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Capitol View commentary: Friday, September 9, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 8:54 AM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 09:54:48-04

WITH A DOJ INVESTIGATION ON HOLD, FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SCORES A COURT VICTORY; THE SENATE RETURNS WITH MAJOR VOTES LOOMING; MORE SUPPLY CHAIN CHALLENGES LOOM JUST AS THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS AND THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH; A CRIME TALE OF TWO CITIES; THE IMAGINE EAST BANK DISCUSSION GROWS; A MAJOR METRO ELECTION DECISION WAS ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK; SIX MONTHS IN, DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ ANALYZES THE WORLDWIDE IMPACT OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR; THE END OF AN ERA AS QUEEN ELIZABETH II, THE WORLD’S QUEEN, PASSES AT AGE 96

WITH A DOJ INVESTIGATION ON HOLD, FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SCORES A COURT VICTORY

It seems almost incredible.

Throughout his public career, every time Donald Trump has seemed to be headed into dire legal straits, something happens to give him a reprieve, at least temporarily.

In this case, it is a court ruling on Monday by federal judge Aileen Cannon in Florida. She put on hold a Department of Justice investigation into the former President’s handling of classified and top secret documents the FBI seized a couple of weeks ago when they raided Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Instead, the documents are to be reviewed by a still unnamed “master” to be appointed by the court.

MAGA Land is jubilant.

As for the Justice Department, it decided on Thursday to appeal the decision, although that might only elongate the delay of the agency’s investigation. Actually, the appeal may be a partial one. In fact, DOJ is even requesting a partial stay of her order.

Justice officials are particularly concerned about an unqualified master, someone without national security experience or clearances, reviewing the classified documents in the Mar-a-Lago cache. The DOJ is also warning the judge that because of her ruling stopping the FBI’s involvement, the national security review of the documents, which she approved moving forward, cannot be done, leaving the nation at risk.

Perhaps sensing the difficulties posed in her current decision, Thursday night Judge Cannon asked both parties if they would agree to remove the classified documents from her order and thereby allow the DOJ investigation to continue in that area. That change would leave the special master to review for documents or items related to executive or attorney-client privilege.

Even before these latest developments there are plenty of folks in both the legal and political communities, who are sharply criticizing the judge’s original ruling. That includes William Barr, who served as attorney general under President Trump.

Who is Judge Cannon? She was appointed to the federal bench by President Trump in 2020, and is a member, since 2005, of the Federalist Society, a conservative organization whose members now include several justices who are part of the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

One issue, that so far Judge Cannon seems to show little interest in her ruling is; What the heck is going on with all those dozens of empty folders that seemingly containing classified information? Where are those documents? Isn’t that as important as claims of executive and attorney-client privilege? What will any master know, or is trained, to investigate that?

And there is the revelation by THE WASHINGTON POST that among the secret documents Trump took with him from the White House about the nuclear weapons capabilities of another country, information so secret that even some of the top national security officials in the current Biden administration did not have the special clearance required to even see it.

As for former President Trump, a new analysis by FiveThirtyEight shows more than a third of Republican candidates, nominated by their party across the country to be on the November ballot, believe the 2020 stolen election lie that Mr. Trump still espouses.

Many of those GOP candidates who believe the Big Lie have been endorsed by the former president. However, one candidate who Trump strongly supports. Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, now says, had he been in office in January 2020, he would have voted to certify the election of Joe Biden.

So much for the Big Lie for Dr. Oz? Let’s wait to see how the former president reacts to that.

THE SENATE RETURNS WITH MAJOR VOTES LOOMING

Is the U.S. Senate about to join the House and approve the Marriage Equality Act?

That would mean at least 10 Republican Senators would have to join all 50 of their Democratic colleagues to pass the measure. Since approval of the bill in the House saw over 70 House Republicans vote aye on the proposal, there has been growing optimism that the bill will gain approval in the upper chamber.

Even with critical negotiations on amendments still underway, at least one leading GOP Senator says the Marriage Equality Act will likely come to a vote later this month on the Senate floor and then he said “yes” to reporters that the measure will have enough GOP support to get over the 60 votes needed to avoid being stopped a filibuster.

Of course, some things never change in Congress. It is the month of September as lawmakers reconvene from their August recess. At the end of the month, the new federal fiscal year begins. But once again, Congress has not finished its needed budget work. That means yet another potential shutdown of the federal government lies ahead unless a continuation budget bill passes both houses.

There is talk of putting the Marriage Equality Act with the spending, although there are those who think that is the wrong way to go.

Why are Republicans ready to help pass the Marriage Equality Act? It arises out of the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion. Justice Clarence Thomas in his opinion said it’s time the High Court not only end any right to an abortion under the federal Constitution, but he says the High Court should take similar action to outlaw same-sex marriage and contraception.

