Monday, July 6, 2020

Enablers

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.

Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.

Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.

So what do the Republicans do? They shake their heads in private and keep their mouth shut, at least in public.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans fret — mostly privately, to avoid his wrath — that Trump’s fixation on racial and other cultural issues leaves their party running against the currents of change. Coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, these Republicans fear he is not only seriously impairing his reelection chances but also jeopardizing the GOP Senate majority and its strength in the House.

“The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. “The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”

Trump has all but ignored the outcry and remains convinced that following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters will carry him to victory against former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly.

To quote Digby: These are cowardly, opportunistic, Vichy collaborators. And they must never be allowed to forget what they have done.

How Was Your Weekend?

Better than Trump’s.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism…

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Mr. Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division…

[…]

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has tried to bend events to his will, often using social media to drive home his alternate version of reality and, thanks to the power of repetition and the loyal support of his base, sometimes succeeding. But the president’s attempt to drive deeper into the culture wars around a national holiday, during an intensifying health crisis that will not yield to his tactics, risked coming across as out of sync with the concerned mood of the country at a moment when his re-election campaign is struggling and unfocused.

This is from the New York Times, which heretofore has been basically a weaselly template for bothsiderism: “Sun rises in the East; some disagree.” But it’s getting to the point where even the most objective observers have to acknowledge that whatever Trump is selling isn’t being bought by the people he needs to win another term, and those who do buy it could be sick or dead by the time November comes around.

Meanwhile, the plague rampages on. Texas and Florida had exponential growth in Covid-19 infections.

At least two counties in South Texas say they have hospitals already at full capacity. This comes after officials in Texas, California and Arizona rolled back their reopening plans. In Florida, however, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was “not going back” on reopening, saying younger people were driving the spike but that they were at lesser risk than older people.

Republican Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez called the growth “extremely worrisome,” and said the growth was partially due to the early reopening of the state.

Gov. DeSantis is echoing his hero and not taking responsibility for the surge in infections.

Gov. Ron DeSantis would not take any responsibility for Florida’s skyrocketing coronavirus numbers Thursday, just hours after the state recorded its highest single day of new cases with more than 10,000.

“Well, do you give credit for Florida for having much lower fatalities per 100,000 than all the states you just praised?” DeSantis told a reporter who asked about Florida and other Southern states’ case numbers compared with the Northeast.

“We have fewer fatalities than some of those states have just in nursing homes,‘’ he said. “And we’re more populated than all of those. So we’ve worked very hard to protect the most vulnerable … and I think that the numbers bear that out.”

Florida reported a record-setting 10,109 coronavirus cases Thursday for a total of 169,106, and 67 new fatalities to bring the death toll to 3,617.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, but we had the infrastructure in place,‘’ DeSantis said. “And we’re in a much better place to be able to deal with this as a result of it.”

Yes, a lot of people predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, which is two weeks after the state virtually threw caution to the winds and opened the beaches for Memorial Day. So, yes, those are on you. Maybe you’ll choke on it, if you’re lucky.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Happy Friday

First, Friday Catblogging: Summer in the kitty.

Joe Biden is pulling ahead in a number of polls to the degree that if the election were held today, he’d win in a landslide. But the election is not being held today and in terms of politics, it is at least one geological age between now and November. But for now it’s good news.

And in the Neener, Neener File, Mayor DeBlasio of New York is flipping off Trump in graphic proportions.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has ignited a new feud with President Trump by ordering the words “Black Lives Matter” to be painted in large yellow letters on the street outside of Trump Tower.

The words are expected to be painted in the coming week on Fifth Avenue, between 56th and 57th Streets, according to the city.

“The president is a disgrace to the values we cherish in New York City,” Julia Arredondo, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said in a statement on Thursday. “He can’t run or deny the reality we are facing, and any time he wants to set foot in the place he claims is his hometown, he should be reminded Black Lives Matter.”

It’s better than fireworks.

Wear your mask.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

No Kidding

I thoroughly believe that Trump told whoever is in charge of testing for Covid-19 to slow it down so that it wouldn’t look like the numbers of cases and fatalities were spiking.  Because the more people get sick and die, the more it makes him look bad.

His press secretary said he was kidding.  Then Trump said he wasn’t, and then he said he was being sarcastic to goad the media.  Then he said something else, and at that point you just give up because it’s such pathetic bullshit.

But people are dying.  Infections are spiking in states where Trump-following governors — Texas and Florida — reopened the states too early are suddenly realizing that more people are getting sick.  It’s not the “second wave;” it’s still the first.

The loudest voice of opposition has been The Lincoln Project.  This is a group of conservative Republicans who long ago realized that Trump was leading their party to doom and have been fighting back.  They’ve produced some devastating ads; in many ways they are way ahead of the DNC.  The latest one is impressive.

