A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part II

Although the references to Fox News in this post have been noted by many, the divergent national media coverage of the disease’s spread, continuing as it did into March, is a stark reminder of the power of propaganda. Below is a link to a March 16 Washington Post article documenting (with embedded video) Fox News personalities doing a figurative 180-degree turn on the severity of the Coronavirus as President Trump changed the tone of his message. Hopefully, most that read these pages can access the article, because the juxtaposition of what Fox News commentators were saying before President Trump decided to treat the disease seriously, and after the President awakened, is best grasped through video and sound, not text; even so, the article itself is damning:

“For weeks [while President Trump was discounting the severity and spread of the virus], some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump.

Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham accused the news media of whipping up ‘mass hysteria’ and being ‘panic pushers.’ Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance ‘yet another attempt to impeach the president.’

With Trump’s declaration on Friday [March 13] that the virus constitutes a national emergency, the tone on Fox News has quickly shifted.

On his program on Friday, Hannity — the most watched figure on cable news — lauded the president’s handling of what the host is now, belatedly, referring to as a ‘crisis.’

Regan’s on-air speculation at the start of last week that coronavirus was merely another impeachment gambit for Democrats drew widespread pushback… The network announced late Friday that her discussion-and-commentary program on Fox Business would leave the air indefinitely …

Fox insiders said that Regan’s removal from air showed that only some hosts — those with the biggest ratings — are protected at Fox News.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/on-fox-news-suddenly-a-very-different-tune-about-the-coronavirus/2020/03/16/7a7637cc-678f-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html

It has become a cliché – recognizing that premises become clichés because they are true — that during his rise to power, President Trump didn’t create our citizens’ divisions, fears, and resentments, but merely exploited them. While such is the clearly the case, I would add that Fox News, likewise, didn’t create them … but, purely for profit, has done the most to accentuate and aggravate them. I would submit that the network has been a greater catalyst for hyper-partisanship, biases, and antipathy between our people than any other single factor, including Mr. Trump himself.

In The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, published in 1959 and I believe still considered the definitive account of the genesis and collapse of the Nazi regime, William Shirer wrote the following of Germany in the mid-1930s, after Adolf Hitler seized absolute power but before the Second World War:

“[A] German listener could still turn his dial to a score of foreign radio stations …. [T]hough as the years went by, [Nazi Propaganda Chief Joseph] Goebbels … proved that the radio [Comment for the young: there was then no television] … did more than any other single instrument of communication to shape the German people to Hitler’s ends.

I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio …. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to [London, Paris, and Zurich] newspapers … and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts … a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. [Emphasis Added]”

While there is an undisputedly liberal bias in the mainstream media, I would submit that the mainstream media strives to present the truth, and that the news sections of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal remain our definitive American chroniclers. I don’t think it’s unwarranted to supplement Mr. Shirer’s statement regarding the effect of totalitarian propaganda with the observation that until Fox News, it was difficult for us in American society to conceive that a dominant media outlet would so purposefully and irresponsibly slant its message and manipulate its audience. On the Coronavirus, which may be the most significant public health challenge of our lifetimes, Mr. Trump’s change in tone caused the network — named last summer in a Suffolk University poll as the “most trusted” news source by almost 25% of our people — to shift the tenor of its coverage from “hoax” to “crisis” like … that.

We bear a heavy, although obviously necessary, burden for our First Amendment Freedom of Speech. Since all of us know one or more Fox News watchers, the YouTube links below (each containing some of the same clips) might be worth saving to forward to a conservative friend with a short memory of Fox’ sudden Coronavirus reversal when – not if – Fox begins to spread a particularly egregious distortion during the coming election campaign — such as Mr. Trump’s latest claim that mail-in voting is inherently corrupt.  May I suggest:  if former New York, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg is serious about maintaining the American way of life, he should be ready — soon — to start devoting his billions to creating media spots refuting Donald Trump’s and his surrogates disinformation campaigns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifKbwDf51bA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DmW_H4U-MI

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I

In recent days, a number of friends from outside Wisconsin have asked: Why is my state continuing with its scheduled election despite the danger posed to voters’ health by the Coronavirus?

