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Joey Kennedy

Opinion | GOP campaign ads are a hoot

Joey Kennedy

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The campaign advertisements for the top three candidates in the Republican Party primary for the U.S. Senate are a hoot.

Former football coach Tommy Tuberville, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, and former U.S. senator and disgraced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions are scrambling hard to get the nomination to run against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November’s General Election.

The trio are now elbowing each other in the face on television and radio to see who loves Donald Trump the most. Tuberville may have won that contest, declaring that God himself sent us Donald Trump because God knew we were in trouble.

If God sent Donald Trump, he’s playing a very un-God-like joke on us. God bestows grace; Trump bestows insults. God is love; Trump is lust. God is life; Trump is orange.

My God didn’t send Donald Trump anywhere, but Tuberville must believe that if he says it, the Trump loyalists – especially those weird Evangelicals who also believe Trump is “godly” –will vote for him.

Then there are those strange commercials by Bradley Byrne, sitting by a campfire, insinuating that his brother Dale died fighting for the First Amendment rights which the so-called Squad uses to attack America, for Colin Kaepernick to take a knee, for a Muslim to serve in the U.S. House. Byrne’s brother was a military hero and did serve for many years with special forces, but he died of a heart attack in 2013, at the age of 62, following a lengthy respiratory illness the Byrne family links to Dale’s military service.

About the First Amendment, “Dale fought for that right,” Byrne says in the ad, “but I will not let them tear our country apart.”

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Byrne never explains what he can do to keep those five people (I’m sure, by coincidence, five people of color) from saying whatever they want. Like Byrne, the four women of color in the U.S. House were elected by the voters in their district so, in effect, Byrne is insulting those voters. But that aside, one has to be pretty desperate to use one’s deceased brother as a prop in a political campaign ad.

And then there’s Sessions. Alabama’s junior senator for two decades, he wants his old job back. Sessions never stood tall anywhere, but especially in the Senate, where he was just a person who stopped stuff from happening. But he was the first U.S. Senator to endorse Trump, so Trump rewarded him by appointing him U.S. attorney general.

Trump quickly suffered buyer’s remorse because Sessions recused himself from the Department of Justice’s Russia investigation, as he should have done. But doing the right thing isn’t a big selling point with Trump. The president hounded Sessions on Twitter, then fired him right after the mid-term elections in November 2018. Still, Sessions even now still sucksup to Trump even though Trump recently gave his opponent Byrne a shout-out.

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Besides making their outrageous claims, Sessions, Byrne, and Tuberville are also running attack ads against each other. This is fun. They each want to appear more godly, more Republicanny, and more Trumpy than anybody else.

That position is usually held by constant-candidate Roy Moore. I don’t think we can expect much from Moore, the disgraced former Alabama Chief Justice who at one time had a thing for teenaged girls. In this round, Moore is flat out of gas and moneyand reputation. At least we have that.

There’s no doubt who is best qualified to keep representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate: Doug Jones. We’ll have to wait until November to see if Jones can pull it off, but only a fool would count him out.

We’ll find out which Republican gets to take on Jones either Tuesday or after a runoff later in March. I’m hoping for the runoff. These Republican commercials are just too, too funny.


Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Opinion | Tommy, can you hear me?

Joey Kennedy

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. (VIA TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

That Morning Consult poll of Alabama voters that showed Republican Tommy Tuberville with a 17-point lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate was such a stunner, a Jones campaign aide rushed out an email fundraiser trying to quell any panic.

Until now, most polls have shown Jones to be competitive against an unnamed Republican and, specifically, Tuberville, the former Auburn football coach who defeated Jeff Sessions to win the Republican nomination.

“I would never respond to an outside poll, but a new poll is out there showing Doug Jones losing by … wait for it … 17 points,” writes Joe Trippi, senior adviser for the Doug Jones for Senate campaign.

“Here is my comment,” Trippi writes. “No way.”

