Tuesday, March 31, 2020


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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?


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


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.


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


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?


I think this is sensible:
White House officials expressed growing alarm on Tuesday about the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, advising people who have passed through or left the city to place themselves in a 14-day quarantine....

About 60 percent of the new cases in the country were in the New York City metropolitan area....

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said they were very concerned about people from New York City spreading the virus.

“We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggest people have left the city,” Dr. Birx said. “We can have a huge impact if we unite together.”
All of which might engender empathy in a normal human being. Not our president, of course.
[New York governor Andrew] Cuomo said early Tuesday that a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) delivery of 400 ventilators to the country’s hardest-hit state was insufficient and that the state needed 30,000. He also had some choice words: “You want a pat on the back for sending 400 ventilators? What are we going to do with 400 ventilators when we need 30,000?” He also more gently pleaded with Trump to begin using the Defense Production Act. “I don’t, for the life of me, understand the reluctance to use the federal Defense Production Act," he said. Cuomo didn’t specifically refer to Trump in either case, though.

The former complaint seemed to get some results, with Vice President Pence saying at a Fox News virtual town hall that afternoon that 2,000 more were being shipped from the national stockpile to New York on Tuesday and 2,000 more would be sent on Wednesday.

But later in the town hall, Trump appeared. And he apparently had Cuomo on his mind. Early in his appearance, he referred to an allegation floating around on fringe websites that Cuomo had in 2015 turned down thousands of ventilators. There was no pandemic taking place at that point, and the source was former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey (R), who offered no apparent substantiation. The report accused Cuomo of establishing “death panels and lottery instead.”

Trump tried to hand a copy of the report to Fox News host Bill Hemmer, but Hemmer cited the need for social distancing.

“I’m not blaming him or anything else, but he shouldn’t be talking about us,” Trump said. “He’s supposed to be buying his own ventilators.”

Except Trump was blaming Cuomo....
Betsy McCaughey, of course, is a professional liar. Over the years, she's lied about the Clinton healthcare bill, lied about healthcare provisions in the 2009 Obama stimulus bill, and lied about Obamacare. It's what she does. She was a major driver of the Obamacare "death panels" lie. The source of her disinformation appears to be a state task force report on epidemic contingency planning that made no mention of an opportunity to purchase large numbers of ventilators.

But I want to talk about the larger issues here. After a brief period in which he seemed to be listening to experts and rejecting denialism, Trump has reverted to boosterist talk, and now expresses the hope that the country will be running more or less normally as of Easter Sunday, April 12. Experts think this would be a disaster. And, of course, it's not just Trump -- much of the Republican Party suddenly pivoted, with time-honored GOP message discipline, to a posture of "we can't let a few deaths slow the economy." They've all learned to say that continuing the lockdown will "kill" the country, even though these same people think this is the greatest country in the history of the world (how can a temporary crisis kill a great country?), and what will bring about the end of the economic catastrophe is flattening the infection curve so the medical system can handle new infections better, until there are better treatments, and eventually a vaccine.

Josh Marshall has suggested where all this is leading:

In America, this is still largely a crisis in metropolitan areas. It will reach everywhere, but it's worst in the most densely packed city in America, and it's bad in other metro areas where there's a great deal of incoming and outgoing travel. (It's no surprise that, after Mardi Gras, the situation in New Orleans is dire.)

Trump Nation doesn't travel. Trump Nation doesn't live in cities. The same Republican Party that cynically talked about "the Chinese virus" will soon start talking about "the New York virus" or "the Cuomo virus."

As the virus gradually reaches red America, the right will link its spread to "socialism," immigration, "diverse" populations, and, probably, liberal attitudes on LGBT issues. (It's easy to imagine a Republican member of Congress railing against the coronavirus on Fox News while a clip of a crowded gay pride parade plays on screen.)

The president is a moral monster -- but he is matched in his evil by Republican officeholders and members of the right-wing commentariat who, even in the face of a once-in-a-century national emergency, continue to pursue their life's work of dividing the country by demonizing Democrats and liberals.
Many [on the right] see in the mass shutdowns and shelter-in-place policies a plot to push the country to the left.

[Glenn] Beck, for example, suggested that Democrats were trying to “jam down the Green New Deal because we’re at home panicked.” Heather Mac Donald, a conservative thinker and Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, sees the restrictions as “a warm-up for their wish-list of sweeping economic interventions.”

