A tale of two corrupt leaders

Plus: A look at mask polling and an anti-COVID relief candidate who took advantage of COVID relief

America got a break this week when one of the most despised people in politics threw in the towel. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation amid a widening sexual harassment scandal.

The entire country breathed a collective sigh of relief and said, “Good riddance.”

While many on the right are casting aspersions on the Democratic Party for covering for Cuomo, in reality, it was the Democrats who forced him out. The list of Democrats who called for Cuomo’s resignation in the wake of the attorney general’s findings is long but includes President Biden and Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called for an investigation into the allegations against Cuomo back in February.

Ultimately, however, it was the Democrats in the New York state legislature who sealed Cuomo’s fate. Democrats in the legislature were ready to impeach the “love gov” after the report was released. At that point, Cuomo had to know the jig was up.

In fact, in a nod to Donald Trump’s precedent, New York may still impeach Cuomo after he leaves office. New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D) told The Hill that the Cuomo Administration’s withholding of Coronavirus data from nursing homes last year merits impeachment even after resignation.

The legislative case against Cuomo should be continued so "we can get to the truth about whether he was motivated to defraud the public to chase down a $5.1 million book deal," Kim said.

And speaking of Donald Trump, the former president emerged from his undisclosed location on Wednesday to release a non-tweet slandering the Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt on January 6, saying the unnamed officer “murdered” Babbitt.

This latest incendiary missive has drawn no apparent response from most Republicans, some of whom, like Arizona’s Paul Gosar, have voiced similar opinions. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), one of the few Republicans to speak out against Trump’s statement, is herself on the verge of being drummed out of the GOP.

If we look at his record, Donald Trump has credible accusations against him of precisely the same sort that got Andrew Cuomo in trouble In both cases, the two men had numerous women accusing them of sexual misconduct. In both cases, the two men are accused of providing deceptive information about the pandemic for personal gain.

So, why is Cuomo a persona non grata while Donald Trump is still feted by the Republican Party? Maybe it’s because Cuomo is an Italian.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s because Donald Trump is the Republican Party these days while Cuomo was merely a cog in the Democratic wheel.

One way to look at it is that Democrats considered Cuomo expendable because New York has a Democratic majority and a Democratic lieutenant governor. When the Trump “Access Hollywood” video story broke, Trump was facing Hillary Clinton in a presidential election that many presumed to be a “Flight 93” election on which the future of the American Republic would turn.

But wait! Mike Pence was a seasoned Republican governor who was ready to stand in the gap during the 2016 election, Trump’s 2020 impeachment, the pandemic, and everything else. Pence would have been much more palatable to independent voters and much more capable of leading the country. Plus he didn’t have the baggage of personal corruption and a growing personality cult.

And that was the problem with Pence. Republicans didn’t want a decent, competent candidate. They wanted Donald Trump. Even after the insurrection when many Republicans continued their objections to the Electoral College. And they still do.

Now everything is permissible because every election is a “Flight 93” election. The fate of American liberty hangs in the balance every time voters go to the polls because if the Democrats ever gain power then it’s all over. (Except that they won last year.)

And it doesn’t matter if Donald Trump is the sort of man who will slander a police officer who was defending members of Congress, staffers, and even Vice President Pence from an angry mob. In fact, everything I have seen suggests to me that Trump would have preferred that Pence had been killed on January 6 rather than Ashli Babbitt.

Honestly, the same goes for a great many Republicans. GOP radicals are attempting to turn Babbitt into a martyr. She wasn’t. She was a useful idiot. Babbitt probably believed that she was defending the Constitution, but in actuality, she was fighting to shred it in support of a coup attempt. Babbitt died because Donald Trump did not accept the results of a free and fair election.

Trump and the Republicans who continue to push these lies are playing with fire. They very nearly started a civil war last January. They may do so yet.

While Mr. Trump claims to want to make America great again, his actions show an utter disregard for what is best for America. The current Republican course risks tearing down innumerable institutions from the Electoral College to the FBI to the Constitution itself. You can’t make America great again if you destroy its foundation.

