American to teach it, it's simply acknowledging the truth. It doesn't say the United States is a bad country. It says we're an imperfect country, which we are. It doesn't say all white people are evil. It says that, from the beginning, some white Americans have deliberately used - and are still attempting to use -- the legal instruments of this country to deny equal rights to black Americans.
That's the truth about America. We can't deny it. Critical race theory shouldn't be banned. It should be taught in every classroom. Because the sooner we name it, say it, and acknowledge it, the better we are equipped to wipe out systemic racism in this country and move forward.
Republicans screaming about critical race theory are only further dividing this country. But let me add this: So are those Democrats dumping on America. I'm talking about Cori Bush, newly elected African American congresswoman from Missouri. On July 4, she tweeted: "When they say that the 4th of July is about American freedom, remember this: the freedom they're referring to is for white people. This land is stolen land and Black people still aren't free."
Sorry, Congresswoman, but you're dead wrong. July 4 is not for white people only. It's a day for all Americans, of every race and creed, to celebrate and rededicate ourselves to the goal of equality for all. And may I remind you, Congresswoman, you are a freely-elected Member of the United States Congress.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
GOP Senators Make Case For Killing Filibuster
Once again this week, the media got it wrong. After Republicans invoked the filibuster to block consideration of S.1, the "For The People Act," most news outlets reported it as a major loss for Democrats and a huge setback for voting rights.
Now, I admit, they were not totally wrong. To protect every American's right to vote, it would have been better had the bill passed. But that's not the full story. What really happened was this: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a trap - and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked right into it.
Let's be honest. Schumer's real goal in scheduling a vote on S.1 was not passage of the bill. Everybody knew it would never get the 60 votes necessary for cloture. His real goal was two-fold. First, to prove that voter suppression is at the heart of the Republican Party agenda. Mission Accomplished! Not only did Senate Republicans oppose any attempt to protect the vote, they wouldn't even let it come up for debate, amendment, or vote.
Second goal: to prove that the Republican Party is, basically, against everything and for nothing. Again, Mission Accomplished! In the Senate so far this year, there was not one Republican vote for the COVID stimulus. Only six Republican votes for creation of the January 6 Truth Commission. And now, not one Republican vote for voting rights.
It's clearer than ever that no matter how many times Joe Biden or Senate Democrats try to reach across the aisle, this gang of Republicans has zero interest in working together to get stuff done. They'd rather filibuster than legislate. Republicans have made the case themselves, stronger than any Democrat could. The only way forward, the only way for the Senate to get anything done, is to kill the filibuster.
For the life of me, I can't understand the eagerness, even on the part of many Democrats, to defend the filibuster. It's not in the Constitution. It's only a Senate rule, which can be changed, anytime, by a majority of senators present and voting. In 1975, perhaps most famously, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, known as the "Conscience of the Senate," successfully led an effort to reduce the number of senators required to invoke the filibuster from 67 to 60.
The filibuster has an ugly past. First adopted as a Senate rule in 1806, it was rarely used until the '50s when it became the weapon of choice for Southern Democratic senators to kill civil rights legislation. Strom Thurmond still holds the record for the longest individual filibuster, speaking against the 1957 Civil Rights Act for 24 hours and 18 minutes.
But that's when a senator actually had to stand at the podium, talking nonstop, and other senators had to sit, or lie on cots rolled in for the occasion, and listen. Of course, that's no longer the case. Today's filibuster is a farce. Nobody has to speak, not even for five minutes. All opponents have to do is "declare" a filibuster and, unless supporters can round up 60 votes, the bill is dead.
Today it's even worse than that. Now Republicans use the filibuster, almost exclusively, not to kill a bill, but to prevent its consideration. Supporters have to round up 60 votes just to bring legislation, even with some bipartisan support, to the floor for debate. Which is, of course, a self-fulfilling defeat. Because, with no debate there is no opportunity to amend or improve the bill to round up whatever additional votes might have been needed for passage.
In effect, McConnell and today's Senate Republicans are saying: We don't want to do our job. We don't want to govern. We don't want to legislate. We will simply use the filibuster to shut the Senate down, which they have succeeded in doing, and will continue to do so, as long as the filibuster survives.
Some Democrats want to keep the filibuster, because they think they'll need it, next time they're in the minority. But they're simply perpetuating the tyranny of the minority. The filibuster is inherently undemocratic. It's wrong, whether invoked by Republicans or Democrats.
The good news is that the more Republicans invoke the filibuster, the more public pressure will build to get rid of it altogether or reduce the operative vote from 60 to 55 and force senators to actually take the podium and talk as long as their bladder holds out. At least that would be a good start.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Catholic Bishops Choose Trump over Biden
Some people can't take yes for an answer. Take America's Catholic bishops.
For only the second time in our history, a Catholic has been elected president of the United States. But Joe Biden's not just a Catholic in name only, like John F. Kennedy. Biden's a practicing Catholic. He faithfully attends mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening). He carries a rosary with him. He talks openly about how his faith informs his politics.
Reflecting what Jesus taught and practiced, Biden once told The Hill: "My faith teaches me to care for the least among us." Shortly before the 2020 election, he told The Christian Post: "My faith implores me to embrace a preferential option for the poor and, as president, I will do everything in my power to fight poverty."
When it comes to faith and Catholicism, Joe Biden's the real deal. So what do American Catholic bishops do? Celebrate the success and example of one of their own? No. They're trying to throw Joe Biden under the bus.
Top of the agenda at a general assembly of America's Catholic bishops this week was scheduling a vote in November on a proposal to deny communion to President Biden and other elected Catholics because they are pro-choice. It's the same ban they tried, but failed, to enact against vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Now they're going after Joe Biden. Even though - get this! - Pope Francis begged them not to!
