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Democrats inch to the middle as Republicans flock to Trump – CNN

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A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Kristi Noem, the South Dakota governor, is one potential Republican candidate for president and her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend, with its focus on her hands-off approach to Covid, sounded like the backbone of a conservative campaign.
Drawing distinctions with other governors. It was particularly interesting since she compared her own efforts to other Republican governors. Although she didn’t name names, think of Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas when you read this from Noem: “We’ve got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states; that they didn’t close their regions; that they didn’t mandate masks.”
And this: “Now, I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct.”
Or this: “Demand honesty from your leaders and make sure that every one of them is willing to make the tough decisions.”
As well as this: “South Dakota did not do any of those (measures). We didn’t mandate. We trusted our people and it told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.”
Note on South Dakota’s Covid deaths: A larger portion of South Dakotans died from Covid than it most other states, according to CNN’s tracker and Johns Hopkins. In South Dakota, 230 people per 100,000 died from Covid. In the United States as a whole, about 185 people per 100,000 died.
CNN’s Maeve Reston, who wrote about the speech, was among reporters who talked to Noem after her speech, when she made clear that the entire field will have to wait for Trump to decide on another run.
Inspirational. “I think he’d be fantastic,” Noem told Reston and others. “He gets up every day and he fights for this country,” Noem said. “Most people when they watched what he and his family went through would be exhausted and quit, out of discouragement. And the fact that he’s still fighting is inspirational to me.”
The lesson Republicans have taken, then, is that Trump is their inspirational leader and Trumpism is the way. But they’re ready in case he doesn’t run in 2024 and in that case they’re going to draft behind him.
Democrats look to moderates. Democrats are learning a very different lesson after Eric Adams, a moderate, won the New York City mayoral primary and Terry McAuliffe, an old school Clinton-style Democrat, won the Democratic primary for governor in Virginia.
Adams appeared on CNN over the weekend and criticized Democratic lawmakers for their efforts on gun control. He argued more should be done to control the flow of handguns into US cities.
This may be too simple, but it’s certainly worth considering: Democrats are inching to the middle and Republicans are running toward Trump.
‘Electricity and fervor for Trump is very much alive.’ What Matters asked Reston, who spent the weekend among Republicans at CPAC, for her thoughts on that oversimplification and whether there’s a middle in today’s GOP.
Here’s what she sent back:
RESTON: There certainly is a sliver of the Republican Party that is exhausted by Trump and ready to move on, but those people are by far the minority.
The more that I talk to Republican voters in places like Iowa and gatherings like CPAC — where the attendees are the true foot soldiers of the party — the more I’m struck by the fact that Trump isn’t going anywhere.
What I hear over and over again from GOP voters is that they have no desire to move on. They aren’t casting about for a new candidate for 2024 or even really thinking about other people who would run.
The vast majority of GOP voters I’ve talked to want to see Trump run again. They see his presidency as unfinished business and many have accepted the alternative reality he’s created about the 2020 election.
Yes, they like other potential contenders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who was, once again, the most popular choice after Trump in CPAC’s unscientific straw poll. But they see all these people like DeSantis, Mike Pompeo and Noem as mere back-up options if Trump decides not to run.
The electricity and fervor for Trump is very much alive.
Attendees literally left the room dancing last night after his speech. So as much as Democrats would like to believe that Trump is a “has-been” or a figure of the past — they are fundamentally misunderstanding the mindset of the GOP today.”
There were leaders of fringe groups like the Oath Keepers who were involved in the January 6 riot at the Capitol in attendance as well.
Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota who is not actively running for anything and has called on his party to evolve, was asked about CPAC on CNN’s “New Day” on Monday and he tried to equate extremists on the right to extremists on the left.
“The Republican party does not want to become the party of, you know, extremist folks who have conspiracy theories and are militant and violent, and the same is true on the left,” he argued, although the point here is that Trump, who controls the energy in the party, is intentionally appealing to extremism whereas Biden is talking about the need for unity.
“I think it’s a disservice to the debate to say there’s only crazy militant people on the right, said Pawlenty. “There’s also crazy militant people on the left, and the rest of us in a democracy have to be united enough and common — have enough common sense to say we’re not embracing any of that, right or left, in who we choose as leaders and how we govern our country.”
10 seats most likely to flip in 2022. Americans get their next say in who controls the national government in about sixteen months, when control of the House and Senate are up for grabs.
CNN’s Simone Pathe published her latest in a series of periodic check-ins on the political map.
Her list is of the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip from one party to the other. But only eight of them are considered to be competitive at the moment, according to Inside Elections. Four of those are controlled by Democrats at the moment and four are controlled by Republicans. Pathe’s slightly larger list features two additional retiring Republicans in Ohio and Missouri.
Each of these races will be shaped in the coming months as primaries develop. Both parties will have important decisions to make.
Top pickup opportunity for Democrats, per Pathe:
Pennsylvania where GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is not running for another term — remains the seat most likely to flip, in large part, because it’s an open seat in a state that Biden carried last fall. And while this race may come down to whatever the national environment looks like next year, Democrats regard it as their top pick up opportunity — even if they don’t yet know who their candidate is going to be.
She outlines a crowded Democratic field and notes two names: Conor Lamb, the moderate congressman, and John Fetterman, the progressive Lieutenant governor. This could be an interesting primary. Neither man has officially jumped in the race.
The top pickup opportunity for Republicans, per Pathe:
Georgia — Republicans are eager to redeem their trifecta of recent losses here. But they’re still in a waiting game when it comes to who will avenge the loss to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who’s now running for a full six-year term. That’s because Herschel Walker, encouraged by Trump to run, continues to have a freezing effect on the field. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced his candidacy in early June, becoming one of the most prominent candidates so far, while other Republicans have been reluctant to jump into the race if they know someone else will have Trump’s backing. Former Rep. Doug Collins, for example, already passed on a run. Walker, who lives in Texas, teased a campaign with a June 17 video of him revving the engine of a car with Peach State license plates (in a garage). “I’m getting ready,” the former NFL running back said. Trump said in a radio interview last week that Walker told him he’s decided to run. GOP strategists, however, are nervous about a risky candidate jeopardizing a must-win seat.
Those who want to be in Republican politics are finding a way to talk the talk.
Revisionist history. J.D. Vance, the Ohio businessman who wrote the best-seller “Hillbilly Elegy” about how he got from growing up in a poor family in Ohio to Yale law school, is a prime example.
Scrubbing his past as he mounts a run for Senate, Vance has had to explain and delete tweets that were critical of Trump.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” Vance explained. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people and I think he took a lot of flak.”
CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains what’s happening here:
Look. This isn’t complicated. In 2016, Vance wasn’t running for Senate. Now he is. What he said then was what he believed. What he is saying now — essentially totally disowning what he said then — is born of political necessity.
That necessity? Kissing up to Trump. The political reality at the present moment, and this has been the case since at least 2017, is that you simply cannot win a contested Republican primary unless you are outspokenly pro-Trump.