R.R. Reno, editor of the conservative religious journal “First Things,” recently described an “unspoken agreement” among “leaders, public health officials, and media personalities” who “conspire to heighten the atmosphere of crisis in order to get us to comply with their radical measures.” He wrote that “sentimental humanists” are behind the closures, noting that “Satan prefers sentimental humanists” to do his handiwork.
Occasionally over the years I've wondered whether the right would let up on this 24/7 smear campaign if a meteor were about to destroy Earth. I now have my answer: Something nearly as awful as that meteor is here, and the right still wants to sow hate.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Oh look, here's Sean Hannity on Fox News last night touting a chloroquinone drug cocktail as a covid-19 miracle cure while interviewing the vice president of the United States last night.

And here's a Fox & Friends segment also touting the virtues of chloroquinone.

And yet Ben Smith of The New York Times told us yesterday that while Fox has been irresponsible at times, Suzanne Scott, the CEO of Fox News, at least has this sort of thing under control.
Ms. Scott has been furiously, belatedly, trying to get hold of the programming, insisting that Fox & Friends — the show on which Jerry Falwell Jr. suggested that the North Koreans were to blame for the virus — now always have a doctor involved in the show.
You see any doctors in that Fox & Friends clip? How about the Hannity segment? (The problem clearly isn't limited to Fox & Friends.)

Journalists, when someone at Fox says, "Yes, we've had some problems, but we've got them under control," don't get fished in. During this crisis especially, Fox programming continues to be very, very dangerous.


AP and Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman tell us that President Trump is frustrated by his inability to make all the bad coronavirus stuff magically go away.

From the AP story:
... as the coronavirus crisis threatens his presidency, and upends his campaign for reelection, Trump is rapidly losing patience with the medical professionals who have made the case day after day that the only way to prevent a catastrophic loss of life is to essentially shut down the country — to minimize transmission and “flatten the curve” so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with critical patients.

The president also has been furious that his efforts to halt the harrowing drop in the stock market have so far proven ineffective. He has been calling friends and economists at all hours and berated aides and reporters who try to persuade him to recognize the severity of the outbreak.

Beyond the crisis, he has been agitated that he can’t run the campaign he wants against Democrat Joe Biden, and he has used daily, hour-long briefings as near proxies for his campaign rallies, guaranteed to attract attention and to maintain the backing of his fervent political case.
In Sherman's telling, Trump sees the crisis as even more dire for the one person he cares about -- himself.
As the death toll from the coronavirus accelerates across the country—by Monday there have been more than 400 domestic fatalities—Donald Trump is grasping for a strategy before the crisis destroys his presidency....

[A] former West Wing official told me: “Trump is like an 11-year-old boy waiting for the fairy godmother to bring him a magic pill.”
I wish the crisis were destroying Trump's presidency. I wish we were finally at the moment when the public has abandoned Trump and Republican lawmakers feel free to cut him loose.

But just the opposite is happening.

It's not showing up in every survey, but the most recent Emerson poll has Trump in positive territory, at 46% job approval, 45% disapproval. YouGov and Monmouth have him at 46%/48%. A Hill/HarrisX poll says that 61% of Americans think Trump is taking sufficiently strong measures to respond to the crisis.


In the same way that Trump doesn't understand how virus transmission progresses, he doesn't understand how public opinion operates in a crisis. What he's doing instinctually -- hogging the spotlight, declaring himself a "war president" -- is inspiring partisans and naive swing voters to rally around him. But he thinks he needs to solve everything right away, so he's looking for a quick fix -- the magic cure for the virus, the magic restorative for the economy.

Americans will assume Daddy is doing the right thing even as they're suffering if he seems take-charge, thoughtful, and sincere. On all of these counts -- alas -- Trump is doing a convincing job of faking it, or at least he's convincing a large sector of the population.

Trump could ride this crisis to victory in November, even if the virus continues to kill and the economy continues to suffer. But instead, he'll demand that citizens stop social distancing -- which will probably happen in many locales, thus increasing the death toll -- and he'll promote unproven treatments in defiance of scientists. (An Arizona man just died after ingesting chloroquine, a drug Trump has seized on as a miracle cure. The man obtained it in a form used to fight parasites in fish.)

