Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Panic


In my last post, I neglected to address an additional point in the Trump-Biden debate in which Joe Biden failed to exploit an infamous remark made by an incumbent President who has been off his game for a few months now.

The missed opportunity came when Trump claimed (at 51:31) "they say the stock market will boom if I'm elected. If he's elected, the stock market will crash" and Biden responded

The idea that the stock market is booming is his only measure of what's happening. Where I come from, in Scranton and Claymont, the people don't live off of the stock market. Just in the last three, three years during this crisis, the billionaires in this country made, according to the Wall Street, $700 billion more dollars. $700 billion more dollars. Because that's his only measure. What happens to the ordinary people out there? What happens to them?



The reference by ol' Middle Class Joe to Scranton, PA. and Claymont, DE. works. However, if that's Trump's primary measure, as Biden recognizes, the latter missed an opportunity when he maintained the President "knew how dangerous it was but he didn't want to tell us, didn't want to tell us because he didn't want us to panic."

Trump did not tell Bob Woodward that he didn't want his subjects to panic.  He told the journalist in February "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

The President did not then contend he did not want people to panic, nor even that he did not want to create panic. He did not want to create a panic.

Donald Trump's entire political strategy is centered on scaring people- on creating panic. Among his golden oldies are:  “In Joe Biden’s America, rioters, looters and criminal aliens have more rights than law-abiding citizens, and that’s true;”  “The entire Democratic field supports deadly sanctuary cities, which release dangerous criminals to terrorize your communities right here in North Carolina, believe it or not;”  and “Every major Democrat running for president has pledged to eliminate gas-powered automobiles and destroy the U.S. auto industry forever.”

Yet, when Donald Trump, who has touted stock market increases throughout his presidency, is caught obsessed with creating a panic, virtually everyone everywhere assumes he was referring to inciting hysteria.

Maybe he was, given that he often speaks on a sixth grade level. But maybe he wasn't. And if I'm an election opponent who is emphasizing that Donald Trump is for people over profits and the stock market over life, I hope I'd argue that when Donald Trump decided to withhold the truth from Americans, he was protecting the stock market and not people from Scranton, Steuben, or Saginaw.

 


Friday, October 23, 2020

Not The Same Donald Trump


Last night, while Donald Trump and Joe Biden were duking it out, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 222-21. The latter paralleled the former event, with the Eagles in the role of Biden and the Giants in the role of Trump.

There were the Eagles, winners of the Super Bowl only three years ago, now, through a combination of bad college drafts and injuries, fighting hard to defeat putrid rivals (Giants, Washington, and Dallas) in their division. And last night, even though they were once much stronger, they came out ahead, barely, against an (inferior) opponent.

As did Joseph Robinette Biden. Something has happened to Donald Trump the past four years, in part getting older, and in greater part because he is now an incumbent, a role he plays poorly. In 2016, he was the challenger, all vim and vigor, spewing fire and brimstone everywhere, threatening to drain the swamp which he now has reinforced, strengthened, and provides over.  

Trump has not been able effectively to denounce American "carnage," as he did four years ago, now that he himself is President. It's even harder when, as in the case of Trump, he barely tries, instead talking about the pandemic in an inevitably failed effort to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

That's not to conclude that Donald Trump won't still be President Trump in a year, given widespread and varied GOP voter suppression strategies.  But like the New York Giants on Thursday night, he had a chance at a win and tossed it away.

"Pre-existing conditions will always stay," Donald Trump claimed, to which Biden went into a little detail about his health care plan.  If John McCain had not cast the deciding vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act 39 months ago, there would be no protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions.  If the state Attorneys General succeed in their lawsuit, joined by Donald Trump's personal Justice Department, in the federal court to overturn the ACA, insurance companies likely will end coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. That cannot be emphasized enough by a Democratic candidate but Biden took a pass.

Asked by Trump whether he would "close down the oil industry," Biden replied "by the way, I have a transition from the old industry, yes." That's a bold claim, especially because even the Green New Deal does not contemplate closing down or ending the oil industry in the next four years. Trump tried, but feebly, to make an issue out of this extraordinary admission.


 


Trump brought up the issue of crime- but, momentarily forgetting that he was not running for the Democratic nomination for President, flogged the former vice-president for being insufficiently dedicated to criminal justice reform. Biden remarked "no one should be going to jail because they have a drug problem. They should be going to rehabilitation, not to jail." Trump responded with "why didn't he do this four years ago?"

Maybe because if someone has drug problem but insists on selling huge amounts of narcotics to someone else with a drug problem, he should go to jail.  Or maybe because that person with a drug problem was apprehended while burglarizing a home or assaulting a woman. If Trump wanted to sell that without seeming overly punitive, he could have added "and this is a problem which is harming black families, poor families, especially, and those are the people most opposed to defunding the police, which you support."

