Thursday, October 22, 2020


We know that President Trump actually believes it's possible to initiate an investigation into Joe Biden that will lead to an indictment between now and the election.
President Trump on Tuesday called on Attorney General William Barr to “appoint somebody” to launch an investigation into his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter before Election Day, now just two weeks away.

“We’ve got to get the attorney general to act,” Trump said in a telephone interview with “Fox & Friends” when asked whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to probe unverified allegations against the Bidens. “He’s got to act. And he’s got to act fast. He’s got to appoint somebody. This is major corruption, and this has to be known about before the election.”
But since we're not quite far enough down the road to totalitarianism for that to happen, it appears that Trump will settle for the next-best thing.
President Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation, these people say.
I assume Trump is saying this because he genuinely believes he'll win the election. But if he doesn't -- if Biden wins unambiguously -- I wonder if Trump will try a last-ditch gambit to save his presidency.

Even of Biden wins by a large Electoral College and popular vote margin, he won't officially be the president-elect until states certify the vote totals, electors vote in the individual states, the electors' vote tallies are transmitted to Congress, and Congress ratifies the Electoral College results. The voting takes place on December 14; congressional ratification happens on January 6.

If Trump doesn't win, and loses so badly he can't plausibly contest the outcome, he might still spend the rest of his presidency demanding that the FBI and Justice Department indict Biden before the Electoral College vote, in the hope that he can persuade Biden electors to abandon him. Maybe he'll hold out hope until January -- sure, he'll think, the Electoral College voted for Biden, but Congress can't possibly certify him if he's been indicted, right?

Trump won't get what he wants. But I think he'll continue demanding it, because demanding that people satisfy his whims and cravings is what he usually does all day, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


I guess someone at Fox has been looking at the channel's own polling data:

I say this because there appears to be a sense of panic at Fox. Here's what's front and center on the homepage as I write this:

It looks as if people at Fox aretrying to do an intervention. They're begging Trump not to continue blowing this election.

The lead story quotes Karl Rove:
With less than two weeks left before the 2020 presidential election, former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove said it would be more “effective” for the Trump campaign to focus on the economy as opposed to the Hunter Biden “scandal.”...

Rove pointed to a Washington Post op-ed written by former White House chief speechwriter Marc Thiessen in which Thiessen argued that President Trump “needs to stop talking about Hunter Biden” and “start winning over reluctant voters.”

“He argues the focus ought to be on the economy and the big contrast between the policy prescriptions of President Trump and those of Joe Biden and frankly I’m in agreement with him,” Rove, a Fox News contributor, said.
There's also this story:
President Trump is making a "mistake" if he focuses on the Hunter Biden laptop story on the campaign trail and at the next presidential debate, Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee said on Wednesday.

"Yeah, it is a mistake because the average person doesn't understand it, it is too complicated, and, frankly, it doesn't matter to them," Huckabee said in response to "Fox & Friends" host Brian Kilmeade, who asked whether Trump should emphasize the story in the campaign's closing days.

"They care about their health care costs, they care about their taxes, they care about safety and their neighborhood on their block and in their yard. Focus on that and he wins the election by a landslide," Huckabee suggested.
Which is a follow-up to this from a couple of days ago:
During a preview segment for the final debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, scheduled for this Thursday, Steve Doocy [of Fox & Friends] explicitly warned the president not to talk about Hunter.

“So you gotta figure the president’s gonna try to bring up Hunter Biden in some manner,” Doocy said....

“And the base loves to hear that stuff,” Doocy continued. “But what the consultants are telling the president is, in the race to the final 15 days, do as much about the economy as you possibly can.”

Spelling out the “best message” for the president, the Fox host added: “President Trump built a great economy, then COVID screwed things up, and President Trump is better at rebuilding than Joe Biden. That’s the message they would like to see.”
Hey, folks at Fox: Do you really want Trump to stop talking about Hunter Biden?

