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Capitol View commentary: Friday, August 27, 2021

Capitol View
Posted at 11:42 AM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 12:42:15-04

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL 5 Political Analyst

August 27, 2021

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ISSUES GO FROM BAD TO WORSE; 4th COVID WAVE CONTINUES AS TENNESSEE RECORDS ITS ONE MILLIONTH CASE AND MORE; SCHOOLS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE AS PEDIATRIC COVID CASES ARE THE LARGEST SO FAR; VACCINE DEVELOPMENTS; TENNESSEE UNITES TO OVERCOME TRAGEDY TO HELP THE HUMPHREYS COUNTY FLOOD VICTIMS; IF IT CAN’T BE REGULATED TRANSPOTAINMENT IN NASHVILLE SHOULD NOT BE EXPANDED; A LOOK AT METRO’S REDISTRICTING PROCESS ON INSIDE POLITICS; THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION ISSUES GO FROM BAD TO WORSE

It has been another difficult week for President Joe Biden.

On Thursday, his exit from Afghanistan went from chaotic to deadly with two terrorist related (ISIS-K) suicide bombings killing over 100 people, including at least 13 American service members, along with dozens of 60 Afghans, who were trying to flee the country,. Such attacks had been predicted in recent days, and still more may occur.

President Biden remains resolute. He pledges retribution, saying America will hunt down those who committed these crimes and “will make them pay.”

The move to get out of America’s longest war was a bi-partisan effort that began under former President Donald Trump. But Mr. Biden was Commander in Chief, when what are hopefully the last American casualties of this conflict, occurred. This will leave a mark on his presidency that will be hard to erase, even as tens of thousands of our Afghan allies and thousands of Americans have been successfully evacuated before the President’s self-imposed deadline of August 31.

Despite both political parties having a hand in the debacle in Afghanistan, some Republicans, including Tennessee U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn just can’t seem to help themselves calling for Mr. Biden and others in his administration to resign or be impeached.

Afghanista is not the only issue this week that created problems for the President. A Supreme Court ruling threw the efforts of Team Biden to get the southern border under control, into even further chaos.

A third issue that has landed back on the President’s desk is another Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday night. For the second time in recent months, the Justices by a 6-3 conservative majority have ruled an eviction moratorium is beyond the powers of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

The ruling leaves millions of Americans, behind on their rent largely due to the pandemic, at risk of being put out on the street. Congress has appropriated billions in federal funds to make these renters and their landlords whole. But local and state governments have not been able to get their acts together and distribute the funds. In a report this week, the Treasury Department say only about 10% of the monies have been used.

Nashville seems to have done a better job than most in allocating the funds, but the need for help still looks massive.

While the President’s job performance numbers have been above 50%, in large part due to his administration’s performance in getting COVID-19 under control and vaccinations underway, that may now be in question. The new Delta variant and the continued reluctance and/or refusal of a significant minority of Americans to take the serums, has a fourth wave of the pandemic raging, and people starting to question a Chief Executive who many voted to be President because of his governmental experience and reputation for being competent.

If the virus starts hurting the economy again, the President’s and the Democrats’ poll numbers may continue to slide as we head towards the 2022 midterm elections. The President’s polls are now below 50% and will likely slide even further in light of this week’s developments in Afghanistan.

About the only place the President got much good news this week was from Congress. That’s where Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi managed to keep both of the President’s massive infrastructure bills alive.

But even with a budget for the larger $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure bill approved, it is unclear if Democrats will stay united in both the House and Senate to keep the bills alive. Can the disagreements between the moderate and conservative Democrats be compromised to allow the $3.5 billion bill to be pieced together and passed in the House, and then get unanimous Democratic support in the Senate?

If so, the measure will go to the President for his signature. If not, will progressives refuse to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill already approved by the Senate with 19 Republican votes? The $1 billion dollar is set to be voted on by September 27.

4th COVID WAVE CONTINUES AS TENNESSEE RECORDS ITS ONE MILLIONTH CASE AND MORE

This week Tennessee recorded its one millionth case of COVID-19. That is on an overall population of just under 7 million people.