Trump thinks he has to be winning to be winning. Regrettably, he doesn't. He could just ride these news conferences to reelection, but he's determined to do more, and doing more will get people killed.

Monday, March 23, 2020


You should read this New York Times story for a sense of how the GOP's cynical China-bashing strategy is putting Asian-Americans at risk:
Yuanyuan Zhu was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater....

Attacks have ... gotten physical.

In the San Fernando Valley in California, a 16-year old Asian-American boy was attacked in school by bullies who accused him of having the coronavirus. He was sent to the emergency room to see whether he had suffered a concussion.

In New York City a woman wearing a mask was kicked and punched in a Manhattan subway station, and a man in Queens was followed to a bus stop, shouted at and then hit over the head in front of his 10-year-old son.
It's appalling, if not surprising.

But there are other infuriating details in the story that don't involve bigotry.

Among the interviewees are Tony Du, a Maryland epidemiologist, and Edward Chew, a doctor who works in Manhattan. We're told:
Dr. Chew has been using his free time to buy protective gear, like goggles and face shields, for his staff, in case his hospital runs out. On Wednesday night at a Home Depot, ... his cart [was] filled with face shields, masks and Tyvek suits....

Mr. Du is trying to remain hopeful. He spends his weekends training to become a volunteer with Maryland’s emergency medical workers. He is part of a group of Chinese-American scientists who organized a GoFundMe account to raise money for protective gear for hospital workers in the area. In three days, they raised more than $55,000, nearly all in small donations.
At that Home Depot, Dr. Chew was harassed by fellow shoppers, who followed him out to the parking lot. Mr. Du is fearful and is buying an AR-15.

But beyond that, look at what they're doing. The doctor is paying out of his own pocket to obtain critically needed supplies for his own hospital. It's bad enough that in the richest country in the world we make teachers buy their own classroom supplies. But front-line health care workers, too? In the worst virus hot spot in the country?

And Tony Du and his fellow scientists are obtaining protective gear via GoFundMe -- just the way many critically ill people pay for health care in normal times, in, I repeat, the richest country in the world.

What's wrong with us? Why are we like this?


After allowing on-air personalities to mislead viewers for weeks about the dangers of covid-19, top executives at Fox News are now focusing their attention on throwing one another under the bus, as we learn from Ben Smith at The New York Times.
The chief executive of Fox News, Suzanne Scott, reacted swiftly to the threat of the coronavirus in late February: She ordered the bright, open new offices disinfected, installed hand sanitizer stations around the office and boldly canceled the company’s major ad sales event.

But her influence doesn’t extend to the most important part of Fox News: its programming in prime time.

There, for two crucial weeks in late February and early March, powerful Fox hosts talked about the “real” story of the coronavirus: It was a Democratic- and media-led plot against President Donald J. Trump. Hosts and guests, speaking to Fox’s predominately elderly audience, repeatedly played down the threat of what would soon become a deadly pandemic.

The person who could have stopped the flow of misinformation was Ms. Scott’s boss, Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation. But he wasn’t paying much attention. The 48-year-old heir to his family’s media fortune was focused instead on buying a streaming company called Tubi for $440 million, a person who has spoken to him said. The acquisition would drive “long-term growth,” he proudly announced in a news release on March 17.
Do we believe this version of events? It seems clear to me that there isn't just one person who could have altered the tone of the programming. Lachlan Murdoch is the corporate CEO -- yes, he could have done it. But Scott is the CEO of Fox News -- why isn't she also to blame?

Or this woman?
Network executives are blaming Mr. Trump, their own powerful hosts or Meade Cooper, the executive vice president who theoretically runs prime time programming, people familiar with their conversations said.
Or Rupert Murdoch, who could have weighed in and would have been taken seriously within the company? We're told he did weigh in, though it's not clear whether that's an ass-covering lie:
A person who spoke to Rupert Murdoch says that the 89-year-old chairman reached out to Mr. Hannity to tell him to take the virus “seriously.” But other executives said they had no knowledge of the call, and Mr. Hannity said in a statement that “this is absolutely false and never happened.”
Suzanne Scott doesn't get the blame because, apparently, her job responsibilities, at least as they relate to prime-time programming, are actually handled by the president of the United States, according to Smith.
She was the first woman to run the company.... And she was a safe insider whom the Murdochs liked, even if she lacked a powerful profile inside and outside Fox.

