Trump con­cedes virus ‘flare-up’ as Congress tries for aid pack­age

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY LISA MAS­CARO AP Con­gres­sional Correspond­ent

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ac­knowl­edged Mon­day a “big flare-up” of COVID-19 cases, but di­vi­sions be­tween the White House and Se­nate Repub­li­cans and dif­fer­ences with Democrats posed fresh chal­lenges for a new fed­eral aid pack­age with the U.S. cri­sis wors­en­ing and emer­gency re­lief about to ex­pire.

Trump con­vened GOP lead­ers at the White House as Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell pre­pared to roll out his $1 tril­lion pack­age in a mat­ter of days. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion crit­i­cized the leg­is­la­tion’s money for more virus test­ing and in­sisted on a pay­roll tax cut that could com­pli­cate quick pas­sage. The time­line ap­peared to quickly shift.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Trump said as the meet­ing got un­der­way.

But the pres­i­dent added, “Un­for­tu­nately, this is some­thing that’s very tough.”

Back at the Capi­tol, McCon­nell down­played his pro­posal as sim­ply a “start­ing point.” That pack­age is ex­pected to in­clude $75 bil­lion to help schools re­open. It will likely re­place an ex­pir­ing $600 weekly un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits boost with a smaller amount and send a fresh round of di­rect $1,200 cash pay­ments to Amer­i­cans be­low a cer­tain in­come level.

Eas­ing the pay­roll tax is di­vid­ing Trump’s party be­cause that tax is used to fi­nance So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care. Cut­ting it adds to the na­tion’s ris­ing debt load.

In Chicago, 10 peo­ple were killed and 60 oth­ers, in­clud­ing 10 mi­nors, were wounded in shoot­ings over the week­end — and it was, shock­ingly, busi­ness as usual.

Chicago has now rung up dou­ble-digit gun killings in seven of the last nine week­ends af­ter go­ing more than two years with­out one week­end in dou­ble dig­its, ac­cord­ing to Sun­Times re­port­ing.

We’ve sounded the alarm about this his­toric — and tragic — surge in re­cent weeks: A po­lice slow­down seems to be en­abling vi­o­lent crim­i­nals to roam the streets more freely, and, as po­lice Supt. David

Brown said Mon­day, civic un­rest in parts of the city is forc­ing his de­part­ment to di­vert re­sources from the South and West sides, where gun vi­o­lence is most ram­pant.

The city’s homi­cide count has sur­passed 400. If things con­tinue at the rate we’ve seen in re­cent weeks, Chicago will eas­ily sur­pass the nearly 800 killings we saw in 2016 — the city’s dead­li­est year in more than two decades.

Sadly, Chicago is not alone. Shoot­ings are up 95% in Mil­wau­kee, 57% in Philadel­phia and 44% in New York.

En­ter Pres­i­dent Rambo

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress could do a lot to curb gun vi­o­lence in Chicago and other big cities. Rather than help, though, the pres­i­dent has de­cided to get in the way.

The U.S. De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is plan­ning to send dozens of fed­eral agents to Chicago this week, and the agency’s boss won’t say ex­actly what they’ll be up to. “I don’t need in­vi­ta­tions by state may­ors or state gov­er­nors to do our job,” Act­ing Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Chad F. Wolf said on Mon­day. “We’re go­ing to do that whether they like us there or not.”

On Mon­day evening, Mayor Lori Light­foot was aim­ing to pre­vent things from go­ing off the tracks, ask­ing the pres­i­dent to work with the city to de­ploy any ad­di­tional law en­force­ment re­sources that might ar­rive. “What we do not need, and what will cer­tainly make our com­mu­nity less safe is se­cret fed­eral agents de­ployed to Chicago,” she wrote.

Ear­lier at­tacks this month on peace­ful pro­test­ers in Port­land, Ore­gon, by armed and un­in­vited fed­eral agents with­out in­signia and in un­marked ve­hi­cles have re­sulted in law­suits filed by Ore­gon’s at­tor­ney gen­eral and the ACLU. It’s just an­other re­minder the en­tire blus­ter­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has no idea what it’s do­ing.

Rambo isn’t go­ing to help us. In­stead, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should be pur­su­ing sen­si­ble short-term and long-term strate­gies to quell vi­o­lence at the same time the Chicago Po­lice De­part­ment should be aim­ing to re­build morale within its ranks and build bridges back to res­i­dents who sim­ply don’t trust the cops, as Brown has ad­vo­cated.

