Thursday was the “official” one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it one. At the time of the declaration there were 118,000 known cases world-wide and 4,291 deaths. On that day, the NBA suspended its season, the NCAA said that there would be no fans for March Madness (the Division I championship — the next day the tournament was cancelled), and Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced that they tested positive for the Coronavirus. On that day the now ex-president addressed the nation on developments, tried to reassure the nation (“the risk is very, very low”), and banned travel from the European Union (EU) (except the United Kingdom) for 30 days, causing mass confusion due to a lack of warning or coordination with our European allies. Unfortunately, the virus was already here and spreading quickly.
On that day there were just over 1,000 known cases in the U.S. and 31 dead, mostly in Washington state. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress that day and warned that the outbreak was spreading and that “it’s going to get worse.” We were also in the midst of a stock market collapse. On 11 March alone the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped over 1,200 points, continuing a downward trend and closing about 20% lower than its peak the month before. The nation was in the midst of a crisis that few had experienced in our lifetimes. The economy tanked almost overnight following a spate of shutdowns and lock downs and no one was sure as to what precautions each of us should take to prevent the spread of the disease.
One year later, there are roughly 118 million known cases around the world and 2.6 million deaths. Unfortunately, the U.S. is number one in total known cases and deaths — as of today, we have experienced approximately 29,287,876 cases and 530,977 deaths. We lead the world in both categories. And yet, many of our fellow citizens do not take the pandemic seriously, or worse yet, some still think that it is a hoax. Like so many issues over the last four years, we Americans have managed to politicize a deadly disease that took far too many of us over the course of one year.
Just think what the reaction would be a year ago if any scientist or doctor or other health expert predicted that one year after declaring the pandemic, the U.S. would have over 530,000 dead Americans. Outrage! Scare tactics! Using the numbers to gain a political advantage! No one would have believed it. At the time, our worst case predictions were in the 100,000 to 200,000 range. Worst case. We would be in the lower end of the scale if precautions were taken, in the upper end if they were not. It was hard to imagine. Some Americans argue that “they would have died anyway” and that the figures are inflated. Well, in one respect, the critics are correct — every living thing dies eventually. But those 530,977 died before their time and many of them died alone without comfort or love from families or friends. But for arguments sake, let’s say that the numbers are twice as high as “the real” pandemic death toll. That is still over 265,000 dead Americans. How is that really any better? It still means that we did twice as bad as the predictions from one year ago. It also ignores the long-term impact on the health of people that were sick, but survived. Some have been hospitalized for months. We just do not know what the second order impact of the disease might be over time.
Here is what bothers me the most. These days people talk about “over 500,000 deaths” to date. That means that 30,977 dead Americans are a rounding error. We should be appalled if that was the total number of human beings lost to the disease. Now it’s just a rounding error. That is where we are today. Perhaps the full measure of the huge number is difficult to comprehend. Think of it in individual terms. All of those families, friends and acquaintances that were impacted by that number of dead Americans. It is staggering.
No one is responsible for the pandemic coming to America. Plenty, however, are responsible for lying to us, misleading us, politicizing the disease, actively undermining common sense measures to stop the spread, and generally providing poor leadership in refusing to take the easiest steps to slow down the spread significantly. This was the greatest health disaster in our country in at least 100 years. We should have been better, smarter, united and focused in combatting this scourge. Didn’t happen. There were no “miracles.” No bleach injected into bodies. Hydroxychloroquine did not make it “just go away.”
Instead, people lost their lives and livelihoods. Went hungry. Fell behind in their educations. Created massive food lines that differ only from those of the Great Depression by the fact that you can drive through instead of line up on the sidewalk. Many of us have seemingly lost a year of our lives without the benefit of friends or family to carry out even the most basic of our social rituals. And it didn’t have to be this way.
Thankfully, if we can stay the course and stay smart in taking precautions, we are nearly through the worst of it. Only a few more months to go as more and more people are able to receive the vaccinations that appear to be very effective. Compare the presidential speeches of 11 March 2020 and 11 March 2021. Leadership is back. More importantly, technically and scientifically competent people are back in charge within the Administration, working day and night to fight to get us out of this mess created by a silent killer.
Stay safe. We are almost there. No one wants to be the last war casualty before the Armistice goes into force.
It was a long tough year. A lot has changed, a lot has not. I trust that a year from now we will be able to memorialize those that we lost, without having lost a lot more.
We are just over two weeks into the Biden Administration and good things are starting to happen. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but we finally have a president and an administration that can competently address the health and financial crises at hand as a result of the pandemic. As the Covid-19 Relief Package moves through Congress, the administration is trying to work with the Republicans for a bipartisan bill. Unfortunately, some Republicans are using that as a weapon. The “party of no” cries foul if the bill or any other administration action is not exactly what they want. It seems that to many of them, it is only bipartisan if they approve it. The Democrats are smarter this time around. They are using Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (KY) own tactics against him. The Democrats will get a bill through and most Americans do not care about the process. They only care about results. Six months from now, when real Americans are doing better, all that they will remember is that the Democrats got it done.
Besides, why would the Biden administration want to broker a deal with a group of people whose majority still claim that Trump won the election and not President Joe Biden? The president and majority leaders should make it a condition of any talks that the purveyors of the Big Lie come out and formally and forcefully admit that President Biden won. By a lot.
Instead, many Republicans in Congress would rather divide the country by pushing conspiracy theories and fantastical lies about doctored voting machines and other foolishness. Regrettably, millions of people believe it. More on that in moment.
