The Jolt: Donald Trump un-says his criticism of Brian Kemp

FILE - In this May 1, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he departs the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
FILE - In this May 1, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump speaks with reporters as he departs the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

Being president of the United States means never having to say you're sorry. Instead, you just say it never happened.

Only two weeks ago, Donald Trump gave Georgia Republicans a group heart attack when he twice criticized Gov. Brian Kemp for his first-in-the-nation decision to begin restarting small-business sectors of the state's economy.

On April 22, the president said he "strongly" opposed Kemp's plan and urged the governor not to defy White House pandemic guidelines. "They can wait a little bit longer. Safety has to predominate," Trump said. "Would I do that? No. I want to protect people's lives. But I'm going to let him make his decision. But I told him I totally disagree."

This was confusing, because a night earlier, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had placed separate calls to the governor, each voicing support for the initiative. Even so, Trump doubled down on his reversal the next day, saying repeatedly that he was "not happy" with the Georgia Republican.

It took the president just over a week to reverse course -- last Friday, as he boarded a helicopter bound for Camp David. The Washington Post noted Trump's change of heart in a Monday piece on Trump's willingness to ignore his own pandemic guidelines for reopening the economy. But here's the entire exchange as transcribed by the White House:

Q: May I ask you a quick question about reopening, Mr. President? A week — a week ago, you said you were not happy with Governor Kemp about opening up in Georgia. While there have been —

TRUMP: I didn't say that, John. I said I didn't like the particular place — a spa, a tattoo parlor.

No, no, I think it's wonderful. I want to see us open safely, but I didn't like spas and tattoo parlors, and I wasn't thrilled about that. But I did — I said nothing about Georgia, other than that.

I like the states opening. They will be opening. They're going to open safely and quickly, I hope, because we have to get our country back.

***

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has promised to pick a woman as a running mate. You know that. But whether she will be a woman of color remains an open question. An Associated Press piece reveals a split among African-Americans:

"Black people want an acknowledgement of the many years of support they have given the Democratic Party," said Niambi Carter, a Howard University political science professor…

Zerlina Maxwell, a political analyst and former director of progressive media for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, said this is an opportunity for Biden to recognize the political force of black women.

"The Democratic nominee needs to make it completely clear that they understand the moment and that they understand that black women are the foundation of a successful Democratic Party at every level," Maxwell said.

Then there’s the other side to the coin:

House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement in South Carolina was widely credited with helping widen Biden's winning margin and start his avalanche of March primary victories, said "clearly" he would prefer a black woman. But he insisted he's not pushing Biden in that direction.

"I'm the father of three grown African American women. So naturally I prefer an African American woman, but it doesn't have to be," Clyburn said. "I've made that very clear."

And there’s this:

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, said black voters are looking for "authenticity."

"When folks have talked to us about what they want in a candidate, it is someone who can relate to them," Shropshire said, noting the coronavirus's disparate impact on black Americans.

But she said that doesn't mean that a vice presidential nominee has to be a black woman.

"Having a black running mate checks that box for a lot of people, but I would also say in the same way that black voters weren't simply during the primary contest saying, 'Who's the black candidate?' I don't think black voters are doing that for the vice presidential choice either," she said, later adding the bottom line: "Ultimately, people want to win."

Tharon Johnson, a prominent black strategist who worked for Barack Obama's two presidential campaigns, said Biden's focus should be on "energy," not necessarily on race.

"I am totally, 100% behind the narrative that it's time for a black woman on the ticket," Johnson said. "But he has to consider a lot of metrics. Who can he bring on that will increase enthusiasm and drive turnout in those states that matter most in November? And what characteristics are there that will bring that excitement?"

Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana congressman and a former Congressional Black Caucus chairman, is a forceful advocate for African Americans within Democratic politics. But he's also absolute in his assertion that Biden cannot be forced to check a demographic box.

"I'm not sure that the VP is going to throw names out there just to appease people," Richmond said.

