Up & Coming Weekly

November 17, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 10 of 24

10 UCW NOVEMBER 18-24, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS Secretary of Defense Esper fired by JEFF THOMPSON e public knows little about the top Pentagon official who lost his job recently. "Mark Esper, who is a highly respected gentleman, with a great career — West Point, Harvard — is a tremendous talent," said President Donald Trump when he named him Secre- tary of Defense last year. "I think he'll do very well." Esper was terminated via a presidential tweet. He is a 1986 graduate of the United States Military Acad- emy and received his commission in the Infantry. Upon completion of Ranger and Pathfinder training, he served in the 101st Airborne Division and partici- pated in the 1990-91 Gulf War. He retired from the Army in 2007 as a lieutenant colonel after spending 10 years on active duty and 11 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Esper served as Chief of Staff at e Heritage Foundation think tank, followed by service as a senior policy advisor to former Senator Chuck Hagel. He was a senior professional staff member on the Senate For- eign Relations and Senate Government Affairs com- mittees, policy director for the House Armed Services Committee, and national security advisor for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. During the George W. Bush administration, Esper was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy. From 2006-2007, Esper was Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Defense and Inter- national Affairs at Aerospace Industries Association. He was the national policy director for Tenn. Senator Fred ompson during his 2008 presidential cam- paign. Esper later served concurrently as the Execu- tive Vice President for the U.S. Chamber of Com- merce's Global Intellectual Property Center and as Vice President for Europe and Eurasian Affairs from 2008-2010. Before being nominated as the Secretary of the Army in 2017, Esper was Vice President for Government Relations at the Raytheon Company. Esper becomes the third person to exit the top job at the Pentagon during the Trump administra- tion, following Jim Mattis and, in an acting capacity, Patrick Shanahan. Esper's removal had been widely expected. On June 3, he held a press conference in which he publicly split with Trump over the idea of invoking the Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to use active duty military personnel for crowd control. "e option to use military forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations," Esper said. "I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act." ose comments appeared to doom Esper's long- term prospects, with numerous news outlets report- ing that White House staff was furious. Esper held onto the job then, but his public appearances thereaf- ter were more guarded. In October, Esper launched a series of speeches at various D.C. think tanks, which seemed designed at burnishing his legacy as hav- ing successfully implemented the National Defense Strategy. During those events he took no questions submitted by the audience, and questions from the moderator were almost uniformly tied to the specific subject Esper wished to discuss. Cooper tightens restrictions as state treasurer questions policy by JULIE HAVLAK Gov. Roy Cooper moved North Carolina backward in economic reopening in another virtual news con- ference that shut out some media outlets. Cooper tightened restrictions on indoor mass gath- erings, dropping the maximum allowed gatherings from 25 people to 10 people. He said he is targeting family groups and community gatherings, like those held around anksgiving. e new limits, which took effect Nov. 13, won't apply to schools or churches. Cooper has held virtual meetings and news confer- ences since March. e virtual format allows him to screen reporters and shut out media outlets he chooses not to address. State Treasurer Dale Folwell argues that North Carolina residents deserve open, transparent meetings. "We have to be willing to challenge an assump- tion without someone having the ability to adjourn the meeting by hitting a button," Folwell said in his monthly "Ask Me Anything," on Nov. 10. "Not hav- ing open, transparent conversations … it's beyond bizarre." Governors in most neighboring states hold in- person news briefings, where reporters can ask questions. e governors of Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee all host news briefings in person, reported the News & Observer. Cooper still uses a teleconference service, and he screens reporters by publication. He rarely takes questions from Carolina Journal. Other media outlets, including North State Journal and WBT, met similar results. Cooper, a Democrat who has won re-election, held another closed meeting Nov. 10. CJ was poised to question Cooper about the in-person meetings. But Cooper hasn't taken questions from CJ in months. "We're entertaining a very dangerous and uncer- tain time in the holidays," Cooper said. "It's colder, and the virus is more active indoors, so we're ratchet- ing up the prevention measures to let people know this is serious." e monthly meetings of the 10 elected members of the Council of State have also remained virtual since March. e Council of State holds some authority over gubernatorial emergency powers. e General Assembly has passed multiple bills to strengthen the Council of State's ability to check Cooper's emergency powers. Cooper vetoed them. Republicans kept their 6-4 majority on the Council of State in the November election. e lieutenant gov- ernor, state superintendent, and labor commissioner remained Republican. Folwell pushed to meet in person, saying that virtual meetings stifled discussion of the pandemic and the lockdowns. Folwell has been a vocal critic of Cooper's lockdowns, calling them "one size fits none" measures that wreak economic destruction. "If you can put 24 people on a school bus, you can sure as hell can figure out how to fit 10 Council of State members in a 600-square-foot room," Folwell said. "e ability in these meetings when the con- versation gets a little unpleasant, to hit a button and say we're adjourned — I don't think that is in the best interests of the citizens of N.C." Folwell wants Cooper to draw on the expertise of the members who lead the executive agencies. Folwell said Cooper did not answer his communica- tions, and that he was not informed of the governor's reopening plan. ose who violate the new limits on mass gather- ings can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, a criminal charge which carries the risk of jail time. "Hope is on the horizon. is pandemic will end," Cooper said. "With our continuing determination, by next anksgiving or even sooner, we can put this pandemic behind us." North Carolina has been shut down for almost 240 days since the coronavirus outbreak began in March. "We have businesses that have been around for generations that are never going to reopen," Folwell said. "Not everybody can make a living through a Zoom call. ese folks are being disproportionately impacted by the lack of transparency, lack of consis- tency, the lack of data, and the lack of ability to chal- lenge assumptions." JEFF THOMPSON, Reporter. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks at the Pentagon in this file photo from January, 2020. (Depart- ment of Defense photo by Army Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia) JULIE HAVLAK, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Gov. Roy Cooper

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