Saturday, April 04, 2020

SO WHAT EXACTLY WAS TRUMP TOO BUSY DOING DURING IMPEACHMENT TO FOCUS ON THE CORONAVIRUS?

Republicans have told us that President Trump shouldn't be blamed for errors early in the coronavirus crisis because, thanks to those evil Democrats, he was forced to devoted hours of his time to dealing with impeachment. And what do you know? A long Washington Post account of the early weeks of the crisis now confirms that Trump really was distracted by impeachment.

So, for Trump, what exactly was the nature of the impeachment distraction back in January, as the virus crisis was developing? Let the Post's writers explain:
... Trump was in the throes of an impeachment battle over his alleged attempt to coerce political favors from the leader of Ukraine. Acquittal seemed certain by the GOP-controlled Senate, but Trump was preoccupied with the trial, calling lawmakers late at night to rant, and making lists of perceived enemies he would seek to punish when the case against him concluded.
Right -- he wasn't preoccupied with establishing his innocence. He was preoccupied with venting his anger and concocting elaborate revenge fantasies.

Venting anger and plotting revenge aren't burdensome duties imposed on Trump by overzealous impeachers. For Trump, venting anger and plotting revenge are fun. Because acquittal was guaranteed, Trump wasn't forced to turn his attention away from the virus and toward impeachment. He chose to fixate on impeachment. He turned impeachment into entertainment.

So, sure in January, Trump was paying more attention to impeachment than to the virus -- but only because it seemed to offer him an opportunity to be an angry bully, which is Trump's idea of following his bliss.

JAMES BAKER (UPDATE: NO, NOT THAT ONE) IS CRITICIZING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION MORE FORCEFULLY THAN SOME PROMINENT DEMOCRATS

UPDATE: Well, this is embarrassing. In the post below, I identify the author of a New York Times op-ed critical of the Trump administration's coronavirus efforts as James A. Baker III, former chief of staff to Presidents Ronald Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The author is actually James E. Baker, a former deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council and a former chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. I regret the error. Here's the original post, which I've left intact, errors and all:

James Baker, the 89-year-old former chief of staff to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, has written a New York Times op-ed that you might be tempted to skip because it's been given the gee-whizzy, star-spangled headline "It’s High Time We Fought This Virus the American Way." Don't pass it up. It's a brutal takedown of the Trump administration's failures -- much more forceful than anything we've heard from Barack Obama, for instance -- and a reminder of just how much the U.S. government can do if it chooses to.
The president has “invoked” the Defense Production Act, but the government has not used the full authority of the act. There is a difference between invoking a law and using it, just as there is a difference between talk and action....

The D.P.A.’s authorities go beyond prioritizing contracts and manufacturing supplies. Its allocation authority addresses the problem of states’ competing against one another for scarce resources based on market mechanisms. The federal government can allocate equipment and supplies based on actual need and best public-health practices. The D.P.A.’s industry assessment authority can be used to measure production and distribution capacity, remove blind spots, plan efficiently and recreate a supply chain at home. The federal government can determine now which entities could produce vaccines while it plans for their ethical allocation. The government can then use the D.P.A.’s Title III incentive authorities to issue loans, offer antitrust protection and guarantee purchases, creating a secure market for masks, tests and vaccines....

State and local authorities are imploring the federal government to use the authority it has to secure our medical supply chain. So far, the administration appears to have responded like a parent doling out candy to a child: one piece at a time. This is an “all hands on deck” moment, not merely to flatten the curve but to leap ahead of the curve. America was once the arsenal of democracy; the D.P.A. can help make us the arsenal of public health.
Baker goes into all this in great detail, citing legal justifications for the use of this authority and rebutting the charge that making full use of the act would result in unconstitutional "takings" of private property (just compensation must be provided).

The piece is a reminder that, even under Republican presidents, the federal government used to be full of people who understood government's powers and knew how to use them, which meant that, for all their faults, they could use these powers for good in a crisis. That's what most Americans want right now, and we don't have it. Instead we have a president who scoffs at complex thinking and planning, and who believes that anything done the way previous presidents have done it must be bad.

Of course, it's the party of Baker and Trump that got us into this mess. Republicans have been telling us for decades that government is always the problem, never the solution. The first president Baker served is well known for saying, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

Republican politicians sold that line to the public, even though they didn't operate according to that philosophy. I blame them for the fact that the anti-government nonsense they spewed -- which spread to talk radio and Fox News -- is now taken seriously by a large percentage of the electorate, as well as by many (most?) of the people who now run the government.

Nevertheless, I'd rather have any of our recent presidents in charge now, including the Republicans. They'd be doing a much better job.

Friday, April 03, 2020

REPUBLICANS DON'T HAVE TO CANCEL THE ELECTION TO FINAGLE IT

We've been told many times that the Constitution and federal law simply don't permit the postponement of the presidential election -- Ben Jacobs says it again in this post at Gen:
Can the presidential election be canceled?

No, it can’t. The terms of federal elected officials are set by the Constitution. Trump’s term ends on January 20, 2021. Extending it would require two-thirds of both the House and the Senate to support such an amendment and then having three-fourths of the state legislatures ratify it. That is not happening....

Can it be postponed?

Almost certainly not.

The date of the presidential election has been set by statute since the Presidential Election Day Act of 1845. It would require a congressional act to change that date. The Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate would have to reach a bipartisan consensus to change the date and then have the legislation signed by President Trump.
I've assumed that if we're still in a virus crisis (as I think we will be) and Republicans are certain that the election will go badly for them (not all that likely, given our seemingly unchanging partisan split), five Federalist Society members of the Supreme Court would be perfectly happy to make up an excuse for a postponement or cancellation of the election.

But if they're worried, they might not need to defy the law. Jacobs writes:
But are there any weird loopholes?

The language [of the Constitution] actually doesn’t provide for a popular vote. It states, “The electors of President and Vice President shall be appointed, in each State, on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, in every fourth year succeeding every election of a President and Vice President.” While the Constitution provided for a popular vote for the House in its original text and for the Senate in the 17th Amendment, it still doesn’t do so for the election of presidential electors.

As the Supreme Court noted in the 1892 case McPherson v. Blacker, “The Constitution does not provide that the appointment of electors shall be by popular vote... It recognizes that the people act through their representatives in the legislature, and leaves it to the legislature exclusively to define the method of effecting the object.” Thus, in theory, state legislatures could change the law to appoint electors and circumvent their state’s voters.
Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Iowa are five states where Joe Biden has a chance of beating Donald Trump but Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion. How hard is it to imagine that one or more of these states might use this ruse to hand electoral votes to Trump?

I don't think it will come to that. I think covid-19 will continue to do disproportionate harm to the more densely packed areas of America -- i.e., the more Democratic areas -- so Republicans will be less fearful of voting come November. (Wherever Republicans have any power, universal vote-by-mail will be blocked.) So I think Republicans will still feel they can win in November even if the virus is raging and the economy is in shambles. But if I'm wrong, it won't shock me if some states try to bypass a popular vote.

PRESIDENT WHO CARES ABOUT POPULARITY MORE THAN COMPETENCE TURNS TO SOMEONE WHO OFFERS HIM NEITHER

Michelle Goldberg is right.
Jared Kushner Is Going to Get Us All Killed

Reporting on the White House’s herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror.