As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week put out a Domestic Violence Extremists (DVE) Advisory. It is effective now and the advisory lasts until 30 April 2021. It says in part,
“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”
It then goes on to say,
“Throughout 2020, Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) targeted individuals with opposing views engaged in First Amendment-protected, non-violent protest activity. DVEs motivated by a range of issues, including anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force have plotted and on occasion carried out attacks against government facilities.”
Doesn’t that match well with what Trump and many Republicans in Congress are saying? It also matches Q-Anon and other radical right wing extremists. The Advisory notes that these extremists are “emboldened” by the events at the Capitol on 6 January. And yet, the propagation of the Big Lie continues.
The new face of the Republican Party is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene from Georgia. She should be a back bench freshman with no influence in the caucus. She should especially have no influence because of her nutty Q-Anon beliefs such as that the school shootings in Florida and Connecticut were fake, fires in California were caused by Jewish space lasers, and she condones threats of violence against prominent Democrats, to name a few of her public pronouncements. It is her First Amendment right to think and say whatever she wants about Jewish space lasers and the like, and such comments can be ignored as the rantings of a nut case. The threat of violence against a president, the Speaker of the House and others cannot be ignored or sloughed off as silly. They especially cannot be ignored when she is now in close contact with those same people. Yet, only weeks after other adherents of those crazy ideas attacked the Capitol, the Republicans would not discipline her.
Why are they afraid of her? Because she is a disciple of Trump. She is like a Trump Mini-me espousing many of the lies that Trump bombarded us with for four years. The Republican Party does not want to do anything to upset Trump’s, or Taylor-Greene’s supporters. Many are one and the same.
Representative Taylor-Greene is part of the enemy within, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) said the other day. Just as with the cliche in many horror movies, the threatening phone calls are coming from inside the house. She is not alone. Another Q-Anon sympathizer is freshman Congresswoman Lauren Boebert from Colorado who supports many of their conspiracies. Representatives Mo Brooks (ALA), Paul Gosar (AR) and Pete Sessions (TX) helped to organize the Trump rally on 6 January and spoke to the crowd. Representative Brooks told them to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”
The Big Lie continues to be a dominate issue in the United States. Those that believe the election was stolen — the right wingers and Q-Anons of the world — feel that they have no recourse or say about the changes taking place in society. If ballots are stolen, changed or stuffed, then the elections are rigged. If they are rigged, then they feel that they have no avenue for their causes except through violence. Thus, violence is likely to continue and we get advisories like those above from DHS.
I am baffled as to why elected Republicans still so staunchly support Trump. There are no excuses. Trump being Trump no longer works. They cannot justify supporting him because of tax cuts, or federal judges, or anything else they applauded him for doing. Yet, they are still all in. Trump will not be held accountable in the Senate next week. As a result, he will gain more power. They all know that he is guilty, but most Republican Senators will weasel out of convicting him by arguing that the “process” is un-Constitutional.
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) gave away the real reason last week. Speaking of Trump and why most Republicans will vote against conviction, he said “We cannot take the House and Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact.” In other words, politics once again trumps holding an ex-president accountable for his actions that resulted in deaths at the Capitol. In fact, just the opposite is happening. All around the country Republican Party state and local committees are censuring any Republican that did not support Trump, either in the election or through the impeachment vote. Some of those censored includes people who were never in office, such as Mrs. Cindy McCain.
I thought that by now Trump would have crawled back to Florida to become an irrelevant player in today’s more hopeful society. I fear I am wrong. The Republicans had a chance following the attack on the Capitol to make a clean break with the man and his divisive, mean-spirited methods and policies. Instead, Lindsey Graham is talking about how much they need him. The spineless House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) made a special trip to the castle-by-the-sea to go on bended knee before the king and kiss his shoes. They totally caved. Now they expect everyone to “move on” from an attempt to overthrow the government. Most Americans will not move on. We certainly will not forget that Trump and numerous Republicans in Congress sold the Big Lie so well, that it lead to an attempted coup.
This is a battle for our country’s soul. I am not sure we have a functioning two-party system anymore. Democrats have their flaws, but they are now the party working hard to restore and maintain the norms of our democracy. The other party — whatever we should call it — has a majority of members in Congress that just want to tear everything down, undo any election they do not win, and install an autocrat as president. Apparently, they are willing to use any means necessary to do that. Lies. Violence. Anything. Republicans have brought the Proud Boys, Q-Anon, Boogaloo Bois (Boys), white supremacists and conspiracy theorists into the mainstream. They are afraid to call them out because it will cost them votes. They are being held hostage by self-projected fear in some cases. In other cases, I think some in Congress see those groups as their allies.
We cannot talk about bipartisanship, progress, or unity until this is resolved. We do not negotiate with terrorists. Those people, in or out of office, must be held to account.
“This is deadly stuff.”
Donald J. Trump on 7 February 2020 to journalist Bob Woodward
In the course of writing his book Rage, Bob Woodward talked directly with the president eighteen times and recorded those conversations with Mr. Trump’s permission and knowledge. The tapes and available excerpts from the book clearly show that Mr. Trump knew from the beginning that the coronavirus was deadly and yet he continually took no action and played down the threat through much of January, February and March. In important ways he still ignores the severity of the crisis.
Mr. Trump clearly is not responsible for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his belated and inconsistent response cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives.
The timeline of Mr. Trump’s private statements to Mr. Woodward, matched up with his public statements about the state of the pandemic, demonstrates his callous disregard for American lives and his deliberate deception to prevent coherent actions in the early days of the crisis.