Unfortunately, in Alabama, there is a way.

Republicans in the state tend to vote straight ticket in overwhelming numbers. Alabama is one of a handful of states that even allows straight-ticket voting, but the reality is, it does. So voters who want to cast their ballot for, say, Donald Trump in November, but who also like Jones, will have to split their ticket.

The Morning Consult poll showed that a large number of independent voters are undecided, and that could swing the election toward Jones. But straight-party voting can be a hope killer.

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Not yet, though. It’s still early. The election is still nearly three months away. We’ve not seen Tuberville do much of anything but bow before Trump, who endorsed him over his former attorney general. But that’s Trump loyalty for you.

Indeed, the country is going so poorly right now, one wonders other than the hard-core racists, who still supports Trump.

I know, I know: Alabama is different (plus, we still have more than our share of hard-core racists). But c’mon, folks, more than 157,300 Americans are dead from the COVID-19 pandemic, completely mismanaged by the Trump administration. There have been more than 4.7 million cases. In Alabama, there have been more than 90,000 cases and more than 1,600 deaths.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. and Alabama economies are in shambles and getting worse, not better. Trump has sided with Confederate statues and flags over eliminating the systemic racism found in police departments and other government agencies. Plus, most recently, Trump sent his secret army of unidentified goons to sweep protesters off the streets in American cities.

Trump is nobody’s friend but his own.

Then there’s Tuberville. A decent if mediocre football coach, Tuberville certainly is no Nick Saban. Tuberville isn’t even a Gus Malzahn.

Sessions tried to argue that Tuberville wasn’t a resident of Alabama, either, but that’s not fair. Where Sessions is concerned, unfair is a character trait.

While Tuberville does maintain properties in Florida, he and his wife have owned a home in Auburn for at least three years. Too, they both are registered voters in Alabama, though Sessions said Tuberville cast his ballot in Florida during the 2018 midterms.

What’s more important is where Tuberville stands on the issues. And that, we don’t know much about. We know Jones is a moderate who works with members of both parties. He clearly represents Alabama’s best interests as well as any U.S. senator who has served from Alabama.

Though the loons try to paint Jones as a liberal-socialist-communist bogeyman, he’s nowhere close. Certainly, he’s different from Sessions, who held that Senate seat for two decades before becoming Trump’s attorney general. He’s different from Sessions in that he actually gets legislation through the Senate. Sessions mainly interfered with progress while a senator.

The first U.S. senator to support Trump’s candidacy, Sessions identified with Trump most likely because they’re both die-hard racists. Trump rewarded that loyalty by back-stabbing Sessions out of Washington.

At some point, though, Tuberville must make his positions clear, and not simply that he’ll support anything Trump does. That would be a disaster for Alabama, as much as Trump is a disaster for the United States.

The former Auburn University football coach can’t just continue being a sycophant for Trump, whose own poll numbers are tanking and who is likely not going to win re-election.

Should Alabama send a Republican to represent the state with a Democratic president, a likely Democratic Senate and a solidly Democratic House? That would be useless.

But Trippi, in his email, did show how Tuberville wins easily: “One bad poll turns all of us off … you write the race off, and Tuberville coasts to victory because no one is paying attention,” says Trippi. “Everyone abandons Alabama except Mitch McConnell, who is ALL IN to beat Doug. The proof is in the money he (McConnell) is spending now.”

It’s true that McConnell is working hard to unseat Jones to protect Republicans’ wobbly control of the U.S. Senate, and if they weren’t concerned that Jones has a good shot at winning re-election, McConnell would spend that campaign money in another state.

Tuberville must do more than hide behind Trump. We need to hear Tuberville’s plan, where he stands on the issues and what he’ll bring to Alabama that Jones hasn’t already.

Let’s hear it, Coach Tommy. But you’ll have to scoot back a bit first.