According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. “I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity,” Kushner reportedly said. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.” (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)

Even now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: “People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections.”
And then there's this:



What does that even mean? Apart from residents of D.C. and various territories, all Americans live in states. So who is the stockpiled equipment for?

We know that even now, facing a six-figure and possibly seven-figure death toll, the president cares about how he looks, not how good a job he's doing. Which is why I'm puzzled that he's turned this over to Jared.

Americans don't like Jared. That was obvious as far back as 2017.
The husband of Ivanka Trump is viewed favorably by just 22 percent of American voters, with 36 percent having an unfavorable opinion, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll....
By 2018, his numbers in an Economist/YouGov poll were even worse.
... Kushner had a favorability rating of 25 percent in January 2017, compared with 29 percent who looked at him in a negative light. Since then, not only has the percentage of those viewing him favorably seen a modest drop, to 22 percent, but his unfavorability percentage now stands at a massive 42 percent.
By March 2019, his favorable rating had risen to 27% in a YouGov poll, but his unfavorable rating was up to 45%, including 32% "very unfavorable," which exceeded his "very favorable" (12%) and "somewhat favorable" (15%) numbers combined.

And then there was Kushner's "E-Score" from a firm called E-Poll Market Research. A 2019 report said it wasn't good.
... Mr. Kushner['s] overall strong positive appeal was 6 percent and ... overall strong negative appeal was 36 percent....

Mr. Kushner scored highest for the attributes of “insincere” (29 percent), “creepy” (27 percent) and “overexposed” (22 percent). He was lowest in terms of “exciting,” “glamorous” and “emotional,” rating 1 percent in those categories.
So why does Trump put Jared in charge of, well, practically everything? I can only guess that it's because Jared is a stupid person's idea of a smart person, the stupid person being the president. Unlike Trump, who doesn't read and therefore doesn't know anything (but who seems to pride himself on "street smarts," or something like that), Jared looks and talks like a well-read Ivy League preppy. He clearly believes he's capable of mastering any subject. To Trump, he must seem like the Professor on Gilligan's Island -- an expert on everything.

I also suspect -- I have to tread carefully here -- that Trump believes Jared is smart because Jared is Jewish. I'm basing this on a years of exposure to white bigots from the urban Northeast -- among their prejudices, as a rule, is a belief that all Jews are smart. Recall what John O'Donnell, who used to run a Trump casino, told us Trump said about African-Americans who worked for the Trump Organization as accountants:
And isn’t it funny, I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else.
Jared is tall, but I don't think height is the key factor.

Trump's M.O. is to delegate all the hard stuff to uncharismatic people who don't seem to mind sweating details. In Jared, he seems to have someone who's eager to sweat details -- of everything. But Trump can't judge competence, especially in running the country, which he knows even less about than he knows about business. So we're stuck with Jared, and we're all gonna die.

Until we do, though, Democrats should focus America's attention on Jared. I know that many voters tie themselves in knots trying to persuade themselves that the thrice-married, porn-star-shtupping, pussy-grabbing president is a great Christian, that his billionaire status doesn't prevent him from being the salt of the earth, that he's a good ol' boy even though he was until recently a lifelong New Yorker. But Jared? The right hates "elitists" -- can even conservative voters find a way to tell themselves that Jared is down to earth and one of them? Trump at least talks like Archie Bunker -- I'm convinced that he'd never have won GOP voters' favor without that Queens accent, which always reads as non-posh. Jared doesn't have that. Jared doesn't come off in any way as ordinary. While we're still (barely) breathing, can't we make him a liability for Trump?

Thursday, April 02, 2020

"THE CHURCH WAS NEVER BUILDINGS"

This is insane:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has overruled local counties’ power to ban large religious gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, carving out an extraordinary loophole that officials say will violate social distancing guidelines and ensure further spread of the virus.

By allowing religious services to continue, DeSantis is seemingly siding with religious leaders who’ve stood against the federally mandated guidelines—including controversial Tampa pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who refused to stop holding services because he believed his church had machines that could stop the virus.

After weeks of political pressure and public outcry, the Republican governor signed a “stay-at-home” order Wednesday to curtail the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. But, unlike most mandates implemented in dozens of states, DeSantis ruled that religious services were an “essential activity.”

... Some counties had already implemented their own orders, like Hillsborough County, where Sheriff Chad Chronister had issued misdemeanors to Howard-Brown[e] for violating an order against large gatherings.

However, in a clarifying memo on Thursday, DeSantis said his order “shall supersede any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19.”
DeSantis assures us that he wants the services to be conducted safely.
"I don't think the government has the authority to close a church. I'm certainly not going to do that," DeSantis said. "There's no reason why you couldn't do a church service with people 10 feet apart. So we absolutely asked them to abide by the social distancing guidelines."
But will they all comply? There clearly wasn't social distancing taking place at last Sunday's service at Howard-Browne's church, after which the pastor was arrested.



Howard-Browne is the preacher who said the coronavrus would never close his church.
“We are not stopping anything,” he said. “I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place,” he said to laughter.

“This Bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”
And he has friends in high places.



But other megachurches, in Florida and elsewhere, have accepted the science and agreed not to put their parishioners at risk. At the website of largest megachurch in Florida, Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens, with an average weekly attendance of 27,000, pastors Todd and Julie Mullins have posted this:
As you have most likely heard by now, church at Christ Fellowship will look a little different this weekend. If you haven’t heard, here’s the latest update about weekend services from Pastors Todd and Julie. Although we might not be gathering physically, we can’t wait to gather with you at Church Online this weekend as we worship together, pray together, and give generously as the movement of God.
Information about livestreams of the services follows.

At the site for Northland Church in Longwood, Florida (average weekly attendance 22,000), there's this:
As we continue to respond to the proactive efforts of surrounding community leaders in mitigating the health impact of COVID-19, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 26th, the Northland Campus will be closed to all public access....

We encourage you to join us for online worship at any of our regularly scheduled services times. If you’ve never been part of our online community, you can do so on our website, via Roku, our mobile app, and even on our Facebook page.
Many stories on the DeSantis order have compared what he's done to what Governor Mike DeWine has done in Ohio-- he has also declared church an essential service, while telling churches that they need to stay safe.
Mentioning an order ... coming Thursday to apparently further enforce social distancing orders and bans on mass gatherings, DeWine, in response to a question, said church leaders must not gather their congregations in large numbers.

“They are endangering themselves, they are endangering their families, they are endangering total strangers ... It’s not a Christian thing to do,” the governor added.
But I see Ohio megachurch pastors avoiding live services. At the website of World Harvest Church in Columbus (average weekly attendance 13,000), there's this notice:
Out of an abundance of caution and in light of recent developments surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the leadership of World Harvest Church has made the difficult decision to not conduct public services on our campuses until further notice, which will be constantly updated and maintained at WHC.LIFE. Our goal will be to resume assembly as quickly as is safely possible.