Then maybe you should talk to your prime-time stars and tell them to stop running segments like this:

And this:

And this:

Trump doesn't just watch these shows -- he injects them into his veins. So if cooler heads at Fox think Trump is about to blow the election and take Mitch McConnell down with him, they should have a talk with their own prime-time stars. Get them to stop talking about Hunter Biden, and maybe then they can persuade Trump.


At, Tom Del Baccaro offers "10 tea leaves" allegedly pointing to a Donald Trump victory. Among them:
1. Pennsylvania Voter Registration

... In 2016, ... [President Trump] won Pennsylvania by a slim 44,292 votes out of nearly 6 million. That November, the Democrats had nearly a 900,000 voter registration advantage over the Republicans. That number is now down to a 700,000 registration advantage and has narrowed by 100,000 in the last year....

2. Florida, too.

In 2008, Democrats held nearly a 700,000 voter registration advantage and Barack Obama carried the state by 236,148 votes. By 2012 that advantage slipped to 558,272 registrations and Obama won there by 74,309 votes.

In 2016, Democrats had a 327,483 registration advantage and Trump carried the state by 112,991 votes.

Now the Democrats' voter registration advantage is down nearly 200,000 to just a 134,242 lead, which Politico called a “historic low.”

Obviously, the movement towards Republicans bodes well for the president.
But FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley says that surges in GOP voter registration might not mean what they appear to mean. One key point:
In recent years, a growing number of voters don’t want to be associated with either of the two major parties, and instead register as independent. After hovering in the low- to high-30s from the late 1980s to the late 2000s, the share of Americans who identify as politically independent has now reached or even topped 40 percent in recent years, according to Gallup.

... The reality, of course, is that most independents lean toward one party, but their preferences are still masked at the voter registration level. This is especially tricky in battleground states such as Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania that have seen major upticks in the share of voters who have registered with no party affiliation.

... younger voters are more likely to identify as independent than older voters. And importantly, younger voters of color are also more likely to register as independents, as Florida’s registration figures have shown. Both of these groups tend to lean Democratic which means that even if many of these voters don’t openly identify as Democrats, they’re more likely to vote for Democrats than not. More broadly, polls show Biden ahead of Trump among voters who identify as independent. That means even if Republicans are winning the registration battle in some key states, it might not be enough to offset the number of registered Democrats and independents who may back Biden in the end.
According to the polls, Biden has a large and durable lead -- a lead much larger than Hillary Clinton's. (At Real Clear Politics, Biden's lead is 8.5; at the comparable point in the race, Hillary Clinton's lead was 5.4.) It really looks as if he'll win.

But if he does win -- possibly by a wide margin -- he's doing so in a country that's not enthusiastic about his party. He's winning thanks to people who aren't Democrats.

We shouldn't be surprised. As I regularly say here, Democrats never tell the public that the Democratic Party is simply better than the Republican Party. They never say that the Republican Party is bad for America. (Republicans say that every day about Democrats.) And this year, much of Biden's message has been Hey, you can vote for me safely -- I'm okay! Republicans say so!

So this election could be a win -- even a big win -- but Democrats have a lot of work to do as a party. They've done nothing to build the Democratic brand -- in fact, they're hurting it by suggesting that Democrats need a Republican imprimatur to deserve victory.

I think those independents will come through for Biden. But for the future, we need to turn them into Democrats.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


I'm told there's a chilling climate of censorship and "cancel culture" that prevents all messages that aren't left of center from getting a proper hearing in America.

Forgive me if I'm skeptical.
Facebook and Twitter's frantic attempts to stop the spread of the New York Post's Hunter Biden story didn't prevent the article from becoming the top story about the election on those platforms last week, according to data from NewsWhip....

The Post's story generated 2.59m interactions (likes, comments, shares) on Facebook and Twitter last week — more than double the next biggest story about Trump or Biden.

5 of the 10 biggest stories were about the Hunter Biden story, the fallout, or how Facebook and Twitter reacted.