Digby:

People can have different definitions of what constitutes presidential authority and we’ve been arguing about whose dissent should be respected since the beginning of the republic. But I think the vast majority of the public will find this cavalier disregard for Americans lives, obvious inability to understand even the basic logic of an epidemic, his dismissal of scientific expertise and his general flailing and ineptitude may have finally opened the eyes of some people who reflexively believed that Republicans are “the grown-ups” who are naturally more competent to lead the country.

So, I think this is the line of attack that may have the most resonance. As far as I’m concerned, he is the worst president in history by every possible measure. But apparently, many people bought the Fox News hype. This pandemic response, however, hits home and I suspect quite a few of his voters may be having second thoughts.

He is responsible for more American deaths than any president in history. That’s one record he can legitimately claim.

And that’s no joke.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Knives Out

As is the case with megalomaniacs, Trump is desperately searching for someone to blame for the skimpy turnout in Tulsa.

Donald Trump’s exhausted trudge from Marine One toward the White House after his botched rally in Tulsa, his red tie undone, a grim look on his face, a crumpled MAGA hat in his hand, is now an iconic image of his presidency. And as always with Trump, he’s already looking for someone to blame. The most obvious candidate, according to sources, is his embattled campaign manager, Brad Parscale. “Brad really shit the bed Saturday night. You have to remember, execution is 95% of presidential politics,” a Republican close to the White House told me over the weekend. Parscale committed a cascade of errors, from overhyping expected turnout to blaming the half-filled arena on protesters. Trump was so furious when he saw how thin the crowd was that he threatened to not go onstage, two sources briefed on the discussions told me. The sources said that Parscale, reading the tea leaves, is planning to step down. “He knows he can’t survive,” one source told me.

Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Parscale is safe. “Brad is the campaign manager, and he’s the one in charge,” Miller said.

But one thing is for sure: The blame game has shifted into high gear. Trump insiders told me Trump was presented with five options of where to hold his rally. “The president chose Tulsa,” a source said. Sources also told me that if Parscale is forced out, he likely won’t be the only casualty of the rally fiasco. Trump is debating revoking his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s control over the campaign, sources said. As I previously reported, Trump has been frustrated with Kushner’s oversight of the campaign in light of polling that consistently shows Trump losing to Joe Biden. Another source of friction has been campaign spending and reports Trump has gotten that Parscale is making millions of dollars. “Did Jared allow this?” Trump asked advisers recently, according to a source. (Kushner declined to comment.)

One way to measure Kushner’s diminished influence will be found in whom Trump would choose to replace Parscale. Top candidates include 2016 veterans Miller, David Bossie, and Corey Lewandowski, all of whom Kushner successfully kept on the outer fringe of Trumpworld. “We can’t allow Jared’s stupid disagreements to get in the way,” Trump recently told advisers, according to a source briefed on the conversation.

Other Trump insiders are skeptical that Lewandowski would be put in charge of such a vast operation. “Corey was great when it was just Trump and an airplane. But let’s face it, he couldn’t manage a 7-Eleven,” a person close to Trump said. “The serious operation will be run by serious people.”

And of course it’s not his fault that he’s sinking in the polls.  It’s not his message, it’s his managers, it’s the best people that he hired that turned out to be wackos and sick puppies.  It’s the bunker mentality, and the bombs are falling.

If there’s a Campaign Karma, this discombobulated campaign will crater in the same spectacular fashion that Trump’s rallies did in the opposite direction in 2016.  Then he was the insurgent, the outsider, the revolutionary attacking the capital.  Now he’s the incumbent, and the old campaign won’t work anymore.  But he can’t accept that; he’s still running against Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Expecting The Worst

Via Politico:

Everything seems to be going Democrats’ way. But many in the party just can’t get 2016 off their minds.

President Donald Trump is down or within striking distance in nearly every battleground state, his approval ratings are stubbornly low and he’s threatening to bring down the GOP Senate majority with him while helping to douse Republican chances of House takeover. Some Democrats are even beginning to feel confident about their prospects this fall.

Yet many can’t let themselves enjoy it.

“I’m not confident at all. I think the easiest way to ensure Trump’s reelection is to be overconfident. Too many Democrats are looking at national polls and finding them encouraging,” said Sen. Chris Coons, (D-Del.), a close ally of Joe Biden. “Too many Democrats assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and didn’t vote or didn’t work.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who calls herself “Debbie Downer” for repeatedly raising the alarm in Democratic circles, said she heard directly from people in her district that they plan to vote for Trump in 2020.

Everyone will roll their eyes and say, ‘that’s Debbie.’ But I was right in 2016,” Dingell said in an interview.

[…]

Yet in interviews with more than a dozen Democratic senators, including many from swing states, there’s an emerging feeling that this moment is not like four years, ago when Trump shocked the world. Trump is doing worse in the polls, has a controversial record as president and is facing a more popular opponent in Biden than he did in Clinton.

Some Democrats are even envisioning a blowout where Trump loses not just in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that won him the presidency, but in places like Iowa, Ohio, Florida and Arizona as well.