Biden has explicitly opposed defunding the police. However, the President could have linked his opponent with a favorite target, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- and when did the truth ever deter Donald Trump, anyway? It certainly did not stop Trump from claiming, hilariously, "I am the least racist person in this room." Nobody is buying it.


 


Consider if a criminal has a drug problem while insisting on selling huge amounts of narcotics to someone else with a drug problem, he should go to jail.  Or maybe because the person with a drug problem was apprehended while burglarizing a home or assaulting a woman. If Trump wanted to sell that without seeming overly punitive, he could have added "and this is a problem which is harming black families, poor families, especially, and those are the people most opposed to defunding the police, which you support."

Biden has explicitly opposed defunding the police. However, the President could have linked his opponent with a favorite target, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez- and when did the truth ever deter Donald Trump, anyway? It certainly did not stop Trump from claiming, hilariously, "I am the least racist person in this room." Nobody is buying it.

Biden made a few tactically wise points, such as his riff about the empty chair at the kitchen table or the individual missing the spouse because the latter has died of Covid-19.  It could have been made a little more eloquently, but the slight awkwardness may have made it seemed even more genuine.

Like the Eagles, Joe Biden had a home field advantage Thursday night. The Eagles were playing in Philadelphia and Joe Biden played on his home field, by the generosity of his opponent. Notwithstanding the 220,000+ deaths from a coronavirus he befriended, Donald Trump could have steered the conversation toward crime and chaos in large American cities, whose voters are overwhelmingly arrayed against him, anyway. Instead, he tried to pose as America's great criminal justice reformer, which, given his rhetoric of the past five years, he wouldn't be able to pull off even if accurate.

Instead, the incumbent dwelt excessively with the pandemic, which he has clearly worsened, and which could emerge only as a plus for an opponent who is nothing if not empathetic.  On Thursday evening, the NY Giants faced a fairly weak opponent, and so did Trump. But Donald Trump, like the football team from the New York area, is not what he once was.



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Nice Job


By the time most people read this post, the second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden will have presumably begun and ended and the following will be old news. Still, as someone who has criticized Barack Obama hundreds of times- even for speeches he has given, which is close to illegal- credit has to be given where credit is due.

The address the former President delivered on Wednesday in Philadelphia was not well-focused and flitted from topic to topic. He missed a few topics. It would have been impressive for the ex-President to explain the threat threat President Trump poses to international stability with his frequent attacks on allies and campaign to undermine the Transatlantic Alliance. The danger Donald Trump poses to the air, oceans, consumers, workers and others with his obsession with deregulating industry is a critical issue Obama avoided.

But few people are interested in the former, the latter never has much interested Obama, and there is a democracy to be sustained, which the ex-President fully recognizes. Further, he invoked the word "Trump" eight times and in the past, both he and Joe Biden have done so sparingly. And he did get off a great line when he stated

We know that he continues to do business with China because he’s got a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible? How is that possible? A secret Chinese bank account. Listen, can you imagine if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection. You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would’ve called me Beijing Barry.



There is no certainty this speech and any others Barack Obama deliver will help the Biden-Harris campaign.  During the last presidential campaign, polls showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and on election eve, Mr. and Mrs. Obama were joined by Bruce Springsteen for a massive rally in Philadelphia. The next day, Clinton narrowly lost in the critical state.

Overall, the speech was impressive and history usually does not repeat itself. If it does this time, we're in for a lot of trouble in the USA, and not only for the next four years.

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Better If Only Campaign Rhetoric


On a positive note, Joe Biden may be invoking this only as a campaign theme to assure voters that he cares about Americans, unlike his opponent. Conceivably, though, he really believes that, as he said in Ohio on October 12

We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. I know that sounds bizarre in light of where we are... There will be no blue states or red states with me- it's one America... I'll work as hard for those who voted against me as those who voted for me.



In a recent Yahoo/YouGov poll approximately half of Republicans- before being asked about QAnon agreed that "top Democrats" are involved in sex-trafficking rings and that the President is "working to dismantle sex trafficking rings."

But it's not only rank-and-file Republicans who believe in dangerous, far-right conspiracies. New York magazine reports "There will be 24 QAnon candidates on the federal ballot in November — 22 of them Republicans and two independents." Some of them will win.

In October of 2016 then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy boasted "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought."

Merrick Garland was nominated by President Obama in March 2016 election but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, banking on the possibility of a Republican winning the presidential race eight months hence, would not consider the nomination. Amy Coney Barrett was selected by President Trump two months before a presidential election, and McConnell is seeing to it that she breezes through to approval, with few or no GOP defections.