 

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Opinion | The inevitable is inevitable

Joey Kennedy

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President Donald Trump

Donald Trump, in full panic mode – and that’s dangerous for the nation – floated the idea Thursday morning in (of course) a tweet that perhaps the Nov. 3 election should be delayed.

We knew it was coming. One event Trump does not want this year is an election. He’s completely bungled the federal (and state) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and, in fact, made it much worse. More than 150,000 Americans are dead; hundreds of thousands more permanently injured. That’s because Trump basically golfed, held rallies, touted fake cures and treatments for the virus, and, as a result, destroyed the economy and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American lives.

Of course, Trump wants to delay the election. He’s so dim, he believes that’s the only way he can stay in office. Except, like on most things, he’s wrong. The president’s term ends Jan. 20, 2021. After that, if there isn’t a president to inaugurate, that opens the possibility House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could become president. That is choice.

But it won’t happen. Because the November General Election will not be delayed. The president can’t do it on his own. It takes an act of Congress to move an election. Remember, too, that if the presidential election is delayed, so are the congressional races. That could conceivably keep Republicans in control of the Senate when an election could very well give that control to Democrats.

That won’t happen, either. Because the November General Election will not be delayed.

Besides, this nation held elections during the U.S. Civil War and in world wars and during other crises and pandemics.

My bet is both of Alabama’s U.S. senators, Richard Shelby and Doug Jones, will oppose moving the election. Jones, a Democrat, is on the ballot against Trump sycophant and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Jones wants the matchup, because he’s faring well in the polls, and he’s clearly the far better candidate. Shelby is a pragmatist. He knows in the long run (and short run, for that matter), there’s only a dead end for Trump. Shelby usually will go along to get along, but he broke ranks with other mainstream Republican politicians in 2017 by opposing the election of alleged child predator and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

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Too bad other Alabama Republicans in Congress are so far up Trump’s ample bootie that they won’t stand up to him. That’s the way of Republicans, though: Party over country; billionaires over the workaday folks. Weirdly, in Alabama, most common folks support Republicans who want to keep them on the margins; Republicans, who want to keep them in their “place.”

Here’s the real reason Trump would like to see the election postponed:

Trump is terrified. The most important factor to him in the election is himself, and he’s going to get clobbered, if polls hold.He needs to somehow save face if there is any way possible, and there likely isn’t any way possible. Every day Trump spouts something else offensive, or insulting, or just plain stupid and idiotic. He supports Confederate flags and generals and statues, sends secret police to round up Black Lives Matter protesters, then refuses to accord proper respect to honor the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Alabama native and one of the most distinguished civil rights leaders in the nation.

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Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama attended Lewis’ final memorial in Atlanta on Thursday. Trump suggested we delay November’s election.

Every day, Trump’s support wanes.

The economy is close to complete collapse, and Republicans in the Senate and the president can’t figure out the next COVID-19 aid package to help hurting Americans. Democrats in the House passed a plan more than a month ago, a plan to keep unemployment benefits flowing, to support schools, to increase COVID-19 testing. The Republican plan has billions for fighter aircraft, a new FBI building near Trump’s Washington hotel, and, yes, more tax breaks for the nation’s richest people. Oh, and it slashes federal unemployment support for those workaday Americans from $600 a week to $200 a week. A $1,600 a month pay cut. Nice.

Trump and Republicans have walled themselves into a bad place, and, unlike the president’s boondoggle border wall, this wall isn’t easily scaled or breached.

Republicans, and especially Trump, want to delay the inevitable. But here’s the problem with that: The inevitable is, yes, inevitable.

 

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Opinion | The “in crowd” needs to get out

Joey Kennedy

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I am about to say something nice about Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. But, still, before this column is over, he’ll most likely get triggered, write a press release on secretary of state stationery, taking my column out of context and arguing that he’s not a supporter of voter suppression.

But, of course, Merrill not only supports it, he goes to court to protect it. Voter suppression is the Republican strategy across the country for eking out elections; otherwise, Republicans could hardly win in many places based on their platform, which includes the following: racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny – basically, white supremacy.