Tar­get the guns used in crimes

The short-term fed­eral strat­egy should be to tar­get crime guns, as Jens Lud­wig, di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Chicago’s Crime Lab told us on Mon­day.

Vir­tu­ally all guns used in crimes on Chicago streets come from the sub­urbs or other states, mostly states with looser gun laws. That’s an im­me­di­ate cause of Chicago’s gun vi­o­lence. Yet, for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has hand­cuffed the Bu­reau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives’ abil­ity to mon­i­tor gun deal­ers to make sure they are not shov­el­ing guns out the back door to crim­i­nals.

Which they are.

A num­ber of po­ten­tially ef­fec­tive mea­sures to ad­dress gun vi­o­lence are pend­ing in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives or al­ready have been sent to the Se­nate, where they sit and rot.

Among those mea­sures pro­moted by Light­foot on Mon­day, are beef­ing up the ATF and re­order­ing its pri­or­i­ties to go harder af­ter il­le­gal guns; as­sign­ing more fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors to pur­sue charges against those who sell and pos­sess il­le­gal guns; clos­ing gun law loop­holes so that back­ground checks are truly uni­ver­sal, and pass­ing the Zero Tol­er­ance for Do­mes­tic Abusers Act — to fur­ther take guns out of the most ir­re­spon­si­ble hands.

If Trump re­ally wants to help, this is his to-do list.

But vir­tu­ally no gun-re­lated leg­is­la­tion will make it out of com­mit­tee in the Repub­li­can­con­trolled Se­nate. The sole mea­sure that stands a chance would beef up fund­ing for re­search into the causes of gun vi­o­lence.

This is where we should note that Se­nate Pres­i­dent Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., has taken more than $1 mil­lion from the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

Eco­nomic jus­tice

Over the longer term, the so­lu­tion to gun vi­o­lence in Chicago and ev­ery big city is rooted in greater eco­nomic jus­tice.

In­stead of cre­at­ing a po­lice state of the kind Trump so seems to ad­mire, with armed fed­eral agents on ev­ery cor­ner, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could do so much more to im­prove schools, drug re­hab and men­tal health pro­grams, job train­ing and other ba­sic so­cial pro­grams.

This year’s Pen­tagon bud­get is $721.5 bil­lion. Just four per­cent of that would be $28.8 bil­lion. Imag­ine how many more teach­ers, men­tal health coun­selors, af­ter-school youth pro­grams, po­lice com­mu­nity outreach work­ers and sum­mer jobs pro­grams our na­tion could hire and cre­ate with that kind of money.

But we sup­pose Trump would ac­cuse us of try­ing to “de­fund” the Pen­tagon.

Back­ground checks bill

In Illi­nois, the state Leg­is­la­ture should en­act the Block Il­le­gal Gun Own­er­ship bill, which would ex­pand back­ground checks to in­clude all gun sales, help­ing to keep guns out of the wrong hands. The leg­is­la­tion might come up in the six-day Novem­ber veto ses­sion, but it could be crowded out by emer­gency COVID-19 mea­sures, said state Sen. Julie Mor­ri­son, D-Deer­field, who is spon­sor­ing it in the Se­nate.

As for Chicago, the city should con­tinue to work to im­prove the frac­tured re­la­tions be­tween po­lice and com­mu­ni­ties. It didn’t help that on Sun­day FOP Pres­i­dent John Catan­zara out­ra­geously asked Trump to help con­trol the “chaos.”

Good po­lice work — not a po­lice state — is es­sen­tial to bring­ing down crime rates. But we also have the means as a city and a na­tion to do so much more.

When John Lewis left us, ed­i­to­ri­als and col­umns paid trib­ute to his lead­er­ship, his courage, his moral ex­am­ple. The praise was well de­served. A broader con­text helps un­der­stand his true con­tri­bu­tion.

John Lewis was born one of 10 chil­dren of a share­crop­per in Troy, Alabama. He should be re­mem­bered now as one of the found­ing fa­thers of Amer­i­can democ­racy. When he led that fa­mous march across the Ed­mund Pet­tus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, Amer­ica was not yet a full democ­racy.

