Sunday, July 19, 2020


Everything the president does infuriates me, but this is all of his monstrousness rolled up into one evil act:
The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in the upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Saturday....

One person involved in the talks said Senate Republicans were seeking to allocate $25 billion for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, but that certain administration officials want to zero out the testing and tracing money entirely. Some White House officials believe they have already approved billions of dollars in assistance for testing and that some of that money remains unspent.
Just about everything that's appalling about Trump is on display here. The narcissism. The indifference in the face of ordinary people's suffering. The belief that everyone operates in bad faith, the way he does. The lengths he'll go and the harm he'll do to others to avoid being shamed -- another battle in a war he's been fighting with his long-dead father for seventy years. The inability to master concepts that would be comprehensible to a reasonably intelligent eight grader.

Why do we want to test and trace? Because readily available tests with rapid return of results make it possible to identify and isolate not only sick people but those they might have infected, thus limiting the spread of the virus and ultimately reducing transmission to a low level. If you do it right, you can obtian Trump's Holy Grail, a reopened economy.

I see no evidence that Trump even understands how all this is supposed to work. He doesn't merely oppose testing and tracing -- he doesn't understand why advocates want to do it.

Or, more accurately: Narcissist that he is, he believes that testing advocates' real motive is to harm him. He wasn't kidding when he said at his Tulsa rally, “Testing is a double-edged sword. When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’” In the interview with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, Trump repeated the "sniffles" line he used in Tulsa:
President Trump downplayed the danger of the coronavirus, claiming in an interview that aired Sunday that many cases are simply people who "have the sniffles."

"Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day," Trump said in his interview with Fox News Sunday. "They have the sniffles, and we put it down as a test." He added that many of those sick "are going to get better very quickly."
Here's a story from yesterday:
In the heated debate over reopening schools, one burning question has been whether and how efficiently children can spread the virus to others.

A large new study from South Korea offers an answer: Children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus at least as well as adults do.
Even, presumably, if their only symptom is "the sniffles."

Trump can't bear the thought that there might be some validity to critics' claims that bad things are happening on his watch, so he persistently argues that mild cases shouldn't be counted as cases, and that the vast majority of cases are trivial, when we know that the death rate from this virus is far higher than that of the flu, and we also know that many survivors have significant long-term health damage.

Don't forget, I guess it's like 99.7%, people are going to get better, and in many cases they're going to get better very quickly. We go out and we look, and then on the news -- look, if you go back to the news, all of your, even your wonderful competitors, you'll see "cases are up." Well, "cases are up" -- many of those cases shouldn't even be cases.

I keep thinking about impeachment -- not the impeachment Trump experienced, but the one he deserves right now.

The fact that the Framers of the Constitution didn't intend impeachment to be intended merely for criminal acts got lost in the gnarled, confusing narrative of Ukrainegate. House Democrats did a noble thing when they impeached Trump, but they could have done a more effective job of communicating to the public why it was appropriate.

At the time, there was some discussion of what the Framers and other figures of America's past regarded as impeachable. That discussion seems especially relevant now.
In his excellent study “Indispensable Remedy: The Broad Scope of the Constitution’s Impeachment Power,” the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy traces the constitutional arguments that led to the final formulation.

... on what grounds impeachment would be merited[?] A number of formulations were proposed and rejected. “Malpractice or neglect of duty.” “Mal- and corrupt administration.” “Treason, bribery, or corruption.” “Neglect of duty, malversation, or corruption.” Eventually, the 11-delegate committee charged with the section offered the narrower “Treason, or bribery.”

As the delegates considered this, Mason argued that “attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be treason,” and proposed adding “maladministration.” James Madison replied that maladministration was too “vague,” leading Mason to withdraw the suggestion, and replace it with “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The suggestion passed, 8 votes to 3.

But was high crimes and misdemeanors truly less vague than maladministration? As Healy notes, in the Commentaries on the Laws of England, a legal reference book that Madison said was “in every man’s hand” at the Convention, the first example given of a “high misdemeanor” was, yes, maladministration.

... the bigger lesson is that “misdemeanors” did not mean then what it means now. In 1828, Webster’s defined it as “ill behavior; evil conduct; fault; mismanagement.” It wasn’t a light crime, but an abusive act....

The first federal official ever removed from office under the impeachment clause was Judge John Pickering, in 1803. Pickering was an alcoholic and likely suffered from early-stage dementia. He would rant and rave from the bench. The official charges held that Pickering exhibited “loose morals and intemperate habits” and presided over court “in a state of total intoxication,” neither of which sounds like a high crime or misdemeanor to modern ears. He was convicted on all counts and removed from office.

In his 1833 Commentaries, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story concluded that impeachment is “of a political character” and can be triggered by “gross neglect, or usurpation, or habitual disregard of the public interests, in the discharge of the duties of political office.”
Justice Story wasn't one of the Framers, but he was much closer to their era than to ours. He said impeachment is warranted when an officeholder is guilty of “gross neglect ... or habitual disregard of the public interests.”

That's Trump on the coronavirus.

What would happen if, right now, members of the House drew up articles of impeachment based on Trump's extreme maladinistration in response to the pandemic -- his “gross neglect ... or habitual disregard of the public interests”? What if they held off on a final floor vote until we knew the results of the election -- an election in which he still might eke out an Electoral College win?

I think it would be received poorly, because the House is run by Democrats. Democrats are scolded when they don't play nice. I think it might motivate Trump voters (although they seem maximally motivated, even if their numbers are declining).

But I also know that a Republican House might be threatening to do precisely this to President Hillary Clinton right now, possibly in response to a far lower coronavirus death toll (or half a dozen other alleged scandals) -- and if that were the case, it's likely that the political world would regard a possible impeachment as a serious cloud hanging over Clinton's head.

I'm not recommending this course of action. It would be bad politics. But Trump deserves impeachment again. If he does manage another win -- an outcome I don't rule out -- Democrats should consider impeaching him on these grounds, especially if -- another outcome I don't rule out -- they take both houses of Congress even as he wins the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

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