Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at an Atlanta Press Club luncheon in June. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes

The Jolt: Mayor Bottoms’ endorsement of Joe Biden is all about Donald Trump

When former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage in Miami during the first round of Democratic presidential debates, Keisha Lance Bottoms was in the audience. She sat next to Jill Biden, the candidate’s wife.

In the wee hours that followed, the campaign pushed out the news that the mayor of Atlanta had formally endorsed Biden – a development that was somewhat overshadowed by the frontrunner’s shaky performance in a confrontation with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

This afternoon, Bottoms will be flying to Detroit for the second half of the second round of Democratic debates, presumably for spin-room duty. Biden again will be on the stage with Harris. And eight others.

Within Democratic circles, Bottoms’ early endorsement of Biden raised eyebrows. It is all about Donald Trump – and Biden as the surest bet to beat him, the mayor explained Tuesday in a phone interview. “If Trump remains president, there may not be a Democratic party. There may not be an America as we know it,” she said. We’ve transcribed the interview:

Insider: What’s your relationship with Biden? What’s the history on that?

Bottoms: Obviously, I’ve known of him for many years, and have a tremendous amount of respect and regard for him, based on his service as vice president for President Obama.

I’ve gotten to know him personally during the course of this campaign, and I’m even more fond of him than I was before.

Insider: What are his strengths – why have you lined up behind him? Because you’ve done it pretty early.

Bottoms: If I had to give his campaign a phrase, it would be “We know Joe.” He really is the things we’ve thought for so many years. He’s thoughtful, he has compassion for our communities, he’s a fighter. He’s been a friend, in particular, to the African-American community. He’s the real deal. You get exactly what you’d think with him.

That’s part of the reason I felt compelled to endorse early. Because in 2016, Hillary Clinton went limping into a general election. Sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see how things play out – we’re going to miss an opportunity to have a strong candidate going into this general election.

We know [Biden is] strongest in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. We know that those states are the reason that Donald Trump is president. We’re in uncharted territory with this president. I think it’s important that we go in with our strongest fighter.

Insider: It sounds like you’re picking up on the thought that the top Democratic priority should be removing Trump, and not trying to redefine what the Democratic party is.

Bottom: That has to be the No. 1 priority, to remove Trump. At the rate we’re going, if Trump remains president, there may not be a Democratic party. There may not be an America as we know it. This man is dangerous. He is a danger to our sense of this country and to this world.

The great thing about Joe Biden, given his policies, once he’s elected, all of these other things that are important to our communities will be taken care of. We know this because it happened for eight years under the Obama-Biden administration.

Insider: Over at the state Capitol, House Minority Leader Bob Trammell has already endorsed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris. Do you have any thoughts on her?

Bottoms: I have a great deal of respect and regard for Kamala. I just don’t think Kamala will carry the states that I mentioned, and I don’t think she’s our strongest candidate to take out Trump in November.

Insider: In the 2008 presidential election, U.S. Rep. John Lewis got caught in a trap. He was a Hillary Clinton supporter and found himself on the wrong side of the Obama surge. Are you concerned that that might repeat itself?

Bottoms: No, I’m not. I’m more concerned about Donald Trump being president again than any personal pushback for anything that I’ve done. I’ve consulted my common sense and my conscience on this, and what I see – objectively and subjectively – is that Joe Biden is our strongest chance of beating Donald Trump in 2020. 

***

Last night, as Pete Buttigieg was delivering a line in the first of two Democratic presidential debates, conservative pundit Erick Erickson unloaded a religious smackdown on Twitter:

“Just a reminder that Pete Buttigieg is an Episcopalian, so his understanding of Christianity isn't very deep or serious.”

The WSB Radio host and conservative blogger is hosting an event in Atlanta this week featuring Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Brian Kemp (who, by the way, is Episcopalian).

Erickson was immediately called on by Democrats and other critics to apologize. Wrote Jon Ossoff, a potential Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate:

“Do Mike Pence and Brian Kemp, both headlining a party for Erick’s blog this week, wish to endorse and enrich someone who targets Episcopalians with sectarian religious insults?”

Erickson, who is working on a doctorate in theology, later added that he was “just teasing.” But he couldn’t resist another religious knock. 

“But note the Episcopalians are the fastest shrinking church in the US in large part because its leadership has abandoned the gospel message for a worldly one that Buttigieg reflects.

Last year, the Episcopal Church gave formal approval to the adoption of same-sex marriage rites, a move that has indeed roiled its congregations.

But denominations that oppose same-sex marriage are also seeing a decline in membership. In May, the Southern Baptist Convention reported a 12th straight year of declining enrollment.

***

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, tangled with his political opposite, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Twitter last night.

The topic: Conditions at detention facilities on the southern border. 

It all started when Hice, after touring a detention center near El Paso, posted a series of videos on the social media site accusing Ocasio-Cortez and House Democrats of “deliberately” misleading the public about conditions there

“Migrants have potable water, have shelter, and are being fed,” he wrote. “The constant attacks against our brave border patrol agents must stop!”

Ocasio-Cortez clapped back last night, tweeting to her 5 million followers that she offered sworn testimony about the border conditions and that Hice, her colleague on the House Oversight Committee, was “lying about this.” 

“We’re going to see each other at work & you’re going to pretend to be nice to me,” she wrote in a Tweet, addressing Hice. “Passive aggression. It’s a lifestyle.” There were many emojis involved.

Hice got a final word in last night, offering to meet with the freshman New Yorker when Congress is back in session to "discuss truly resolving the border crisis and fully funding our immigration agencies." 

"I'm here to see the reality of the southern border crisis firsthand & share factual details with the American people," he said

***

Dozens of residents were turned away from a Tuesday night meeting in Smyrna on order of the fire marshal. Inside, hundreds listened to Sterigenics President Phil MacNabb address concerns over carcinogenic emissions at his plant. Some killer lines from our AJC colleague Meris Lutz:

He repeatedly emphasized that the company’s most recent emissions data showed a little over 200 pounds of ethylene oxide was emitted over the course of a year. 

What MacNabb did not say, until pressed by an audience member, was that the company’s self-reported emissions dropped dramatically--from 3,574 lbs to 226 lbs--in 2016, the same year the EPA definitively linked ethylene oxide to cancer in humans.

***

More stuff you should pay attention to this morning:

-- The staff of the state Public Service Commission has written a report expressing doubt that Georgia Power will have two new reactors in service by the company’s latest schedule of May of 2021 and 2022, respectively, our AJC colleague Matt Kempner writes.

-- The Columbus Ledger Enquirer has an interactive gadget that gives a crop-by-crop breakdown of federal aid to the state’s farmers. Georgia has received a total of $62 million under a program meant to offset damage done by the Trump administration’s trade war with China.

-- Former Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland has been waiting for 660 days for a Senate confirmation that would place him on Amtrak’s board of directors. It’s not all about him.

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