“We’re going to beat him in November, and I think we’re going to even beat him in Ohio. And Ohio will mean an Electoral College landslide,” argued Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who won reelection handily in 2018.

“People are worn out. They’re tired … people are really craving for changes and some normalcy,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who squeaked out a reelection win two years ago. “And you’re seeing that frustration in the polls. So unless they change drastically, I think there will be a big change” at the White House.

Still, it’s impossible for some Democrats to fully accept what’s been a rolling wave of good political news over the past few weeks. For one, polls are merely snapshots in time, they say, and less than five months until Election Day offers plenty of time for those snapshots to change, particularly if the economy stabilizes and coronavirus is contained.

Good. Complacency is what did them in back in 2016, and it could again.  Four years ago it seemed impossible that America would elect a sexist racist megalomaniac over a competent and experienced candidate, and even when the impossible happened, who could have imagined how dangerous he could be.  Well, now we know, and going around and saying that he is an existential threat to our country and even the world isn’t just fear-mongering; it’s as real as it gets.

So yes, the Democrats should be wary and planning everything they can to defeat not just Trump and do it to a degree that there’s no room in a reasonable mind to question the win, they need to win handily in the House, the Senate, and local races.  Winning the presidency but keeping the Senate in Republican hands would accomplish nothing.  It has to be a blowout on a scale of 1964 was for them and 1984 was for the GOP.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sunday Reading

NOTE: In the process of doing some tree-trimming, my landlord accidentally cut off my internet at home. So I am relying on the kindness of friends to post this morning. AT&T has promised to come by on Monday to repair the damage.

Whistling Dixie — Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker on Trump’s embrace of losers.

From ordering in the military to bludgeoning the media, Trump has certainly been doing a pretty good impersonation of a hack dictator. In the two weeks since Floyd’s killing ignited a profound national conversation about America’s terrible legacy of racism, the President’s contribution to this dialogue has been to consistently misrepresent what is happening as an outbreak of lawless anarchy that he is heroically cleaning up, as part of his newly rebranded “LAW & ORDER” campaign.

Mostly, though, Trump, being Trump, has tried to tweet his way through the interlocking crises. It has not worked. On Tuesday, he began the day with a post suggesting that a septuagenarian protester who had been pushed to the ground by Buffalo police and suffered a serious head injury was somehow an Antifa conspiracist who did it to make the police look bad—an absurd conspiracy theory, which had just aired on Trump’s new favorite TV channel, the One America News Network.

On Capitol Hill, a by-now-familiar dance quickly began as Republican senators desperately sought to avoid comment on another incendiary Trump tweet. This time, they contorted themselves so foolishly that they would have been better off simply saying something, anything, instead of ridiculously pretending not to have anything to say about something so reprehensible and stupid. Burgess Everett, a Politico reporter, took to showing a printed-out copy of the tweet to senators when they claimed not to be familiar with it. So did Manu Raju, of CNN, who elicited a gem from Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, when he tried to read him the tweet. “I would rather not hear it,” Johnson said, as he ducked into an elevator, which might as well be the official new motto of the Senate G.O.P. when it comes to Donald Trump.

They would rather not hear it because, of course, as a senior White House official told one reporter, the tweet speaks for itself. Res ipsa loquitur. It sure does. Trump, in all things, speaks for himself. It’s just that what he says is often so bizarre, alarming, false, and politically problematic that it is hard to process. It has been especially so in recent days, as the country has found itself in need of a leader but stuck with a loudmouth wannabe strongman.

On Wednesday, with Washington still in a furious buzz over the President’s attack on the brutalized senior citizen, Trump distracted from that distraction by deciding to tweet in favor of keeping certain U.S. military bases named for Confederate generals, in what appeared to be a spectacularly ill-timed intervention on behalf of traitorous slaveholders who lost the Civil War. Trump could not have seemed more out of step with the moment. A few hours after that tweet, with the country experiencing a rare outbreak of bipartisanship on the subject of racism, protesters toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Virginia, while Nascar announced that it was banning all displays of the Confederate flag. On Capitol Hill, on Thursday morning, even the normally quiescent Senate Republicans on the Armed Services Committee suggested that Trump had gone too far and approved, by voice vote, a proposal by the liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren that would require the U.S. military to rename all bases which currently honor Confederate officers within three years. That vote, striking as it was, was quickly overshadowed by an even more consequential rebuke of the President: Milley’s extraordinary statement repudiating his participation in Trump’s militarized photo op. Trump, for once, was silent. At least, for a few hours.

I know it is hard to remember all the crazy things that happen in the course of a week in Trump’s America, but I will try hard to remember this one: a week when I saw troops in the streets and worried about a years-long economic crisis; a week when an untamed pandemic killed up to a thousand Americans a day; a week when massive nationwide protests suggested that our dysfunctional, gridlocked political system might finally actually do something about the plague of police brutality and systemic racism. And then there was the President, who chose to spend the week refighting the Civil War—on the losing side. This, too, I will remember, and so, dear reader, should you.