For example, Mr. Trump was briefed by his National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien that “this will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency. This is going to be the roughest thing you face.” His Deputy added that this was going to be at least as bad as the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide.
The briefing was given to him on 28 January 2020. On 7 February he told Mr. Woodward,
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. And that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.”
Meanwhile on 26 February he compared the coronavirus to the flu and talked about how much worse the flu was in our country. He downplayed the threat and again compared it favorably to the flu on 9 March.
On 19 March he told Mr. Woodward,
“Now it’s turning out it’s just not old people, Bob. Just today and yesterday some startling facts came out. It’s not just old — it’s plenty of young people.”
On 24 March, 6 May and 5 August he downplayed the threat to young people and focused primarily on the threat to senior citizens. In fact, during an interview in August he said,
“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease. They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”
There is more, but you get the idea. I suppose it should not be surprising that a president that lied over 20,000 times while in office continually lies about the pandemic. But the brazen, uncaring, callous way he treated our society is breathtaking. In the excerpts of the tapes that I have heard, I am struck most of all by the nonchalance and indifference in his voice. He truly does not care.
His avowed reason for lying to all of us (he calls it “downplaying” the impact) is that he did not want the public to “panic.” That would be hilarious if the results were not so horrifying. This from a president that creates fear and campaigns on panic be it “MS-13 caravans” flooding the border, or “destroying the suburbs” or a hundred other things he has injected into our lives.
The only panic he was trying to prevent was a panic in the markets on Wall Street. He tied his reelection to the economy and he was afraid that if he told the truth, if they took the required precautions early, that there would be an economic impact. He thought he could ride it out and therefore took no action.
Put this in perspective. According to a Columbia University study, if social distancing efforts had been put in place even just one week earlier (8 March instead of 15 March) 36,000 lives in the U.S. would have been saved and there would have been 700,000 fewer infections.
That is still a month after Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward that “this is deadly stuff.”
Remember, since he was briefed in January about how the coronavirus spreads, Mr. Trump conducted campaign rallies, belittled people that wore masks, pushed for restaurants and bars to open, recommended injecting bleach into bodies, pushed hydroxychloroquine and generally brushed off all of the known precautions to stop its spread.
Based on his words and actions in pushing to reopen the economy, millions of Americans forswore masks and social distancing, gathered in bars, partied hearty, and otherwise facilitated the spread of the disease and the consequences we still feel over seven months after Mr. Trump knew the dangers inherent in this new disease.
Every American, Trump supporter or not, should be outraged. It is not hyperbole to say that his actions and inactions, with full knowledge of the threat, resulted in the loss of life.
Just as bad, his staff and advisers had the same information and said nothing. Shame on them all. They are just as guilty.
Mr. Trump failed in his primary duty as president. The president first and foremost must put the health, safety and security of all of us above all else. He still refuses to do so. His enablers continue to lie for him, cover up for him, and allow him to put himself above all. He insults us by saying he was just trying to be a “cheerleader” for our country. His enablers say he was just doing what any good leader does by projecting a calm demeanor. They even dare to compare him to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hogwash.
Their words and actions are despicable. Tell that to the families and friends of the nearly 200,000 dead Americans.
He lied and people died.
For quite some time now, life seems like an episode in the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.” Day after day after day we hear the same things. If you watch the news regularly at some point during the day, an expert clinician, a physician or a nurse in an overwhelmed hospital, an established epidemiologist or other recognized health care expert will come on to be asked how to stop the spread of Covid-19. Given that we have passed 4.5 million cases and 155,000 American deaths since 1 March, it is an important question. The response, day after day, is to wear a face covering, social distance, wash one’s hands and don’t hang out in large crowds especially inside. Not hard. Every day there is also someone who recovers after a severe bout of Covid and says “I thought it was a hoax.” Or, “I’m young and I didn’t think it would really be that bad. But it was. The worst feeling in my entire life.” Sadly, we often hear the loved one of a person dead from Covid say something similar.
I can only think that we are a country of morons or losers or both. How hard is it? We know what to do. Why don’t we do it?
Today’s news is that the virus is spreading into every corner of the United States. It is only a matter of time and it is going to be bad. Real bad. In just the last week alone there were 453,659 new cases in the United States and the rate of hospitalizations grows everyday. Over the last six days we averaged 1,233 deaths a day. At that rate we will have approximately 37,000 more Americans dead by the end of August. Remember when people thought that estimates of a 100,000 deaths total from this pandemic was considered to be too high and a lot of hyperbole to scare people? At the current rate we will be at or over 200,000 dead around Labor Day. Time to celebrate the beginning of fall!
Increasing numbers of experts (you know, real ones like scientists and doctors not the ones that say to inject bleach into your lungs) believe that we need to start over from the beginning. Reset the stage. Shutdown uniformly across the United States for 4-6 weeks — an actual shutdown, not a “if you want to” shutdown — to stop the spread and to be able to have a significant drop in cases so that “testing, tracing, isolation” actually has a chance to change the equation.
But no, I’m bored. I don’t want to do this anymore. I think I’ll hang out with all my friends for a little pandemic party. Haven’t seen you for awhile. Here’s a hug for you and a hug for you and a little Covid for you, and hey buddy, here’s a little Covid for you too. And then be surprised when people get sick.
It turns out that we cannot merely wish it away or ignore it. It is not business as usual.