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How much influence should politicians have over police? – CBC.ca

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Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.

According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.

The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.

But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?

CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.

Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?

The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.

But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.

“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.

For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.

“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.

What does the law say?

While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.

But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.

“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.

While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.

“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.

“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”

Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadian law is very vague when it comes to inappropriate government direction of law enforcement. (Oliver Salathiel)

In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”

Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.

“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said. 

Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership. 

He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.

He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.

But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.

During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.

Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.

Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.

 “I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”

What happens when politicians try to be police?

Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.

“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.

She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.

Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson attempted to negotiate with Freedom Convoy protestors during the occupation of Ottawa earlier this year. Western University professor Laura Suey says the incident is a good example of why it’s a bad idea for politicians to take over law enforcement’s responsibilities. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.

“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”

Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.

In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.

“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.

Is there a better way?

If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.

Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.

“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.

A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.

Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.

“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.

Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.

“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said. 

Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.

He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.

“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”

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Politicians should admit their dumb mistakes | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

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I can finally admit it: during my 20 years as a political staffer and elected politician I was involved in many political coverups.

Don’t get too excited, they weren’t the type of coverups that you see in movies or read about in political thrillers — no Canadian versions of Watergate, Irangate or any other gate.

No, over the years I have had to cover up the fact that politics is made up of human beings who make dumb mistakes. You see, those who work in politics and government are no different from the rest of the world. They send emails to the wrong people, miss important meetings because they forgot to write down the room number, and give the wrong drafts of speeches, briefing notes and other important documents to their bosses.

Spend a day in government and you will realize that it is nothing short of organized chaos — much more like Veep than House of Cards.

Unfortunately, as far as the public is concerned, the truth often doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine a politician admitting that the origin of their current quandary is that they couldn’t open a password protected document on their iPad or that they didn’t pay attention at a briefing because they had just learned that their son failed his math test?

Hence the coverup. People would be shocked to know how much time in government is spent trying to come up with any excuse except for the fact that mistakes happen.

I thought of this phenomenon recently when I read all the reporting about a Canadian official attending a national day event at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the media and opposition firestorm that followed.

With tensions running high between Canada and Russia, the presence of the official was probably not the wisest move, and it is legitimate to ask whether the Minister approved her attendance. I had to chuckle when sources came forward to tell the Globe and Mail that Departmental officials had checked with the Minister of Foreign Affair’s office, but her staff had been too busy to read the email because they were all involved in supporting the minister at an international conference.

Too busy to read an email?

It may sound like a dumb excuse, but I defy anyone to tell me that they have never been too busy to check their emails or phone messages or the ton of paper piling up in their in-basket.

It’s called being human. Even important people get overwhelmed, tired, and fed up with a constant barrage of information and requests. Even those at the top may find juggling all the demands on their time too much.

Yes, the stakes can be high in government and there needs to be extra checks in place. But in this case, we are talking about a reception. Although embarrassing, I don’t think any of our allies believe that Canada is growing soft on Russia or doesn’t take the war in Ukraine seriously.

The public seems unable to make up their minds. On the one hand they are contemptuous of politicians while on the other hand they seem unwilling to tolerate anything less than perfection from them and their officials.

Maybe if politicians were more willing to admit their dumb mistakes and the public showed a bit more understanding, less time would be spent trying to cover up the fact that governments are run by human beings.

John Milloy, a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, is the director of the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College

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Abortion ruling pushes businesses to confront divisive politics – PBS NewsHour

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The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics.

Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The Walt Disney Company, which said it will reimburse employees who must travel out of state to get an abortion.

Facebook parent Meta, American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs also said they would cover employee travel costs while others like Apple, Starbucks, Lyft and Yelp reiterated previous announcements taking similar action. Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia went so far as to post on LinkedIn Friday that it would provide “training and bail for those who peacefully protest for reproductive justice” and time off to vote.

But of the dozens of big businesses that The Associated Press reached out to Friday, many like McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Tyson and Marriott did not respond. Arkansas-based Walmart — the nation’s largest employer with a good portion of its stores in states that will immediately trigger abortion bans following the Friday’s Supreme Court ruling — also kept quiet.

Meanwhile, the Business Roundtable, an organization that represents some of the nation’s most powerful companies, said it “does not have a position on the merits of the case.”

READ MORE: The ‘air is thick with disbelief and grief’ at a Louisiana clinic as abortion ends

A lot is at stake for companies, many of which have publicly pledged to promote women’s equality and advancement in the workplace. For those in states with restrictive abortion laws, they could now face big challenges in attracting college-educated workers who can easily move around.

Luis von Ahn, the CEO of the language app Duolingo, sent a tweet Friday aimed at lawmakers in Pennsylvania, where the company is headquartered: “If PA makes abortion illegal, we won’t be able to attract talent and we’ll have to grow our offices elsewhere.”