Doonesbury — Mourner in Chief

Friday, June 12, 2020

Happy Friday

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — When Republicans read the platform their party is using for the 2020 campaign, they may be surprised to see that it is full of condemnations of the sitting president.

“The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk,” the platform reads. “Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.”

The warning about speech online is one of more than three dozen unflattering references to either the “current president,” “current chief executive,” “current administration,” people “currently in control” of policy, or the “current occupant” of the White House that appear in the Republican platform. Adopted at the party’s 2016 convention, it has been carried over through 2024 after the executive committee of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday chose not to adopt a new platform for 2020.

The platform censures the “current” president — who in 2016 was, of course, Barack Obama — and his administration for, among other things, imposing “a social and cultural revolution,” causing a “huge increase in the national debt” and damaging relationships with international partners.

They never heard of Find-and-Replace?  But at least they are right about the “current president.”

With all this talk about taking down the statues honoring the traitors from the 19th Century America, I think there’s one statue that we all agree should remain standing.

Monday, June 8, 2020

A Few Cracks

At long last the shit that Trump hath wrought is beginning to hit the fan.

Former military leaders kept up a barrage of criticism of President Trump on Sunday for his threat to use military force against protesters, warning the commander in chief’s actions could drive a wedge between the U.S. military and civilians.

The most withering critique came from Colin Powell in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The former secretary of state and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called Trump a chronic liar who had “drifted away” from the Constitution and become a danger to the country.

Powell said he plans to vote for Joe Biden for president and urged Americans to search their conscience and vote for the candidate who is best for the country as a whole, not only themselves.

“We’re not the country of just the president, we have a Congress, we have a Supreme Court,” said Powell, lamenting the silence from Republican members of Congress and lauding the retired military officials who have spoken out against Trump.

“But most of all we have the people of the United States, the ones who vote,” Powell said. “The ones who vote him in and the ones who vote him out. I couldn’t vote for him in 2016. I certainly cannot in any way support President Trump this year.”

And the Republican establishment is finally getting a small voice.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Sunday became the first Republican senator known to march in one of D.C.’s anti-racism demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis nearly two weeks ago.

Wearing a mask and garnering little overt notice from fellow protesters, the former presidential nominee marched alongside hundreds of evangelicals in a crowd that eventually swelled to more than 1,000 demonstrators.

Romney said in an interview that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

(And hey, who knows; he could still run in 2024…  Yes, I’m cynical enough to believe he was thinking the same thing.)

I cannot emphasize enough the simple reality that this doesn’t mean that the GOP has finally had it with Trump and they’re going to abandon him in November.  His talons are way too deep into the base that is still MAGA-sotted and believe in the conspiracy theories of Covid-19 being the brainchild of Bill Gates and that Hillary Clinton runs a pedophile mill out of a pizza joint.

The combination of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and racial unrest, plus the manipulation of the voting system piles up the anxiety factor.  Normally that would favor voting out the incumbent, but that’s under normal circumstances, and nothing’s been normal for a long, long time.  And the idea that even now, the polls showing Trump still at 41% means that even if all of the former generals and a few marginally principled Republicans are against him, the wall of ignorance and intolerance may have a few cracks, but it is still there.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Good Riddance

Via Daily Kos:

White supremacist Rep. Steve King’s 18-year career in the House came to an inglorious end on Tuesday after he lost the Republican primary to state Sen. Randy Feenstra in western Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. With 95% of precincts reporting (78,000 votes), Feenstra led by a wide 46-36.

King’s downfall came over a year after House GOP leaders voted to strip him of his committee assignments after he defended white supremacy in an instantly notorious interview with the New York Times. King, who had been a weak fundraiser for years, immediately rendered himself toxic to influential donors, allowing Feenstra to outspend him decisively. Third-party groups, including the deep-pocketed U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also spent heavily on ads portraying King as ineffective and unable to help Donald Trump without his committee posts.

Feenstra will take on 2018 Democratic nominee J. D. Scholten, who faced no primary opposition. Scholten held King to a surprisingly close 50-47 win last cycle and has once again raised large sums for his campaign, but he’ll have a very difficult time winning in a district that Donald Trump carried 61-35 against a Republican who lacks King’s considerable baggage. Daily Kos Elections rates this contest as Likely Republican, though we’ll be re-evaluating that now that King is out of the picture.

King’s defeat marks the end of the line for a man who was, until very recently, an extremely influential power player in Iowa. King was first elected in 2002 to Iowa’s most conservative House seat, which was numbered the 5th District at the time, and he soon emerged as one of the most sought-after endorsements in the state’s quadrennial presidential caucuses.

My estimation is that the seat will remain Republican, but at least it won’t be held by this virulent and ignorant racist.  Small steps.