On top of the pandemic, but because of it, our economy is in the proverbial toilet. For the quarter ending 30 June, the U.S. saw the worst decline for a single quarter since at least 1875 — perhaps in the history of the U.S. Way to go guys! We even beat the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Don’t worry, though. The Senate is on top of it. The House passed a bill back in the middle of May to extend unemployment benefits, protect people from being evicted because they can’t pay their rent and other assistance for those that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Called the Heroes Act (H.R.6800), it passed and was sent to the Senate on 20 May. And sat. And sat. And as of 31 July, all the worker benefits passed by Congress to help the economy during the pandemic expired. But rest assured, someday the Senate will act to help those in need. Maybe. They don’t want people to get too comfortable with this easy lifestyle.
One of the main concerns of those critical of the Heroes Act is that it continues the $600 weekly supplement to existing state unemployment insurance. The argument is that it is too much because people can make more money by staying home rather than by going to work, which is why some businesses are struggling to reopen. Let’s take a closer look.
Yes, the money is in addition to state unemployment, but most states pay roughly 35 to 40% of one’s salary up to a limit that varies by state. However, when you do the math, $600 breaks down to $15/hour for a 40 hour work week. As a national average, babysitters make $20.30 an hour for two kids. Not exactly the stuff of aspiring millionaires.
Such thinking also avoids the difficult issues. Perhaps people staying home and not exposing themselves or their families during a pandemic is a good thing. It helps to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, the “too generous” argument ignores other issues such as those workers are staying home because they may not have access to child care during the pandemic or because with schools closed, they need to stay home and help give their kids an education. Perhaps they rely on public transportation which has been halted or is experiencing severe service cuts due to the pandemic. Maybe it’s all of those and more. And of course it presumes that their place of business reopened and is willing to hire them back.
With the economy already in the dumpster how is it going to recover if people don’t have any money to spend? Have you seen the food lines around the country? (In the 30’s they were called bread lines but now you can stay in your car and also get a healthier selection of food! Isn’t progress amazing?) In the greatest country on earth? Yep. A bunch of freeloaders according to some.
Perhaps you could just follow Ivanka Trump’s new initiative for out of work Americans to “Find Something New.” In her position as a Senior Adviser to the President she is advocating that roughly 15 million unemployed Americans go back to school, or develop IT skills or use on-line learning or sign on to learn a new skill as an apprentice (no she was not referring to her role on a TV show). Mostly, her initiative is just a web site with links to a lot of other web sites with information that has been out in the public for months or years.
As my favorite saying goes, “Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn’t have to do it.”
As I predicted back in April, in this country it’s every person for themselves. There is no political will to institute the steps needed to get the pandemic under control. Without that active effort, the economy cannot recover. All those bars and other super spreader events will eventually close again when a large amount of their patrons and employees are sick or dead. But, hey! It was great while it lasted.
Dire measures are needed. It will hurt, it won’t be fun, it isn’t what we want but unless you want one of your friends or family to get sick and possibly die, suck it up.
Events unfolding around the country are the previews for coming attractions, and it won’t be fun. To look at what is happening in Portland Oregon one might see a trial run for more such activity — currently announced for, or underway in, Kansas City, Chicago and Albuquerque.
Going forward, remember that this is all right from the autocracy 101 hand book. I will explain my thinking in this piece, but two major things are happening. One is that Mr. Donald J. Trump is trying to get video to support his campaign claim that the cities are out of control and that “only I can fix it.” Second, and far more ominously, he is laying the ground work for declaring martial law leading into the election. Mr. Trump and his campaign know that he cannot win solely through the support of his base. He needs to keep people from voting for his opponent — voter suppression — and one way to do that is to intimidate the electorate and to make it too hard to vote. It is an election strategy that comes at the expense of American cities and their citizens. It threatens the very foundation of our democracy.
As a reminder, federal law enforcement units in full combat gear have been on the streets in Portland for about ten days. Theoretically, they are there to protect the federal court house from protesters. In fact, they have been patrolling the streets of the city picking up people that look like they might be willing to foment trouble. Let’s dive into this further.
The federal government has a duty and a right to protect federal property from destruction. In cases such as the court house in Portland, this would normally entail coordinating with the local city and state authorities for a cohesive plan and would amount to a defensive — rather than offensive — effort to keep trouble makers away. None of this is happening. There is no apparent coordination with local authorities — indeed the mayor and governor have explicitly asked those forces to leave — and they are definitely using offensive tactics with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and other agents against the crowd. To be sure, there are trouble makers in the ranks of the protesters. However, the vast majority are peaceful. Additionally, with proper techniques and coordination, peaceful protesters are likely to cooperate in identifying the bad apples in the crowd as it is in the best interests of the other protesters to keep it peaceful and to not provoke an over reaction by law enforcement. By all credible accounts, after weeks of protests, the demonstrations in Portland had settled into a peaceful occasion and were slowly dwindling in size. That is until the federal authorities arrived and began using their storm trooper tactics. In military combat gear, the federal authorities wear no name tags or unit identification badges, only a small generic “police” tag on their camos. Reportedly, they are from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One might ask who is guarding our borders from the supposed hoards coming across from Mexico if they are in Portland? One might also ask what training these particular agencies give to their agents regarding community policing?
If you think it is an exaggeration, look at this video of a Navy veteran trying to talk to some of the agents and getting beaten and pepper sprayed while not even raising his arms or making any threatening movements.
All of this on its own is bad. Very bad. But it portends worse things to come. Remember Mr. Trump’s words earlier this week.
“I’m going to do something, that I can tell you. Because we’re not going to let New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these — Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country. Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left.”
So, first of all, only Democrat mayors are “bad.” Secondly, there are currently no violent demonstrations in Philadelphia, Detroit or Baltimore or other cities he is going to “dominate.” This is pure, unabashed partisan politics using federal law enforcement agencies for his personal gain.
