Associated Press Photo by Kim Chandler / Mary Rose DeArman, 69, describes how she and her husband sheltered in a basement closet when a tornado struck their neighborhood in Shelby County, Alabama. The twister, which struck on Thursday, collapsed their brick home on top of them, but they escaped without serious injury.

Biden talks Trump, immigration

In Biden's first solo news conference last week, the specter of former president Donald Trump loomed — part foil, part scapegoat and, once, as a punchline. It wasn't all Biden's doing. Often, the former guy was brought up by reporters in their questions.

"My predecessor, oh, God, I miss him," Biden said once, poking fun certainly at the predecessor and likely at the reporter who'd asked if Biden planned to run again in 2024, noting that, "you haven't set up a reelection campaign yet, as your predecessor had by this time."

Those same reporters completely ignored Biden's talk of COVID-19 and his new goal of 200 million shots in arms by the first 100 days of his administration. That new goal would doubles the initial target.

Reporters also ignored Biden's talk of infrastructure and jobs. Instead they quickly jumped on stupid stuff like his plans for election 2024. And, of course, they picked up on the recurring Fox News scare about immigration.

Biden gave little ground, neither accepting that his more compassionate posture has spurred even more border crossings than normal, nor apologizing for taking a more compassionate stance than that of the Trump administration.

"Is it acceptable to me? Come on!" he said when asked about overcrowded conditions in detention centers. "That's why we're going to be moving a thousand of those kids out quickly. That's why I got Fort Bliss opened up [to handle some of the children]. That's why I've been working from the moment this started to happen."

The challenge of the Biden administration, he continued, is undoing the damage wrought under Trump. "So, we're building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled," Biden concluded.

Did he roll back Trump policies too soon, someone asked. "Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? I make no apology for that," he said. "Rolling back the policies of 'Remain in Mexico,' sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat? I make no apologies for that. I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity."

Well done, Mr. President.


Tennessee's Bill Brock, remembered

Tennessee lost a titan of Republican politics last week.

Former U.S. Sen. Bill Brock, a Republican businessman from Lookout Mountain who also served in Congress and later as U.S. trade representative and U.S. labor secretary, died Thursday in Fort Lauderdale. He was 90.

He followed his grandfather, William Emerson Brock Sr., into politics but diverged from grandpa's Democratic Party, opting instead to launch a 1962 GOP bid for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District seat, making a breakthrough for Volunteer State Republicans who for decades had been confined to two congressional districts in the northeaster corner of the state. In 1970, he launched a bid for U.S. Senate in the context of then-Republican President Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and defeated three-term Sen. Al Gore Sr. But he served only one term, losing reelection in 1976 to Jim Sasser in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Afterward, as a Republican National Committee chairman, he was credited with helping rebuild the party following Watergate. Years later, President Ronald Reagan rewarded Brock with appointments as U.S. trade representative and labor secretary.

Brock redeemed himself in Democrats' eyes in recent years by opposing the ascension of Donald Trump as a candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, and by speaking out publicly to bemoan a lack of civility in current politics.

In December 2015, Brock wrote a column in The Washington Post lamenting the "inexcusably divisive, even abusive, language of recent years," specifically citing Trump. And in September of 2020, Brock told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that a re-election vote for President Trump would be a "tough call." Regarding Biden, Brock noted that people were saying, "and rightly so, that he's a very decent human being."

Brock is remembered not only as the father of the Republican Party in Tennessee, but also as a very decent human being.


Science again looks at climate

There's good and bad in climate news.

First the bad: Three supercells were responsible for a large portion of the 66 tornado warnings issued in the Southeast last Thursday and Friday, along with all nine of the "tornado emergencies," the National Weather Service's most serious alert.

Supercells are common in parts of the United States, but Thursday's were a rare breed — enormous, strong and long-tracking over at least 100 miles, dropping tornadoes all along the way. The storms left behind disaster and at least six deaths.

Now the good news: The Biden administration is continuing to build a team of scientists to elevate climate issues, and a climatologist who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York was recently named to a newly created position as senior climate adviser to NASA.

Now Gavin Schmidt faces the challenge of bringing NASA's climate science to the public and helping figure out how to apply it to saving the planet from the extremes of climate change.

We're all in.