The job, at that point, didn’t matter all that much. Mr. Trump had given the network’s prime-time hosts, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and others, unusual access and political relevance — not to mention huge ratings. The hosts, in turn, were far more responsive to him than to their nominal bosses, providing a platform for the president and his supporters to air their grievances about the rest of the media.

Ms. Scott, in turn, could focus on cleaning up a toxic workplace, managing the less-watched daytime programming and taking credit for the ratings.
I don't dispute the assertion that Lachlan Murdoch should have intervened.
People close to Lachlan Murdoch describe him as a laid-back executive who doesn’t spend his days watching Fox and is sometimes surprised to learn of a controversy it has generated....

By January, Lachlan Murdoch knew the virus was coming. He’d been getting regular updates from the family’s political allies and journalists in his father’s native Australia, an Australian News Corporation staff member told me. The Fox host he’s closest to, Mr. Carlson, had been a rare voice on the network urging Mr. Trump to act more urgently. Even Mr. Hannity had hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, early on his show and warned of the risks....

When Lachlan Murdoch started to hear complaints about the coronavirus coverage on Fox, a person who has spoken to him said, he mistook it for the usual partisan noise.

“Everyone saw it as part of the normal rough and tumble for all things Trump — everyone but Fox goes after him, Fox defends him,” this person said.
I blame all of them. In a better moral universe, they'd all resign in disgrace. (In a better moral universe, Fox News wouldn't exist, of course.)

This should be a national scandal: Fox may be the most influential news outlet in America, and it spread disinformation that will lead to a higher covid-19 death toll overall.

Smith understands this -- he quotes Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Public Health Institute, who says that, yes, people will die because of the way Fox initially reported this.

Nevertheless, the story comes off as corporate gossip.

And it won't matter: Fox's ratings were high when it was selling denialism and I'm sure they're still high now that Fox has switched over to "The virus can kill you but Trump will save you."

I don't care which suit did what as Fox spewed this nonsense. Everyone who had the opportunity to intercede and failed to do so -- or refused to do so -- is to blame.

Sunday, March 22, 2020


We worry about Russian efforts to sow confusion, stir up Democratic disunity, and promote President Trump as the election approaches. But Trump and the Republican Party don't need to rely on Russians. Rupert Murdoch's media outlets are more than capable of doing that all by themselves.

Here's the lead story at FoxNews.com right now:

Have Democrats found an alternative to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination?

Some seem to think so: The hashtag #PresidentCuomo -- referring to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was trending on social media Saturday as the party’s voters continued to mull who should take on President Trump in November.

Just a day earlier, the hashtag #WhereIsJoe was trending as some wondered why Biden's national profile seemed to shrink amid the crisis -- a situation Biden said he planned to address next week....

“President Cuomo is really raising the bar for leadership [right now], and I’m here for it. #PresidentCuomo#CoronavirusPandemic,” one Twitter user wrote....

“Proud to have Gov Cuomo not only leading NY but also the country. #PresidentCuomo.” another wrote. “We’re already tested more people than any city ...”
And at the New York Post, there's this:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily televised press briefings on the coronavirus have him looking presidential, according to some social media fans.

“Proud to have Gov Cuomo not only leading NY but also the country. #PresidentCuomo,”@RastaRusty tweeted. “We’re[sic] already tested more people than any city ...”

“President Cuomo is really raising the bar for leadership [right now], and I’m here for it. #PresidentCuomo#CoronavirusPandemic,” @j_m_storm wrote.
(Yes, the story quotes the same two tweets.)

The tweets seem to be from legitimate users, not bots. But this isn't really a national phenomenon. Trendogate found #PresidentCuomo trending in only four locales, Indianapolis, Houston, Honolulu, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, all of them at approximately 2:00 this morning Eastern time. This isn't a nationally trending hashtag. It's not even trending in Cuomo's home state.

But the story makes Biden look weaker than Trump, so it's out there. Thanks, Rupert. I'm sure Vladimir Putin admires your tradecraft.

