The summer season continues wreaking havoc, ill health and consternation. And we’re talking about politics, not wildfires. We can’t extinguish the sparks, but we do examine some combustible issues.
National politics took a bizarre turn with the sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Will he still be confirmed, and will this episode have any impact on the midterm elections?
Pignanelli: "Because this confirmation process is close to the election and in the Trump era, it feels like four sticks of dynamite wrapped in radioactive material that could erupt into a culture war.” — Chuck Todd_, NBC News,_ Pity Hollywood.
Their best writers could not envision the current bizarre environment of American politics. There is universal consensus among politicos the confirmation of Kavanaugh is now secondary to the perceptions and judgment by the American people how their leaders respond. Especially weird, President Donald Trump is providing model behavior of how officials should conduct themselves.
If Republicans come off as grand inquisitors, expect a backlash in the elections. Should Democrats be perceived as using professor Christine Blasey Ford as a partisan tool for unwarranted character assassination of Kavanaugh, voters will extract vengeance. Both must be accorded deep respect from the Senate. But left- and right-wing special-interest groups (hoping to increase membership and donations) will push senators to attack witnesses, and each other. This must be avoided.
Utahns are inherently fair-minded and will viscerally react to what they perceive as unjust treatment of the judge or professor. The success of the ballot initiatives clearly indicate such emotional considerations exist with the local electorate.
So although entertainment professionals were not involved, the Kavanaugh confirmation controversy is an engaging combination of reality show, cable drama and documentary.
Webb: Democrats have done a disservice to Dr. Ford by exploiting her serious claim of sexual assault and handling it in such a transparently political manner. I’m guessing it will backfire badly on the Democrats. When Sen. Dianne Feinstein received the shocking letter from Ford back in July, why didn’t she take it seriously enough to immediately inform committee leadership while keeping Ford’s name confidential as she apparently desired?
That would have given the committee, the White House and the FBI plenty of time to investigate this serious matter and determine its validity. To release portions of the letter and go public in the media six weeks later, after confirmation hearings had been held and concluded, is absurd and blatantly political. What political hack advised Ford to agree to a very public and sensational interview with The Washington Post, but refuse to talk to the committee — even privately (as of our Thursday deadline for this column)? Why did she initially say she wanted to testify, but then renege?
Here’s the truth: The Democrats don’t really care about a 35-year-old alleged sexual assault or the woman making the accusations. They just desperately want to derail the appointment of a constitutional conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court and destroy a fine man’s life in the process.
President Trump is struggling with low approval ratings. Will he be a drag on Republicans in Utah elections — especially Congresswoman Mia Love in her re-election race against Democrat Ben McAdams?
Pignanelli: Remember the results from the 2016 presidential elections in Utah: Trump 46 percent, Clinton 27 percent, McMullin 22 percent. Almost a quarter of the electorate could not stomach either major party candidate — a big deal in Utah. A good percentage of voters are persuadable in swing areas with highly contested races.
The Utah economy is booming — as with the country — which benefits Trump. But his immigration policies and confusing leadership style aggravate voters. Thus, threatened GOP candidates must message beyond just party affiliation to avoid clever attempts by Democrats to ensnare them with a Trump net.
Webb: Love is engaged in a delicate political balancing act, trying to maintain distance from Trump without alienating the Republican base that loves him. But McAdams has his own balancing act, which has led him to repudiate House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. He doesn’t want Republicans voters to remember that his election could mean Democratic control of the House, resulting in more congressional gridlock.
The national implications in this race offset each other. It will come down to which candidate is viewed as most competent, most likable and who can deliver for Utah.
Utahns are united in supporting fellow citizens impacted by horrendous wildfires. But has the state and local government response been adequate?
Pignanelli: Climate change — regardless of causation — is happening. Scientific modeling has proven we will receive winter precipitation but with longer and hotter summers. Preparation is a fundamental of our culture that must to be applied to these environmental alterations.4 comments on this story
Webb: Government leaders and first responders have performed bravely and tirelessly in fighting the horrendous wildfires in our drought-stricken state. Certainly, government does not have the capacity to protect everyone from every natural disaster. But when disaster strikes, we (even those who otherwise hate government) inevitably look to government for help.
It’s important for government leaders at all levels to be visible, to demonstrate leadership and to be empathetic as they manage a calamity. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, in particular, has been visibly on the scene (especially because some of the worst fires have literally been in his backyard).