Additionally, the hypocrisy is all too familiar. The rationale behind the Portland deployment is to protect against citizens expressing their First Amendment rights on federal property. In 2018 Mr. Trump gave full pardons to two Oregonians — father and son — that set fire in 2016 to 139 acres of federal land during Red Flag Warning conditions, endangering firefighters working on another fire nearby. It resulted in a 40 day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by protesters supporting their cause. He considered these men to be patriots. Peaceful protesters in cities are considered to be criminals.
As I have written in this space before, I was very involved in figuring out Saddam Hussein’s next moves during Gulf War I. We figured out after awhile that he pretty much always announced what he intended to do. He couldn’t always carry it out, but he was pretty straightforward in his pronouncements. Mr. Trump is the same way. He announces exactly what he plans to do.
Here is the diabolical back drop to his strategy. In my 8 May piece “American Carnage” I wondered aloud about how Mr. Trump could have so badly botched the national response to the pandemic and opined that perhaps it was deliberate. I am now sure of it. He did not create the pandemic, but he is going to use it to his advantage. Similarly, he will use the Black Lives Matter movement to declare that they are terrorists working to destroy America. He already barely hides his racism in this regard. Yesterday in a speech he blamed Mexico (again) and the BLM protests for the spread of the Coronavirus in the South and Southwest. He repeatedly declares that if the Democrats win the election, they will “destroy the suburbs,” a not-so-subtle racist canard.
Many pundits and political experts, as well as average citizens, have wondered for weeks and months why Mr. Trump refuses to put forward a national effort to halt the pandemic and to address racial injustice. It dawned on me yesterday that as former Maryland Lt. Governor and National Republican Chairman Michael Steele explained on TV yesterday — this is his plan. In other words, he will use the chaos currently engulfing our country to his advantage. He will trot out again his beliefs that the the Constitution gives him “absolute power” and that “I alone can fix it.” These will form the basis for action on his part to interfere in an election that he is already claiming — nearly daily — is rigged. He is against mail-in ballots (even though he, his family, many of his aides and many service members vote by mail) and has installed a long-time ally as Postmaster General. Mail bags mysteriously disappearing? Mail trucks mysteriously bursting into flames? The imagination can run wild.
The point is that we will not succumb to an outright coup on his part. It will be gradual with incremental decisions and policies that set the stage for him to declare the election invalid and that he must stay on to save the country. He is on record multiple times, most recently in his Fox News interview with Mike Wallace, that he will not accept the outcome of the election if he thinks it’s rigged. Asked directly if he would accept the results he said,
“I have to see. Look — I have to see. No, I’m not just going to say yes. I’m not going to say no.”
Since many of the states will use mail-in ballots, it could be days or weeks before the official results are in. If the election is close as the polls close on Election Night, and the results change dramatically against Mr. Trump when the absentee, provisional and other ballots are counted, he could well declare the entire election a fraud and cancel it. He is on record with the 2018 Florida election — which was very close and looked as if it would go against his preferred candidates — as saying that only ballots counted on Election Day should be valid. He tweeted without offering a single piece of evidence,
“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible — ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night.”
Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis both won their races.
We already know that Mr. Trump will do anything that benefits him. There is no ethical, moral or legal bottom for him. He now has an Attorney General that acts as his personal attorney and shares Mr. Trump’s belief in an Imperial Presidency.
The U.S. military put Mr. Trump on notice after they were used in a political stunt at Lafayette Square in Washington D.C. for his bible thumping campaign photo op that they would not be used for political purposes. Thus, Mr. Trump went to his flunkies in DHS (the top position and most of the sub-agencies are headed by “acting” leaders that do not have Senate approval) in order to create his own personal police force to pursue his personal goals.
Some may think that this is a “Chicken Little” scenario. Alarmist. Couldn’t happen here. That’s not America. Stop hyperventilating. No way. I hope that you are correct. Personally, I am watching out for our “Reichstag Fire” moment.
As the number of deaths in the U.S. from the Coronavirus passes 140,000 (a number that just a few months ago would have been unthinkable), experts — actual doctors and scientists knowledgeable in the subject, not politicians — nearly unanimously agree that wearing a mask in public would significantly decrease the transmission of the disease and give us a chance to get it under control. A seemingly innocuous precaution that is not a particular burden. And yet. Somehow it has become a major political issue often resulting in rude and belligerent behavior and sometimes, violence.
“No shirt, no shoes, no service” is an iconic sign posted in restaurants and shops around the country, especially in tourist or beach areas. No one seems to have a problem with that requirement. A sign that says “Please wear a mask in the store” somehow elicits the vulgar expression “F*** You!” and worse. Somehow a mask has become an alleged Constitutional issue although I am hard pressed to find a single Constitutional scholar that can delineate how a mask worn to protect us all from a virulent disease is impinging on anyone’s rights.
Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas and many other countries around the world will not allow tourists from the U.S. into their countries or requires them to quarantine because of our extremely poor record in combating the pandemic. We are now the “dirty, disease spreading” refugees shunned by the rest of the world.
I look at it this way. Not wearing a mask is like drunk driving. Perhaps if you do it you will make it home safely, but you have endangered yourself, your family, friends, and everyone that you encounter on the way. Chances are you will kill some innocent person just doing their best, going home from picking up the kids or a quick run to the grocery for some milk. It is in the public good that we crack down hard on drunk drivers. It is in the public good that we all wear masks.