The new mark comes as a fourth wave of the virus, now including the more contagious Delta variant, continues to rage across the state.

Nationwide, I have seen some news articles that Covid-19 is beginning to show some signs of peaking in the southern states that got hit hard in the beginning of this fourth wave (Arkansas and Louisiana). However, the nation’s leading medical expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it will likely now be the spring of 2022 before we can again get some control of the disease, and that’s only if a majority of those still unvaccinated get their shots.

This Associated Press article indicates unless our country changes its ways, especially in wearing masks, we could see another 100,000 deaths in the weeks to come. Already hospitalizations across the country are back above the 100,000 mark, the highest since last January.

The possibility of getting a majority of the unvaccinated to get their dabs seems to be getting even more remote in recent days. Take former President Donald Trump who recently endorsed Tennessee Governor Bill Lee for re-election. Mr. Trump urged a group of his supporters to get vaccinated during a rally late last week in Alabama. They booed him! I am sure Governor Lee hopes and expects the Trump endorsement won’t hurt him. But these can be strange times.

With these boos being rained down on the former President, we now see the extent of the political Frankenstein monster that has been created by Mr. Trump and others over almost every element of this pandemic.

By the way, if the Spring 2022 projection to begin to return to normal mentioned by Dr. Fauci is accurate, it is a timeframe that could be troublesome as well for the Biden administration.

One sign of how pervasive our latest COVID-19 outbreak is in Tennessee, and how worn out and stretched thin our health care workers and system are, is the expanded use of Tennessee National Guard troops to fill in the gaps.

Our political virus quacks in Tennessee, who moonlight as state legislators, got back into the act this week during a legislative hearing. COVID-19 was not on the agenda. But when a couple of witnesses brought it up, and began touting a deworming treatment used for horses and cattle, some of our elected “leaders” picked right up on it, as if, on cue.

More responsible officials in Mississippi have spent recent days pleading with their citizens not to try this treatment. I can only shutter in fear what our Tennessee “wise guys” will try to do in passing new laws about COVID protocols, either when they come back in January, or if a special legislative session is called.

In the meantime, across the country people are taking this treatment and overdosing on it.

Want to protect yourself from COVID-19? Get vaccinated!

SCHOOLS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE AS PEDIATRIC COVID CASES ARE THE LARGEST SO FAR

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee continues to maintain COVID-19 is an adult disease, even though the latest numbers show cases among children are the highest so far during this pandemic (and growing). To underline the danger, this week even a State Health Department official said covid cases among children are “exponentially increasing”.

Governor Lee has issued an executive order requiring any use of masks in public school classrooms allow an opt-out for parents and their students not to wear one. It is a move that negates any real protection. You can see that when you look at the virus numbers and the quarantines in a growing number of local schools such as the Lebanon Special School District which closed on Monday for the rest of the week.

Later in the week, Meigs County also closed for the rest of the week.

Lots of school systems are caught in a bind. The state has no standard protocol for handling the isolation or quarantine for those exposed to the virus. This is creating confusion and a mess.

Even just a few weeks into the school year, hundreds of students and staff are being impacted, whether they are in systems such as Nashville with a strict mast mandate, or Wilson County where masks are optional but recommended.

The other issue creating problems for school leaders is that General Assembly and Governor have forbidden them to go to remote or offer optional on-line learning as they could last year, when virus cases rose. It is creating a pushback statewide even in Republican counties from Williamson in Middle Tennessee to Washington County in upper East Tennessee.

Another part of school life being more and more impacted by the virus is athletics, in particular football. This week (as of Thursday AM) at least 15 games have been cancelled statewide, dimming the Friday Night Lights in Tennessee.

Late this week, Governor Lee became more sympathetic in his covid comments. He told reporters, that while parents should still have the power and right to choose whether their children wear a mask in school, he is now strongly urging them to do so.

