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Tag: james clyburn

When Worries Haunt Jim Clyburn, It's Time To Fear For  America

When I interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

I have always appreciated Clyburn’s wisdom, his passion, and his commitment to his constituents. But most of all, I have admired the optimism of this child of the South, who grew up hemmed in by Jim Crow’s separate and unequal grip, yet who believed in the innate goodness of America and its people. Clyburn put his own life on the line to drag the country — kicking and screaming — into a more just future.

He was convinced, I believe, that no matter how off balance America might become, the country would eventually right itself.

A lot has changed since that afternoon, when he sat at a long table, signing books and chatting in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina, right beside his beloved wife. Emily Clyburn, a passionate civil rights activist, died in 2019, though Clyburn often references her wise words.That optimism, however, has lost its glow.

Clyburn’s worries drove our conversation in July 2021, the second of two times he was a guest on my CQ Roll Call “Equal Time” podcast. The topic was voting rights, and Clyburn had opinions about the Senate procedure that would eventually stall legislation to reform those rights and restore provisions invalidated by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.

“When it comes to the constitutional issues like voting, guaranteed to Blacks by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, that should not be filibustered,” he said. And about restrictive laws being passed in states? “I want you to call it what it is. Use the word: nullification. It is voter nullification.”

“This isn’t about just voting; this is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy.”

With those remarks in the back of my mind, it was still startling to hear Clyburn last week on MSNBC, talking about his GOP House colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and their waffling about complying with subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack.

When asked if the government and Capitol Hill could “be fixed,” Clyburn, known for his philosophical “this too shall pass” mantra, instead replied, “I don’t know.” He talked about threats to undermine democracy and said the country is “teetering on the edge.”

And that was before the shooting in Buffalo that claimed the lives of ten beautiful Americans doing something as routine as Saturday supermarket shopping. African Americans were targeted by an 18-year-old who wore his “white supremacist” label like a badge of honor in a heavily plagiarized racist screed, a man whose stated goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible.”

Is it any wonder Clyburn’s optimism has been waning in these times?

Among Clyburn’s current House colleagues sits Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the number three House Republican, whose Facebook ads echoed the “replacement” conspiracy theory swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Buffalo shooter. “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,” was one message shared by the once moderate congresswoman, who replaced Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney in House leadership.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) has said many Americans believe “we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans — to permanently transform the political landscape of this very nation.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), someone you can always count on to say and do the very worst thing, has co-signed the near nightly rantings of a Fox News host, once tweeting, “Tucker Carlson is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”

While most Republican House members skirt the edges of the most incendiary claims, you don’t hear them loudly denouncing or disavowing them.

The accused Buffalo shooter was straightforward in his intentions as he found heroes in the racist and conspiracy-driven murderers who have cut a hateful swath through Norway, New Zealand, El Paso, Pittsburgh and Clyburn’s own home state of South Carolina, at places of worship, whether they be church, synagogue, or mosque.

The problem is much deeper than the availability of guns, and it didn’t surface in just the past few years, though the Obama family in the White House woke those uncomfortable with an evolving country and President Donald Trump cannily dug into a “Make America Great Again” slogan that looked back, not forward.

An accurate reading of history might have taught the shooter that scapegoating African Americans for his own emptiness and rot is not new, and that online conspiracies crumble when bombarded with truth. But many of the same people dismissing Saturday’s planned killing spree as the aberrant act of a disaffected and deranged “youth” would replace real history with rose-colored propaganda in the nation’s classrooms. Many Americans could use an education when polls show a third of them — and nearly half of Republicans — buy into the “replacement” lie.

It was the ugly truth, not fantasy, when President Joe Biden on Tuesday became counselor in chief, a role I’m sure he wishes he never had to play. When he and first lady Dr. Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo, the president blessedly took the time to note each individual — beloved wives and husbands, daughters and sons, brothers and sisters — emphasizing the humanity a shooter wanted to erase.

“In America, evil will not win, I promise you. Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word,” he proclaimed.

But when it’s stoked by the rhetoric of fear and blame of the other, hate too often finds a way.