With several Republican lawmakers and candidates looking for a safer place to be in the wake of the massive backlash to the abortion decision, they may also see the Marriage Equality Act as a similar safer haven to somewhat defuse another election year issue that has the potential to be another tough hot button issue for the GOP. Adding a religious freedom amendment to the Marriage Equality bill will attract and keep, GOP Senate votes.

MORE SUPPLY CHAIN CHALLENGES LOOM JUST AS THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS AND THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH

Do you still have to search for, or can’t find, items when you go to the grocery store or shopping?

If what you are looking for is shipped by rail, be warned.

A national rail strike looms as early as next weekend (September 16).

Negotiations have been going for years to resolve the issues involved.

Right now, things don’t look all that positive for a settlement even though some of the unions involved have agreed to new contracts.

Another supply change challenge now looming worldwide is the extreme weather we are seeing more and more often around the world.

And while you are unhappy about not being able to get what you need, due to delays caused by extreme weather, a new study says people are expressing their anger through more hateful tweets.

Finally, to bring all these challenges back to Nashville, another new study released this week predicts in the years to come that our city could experience up to 45 days each summer (or about a month and a half) of daily heat index readings above 100 degrees. So much for thinking the weather got a bit more tolerable in August.

A CRIME TALE OF TWO CITIES

These past seven days, the city of Memphis has experienced the crime week from hell.

The random kidnapping and senseless murder of Eliza Fletcher, a young female jogger, early last Friday morning, captured, not just statewide, but national attention. Being a young mother of two and a teacher struck a chord with so many women. It has led to a march in Memphis early today (Friday) to finish her morning run, with similar events being planned and held across the country. That includes here in Nashville where my daughter along with dozens of others participated. There had already been runs this week held in Fletcher’s memory here in Nashville. The events are also stressing the need for safety for women joggers, particularly those who run alone.

This tragedy has touched my family. My daughter, who has two young children and a full-time job, is a frequent runner, sometimes in the morning by herself (although she often brings the family dog along too). On the weekends, I often come over to help her husband with the kids while she trains for an upcoming half marathon. Dealing with random violence is often the scariest thing to deal with for all of us.

But this horrible kidnapping and murder in Memphis was unfortunately not the deadliest or most senseless random crime the Bluff City has experienced in the past seven days or in recent weeks. Wednesday night, a 19-year man drove around the city and the surrounding area on a random, hours-long shooting spree with multiple car stolen and highjacked. It left four people dead and three others wounded, and the entire community was terrorized with eight different crime scenes left behind.

During the ongoing terror, the ASSOCIATED PRESS reports “public bus service was suspended and a downtown stadium where a minor-league baseball game was underway was placed on lockdown. Friends and relatives frantically called and texted each other to check on each others' safety. TV stations cut into regular coverage to keep viewers updated.” The perpetrator even live streamed some of his threats and attacks on Facebook. The lockdown was extended to include the entire city of Memphis for two hours during the overnight reign of terror.

Already, some state leaders and legal experts say these awful crimes could have been prevented if those charged in the cases had not been released early from prison after being convicted of committing previous violent crimes. The General Assembly did approve a “Truth in Sentencing” law to address that issue, but only for those committing new crimes not those already convicted and behind bars.

Fortunately, while Nashville is not experiencing the wave of violent crime besieging Memphis, our city is experiencing crime-related problems including yet another increase in guns being stolen. It has led Mayor John Cooper and Police Chief John Drake to seek community help.

With the Metro elections now less than a year away, you can expect crime to be an issue the candidates will talk about extensively. That includes Mayor Cooper (even if he hasn’t announced officially, he is running for reelection). Look for more community outreach meetings by Chief Drake as well.

THE IMAGINE EAST BANK DISCUSSION GROWS

With the debate about the future of Nashville’s NFL stadium likely to begin in earnest, starting sometime this fall, that conversation will also include the East Bank of the Cumberland River and the city’s recently released IMAGINE EAST BANK plan.

Mayor Cooper says the plan is still open for public comments, suggestions and questions. To that end, a series of public gatherings are being held for that occur, including one at the East Nashville Farmer’s Market this week.

At the same time, these public meetings are underway, there are those community voices speaking out against the IMAGINE EAST BANK proposal saying it is really just “the Gulch 2.0” providing “less a vision than a distraction” as the city commits “past mistakes” again.

In a media briefing this week, Mayor Cooper repeated the need for more public input on the “draft” East Bank plan. He also points out the East Bank vision will help make important improvements throughout the county, especially in the city’s overall transportation structure and system.