Voters are unlikely to give power to a party that acts crazy or that nominates crazy people. (At least not twice.) If Donald Trump is nominated again, he will likely lose again. And claim the election was stolen again.

Only this time his allies will be prepared. The fight, both in the courts and in the streets, will be much tougher. We could see widespread political violence in just a few years.

Traditional Republicans need to find their voice (and their cojones) and speak up to stop this. The time for humoring Trump’s ravings is long past.

If Republicans want to make America great again, they need to reject Donald Trump and his propaganda as the Democrats rejected Andrew Cuomo. I’m not used to looking to the Democrats for moral guidance, but here we are. It just shows how far the Republicans have strayed in a few short years.

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An Alert Reader sent me an article about a Republican House of Delegates candidate in Virginia. Although we don’t delve into state-level politics a lot at The Racket, this was interesting and thought-provoking.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Tim Anderson, who won the Republican primary this year by only 28 votes, has mounted a strong campaign against COVID relief funds. Anderson would like to see businesses return an estimated $4 billion that Virginia wants to dole out to businesses.

“We should give it back,” Anderson said. “We don’t need it.”

So far, so good. You don’t have to approve of the COVID relief and criticism of government spending, even spending intended to keep the economy going in a global pandemic, is up for debate.

The problem is that Anderson benefitted from the COVID relief bills to the tune of $742,000. The newspaper reports that Anderson’s three businesses, an attorney’s office, a real estate company, and a gun shop, received payroll money under the Paycheck Protection Program and loans through the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The PPP loans can be forgiven if businesses meet certain requirements.

The newspaper report does specify that the money Anderson received is from separate programs than what he now opposes. The $4 billion seems to be a reference to the American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. The money is intended “to continue to support the public health response and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery.”

Whether critics of government programs should accept money from the same or similar programs is an age-old question. I’m sympathetic to the argument that individuals and companies can benefit from current law even as they try to change it, but it will be up to voters to decide whether Anderson’s position is hypocritical when they go to the polls this November. Anderson could head off some of the criticism by having his businesses repay the government funds as quickly as possible, even if he doesn’t have to.

It also makes me wonder how many other elected officials and candidates profited handsomely from COVID relief.

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The mask debate is among us again. The debate over vaccines and mandates will only intensify after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s decision to reject a bid by Indiana University students to block the school’s vaccine mandate. The policy includes an exemption for religious and medical reasons that requires unvaccinated students to wear a mask and be tested twice daily.

Republicans have lined up against mask mandates, but I was curious to see where the public at large stood on the issue. A brief search found three polls taken in the past few weeks. These polls are taken randomly from internet search results.

Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) - August 11, 2021 - Sixty-three percent favor masks for unvaccinated students and school staff, but 54 percent oppose vaccine mandates.

Gallup - August 3, 2021 - Sixty-seven percent favor masks for unvaccinated teachers and staff while 64 percent favor masks for unvaccinated students.

Hill-HarrisX - July 16-17, 2021 - Seventy-four percent favor mask mandates if their area experiences a rise in cases.

The Republican Party has staked down a deeply unpopular position in supporting an unfettered right to spread disease. While the public is not sold on the vaccines, as Steve pointed out yesterday, the benefits of masks are clearly understood by a broad majority. Acceptance of vaccines will hopefully increase as the public is educated on the subject and the shots get full FDA approval.

After 16 months of pandemic, Republicans may be miscalculating how the public will react to policies that prolong the crisis. While there is fury among the anti-mask and anti-vaccine factions, there is also palpable anger growing among people who are vaccinated yet who are still being subjected to restrictions and the danger of infection by those who are listening to the anti-mitigation zealots and fearmongers.

In bellwether polling for the GOP, both Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott have seen their approval ratings decline sharply during the pandemic. With Florida’s recent spike in new cases and deaths, DeSantis’s approval is now underwater while Abbott breaks even but is down from a net 24-point positive in April 2020.

But the worst problem for Republicans is that they are killing off many of their own voters since it is the unvaccinated who are subjected to the worst outcomes from COVID-19’s Delta variant. Republicans would do well to conserve their voters. They aren’t making many more these days.

Have a good weekend, everybody! Stay safe!

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