It was the 6th-most engaged article this month....
See also this piece in The Atlantic about QAnon, by Renée DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory.
By the time Q’s first post appeared on 4chan in 2017, conspiracy theories of all sorts were multiplying and thriving on social media, as their adherents formed dedicated Facebook groups and YouTube channels. Algorithmic recommendation engines accelerated their growth and cross-pollinated their beliefs. Over time, these engines nudged anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers to join QAnon groups and pushed QAnon videos to far-right political communities.... The recommendations worked: People who followed other conspiracy theories often were receptive to QAnon, primarily because of a shared distrust of government and authority....

Positioned between internet message boards and mass outlets such as Fox News is a kind of demi-media—hyperpartisan outlets, such as Gateway Pundit and One America News, that have a significant following on social platforms, high engagement from audiences, and a history of boosting narratives that bubble up from internet users....

In recent months, Facebook and YouTube have moved aggressively to interrupt the flow of disinformation, in part by banning QAnon groups and channels.... But the moves against QAnon come too late. Even as the platforms have begun to take steps to limit the algorithmic amplification of content tied to QAnon-specific groups, already-converted true believers continue to act as pollinators themselves, pushing the QAnon view of current events into unrelated communities—Star Trek fans, essential-oil moms, the “reopen” groups campaigning against shutdowns imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. And in the right-wing demi-media, any actions by Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube against the QAnon groups are covered as further evidence of tech censorship run amok, and an ominous harbinger of the end of free speech.
When you read a complaint by Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss, or Andrew Sullivan about our censorious culture, remember that what they're talking about is what's going on in media outlets favored by the well-educated and urbane. But that's not the media ecosystem in most of America. Right-wing messages have ample opportunity to reach the public via many channels that are ignored or mocked by well-educated coast-dwellers. In addition, complaints about censorship are opportunities for the right to get its messaging into the mix (or further into the mix). So the right's messages spread via media outlets we disregard, then spread again when right-wingers complain about the relatively few outlets that are putting up resistance to the spread. And so the spread increases.


The topics for the upcoming presidential debate have been announced, and the Trump campaign is unhappy.
The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, ... claimed that the commission had “promised” that the debate on Thursday would be about foreign policy and asked for it to discard the six subjects announced last week by the moderator, Ms. Welker. (The topics are the coronavirus, climate change, national security, leadership, “American families” and “race in America.”)

In fact, the debate organizers did not announce such a plan to focus on foreign policy, saying that the third debate would mirror the format of the first, with six subjects selected by the moderator. (It is true that in some campaign years, the third presidential debate has focused on foreign policy.)
But focusing on foreign policy in the final debate is a "custom"!
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien penned a letter to the commission Monday raising objections with the topics announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week, saying the commission should observe “long-standing custom” by making foreign policy the central focus of Thursday’s debate....

“As is the long-standing custom, and as has been promised by the Commission on Presidential Debates, we had expected that foreign policy would be the central focus of the October 22 debate. We urge you to recalibrate the topics and return to subjects which had already been confirmed,” Stepien wrote.
Does anyone else think it's hilarious that people representing Donald Trump (a man notorious for stiffing employees and contractors) and the Republican Party (which has trashed every norm in Washington that it found inconvenient, including some that are codified in law) are begging the debate commission to respect "customs" and make good on (alleged, undocumented) promises?

Maybe the whining appeals to the base, which regards Trump as the toughest of tough guys while agreeing wholeheartedly every time the big guy says something that's happening to him is "very unfair." But it's laughable to the rest of us. Stop sniveling and debate, Donnie.

Monday, October 19, 2020


Sarah Longwell, a prominent Never Trump Republican, regularly conducts focus groups of voters who chose Donald Trump in 2016. In The Atlantic, she writes:
In 2020, I narrowed my research primarily to white women in swing states who give him the lowest performance grade.

These women generally loathe Trump. When I ask why they rate him as doing a bad job, they rarely pull their punches. He’s a “narcissist,” “bully,” and “racist”; he’s “unprofessional” and “embarrassing” as well. They are dismayed by the chaos, the tweeting, his general nastiness and divisiveness.
Many of these Trump-loathing women won't vote for him again. But some will.
Even in the past six months, some participants have continued to say they’ll back Trump.
They don’t think Trump is doing great, but how could he? He’s constantly contending with obstructionist Democrats, a biased media, and a bunch of Never Trump Republicans in Name Only.