In the meantime, Pastor Parsley will lead a LIVE and unique online worship experience on RODPARSLEY.TV, Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms....
"Pastor Parsley" is no moderate -- that's Rod Parsley, who doesn't believe in the separation of church and state, opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, and had his endorsement of John McCain rejected during the 2008 campaign after he said that Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" and added that “America was founded in part to see this false religion destroyed.” If that guy is closing his church to save lives, why can't Howard-Browne?

I'm not a believer, but I used to be one, and this, from the site of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati (average weekly attendance 38,000), seems right:



I have an evangelical in my family and this is what she says. It's how her church is operating now. Members of a church can support one another without gathering in a large group, no matter what Rodney Howard-Browne says.

NO, WE ARE NOT ALL RESTRICTIONISTS NOW

Rich Lowry writes:
We Are All Restrictionists Now

When President Donald Trump announced a restriction on travel from Europe in a mid-March Oval Office address, European Union officials erupted in outrage.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a joint statement with the president of the European Council thundering, “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

Just a few days later, von der Leyen was advancing her own proposal to ban nonessential travel into the EU. The initative noted that “globalization and international movements of people create conditions which facilitate the spread of virus across the borders.”

We are all restrictionists now. In the coronavirus crisis, everyone realizes the importance of borders, even the people who not long ago were ideologically hostile toward them and tsk-tsked the allegedly primitive nationalists who obsessed over them....

Borders mark off the sovereign territory of one people from another. They are a means — if they can be enforced and defended — for a sovereign state to protect its people from invaders and unwelcome immigrants and goods.
Invaders, immigrants, goods -- but not viruses.
Of course, travel restrictions haven’t prevented the spread of the disease — there’s no such thing as an air-tight seal against the virus.
Right. Early on, President Trump restricted travel from China, but allowed in U.S. nationals returning from there. A virus doesn't care whether you're a U.S. national. Also, the virus was already here.

Besides, we had international travel -- and pandemics -- even before we were "globalists." In 1918, we weren't "globalists" in the sense we are now, but the so-called Spanish flu (which might have originated in Kansas) traveled the world, partly spread in the trenches of a world war.

And the fact that we're talking about travel restrictions now doesn't mean we support zealously defended borders for all time. Right now, much of the world is closing shops, restaurants, bars, and businesses. White-collar workers are sitting at home in pajamas, working remotely. The fact that we're doing this now doesn't mean that we believe it's wise to close all bars and restaurants permanently and shut down every office building for all time.
Imposing travel restrictions is the least of it. Italy has had trouble importing masks because European counties have been working to keep medical supplies within their own borders, indeed to keep produce within their borders. According to the Wall Street Journal, “German officials said their restrictions were partly designed to safeguard supplies at German supermarkets from French shoppers.”

So much for a new era of European solidarity dissolving the historic, centuries-old political and cultural divisions among continental nations.
I'm trying to grasp Lowry's argument here. It appears to be: We should all be nationalists rather than globalists, because you see how globalism made it much more difficult for Italy to ... import masks from other countries.
The coronavirus has acted as a solvent on a decade or more of cliches about the arrival of a globalized world where borders no longer matter. In a crisis, no one believes that, and everyone turns to borders as a first line of defense.
No. Our first line of defense was -- or should have been -- a public health infrastructure that could have rapidly ramped up in order to test, trace, and isolate sick people, to buy time for scientists to develop treatments and a vaccine. The anti-globalist approach that might have saved us from the virus is the North Korean model, albeit even more extreme. (North Korea trades with China, and its claims of no cases of covid-19 have been met with skepticism.) If people and goods travel at all, a bad virus will get you, whether your country is "globalist" or not.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

THIS ISN'T FDR IN THE MAP ROOM -- IT'S THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE

According to Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman, Donald Trump is so serious about being a "wartime president" that he's ... developed a new maturity and focus? Committed himself to long sessions of reading briefing books and consulting with experts?

No. The correct answer is: He's replicated the backstabbing chaos of the 2017 White House.
For an ordinary West Wing dealing with a crisis of this magnitude, the chief of staff would be a central player.... But Trump has only very intermittently been able to tolerate another person with power in his White House. Mick Mulvaney had essentially been a lame duck for months, and since he was pushed out in early March, there’s been no chief of staff at all—Mark Meadows, whom Trump appointed weeks ago, only resigned his congressional seat on Monday to fill the post. “How can you not have a chief of staff during one of the biggest crises in American history?” a former West Wing official said.

Jared Kushner, who’s often been in competition with Trump’s chiefs of staff, continues to be the central West Wing player, leading a shadow coronavirus task force that is more powerful than the official group led by Vice President Mike Pence. In conversations Kushner has blamed HHS Secretary Alex Azar for the criticism Trump has received, according to a person in frequent touch with the West Wing....

Meanwhile, Trump is also consulting his longtime confidante Hope Hicks, whom Trump hired back in February.... Officially, Hicks reports to Kushner, but according to sources, Hicks is constantly with Trump. “Hope is in charge of Trump’s calendar, which means Jared is in charge of Trump’s schedule,” a Republican who deals with the White House said. Sources said Hicks prepares Trump for his daily task force briefings and advises him to act presidential....

She is shaping the White House’s messaging, which puts the current communications director, Stephanie Grisham, out of the loop. For weeks, according to sources, Kushner has been looking to sideline Grisham but has been unable to displace her because Grisham remains close to Melania Trump, whom Grisham did communications for when she worked in the East Wing.
We're in a once-in-a-century crisis and this is what's going on in the White House: battles for power, power vacuums where power should reside, duplicate and conflicting centers of power, and the president relying primarily on people who came to the job with exactly zero expertise relevant to the current crisis.

We are so screwed.

NOW THE RIGHT (OR AT LEAST GATEWAY PUNDIT) IS GUNNING FOR DEBORAH BIRX

Dr. Deborah Birx has been criticized for publicly flattering President Trump, but now it appears that she's a target of the right as well -- or at least of Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit. Here's a GP post from last night, written by Hoft, in which Dr. Birx is attacked for the fatality estimates she's announced. Hoft, because he's an unreconstructed coronavirus denialist, thinks the estimates are way too high:
OUTRAGEOUS! Dr. Birx Pushes COMPLETE RUBBISH on American Public — Insists without One Iota of Proof that the US Economic Suicide Cut Coronavirus Deaths by Over a Million Deaths!

Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx again on Tuesday pushed the talking point that by shutting down the US economy the Trump administration, US government and Coronavirus task force was able to cut the total coronavirus deaths in the United States from 1-2 million to 100,000 to 200,000.

This is based on “models” by her chosen scientific “experts”.

This truly is outrageous.

When Americans are not able to feed their babies or buy bread in June they can thank conspiracy theorists like Dr. Deborah Birx....

There is not a single country that has seen more than 13,000 deaths from the virus. Yet, Dr. Birx told the American public on Sunday and again on Tuesday that the US was going to see over one million deaths....

When the coronavirus numbers come in two months from now at a much lesser mortality rate Americans will not be so happy about losing their jobs and their savings.
An earlier post attacks her for being part of the "Deep State" (i.e., she has some links to Democrats, which is what "Deep State" really means on the right).
EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Birx's Connections with the Clinton Foundation and Obama Unfortunately Indicate Conflicted Loyalties

Is Dr. Deborah Birx, the doctor with the scarf, a voice of reason or another Deep State doctor pushing economic disaster and suffering?