However, despite all the issues caused by the virus spike and by his opt-out mask policy, Governor Lee says he has no plans to allow local school districts to return to remote learning. That likely means more closings of schools for a day, a week or longer if there are too many students, teachers, staff out sick or in isolation due to being quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19. Districts do have snow or bad weather days or fall and spring break days they can use, but will that be enough if the virus worsens, or we have a bad winter?

Ironically Governor Lee said this week that the best way to keep schools open is to wear a mask. It is a statement right out of a resolution passed last week by the Metro Council in opposition to his parental opt-out policy. Will parents listen to Governor Lee, anymore than those who booed former President Trump about getting vaccinated?

Right the odds don’t look favorable, meaning more school temporary closings loom until the virus eases. Even before this school week ended, Cheatham County announced their schools would be closed Thursday and Friday due to staff shortages.

On Thursday, Coffee County Schools say their system will be closed through Labor Day, September 6.

Also on Thursday night the Williamson County passed a resolution pleading with the Governor for more flexibility. The Board also extended its temporary mask mandate to extend beyond just elementary classes, extending to middle and high school students.

Finally, you knew this Tennessee mask war was headed to this. On Thursday Shelby County filed suit in federal court challenging the legality of Governor Lee’s parental opt-out mask executive order.

Will Nashville and other school districts join the suit?

As we close the week, Tennessee has one of the worst COVID outbreaks in the nation.

VACCINE DEVELOPMENTS

It has been a busy week on the vaccine front.

No, we still aren’t seeing enough resisters deciding they will get their dabs to curb the pandemic.

But the number of shots being given daily remain up substantially compared to a month ago.

Even more good news came this week. After months of what health officials say is necessary bureaucratic red tape, the Pfizer vaccine has gotten permanent approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration. It is expected the other two vaccines (Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) will gain similar final OK within weeks.

The emergency use of the serums has been a sticking point, for both those hesitant to get their shots and businesses, schools and others, looking at imposing vaccine mandates or required frequent testing. Already you could see positive movement in public polls even before the FDA action on Pfizer.

In the area of vaccine mandates, a new Associated Press poll finds a majority of Americans approving businesses imposing vaccine mandates. In the wake of the FDA/ Pfizer decision there was movement including the Pentagon, which is now mandating shots for all the nation’s armed forces.

There was an interesting twist on this issue this week. One major employer Delta Airlines says it will impose a $200 monthly increase on the health insurance of those employees who are not vaccinated.

There also continues to be a lot of discussion about booster shots. This week it was reported the need for extra protection might be as soon as six months after the second shot, rather than eight.

I think some people are not waiting for a date from the government to get a booster. However, right now officially, only those with immune deficiencies are supposed to get the extra dose of serum, with older at-risk people supposed to follow next. But I am not sure if anyone giving the shots are checking that.

If you continue to feel confused about the virus and the vaccine, there will be help available next week on Wednesday, September 1. That is when Nashville city officials and all four local television stations will come together to host a town hall at 4:00 p.m. to answer your questions.

Submit your questions now for: Controlling COVID: Ask the Experts, then tune in!

TENNESSEE UNITES TO OVERCOME TRAGEDY TO HELP THE HUMPHREYS COUNTY FLOOD VICTIMS

Just when you might think, in the midst of the pandemic, we as Tennesseans can no longer unite and come together to help our neighbors in need, the Volunteer Spirit still prevails.

Unfortunately, it took one of the deadliest (20 killed) and most serious flash flooding tragedies in Tennessee history to bring us together.

When a record 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County last Saturday, the devastation was severe in the two major towns in that community, McEwen and Waverly. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged.

The natural disaster struck close to home for me. My Nolan family first settled in Humphreys County when they came to Tennessee in the 1850s. While my relatives moved to Nashville over a century ago, I was back in my home county just last month to attend the annual Irish Homecoming Picnic at St. Patrick’s Church in McEwen.

I hope you will join in me in providing aid to those who lost everything as we remember and pray for the 20 residents who died in the tragedy as well as praying for their families.