In a statement this month, Pope Francis urged bishops not to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon. The sacrament of communion, he preached, "is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners." The Vatican's top doctrinal official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote a letter to American bishops warning them that going ahead with such a vote could "become a source of discord rather than unity" - a view echoed by Catholic lay leader Steve Schneck, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, who told me it would widen "the already too sharp division among American Catholics, shattering solidarity and dividing Catholics against Catholics."
In other words, the pope and others have warned: don't play politics with communion. "Would Jesus deny anyone a place at the table?" Schneck asks. "I don't think so." But American bishops, led by extreme right-wing Jose Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, seem determined to do just that.
The bishops are dead wrong on several counts. For starters, they don't reflect the views of most American Catholics, 56 percent of whom, according to Pew Research, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Eighty-nine percent of Catholics disagree with the church ban on contraception.
Which raises the question: Why are bishops so obsessed with sex? All these old white guys care about is abortion, birth control, or same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church is also officially against the death penalty and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Have bishops ever threatened to deny communion to any politician, Republican or Democrat, who votes for the death penalty or for building more nukes? No!
And get this. Just six months into his presidency, American bishops are now convening to condemn man of faith Joe Biden - when, during four years, they never said a peep about serial adulterer Donald Trump. Trump, who seldom stepped into a church except for a political rally, is the antithesis of a good Christian: liar, hateful, anti-immigrant, racist, misogynist, sexual predator, inciter of violence. Yet bishops looked the other way - because he was anti-abortion.
What's most troubling is that bishops, in effect, are demanding that Joe Biden violate the Constitution by forcing his religion on all other Americans, which, to his credit, Biden refuses to do. "I accept my church's position on abortion," Biden has said. "That's the Church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews."
In the end, Schneck believes, the "communion warriors" will have no chance of rounding up the two-thirds vote needed to deny Biden communion. But even raising the issue alienates bishops from the Biden administration (whose support they will need for other issues), not to mention from the majority of American Catholics.
According to Pew Research, the percentage of American Catholics has dropped from 24 percent of the population to 21 percent, and Catholics have experienced a greater loss from religious switching than any other religion. Now we know why. American Catholics are not just leaving the church. American bishops are driving them out.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Open Letter to Joe Manchin
Dear Sen. Manchin: I don't know you, senator. We've never met in person. But, ever since you arrived in the Senate, I've admired your streak of independence, your willingness to reach out across the aisle, and your dedication to the people of West Virginia. Yes, I've admired you a great deal ... until now.
But any respect I once had for you, senator, is now gone. Because, on voting rights and on the filibuster, you're just dead wrong. You've teamed up with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to destroy the institution of the United States Senate. You've not helped the Senate get things done, you've helped Mitch McConnell block the Senate from getting anything done.
Frankly, I still held out a little bit of hope, senator, before you announced your opposition to the "For the People Act." Did you forget? This is the same voting rights legislation you co-sponsored in 2019, when it also had no GOP backers. Yet last Sunday, in a complete reversal, you wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail: "I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy. And for that reason, I will vote against the 'For the People Act.'"
Senator, how can you be so stupid? Surely, you must know that an assault on our democracy in the form of "partisan voting legislation" is already underway, led by Republican governors and state legislators across the land. Already this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 14 states have enacted at least 22 new laws restricting voting rights. Only by setting up national standards for voting as contained in the "For the People Act" -- universal absentee ballots, expanded early voting, same-day voter registration, ending partisan gerrymandering -- can Congress protect the sanctity of the vote. Yet every Republican senator opposes doing so - and now you join their ranks.
Are you blind, senator? In state after state, and in the Senate, it's Republicans echoing Donald Trump's "Big Lie" who are playing politics with voting rights, not Democrats. You must realize there's no hope for bipartisanship as long as Republicans continue to vote "No" on everything.
And, let's be honest. You embarrassed yourself by vowing, despite your opposition to the "For the People Act," to vote for the "John Lewis Voting Rights Act," scheduled for later this year. Seriously? Don't you realize that Republicans will filibuster that bill, too? Sure enough, the very next day, Mitch McConnell announced his opposition to the bill. When are you going to stop believing in Santa Claus? McConnell made a fool of you, senator - and you deserved it.
In that same editorial, you reaffirmed your opposition to any change in the filibuster. "I will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster," you wrote. Again, a big mistake.
If only you'd listened to what one senator said back in October 2011: "We have become paralyzed by the filibuster and an unwillingness to work together at all, just because it's an election cycle." Or what that same senator proposed in December 2011: that in order for the Senate to function better we must "fix the filibuster" by making senators debate bills properly. They can't just use the filibuster to prevent consideration of any measure, he argued. "If senators want to halt action on a bill, they must take to the floor and hold it through sustained debate." The Senate must also, he urged, "end filibusters on motions to proceed to debate."
And, of course, the senator who made so much sense about the filibuster in 2011 was you, Sen. Manchin. What happened? You're smart enough to know, senator, that Republicans are still not using the filibuster to kill legislation they don't like. They're using the 60-vote rule to prevent debate on any major legislation. They're using the filibuster to stop the Senate dead in its tracks - and you're helping them.
One final point. In your self-defense, you insist that your only job is to represent the people of West Virginia. Nonsense. As a former senator told me last weekend: Yes, you're elected to serve the people of your state, but once you take the oath of office, your primary obligation is to do what's best for the entire country.
Come on! Wake up, senator. If you're the same man you were in 2011, at least agree to get rid of the filibuster on motions to proceed, or on voting rights only, or reduce it to 55, not 60. Otherwise, you're as bad as Mitch McConnell. Respectfully yours, a disappointed American.
(C)2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.