***

Monday was the second and final day of the Atlanta Press Club's series of primary debates and featured candidates in three congressional races. They can be viewed on the APC's Facebook page, and at gpb.org.

In the 13th District contest, U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta has three challengers. Scott chose not to face them Monday, and they made his absence a running theme.

“It’s unfortunate that he is not here today to answer these questions, but I think it’s important as an elected official to be accessible and accountable to people in your district,” former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens said.

In a debate of Republican candidates for the Sixth District, former congresswoman Karen Handel did face down four challengers, who questioned why she would be successful in a rematch with U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, to whom Handel lost in 2018.

Handel insisted she was the only conservative in the race who could do the job: “There is only one Republican strong enough, experienced enough, with the organization and the money to win against Lucy, and you’re looking at her.”

The final debate of the series was among eight Republicans running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia's 14th District. And much of the conversation focused on who does and does not live in the northwest Georgia district. An excerpt from the write-up by the AJC's Sarah Kallis:

Former Georgia school superintendent John Barge criticized business owner Marjorie Taylor Greene for her original candidacy in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District. 

Greene announced her bid for the seat shortly after U.S. Rep. Tom Graves said he was retiring from the 14th District. She has since moved there.

"My values line up perfectly with the people of northwest Georgia," she said.

Barge accused her of being an "opportunist" and said she would do whatever it takes to get to Washington. 

Air Force veteran Ben Bullock also originally entered a different race. He said he would run for Georgia's 7th Congressional District in 2019, but switched to the 14th District in January. 

He revealed during the debate that he had recently moved to Paulding County. 

"I have over 200 years of family history in this district," he said.

***

U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff has launched his second TV ad, and this one leans heavily on U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta.

The ad, titled "Calling on you," includes video of Lewis speaking directly to the camera and asking voters to back Ossoff in the Democratic primary on June 9 and "send Donald Trump a message he will never forget."

***

In endorsement news:

-- The National Right to Life Committee, which calls itself America's oldest and largest anti-abortion organization, has endorsed U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler's campaign;

-- State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, has endorsed Teresa Tomlinson’s Democratic campaign for the U.S. Senate;

-- U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amicos now joins the other leading Democrats in her race by also being named to the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate list.

-- On the Democratic side of the Seventh District congressional race, the National Organization of Women's political action committee has placed itself behind state Sen. Zahra Karinshak of Duluth.

***

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter of Pooler are backing a proposal to base a new fleet of Air National Guard jets in Savannah.

In a letter to the secretary of the Air Force, the GOP lawmakers encouraged the Pentagon to transition the C-130J planes to the 165th Airlift Wing, citing the Savannah Air Guard Station's proximity to other units and bases.

In March, the Associated Press reported that the Savannah station is among eight finalists for the new location. The C-130J "Super Hercules" planes are built at Lockheed Martin's plant in Marietta.

***

On a distantly related note, the Brunswick News reports that U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, has lodged with the U.S. Department of Transportation an objection to Delta Air Line's request to suspend service to the Brunswick airport.

***

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, has been on a writing streak.

Last month, it was an opinion piece on the conserative website Townhall, where he said public health modeling — which he described it as faulty — had caused states to overreact in shutting down businesses and implementing stay-at-home orders.

Now he has written an essay for the Washington Examiner about the accusation of sexual assault lodged against former vice president and presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Like many Republicans, Hiced raised the sexual assault charged lodged against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh -- conduct he was alleged to have committed as a young man. It all boils down to abortion, Hice wrote:

"Kavanaugh was villainized and treated as guilty from the moment the Ford allegations emerged. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is being given a free pass as weeks passed without having to answer tough questions about the Reade story. Why?

The answer is simple. Hypocrisy. These groups now have a cynical self-interest in ensuring Biden doesn't have to answer to the Reade allegations: He is the presumptive last chance that the Left has to avoid four more years of President Trump.

Trump has been one of the most significant pro-life leaders this country has ever seen."

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