... She encourages Americans to stay at home and away from the coronavirus that is killing 80 year olds with pre-existing medical conditions. The fact that fatalities from the virus are almost non-existent in the working class has no bearing on Dr. Birx’s recommendations.

... What the media is not telling us is that Dr. Birx has a storied past closely aligned to the Clintons and Obama.

Dr. Birx’s husband is former Bill Clinton advance man Paige Reffe. This relationship with Democrats and the Clinton’s is something that the good doctor is unable to separate from.

In an article in the Washington Post magazine, Dr. Birx is noted as being the perfect fit for Obama’s Head of PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief)....

Soon after this, Dr. Birx was working with the Clinton Foundation in activities related to the HIV pandemic around the world....

Both Dr. Birx and her counterpart on the coronavirus task team, Dr. Fauci have strong connections to the Democrat Deep State. As reported previously, Dr. Fauci ... offered glowing praise for Crooked Hillary in a leaked January 26, 2016 email....

Doctors Birx and Fauci may go down as the two most deadly doctors in world history. Their efforts to date don’t appear to be warnings of protection, but rather they’re panic driven self-fulfilling prophesies of Deep State death and destruction.
There's less of this nonsense on the right than there was a couple of weeks ago, but, yes, it's still out there.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

TRUMP WAS VERY DISTRACTED AS THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS BEGAN -- BUT NOT BY IMPEACHMENT

Republicans have agreed on a new line of attack against the Democrats -- and we know they've agreed because a former Republican operative tells us so.



Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton are delivering the message.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blamed the Democrats’ push to impeach President Trump in January for distracting the Trump administration from the threat posed by the coronavirus.

“It came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” McConnell said in an interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”

... Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who also appeared on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” Tuesday, said he started studying the potential impact of the virus in late January.

“The first time I recall talking about the China virus in the media was on your show, probably late in January, and I had started studying the problem in mid-January,” he said.

“I have to tell you that in mid-January and late-January, unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress, was consumed with another matter — you may recall the partisan impeachment of the president,” Cotton added.
But if the threat of the coronavirus "came up while [members of Congress] were tied down in the impeachment trial," and if Cotton "started studying the problem in mid-January," you'd think Republicans might have mentioned the virus at least once during the Senate trial -- after all, the sum total of their defense of the president was "This is an evil thing Democrats are doing and it's bad for America." Every chance they could, they enumerated the many reasons why impeachment and the impeachers were terrible Americans. So surely you'd have expected them to blame Democrats at least once for distracting us from this potential global health crisis, which, as McConnell and Cotton noted, they were well aware of.

Did they? No. This page at JustSecurity.org links to transcripts of every day of the Senate impeachment trial, from January 16 to February 5. By "transcripts" I mean the Congressional Record for each day, in searchable PDF form.

I've searched those PDFs and the word "covid" doesn't appear on any day. (UPDATE: A commenter notes that "covid" wouldn't have appeared because the term "covid-19" wasn't coined until February 11, after the impeachment trial.) References to the "virus" or "coronavirus" appear just twice: On January 23, when McConnell says,
Mr. MCCONNELL. Mr. Chief Justice, if I may, one brief announcement: In the morning, there will be a
coronavirus briefing for all Members at 10:30. Senator ALEXANDER and Senator MURRAY are involved in that. The location will be emailed to your office.
and on February 4, not in the trial but in the president's State of the Union address, when he said, perfunctorily:
Protecting Americans’ health also means fighting infectious diseases. We are coordinating with the Chinese government and working closely together on the Coronavirus outbreak in China. My Administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard citizens from this threat.
So Republicans knew the threat, but never cited it as a reason impeachment was a terrible thing -- which is strange because they made every other conceivable argument for why impeachment was a terrible thing.

And what is it that the president was prevented from doing by impeachment? It's not as if he had to manage a trial in which there was nail-biting suspense as to the outcome. The fix was in -- he was going to be acquitted in the Senate, and everyone knew it. His defense was on autopilot. So how much time out of his day did impeachment need to take?

This is accurate:



Byron York echoes the line of the day in this National Review post. He writes:
On January 21, the United States confirmed its first case of the coronavirus. The nation’s political and media elite obsessed over Mitch McConnell’s just-announced resolution governing the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump.

On January 23, China locked down the city of Wuhan. Cable news in America lit up with praise for the epic, nay historic, performance by House impeachment manager Adam Schiff in the trial’s opening arguments.
Right -- and what happened in between those two days? Here's what happened: a milestone for our beleaguered, distracted, hard-working president.



President Donald Trump set a presidential record for activity on his favorite social media platform Wednesday, tweeting and retweeting at length about the Senate impeachment trial, the Democrats who want to replace him and much, much more.

By 4:25 p.m. ET, Trump had barreled through his previous record of 123 Twitter postings in a day that he set a little over a month ago, according to Factba.se, a service that compiles and analyzes data on Trump’s presidency.
He tweeted 132 times that day.

And what was happening in the coronavirus crisis on January 22? Here's a sampling of headlines:
Hong Kong has first "highly suspicious" coronavirus case

Scientists estimate more than 4,000 coronavirus cases in Wuhan city alone

Death toll in China rises to 17

One person under observation in Mexico

Face masks are made mandatory in Wuhan

Decision from WHO emergency meeting expected soon

Five more Chinese provinces report new cases

CDC testing several people in US for possible Wuhan virus

US officials in Washington state are monitoring the health of a US patient's "close contacts"
Was Trump distracted from all this? Yes -- but by Twitter, not by impeachment.

GRIFTERS, BUT THEY'RE NOT EVEN GOOD AT IT

If you're a family of unethical grifters who want to use the presidency to turn a profit, you should at least turn a profit.
On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them about their symptoms and direct them to nearby coronavirus testing sites. He said Google was helping.

That wasn’t true. But in the following days, Oscar Health—a health-insurance company closely connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—developed a government website with the features the president had described. A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said.
There's the grift. But...
Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.
What's wrong with these people? Their instinct is to take advantage of power for personal enrichment, but that's all it is -- an instinct. They can't follow through. Jared dresses like a preppy, but he's really Ralph Kramden or Fred Sanford, or some other sitcom character who's full of schemes that always fall flat.

Oscar claims that this site wasn't even intended to make money.
The site resembled a version of a tool Oscar had already built for its customers in response to the crisis, but it was “adjusted to meet the specifications and requirements set by the federal government,” Jackie Kahn, the Oscar spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. That Oscar had already been working on a coronavirus-testing website when HHS called to ask for help was a coincidence that had nothing to do with Kushner, Kahn suggested. She declined to say whether Oscar had discussed that site with Joshua Kushner [Jared's brother, who co-founded Oscar and is a major investor] or any board members or investors before Trump’s March 13 press conference.

Oscar donated its work freely and never expected to be paid for the project, Kahn said. The company is “not, nor has ever been,” a contractor or subcontractor for the government, she said, which would make it harder for the government to pay Oscar for its work. The work was “all at the direction of HHS,” she said. “The website never saw the light of day,” she added in an interview today.
No, no, no -- you're supposed to build a fifth-rate site, use your pull to turn it into an official government site, and get paid massive amounts of money from the government while signaling to the world that your company has the president's favor, which should attract even more cash. You're not supposed to get only bad publicity and then abandon your grift because you can't grift correctly.