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Commentators such as Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post and James Fallows of The Atlantic believe that TV networks should stop broadcasting President Trump's daily coronavirus press briefings. I agree with the criticisms: that the briefings are full of falsehoods and exaggerations, and that Trump is using them as campaign rallies in which he boasts about his own greatness and attacks his usual villains.

I'd add that the media could simply stop sending reporters to these briefings as well. Let Trump walk out to a near-empty press room. Why not? If reporters are just being used as foils, what's the news value?

But after four and a half years of Trump the candidate and Trump the president, James Fallows still doesn't understand him. If he did, he would never have written this:
Also, as a practical matter, if the briefings were no longer covered live, Trump would lose interest in attending himself. Then the scientists could come back on stage—and eventually they could be covered live again.
Can you seriously imagine Trump allowing scientists to do live briefings if he can't get the networks to broadcast his briefings? This is Donald Trump we're talking about. He's never going to allow someone else to be a star in his administration instead of himself. If TV news outlets reject him, he'll shut down the briefings altogether -- he won't allow Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx to be bigger stars than himself. I'm not sure he'll even allow them to make other public appearances or speak to any reporters if he's not given the opportunity to be the #1 coronavirus TV star.

The briefings we have now are bad, but Fallows is naive if he believes we could be having good briefings instead. Not with Trump as president.


It's been obvious for a while that we've been failed by the federal government, and by the president of the United States in particular, but now The Washington Post has proof.
U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting.

... despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month....

Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration....

“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” this official said. “The system was blinking red.”
That's an invocation -- I assume a conscious one -- of what George Tenet told the 9/11 Commission.
George Tenet, the former CIA director, told the 9/11 Commission that, given the stream of intelligence warnings about potential terrorist attacks against the United States before 9/11, “the system was blinking red.” Those words reflected just how widespread the concern was across the U.S. government that something bad was unfolding—in that case, a terrorist attack.
The Post story has details -- for instance, Trump interrupting a coronavirus briefing to ask when flavored vaping products would be on sale again. It's hard to imagine a president doing a worse job. It's hard to imagine we wouldn't be in at least somewhat better shape if Hillary Clinton were president now.

Clinton would have been on top of this. Clinton would have listened to the scientists. Clinton would have been focused on transmission rates, test kits, and the production of necessary equipment.

Yet I wonder how much she'd have been hamstrung by Republicans in Congress.

I assume she'd be dealing with a GOP House as well as Senate now, just like the ones her husband and Barack Obama had to deal with after their first two years in office. I imagine she'd be subject to an ongoing series of investigations. (I don't think Republicans would be trying to impeach her -- they'd be threatening it, but it's clear that they've believed since Bill Clinton's presidency that impeachment rallies voters around its target. Otherwise they would have found an excuse to impeach Obama.)

In January, when President Hillary tried to sound the alarm, congressional Republicans and Fox News would have accused her of using a remote virus to distract from the serious allegations against her. If she wanted to spend government money to speed the production of test kits, Senator Rand Paul and others would have held up the cash until a spending offset was found. As the crisis worsened, they'd accuse her of using scare tactics if she accurately described the danger or called for measures to slow the spread of the virus. She'd be described as a wannabe dictator if she ordered drastic measures that curbed Americans' freedom of movement, or if she used her powers under the Defense Production Act to compel manufacturers to produce test kits and protective equipment. And a massive aid package that helped mitigate the economic effects of the crisis for ordinary citizens would be a tough sell -- it would be "big government" and deficit spending, which congressional Republicans don't mind when one of their own is in the White House, but they rail against it if the president is a Democrat.

Republican members of Congress might not be living in quite as much of a fact-free universe as they are now, because this wouldn't have been the Trump era -- although Trump would have been out there, shooting spitballs from his Twitter feed, and for all we know he might be on his way to becoming the Republican presidential nominee again. Without Trump as president, Republicans in Congress might have been willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis a few weeks before it was undeniable. (Governors, including GOP governors, would have been telling them it was no joke.) But they would have fought President Clinton as much as they felt they could without seeming responsible for the crisis. They would have blamed her for alarmism and excessive reliance on government and then they would have blamed her for the severity of the crisis, even though it wouldn't have been quite as bad as it is now.

President Hillary Clinton would have done a much better job at dealing with this crisis -- but she would have been fighting Republicans every step of the way.