And now Joe Biden himself is being targeted, dragging his son through the muck and mire with an unsubstantiated charge because, well, that's how Republicans win elections. A secret bank account held by the President in the third most powerful nation on earth? Not a problem, if the President is a Republican.

Biden should know better.  As Michael Grunwald explained in a 2012 book about the period following the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, Joe

Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden says.

The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.

As of December of 2017, 51% of Republicans believed Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Rumor has it that the nomination (and election) of one GOP presidential candidate was fueled by charges that Obama was born abroad and might be a Muslim.

With all that, we've learned in recent days that Biden has drawn up a list of Republicans whom he's considering appointing to cabinet positions.

It's possible that Joe Biden realizes that with or without Republicans in top positions in his Administration, and with or without appeals to bipartisanship before or after the election, his presidency will be marred- nay, characterized- by attacks from Republicans and a commitment from the GOP  to bring his presidency down. (That is the real "on Day One," we often hear of.) 

Hopefully, he does and the appeals to a bipartisanship without principle is merely a campaign strategy. But if he does not realize that, he is astonishingly naive and prospects for a successful presidency are minimal at best.




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Team Player, Absolutely


It's helpful to put down your pro-Fauci flag (blue for Democrats, who support him) or anti-Fauci flag (red representing "Republican" or Soviet-era Russia, in which Vladimir Putin flourished). Once that is done, it becomes clear that this is a head fake by the President.

Sunday's 60 Minutes included a revealing interview of the infectious disease expert by a doctor on assignment to 60 Minutes. One segment inadvertently threw much light on the claim Fauci "sometimes (is) not a team player." From the CBS News website:

Earlier this month, the Trump campaign released a television ad. It features what appears to be a glowing remark from Dr. Fauci on President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci in campaign ad: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: Stunning.

Fauci says his words were taken out of context. But this week the ad continued to run in key battleground states.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate. And here I am, they're sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous. I was referring to something entirely different. I was referring to the grueling work of the task force that, "God, we were knocking ourselves out seven days a week. I don't think we could have possibly have done any more than that."

Dr. Jon LaPook: Did the steam start to come out of your ears?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: No, it did, quite frankly. I got really ticked off.

Dr. Fauci has become the most visible doctor in America, yet he says his ability to communicate with the public is not always under his control.

Dr. Jon LaPook: During this pandemic, has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes. I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.



The day after Fauci asserted that he would not endorse a presidential candidate, the President slammed him as someone who has "been here for 500 years" and

"People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots — these people, these people that have gotten it wrong," Trump said. "Fauci’s a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years. He called every one of them wrong. And he’s like this wonderful guy, a wonderful sage telling us how" to respond to the pandemic.

"If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths," Trump continued, adding seconds later, "If we listened to him, we’d have 700-800,000 deaths right now."

Donald Trump, despite strategically erring by emphasizing in this campaign Covid-19 rather than street violence, is generally tactically savvy.  "Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him," the President says and insults him by tweet(s).  Fauci is in the federal government, de facto reassurance to independent-minded voters that the Administration is on the right path to ending the pandemic.

In July, Trump had told Sean Hannity that Fauci "is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes." And a White House official listed the scientist's comments from months earlier with the statement “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things.”

The next day, Dan Scavino, White House social media director, deputy chief of staff for communications, and author of many of the President's tweets, posted on Facebook a cartoon ridiculing Fauci with public health warnings such as “Indefinite lockdown!”, “Schools stay closed this fall!” and “Shut up and obey!”  The eyes poked again, with little response.

Now Trump has ramped up the pressure for the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and coronavirus task force member to keep his criticism to a minimum. The President's campaign releases an ad taking out of context a comment made by Fauci. The latter responds in the manner of "you mustn't do that, or else."  And the ad rolls on.

Then Trump implies Fauci is an "idiot" whose advice would have caused hundreds of thousands of death.  And Fauci rolls on.

The pandemic is by far the most important issue of the campaign and the motivating factor for the droves of elderly voters who have shifted from Trump 2016 to Biden 2020.  Dr. Fauci is trusted by most Americans for the expertise he possesses and concern he has demonstrated over the pandemic.

Yet, facing the most important election of our lifetimes with democracy and the rule of law on the line, Dr. Fauci boldly declares himself neutral. There will be no endorsement. There will not be a resignation accompanied by a statement that the President has not taken the pandemic seriously, listened to experts within his own government, nor taken steps necessary to protect the American people. There will be no resignation (nor dismissal) at all. Fauci, it turns out, is very much a team player, country be damned.

The President has Anthony Fauci right where he wants him. Donald Trump ought to be blamed for exploiting this respected expert for all he's worth politically while ignoring his scientific advice. But it takes two people to get it done- one to do the manipulating, the other to be willfully manipulated.