Oh, of course, none of that is written in the “platform,” but actions always speak louder than words. Look at the Republican Party’s actions – and silence; most Republicans clearly fawn over their dear leader, Donald Trump.

I about lost my lunch this week when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Racist-Kentucky) took to the Senate floor to praise the just-passed U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia. Do these people have any shame? McConnell has been sitting on a bill to fix the Voting Rights Act for more than 225 days, and still sits on it today, after praising Lewis.

Oh, that reminds me, another plank in the Republican platform: hypocrisy.

Back to Merrill: On Monday, Merrill extended the option to use COVID-19 as an excuse to vote by absentee ballot through the Nov. 3 general election.

That is a good decision, and Alabama voters like me – who worry they could contract the virus and pass it on to more vulnerable people, like my wife of 40 years who has a suppressed immune system – have one fewer issue to stress out about during this totally whacky year.

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Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I will, indeed, jump through the hoops required to get and cast an absentee ballot, and my wife will do the same.

“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” Merrill said in the press release.

Merrill does give us permission to tell a little white lie as we apply for our ballots. He says we can just check this excuse: “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

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Honestly, neither my wife nor I are physically unable to go to the polls. But our exposure to a potential virus infection will compel us to check that excuse, wink-wink.

Now here’s what is going to trigger Merrill: Why isn’t he more of an advocate for making it easier, not more difficult, to vote? Just this week, again, he was singing the praises of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold Alabama’s voter ID law. Earlier this year, Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall fought against allowing folks to cast their ballots curb side. They fought mandatory mask orders at the polls.

Merrill should be advocating for mail-in voting (not absentee) and for early voting and for easy voting and for easy access to Alabama’s ballot for candidates. But even he knows that the more voters who vote make it more difficult for his party to win.

In-person voter fraud is rare; indeed, most voter fraud occurs with absentee ballots, when it occurs at all. But Merrill and other Republican election officials (and, of course, Trump) live for that myth. What they know is that the more barriers they erect to voting, the fewer voters will turn out, and the better chance Republicans will have. Sometimes it only takes a few voters to stay home to turn an election.

Trump took the 2016 election by winning narrow margins in some key battleground states, even as he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

As of this writing, Trump is down in polling in every one of those battleground states, so voter suppression is definitely a key strategy Republicans will use in an attempt to get Trump re-elected this fall.

The challenge this election for Republicans, though, is that voters aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about voting FOR Joe Biden as they are enthusiastic about voting AGAINST Donald Trump.He’s kind of wore out his welcome for most everybody but racists.

That’s because when your platform is basically one of hate, you’re going to piss off a lot of different groups. This president, indeed, is defending the Confederate flag and Confederate Civil War generals and Confederate statues. He’s sending unidentified federal policing teams into cities to stop peaceful protests and fire tear gas and flashbangs at moms.

Plus, Trump has so mishandled the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic that more than 140,000 Americans have died, more than 3 million have been infected, and thousands more are suffering permanent health damage from their infections.

Can somebody read the room that badly and still expect to win? Trump says he believes he can win, so he’s more dangerous than ever.

Secretary of State Merrill seems to be a smart person, so it’s puzzling that he’d fall in with such a crowd. But, then, maybe not. Maybe it is his crowd, and he’s as complicit as most other Republicans.

It won’t be the first time an Alabama politician is on the wrong side of history.

 

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Opinion | Voting doesn’t have to be a health risk

Joey Kennedy

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(STOCK PHOTO)

My vote was suppressed Tuesday. I didn’t vote because I was not going to submit myself to walking into a polling station, even masked, during a coronavirus pandemic that is raging out of control.

There were attempts to require masks of voters and poll workers. It’s the law in Jefferson County. But Secretary of State John H. Merrill and State Attorney General Steve Marshall opposed that. I could have participated in curbside voting, as one judge ordered, but Merrill and Marshall fought that in the courts, too, and won.