Maybe that is what’s haunting Clyburn, hero and longtime fighter, because he has seen so much. Now, when democracy is at stake, where will the pendulum stop?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is currently a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

House Censures Gosar And Strips Him Of Committee Posts

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

One week after Rep. Paul Gosar posted a video depicting the murder of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a violent attack on President Joe Biden, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 223-207, to censure the Arizona Republican and strip him of his assignments on two congressional committees.

Gosar posted the repugnant video to Twitter and Instagram. It depicted himself killing Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, and leaping at Biden with two swords drawn. The photoshopped rendering was derived from the anime program Attack on the Titan. When Gosar posted the now-deleted tweet, he asked: "Any anime fans out there?"

Though Gosar removed the video after a firestorm of outrage and criticism, he did not issue a public apology and before the vote Wednesday, Gosar doubled down, insisting the video was mere jest.

"It was not [a threat of violence]. I reject the false narrative categorically. I do not espouse violence... it was not my purpose to make anyone upset," he said before likening himself to one of the nation's founders, Alexander Hamilton. "If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person to be censured by this House, so be it, it is done."

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez addressed the House before the vote, making a solemn plea for basic integrity and human decency while calling out the abdication of the leader of House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy.

"It is sad. It is a sad day in which a member who leads a political party in the United States cannot bring themselves to say that issuing a depiction of murdering a member of Congress is wrong and instead, decides to venture off into a tangent about gas prices and inflation," she said.

The incitement of violence by Gosar "trickles down," she said, urging that a line finally be drawn in the sand. Ocasio-Cortez has been the subject of much derision and has become a favorite target right wing extremists.

"This is where we must draw the line, independent of party, identity, or belief. It is about the core recognition of human dignity, of value and worth," she said.

In addition to censure, Gosar has also been removed from two committees: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which he sits on with Ocasio-Cortez, and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Significantly, the censure resolution highlights the ubiquitous nature of harassment against women in office. It notes that "violence against women in politics is a global phenomenon meant to silence women and discourage them from seeking positions of authority and participating in public life, with women of color disproportionately impacted."

A 2016 survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union found 82 percent of women legislators have experienced psychological violence and 44 percent of women have received threats of death, sexual violence, beatings, or abductions during their term.

According to the Congressional Research Service, just 23 members — before Wednesday — have been slapped with censure. Gosar's resolution highlighted how the congressman "used the resources of the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials" and to "spread hateful and false rhetoric."

The censure resolution also laid bare a critique of McCarthy, noting the vote Wednesday followed because "the leadership of the Republican Party has failed to condemn Representative Gosar's threats of violence against the President of the United States and a fellow member of Congress."

Such videos, the resolution continues, can "foment actual violence and jeopardize the safety of elected officials, as witnessed in this chamber on January 6, 2021."

Ahead of the censure vote Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the House Majority Whip, reminded a Fox news reporter that even Rep. Gosar's own family has called for his expulsion from Congress for what his sister dubbed "sociopathic fantasies."

"His family says he should be [expelled]. And that's what I've said to the media. We're going to censure him. His family thinks he should be expelled. And I think that's up to leader McCarthy. He's the Republican leader. This man is a Republican," Clyburn said.


Why So-Called Tough Guys Are Always Punching Down

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The late great stand-up, actor and occasional philosopher George Carlin was known to cross the lines of what polite society would call good taste, but he himself drew a few lines when it came to his theory of funny.

Asked by Larry King in 1990 about popular bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Carlin, while defending Clay's right to say whatever, said, "His targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power." Clay's core audience, Carlin said, were "young white males" threatened by Clay's targets, assertive women and immigrants among them.

Rule-breaker Eddie Murphy came to look back on his younger self, the brash young man dressed in leather, and cringe, especially at his jokes about women and relationships, he told The New York Times in 2019. "I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an …" — well, you get the idea.

In today's cruel world, it's not just comedians punching down, reaching for the "easy" joke, setting new and low standards, though a few still revel in their ability to shock (see Michael Che and his approving nods to vile remarks about the sexual abuse of young female athletes).

Many who should know better have given up seeking a more perfect union, one that welcomes all. They see advantage in aggression and, unlike Murphy, don't feel one bit embarrassed when reflecting on their words and actions.