Unfortunately, we have a growing number of selfish folks that can give any number of reasons why they do not mask up, none of which hold any credible explanation other than the fact that they are so self-centered that they are entitled to do whatever they want, the rest of us be damned.
With such a blatant disregard of the community and social welfare in mind, we will never get this pandemic under control. Ironically, we know exactly how to get the situation under control and begin to safely open up schools and businesses, but no one seems to want to do it, least of all our political leaders.
In a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, the president expounded about all sorts of issues for an hour. No description I can give here would do justice to the amount of lies, misstatements and delusional thinking that went on during the interview. To his credit, Mr. Wallace held Mr. Trump accountable during his ramblings and fact-checked him on several issues in real time.
Specifically with respect to the ongoing pandemic Mr. Trump said, among other things, that we only have so many cases because we do more testing than anybody (tests are up 37 percent and the number of cases are up 194 percent according to Fox News); but that is okay because, according to Mr. Trump, “many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day. They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test. Many of them — don’t forget, I guess it’s like 99.7 percent, people are going to get better and in many cases they’re going to get better very quickly”; responding to a question about his multiple statements that the coronavirus will just disappear Mr. Trump said “I’ll be right eventually”; and so on. Really, I recommend that you read the transcript for yourself and think about the fact that this man controls the nuclear codes. But I digress.
When asked specifically about wearing masks and whether there should be a national mandate to wear them, as has been done in the countries around the world that have a far better handle on this pandemic than we do, he said,
“No, I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that [wearing masks]. No, and I don’t agree with the statement that if everybody wears a mask everything disappears.”
And there we have it. There is no national strategy to combat the pandemic and the person that should be setting the example and showing leadership in a crisis refuses to step up. Some state governors take their cue from Mr. Trump and so there are cases like in Georgia where the governor is suing the mayor of Atlanta because she put out a mandatory mask order to help alleviate the crisis in her city. And on and on and on and yet we wonder why we are having a problem.
We are apparently a nation of idiots (Covidiots) that think some how taking measures to stop the spread of a killer disease is violating their right to do whatever they want. They should take a high school civics class and study what the word “freedom” really means in the United States of America. It most definitely is not the right to do whatever one likes.
Here is my bottom line that should stop everyone in their tracks. We are 4.3% of the world’s population and we have 24% of the deaths from the pandemic. To quote the great philosopher Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does.”
“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”
Donald J. Trump on 15 June speaking of the number of coronavirus cases.
Really? Just like if we stopped pregnancy tests there would be no more pregnancies? Or if there were no cancer tests there would be no more cancer?
I suppose that I should not be surprised at Mr. Trump’s comments by now. He failed every leadership test that the pandemic threw his way so what would change now? His plan seems to be to pretend that there is nothing wrong and to resume business as usual. What else to expect from the Worst President Ever?
Just when you think it cannot get any worse, of course it does. As we know, Mr. Trump decided that the best way to prevent anyone thinking that we still have a COVID-19 problem is to pretend that we don’t by holding a rally with some 20,000 people in a closed space in a state that is one of the current pandemic hot spots.
Unfortunately, this appears to be the strategy for the entire Trump administration. Yesterday Vice President Mike Pence authored an article in the Wall Street Journal that said, in part:
“In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”
Most public health officials agree that we are not in a second wave of the pandemic. They believe that we are still in the early stages of infections and that the second wave is a few months away. This of course, is page one of Mr. Trump’s playbook. When things are not going well, yell “hey everybody, look over there, the nasty media is at it again. Pay no attention to my incompetence.” Most preposterously, the Vice President went on the claim that:
The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different. We’ve slowed the spread, we’ve cared for the most vulnerable, we’ve saved lives, and we’ve created a solid foundation for whatever challenges we may face in the future. That’s a cause for celebration, not the media’s fear mongering.”
“Cause for celebration”? Shameful.
The man is pandering to one man and one man only. Mr. Trump.
On March 15 of this year there were roughly 60 deaths known to be a result of the pandemic. As I write, we have more than 119,000 Americans dead. Americans dead. In three months. And we should celebrate?
By any measure we have failed in this crisis. Take any metric that you choose; total deaths, total cases, deaths per capita, whatever, and the USA is in on the wrong side of the power curve. There are 7.94 million known cases in the world. The US has 2.18 million of them. Roughly 28% of the world’s cases. There are 435,000 deaths world wide. The US has about 119,000 of them. Roughly 27% of them. In what is supposed to be the greatest country in the world with the greatest scientists, doctors and public health facilities we are doing very poorly indeed.
But, yeah, go to Oklahoma and celebrate.
Following the administration’s logic as espoused by the President and Vice President, if there were no testing there would be no coronavirus deaths. Therefore, testing kills. We should stop testing immediately.
During his 2016 Inaugural Address, Mr. Donald J. Trump talked about “American carnage” — a dystopian view of the United States that he promised to fix. Little did we know that actually he was predicting the future. Our country is in shambles and disarray and the Trump Administration does nothing.
Mr. Trump and his cronies are trying out two strategies moving forward during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus:
- Declare victory and go home. We could have lost 2 million Americans and it looks like we’ll only lose about 150,000 so, as Mr. Jared Kushner said from the White House last week, people should recognize “that this is a great success story.” The number of deaths is exaggerated anyway. Open up business because a dragging economy could cost the president the election.
- Make the case that all Americans are “warriors” that are fighting to regain the American way of life just like in WWI or WWII and of course there will be casualties along the way. This is war and people die in wars. Get over it. Open up business because a dragging economy could cost the president the election.