Yes, a bru­tal civil war had been fought to end the scourge of slav­ery. Nearly a cen­tury later, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board that seg­re­ga­tion — le­gal apartheid — was a vi­o­la­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Yet, in 1965, Blacks still had no right to vote. Their ef­forts to reg­is­ter and vote were rou­tinely sup­pressed, of­ten vi­o­lently through­out the South. The same was true for Lati­nos, for Asian Amer­i­cans. Young peo­ple could serve in the mil­i­tary but had no right to vote.

At Selma, John Lewis walked with amaz­ing courage into mounted po­lice block­ing the way. He was beaten badly in the po­lice riot that fol­lowed, fear­ing for his very life. That scene out­raged a na­tion. Two weeks later, Lyn­don John­son pledged that “we shall over­come” and in­tro­duced what be­came the Vot­ing Rights Act of 1965 into Congress. That act out­lawed dis­crim­i­na­tion in the right to vote by race, color or lan­guage mi­nor­ity sta­tus. Af­ter that act, young peo­ple re­ceived the right to vote. Women’s rights were ex­panded. Full Amer­i­can democ­racy was born.

John Lewis was a true hero, but he did not act alone. As he would al­ways teach, he found his place in the civil rights move­ment that had been build­ing when he was a young child. Thur­good Mar­shall spear­headed the le­gal strat­egy that ended with the Brown de­ci­sion in the Supreme Court. Rosa Parks sat on that bus in Mont­gomery, Alabama, and was ar­rested for ig­nor­ing white-only rules. Her courage and sac­ri­fice drew Dr. Martin Luther King to the strug­gle in Mont­gomery.

King’s or­ga­niz­ing drew the at­ten­tion of a young John Lewis in Troy, Alabama.

John Lewis was a leader, but he was more work­horse than show horse. Show horses preen to win the blue rib­bon and the ap­plause of the crowd. Workhorses pull the wagon — and get the job done. John Lewis with his quiet courage and his force­ful moral vi­sion pulled peo­ple with him. Elected to Congress, he put the Congress on his shoul­ders and tried by ex­am­ple and by or­ga­niz­ing to make it bet­ter.

He never stopped. He took joy in how far we had come. There was a di­rect line from that hor­ri­ble Bloody Sun­day in Selma to the elec­tion of an African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. Yet he knew we still have a long way to go.

No longer do we face sep­a­rate and un­equal pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties. Our right to vote is clear, even if ef­forts to sup­press it con­tinue. But the fi­nal chap­ter of the civil rights move­ment — the ef­fort to achieve eco­nomic jus­tice — has been frus­trated. To­day eco­nomic in­equal­ity is as great as it was 60 years ago. We wit­ness the struc­tural racism that ends with African Amer­i­cans three times more likely than whites to be in­fected dur­ing the pan­demic and two times more likely to die. We wit­ness the en­trenched dis­crim­i­na­tion that ends in the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd and many oth­ers.

That’s why the ex­tra­or­di­nary, un­prece­dented out­pour­ing of protests for Black lives is so im­por­tant. John has left us, but mil­lions have picked up the ba­ton that he once car­ried — fo­cused now on equal jus­tice un­der the law, and on end­ing the struc­tural racism that makes racial in­equal­ity a pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tion. May John’s ex­am­ple — his courage, his de­vo­tion to non­vi­o­lence and to a life­time of mak­ing “good trou­ble” — help in­form that strug­gle as it goes for­ward.

The democ­racy of 1787, where only white male landown­ers could vote, ref­er­enc­ing Blacks as three-fifths hu­man, with­out re­gard for work­ing-class whites and women, was very in­com­plete — it has no ex­port value in the world to­day. But the democ­racy of 1965, where Blacks can vote, white women can vote and serve on ju­ries, Lati­nos and na­tive Amer­i­cans, 18-year-olds can vote on col­lege cam­puses, that Selma democ­racy is the envy of the world.

Let us cher­ish it.


Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Mon­day.


Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers in­ves­ti­gate the scene of a deadly shoot­ing where a 7-year-old girl and a man were fa­tally shot on July 5.

Pres­i­dent Trump


Rep. John Lewis, a sem­i­nal leader of the United States’ civil rights move­ment, died on July 17.

JESSE JACK­SON jjack­son@rain­bow­ | @RevJJack­son

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