If this was a scam, it was a low-rent scam. It helps explain why the president believes hospital employees in New York are asking for extra masks and then slipping them "out the back door" and reselling them. Members of the Trump family think like criminals, but the scams they conceive are small-time. Reselling masks is at the level of something they'd do.

By contrast, Donald Trump's ideal man, Vladimir Putin, might be the richest person in the world, with wealth estimated at up to $200 billion. It's easy to imagine Putin trying to cash in on the coronavirus, but he wouldn't do it by trying and failing to build some damn website. He'd have a cut of everything related to the crisis that's potentially profitable.

But that's because he's a committed, extremely capable kleptocrat, not a small-minded, petty hoodlum.

Monday, March 30, 2020

ANOTHER POLL HAS GOOD APPROVAL NUMBERS FOR TRUMP AND TERRIBLE REELECTION NUMBERS

I'm detecting a pattern:
Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump by 10 points nationally in a new poll....

The latest Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll finds Biden getting 55 percent support, versus 45 percent for Trump.
Ten points! Bernie Sanders also beats Trump, but by 6, 53%-47%. All this in spite of the fact that Trump's approval numbers are pretty good:
The president’s job approval rating is at 48 percent positive and 52 percent negative, just off its all-time high of 49 percent positive.

The coronavirus is by far the biggest issue on the minds of voters, and 50 percent said they approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.
Last Friday's Fox poll was similar: Trump had one of his best job approval numbers (48%/51%), but he's getting clobbered by Biden (49% to 40%).

One appears to have nothing to do with the other. A few more voters are well disposed toward Trump now, but even some of them are ready to be rid of him.

THERE'S SOMETHING THAT MATTERS MORE TO TRUMP THAN EGO GRATIFICATION

You think President Trump has had a poll bump? Trump's uptick is tiny. This is a poll bump:
Gov. Cuomo is getting high marks for his coronavirus response from typically hard-to-please New Yorkers, according to a Siena College poll released Monday.

A whopping 87% of New Yorkers approve of the job the governor is doing to address COVID-19 outbreak in the Empire State, the poll found....

A plurality of voters from every corner of the the state approve of his handling of the crisis, including 95% of Democrats, 87% of independents and even 70% of Republicans....

Cuomo has also seen his overall approval rating among New Yorkers soar from the mid-forties in February to 71% in this past month.
By contrast, Trump is averaging 50.6% approval for his handling of the coronavirus according to the Real Clear Politics average, and his job approval average is 47.3%.

Don't you think Trump would love numbers like Cuomo's? Don't you think he'd love broad-based adulation? The template is right there for him to follow. Given his massive ego, you'd think he'd follow it instinctively.

But he won't follow it, which means that something is more important to this raging egomaniac than ego gratification:

Bullying people.

Trump loves praise, but he has a compulsion to fight with people in ways that regularly cost him the opportunity to be praised. This has been true throughout his presidency. How many people have said that if Trump started his presidency pushing broadly popular proposals -- a big infrastructure bill, tax increases on the rich -- he'd be riding high in the polls now and a shoo-in for reelection?

It's true, but he couldn't do it. In part it's because he'd thrown in his lot with the vicious partisans of the Republican Party, who would have been maximally resistant to such proposals. But he could have worn them down, the same way he's worn them down on trade.

He didn't want to. When Trump discovered Fox News some years back, he discovered a world of permanent combat. If you're a Fox News Republican, you get up every day and fight your enemies to the death, using the lowest, meanest tactics available to you.

For Trump, it's heaven.

Trump would rather fight than win by not fighting. He loves to be loved, but he loves hating and hurting people even more.

THERE'S A METHOD TO TRUMP'S MADNESS

President's Trump's behavior at his news conference yesterday was, as always, pathological. You can read about Trump's pathology in if you search past the top headlines and go to secondary news sources. Here's a story from The Hill:
"PBS NewsHour" reporter Yamiche Alcindor questioned Trump during the briefing over recent comments he made during an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity about whether some requests from governors related to the outbreak were overblown or unnecessary.

Trump responded by first denying that he had made the comments, which were reported by multiple news outlets at the time, before accusing Alcindor of acting "threatening" during the briefing.

"Why don't you act in a little more positive? ... It's always get ya, get ya, get ya," Trump said to Alcindor. "You know what? That's why nobody trusts the media anymore."

"That's why you used to work for the [New York] Times and now you work for somebody else," he continued, speaking to Alcindor. "Look, let me tell you something. Be nice. Don't be threatening."
And there's this, from New York magazine's Jonathan Chait:
Trump suggested on Sunday that hospitals have been hoarding ventilators and that something more nefarious may be afoot when it comes to their mask supplies.

Trump noted suspiciously that hospitals are now asking for many more masks than they used to, before the coronavirus appeared. “How do you go from [10,000] to 20,000 masks [prior to the pandemic] — to 300,000…” he said, “Something’s going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? … And we have that happening in numerous places.”

“I don’t think it’s hoarding,” he later added, “I think maybe it’s worse than hoarding.”

Trump provided no evidence to support this accusation. It is true that some people have been stealing masks and other medical supplies from hospitals, but Trump’s insinuation that theft is to blame for hospital mask shortages during this pandemic, at a time when hundreds of hospitals across the country — and countries across the world — are all begging for more masks, is insane.
To engaged partisans, these were major stories. But for many Americans, they're not the news. What Trump is doing every day -- it's hard to say whether he's being shrewd or has just stumbled on a routine that seeks to work for him -- is weaving his pathology into a briefing that generally has at least some real news. That news is what a lot of Americans take away from the briefings, because news organizations generally treat it as far most important than Trump's outbursts. Some news outlets seem to regard the news as the only important part of the story. Thus, we get this front page at nytimes.com right now:



And at NBCNews.com:



It ought to matter that, in the midst of a crisis, we have a president who's accusing desperate healthcare workers in a viral hot zone of being grifters trying to steal and sell face masks, all because he can't accept numbers predicting exponential growth of demand for health services that are extremely dangerous to provide. It ought to matter that Trump bullies and insults reporters for quoting his own words back to him. It's an election year. When it suits us, we decide that "character" is an important criterion when we're judging who's fit to serve. But the media isn't treating Trump's character as an important story

Trump parcels out just enough news every day that the takeaway, for people who can't read the news in depth, is A serious man is leading us through a serious crisis.

And where there is coverage of Trump's pathology, it's often inadequate in its portrayal. For instance, this is a good video from The Washington Post (although I'm not sure why Trump's suicide remarks were included). It shows Trump at his worst.



But what's with the headline? "Trump’s Combative Back and Forth with Reporters During His Coronavirus Briefing" -- combative? That's not combative -- it's abusive, petty, and slanderous. It's the conduct of a man who's all ego and no empathy. In these clips, we see someone who believes everyone is on the same degraded moral plane on which he's lived his entire life.