Wisconsin is again, sadly, a political epicenter in what should be entirely considered a health crisis. WI Gov. Tony Evers has asked the Wisconsin Legislature to postpone the election scheduled for April 7, citing the danger to citizens and election workers involved in having large numbers of citizens assemble at voting places (the number of sites reduced due to so many long-serving senior-aged poll workers’ understandable withdrawals to avoid the crowds) during the week that on April 5 Trump Administration Surgeon General Jerome Adams called “… the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” The Wisconsin Legislature has refused to postpone the election. The reason is simple: Republican Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Daniel Kelly, recently cited in these pages as hosting a fund raiser at a gun range the day after five people were killed in a shooting at the Molson Coors Headquarters in Milwaukee, is, due to what will probably be a depressed turnout, likely to defeat Democratic Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Jill Karofsky if the election is held as scheduled. Ms. Karofsky’s electoral chances are arguably enhanced if the election is delayed, thereby affording a greater number of Wisconsinites the opportunity to cast ballots. (Note: through no partisan fault, Wisconsin voting authorities have had trouble accommodating a recent understandably-unanticipated surge of absentee ballot requests). The currently-projected outcome is obviously devastating for Ms. Karofsky, who perhaps anticipated victory at the end of January because a contested Democratic presidential primary would have brought thousands of liberal-leaning voters to the polls. Now – and this ranks among the observations I have made in these pages that I would most like to see proven wrong – she will probably lose, a political victim of the Coronavirus.

My answer to the friends that have inquired, and speaking as one who is pleased to acknowledge that he supported former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in each of Mr. Thompson’s Gubernatorial runs: current Wisconsin Republican lawmakers are in large measure venomous, vindictive, self-righteous and small-minded – but a gussied-up partisan rabble. They must have their way. Their behavior makes manifest that only winning – not electoral fairness, not their citizens’ health — matters to them. Under these circumstances, I find the prospect of Ms. Karofsky’s defeat disheartening … but it is what it is. One can only feel embarrassed at the state’s decline from one of congenial feeling and forward thinking.

As We Endeavor

I am pretty sure that this is the longest I have gone between posts since I began blogging in earnest in 2017. Adjusting our routine to the current normal, as well as performing customary tasks such as yard work and income tax returns, have consumed a surprising amount of time.  (I’m aware that we don’t need to file until July; but if – admittedly a big if – things are actually improving as summer dawns, who — unless one is glad of the opportunity to defer a significant payment — will want to do taxes then?)  I have, as I’m confident is true of all of us, a number of different reactions to the challenges we face, but they will wait a bit. One of the unexpected benefits of blogging is that one’s friends send you information and links that they find of particular interest. Several are included below:

For those looking for a practical manner to combat the virus and stay safe:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFmaSNP6_z4

For those interested in many different views regarding how we as a people might come out of this crisis with new perspectives of our world:

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/19/coronavirus-effect-economy-life-society-analysis-covid-135579

Although the federal government has now extended its social distancing guidelines though April, for those that wish to indulge (perhaps a repeat, but well worth another few minutes) in one of the few light experiences occasioned by the crisis we face:

https://twitter.com/kenolin1/status/1242852430582341639

For those that would appreciate sustenance for the spirit:

https://youtu.be/3eXT60rbBVk

If you have the means – many of us do not — order from your favorite local restaurant. You want to help ensure that it’s still there when the crisis passes. Consider whether there’s anything you can do to assist other small businesses you appreciate that might have trouble surviving the next few months.

Use FaceTime (full disclosure: I can’t, but TLOML can). It will enable you to see, as well as hear, those to whom you need to stay most close.

Your phone and email accounts list a lot of contacts. Among those are people you care deeply about that, due to life’s demands, you haven’t been in contact with for a while. Communicate with them. You may never have a better opportunity.

The numbers of potential U.S. deaths projected yesterday by Drs. Fauci and Birx have been described as, “sobering.”  I understand why, in their positions, they have accompanied grim projections with restrained tones; I consider the numbers scary.  Stay healthy and safe.

Mr. Biden: Door 1, 2, or 3? Part II

[Since Part I of this post ran earlier this week, the rest follows; but inasmuch as the spiraling Coronavirus is what we now need to address, I’ll preface it with this unrelated note: right now, I most fervently wish that NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo was President of the United States. While other state and local officials are also aggressively addressing the challenge we face, Gov. Cuomo has seemed to me to stand apart through his combination of early understanding of the scope of the crisis, effective action, and projection of competent and reassuring leadership.  Meanwhile, President Trump declared yesterday, with regard to our health workers’ need for medical supplies, that the U.S. Government is “not a shipping clerk.”] 