Some meaningful number of voters who are clear-eyed about Trump and his manifest failures—even those who think he is plainly doing a bad job—will stick with the president because they believe Democrats are worse and the media aren’t to be trusted.
Sounds as if they're parroting what they hear from the right-wing media. But Longwell says that's not exactly the case.
And these aren’t voters who are glued to Fox News and reading Breitbart News. Often they don’t think about politics at all—and they certainly don’t follow the daily machinations of Washington. They’re typically not on Twitter. Instead they swim in a cultural soup of Trumpism, surrounded by friends, family, and social-media acquaintances who do live more exclusively in a right-wing-media ecosystem.
I regularly write about the fact that Republicans maintain a 24/7/365 operation to demonize Democrats, liberals, and all groups that can be even remotely linked to them (Hollywood celebrities, academics, and so on). This work is full of distortions -- left-centrists are regularly described as "far left radicals," and people who have little common ground (Joe Biden and antifa) are portrayed as comrades in arms.

But it works. If Longwell is right, it works even on susceptible people who don't directly pay attention to it. Imagine how well it's working on people who do pay attention to it. It's possible that the cult of Donald Trump has little or nothing to do with Trump's policies and everything to do with the fact that he's the loud, angry embodiment of this negative partisanship.

Democrats continue to do nothing comparable. They don't even seem inclined to say, Our party has the right ideas. Republicans have the wrong ideas. In fact, they've run this election predominantly on the message See? Even some Republicans like us. That means you can trust us.

In the 1990s, James Carville wrote a book with a simple title: We're Right, They're Wrong. I can't remember the last time a nationally prominent Democrat made a similar assertion.


The press is full of stories about Democratic anxiety right now. The Washington Post:
Democrats went to the polls last time certain they would elect the first woman ever to become president, and were punched in the face with a Trump upset. This time they feel the punch coming from a thousand miles away. The worry is visceral and widespread, unassuaged by Biden’s lead in the polls....

On the Biden side, the creeping sense of deja vu has become a dominant feeling....

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon has been telling donors, activists and voters to assume that the current polling leads will not last.... She has said Biden does not have a double-digit lead.
Democrats, of course, are terrified that Biden could still lose. The buzz in numbers-obsessed circles is about party registration gaps and early vote spikes among white, non-college voters; the word from the Biden campaign is not to put stock in public polling and to expect a nasty finish.
... Democrats are scrambling to account for the hidden variables that could still sink their nominee — or what you might call the known unknowns....

There is uncertainty about the accuracy of polling in certain swing states, the efficacy of GOP voter suppression efforts and even the number of mail-in ballots that for one reason or another will be disqualified.

... Democrats are poring over early vote totals, circulating anxiety-ridden campaign memos and bracing for a long two weeks.
All of these stories note that Joe Biden has a big lead and appears to be the overwhelming favorite to win, but that Democrats are still concered.

And in the midst of all this, there's a debate coming up on Thursday. Axios tells us that the president is being urged not to be obnoxious.
President Trump's team is telling him ahead of Thursday's final debate: Stop interrupting Joe Biden. And try to be more likable.

What to watch: Trump will tell more jokes and try, if he can stay on message, to strike a softer tone.

... Trump's team thinks that if he'd just yield the stage to Biden while the moderator is asking questions, Biden would wander rhetorically, "look doddering" and "step on himself."

... Trump’s team went back to his third debate against Hillary Clinton in 2016 for inspiration. “All Trump has to do is give people permission to vote for him," one source close to the campaign tells Axios.
So is the press preparing to set the bar very low for Trump and write a "Trump comeback?" story if he's even moderately civil?

There are two reason this might not happen. Axios has one of them:
The big question: Will debate prep matter? "It was clear Trump didn’t study his debate document for round one," one campaign source said.
Right -- is Trump even capable of a debate performance that isn't obnoxious? He's done a couple of town halls in which he didn't interrupt the questioners or moderators, but he was snappish and testy in both of them.

