We try like crazy to avoid sleazy, tabloid sensationalism on The BradCast. But, at this point at least, the Republican Party has made that pretty much all but impossible. Just covering any of the latest actual, legitimate news from the party which seems to be in free fall right now, necessarily requires a whole bunch of sleazy, cheap, tawdry stories that sound sensationalistic and tabloidy...but that's only because they are...whether we like it or not. [Audio link to today's full show is posted below this summary.]
On the way to the central story in our A Block today, regarding the stunning crash and burn of Alabama's Sec. of State who, until late yesterday was likely to have been a front-runner for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Republican Senator Richard Shelby, we are forced to reference a number of the sleazy cheap stories that have now become central to the GOP itself...above and beyond their nationwide attempt to suppress Democratic-leaning voters in a democracy...
- Over the weekend, the New York Times exposed how the Trump Campaign ripped of its own donors before and after last year's election, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by pre-checking checkboxes that were difficult to notice. That would turn one-time donations into recurring monthly or even weekly donations, when many if not most donors did not even notice. Donor credit cards were unwittingly maxed out and bank accounts were drained by the Trump scheme. But, even after the Times' exposé, it appears that the Republican Party itself, via its U.S. House fundraising arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is now using that same sleazy trick to rip off its donors as well! They're arguably making it even worse by telling donors (all-caps in the original): "If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR."
- Then of course, there's the ongoing sleazy story about Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of Trump's top supporters in the U.S. House, who is reportedly being investigated for alleged sex trafficking of a minor. Today, several outlets are reporting that Gaetz' pal, Joel Greenberg, the former Tax Collector in FL's Seminole County, is now cooperating with prosecutors. Greenberg has already been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and more than 30 other federal charges, including stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, bribery, theft of government property, conspiracy to bribe a public official and creating fake IDs. Suffice to say, if it's true that he's cooperating, that is likely very bad news for Gaetz.
- But today's sleaziest story concerns Alabama's Republican Sec. of State John Merrill. Long time readers and listeners may recall my bizarre run-in with Merrill back in 2017, when, after politely pointing out on Twitter that Merrill was wrong about the way Alabama's voting systems actually worked, the Secretary blocked him on the social media platform and left bizarre messages on Brad's cell phone. Later, when a federal court ruled in a lawsuit against Trump that public officials were violating First Amendment rights by blocking people on Twitter, I sought comment from Merrill's office to see if, like Trump had been ordered, Merrill planned to unblock the many constituents and election experts he had blocked on Twitter over the years. Not only did Merrill himself make it very clear to me that he had no intention of doing so, the entire matter devolved into a wildly bizarre email attack by Merrill. That all played out in 2017 and 2018.
Move the clock forward to 2020, and Merrill, using his powers as Alabama's top election official, prevented Counties in his state from offering safe, curbside voting for those who feared exposure to the coronavirus inside polling places. Despite a state court order to allow it, Merrill refused and took the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was ultimately victorious in his efforts to suppress Alabama voters who feared for their lives and were forced to choose between staying safe and casting a vote inside the polls during last year's Presidential election.
And now, the clock turns forward to yesterday when, on Wednesday morning, Merrill --- who is married with two children and who had already begun his campaign for the GOP nomination to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Sen. Shelby --- denied an extra-marital affair with a 44-year old women that he described as a "stalker" who had been "harassing" him. Just hours later, however, by Wednesday afternoon, Merrill admitted to his years long involvement with the woman after AL.com played him a portion of a salacious phone call between him and her that she had provided to the media outlet. Yes, we share part of that call on today's show. Yes, we told you this was all sleazy. Yes, the story is actually much sleazier than we are sharing with you on air today. And, yes, there is something very wrong with Merrill, as we had repeatedly tried to explain over the years ever since my first bizarre encounter with him.
Merrill, who is already well known for his anti-LGBTQ statements, has denied describing African-American judges and voters --- whose rights he's supposed to be protecting --- as "the coloreds," as the woman also alleges. We'll let you decide if you'd like to believe him or not. He says he is seeking help from "the Lord". He has yet to resign from his role as the state's chief election official or from his position as Chair of the Republican Secretaries of State Executive Committee.
- In much less sleazy --- if still somewhat depressing news --- President Biden announced a number of new Executive Orders related to gun safety during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. The President, accurately characterizing America's gun epidemic as an "international embarrassment" and "public health crisis", noted that between the mass killings at Atlanta massage parlors and the Boulder, Colorado grocery store shooting last month, there were more than 850 additional shootings that killed 250 and injured 500 in the U.S. In his own remarks at the ceremony, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland noted that "so far this year, guns have taken the lives of 11,000" in this country. While Biden's Executive Actions (which we detail during the show) are likely to have a marginal effect in curbing our nation's gun violence epidemic, they are no replacement for real legislation that might actually have a measurable effect on decreasing gun violence.
- Of course, given that Republicans refuse to support any measures proposed by Democrats in the U.S. Senate --- much less regarding gun safety, God forbid, no matter how popular such measures are, even with Republican voters --- it will be impossible to pass any such legislation unless the filibuster in the Senate is either ended or reformed. Key to that, however, is the Democratic Senate's most conservative member, West Virginia's Joe Manchin. On Wednesday, pathetically enough, Manchin penned an op-ed at Washington Post declaring: "There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster." He went on to offer a few twisted, counterfactual reasons as to why, and even suggested he may block further legislation from passing via the Senate's Budget Reconciliation rules which allow for passage of certain budget related matters with a simple majority vote. Yes, today is that kind of a day. For what it's worth, the White House seems less bothered about Manchin's statements than we are.
- Finally, with marginally brighter news scattered throughout, Desi Doyen's got our latest Green News Report, with details of the Biden Administration's pushback against silly GOP critiques of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure, jobs and climate proposal; a new warning about a wave of abandoned oil and gas mines; and General Motors' plans to go all in on electric vehicles, including with their first all-electric pickup truck!...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)