Assuming Mr. Biden wins the Democratic Presidential nomination, whom, given his pledge to select a woman running mate, might he choose to address a gap in his own general election credentials? I would suggest that there are three doors:

Door 1: the Progressive Door, behind which stands Ms. Warren. No. Mr. Biden appears likely to win the nomination specifically because Democrats concluded that they cannot defeat Mr. Trump with a candidate that Republicans can paint as a crazy socialist. Mr. Biden will not wish to bear that baggage. He should bet that as long as he is perceived by progressives – as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not – as having won the nomination fairly, and he and his team proactively seek to assuage progressives’ disappointment and solicit progressives’ active participation in the Democratic campaign, progressives so vehemently detest Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden will be able to secure their strong support even if he doesn’t select an avowedly progressive running mate. U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders, the clear leader of the progressive movement, has unequivocally stated that he will support Mr. Biden if Mr. Biden wins the nomination. Substantively, while Ms. Warren is unquestionably qualified, she is unabashedly contentious; she seems to me unable to speak for five minutes without using the word, “fight.” I would offer that Americans are weary of fighting.

Comment: Among prominent women candidates, Ms. Warren might also be considered the best alternative if Mr. Biden wishes to focus on securing millennial support. In my view, this is still not enough commend her. First, given younger voters’ less-than-projected turnout for Mr. Sanders, it seems doubtful that any Democrat can win in 2020 with heavy dependence on what is arguably an unreliable voting segment. Second, it appears questionable whether young voters will enthusiastically come out for Ms. Warren, whom they eschewed for Mr. Sanders. Finally, Mr. Sanders will be Mr. Biden’s most effective surrogate with young voters as he will be with progressives.

Door 2: the Ethnic Door. The most prominently mentioned female contenders behind this door seem to be U.S. CA Sen. Kamala Harris and former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. No. Although Mr. Biden unquestionably owes his nomination to African American support, he should not – as MSNBC Host Joy Reid recently suggested – pick an African American running mate because he “owes” the community. From a purely political perspective, it is clear that African American voters will wholeheartedly support Mr. Biden in November because they are – in Ms. Reid’s own words – “… very clinical about it. They just want to win. They want Trump gone.” If Mr. Biden does need a boost with this electoral segment, he can count on the best of all surrogates: former President Barack Obama. Specifically as to Sen. Harris: she comes from a state that any Democrat will win, and, as I have previously ventured in these pages, her best presidential campaign moments seemed planned and scripted, leaving the concern as to how she would react in the fall campaign when inevitably confronted by the unexpected. As to Ms. Abrams: I would submit that her native Peach State is Fool’s Gold for Democrats in 2020 whether or not she is on the ballot, and – sheepishly conceding that I sound more than a bit like President Trump with this next observation – I would prefer that Mr. Biden pick a running mate that has won. Ms. Abrams ran a stellar 2018 campaign for Georgia Governor, but fell short. Most importantly, since Mr. Biden would be 78 when he assumed the presidency, it seems vital that he select a running mate that could effectively discharge presidential duties from “Day 1”; I would suggest that neither Ms. Harris’ brief tenure in the Senate (notwithstanding her run for the presidency) nor Ms. Abrams’ experience in the Georgia legislature respectively sufficiently ready them for the challenge.

Door 3: the Electoral College Map Door, behind which most prominently stands U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Yes. Mr. Biden’s rationale in naming Sen. Klobuchar would be akin to Mr. Kennedy’s reasoning in selecting Mr. Johnson in 1960. As we have heard until we are numb (and as I myself have recorded in these pages), Mr. Trump prevailed in 2016 by winning three states no one thought he could carry: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The President narrowly lost Minnesota to Ms. Clinton, and given his multiple visits to the North Star State during his presidency, it appears to be a state he is targeting in 2020. Mr. Biden presumably reasons that as a long-term Senator of Delaware, and given his deep roots of union support, he can claim Pennsylvania; that his union and African American support should enable him to win Michigan; which leaves Wisconsin. Ms. Klobuchar, representing Wisconsin’s neighboring Minnesota, would provide reassurance and greater appeal for the tandem in the swing areas of the Badger State, would cement Minnesota for the Democrats, and could well make Mr. Trump work to hold Iowa. Despite the disapproval the following observation would probably provoke from the Woke Brigade, Ms. Klobuchar is, in addition to her significant qualifications, likeable. In her third term in the Senate, she is conversant with the issues we face and has been lauded by Republicans for her willingness to work across the partisan aisle. Her nomination would probably secure Ms. Warren’s avid advocacy and at the same time perhaps win support for the ticket (or at least depress turnout) from suburban Republican women in GOP strongholds outside Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Milwaukee repulsed by Mr. Trump’s personal behavior. Ms. Klobuchar’s year on the campaign trail would seemingly provide the ticket immediate additional name recognition and less potential for unanticipated political skeletons than other choices.