The press might stick with the narrative in this AP story:
The president’s attempts to recycle attacks he used on Hillary Clinton that year have so far failed to effectively damage Democrat Joe Biden....

Oftentimes, it feels as though Trump is simply recycling old material.

... some Trump allies and aides believe the campaign’s inability to define Biden, while just resuscitating old talking points, is a failure....
One reason the press might want to stick with this narrative is that it makes the press look better. Many of us have criticized the media for giving Trump billions of dollars' worth of free media coverage -- all those rallies broadcast unedited -- and for pushing an Evil Hillary narrative. But if the media doesn't bite this year, journalists can tell themselves: This time is different. Biden is less corrupt. And the Trump act was fresh in 2016, but it's stale now, so we were right to obsess over it then and we're right to portray it as tired this year.

Unless Joe Biden has an unusually bad debate on Thursday, I think the Trump campaign will continue to be portrayed as struggling. There's a risk that the press will want to go with a comeback narrative, but I don't think there's much risk that Trump will come off as even moderately presidential or likable.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


Last week, Ross Douthat assured us that Donald Trump doesn't have it in him to be a full-blown authoritarian, even if he manages to win (or steal) a second term. In response, I expressed skepticism, as did Jonathan Chait. This week, is Douthat is back to tell us again that we shouldn't fear a totalitarian Trump, but but it might be reasonable to fear a totalitarian Facebook and Twitter.
Let me try to elaborate on what [the] right is seeing. The initial promise of the internet era was radical decentralization, but instead over the last 20 years, America’s major cultural institutions have become consolidated, with more influence in the hands of fewer institutions. The decline of newsprint has made a few national newspapers ever more influential, the most-trafficked portions of the internet have fallen under the effective control of a small group of giant tech companies, and the patterns of meritocracy have ensured that the people staffing these institutions are drawn from the same self-reproducing professional class....

Over the same period, in reaction to social atomization, economic disappointment and conspicuous elite failure, the younger members of the liberal upper class have become radicalized, embracing a new progressive orthodoxy that’s hard to distill but easy to recognize and that really is deployed to threaten careers when the unconvinced step out of line.

And then finally, Trump’s mendacious presidency and the spread of online conspiracy theories has encouraged liberals in a belief that the only way to safeguard democracy is for this consolidated establishment to become more aggressive in its attempts at cultural control....
According to Douthat, "the most-trafficked portions of the internet have fallen under the effective control of a small group of giant tech companies," and when you combine that with rampant left-wing radicalization and cancel culture, the potential for a complete silencing of right-wing thought is very real -- never mind the fact that Mark Zuckerberg, who runs the most influential tech giant, regularly dines with right-wing influencers such as Ben Shapiro, whose site, the Daily Wire, has extraordinarily high engagement numbers on Facebook by a couple of different measures, as do a number of other sites on the right. Never mind the fact that the Murdoch media empire continues to have vast influence over America's political dialogue, with the result that the New York Post stories about Hunter Biden that Facebook and Twitter tried to downplay this week were widely discussed. And never mind the fact that somehow approximately 42% of America is still in thrall to Trumpism, as well as old-fashioned Fox/talk radio/corporatist/evangelical/NRA conservatism -- these folks are getting their ideas from somewhere. Douthat clearly confuses the effect social media giants and media consolidation have on elite political conversation with the effect they have on political conservation in America as a whole.

Douthat acknowledges that conservative fears are probably exaggerated -- after all, Republicans might lose the White House and the Senate this year, but they could well win them back soon. Still, he writes:
But having offered these doubts about the diagnosis, let me stress that the mix of elite consolidation and radicalization that conservatives fear is entirely real — and its reality is one reason among many to recognize that no, even in a second term a hapless bully like Trump will not become a dictator and the Republican Party will not establish permanent one-party rule.
What is he saying? That if the 2020 election goes Trump and Mitch McConnell's way, or is steerd to them by a 6-3 Supreme Court, they'll be prevented from disenfranchising more Democratic voters, tossing more laws and norms into the garbage, and arresting and jailing political opponents because radical-left Facebook and Twitter will block a few posts and tweets?