Meanwhile, over 77,212 Americans are dead. The virus is spreading into areas that have yet to feel the full brunt of the pandemic. There is no widespread testing, tracing or methodical isolation. I have concluded that for most Americans, we are on our own. We will get no help from the government. We will have to make personal choices as to what is safe and what is not. As the song playing in the background during Mr. Trump’s factory visit in Arizona says, “Live and Let Die.”
The federal government, as a reflection of Mr. Trump, has failed miserably in fighting the pandemic. Mr. Trump’s leadership has been inept, incompetent, divisive, vindictive, callous, resentful and antagonistic. He’s worked hard to win the award as The Worst President Ever. In fact, in my feverish mind with too much time on my hands, I believe he has worked too hard to reach this level of destruction throughout the land. It cannot just be incompetence and a failure to learn from what works or does not. It has to be deliberate. Why is that? Why would he work so hard to destroy the U.S.A.?
There are several possibilities.
- It is deliberate. Mr. Trump did not invent the coronavirus or introduce into the U.S. Once here, however, perhaps he seized the opportunity to use it to fundamentally disrupt our way of life and to bring us down in the eyes of the world — no longer the greatest country on Earth. There is, after all, a reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted Mr. Trump to be president. Why would Mr. Trump call Mr. Putin when news broke that General Michael Flynn’s prosecution was dropped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as he did yesterday? What were they celebrating? Did the Russians work on Mr. Trump’s behalf for the opportunity to destroy us?
- It is a sign that Mr. Trump is mentally ill. I don’t mean this in any “the dude’s cray cray” kind of way. I mean it in a serious, albeit judgmental, way that he is ill. He is a known narcissist. He claims he is a stable genius. He acts irrationally. He has no empathy for the tens of thousands dead. He seriously suggested that people should inject cleaning disinfectants into their bodies to fight the virus. He fires anyone that disagrees with him. He lied about the magnitude of the threat. He is vengeful. He seems to enjoy chaos and dysfunction. Perhaps he enjoys playing a bigger than life figure that commands death or salvation based on his whims. Perhaps he enjoys the harm done to people, especially, it seems, in “blue” states. Perhaps he is not just a text book case study of a bad leader but rather an unstable individual emotionally, intellectually and mentally unfit for the office.
- It furthers his agenda. The sad statistics are that a disproportionate number of the COVID-19 sufferers and especially deaths are immigrants, minorities and the poor. For four years, Mr. Trump has raged about the “other” — those not “like us.” He supports armed white militia members storming state capitals with their guns to insist on “liberation” from the safer at home policies around the country. In his eyes they are “very good people.” Just like the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were “very fine people.” Mr. Trump tends to emphasize that many of those dying are old or with underlying health conditions. They use the old “they were going to die anyway” meme. Is this a chance to cull the herd in his mind just as some of these far right groups argue? Under the cover of the pandemic his administration has implemented draconian measures at the border, denied asylum seekers respite as required by U.S. law, and limited legal immigration — all outside of and in addition to the travel restrictions in place. From the moment he declared his candidacy for president in front of paid supporters he has railed against non-white (and for that matter non-male) members of our society. Kids in cages anyone? What he may or may not believe in his heart does not matter. His actions are clear.
- He cares only about himself and making money. He honestly does not care how many Americans die or struggle financially as long as it does not impact him negatively. Perhaps he sees an opportunity to profit financially off of the pandemic. In short, he is an opportunist. At the very least, Mr. Trump sees a chance to consolidate his position and to remove any impediments to his power within the government and to replace good people with lackeys. Many Inspectors’ General professional life expectancy is measured in the amount of time before they do their job and call a foul on Mr. Trump. There are gaping holes in the diplomatic corps and in every cabinet agency in the government. Mr. Trump claims he does not need them. Those that are left are not the A-Team or even the B-Team. It is more like F-Troop. At this point in time, it is obviously part of the plan to eliminate the “Deep State” as he sees it. He does not care that the Deep State (of course there is no such thing) of professionals and experts are needed in times of crisis. Jared Kushner will take care of it. The pandemic covers nicely for an ever more blatant power grab beyond what we have seen over the last few years. Mr. Trump has learned that he can get away with anything without consequences.
There may be other scenarios that may be equally plausible or outrageous. The bottom line is that our national response to the crisis was badly bungled and continues to be an embarrassment. The sad part is that this not nuances of policy. People are dying. The numbers continue to go up. Many more will die as more and more states are pushed by Mr. Trump to ignore CDC guidelines and to open up their economies without the testing, tracing and isolation infrastructure in place.
Pay attention to what he says and does. We have learned that he projects his personal feelings onto others and in the process of his complaining he tells us exactly what he intends to do to further destroy the norms, regulations and laws that govern our day to day discourse.
At one point I thought maybe we had Ted Baxter from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show as president. Ted was not deliberately a loose cannon, he just had no clue. Unfortunately, this is serious business.
Deliberate or not, Mr. Trump changed the American way of life well into the future, if not forever.
In the course of this crisis created by the coronavirus I have been pulling for the federal government to step up and fulfill its duty under the solid direction and knowledgeable leadership of the president. I have given up hope that it will happen. This leads me to wonder whether Donald J. Trump is the worst president in our life time or the worst president ever? In my opinion, he is the worst ever.
Many historians compare Mr. Trump to President Herbert Hoover who is universally considered one of the worst. He took no action to avert or to mitigate the Great Depression putting all of his faith in the capitalist system and the ethos of the survival of the fittest. Indeed, he vetoed a 2.1 billion dollar relief bill (about 38 billion in today’s dollars) because it was full of “pork” and what he considered to be unproductive jobs such as federal works projects.
