Because they couldn’t pry Joe Biden from Barack Obama, they had to go after Obama, Calvin Smyre explained this morning, after he passed through the security gauntlet at Detroit’s airport, headed home.
“They were getting tired of that. They were trying to separate the two. But he’s not going to cut that umbilical cord,” said Smyre, the longest-serving lawmaker in Georgia’s state Capitol.
The attacks on the administration of President Barack Obama were the most notable feature of Democratic Presidential Debate No. 2, Part Two. From WSB Radio’s Jamie Dupree, who was there:
First it was on immigration - where more progressive Democrats now recoil at Obama's efforts to deport illegal immigrants. In a broadside leveled directly at Vice President Joe Biden, Julian Castro - who served in the Obama Cabinet - said Biden should have objected to deportations. "One of us has learned the lessons of the past and one of us hasn't," Castro said bluntly.
To some Democrats, the scene was beyond belief. "It’s just odd to me that the Obama record seemed to get attacked more tonight than the Trump record," said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.).
In a Twitter message, former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder cautioned Democrats to think twice:
To my fellow Democrats. Be wary of attacking the Obama record. Build on it. Expand it. But there is little to be gained - for you or the party - by attacking a very successful and still popular Democratic President.
From the Associated Press account of the evening:
When pressed, Biden repeatedly leaned on his relationship with Obama.
"We're talking about things that occurred a long, long time ago," Biden said. "Everybody's talking about how terrible I am on these issues. Barack Obama knew who I was."
The dynamic showcased the challenges ahead for Biden and his party as Democrats seek to rebuild the young and multiracial coalition that helped Obama win two presidential elections. Those differences were debated on a broad menu of issues including health care, immigration and women's reproductive rights.
But it was the discussion of race that marked an escalating rift shaping the Democratic primary. At the same time, polls show that Biden has far more support from minority voters than his challengers, especially in the crucial early voting state of South Carolina.
[U.S. Sen. Cory] Booker, who at times adopted the position of peacemaker, also took Biden to task over criminal justice issues and his role in passing a crime bill while a Delaware senator in the 1990s. When Biden fought back by criticizing Booker's tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, before becoming a New Jersey senator, Booker shot back: "You're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor."
In Detroit, a city where Democrats desperately need strong minority turnout to beat President Donald Trump next year, Biden, 76, repeatedly clashed with the two black candidates in the race, as well as the only candidate of Mexican heritage, all of whom are more than two decades his junior. Biden emphasized his work as vice president to help the auto industry and the city repair its bankrupt finances.
All of the above make Smyre’s presence in Detroit worth noting. A resident of Columbus, he is Georgia’s best-connected Democrat and an African-American. Smyre described himself as a longtime friend of the former vice president – and a supporter, though he hasn’t formally made an endorsement.
As might be expected, Smyre gave high marks to Biden, who performed badly in his first debate six weeks ago. “He withstood the fire from seven candidates and still did very well,” Smyre said. “He showed that by withstanding attacks and delivering his own punches that he is more than ready for President Trump.”
Also in Detroit was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who did spin-room duty on Biden’s behalf. Jamie Dupree kindly sent us the audio:
Said Bottoms, when asked about attacks on Obama and efforts to pry Biden away from the Obama legacy:
“I don’t think you can rewrite history that way. I think the Obama-Biden administration speaks for itself. And this notion that Vice President Biden can’t talk about his relationship with President Obama is ludicrous. It’s like interviewing for a job – and by the way, scratch out eight years on your resume.
“It existed. He did the work, side by side with President Obama. We’re not trying to elect God. We’re not trying to elect someone who’s perfect. We’re trying to elect a great president.”
Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, found himself in a Twitter tangle on Wednesday. We’ll let the Washington Post explain the preliminaries:
In the tweets, since deleted, Weisman was replying to Waleed Shahid of the group Justice Democrats, who shared a video clip of former senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) saying that “free stuff from the government does not play well in the Midwest.” Shahid noted that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were both from the Midwest and both supported the expansions of health care to which McCaskill was objecting.
“Saying @RashidaTlaib (D-Detroit) and @IlhanMN (D-Minneapolis) are from the Midwest is like saying @RepLloydDoggett (D-Austin) is from Texas or @repjohnlewis (D-Atlanta) is from the Deep South,” he wrote, using the politicians’ Twitter handles. “C’mon.”
What followed was a Twitter debate over what constitutes “the Deep South” and whether U.S. Rep. John Lewis and his Fifth District are part of it.
The teapot tempest had a rural/urban tenor that presumed Lewis to be a man of the Big City. Which is a huge biographical mistake.
He is the son of a sharecropper parents, and was born in tiny Troy, Ala., about 100 miles from Selma, where he would get his head bashed walking over a bridge in 1965.
More important, Lewis won election to Congress in 1986 by beating the erudite Julian Bond, who was a quintessential member of Atlanta’s urban elite. Voters went with the man who was characterized in that campaign as the slow-talking rube.
Also in Washington, senators have a few more items on the to-do list before they break for their August recess later today. On the agenda is confirmation of former federal prosecutor Steven Grimberg to the U.S. district court bench in Atlanta.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he won't adjourn the chamber until it clears the two-year, $320 billion budget deal struck by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
As we’ve noted, one surprisingly loud voice in favor of its approval is Georgia's David Perdue. The Republican, who has carefully curated his image as a debt hawk, has been working behind-the-scenes in recent days to convince GOP colleagues to back the plan. A summary of his case, which he made in an op-ed in The Washington Examiner:
"The deal that President Trump negotiated is reasonable. Discretionary spending continues to fall as a percentage of GDP. It fully funds the military. It contains no liberal policy riders.
Most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to finish the appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year. If we can’t accomplish this basic task, then all of this drama was for nothing. This should be our priority."
Andy Miller of Georgia Health News has a touching appreciation of Dawn Alford, an advocate for the disabled at the state Capitol. Alford died last week at the age of 41. Here’s how he opened the piece:
As a lobbyist, Dawn Alford was smart, tenacious and effective. As a person, she was unfailingly pleasant, greeting people with a big smile.
And as a woman with disabilities, Dawn set a compelling example of what’s possible. She influenced countless individuals she met, affecting how they viewed people with physical or intellectual disabilities.
Speaker David Ralston rolled out a new paid family leave policy for employees of the Georgia House that provides for three weeks of paid leave to an employee who welcomes a new child through birth, adoption or foster care. Employees who have worked for the chamber for at least a year are eligible, and it doesn’t affect any vacation or sick time. Ralston said the policy will help the House attract and retain “the highest caliber staff to serve Georgia’s citizens.”
We’ve already told you about Tuesday's packed meeting with Sterigenics President Phil Macnabb as he addressed concerns about carcinogenic emissions at the company's Cobb County plant.
Now U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has weighed in, urging the company to suspend operations at its Smyrna facility until independent emissions testing is conducted.
"This plant is closely located near residential communities, schools, a shelter for homeless women and children, the Chattahoochee River, and an animal shelter – placing hundreds of Smyrna residents and families at serious health risk. This situation is urgent and must be rectified right away," said Scott, whose 13th District includes parts of Cobb County.
Scott is the first member of Congress to weigh in on this issue, but he’s not likely to be the last.
Scott said he intends to be at the next town hall meeting on the issue, along with representatives from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia's Environmental Protection Division. It’s scheduled for Aug. 19 at the Cobb County Civic Center.
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