I agree with Douthat that Trump might not have the brains or the focus to become America's Viktor Orban. But I don't feel as sanguine about McConnell or the Federalist Society judges he and Trump have installed. And I'm struggling to understand how a few Twitter and Facebook bans are going to prevent the raw exercise of government power.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


And now Breitbart gets in on the act.
Newly obtained emails from a Hunter Biden business partner lay out in detail how the Vice President’s son and his colleagues used their access to the Obama-Biden administration to arrange private meetings for potential foreign clients and investors at the highest levels in the White House. These never-before-revealed emails outline how a delegation of Chinese investors and Communist Party officials managed to secure a private, off-the-books meeting with then-Vice President Joe Biden.
Omigod! Who are these sinister people?
... on November 5, 2011, one of [Hunter Biden partner Devon] Archer’s business contacts forwarded him an email teasing an opportunity to gain “potentially outstanding new clients” by helping to arrange White House meetings for a group of Chinese executives and government officials. The group was the China Entrepreneur Club (CEC) and the delegation included Chinese billionaires, Chinese Communist Party loyalists, and at least one “respected diplomat” from Beijing....

The Obama-Biden Administration archives reveal that this Chinese delegation did indeed visit the White House on November 14, 2011, and enjoyed high-level access.
Yes, this meeting was so shameful that it was placed in the public record for posterity.

The Breitbart story claims that Joe Biden personally met with the delegation, although White House records don't say so. However:
In an obscure document listing the CEC members’ biographies, CEC Secretary General Maggie Cheng alleges that she facilitated the CEC delegation meetings in Washington in 2011 and boasts of the Washington establishment figures that CEC met with. The first name she dropped was that of Vice President Joe Biden.
The document does say that. It also says that members of the China Entrepreneurs Club met with then-British prime minister David Cameron (which is true, and there was a press release announcing the meeting, as well as then-French president Francois Hollande -- and here's Hollande addressing the group in 2015.

Also, here's Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, at the China Entrepreneurs Club World Forum in 2016:

The man seated next to Trudeau in that photo is the chairman of the China Entrepreneur Club -- Jack Ma, one of China's richest men, the co-founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba.

And who's taking a meeting with Ma in the clip below? A clip filmed just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017? Is it someone plotting with Ma to undermine the Trump presidency before it even began?

No, it's Donald Trump himself:

Did Hunter Biden facilitate a meeting with father for members of this group? It's not clear. But if Joe Biden met with them, it's not a scandal.

Friday, October 16, 2020


Well, so much for that October surprise.
The chief executive of Pfizer said on Friday that the company would not apply for emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine before the third week of November, ruling out President Trump’s assertion that a vaccine would be ready before Election Day on Nov. 3.

In a statement posted to the company website, the chief executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, said that although Pfizer could have preliminary numbers by the end of October about whether the vaccine works, it would still need to collect safety and manufacturing data that will stretch the timeline to at least the third week of November.
So there won't be a U.S.-approved vaccine before the election.
The company is the only frontrunner in the vaccine race that has said it could have proof its vaccine works by Nov. 3.
So it seems as if we might have a vaccine just after the election -- an election President Trump is likely to lose. His base is certain to link the two events, and conclude that the vaccine that emerges was deliberately delayed in order to damage Trump's reelection prospects.

That's obviously not true -- Pfizer and other companies in the race are clearly working as fast as they can to demonstrate that their vaccines are safe and effective. But MAGA Nation won't believe that.

They're already pandemic skeptics, and many of them are vaccine skeptics. But I think many of them would have gotten the vaccine if it had emerged before the election, because they would have regarded its development as a triumph on the part of their God Emperor. I think most of them will get the vaccine if he wins.

But they won't get it if he loses. The sequence of events will reinforce all their most paranoid suspicions.

Once there's a safe, effective vaccine, nations in the rest of the developed world will have very high vaccination rates. We won't. This will be an important reason why.


This is true, more or less:

The foreign-op aspect of this isn't quite the story of the day, but it's true the right had most of us talking about Hunter Biden, and then we weren't so much talking about Hunter Biden as we were talking about what Twitter and Facebook did in response to the New York Post's Hunter Biden stories.