But Mr. Hoover is not considered the absolute worst. That honor generally goes to President James Buchanan who favored the expansion of slavery and did nothing to stop southern states from seceding from the Union, resulting in the Civil War. Mr. Buchanan, rest easy. You are no longer the worst.
Where to begin to count the ways that Mr. Trump has earned this accolade? To me there is one over-riding fact that cannot be ignored. The greatest country on earth with the best health system in the world has the largest number of identified COVID-19 cases and the largest number of deaths. In. The. World. People are dying. Over 32,000 Americans have lost their lives as I write this. It isn’t theoretical anymore. How can this be? It is the result of the president’s dithering, lies, inaction, and a congenital need to be the center of everything but the leader of nothing that got us to this place. Precious time was wasted as the president told us it would magically go away. Over the weekend, two newspapers laid out time lines of what the government knew and when they knew it. As Mr. Trump told us it was all under control, dire warnings were relayed to him. People tried to take action and he stopped them. He wants credit for stopping travelers from China from entering the U.S., a necessary but not sufficient action. He fails to mention that after he declared the border shut, roughly 40,000 people entered the U.S. from China. He then wasted nearly two months during which serious action could have been taken. Thank you Mr. Trump.
Beware. It will get worse in so many ways. Two important areas of concern are his attempts to do away with all of the safeguards of our democracy and the other is his foolhardy need to “open up for business” in two weeks or less. He cannot be trusted. As one pundit put it, to Mr. Trump, truth is an adversary.
Some examples of his intolerance for criticism or oversight include the fact that there are 14 Inspector General (IG) positions vacant in the U.S. government. Infamously, Mr. Trump fired the IG for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) because he did his job and followed the law in forwarding a whistle blower complaint to Congress. In the short term, Mr. Trump demoted the IG in the Department of Defense who had been chosen by his fellow IGs in the government to oversee the recently passed stimulus package. Now there is no one. There are no Senate confirmed officials in the entire ODNI. All have been fired or pushed out. Mr. Trump likes “actings” as he calls them, because they do not have to answer to the Senate and he can make them do his bidding.
Yesterday he threatened to adjourn Congress by presidential decree so that he can appoint more “actings” without Senate approval and thus do away with all oversight from Congress. This on top of his claim during his live melt-down on camera Monday that “when somebody is president of the United States your authority is total.” Clearly he thinks he can run the entire United States like he ran the Trump Organization by just sitting in his office, talking on the phone and telling people what to do with little to no input. Only, as he says, based on his “gut.” Speaking of guts, where are the elected Republican members of Congress? Why is there no rebuke to a president that wants to be an autocrat and is actively working in that direction?
More importantly to many Americans, is the question of how do we address this dual nightmare of a staggered economy and a virulent pandemic? I do not trust the president to do the right thing. I never thought I would write that. I have disagreed with many past presidential policies over the years, but I always at my core thought that while I disagreed with them, they were doing what they fundamentally thought was good for our country. Not so with Mr. Trump. He does only what he thinks is good for him.
He is desperate to take credit for anything positive that takes place — such as putting his signature on relief checks to appear as if he, the benevolent monarch, is personally giving away money and not that it is tax payer money — while contorting himself into grotesque statements attempting to blame anyone or everyone for his massive failings.
Here is the ugly truth. Many people, including the president, do not understand what flattening the curve of this pandemic actually means. He misleads us on what mitigation means. The steps that we have all taken to wear masks, practice social distancing and to stay home only buy time. The coronavirus does not magically go away on 1 May or any time until there is a cure or a vaccine. This idea that everything will be normal and no one else will die is the biggest lie of all.
Study the curves for yourself. Most models do not go beyond sometime early this summer. What do you think happens when the restrictions are lifted? The number of sick and dying sky rocket. Study the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920. Even a cursory review reveals that many of the same mitigation efforts that we are using today were used then. Cities like St. Louis and San Francisco had very strict regimes in place. Cities like Philadelphia did not. The differences in death totals is staggering between the two extremes.
How did it end? When people built up a natural immunity or died. There was no vaccine. Just as we have no vaccine now.
Our current measures are designed to buy time. Time to get sufficient treatment spaces and medical equipment in place to treat those infected. Time to figure out the best way to treat the virus. Time to develop a vaccine. Time to build up our ability to test vast numbers of people. Time to put a system in place to identify hot spots, isolate those specific people impacted and stop the virus from spreading.
So far we have none of those things and we won’t have them on 1 May.
A very difficult decision lies ahead. It could be a year or more before all of those necessary conditions are in place. Our economy cannot continue as it is for a year. How many lives should be lost in exchange for restarting the economy? I don’t know. There are those that argue that we should just let the virus run its course. If hundreds of thousands die, so be it. It is the natural resolution to the crisis. Just as with the Spanish flu pandemic, one builds up an immunity or you die. Then it’s over. Somehow I cannot bring myself to believe that we as a country want or accept that.
So what to do? In the short term, the emphasis should be on saving lives. As we try to restart the economy it should be in very small steps in a localized way. As the saying goes, “build a little, test a little.” Be prepared to try new ways of doing business. In every step it will be necessary to be ready to acknowledge that it didn’t work, or that it was too much too soon, and adjust. When it does work, build on those lessons learned.
I do not think that Mr. Trump is capable of that kind of leadership. He has already earned his place in history as the worst president ever. I fear that he will work hard in the coming weeks and months to cement his standing as the worst leader our country ever experienced.