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Capitol View: October 9, 2020

Capitol View
Posted at 12:19 PM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 13:19:27-04

(WTVF) — THE CHAOS OVER DEBATES INTENSIFIES WITH THE BELMONT EVENT POSSIBLY IN LIMBO; THE SUPREME COURT BATTLE OVER A NEW JUSTICE ON INSIDE POLITICS; ANOTHER DIFFICULT WEEK FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP LIVING WITH THE VIRUS; THE VIRUS CONTINUES TO GO RURAL IN TENNESSEE AS STATE BECOMES A CDC HOT SPOT AGAIN; VIRUS CASTS SHADOW OVER METRO COUNCIL HOMECOMING; THE BATTLE OVER REMOVING THE FORREST BUST CONTINUES

THE CHAOS OVER DEBATES INTENSIFIES WITH THE BELMONT EVENT POSSIBLY IN LIMBO

Have we seen the last of the debates in 2020?

In the wake of President Trump’s diagnosis and his three- day hospitalization for COVID-19, there was an increased profile for Wednesday night’s one and only vice- presidential debate. The advanced age of the two presidential candidates also put more of a spotlight on the event.

Who won? That seems to break along party lines.

THE HILL

As for the TV ratings they do appear up compared to the last VP debate in 2016 and second only to the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin debate in 2008.

As for this VP debate, it’s pure 2020. What seems the most memorable, and certainly the most viral moment of the VP debate, came from a fly, which, late in the session, landed on the Vice President’s head (his hair) and stayed for over a minute. The Biden campaign seized (maybe more swatted) the moment, selling over 35,000 flyswatters on line overnight and raising millions of dollars!

In some ways the vice presidential debate was almost back to the way such TV political events used to be.

But then, believe it not, things got much, much more chaotic!

Within hours after Democratic candidate Senator Kamala Harris and Mike Pence largely evaded even responding to the tough questions; consistently violated the time limits on responses (especially Pence); and like their presidential counterparts, violated their agreed on rules by interrupting their opponent (again Pence was the most frequent violator), we learned Thursday morning, the presidential debate season, involving both candidates, may be over this year.

The bi-partisan commission that puts on the debates announced the second presidential debate set for October 15 in Miami, FL would be held in a virtual format. The decision was made to protect the health of those participating, which is a larger group than usual because of its town hall format, involving voters asking the questions, along with a moderator and the candidates.

Democrat Joe Biden immediately agreed to the change in format. President Trump refused, saying the move was done without consultation and would unfairly help Biden He sees the virtual format as a waste of time.

Instead Mr. Trump, who has been cleared by his doctors to leave his COVID-19 related quarantine as soon as Saturday, says he would hold a large in person rally on October 15 (Masks? Social distancing? Another rally like Tulsa?). Here is a report on what kind of future Trump- campaign events are planned. They are sure to give some folks pause.

Reports are the President will begin with rallies on Saturday on Florida and in Pennsylvania. He even reversed course later on Thursday, demanding the October 15 debate in Miami still be held in person (since has been cleared by his doctors to campaign). Given the continued murky nature of how and when Mr. Trump contracted COVID-19, and whether he might still be a threat to transmit the disease, it appears unlikely the October 15 debate will be revived.

In fact when the President said he was not participating, the Biden campaign pulled out of the October 15 town hall as well, and instead will hold its own event with voters on ABC .

The Biden campaign also called for a format change for the debate on October 22, which is set for Belmont University here in Nashville. The Biden campaign wants the town hall meeting to be held then.

At first on Thursday, there appeared to be signs of an agreement, but then the Trump camp insisted a third debate be held October 29, at an undesignated site, which the Biden team rejected.

With everybody’s head spinning from these fast- moving events, the fate of future 2020 debates seem unsure.

How 2020 is that?!?

I am sure Belmont officials must be dealing with a major case of political whiplash.

For now, they say they will continue to work ahead and just hope for the best to host their event.

The uncertainty about any future debates continued into Friday mid-day.

Stay tuned.

THE SUPREME COURT BATTLE OVER A NEW JUSTICE ON INSIDE POLITICS

On Monday of this coming week, October 12, the Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate will begin confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett to be the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mrs. Barrett is an Appeals Court Justice and would replace long time liberal court icon, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who died three weeks ago.

The appointment has already become controversial and political charged for several reasons.

We will discuss all that and the future of the Supreme Court this week on INSIDE POLITICS.