In Part I of this note, I commented that major party presidential candidates have traditionally claimed to select as their running mates the persons most qualified to be President if they could no longer serve, while in fact they picked the persons whom they believed would best help them electorally. If I was advising former Vice President Biden, I would offer that he has the rare opportunity to do both … by picking Sen. Klobuchar.

[Addendum: A suggestion made this week by Wall Street Journal Columnist Holman Jenkins, with which I agree: As “an insurance policy on behalf of the country,” Mr. Biden should “immediately” name Ms. Klobuchar as his running mate, “so she can step in” if circumstances require.]

Mr. Biden: Door 1, 2, or 3? Part I

[While our current national struggle against the novel Coronavirus obviously dwarfs political issues, former Vice President Biden’s announcement on Sunday regarding his intent to select a woman running mate made this seem the appropriate time to post a note (slightly edited to remove references to those no longer in the running 😉 ) prepared some time ago.]

It now appears almost certain that former Vice President Joe Biden will secure the Democrats’ presidential nomination. As almost all who care are aware, Mr. Biden indicated his intent to select a woman as his running mate in his most recent debate with U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders. Since that time, a number of articles have speculated on whom he might pick.

In the past, Mr. Biden specifically stated that would consider U.S. MA Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In a post earlier this year that found favor with several readers of these pages, I ventured that a Biden-Warren ticket might form a transitional administration that would let our people catch their breath and afford us the opportunity in 2024 to determine which way we wanted to proceed as a nation. That was before Ms. Warren so vehemently embraced Medicare-for-All, which clearly deflated her support and was an early indicator that the majority of Democratic voters perceive moderation rather than radical change as the path to victory in 2020.

We have traditionally hired our presidents in part with the expectation – notwithstanding the current White House occupant – that they have the capacity to think ahead. While all presidential candidates claim that they select the running mate most qualified to be President if they can no longer serve, in fact, most pick a running mate to address a vulnerability in their own general election resumes. Moderates Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford respectively selected Richard Nixon and Bob Dole to encourage Republican conservatives; New England Liberal John Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson to win Texas’ Electoral College votes; Conservative Ronald Reagan selected George H.W. Bush to hearten Republican moderates; competent but lusterless John McCain selected the electric Sarah Palin in an attempt to counteract the excitement generated by Barack Obama; and Outsiders Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Mr. Obama, and Donald Trump respectively selected Insiders Walter Mondale, Dick Cheney, Mr. Biden, and Mike Pence to reassure their parties’ traditionalists. Mr. Biden and a couple of his trusted aides are clearly already considering which of a number of capable female Vice Presidential nominee candidates might best enable him to secure the White House. Assuming that Mr. Biden wishes to balance his ticket, whom might he select?

I see three doors Mr. Biden might open; but in an effort to keep this post to a somewhat manageable length, what remains of this note will appear in Part II.

Sen. Sanders’ Last Test

With the unknowns of the Coronavirus far outnumbering the knowns, right now it is actually a relief to talk about politics, even given what I consider to be our nation’s current perilous political state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s unexpectedly strong showing on March 4, buttressed by a strong showing on March 10, have made him the prohibitive favorite to win the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. Although U.S. VT Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign – indeed, movement – has been incredibly impressive, has generated by far the deepest passion within the Democratic electorate, and has injected new ideas into the American political mainstream, the young voters demonstrably haven’t come out for him in the numbers that he proclaimed they would, and the African American segment of the Democratic electorate has decisively turned toward Mr. Biden. Mr. Sanders’ crusade is effectively over.

In a recent note, I quoted reporter Jules Witcover’s observation that a campaign for president “… is a grueling, debilitating, and often dehumanizing ordeal,” and suggested that any candidate that successfully perseveres for months may develop a visceral feeling that because s/he has absorbed so much adversity, s/he deserves the presidency. I would venture that for Mr. Sanders, those emotions are likely buttressed by his authentic belief that the revolutionary overhaul to the American system he has come to personify is in the best interest of the vast majority of its people. Even so, this is not his time. I would submit that how the Senator conducts himself hereafter may well determine the outcome of Mr. Biden’s campaign against President Donald Trump.