The ruling and the coming patchwork of abortion bans also threatens the technology boom in places like Austin, Texas as companies like Dell — which was already becoming more flexible to remote work because of the tight labor market — struggle to recruit newly minted tech graduates to their corporate hubs, said Steven Pedigo, a professor who studies economic development at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Rather than stay in Austin, do you go to New York or Seattle or the Bay Area? I think that’s a real possibility,” Pedigo said. “It becomes much more challenging, particularly when you’re looking at a young, progressive workforce, which is what technology workers tend to be.”

Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and head of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, said in a statement that nearly a quarter of organizations in a recent poll agreed that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will enhance their ability to compete for talent.

“But how these policies interact with state laws is unclear, and employers should be aware of the legal risks involved,” she said.

Dickens noted that companies that use third-party administrator to process claims on their behalf — typically big employers — are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act rather than state law. But companies that have to buy their own health insurance for their employees — typically small businesses — are subject to state regulations and have less flexibility in designing benefits.

READ MORE: Missouri’s last abortion clinic finds itself in center of Roe fallout

Offering to cover travel expenses could also make companies a target for anti-abortion lawmakers. In March, Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup, saying he would propose legislation barring localities in the state from doing business with any company that provides travel benefits for employees seeking abortions.

In his concurring opinion released Friday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested it would be unconstitutional for a state to bar residents from traveling to another state to get an abortion.

“In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel,” Kavanaugh wrote.

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But a corporation’s right to fund what would be an illegal act in another state is still questionable, argues Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas.

“That’s not an interstate commerce question, per se,” she said. “So you’d need the right plaintiff.”

Meanwhile, tech companies are facing tough questions about what they’ll do if some of their millions of customers in the U.S. are prosecuted for having an abortion. Services like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft routinely hand over digital data sought by law enforcement agencies pursuing criminal investigations. That’s raised concerns from privacy advocates about enforcers of abortion laws tapping into period apps, phone location data and other sensitive online health information.

A letter Friday from four Democrats in Congress called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the phone-tracking practices of Google and Apple, warning that location identifiers used for advertising could fall into the hands of prosecutors or bounty hunters looking “to hunt down women who have obtained or are seeking an abortion.”

The Supreme Court ruling comes at a time when companies have become increasingly reliant on women to fill jobs, and especially as they face a nationwide labor shortage. Women now account for nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce, up dramatically from 37.5% in 1970 — three years before the Supreme Court ruled abortions to be legal in Roe vs. Wade — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Denied access to abortion could hit low-income workers the hardest because they’re typically in jobs with fewer protections and that are also demanding, from loading groceries onto store shelves to working as a health aide.

“As a direct result of this ruling, more women will be forced to choose between paying their rent or traveling long distances to receive safe abortion care,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million janitors, health care workers and teachers in the U.S. “Working women are already struggling in poverty-wage jobs without paid leave and many are also shouldering the caregiving responsibilities for their families, typically unpaid.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants told The Associated Press that the ruling was “devastating.”

“It cuts to the core of all the work that our union has done for 75 years,” she said. “This decision is not about whether or not someone supports abortion. That’s the distraction … This is about whether or not we respect the rights of women to determine their own future.”

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said the handful of companies are taking a stand on the court’s ruling because their customers and employees are expecting them to speak out.

“We’re in this moment in time where we’re expecting corporate leaders to also be leaders in the political sphere,” he said. “A lot of employees expect to work in companies that not only pay them well, but whose values are aligned with theirs.”

But the vast majority of executives will likely avoid the thorny topic and focus on things like inflation or supply chain disruptions, he said.
That, too, comes with risks.

“They can either support travel for out-of-state care and risk lawsuits and the ire of local politicians, or they can not include this coverage and risk the ire of employees,” Schweitzer said.
___
AP business writers Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island; Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit; Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco; David Koenig in Dallas and Ken Sweet in New York contributed to the story.

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