That's an important story. But it's never the lead story.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

SO I SEE WE'RE GOING TO OBSESS OVER A MEH POLL FOR BIDEN AND COMPLETELY IGNORE AN EXCELLENT ONE

Okay, this is not great news for Joe Biden:
Former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as Democrats’ top choice for the presidential nomination in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but with only bare majority support within his party and a massive enthusiasm gap in a November matchup against President Donald Trump.

Indeed, strong enthusiasm for Biden among his supporters – at just 24% – is the lowest on record for a Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years of ABC/Post polls. More than twice as many of Trump’s supporters are highly enthusiastic about supporting him, 53%.
Two things to keep in mind: Biden still leads in this poll among registered voters, 49%-47%, and if you combine voters who are "very" and "somewhat" enthusiastic about voting for each candidate, the gap is not massive (86% total enthusiasm for Trump, 74% for Biden). And the question is asks specifically about the candidate: "Would you say you are very enthusiastic about supporting Biden/Trump, somewhat enthusiastic, not so enthusiastic or not enthusiastic at all?" I'm not "very enthusiastic" about supporting Biden. I'm "very enthusiastic" about voting Trump out.

Still, this is a troubling poll for Biden. But we need to look at poll averages. Biden still leads Trump by 5.8 in the Real Clear Politics average. And if we average the two major polls released in the past couple of days, the number is 5.5.

I told you on Friday about that other poll -- a Fox News poll with Biden up 49%-40% among registered voters. In that poll, there's no enthusiasm gap:
The race remains a nine-point advantage for Biden over Trump when looking only at those voters extremely interested in the election (52-43 percent)....
Right, because the Fox question wasn't about whether respondents are enthusiastic about their candidate, it's about whether they're eager to vote in November. (The question is "How interested are you in the presidential election?," with choices ranging from "Extremely" to "Not at all.")

Oh, and:
... the former vice president has an eight-point edge in battleground states (48-40 percent).

However, Biden’s advantage grows to 25 points, 57-32 percent, in close counties (where Hillary Clinton and Trump were within 10 points in 2016).
I suspect that an election held today would yield results that fall somewhere between the results in these two surveys. But we have no idea what the conditions will be for the election. I worry about covid-19 disproportionately hitting large metropolitan areas (which are overwhelmingly anti-Trump) and doing less damage in Trump Country, where there's already a tendency to downplay the risk of the virus. Trump voters might simply be less squeamish about voting in November if we're still in a coronavirus crisis.

But I also believe that Trump is at serious risk of being defeated if we can do a reasonably good job of conducting an election.

If Democrats (as I'm seeing on Twitter) are obsessing over this ABC/Post poll after ignoring the Fox poll, I think it's partly because, on some level, we're accustomed to being beaten up by both Republicans and Sanders fans. Our master narrative (and theirs) is "Democrats are doomed." But we aren't.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

THE RIGHT FIGHTS THE REAL ENEMY: NOT THE CORONAVIRUS, BUT GRETCHEN WHITMER

This isn't a lead story at the websites of The New York Times, The Washington Post, or CNN, though it is getting prominent play at, um, Crain's Detroit Business:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested Friday that a growing rift with the White House is affecting shipments of medical supplies to Michigan amid exponential growth in confirmed coronavirus cases.

"When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on," Whitmer said Friday on WWJ 950AM. "What I've gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It's really concerning."

Whitmer didn't say who has told vendors to stop sending medical supplies to the state, but strongly implied the order came from President Donald Trump's administration....

During a Friday evening press conference, Trump said he's instructed Vice President Mike Pence, "don't call the woman in Michigan."

"If they don't treat you right, I don't call," Trump said of Whitmer.
Paul Campos is right:
This story is getting no real coverage ... because the American media don’t have a “the POTUS is a murdering fascist” setting. It’s not a story they can cover, because none of their normal framing devices (“two parties bicker over policy details, blame on both sides” etc.) fits this fact situation at all. So it’s like it’s not happening.
But one national news site is playing the story prominently: FoxNews.com, where it was the lead story all morning -- with Trump portrayed as the hero.



President Trump took aim at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday night, claiming in a Twitter message that the Democrat was “way in over her head” amid the coronavirus outbreak and “doesn’t have a clue.”

As of late Friday, Michigan had more than 2,200 confirmed cases of the virus, ranking fifth in the nation, and had seen at least 43 deaths. On Friday, Trump approved a disaster declaration for the state, ordering federal assistance to support state and local efforts.

“I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic,” the president wrote. “Yet your Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude! #MAGA” ...

The Twitter message followed Whitmer’s accusations Friday that medical-supply vendors were being told “not to send stuff here to Michigan” – and her insinuation that the alleged orders were coming from the Trump administration.
"Insinuation" -- that's not a loaded word, is it?

Apart from Trump, other right-wingers are attacking Governor Whitmer for allegedly banning the use of chloroquinone and hydroxychloroquine in covid-19 treatment, an unproven therapy that's being touted by the president and his allies. Twitter deleted a Rudy Giuliani tweet:



RedState went further, alleging in a headline that Whitmer has banned hydoxychloroquine. The RedState story cites an op-ed in The Detroit News by Kathy Hoekstra, which accuses Michigan of Nazi-like tactics:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs literally threatened all doctors and pharmacists in the state who prescribe or dispense hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

The agency’s March 24 letter warns physicians and pharmacists of professional consequences for the prescribing of hydroxychloroquine (and chloroquine).... the letter deviates into open threats of “administrative action” against the licenses of doctors that prescribe hydroxychloroquine.
No! Please! Not the administrative action!
...Even worse, the letter indicates health care providers are “required to report” their fellow physicians who are prescribing these medications. This draconian measure carries ominous Gestapo-like overtones of neighbor reporting neighbor to “authorities.”
Here's what the letter says:
Prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine without further proof of efficacy for treating COVID-19 or with the intent to stockpile the drug may create a shortage for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or other ailments for which chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are proven treatments. Reports of this conduct will be evaluated and may be further investigated for administrative action. Prescribing any kind of prescription must also be associated with medical documentation showing proof of the medical necessity and medical condition for which the patient is being treated. Again, these are drugs that have not been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19.
(There are now shortages of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in some parts of the world because it's being prescribes for covid-19.)
Michigan pharmacists may see an increased volume of prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and should take special care to evaluate the prescriptions’ legitimacy. Pursuant to Michigan Administrative Code, R 338.490(2), a pharmacist shall not fill a prescription if the pharmacist believes the prescription will be used for other than legitimate medical purposes or if the prescription could cause harm to a patient.

It is also important to be mindful that licensed health professionals are required to report inappropriate prescribing practices. LARA appreciates all licensed health professionals for their service and cooperation in assuring compliance in acting responsibly while continuing to provide the best possible care for Michigan’s citizens during this unprecedented and very challenging time.
This isn't a ban. It's a warning, with only a mild threat of enforcement. The latter paragraphs refer to existing law, not some new Gestapo regime.

Hoekstra, you may be interested to know, is the development communications officer (whatever that is) at the Pacific Legal Foundation, a right-wing, pro-corporate organization originally funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, who later became a prominent Bill Clinton antagonist, and subsequently funded by at least one Koch-related group. Hoekstra has also written for Townhall and The American Spectator and was the media relations director for Herman Cain's 2012 presidential campaign. She's an operative. Read her op-ed accordingly.