 


Monday, October 19, 2020

Obscene Definition Of Human Life


The pastor of the East Saugutuck (MI) Christian Reformed Church has resigned because

There’s a quote from Martin Luther King where he said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. That just hit me hard because I think, broadly, the white evangelical community in our country has abandoned that role.

The question of the church largely and how it’s functioned in this moment has been really disturbing. That’s been troubling enough that I need to lay it all down.

He adds

It just floors me how church-going people who read the Bible and sing the hymns can show up at a (Trump) rally and just do that deep bellow like an angry mob supporting these horrible things that come out of his heart and his mind. It just began to trouble me so much that I am a pastor in this big enterprise.

Evidently, Reverend Keith Mannes was referring less specifically to members of his own congregation than to what the media likes to portray as "individuals of faith." One of these is this guy who frequently deifies President Trump:


 

Mike Pence, who heads the Administration's response to the novel coronavirus maintains the sanctity of human life is being upheld by the President who in a February 7, 2020 call told Bob Woodward

You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.... This is deadly stuff.

 On March 19 he admitted to Woodward "I always wanted to play it down."  .So six weeks later he said "I’m not looking to tell the American people when nobody really knows what’s happening yet, ‘Oh, this is going to be so tragic.’” He continually stated that it soon would be over, discouraged testing, and ostentatiously consistently appeared without a mask in public, all the better to discourage face coverings and encourage large gatherings.

In a job well done (in his mind), over 220,000 Americans have died from the disease. Yet Mike Pence, fearful of reproductive freedom for half the population, claims Donald Trump "stands without apology for the sanctity of human life."

On January 30, the anti-abortion, pro-death president stated "We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — fiv ... We think it’s going to have a very good ending for it."

With more than eight million Americans victimized by Covid-19- , there has been for Donald Trump a very good progression of the disease. Indonesia, 82% as large as the USA, has had 13,000 deaths; closer to home, Canada has 11% as many people as the USA and has suffered slightly under 10,000 deaths, But for Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus task force, President Trump, the best friend of SARS-CoV-2, possesses "a true commitment to "the sanctity of human life."

 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Only The Beginning







In its editorial recognizing that Donald "Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history," The New York Times notes damage in an area largely ignored by Democratic politicians and the media. It notes

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

The editorial board concludes by encouraging "the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting."

In its editorial recognizing that Donald "Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history," The New York Times notes damage in an area largely ignored by Democratic politicians and the media. It notes

He campaigned as a champion of ordinary workers, but he has governed on behalf of the wealthy. He promised an increase in the federal minimum wage and fresh investment in infrastructure; he delivered a round of tax cuts that mostly benefited rich people. He has indiscriminately erased regulations, and answered the prayers of corporations by suspending enforcement of rules he could not easily erase. Under his leadership, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has stopped trying to protect consumers and the Environmental Protection Agency has stopped trying to protect the environment.

The editorial board concludes by encouraging "the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting."

If that seems overly apocalyptic, appearances are deceiving. In a rally last month outside of Pittsburgh

Trump also applauded acts of excessive violence by “big, strong” police while narrating them in detail, describing an instance in which, “they grabbed them, they grabbed them, they were grabbing them left and right.”

“Sometimes they grab one guy, ‘I’m a reporter! I’m a reporter!” Trump said gleefully, aggressively pantomiming a Guardsman throwing aside the reporter and shouting “get out of here,” adding, “they threw him aside like he was a little bag of popcorn.”

Trump said “you don’t want to do that,” but described such instances as “actually a beautiful sight” because of the “crap we’ve all had to take for so long,” mocking reporters for using the term “peaceful protest” to describe protests featuring looting and property damage.



The President was not only applauding violence against a reporter, he was laying the predicate for further, expanded state violence if he is re-elected. In a splendid combination of whine and threat, he brayed "honestly, when you watch the crap that we've all had to take so long, when you see that- you don't want to do that- but when you see it, it's actually a beautiful sight. It's a beautiful sight."

Trump has given us not only the promise; he has given us the excuse, made to order for a right-wing constituency that always thinks it's a victim- of liberals, Democrats, immigrants, freeloaders, Antifa, and the others who tell us we have to wear a mask. It may not make much sense, but it's there.

Five days after the murder of George Floyd, Vox ran an article entitled "Trump's policies have enabled police violence against black Americans." Of course, it begins with the powerless and most vulnerable.

Nonetheless, we learned of the Floyd/police encounter and the protests which followed because of a free press.  As the President understands, if reporters such as the one Trump ridiculed at his rally are attacked and arrested for practicing their craft, he'll have free rein in a second term, and eventually there may be too few of us left to "preserve, protect and defend the United States."

 

 


 


A Panic

In my last post , I neglected to address an additional point in the Trump-Biden debate in which Joe Biden failed to exploit an infamous r...