Indiana Democrats last week shipped Republican attorney general nominee Todd Rokita and his staff some surgical masks to help protect staffers' health.
The move came after an event where Rokita met with Hoosiers but didn't wear a mask in any pictures posted to his campaign's Facebook page – not even the ones where he was posing for pictures with Hoosiers shoulder-to-shoulder. In one photo, Rokita and three other nonmasked men chat in a tight circle.
“Todd Rokita has made a career of putting himself first. He's either too selfish or stubborn to accept the public health benefits that come with wearing a simple mask,” said Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody. “Just because their boss doesn't trust the science doesn't mean Rokita staffers have to put their health at risk.”
Masks have become a cultural battle nationally, especially among Republicans and Democrats.
Rokita's campaign pointed out the event was a few days before Gov. Eric Holcomb's mask mandate became effective. The campaign also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on masks and 6-foot social distancing is just that – guidelines.
Rokita said the room was a large three-story barn open to the outside and that he sanitized his hands after pictures and handshakes. He said vulnerable people wore masks and that masks were removed for taking pictures.
“We took and posted the pictures, proving that we had nothing to hide and were confident in the safety measures being taken,” he said. “For these reasons, I used my judgment and common sense to determine that I and others around me were safe in posing for pictures.”
Coincidentally, Rokita was tested for COVID-19 a day later in preparation for a specific meeting and the results were negative. He said that proves his “approach was as safe, if not safer, than wearing a mask in posing for photos and appearing in photos.”
Banks on China
Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, continues to be among the more hawkish members of Congress on China.
Banks and Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, announced Wednesday they had introduced legislation that would allow Americans to sue China in federal court for that nation's role in the spread of the coronavirus. Banks has long contended that China understated the severity of the spread of the virus, believed to have originated there late last year.
“The Communist Party intentionally misled the world during the crucial early days of the coronavirus outbreak. Countless Americans lost their jobs, their loved ones and their lives as a result. The Chinese regime's many victims should get a chance at justice,” Banks said in a statement.
The Banks-Gooden bill is identical to a proposal filed earlier by seven Republican senators.
Also last week, Banks asked the Justice Department to investigate reports of unsolicited mailing of packages of seeds from China to Americans.
“Officials have expressed concern that the seeds might be intended to introduce invasive species or to spread infectious diseases to American crops,” Banks wrote.
He asked Barr to determine whether the seeds are part of a “brushing scam,” in which a vendor sends items to people and then writes favorable reviews on internet sites using the names of the randomly selected recipients.
“That information would either provide Hoosier farmers with valuable peace of mind or spur needed vigilance against a potentially serious threat from the Chinese Communist Party,” Banks wrote.
And Banks recently sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb requesting that Indiana's government stop using drones produced by a Chinese manufacturer because of their potential use in spying by China.
Banks is being challenged in the Nov. 3 election by Democratic nominee Chip Coldiron.
“Once again, Rep. Banks is pushing aimless legislation instead of addressing the economic and public health crisis gripping the 3rd District. His proposed bill will not hold China accountable and is a half-measure at best with questionable legal backing behind it,” Coldiron said in a statement to Political Notebook.
Coldiron said Banks “should take his foreign policy questions up with the Administration that let this happen, and come to the negotiating table to get a follow-up, bipartisan COVID-19 relief package to the President's desk.”
Coats on China
Dan Coats resurfaced in the public eye last week.
The former senator and congressman from Indiana and ex-director of national intelligence under President Donald Trump wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about whether the deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China is evidence of a new cold war, as some – including in the White House – have suggested.
Coats argued that using the term “cold war” as it applied to political hostilities between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union is “misleading” and a “conceptual error” in China's case.
“It is worth recalling that the Soviet Union was not our major trading partner, was not a major holder of our debt and was not tightly interconnected in the supply chains critical to our (and the world's) economy” as China is, Coats wrote in the Post.
He insisted that a cold war with China “would be something else entirely. It is difficult to see how it could be fought effectively, not to mention successfully.” Reverting to a cold-war mentality could “provoke overreactions and dangerous miscalculations on both sides,” he wrote.
He took measure of China's “increasingly aggressive territorial ambitions” and its goal “to encircle the West technologically.”
“Above all, we must create a deliberate strategy that is aimed at managing this great-power conflict rather than vanquishing a foe,” Coats wrote. “This is very hard work, requiring patience, conviction and broad political support. It also requires the full participation of our allies, both in the region and elsewhere.”
Coats concluded his commentary by calling for “expanding the diplomatic and political space to work these issues creatively and productively. This will take time. And it will also require the rebuilding of alliance cohesion and multilateral institutions capable of responding to China's long-term strategic vision with policies of comparable coherence and strength. As we know from the past, only the United States can forge those tools.”
Fogg remains on ballot for council
She sometimes calls herself The Sheriff of Fort Little Turtle and isn't shy about voicing her opinions when rallies and protests happen in Fort Wayne.
But Erin Fogg, 40, Democratic Allen County Council at-large candidate, is still on the ballot for the November election as she dodges felony and misdemeanor charges related to Black Lives Matter protests.
If she could, she'd livestream her arrests, the latest occurring Wednesday around 9 p.m. close to Spring and Wells streets as she went for ice cream. She said she was whisked off the street by two officers driving an unmarked black SUV. No public records exist on the charge of aiding a felony theft, dismissed the next morning.
Friday, another misdemeanor popped up in court documents for refusing to leave an emergency area during the July 27 “Back the Blue” rally at the Allen County Courthouse.
“I know it gets me more time in jail,” Fogg said of her noisy tirades during protests, “but what they fail to understand is, I'm not going to stop.”
She believes it would be practically a “miracle” were she to get elected, but the first item on her agenda would be the Allen County Jail where she has spent some time.
“I will show up at the jail with a backhoe and personally tear it down,” she said Friday night. “Mom,” as younger protesters call her, is taking no prisoners.
Jamie Duffy of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.
To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org or Niki Kelly at email@example.com. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.