This is not the first time Waverly has been struck by a major tragedy. I was there as a reporter in the late 1970s when a train derailment and explosion 12 killed, hospitalized 45, and destroyed 5 downtown businesses.

This recovery will be much larger in scope and will take some time. The work isn’t made easier by those few nitwits who see tragedy as a way to enrich themselves by engaging in looting. May they be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law. Those scammers seeking to rip people off in repairing their homes and property are equally vile and are not welcome in the community.

Thank you for the dozens of residents who became heroes to save lives during the flood, including one who lost her life while helping to save others. Thanks as well to the first responders, law enforcement personnel and dozens of volunteers who worked hours, and days on end, in search and rescue efforts. Finally, thanks and God bless you, to the anonymous donor who paying for the funeral services for all 20 victims!

The response by Governor Bill Lee and our Senators to be on the scene quickly after the disaster was critical. Being “comforters” on behalf of the people of Tennessee is an important role at times like this. The Governor has been there twice this week.

The effort to get government aid to help those in need also seems to be coming quickly from the White House, working in conjunction with the Lee administration, even if they are of different political parties. Aid is also available for residents in the adjoining counties of Haywood, Houston and Dickson Counties which also suffered flood damage.

But there are tough policy decisions to be considered as the recovery begins. No one can be prepared for 17 inches of rain in less than a 24-hour period. But Humphreys County has been the victim of flooding several times in the last decade, including the Great Flood throughout Middle Tennessee in 2010. Experts say the 2010 deluge was an every 100-year type flood. What struck the area last week was an every 1,000-year disaster.

The Humphreys County flood was a bit unusual in another way, beyond just too much rain. There was a sudden, huge wave of water that came cascading through when it began. NEWSCHANNEL5’s Nick Beres has talked to local officials who think they’ve pinpointed where the wave originated.

The flooding issue in Humphreys County includes the county schools being flooded three times. With climate change generating more and more serious and destructive storms and other calamities, we must be better prepared and make smarter decisions about flood control and land use.

The matter is already getting national attention.

IF IT CAN’T BE REGULATED TRANSPOTAINMENT IN NASHVILLE SHOULD NOT BE EXPANDED

With Nashville’s Lower Broad tourist district continuing to run wide open, the transpotainment industry wants to grow, even with little or no local regulation or oversight.

After a tourist was recently injured after falling out of a transpotainment vehicle and run over by a car, local tourism leaders , some of whom have encouraged the transpotainment industry in the past, say enough is enough. They are encouraging the city’s Transportation Licensing Commission to reject any of the requests now before it to expand or add transpotatainment services.

The Republican Super Majority in the Legislature helped create this mess. It stopped a bill last session that would have given Metro regulation and oversight powers. State lawmakers decided only they should do that. But being part-time officials, our elected state leaders are out of session and AWOL on addressing this issue. Waiting until January for them to come back is not a solution.

When the Commission met Thursday afternoon, it unanimously rejected all the requests to add or expand tranpotainment services.

A LOOK AT METRO’S REDISTRICTING PROCESS ON INSIDE POLITICS

The 2020 U.S. Census is complete.

The final numbers were released a couple of weeks ago.

Now it is up to local and state officials to take those numbers and adjust congressional, legislative, city council and school board districts to reflect those population changes.

In Metro Nashville that job goes to the city’s Planning and Codes Department and more specifically, Greg Claxton who is overseeing the effort for Nashville/ Davidson County.

Greg Claxton is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS.

We welcome Mr. Claxton to the program!

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:

7:00 p.m. Friday.

5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. We are also on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted early in the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my own Facebook page, usually on the Monday or Tuesday after the show airs.

In terms of state redistricting, Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton has appointed an 11-member special committee. The panel includes 4 Democrats, which is both interesting and perhaps unprecedented in terms of bi-partisanship involvement.

THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

I am still trying to do some of the things the virus has prohibited for the past year and a half.

For that reason, I will be off, and out of pocket, the next two weeks.

Look for the next CAPITOL VIEW on Friday, September 17.