Our guest is Vanderbilt Professor of Law Brian Fitzpatrick.

Watch us!

As always, INSIDE POLITICS also air several times this 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 back 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 Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday.

ANOTHER DIFFICULT WEEK FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP LIVING WITH THE VIRUS

President Trump says getting COVID-19 was “a blessing from God” for him.

Really.

To a person, everyone I know who has been stricken by the virus, says it has made them the sickest they’ve ever been. They add it is something that would not wish on anyone, even their worst enemy.

That sure doesn’t sound like a blessing to me.

But if you are the Leader of the Free World, get the best health care possible, free of charge (even experimental treatments given only to the sickest patients), and you can get your Secret Service detail to take you out of your hospital suite to ride around in a government owned SUV to thank those outside concerned about your health, all that might seem like a blessing. But then remember the hundreds of thousands who have died cut off from seeing or being with loved ones because this virus is so virulent. There are some reports even one member of the Trump family had concerns about the President’s SUV trip.

Maybe it is only just certain people who feel “blessed,” and they don’t appreciate that everyone else is not so fortunate. The President even says he might now be immune from the disease, which is quite likely him being delusional.

Mr. Trump adds no one should be afraid of the disease, and he appears he is sure not. How else do you explain Mr. Trump taking off his mask immediately after returning to the White House, even though he was still contagious and the White House is now a major hot spot for the spread of COVID-19. What kind of example is that to fight the disease? Not much.

Meanwhile, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said again this week if more people don’t start wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands, by the end of the year the national death toll of over 200,000 Americans could nearly double.

The White House seems to be doing no contact tracing on how the President was infected but he seemed to blame Gold Star family members he met with recently (with no mention of the potential “super spreader” event held at the White House where the President’s Supreme Court nominee was announced). That outdoor White House event is being labeled a “super spreader” because several Trump administration and other public officials who attended have later been found to be positive for COVID-19.

There are also growing concern about the President’s erratic behavior based on his comments and tweets (even more so than usual for this President). Early this week, he roiled the stock market by saying his administration would end any further negotiations with Congress over a new virus relief bill. Despite the continued insistence by Federal Reserve officials that more relief action remains critical for the economy to stay on the road to recovery, Mr. Trump said no, before abruptly changing his mind in a late night tweet where he indicated he was open to some targeted relief efforts, if passed individually by Congress.

With the House and the Senate mostly gone until after the November election, no relief legislation seems likely.

Reversing his field one more time late Friday morning, the President offered his own, new and large relief package even though it shows no likelihood of being approved by either house of Congress.

This continued lack of action means millions of Americans will remain in increasingly dire straits. Nationally, the number of new claims for unemployment were higher than expected. The number was not much lower than last week as new claims remain at historic highs. It seems the economy has only recovered enough to refill less than half the jobs lost during this pandemic.

In Tennessee, new unemployment claims, as well as longer term aid requests, dropped again this week. But the staggering figure remains that over 870,000 Tennessee workers have asked for help since the pandemic began.

The collateral damage from all this translates into an oncoming wave of evictions. Such actions have largely been stopped by a federal health order. But that protection seems likely to end by the first of the year, as rents are being deferred not forgiven, and landlords need to pay their bills too.

Another collateral damage issue is that local utilities, such as Nashville Electric Service, while still offering assistance, are beginning to move forward to collect overdue accounts from a significant number of customers. That means restarting disconnections and imposing late fees if necessary.

Even going to the movies got tougher this week.

Back in Washington, the virus has stricken the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, while the recent order by President Trump for further unexpected reductions in military forces in Afghanistan, have struck an even more unexpected blow at the Pentagon.

There have been other late night presidential tweets this week that have raised even more eyebrows and concerns.

Then a week after the presidential debate, where President Trump refused to denounce white supremacist groups and militia, there is this very scary development in Michigan.

On Twitter Thursday night, the President doubled down on his criticism of the Michigan governor and says he should thanked not criticized.

The timing is certainly suspect, given it being so close to the election, but there is renewed talk from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about invoking the 25th Amendment regarding the President.

Given all this craziness, it appears this will be yet another week that the virus and the President are dominating the campaign news. Polls indicate that is not a good trend for this President, who seems determined to remain the central focus of his re-election.