Friday, March 27, 2020

TRUMP'S POLL NUMBERS ARE IMPROVING, BUT... (updated)

President Trump's job approval numbers continue to improve, to the point where the gap between his approval and disapproval is only 2 points:



And yet, in a Fox News poll...
Former Vice President Joe Biden bests President Donald Trump by nine points in a 2020 ballot test....

In a head-to-head presidential matchup, Biden is up by 49-40 percent over Trump, a lead that is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. Another 11 percent would vote for someone else or are undecided. Last month, Biden was ahead by 49-41 percent....

In the matchup, Biden is the choice among liberals, non-whites, moderates, suburban women, and voters ages 65 and over.
Wait, it gets better.
... the former vice president has an eight-point edge in battleground states (48-40 percent).

However, Biden’s advantage grows to 25 points, 57-32 percent, in close counties (where Hillary Clinton and Trump were within 10 points in 2016).
In the same Fox poll, Trump has one of his best job approval ratings.



But Biden is kicking his butt.



This is the best news I've read all day.

*****

UPDATE: Trump's job approval numbers are up, but not by very much, as The Washington Post's Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent note:
The new Post/ABC News poll shows Trump’s approval rating in net-positive territory for the first time, at 48 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval. Gallup puts him at 49 percent. The RealClearPolitics average puts him at 47 percent, while the FiveThirtyEight average pegs him at 46 percent....

In such extraordinary circumstances, the president’s approval would normally be shooting up....

When Lyndon B. Johnson took over after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, his approval rating was 78 percent, even though he hadn’t done anything yet. Likewise, Gerald Ford had a 71 percent approval upon taking office during Watergate; it didn’t fall until he pardoned Richard M. Nixon. (We’re using Gallup’s historical data.)

Before Iran took 52 Americans hostages, Jimmy Carter’s approval was at 32 percent. It quickly shot up more than 20 points after the hostages were taken, and it stayed there for a couple months....

And after 9/11, George W. Bush’s approval soared to 90 percent.
Trump's best poll, Gallup, has him at 49% approval, 45% disapproval. By contrast, in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson's approval/disapproval shot up from 43%/46% to 55%/35% in less than a week, according to YouGov.




This was before Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus (the test results were announced yesterday).

So the citizens of the U.K. are rallying around their loutish, formerly restriction-averse, bizarre-haired head of state more than ours are.

HOW DO YOU KEEP WORKING DURING A CRISIS WHEN YOU ALSO HAVE TO DO CHILDCARE?

So it appears that White House staffers have the same problem many parents do now: They have to do their work while constantly being distracted by the incessant complaints of a demanding child.
Believing the worst is yet to come, some top advisers to President Trump are struggling to steer him away from Easter as an arbitrary deadline for much of the nation to reopen.

... The operating assumption among administration officials involved in the coronavirus planning is that the April 12 mark — 16 days away — will not, in fact, turn out to be the starting gun for businesses across America to reopen.

But Trump is far from chastened. "I don’t think he feels in any way that his messaging was off," a top official said. "He feels more convinced than ever that America needs to get back to work."
As with many young children, Trump often can't really be reasoned with. You have to rely on bargaining.
One person close to Trump expressed concern about market reaction the day after Easter, if the president allows that to be set up too rigidly as Open Day.

If the reality is worse than Trump hopes — and large numbers of Americans have to stay isolated — some close to Trump think a false Easter expectation could send markets downward.
Maureen Dowd calls the stock market Trump's binky. Baby Trump wants to go out with his binky on Easter, but apparently they've convinced him that it might be damaged as a result. Whew! That worked! He's not crying anymore.

But he still wants some parts of the country reopened soon, and that discussion won't wait.
Weaning Trump from setting a date for millions of Americans to get back to work is a delicate, ongoing process.

... Despite the blowback for imposing an unrealistic and artificial deadline on a virus that knows no deadline, Trump remains impatient.

On Monday, he faces his first self-imposed deadline — the end of the White House's "15 days to slow the spread."
Some senior administration officials said they wish they could ignore it, because they need more time for societal isolation to catch up to the virus.

But the White House’s decision to relentlessly brand that 15-day period means Trump will have to address it somehow.

Behind the scenes: Advisers have tried to encourage Trump to offer hope without dates or deadlines — to get him away from offering dates and to find new ways to be optimistic without giving the public a false expectation that an end to the crisis is near.
This must be exhausting. I suspect that most of the people working on this crisis within the administration are at least trying to do the right thing -- but how do you your job when a whiny little brat keeps demanding that you pay attention to his demands?

I TOLD YOU THE RIGHT WAS GOING TO START BLAMING NEW YORK

There it is: the start of the new right-wing narrative that will blame the entire U.S. coronavirus crisis on New York.
Tucker Carlson focused the top of his Thursday show on New York City's battle with the coronavirus, ripping city officials for increasing the "risk" for citizens and not taking the outbreak seriously in its early stages.

"As this deadly virus emerged from eastern China and began to spread inexorably across the globe, clearly headed here, leaders in New York not only failed to shield their citizens from it, they took affirmative and aggressive steps to increase the risk to their population," Carlson said.

"Why would they do that? Well, because they were worried far more about being called racist than protecting human lives. That's not an overstatement. That's not hyperbole."

Carlson criticized New York City health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, among others, who dismissed the incoming threat of the coronavirus in February.

"The risk to New Yorkers from coronavirus is low and ... our preparedness as a city is very high," Barbot said at a Feb. 2 press conference supporting the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival. "There is no reason not to take the subway, not to take a bus, not to go out to your favorite restaurant and certainly not to miss the parade next Sunday [Feb. 9]."

"Future generations are gonna watch that video with their jaws open in disbelief," Carlson said in response to Barbot. "How could someone charged with protecting public health so recklessly endanger it?"
Let me remind you what you what the president of the United States said about the coronavirus on February 2 according to the president of the United States said about the cornavirus on February 2:
Feb. 2: Trump tells Fox News host Sean Hannity, "We pretty much shut it down coming in from China."
Three days earlier, Trump told a crowd at a rally:
"We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. ... we think it’s going to have a very good ending for it."
Future generations are gonna watch those videos with their jaws open in disbelief. How could someone charged with protecting public health so recklessly endanger it?

Am I saying Trump deserves all the blame for the U.S. crisis? No. There's blame to go around. In retrospect, what New York City officials did doesn't seem wise -- although nearly all of America was still gathering in crowds at that time. (Trump's last mass rally was on March 2.)

There was also this on Carlson's show last night:



TUCKER CARLSON: Something we just heard from a pretty high-level source, generally reliable, that the federal government, this person said, has delivered about two thousand ventilators, breathing machines, to New York City for this crisis, but all or most of them, this person said, remain in warehouses and not in hospitals. Have you heard anything like this?

RICK LEVENTHAL, REPORTER: Well, I heard from your producer, Tucker, and we're looking into that now. It would be truly unfortunate because these hospitals say they need that equipment and more....
Notice Carlson's careful use of "this person said" -- twice -- as he drops this stink bomb, credited to one anonymous source who quite possibly doesn't exist. Carlson knows this is garbage, but it serves his ideological ends.