Labels

I see that the Trump campaign routinely refers to their opponents as “Socialist Democrats.”

So I assume that we can refer to Trump supporters as “Fascist Republicans.”

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Sowing The Whirlwind

We haven’t heard from Charlie Pierce in a while.

First, in Oregon, a devotee of the QAnon lunacy won the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley. From the Washington Post.

Jo Rae Perkins bested three other candidates to win the GOP nomination…In a video posted to her Twitter feed Tuesday night, Perkins declared that she supports the conspiracy theory, which revolves around “Q,” an anonymous Internet user claiming to be a government agent with top security clearance. “Where we go one, we go all,” Perkins said in the video, reciting a QAnon slogan. “I stand with President Trump. I stand with Q and the team. Thank you Anons, and thank you patriots. And together, we can save our republic.”

It did not start with Trump and it will not depart with him. The Republican Party is a bag of monsters.

Then there is the Q-Poll, the national numbers from Quinnipiac University. We ordinarily don’t post on polls here at the shebeen. They are the ultimate shiny object. This one, though, is worth noting, because it is a snapshot of a campaign that really isn’t happening, and the numbers therein are not at all good for the incumbent.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump 50 – 39 percent in a head-to-head matchup in the election for president, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll of registered voters released today. That’s up from the 49 – 41 percent lead Biden held in an April 8th national poll, but the change is within the margin of error. Democrats go to Biden 88 – 5 percent, Republicans go to Trump 87 – 8 percent, and independents go to Biden 47 – 36 percent.

“What does the 11 point Biden lead tell us? At best for Team Trump, it says voter confidence in President Trump is shaky. At worst for them, as coronavirus cases rise, Trump’s judgement is questioned – and November looms,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

Bear in mind that Biden did little more during this polling period than issue the occasional message from his man cave in Delaware. Meanwhile, the president* has been all over television doing his own unique brand of presidentin’. Dark and rancid smears. Intimations of plots and scheming from The Deep State. Ginning up anger and fighting with his own government. However, this poll clearly indicates that the country’s actual pessimism is far outpacing the president*’s ability to create it to his advantage.

More than two months into the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., President Trump’s job approval rating ticks lower. 42 percent of voters approve of the job President Trump is doing, while 53 percent disapprove. That’s compared to a 45 – 51 percent job approval rating he received in April, his highest ever. On the president’s response to the coronavirus, 41 percent of voters approve and 56 percent disapprove. That is down from a 46 – 51 percent approval rating in April. On the president’s handling of the economy, 50 percent approve while 47 percent disapprove, compared to a 51 – 44 percent approval in April. On his handling of healthcare, although underwater, the president receives his highest approval rating ever, a negative 41 – 54 percent. In April he received a negative 39 – 54 percent approval.

Pessimism all around. 81 percent of respondents are afraid that the country will collapse into an economic depression. Almost half of them say the pandemic has affected their mental health. About 87 percent of them believe that a “second wave” of the pandemic is at least somewhat likely to occur. The country doesn’t need this guy’s help to feel bad about itself any more. He talked about American carnage in his inaugural address. He had no idea what that really looks like.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Priorities — An Ongoing Series Part Infinity

The pandemic rages on, and what is Trump tweeting about?  An editing error at NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Trump spent much of his Sunday holiday sharing more than 100 tweets and retweets, bouncing between wishing everyone a “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY,” and railing against targets like former president Barack Obama, “60 Minutes” and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

But perhaps no one received as much ire from the president and his supporters on Mother’s Day than “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. In a late-night tweet Sunday, Trump said Todd should be fired by NBC News for using an abbreviated quote from Attorney General William P. Barr to criticize the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The show acknowledged the “error,” and said that the tail end of Barr’s quote, which was edited out of the clip shown on “Meet the Press,” included important context.

Meanwhile, people in the West Wing are testing positive for the virus, meaning that at some point someone there is going to be hospitalized or worse.

The only reason that Trump wants to wipe out coronavirus is because it’s interfering with his chances for reelection.  As long as you remember that, you’ll know what’s going on in the White House.  As far as he’s concerned, he’ll let the people die.  Let the Republican Party go down in flames — as well it should for their enabling and excusing his behavior and pathology — and let the economy implode to a point that makes the Great Depression send him a thank-you note for rehabilitating its reputation.  All the rest is just noise.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Blame The Dog

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s advisers presented him with the results of internal polling last week that showed him falling behind former vice president Joe Biden in key swing states in the presidential race, part of an effort by aides to curtail Trump’s freewheeling daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations.

The president spoke with campaign manager Brad Parscale, White House senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, among other officials, in calls and meetings last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the three people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions.

One call on Wednesday — with Parscale patched in from his home in Florida and McDaniel from hers in Michigan — was designed to present grim polling data to the president to encourage him to reduce the frequency of coronavirus briefings or to stop taking questions, after seeing his numbers slip for several weeks, officials said.

