You’ve probably heard the news by this point. Tony Plohetski of the Statesman/KVUE broke it:
In early November, as health officials warned of an impending COVID-19 spike, Austin Mayor Steve Adler hosted an outdoor wedding and reception with 20 guests for his daughter at a trendy hotel near downtown.
The next morning, Adler and seven other wedding attendees boarded a private jet for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where they vacationed for a week at a family timeshare.
One night into the trip, Adler addressed Austin residents in a Facebook video: “We need to stay home if you can. This is not the time to relax. We are going to be looking really closely. … We may have to close things down if we are not careful.”
I’m as cynical as the next journalist but I was legitimately shocked. How could he make such a stupid decision? It seemed out of character –– Adler is such a square. He’s cautious to a fault.
Alas, if Adler has an even greater fault than excessive caution, it’s that he’s vulnerable to peer pressure. He doesn’t want to be the deciding vote on an issue. In instances when he has taken controversial stances –– lifting the camping ban, paid sick leave, the APD cuts –– it’s after he has been pushed to take them by much bolder pols (notably Casar). Perhaps the same dynamic is at play in Adler’s personal life: he couldn’t resist turning down an idea that friends and family assured him was fine.
Suffice it to say, it was not fine. Sure, it was nowhere near as bad as Trump’s massive unmasked gatherings. They took precautions. The crowd was relatively small, the event was outdoors and they all apparently got Covid rapid tests. But it’s still hypocritical and certainly violates the spirit of what Adler has urged Austinites to do, even if, as he repeatedly mentioned in a lawyerly video response last night, his behavior didn’t technically violate the Stage 2 guidelines that the city was recommending at the time, which advise people to avoid gatherings greater than 25.
The fact that he took a private jet to Cabo is icing on the cake. Similar to the revelation about the California governor and San Francisco mayor dining at an obscenely expensive restaurant with other Very Important People, it’s hard to fathom how politicians who are so used to behaving strategically could do something that they must know will be perceived so badly. It’s like they sat around thinking about the most elitist, out-of-touch thing to do and then did it.
I suppose he displayed a modicum of political caution by waiting until after the election to take the trip, although there are still two City Council runoffs that could be affected by this news.
As Adler conceded in his video last night, the consequences of this clueless behavior are far greater than whatever direct risk the wedding/trip posed to the community. It sows distrust of government and even greater resistance to the sacrifices we’re being asked to make. It validates the belief held by a significant minority of the population that the pandemic is overblown and/or that few of the precautions we’ve been asked to take are necessary. It also fuels the even more extreme belief, held by a smaller portion of the population, that the pandemic is a complete hoax manufactured to subjugate, enslave us etc.
Adler’s colleagues staying mum
Late last night I emailed all 10 City Council members asking them for comment on the matter. As of noon the only response I have gotten is from Jimmy Flannigan, who directed me to tweets criticizing his opponent, Mackenzie Kelly, who the Chronicle reported was on a family vacation recently. Flannigan’s only comment on the mayor is, “It’s a bad look for any elected — and the mayor has apologized.” Hogue, of the Kelly campaign, tells me that she was in Austin the whole time and was simply taking “time off.”
Will Democrats ever learn?
It’s fitting that this news came only hours after I’d been expressing frustration at some of Joe Biden’s brain-dead appointments. Neera Tanden, who he has named to lead the Office of Management and Budget, and Rahm Emanuel, rumored to be a frontrunner for the Dept of Transportation, are both cartoons of the entitled and ethically flexible political class. There are emails of Emanuel, whose professional life has been a meandering journey between Wall Street and government, bragging to a hedge fund manager about gutting health care benefits for retired government employees. Tanden, who led the Center for American Progress, used that organization to raise millions of dollars from middle eastern despots, defense contractors and other major businesses whose interests were in direct conflict with the stated values of the “progressive” group. What they all shared was a desire to crush the insurgent populist wing of the Democratic Party.
And then of course there are the clueless decisions made by Joe Biden and the previous Dem nominee, Hillary Clinton. Hunter Biden likely didn’t do anything illegal by taking a high-paying position for which he was woefully unqualified at a Ukrainian energy company. It was still completely nuts that he did it and his dad, who was already planning a presidential run at the time, should have done everything possible to prevent him from doing it. There was nothing illegal about Hillary Clinton making gobs of money speaking to Wall Street banks as she prepared to run for president. But it was monumentally stupid and completely discredited her as somebody who is going to work for regular Americans. Years later, bitter partisans still blame her opponents and the media for highlighting this behavior, and refuse to concede that the behavior itself was a problem.
Don’t you people get it? It’s this type of deception that completely undermines faith in our institutions. And when people lose faith in our institutions, the idea of electing someone who will destroy them entirely, like Donald Trump, doesn’t start to sound so bad. When the leaders who tell you to take Covid seriously go to fancy restaurants or fly to Mexico, why not vote for the guy who tells you there’s nothing to worry about and then holds massive rallies? If the liberal is making more money talking to a group of lobbyists for an hour than you make in five years, why not just vote for the mobster-in-chief who proudly admits to dodging taxes and ripping people off? It’s the Democrats’ hypocrisy that makes Trump, the most prolific liar in modern American political history, appear honest. Because at least there’s a certain consistency to him.
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