Republican sources continue to complain to me that Mr. Trump making himself the never ending focus of his re-election, rather than putting the spotlight more on his opponent Joe Biden, is making it harder and harder for Mr. Trump to turn around the slowly, but steadily increasing advantage, Joe Biden and the Democrats are building in the national and battleground states polls. With just over 3 weeks left, things are not set in stone, but time is getting short for the Trump team to do much to change things.

THE VIRUS CONTINUES TO GO RURAL IN TENNESSEE AS STATE BECOMES A CDC HOT SPOT AGAIN

In Tennessee, the daily virus count has been rising as COVID-19 continues to migrate from an urban-suburban outbreak, to one concentrated more in rural counties.

In fact, the Volunteer State is reportedly back on the CDC’s hot spot list of states again.

The latest outbreak seems to be taking a toll in closing municipal building across Tennessee.

The disease is also impacting older, more at-risk populations in the rural parts of the state, possibly creating extra pressure on the health care system.

Thursday also marked the single deadliest day ever for Tennessee during the pandemic. Some 63 deaths were reported, bringing the total of those Tennesseans who have lost their lives to COVID-19 to 2,705.

Governor Bill Lee says no matter what, he has no plan to shut down or reimpose restrictions on business. He spent time at his weekly media briefing this week promoting $50 million in new federal Covid-19 relief aid to help businesses rebound.

In Nashville, Metro officials remain upbeat about the city’s virus numbers continuing to improve, although they admit in some areas, those figures are now plateauing a bit. The city just re-entered Phase III of its Reopening Road Map which is likely to stay in force at least throughout October.

The real growing concern in Nashville is about the virus hot spot that had stricken the city’s NFL Tennessee Titans football team. With one home game having already been rescheduled, and with cases still popping up several days this week, another home game this weekend with Buffalo Bills has been moved to next Tuesday, although even that is uncertain if still more virus cases are found among the Titans. If the game is played, for the first time up to 8,000 fans will be allowed to attend.

At first, there has been little anger or blame cast at the team or the Titans organization for what’s happened with the virus outbreak, but recent revelations may be changing that attitude especially with the NFL investigating whether strict virus protocols and rules have been violated by the Titans, with potential punishments including fines, losing draft choices and even forfeiting games.

THE TENNESSEAN

There have been lots of complaints about the problems caused by COVID-19 around here. But the challenges in other parts of the country, especially in big cities, may be creating an exodus of people to move to the Nashville area.

VIRUS CASTS SHADOW OVER METRO COUNCIL HOMECOMING

Meeting in person for the first time since early April, the Metro Council seemed to enjoy its new temporary home (until perhaps the end of 2020) at Nashville’s Music City Center.

The 40- member body finished a 39-page, 131 item agenda in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s rocket ship type speed compared to the marathon sessions of the 40 -member body when it operated virtually under emergency rules and often did not conclude its work until well past midnight.

The Music City Center provides plenty of room for social distancing and the members seemed to enjoy seeing each other again. Much of the Council’s work Tuesday night was routine, and they avoided prolonged discussions, to the point that there was not one call for the previous question to cut off debate.

I am convinced under the old format, the meeting would have run at least an hour or more longer. It didn’t because the Council also had a new electronic on- line voting system to use, which avoided having to take manual roll call votes to settle procedural matters and to pass contested legislation.

There was something of a cloud over the meeting as 5 members did not attend due to COVID-19. Two either had the virus or are recovering, while three others were in quarantine due to being exposed to the disease.

The Council took several actions related to combating the virus. That included appropriating over $31 million in Nashville’s federal CARES Act money to several Metro departments. The body also gave final approval to an ordinance that will allow Mayor John Cooper to deputize more Metro employees to enforce local health orders.

The Council did narrow the scope of what city workers could be enlisted. The original proposal would have allowed almost any Metro worker to be included, a move many in the Council saw as a governmental overreach. Those who will now be trained and involved are city workers who already carry out other city enforcement efforts as a part of their current duties.

This matter was not before the Council, but it appears Metro Public Works officials have worked out a new plan to solve the city’s garbage collection issues that have festered for months. That is good news as councilmembers have gotten tons of complaints However, the downside is, the new collection system will change the pickup day for many residents.

THE BATTLE OVER REMOVING THE FORREST BUST CONTINUES

Once again, state officials continue to debate and disagree about how to move ahead in removing the bust of controversial Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Capitol.

The latest involves Governor Bill Lee and the two leaders of the Tennessee General Assembly, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

Nothing remotely resembling a vote to take action is likely to occur until some weeks into 2021.