In fact, the "punching" is the point, and it's always aimed squarely at those perceived as less powerful, from poor and disabled Americans who want to vote without jumping through unnecessary hoops and facing intimidation from poll watchers to transgender children eager to play sports to Black and brown students who would like their role in the country's history to be taught without accommodation for those too fragile to hear the truth.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent, threatening words involved actual hitting, in this case the speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi. At a Republican fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee over the weekend, when presented with an oversize gavel, McCarthy said: "I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it." According to audio, the crowd of about 1,400 laughed.

McCarthy can almost taste the speakership, with voting restrictions in the states and new gerrymandered districts being teed up, and the Supreme Court and a Senate stalled on voting legislation helping to clear the way. He's already referring to Pelosi as a lame duck. For him and his followers, the angry rhetoric isn't something to be ashamed of; it's dessert, a way to rile up the base and rake in the cash.

While not approving of the violent January 6 insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, McCarthy tried to block an investigation of the attack and said he ignored the testimony of brutalized police officers before the select committee that's proceeding without him. McCarthy seems to have forgotten his reported initial pleas to then-President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters that day.

Does he remember or care, as he's piling on, that the rioters particularly targeted Pelosi, defiled her office and called out "Where's Nancy?" in their best impression of Jack Nicholson's demented howl in The Shining?

The trickle-down effect that Republican politicians are so fond of when it comes to justifying tax cuts for the wealthy is certainly true when it comes to this style of "tough guy" posturing, as January 6 proved, though you can bet those rioters would not have been so free employing their weaponized flagpoles and bear spray if they were confronting each officer one-on-one.

The same goes for the bullies who don't need masks, but want to fight businesses trying to safely staff and operate their shops and restaurants, or the anti-vaxxers who show little concern for children too young to get vaccinated or neighbors who because of age or medical complications are at risk.

It's predictable that the tough guys and gals, so anxious to pick a fight — verbal and otherwise — offer a tsunami of excuses when called to account. That's usually the case with bullies.

The January 6 lawbreakers are blaming Trump, QAnon and the heat of the moment; some Republicans unbelievably blame Pelosi herself for the violence that targeted her. Professional comic Che says he was hacked, and amateur comic McCarthy claims he was "obviously joking" when he taunted the speaker.

I'd respect them all a lot more if they'd just own their perfidy. Instead, they do their damage with a wink before backing off, managing to look both mean and weak.

When I spoke with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn last week on my Equal Time podcast, he didn't have the time or desire to insult anyone. As someone who in the 1960s was in the middle of the fight for the Voting Rights Act, he would rather talk about the current battle to protect the rights promised in that landmark legislation — and to save democracy itself.

Convincing those who don't believe it's their fight won't be easy. But Clyburn has the optimism of someone who, in the face of real danger, helped take on the segregated South. In "punching up" at a system designed to hold "powerless" Americans down, he and all those who changed history showed a toughness that a gavel-toting McCarthy and company can only dream about.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer, and was national correspondent for Politics Daily. She is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Newly Released Emails Show Trump Appointees Tried To Slow Virus Testing

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Newly released emails written by a former Trump administration official show just how deep the effort to slow down the testing of Americans for the coronavirus went, as political appointees sought to meet Donald Trump's demand to make the number of cases look smaller in an effort to bolster his reelection chances.

The emails were released by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which has been investigating Trump's failed pandemic response. The Washington Post first reported on the emails, which the committee says prove there was political interference in the Trump administration's virus response efforts.

The emails were sent by Paul Alexander, a Trump political appointee who was behind an effort to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop testing asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the coronavirus. Alexander was the same official who Politico reported in December was behind the push for a "herd immunity" strategy, in which Alexander wanted millions of people to be infected with the coronavirus to build community resistance to it and end the pandemic — a strategy public health officials said was dangerous and could have led to many more deaths.

The committee wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden's chief of staff that "recently obtained evidence shows that political appointees were involved in the decision to change CDC's guidance, and that the Trump Administration changed the guidance for the explicit purpose of reducing testing and allowing the virus to spread while quickly reopening the economy."

