Think for a moment what America has been through in the last 60 years or so.
An assassin killed John F. Kennedy. We watched the horror of 9/11 play out on live TV.
Wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan seemed to drag on forever. In the 2000 presidential election, Florida made the world familiar with the words “hanging chads.”
And, of course, we’re still coping with a pandemic that has killed more than 685,000 Americans in about 19 months. That’s 11 times more than the total of U.S. soldiers who died during a decade of combat in Vietnam.
Through it all, though, we could take comfort in knowing America was never vulnerable to a hostile takeover like we’ve seen in other nations.
Maybe not. But two major stories in the last few days show that we may have come closer to the unthinkable than we would have ever believed. And it was all designed to invalidate the 2020 presidential election and keep Donald Trump in power.
Months before the election, Trump and his allies started spreading the storyline that a stolen election was the only way he could lose. After Joe Biden secured enough electoral votes to win, “Stop The Steal” became Trump’s mantra, loudly repeated by his supporters.
They even fabricated a conspiracy involving a voting machine company, an election software firm, the financier George Soros (gotta have a boogeyman), and Venezuela to change votes from Trump to Biden.
Well, guess what?
Team Trump knew all along that no one stole the election. An internal Trump campaign memo proves that, but they didn’t bother to let the public know about that.
Meanwhile, as Bob Woodward and John Costa report in their new book “Peril,” Trump lawyer John Eastman came up with a plan to invalidate Biden’s win. They would use political sleight-of-hand with the Electoral College.
Eastman, by the way, is not just some kook dressed in a shaman’s outfit. He’s a bedrock conservative with some serious chops. Eastman is a senior fellow at The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.
This was his plan.
Seven states sent dual slates of electors to the Senate. The short version is that Vice President Mike Pence would not initially count the votes from those states because of uncertainty over which slate was valid.
“At the end, (Pence) announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States,” the memo says.
That would have reduced the number of electors to 454 instead of 470. Trump would have had a 232-222 lead. Voilà!
Pence bangs the gavel. Election over. Trump wins.
Maybe the U.S. Supreme Court would have ruled against the ruse, but the burning fuse of a stolen election would have reached the dynamite by then. The violence we witnessed on Jan. 6 might have been repeated all over the nation.
Pence, fortunately, backed away from participating after initially considering whether he should go along for the ride.
The Trumpiest of the Trump supporters would look at all of this and go, “So? Pence wimped out.”
Everyone else, though, should realize we came closer than ever to be one of “those” countries where dictators will do anything to stay in power. That thought ought to keep us up at night.
And Congress needs to prioritize eliminating loopholes in election law now in case another President decides he (or she) doesn’t want to leave.
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Space Force. Demand may soon outstrip capacity at Cape Canaveral as the commercial space business continues incredible growth, and it may soon be more than the famous launch site can handle.
U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy Jr. told a state Senate committee to expect skyrocketing (so to speak) growth in the next year. He is the commander of Space Launch Delta 45 at Patrick Space Force Base, which runs the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
“That’s the world that we’re steadily marching into,” Purdy said. “And we’re doing that because there’s a huge amount of interest.”
Purdy said 65% of the Cape launches in the past year were from private commercial interests. He expects that share to rise to 81% in the next year.
One potential growth problem: The Cape has only two launchpads and can’t currently handle the type of rockets under development.
Officials are exploring expansion at the Cape to handle the load.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Booster shots. After weeks of confusing dithering over COVID-19 booster shots, Florida seniors now have their answer: They will soon be available.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended boosters for people age 65 and over, about 21% of the state’s population.
The recommendation also applies to nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 with underlying health problems.
For now, the recommendation applies only to people who originally took the Pfizer vaccine. Other vaccine-makers are still working through the approval process, but it shouldn’t take long.
The biggest winner: Alachua County school officials. One can only imagine the satisfaction Biden must have had when he grabbed the chance to slam dunk over DeSantis.
That’s just what happened when the U.S. Department of Education provided the Alachua school district with $147,719 through Project SAFE (Support America’s Families and Educators).
That’s the federal program formed this month by the President.
Alachua is the first district in the country to receive the funds.
The cash reimburses schools for money withheld by the state because they followed COVID-19 safety measures such as requiring students to wear masks. DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran are arguably the highest-profile opponents of mask mandates.
Florida’s Department of Education has withheld two months’ worth of salaries, about $27,000, for the four Alachua School Board members who voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask mandates without parental opt-outs.
“We continue to do the work we believe is important in making sure we provide safe environments for students and staff, and the support of our President is incredibly beneficial,” Alachua Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon told Florida Politics.
Dishonorable mention: Anthony Sabatini. You know those smart-aleck Bart Simpson types from school who always acted the fool because it got them attention?
Sometimes, they grow up to be state representatives. Um, let’s rephrase that. It doesn’t seem that Sabatini ever grew up.
The list of his stupid “hey, look at me” antics is long, undistinguished, and we need not repeat them all here. We’ll just mention his latest time-waster, a bill he filed that would prohibit local law enforcement from assisting U.S. Capitol Police within state lines.
The agency plans field offices in Tampa and San Francisco in response to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Why those cities?
The Tampa Bay Times reported the agency chose those cities because “a majority of our potential threats” come from Florida and California.
The expansion is designed to help the Capitol Police sniff out domestic terror threats sooner. The plan is to have its officers work with local authorities to stop the kind of attacks that happened in Washington.
Sabatini’s plan is to introduce another insipid bill that will go nowhere.
We may have to change the name of the “loser” category to “Sabatini.”
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Florida Department of Children and Families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service wants to help feed children through a one-time gift of $375 per child to eligible Florida families.
All DCF had to do was apply for the grant, just like nearly every other state has done. On multiple occasions, DCF officials said they would.
They finally did, but only after the stalling became a major issue. The money has been available since April.
Kim Betton, the Southeast Director of Public Affairs for the agency, confirmed the application to Florida Politics.
“On Thursday evening, Sept. 23, 2021, USDA received a Summer P-EBT plan from Florida,” she said in an email.
“USDA commits to working with states to approve submitted plans as quickly as possible once received. The state determines when it is able to distribute benefits. To date, USDA has approved Summer P-EBT plans for 47 states/territories.”
What took so long?
Politics, that’s what — same as it ever was.
DCF blamed Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, but she fired back that her department has no control over this issue. Fried also has repeatedly demanded Gov. Ron DeSantis do something about this.
Meanwhile, it boils down to this: Bureaucrats with full refrigerators and pantries kept hungry kids in limbo to score political points.
The biggest loser: New school guidelines for COVID-19. Dr. Joseph Ladapo didn’t take long to make his presence felt.
He was just named Florida’s new surgeon general and quickly announced that students exposed to coronavirus can continue attending school as long as they are not symptomatic.
So they showed no symptoms but were exposed to a deadly virus. They may be carrying a bug that they can spread easily in a crowded lunchroom, classroom, or school hallway.
One big sneeze, and suddenly a half-dozen kids get infected, and the wheel goes around and around.
These Tallahassee buckaroos continue to play their dangerous game.
Masks on, everyone.