Trump resisted the pleas, saying people “love” the briefings and think he is “fighting for them,” a person with knowledge of the Wednesday conversation said. Trump has long been distrustful of polling data presented to him when the numbers are negative, aides say.

[…]

Aides described Trump as in a particularly foul mood last week because of the polling data and news coverage of his administration’s response to the pandemic, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. In one call, he berated Parscale over the polling data, the two people said.

At one point in that call, Trump said he might sue Parscale, though one of the people with knowledge of the comments said he made the remark in jest. News of Trump’s eruption at Parscale was first reported Wednesday by CNN.

Trump told Parscale that he did not believe the polling that had been presented to him, even though it came from the campaign and the RNC.

“I’m not losing to Joe Biden,” Trump said at one point, both of these people said, adding that the president used profanities throughout the call.

Of course he’s going to blame someone else when he’s losing, and like those who fart and blame the dog, it’s never his fault.  And — Dog willing — when he loses in November, it’s not going to be his fault.  He will say the votes against him were fraudulent, illegals voted in huge numbers, the Democrats cheated, the Republican establishment and Deep State had it in for him from the beginning, and the Chinese were for Biden all along.  He will never concede, he will challenge the vote in court, he will say the Electoral College is a scam, and on that clear beautiful morning of January 20, 2021, the Secret Service will have to bodily remove him from the third floor of the White House residence where he will be surrounded by the discarded bags and wrappers from Burger King and Cheetos.

But yes, at this point, you’re losing to Joe Biden, and you don’t even have a dog to blame.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I’m Still Not Voting For You

From the Washington Post:

Trump pushed to have his name printed on the economic stimulus payments the IRS is sending to tens of millions of Americans. Now he’s written a gushing letter to almost 90 million people, with his jagged signature in thick black pen.

The one-page letter, with one side printed in English and the other in Spanish, was required by the coronavirus economic package approved by Congress as a record of a deposit from the Treasury Department. The law does not say who should mail the letter.

If the money went to the wrong person, came in the wrong amount or didn’t arrive at all — all scenarios that have befallen taxpayers in recent weeks — the government is giving them proof of its intent.

But in classic Trump style, the letters now arriving in mailboxes across the country carry no shortage of brio, underscoring the president’s penchant for personalizing his administration’s response to the pandemic.

“My Fellow American,” begins the letter, on a copy of White House letterhead, arriving in an envelope from the Treasury Department and the IRS from Austin. “Our great country is experiencing an unprecedented public health and economic challenge as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic. Our top priority is your health and safety.”

“As we wage total war on this invisible enemy,” Trump continues, “we are also working around the clock to protect hardworking Americans like you from the consequences of the economic shutdown.”

Yeah, I got the money, But I’m still not gonna vote for him or listen to his sniveling minions, including the flaming sphincter Marc A. Thiessen, who claims, apparently with a straight face, that the lack of preparedness for the pandemic was the fault of Joe Biden and the Obama administration.  That’s because Joe Biden and the Obama administration has still been in office for the last three years.

I also got the letter with that crayon-scrawled signature from Trump.  I put it to good use: I used it to scoop up a dead cockroach and toss it in the trash.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Shutting Him Up

The Republican establishment is getting nervous about their chances in November.

Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

The scale of the G.O.P.’s challenge has crystallized in the last week. With 26 million Americans now having filed for unemployment benefits, Mr. Trump’s standing in states that he carried in 2016 looks increasingly wobbly: New surveys show him trailing significantly in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he is even narrowly behind in must-win Florida.

Democrats raised substantially more money than Republicans did in the first quarter in the most pivotal congressional races, according to recent campaign finance reports. And while Mr. Trump is well ahead in money compared with the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democratic donors are only beginning to focus on the general election, and several super PACs plan to spend heavily on behalf of him and the party.

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Trump’s single best advantage as an incumbent — his access to the bully pulpit — has effectively become a platform for self-sabotage.

Put aside the fact that his medical advice — sarcastic or not — shows a stunning callousness toward human life. What is most important to Trump and his minions isn’t that people are getting sick and the body count is over 50,000; it’s that his attendance at the daily briefing is damaging his chances for reelection.  That’s the most important thing?

Glen Bolger, a longtime Republican pollster, said the landscape for his party had become far grimmer compared with the pre-virus plan to run almost singularly around the country’s prosperity.

“With the economy in free-fall, Republicans face a very challenging environment and it’s a total shift from where we were a few months ago,” Mr. Bolger said. “Democrats are angry, and now we have the foundation of the campaign yanked out from underneath us.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies have often blamed external events for his most self-destructive acts, such as his repeated outbursts during the two-year investigation into his campaign’s dealings with Russia. Now, there is no such explanation — and, so far, there have been exceedingly few successful interventions regarding Mr. Trump’s behavior at the podium.