Right-wingers are usually very good at driving America's political conversation, but this time they got sidetracked.

There's a reason for that.

Right-wingers are used to arguing among themselves that "the left" -- which, to them, includes leftists, liberals, Democrats, Hollywood, the non-right-wing media, and academia (and occasionally big business and pro sports) -- is one giant, unified octopus, a single evil being with multiple tentacles, operated by one brain.

So when they got distracted by Twitter and Facebook, they seemed to forget that they were no longer trying to communicate with like-minded wingnuts who think Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine and China and social media giants' occasional efforts to mute irresponsible right-wing messages are all the work of the same many-tentacled left-wing monster.

They forgot they were trying to reach people who don't see the world that way. They forgot that the few remaining undecided voters in America don't automatically hear a denunciation of social media companies and think, I hate the Democrats -- the way right-wingers do.

They should have tried to keep the focus on Hunter Biden. But they didn't quite realize that they'd lost focus, because to them, it's all one Antichrist.


We know that President Hillary Clinton would have handled the coronavirus pandemic much better than President Trump, although she would have struggled with Republican accusations that she was a mass murderer because of a death toll many times smaller than the one we've had under Trump.

But I believe that even another Republican would have done a better job than Trump. Here's Chris Christie, just out of the hospital:
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who was recently battling a coronavirus infection, said on Thursday that he was “wrong” not to wear a mask at an event honoring Judge Amy Coney Barrett and in his debate preparation sessions with President Trump, and that people should take the threat of the virus seriously.
Christie, who says he didn't wear a mask at the White House because he thought it was a safe zone where everyone was frequently tested, issued a statement that seems like a perspective on what a less neurotic Republican than Trump would have said and done in the pandemic.
“I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow C.D.C. guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others,” he said.

... Mr. Christie said that the virus is “something to take very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly.”
However, Christie combines this with demands for reopening, even now, as case number are rising again and hospital ICUs are filling up:
... as a former public official, I believe we have not treated Americans as adults, who understand truth, sacrifice and responsibility that I know them to be. I have also concluded that like much else in 2020, that the virus is governed by our two dominant political and media extremes: those who believe there is nothing to this virus and those alarmists who would continue to close down our country and not trust the common sense of the American people. Both are wrong. This is not an either/or proposition. The public health consequences of ignoring the virus and the responsible safeguards that we need to take will be additional illness and death caused by COVID-19. The public policy consequences of continuing to shut down or re-shut down our country will be further economic devastation to families, even more loss of education by our students and the continuing loss of life through the drug abuse, suicide and depression caused by taking away people’s ability to support their families. There is another way.

Every public official, regardless of party or position, should advocate for every American to wear a mask in public, appropriately socially distance and to wash your hands frequently every day. At the same time, we should be reopening in every corner of this nation under these guidelines. Reopen all those places which have taken the brunt of these shutdowns and allow our country to get back to a life where citizens can support their families using common sense. Even during a contentious election year, we must trust the American people with the truth. I believe that these two steps can bring our country together while our pharmaceutical companies invent the therapeutics and vaccines which will rid us of this virus.
Of course, Christie was infected because he's a friend and ally to a man who regularly tells "those who believe there is nothing to this virus" that they're absolutlely right, a man who, even after his own infection and near-death experience, expresses contempt for masks and the people who wear them.

But this is what we would have been told in a different Republican presidency: Mask up and get back to work. Fewer people would have died if "Follow CDC guidelines" had been the message from the start, but we would have reopened sooner and more recklessly than we should have.

We are where we are not because having "extremists on both sides" is the natural course of events, but because Trump made anti-science extremism the official approach of the U.S. government, while encouraging citizens to scoff at science. It wouldn't have been as bad under another Republican. Rejection of masks and social distancing wouldn't have been the right-wing line in the sand. But we would have rushed to normalize, just as right-wing plutocrats want us to do. Christie's statement sounds like the presidential address we would have heard. Too many people would have died as a result -- but not as many as are dying now.