Hardly a better example of active voter suppression than going to the courts to make sure voting is as difficult as possible.

Yes, I could have applied for an absentee ballot, but there are hurdles there, too. The only real race on the Democratic Party ballot was one for Jefferson County Treasurer. So I let my vote be suppressed. Without a pandemic, I would have just run into my polling place and out, taking less than five minutes.

Sometimes, when you have a wife whose immune system is compromised, it’s better to keep a low profile and not be present where the disease may have a presence. I don’t miss voting in many elections, but I decided this one just posed too many risks for me to participate.

So Merrill’s voter suppression strategy worked, at least on me. Congratulations, Mr. SoS! Your Republican masters are no doubt very proud of you.

Actually, voter turnout was just above 17 percent, according to Merrill’s office, which for a runoff postponed from March and during a COVID-19 surge probably isn’t too bad. Turnouts have been worse during times free of pandemic.

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And not just to pick on Merrill – I do that because he knows there are many barriers to folks having an easy route to voting in Alabama, but he acts like there aren’t – but the biggest voter suppressor on Tuesday was the pandemic. The Democratic Party runoff was pretty low-profile, except for a U.S. House runoff in the First District.

The featured event was the Republican Party runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination between former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, trying to win his old Senate seat back, and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, a political novicewho doesn’t seem to have a clue. It wasn’t much of a campaign. Tuberville pretty much spouted platitudes about Donald Trump and little else, while Sessions spent most of his time pathetically begging voters to return him to the post he held for two decadesbefore selling out to Trump, who later stabbed Sessions in the back and endorsed Tuberville.

Tuberville won handily, and will face Sen. Doug Jones, the Democrat, on Nov. 3. Don’t count out Jones, though a lot of people already have. Jones, no left-wing liberal by any measure, is a scrapper who won’t go down without a fight, even though his Senate seat is considered the most vulnerable for Democrats this election year. But at some point, Tuberville is going to have to do something besides praise Trump, whose poll numbers are in free fall, and on the issues, Tuberville is nowhere near Jones’ league.

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Now we wait for the Nov. 3 General Election, where Trump is up against former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden is ahead in the polls, even in some states that haven’t voted Democratic in a while. But as we saw with Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats cannot be cocky; too often, they find a way to blow an election.

There are all sorts of character flaws in Trump, including that he’s an unabashed racist. But he is a good campaigner, especially to his base. True, that base doesn’t generally feature the sharpest minds around, but they do turn out, and won’t be deterred even with the current plague running amok.

Should Biden select an African-American woman as his vice president, and if Biden’s campaign continues working hard across the country to make sure his voters show up, the former vice president could win in a landslide. But not if voters, especially suburban women and African Americans, don’t go to the polls.

Turnout will be the key, and there’s nothing to indicate that on Nov. 3 we still won’t be in the throes of this damned virus that has disrupted everybody’s lives.

Yes, Trump mishandled the response to COVID-19. But he’s made it clear where the virus is concerned, he’s done. The 135,000-plus American deaths doesn’t move him at all. He argues that if we just didn’t test as much, we wouldn’t have as many virus cases. That’s a ridiculous statement, and he’s been ridiculed for it. The cases are there whether we test or not. Trump is more than just goofy; he’s mentally unstable.

So from now to November, Merrill should be working with the governor and other state officials to come up with a plan to make voting safe and easy. The best alternative, of course – the one that scares Republicans to death – is mail-in ballots. But Merrill and others will complain that risks voter fraud, a claim never substantiated in any significant way by the Republicans who are masters at voter suppression.

In November, I won’t have the luxury of not really having something to vote for. We must get this pathological narcissist out of the White House, and many of us will put our lives on the line, if necessary, to do it.

It’s really up to state officials, led by Merrill, to make sure Alabama voters can do that in as safe a way as possible, and the safest way cannot factor voter suppression into the mix. That may be too big a task for Merrill.

 

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