In an Aug. 27, 2020, email obtained by the committee, Alexander wrote, "Testing asymptomatic people to seek asymptomatic cases is not the point of testing, for in the end, all this accomplishes is we end up quarantining asymptomatic, low risk people and preventing the workforce from working. In this light, it would be unreasonable based on the prevailing data to have widespread testing of schools and colleges/universities. This will not allow them to optimally re-open."

The email was sent one day after the CDC changed its guidance to say that asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the virus did not need to get tested, against the advice of public health experts who said finding asymptomatic infected people before they could unwittingly infect others was an important tool for stopping the pandemic from getting out of control.

The decision to change testing recommendations led to a barrage of criticism, and the CDC reversed the guidance a month later.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said that the investigation into the Trump administration's failures in handling the pandemic will continue, and requested more documents sent by political appointees and career civil servants in the health department related to Trump's coronavirus response, including the rollout of vaccines.

Trump left office with the COVID-19 pandemic raging out of control. More than 463,000 people have died of complications related to the virus to date in the United States.

Biden is now working to stem the spread of the virus. Jeff Zients, the co-coordinator of Biden's COVID-19 task force, told reporters after Biden took office, "What we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Congress Launches Probe Of Meatpacking Worker Fatalities In Pandemic

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

A key congressional panel launched an investigation this week into the wave of COVID-19 infections that killed hundreds of workers at meatpacking plants nationwide last year and highlighted longstanding hazards in the industry.

Since the start of the pandemic, the meat industry has struggled to contain the virus in its facilities, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas have endured some of the biggest workplace outbreaks in the country.

The meat companies' employees, many of them immigrants and refugees, slice pig bellies or cut up chicken carcasses in close quarters. Many of them don't speak English and aren't granted paid sick leave. To date, more than 50,000 meatpacking workers have been infected and at least 250 have died, according to a ProPublica tally.

The congressional investigation, opened by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, will examine the role of JBS, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, three of the nation's largest meat companies, which, the subcommittee said, had “refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers" and had “shown a callous disregard for workers' health."

The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House.

In response to the subcommittee's announcement, officials for JBS and Tyson said that the companies had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to implement coronavirus protections and to temporarily increase pay and benefits, and they looked forward to discussing their pandemic safety efforts with the panel. Smithfield said in a statement that it had also taken “extraordinary measures" to protect employees from the virus, spending more than $700 million on workplace modifications, testing and equipment.

The House subcommittee noted that reports from a variety of news organizations had illuminated problems with how the meatpacking companies handled the pandemic, and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's enforcement efforts. The subcommittee cited ProPublica's reporting on how meat companies blindsided local public health departments, and on Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts' efforts to intervene when local health officials tried to temporarily shutter a JBS plant amid an outbreak.

ProPublica has also documented how meat companies ignored years of warnings from the federal government about how a pandemic could tear through a food processing facility, and chronicled the role that meatpacking plants like a Tyson pork facility in Waterloo, Iowa, have played in spreading the virus to the surrounding community.

The subcommittee's inquiry will also scrutinize the federal government's shortcomings in protecting meatpacking workers. “Public reports indicate that under the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths," according to the subcommittee's letter to OSHA.

The subcommittee also said that the agency had issued only a “few meager fines" and “failed to show urgency in addressing safety hazards at the meatpacking facilities it inspected." The letter noted that OSHA had received complaints about JBS and Smithfield plants months before the agency conducted inspections.

David Seligman, a lawyer who helped meatpacking workers in Pennsylvania file a lawsuit against OSHA during the pandemic, said he hopes the subcommittee's efforts are “just one of the initial steps" to holding companies accountable and ensuring workers are safe. “The harm inflicted on meat-processing workers during this pandemic, in service of the profits of corporate meat-packing companies and under a government that seemed happy to turn a blind eye, is a grave scandal," Seligman wrote in an email.

In a statement, a Department of Labor spokesperson said that the subcommittee's inquiry is “focused on the Trump administration's actions surrounding the protection of workers from COVID-19 related risks," and the agency is committed to protecting workers, and that new guidance on coronavirus enforcement that was issued in late January will serve as a “first step."

In its Feb. 1 letters to OSHA, JBS, Tyson and Smithfield, the subcommittee has requested documents related to government inspections at meatpacking plants and COVID-19 complaints lodged with the companies. OSHA was asked to brief the subcommittee by Feb. 15.