One city service that likely won’t be improved countywide by the East Bank redevelopment is homeless service. The mayor and the Council have been studying for several weeks how to spend $15 million in federal American Rescue funds to address the issue, including long-term homeless encampments such as the one that has taken over Brookmeade Park in West Nashville. Residents are fed up with studying and delay, they want action when the proposal comes back up on the Council agenda in October.

Metro has also created a new free-standing Metro Department for Homeless to improve Metro’s actions in this area. But while a nationwide search is still underway for a director of the new agency, the acting director has left and gone back to his other city job.

A MAJOR METRO ELECTION DECISION WAS ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK

Metro Vice Mayor Jim Shulman tells me is seeking reelection in the August 2023 city elections.

Shulman had to discuss the matter with his family. They’ve now reached a consensus he should run for a second four-year term.

The Vice Mayor’s decision likely clear up any uncertainty surrounding his race and the one for the five at-large seats. Shulman will be a strong favorite to win, meaning with three of the at-large seats vacant due to term limits and a resignation, other term-limited district council members likely now eyeing the at-large field if they want to continue in public service in Metro.

So far, the at-large field (sometimes with at least 10-20 candidates in past years) has been slow to fill.

Here is how the list of candidates for all the Metro races and the term-limited councilmembers shake out for now.

SIX MONTHS IN, DR. THOMAS SCHWARTZ ANALYZES THE WORLDWIDE IMPACT OF THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR

Headed into its seventh month of hostilities, the Russian invasion of Ukraine remains the largest land war in Europe since World War II.

That’s almost 80 years ago.

The conflict is having worldwide ramifications.

To give us an update on what is happening and what it means, we welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS, Dr. Thomas Schwartz, a history and political science professor at Vanderbilt University.

We always welcome and appreciate Dr. Schwartz joining us.

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THE END OF AN ERA AS QUEEN ELIZABETH II, THE WORLD’S QUEEN, PASSES AT AGE 96

The death yesterday (Thursday) of Queen Elizabeth II at age 96 has created profound sadness, not only in the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth but around the world.

As the longest-serving monarch in English history, the Queen has become the face, heart and soul of her nation over the last 70 years, even as the world, her country and the status of the monarchy changed significantly while she was on the throne.

I have heard it said that Queen Elizabeth became, in a way, the world’s Queen, as she was so admired to her devotion to duty to her country and her family, even in the most trying moments.

I was just three months old when she became queen. Therefore, like so many in the UK, Her Majesty was the only English queen I have ever known.

I am reminded with her passing how her parents, her father George VI, and her mother Margaret (the Queen Mum), inadvertently played a role in the strangest congressional campaign in Nashville history. Yes, even stranger than the latest GOP primary for the 5th District seat last month.

In 1939, King George VI and the Queen visited America. The country was captivated by them. But not Nashville’s congressman at the time, Joe Bryne Jr. Bryne was in his first term in office, serving in the same congressional seat his father held as Speaker of the House until he passed away in 1936.

Bryne, Jr. was interviewed by a reporter from THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN to get the representative’s opinion of the royals’ trip. According to an article in the KNOXVILLE JOURNAL published years later, the reporter was shocked when Congressman Byrns blurted out, “What a couple of flat tires they turned out to be!”

Byrns went on to further criticize the royal couple. The reporter, thinking he was merely writing a routine story about the reaction of the members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation to the British visitors, was shocked by the Congressman’s poor choice of words.

Things got worse for Bryne. After running on a platform strongly supporting President Franklin Roosevelt, the Nashville congressman then came out against FDR’s legislation to reinstitute the draft and against the Lend Lease program to provide ships and other war materials to help the British against the Nazis in World War II.

Angry, Democratic party leaders began looking to find a candidate to beat Bryne. That was pretty hard to do, since the Congressman had already won the party’s primary. But finally in early September 1940, after a write-in effort was launched with an editorial in the CLARKSVILLE LEAF CHRONICLE, a columnist from THE TENNESSEEAN, J. Percy Priest was convinced to take on the challenge. He proved to be an excellent candidate and beat the incumbent congressman by 3,500 votes.

Priest turned out to be an excellent congressman too, serving for 16 years. He was popular with voters and his colleagues as he moved up in the House leadership. One of those he impressed was Lyndon Johnson, then Congressman, later Senate Majority Leader, Vice President and President of the United States.

After Priest died, a Corp of Engineer dam being built in Nashville was named after the late congressman. To honor Priest, President Lyndon Johnson came to Nashville and attended the dam’s dedication ceremony.

And all this happened because a Congressman from Nashville insulted Queen Elizabeth’s parents.

One other point of trivia is appropriate here.

Queen Elizabeth met every U.S. President since Harry Truman except one, Lyndon Johnson!

May the Queen rest in peace after a job well done, indeed!