I told you on Wednesday that they'll be calling this "the New York virus" soon. Carlson is laying the groundwork. Expect more of this.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

SO IT BEGINS

Dinesh D'Souza on Fox News last night:



And also remember that a few weeks ago, Jennifer Rubin, the Never Trumper, and others were all putting out the idea that there was so much misinformation being put out by the president, and by Fox News, that we would see spreads of the coronavirus in the red states — Republicans would die. But in fact, interestingly, these spreads are mainly in the blue states.
A couple of weeks ago, the president was insisting that the crisis was a containable flare-up of a relatively harmless virus, and Fox News was echoing that sentiment. No one expected Trump and Fox to do a 180.

And yet for anyone who thought about it for a few minutes, it should have been obvious that the virus would reach America's international-facing metropolitan areas first, and that densely packed urban areas would provide an ideal environment for the virus's spread. This doesn't mean that the virus won't get to Red America, especially if Trump Country is hellbent on ending personal restrictions on April 12, as Trump demands.

But you're going to hear a lot of what D'Souza is saying here from the right. Increasingly, conservatives will be telling us that this is a virus of liberal (or socialist) cities, and that if it spread to the "real America," it's only because we spread it. They'll say they could have contained the virus (under the loving care of the fatherly leader, Donald Trump), but that we let it run amok because we're incompetent, evil, or both.

D'Souza continues:
And what I find kind of interesting is you have these blue state governors and mayors, and they are trying — they're criticizing Trump, but they also have the outstretched hand. They want Trump to intervene. The same guy that they've been calling a racist and a fascist for four years, and now they want the racist and the fascist to step in and help them out. You'd think that if a racist and fascist was the guy they needed, they'd prefer to go it alone.
I don't recall any red states turning down disaster relief from the previous president, even though every Republican in America regarded him as a commie Kenyan jihadist America-hater, largely on the basis of Dinesh D'Souza's books and movies. Nor have blue-state residents stopped paying taxes to Trump's federal government, regardless of what we think of him. New York State, in particular, pays much more to the federal government than it gets in return. When this is over, secession is going to be looking better and better.

RON DeSANTIS SHUTS THE DOOR AND LEAVES THE WINDOW OPEN

Some states are banning or restricting incoming travelers. Florida is doing it selectively.
Florida has a message for New Yorkers: Please don’t visit. And if you do, prepare to sit in quarantine or risk jail. Hawaii, which also thrives on tourism, is asking visitors to stay away for a month. And Alaska is requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering from, as Alaskans put it, Outside....

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, signed an executive order requiring a 14-day quarantine of anyone who had arrived from the New York region over the past three weeks. All new arrivals will have to report names of people they have contact with to public health officials so they can trace those people as well, he said.

“Maybe they haven’t even shown symptoms, but they could be infected,” Mr. DeSantis said. “After all the hard work, we don’t want it to now get seeded as people flee the hot zone.”
I understand the restrictions in Alaska and Hawaii more than I understand what DeSantis is doing in Florida. Restrict New Yorkers? Sure -- New York is a hot zone. But I'm looking at the arrivals board at Miami International Airport and I see that a red-eye from Seattle arrived just before five this morning. Washington State was the first covid-19 hot spot in America; King County, which includes Seattle and Tacoma, has now had 1,359 positive test results and 100 deaths.

I see two flights coming in to Miami this morning from New Orleans. That city is a hot spot now -- 1,795 cases, 65 deaths.

Atlanta's hospitals are at capacity because of the coronavirus, but I see six flights coming in from there.

Apparently, if you arrive in Miami from any of these cities, the governor of Florida assumes you're fine. There are no restrictions on your movement.

New York is bad, but it's not the only danger zone. What DeSantis is doing is a half measure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WHAT DO YOU THINK, DAD-TO-BE?

As you may know, The Federalist has published a recommendation by a doctor from Portland, Oregon, named Douglas A. Perednia that young people be taken to parties where they can be deliberately infected with the covid-19 coronavirus.
It is time to think outside the box and seriously consider... controlled voluntary infection (CVI).

CVI involves allowing people at low risk for severe complications to deliberately contract COVID-19 in a socially and medically responsible way so they become immune to the disease. People who are immune cannot pass on the disease to others.

If CVI were to become widespread and successful, it could be a powerful tool for both suppressing the Wuhan coronavirus and saving the economy. It could reduce the danger of passing COVID-19 to vulnerable populations, drastically reduce the amount of social isolation needed, reopen businesses, and even help achieve the level of “herd immunity” needed to stop the spread of the disease within the population....

Before vaccinations for childhood diseases such as chickenpox and German measles were developed, families would hold chickenpox or German measles “parties” when one child contracted the disease. All the neighborhood children were invited to play with the infected child with the understanding that they would probably become infected as a result. The entire community would get the disease out of the way in one little local epidemic.

... According to a recently published study in the journal Pediatrics of 2,143 pediatric patients from China with confirmed or suspected cases of the Wuhan virus, one child died (0.05 percent). This is an order of magnitude lower than estimated mortality for the population as a whole.
How would this work? Let Dr. Perednia explain:
* Otherwise-healthy young people who have not yet contracted COVID-19 can enroll in the CVI program at a designated “safe infection” site.

* After being medically screened, participants are actively exposed to the mildest form of COVID-19 virus available.
This is a virus we knew nothing about four months ago, but somehow we're supposed to isolate "the mildest form ... available" -- as if we can know with certainty what that is -- and expose young people to it.
They are then housed under quarantine in an appropriate CVI facility. The facility could be as small as one’s home or as large as a hotel or cruise ship. (Given the recent example of spring break 2020 for college students in Florida, one could imagine CVI even becoming a social activity.)

* All participants are then regularly screened for the presence of an active COVID-19 infection and medically monitored during their illness. Patients who experience serious medical complications would be evacuated to an acute care facility. Once a patient reliably tests negative for an active infection, he or she receives a certified clean bill of immunity (CCBI) and is allowed to re-enter the community.
Good thing we have a lot of medical personnel sitting around idle right now, desperate for something to do to stave off boredom. This will keep all those folks busy. (That was sarcasm, folks.)
* A critical component of this program is widespread testing of the general population to determine exactly who has and has not already become immune to coronavirus. Those who have previously been infected and developed immunity would also be given a certified clean bill of immunity.
Oh, there's a minor hurdle to this genius plan: It requires widespread testing. Fortunately, we've totally nailed the testing thing in this country, now that America is great again. (That was sarcasm again.)

Dr. Perednia, by the way, does not practice any form of medicine relevant to this discussion -- he's a dermatologist. What's more, Vice's Laura Wagner reports that he's not licensed to practice in the state of Oregon.

The publisher of The Federalist is Ben Domenech, who, of course, is married to Meghan McCain. McCain recently made this announcement:



So Domenech is about to be a dad. Since he published this grossly irresponsible article, I hope someone asks him:

When your child is born -- after your wife's self-quarantine -- would you and she take the kid to one of these parties?

If not, why not?

And if you wouldn't, why are you publishing a recommendation, by an unlicensed dermatologist, that the rest of us should consider it?