If people weren’t actually trying his quackery and loading up E.R.’s with people who shot up Lysol, it would be in the best interests of the country if Trump just kept talking every afternoon and showing with an incompetent and unmanageable disaster he and his administration is.  Joe Biden and the Democrats could literally phone in the campaign.

We are told every four years that the coming election is the most important one in our lifetime.  Usually that’s just campaign rhetoric and it’s usually voiced by the underdog in an attempt to get the voters to listen to them.  In this case, though, this election could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday Reading

Preexisting Condition — David Remnick comments in The New Yorker.

When has New York known a grimmer week? The sirens are unceasing. Funeral parlors are overwhelmed. Refrigerator trailers are now in service as morgues, and can be found parked outside hospitals all over town. We’re told that there are “glimmers of hope,” that hospital admissions are slowing, that the curve is flattening. Yet the misery is far from over. “The bad news isn’t just bad,” New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said at one of his briefings last week. “The bad news is actually terrible.”

Across the country, the coronavirus continues to ravage the confined and the vulnerable, from inmates of the Cook County jail, in Chicago, to workers at the Tyson Foods poultry plant in Camilla, Georgia. Data from a variety of reliable sources show that African-Americans, who suffer disproportionately from poverty, inadequate housing, limited access to good health care, and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, are dying from COVID-19 at horrific rates.

The pandemic is an event in the natural history of our species, but it is also a political episode. Its trajectory is shaped by policy measures specific to particular governments. The fact that the United States is experiencing tremendous losses—that it has far more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world—relates to a number of collective risk factors and preëxisting conditions. The most notable one is to be found in the Oval Office.

“This is not the apocalypse,” President Barack Obama assured his shell-shocked staff members the morning after Donald Trump’s election. When, the next day, Obama received Trump at the White House and tried to relay information about a range of issues—the threat from North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal, immigration, health care—he got nowhere. Trump wanted to talk about himself and the size of his campaign rallies. Obama spoke about the value of having at his side such people as his homeland-security adviser, Lisa Monaco, citing her insistence on bringing him unvarnished, unwelcome news about everything from terrorism to the Ebola crisis. In the White House, she was known as Dr. Doom. Trump replied that maybe he should hire a Dr. Doom; he was joking. From the beginning, he practiced social distancing from anyone who told him what he didn’t want to hear.

And here we are, playing a tragic game of catch-up against a virus that has killed thousands and left millions unemployed. At Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4th, he pledged, “My Administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.” Three weeks later, Kayleigh McEnany, a loud promoter of birtherism and of Trump talking points during the 2016 campaign, cheerfully told the Fox Business audience, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful Presidency of President Obama?” Now McEnany is the President’s press secretary.

The coronavirus has inflicted a level of pain that is deep and global. And yet many nations, from South Korea to Germany, have done far better at responding to it than the United States has. The reasons for the American failing include a lack of preparation, delayed mobilization, insufficient testing, and a reluctance to halt travel. The Administration, from its start, has waged war on science and expertise and on what Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon called “the administrative state.” The results are all around us. Trump has made sure that a great nation is peculiarly vulnerable to a foreseeable public-health calamity.

If the death rate turns out to be less than the initial forecasts––and, please, let it be so––it will be thanks to the discipline of the public and the heroics of first responders, not the foresight or the leadership of the President. The knowledge that we are led so ineptly and with such brazen self-regard is humiliating to millions of American citizens, if not to their leader. Trump gives himself “a ten” for his performance and berates any reporter who dares to challenge that premise. “You should say, ‘Congratulations! Great job!’ ” he told one, “instead of being so horrid in the way you ask the question!”

A nation facing a common threat normally pulls together, but Trump’s reflex is always to divide; he has invoked a multiplying litany of enemies. He directs his fire at the Obama Administration, at the World Health Organization, and at governors from Albany to Sacramento, with their constant pleas for ventilators, test kits, and face masks. The Democrats are to blame for everything. Early in the year, as the pandemic grew, they “diverted” the attention of the federal government, because “every day was all about impeachment,” as Trump’s unfailing loyalist Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, put it.

At a time of medical peril and economic devastation, the President heads to the White House briefing room and frames the terms of his reëlection campaign. It is a campaign of cynicism and authoritarian impulses. To begin with, he has made it clear that he does not approve of efforts to make voting easier in November. Why should he? He takes a dim view of early voting, voting by mail, and same-day registration. Such reforms, he complains, would produce “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Trump has not had the sort of bounce in the polls usually seen by Presidents during a crisis, but this hardly insures an end to his reign. Senator Bernie Sanders, who did so much to transform the debate over health care, the environment, and education policy, in both the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, has dropped out of the race, and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has been either absent or woefully inarticulate in recent weeks. The former Vice-President cannot run on the idea of personal decency alone. He needs to provide a vivid, comprehensive plan of renewal equal to the moment. He needs to emphasize hard truths, one being that the laws of science, of the physical world, must be recognized. This pandemic is, in a sense, a rehearsal for what awaits us if we continue to ignore the demands of climate change. Biden would signal a seriousness of intent and offer a convincing alternative if he were to name very soon not only a Vice-Presidential running mate but a set of advisers and Cabinet officers who have shown themselves capable of policy rigor, executive competence, and compassion for the very communities that are suffering most from neglect and mistreatment.