Messrs. Biden and Sanders are scheduled to conduct yet another debate – the first “one on one” debate of the Democratic presidential campaign – on March 15. After the March 10 results, there was at least one voice calling for the Democratic Party to scrap the debate given Mr. Biden’s overwhelming lead in the race; I suspect such call was prompted to some extent by concerns that Mr. Sanders – the more emphatic debater – will demonstrably get the better of Mr. Biden, will continue the divide within the Democratic Party, or will cause Mr. Biden to express support for one of Mr. Sanders’ aggressive progressive positions, which would be exploited by the Trump Campaign.

Mr. Sanders has indicated that he will debate. I think Mr. Sanders should stay in the race through the debate, but – although he has shown no indication of doing so – bow out gracefully thereafter. There are three reasons. First, Mr. Biden needs the practice of going one on one against an emphatic debater; he will have to engage in several such debates with America’s most emphatic debater in the fall. Second, Mr. Sanders and his supporters deserve the opportunity for a last hurrah. Finally – and in my view, most importantly – if handled deftly, it will enable Messrs. Biden and Sanders to begin a healing and melding process between the Democrats’ moderate and progressive wings that is absolutely vital to defeating Mr. Trump in November.

The first Democratic Presidential Debates – which, as one will recall, featured 20 candidates over two nights — were conducted in a generally amicable manner, and did little more than express the consensus that Mr. Trump is a bad guy. Judging by the tenor of Mr. Biden’s speech on March 10, I suspect that he will attempt to maintain that tone on March 15. How will Mr. Sanders act? He has consistently declared his belief that it is imperative that Mr. Trump be defeated. He has steadfastly indicated that he would wholeheartedly support whomever the Democrats nominated. He has repeatedly referred to Mr. Biden as a friend and a good man. If he truly believes what he has said, and his advisors’ assessment of his chances of winning the nomination aligns with every assessment I have heard, for the good of America, it is time for Mr. Sanders to quell his criticism of Mr. Biden, and use the upcoming debate and the days following to soothe his supporters’ intense disappointment and focus them on the need to defeat Mr. Trump.

A close friend — a dedicated Sanders supporter — and I have engaged in a good-hearted back-and-forth in recent months that has echoed that taking place on the national stage. He strongly believes that Mr. Sanders’ prescriptions are necessary to address the degrading fortunes and despair being experienced by too many Americans. I have suggested that both political reality and our national financial constraints indicate that our people’s fortunes are more likely to be improved by modifications of traditional approaches than by trying to implement the drastic overhaul advocated by Mr. Sanders. Mostly what I have argued is: the country’s future literally depends upon defeating President Trump in the fall. If I thought Mr. Sanders was the best vessel to get that done, I’d be all for him despite my misgivings about his policy approaches. I don’t. It appears that the majority of Democrats don’t. It further appears that we’ll get to see whether we are right. I expect that all Democrats, moderate or progressive, recognize that their level of unity will be a pivotal factor against Mr. Trump.

Will some of Mr. Sanders’ ideas be implemented to some extent over the next generation? It seems more likely than not. If I was speaking with Mr. Sanders this week, I would remind him of an honorable and courageous American who espoused a political philosophy literally the polar opposite of Mr. Sanders’ own: the former Republican Presidential nominee and U.S. AZ Senator, Barry Goldwater. Mr. Goldwater – in no way a racist, but who adamantly advocated for states’ rights, Constitutional strict construction, lower taxes, and ardent opposition to the Soviet Union — lost the presidency in 1964 in a historic landslide. At the same time, his failed candidacy launched the political career of Ronald Reagan, who won the presidency 16 years later espousing, in the less-strident Reagan style, Mr. Goldwater’s positions. I would tell Mr. Sanders: you may not live to see it, but if your ideas have merit, America will ultimately adopt them. Right now, it’s time to beat Trump. It’s time to get behind Joe.

We’ll soon see whether – despite all current indications to the contrary — Mr. Sanders has it in him.

Coronavirus Information: Postscript

Following the posting of the note below on Coronavirus information, a close friend forwarded me the attached link to an interactive map of Coronavirus cases around the world. I understand that the map is generally no more than 12 hours behind the publicly available data. The user can obtain more detailed information on a given area by clicking on the corresponding red dot.
https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6