Democrats Suggest Capitol Attackers Had Inside Assistance

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

At least five House Democrats have said that evidence suggests both Capitol Police and Republican members of Congress may have aided and abetted the terror attack on Jan. 6, in which a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol as they tried to stop President-elect Joe Biden from being certified the winner of the 2020 election.

The comments from the Democratic lawmakers are chilling and come after those lawmakers have received private briefings from Capitol Police about the attack — which law enforcement was woefully unprepared for.

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) made the most pointed accusation about Republican members of Congress possibly being involved in the attack. Sherrill, a retired Navy helicopter pilot who became a federal prosecutor after leaving the military, said in a Tuesday night video:

... Not only do I intend to see that the president is removed and never runs for office again and doesn't have access to classified material, I also intend to see that those members of Congress who abetted him; those members of Congress who had groups coming through the Capitol that I saw on Jan. 5 — a reconnaissance for the next day; those members of Congress that incited this violent crowd; those members of Congress that attempted to help our president undermine our democracy; I'm going to see they are held accountable, and if necessary, ensure that they don't serve in Congress.

Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), who served as chief of the Orlando Police Department before being elected to Congress, also suggested there may have been inside help, either from the Capitol Police or others.

Demings said on CNN on Wednesday morning:

Obviously this was a well-planned, well-coordinated breach of security, attack on our capital, and I do believe when we look at how the attackers were able to, they knew where they were going in many instances they knew directly where they were going, and I know many members of Congress get lost in the Capitol, and so I do believe there was some inside assistance. We know that there are officers that are being investigated, and others.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley's chief of staff told the Boston Globe, "Every panic button in my office had been torn out — the whole unit," suggesting something untoward had gone on.

And last week, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) suggested the attackers may have had help from within the building.

Clyburn said in an interview on SiriusXM on Jan. 8:

And the one place where my name is on a door, that office is right on Statuary Hall. They didn't touch that door. But they went into that other place where I do most of my work, they showed up up there. Harassing my staff. How did they know to go there? … How they didn't go where my name was? Then where you won't find my name, but they found where I was supposed to be. So something else is going on untoward here. So we need to have an extensive investigation to find out.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said in an Instagram live video on Tuesday night that she does not feel safe around Republican members of Congress because she fears they, "would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera."

Some House Democrats are worried that their colleagues from across the aisle pose a danger.

An unnamed Democratic lawmaker told HuffPost that there is an "eyes-wide-open realization" that there must be precautions taken against "all these members who were in league with the insurrectionists who love to carry their guns."

"You can't just let them bypass security and walk right up to [Joe] Biden and [Kamala] Harris at inauguration," the unnamed lawmaker told HuffPost's Matt Fuller.

It's possibly why metal detectors were installed outside the House floor — machines that Republican lawmakers are blatantly refusing to use, ignoring orders from Capitol Police.

With each day, more video evidence emerges depicting acts of violence at the Capitol.

Video has captured rioters chanting that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence, and a platform with a noose was erected outside of the Capitol building.

Another video shows rioters plotting where to go within the building, including a discussion of floor plans and where to go to "take the building."

Law enforcement officers say they are using the video and photos from that day to find and arrest the perpetrators.

To date, five people, including one Capitol Police officer and four pro-Trump rioters, have died from the attack.

Democratic lawmakers have made moves to try to expel congressional Republicans who helped incite the violence as well as those who voted to invalidate Biden's win.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

News Outlets Promote False Narrative Blaming Democrats For Relief Bill Failure

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

As the country grapples with the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, news shows are embracing a false Republican narrative that Democrats are to blame for a delay in the renewal of extended economic benefits. The fact is that Republicans waited until the eleventh hour to even make a proposal to begin with, while the Democratic-led House has been passing bills for months.

The economic stakes here are very high, and carry real consequences. With all the economic dislocation from the virus, the Census Bureau announced last week nearly 30 million Americans did not get enough to eat last week. While the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment assistance is keeping many people afloat, there exists the potential for up to 40 million Americans to lose their homes, "four times the amount seen during the Great Recession."

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