Meanwhile, at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, a painful reckoning begins. New York has long prided itself on being a sort of cultural and political city-state, able to hold its own against any vagaries emanating from the White House. This is plainly not the case. We are in this together: that is the phrase, the balm, of the moment. But it is more than a cliché. It should be the spirit and the foundation of our national politics, starting with the election in November.

Doonesbury — Cutting back.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Thanks, Bernie

From the Washington Post:

Bernie Sanders waved goodbye at the camera Tuesday night as he concluded an online discussion about the coronavirus. “Thank you very much, and we will see you all soon,” he said.

That casual farewell did not reflect the candidate’s intense deliberations off camera. By Wednesday morning, he would jump on a conference call with his staff to share words far more blunt: His five-year campaign to win the White House was over.

In a later video address, he explained the conclusion he was not able to escape in the weeks he had spent grappling about his political future.

“As I see the crisis gripping the nation,” a slightly hoarse Sanders told supporters in a live stream from his home in Burlington, Vt., “I cannot in good conscience continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.”

As I noted elsewhere on social media, nothing said as much about Bernie’s campaign as how he gracefully exited.

Bernie Sanders was not on my list for the Democratic nomination, and I never thought he could win the general election against Trump.  But not all presidential candidates win by simply winning the nomination or the election.  Quite often they make a difference by bringing up important issues that need to be addressed by the eventual nominee.  This was the case with the senator from Vermont, the gadfly to some, the prophet to others, who has been talking about universal health care, affordable college, workers’ rights, and other issues with dogged determination for decades.  And those issues have become part of the foundation of the Democratic platform.  Maybe not with the stridency of Sen. Sanders and his supporters, but they are no longer dismissed as wild-eyed left-wing socialist radicalism but practical ideas for discussion, consideration, and action.

It’s always been that way.  There are a lot of government policies that we now take for granted — Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, gay rights, fair immigration, unions, votes for women — that started out as radical and impossible ideas.  Necessity and wisdom prevailed, and we now think of them as American as baseball and open-carry permits.

The legacy of Bernie Sanders will be that he brought his issues to the fore and energized a lot of voters.  But he also showed that he could be a realist, and he did so yesterday, knowing that the longer he hung on, he was making the race less about the issues and defeating Trump.

Thank you, Sen. Sanders.  Now let’s go out there and win this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Big Bucks

From the Washington Post:

Americans could get a check for $1,000 or more in the coming weeks, as political leaders coalesce around a dramatic plan to try to prevent a worse recession and protect people from going bankrupt.

The idea took off Monday when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called for every American adult to receive a $1,000 check “immediately” to help tide people over until other government aid can arrive. By Tuesday, there was bipartisan support for the idea, including from President Trump. The White House even suggested the amount could be over $1,000, an acknowledgment of how big the economic crisis is becoming.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, adding that Trump wants checks to go out “in the next two weeks.”

Great idea.  I’m all for it, especially since I work hourly and only get paid when I show up, and my job is shutting down for at least two weeks, if not more.  And even if I was on contract like I was before I retired, I’d still be in favor of it because that’s what government is supposed to do: support the people it works for.  After all, those are our tax dollars.

What’s ironic is that this plan and the rest of it — bailing out the airlines and other industries hit hard by the pandemic and shut-down — is socialism with a big red capital S.  This is what happens in places like Sweden and Denmark when catastrophe hits and the people are in need.  And it’s what the preamble of the United States Constitution promised We The People.

Adding to the irony is that when Republicans, especially those from the heartland who are so proud of how they are so independent and don’t need the guvamint coming in with all their pointy-headed liberal ideas about sharing the wealth and all that commie pinko nonsense, are the first hogs to the trough when it comes to farm subsidies and giving out money to farmers hit hard by the tariffs against the Chinese or the Russians, even if they are imposed by their guy in the White House.  And now you have whooping bipartisan support to give out free money to just about everyone whether they need it or not.  But it’s an emergency, isn’t it?  Yes.  But then again, for a lot of people who work three jobs and can’t afford health insurance, even Obamacare, every day life is an emergency, and one check for $1,000 during a global pandemic isn’t going to pay the rent in July.

It’s hard not to be cynical and wonder out loud if this isn’t a rather naked ploy to get Trump back in the good graces of the electorate.  That’s how he’s run his business and his life: he thinks he can throw money at it — or at least say he will — and that will solve the problem, at least in his way of thinking.  Oh, I do believe it’s a good idea, and when the check arrives, I’ll take it and deposit it.  But that doesn’t mean I will vote for him.