The Morning Jolt

Elections

A Close Look at the Georgia Runoff Elections

President-elect Joe Biden stands between Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff as Biden campaigns with them during a campaign rally ahead of their runoff elections in Atlanta, Ga., December 15, 2020. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On the menu today: pealing back the onion on Georgia’s Democratic Senate candidates, and perhaps the worst possible nomination that Joe Biden could make.

What You Need to Know about Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock

Already more than 700,000 Georgians have cast ballots in the Senate runoff elections.

You’ve probably heard more about Raphael Warnock than Jon Ossoff.

Way back in June 2017, our old friend Jonah Goldberg was writing off Ossoff as the “hipster doofus candidate” after the Democrat fell short in a special House election, running in a district that he didn’t even live in. At the time, Ossoff was a 30-year-old former congressional aide and documentary filmmaker, who didn’t have much of a record. Ossoff touted himself as having “five years of experience as a national security staffer in the U.S. Congress.” Two of those years were before he finished his degree and when he was a “legislative correspondent” — i.e., answering the mail.

Back then, Ossoff’s ads were about what he wanted to do and were pretty nonpartisan. The policy proposals that showed up in his ad scripts could have been run by just about any Republican running in a swing district across the country: “Promote high-tech and biotech research, because it drives innovation. Prioritize our college and tech schools, so we can hire young people with the right skills. And cut the wasteful spending in Washington, because the deficits are holding back our economy.”

But Ossoff is not a sensible centrist Democrat aiming to win a state that, up until very recently, had been a Republican lock. As the Democratic Party veered to the left in the Trump years, Ossoff followed:

On the coronavirus pandemic, Ossoff wants to “implement widespread temperature checks.” (Temperature checks are not a terribly effective way to stop the spread of the virus, as roughly 40 percent of people who catch SARS-CoV-2 will be asymptomatic.)

Ossoff supports “a generous forgiveness program for those struggling to pay off their student loans.

Ossoff wants the upcoming Congress to investigate the Trump administration’s immigration policy, comparing it to war crimes:

The policy of separating children from their parents at the border and disappearing them into a federal gulag? My business investigates war crimes — we’ve produced multiple investigations of ISIS atrocities against women and girls in Iraq; we’ve produced investigations of war crimes committed by “peacekeeping” troops. And if that happened in a war zone? It would be a war crime. And the officials who ordered the seizure of children from their parents? The forcible separation of families extrajudicially? There has to be accountability for that.

While Ossoff says he doesn’t support Medicare for All, progressive activists don’t believe him. Ossoff announced his Senate campaign in an interview with Ryan Grim of The Intercept, and Grim concluded, “a Representative Jon Ossoff would never be your obstacle to [Medicare for All], even if he’s not out there championing it. You build the mass support, he’ll be there, and that’s just as true for a Senator Ossoff.”

Ossoff believes that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials should not deport illegal immigrants, but instead ensure they’re being paid the minimum wage. “When federal agents arrive at one of these farms, it should be to make sure people are being paid the minimum wage, working in humane conditions.”

Ossoff supports sanctuary cities. “I don’t think it’s the role of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.” 

You may have heard or seen a claim that Ossoff was “endorsed” or “supported” by the Chinese Communist Party. That’s not quite the case, but one of his business clients is a state-controlled Chinese media company.

Ossoff runs an “investigative journalism firm” that creates segments for television news companies, including foreign broadcasters. As our Tobias Hoonhout laid out:

Ossoff, whose role as CEO of a London-based producer of investigative documentaries has drawn scrutiny over the years, reported in an amended financial statement that he has received at least $5,000 from PCCW Media Limited over the last two years — a detail that has previously gone unreported. Ossoff did not disclose his ties to PCCW in his initial financial report, which he filed in May.

PCCW, the largest telecom agency in Hong Kong, is run by Chairman Richard Li, son of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing. Li also serves as a councilor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank. But for years, Li has spoken out against Hong Kong independence and the pro-democracy protests that have rocked the island as the Chinese Communist Party has consolidated control.

“Jon strongly supports Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and condemns the brutality and authoritarianism of the Chinese Communist Party,” the spokesperson added, after a National Review analysis of Ossoff’s public comments showed that the candidate has been silent on the situation in Hong Kong. Ossoff’s campaign declined to comment on whether he condemns Li’s opposition to the island’s pro-democracy movement.

PCCW is publicly traded, but the second-largest shareholder is the Chinese State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Newsweek looks at these facts and concludes, “PCCW is not owned by the Chinese government.

Of course, maybe Ossoff looks moderate compared to Raphael Warnock.

Warnock supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. The church where Warnock was a pastor “roared its approval” when Fidel Castro came to visit in 1995. He dismissed the New York City “workfare” program as a “hoax.”

Demonizing police officers in the name of criminal-justice reform is almost pro forma in Democratic circles in 2020, but Warnock was well ahead of the curve. In a 2015 sermon, Ossoff argued that the police represented a threat to children: “Our children are in trouble, and it’s often those who are sworn to protect who cause more trouble . . . our children are in danger.” In another sermon that year, he declared, “we shouldn’t be surprised when we see police officers act like bullies on the street . . . You don’t get to be the incarceration capital of the world by playing nice on the streets. You have to work for that distinction.”

And Warnock said the Nation of Islam’s “voice has been important for the development of Black theology.

What’s more, the pastor really has an axe to grind against Israel. Warnock has compared Israeli control of West Bank to Apartheid South Africa, called Israeli government forces “birds of prey,” called Israel “a land of violence and bloodshed and occupation” run by “clever politicians” who are “racist and vicious,” and compared Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to segregationist George Wallace.

You may have heard that Warnock praised “Marxism,” and the evidence for this is a passage in one of Warnock’s books:

To be sure, the Marxist critique has much to teach the black church. Indeed, it has played an important role in the maturation of black theology as an intellectual discipline, deepened black theology’s apprehension of the interconnectivity of racial and class oppression and provided critical tools for a black church that has yet to awaken to a substantive third world consciousness. Yet, Gary Marx’s analysis is flawed by a paternalistic bias with respect to faith, culture and experience that trivializes black struggle against the obduracy of white capitalistic forces and lumps all forms of black denominational and sectarian identity together in an undifferentiated way that hardly makes it possible for those who are its subjects to see themselves in the discussion . . .

Operating from a classic Marxist view of history and of religion as false consciousness, Gary Marx holds out for a time when “religion loosens its hold over these people, or comes to embody to a greater extent the belief that man as well as God can bring about secular change.”

Warnock is referring to MIT sociology professor Gary Marx . . . who writes about and appears to largely concur with the Karl Marx view of religion.

Finally, Warnock’s wife accused him of running over her foot with his car during a heated argument days before he filed paperwork to officially seek the office, according to a police report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Warnock insists it did not happen, and police did not press charges. Warnock and his wife are divorcing.

You don’t have to love David Perdue or Kelly Loeffler to be clear-eyed about the alternative.

ADDENDUM: Any notion that a Biden presidency would stand up to China’s rulers would be instantly dispelled if Biden names Disney chairman Robert Iger to be the U.S. ambassador to China.

Even if Biden doesn’t select Iger, it is deeply unnerving that the president-elect could even be considering the CEO of the company with some of the most extensive financial ties to China, and one of the Americans whose career has been most dependent upon the cooperation of the Chinese government. Nominating Iger would be a clear signal to Beijing that the new administration is eager to hand-wave away Beijing’s dishonesty at the start of the pandemic and return to ever-closer economic ties.

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