A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part VIII

It is a travesty that the decision as to how and when to reopen the economy is becoming so politicized. While it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that our extreme shutdown over the last six weeks has saved as many or more lives as we have thus far lost to the Coronavirus, there is consensus among economists that the shutdown has already started a recession of now-undeterminable duration. I would submit that while we risk a tragic reappearance of illness and death if we reopen the economy either too soon or inappropriately, there is a credible argument that moving too slowly has its own potential to result in unnecessarily destroyed American lives: irretrievable poverty, serious damage to essential public services, increased suicide, mental-health related violence and suffering, and the general health and other ravages that destitution wreaks. At the global level — since our economy still drives the world economy – an extended and deep downturn will in many parts of the world cause chaos, famine, disease, and terror. Unfortunately, what we need is the measured judgment and courage of an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt. I would venture that Bill Clinton was the only president we’ve had in modern times that combined the acute intelligence, knowledge (in two weeks of briefings and study, he would have made himself a lay expert) and exquisite feel for the rhythms of the country to be able to effectively make such a call. Currently, we have a leader who mused on April 23 that perhaps the virus might be cured by light or disinfectant injections into the body. (Mr. Trump has since said that he was being sarcastic. I suspect that you have seen the tape. He wasn’t.) (A friend commented in an email on Friday: “Have to run and do a shot of Lysol with my lunch.” Too good.)

There is a link immediately below to an article recently appearing in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by Dr. Richard Levitan, opining that reduced oxygen saturation in the lungs without acute patient distress is an indication of COVID pneumonia and that such hypoxia can be detected in its early stages through use of a pulse oximeter (available without a prescription, but given a COVID-related run, perhaps now unobtainable by consumers until mid-summer). This piece particularly resonated with us because we have family experience with the danger of hypoxia and value of pulse oximeters.

https://www.startribune.com/what-i-learned-during-10-days-of-treating-covid-pneumonia/569857042/

There is a link immediately below to a Washington Post article by our son, describing Brazil’s perilous Coronavirus situation, wildly aggravated by the wantonly counterproductive actions of President Jair Bolsonaro. Mr. Bolsonaro’s complete denial of the virus’ danger makes President Trump by contrast appear reflective, cautious, and competent. Brazilians’ health has been left to responsible local leaders and their own diligence.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/coronavirus-brazil-testing-bolsonaro-cemetery-gravedigger/2020/04/22/fe757ee4-83cc-11ea-878a-86477a724bdb_story.html

There is currently what I consider a tempest in a teapot over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent comments that he didn’t favor having the federal government provide the states Coronavirus-related relief, and that he was instead “in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” This was an absurd comment, even for Mr. McConnell. State and local governments employ between 15 and 20 million Americans, and the two levels of government collectively provide police, fire, sanitation, highway, and a host of other services valued by all Americans of all political stripes, not to mention … health professionals. Sen. McConnell has been in the Senate too long – obviously for many reasons, but in this context, due to his seeming obliviousness to the optics of his negotiating ploy. State and local governments of both red and blue states are going to be unable to provide critical services without federal help. An article in The Atlantic following Mr. McConnell’s comments suggested that he sees forcing states into bankruptcy as a means to require certain states to shed their wildly underfunded pension liabilities — while at the same time protecting their bondholders. I think the piece is hyperventilation. In this time of crisis, not even Mr. McConnell – although he alluded in his comments to an unwillingness to bail out states’ underfunded pension funds — can believe that being saddled with responsibility for leaving local governments without help in serving their constituents or for forcing states to terminate their pension obligations to thousands of Americans (many of whom are Trump supporters) can be an advantage politically. Candidly, I believe that for once, Mr. Trump gets it even if Sen. McConnell somehow doesn’t – part of the reason why I think progressives and commentators have overreacted to Mr. McConnell’s trial balloon. Democrats shouldn’t provide one cent of concession to his ploy, and let him swing. Whether such optimism is properly placed obviously remains to be seen.

As we grapple with the disease and its many consequences, it’s a pleasure to add entries to these pages that may bring a smile. Below is a YouTube in which Mr. … er … Trump provides another perspective to his claim that he was merely being sarcastic in his comments about light and disinfectant ;).

https://digg.com/@digg/trump-disinfectant-impression-NZUFSuel

As we begin another week: Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part VII

After inevitable Presidential grandstanding, last week the Trump Administration issued guidelines about opening the economy generally in keeping with health experts’ recommendations. The President told Governors, “You’re calling the shots.” Soon afterward, he tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” in an attempt to score political points against three Democratic Governors performing in the manner suggested by Administration guidelines. Given the size and complexity of the challenge we face, the President’s de facto encouragement of states’ opening up their economies without regard to his Administration’s own guidelines is not only asinine political pandering, but might have tragic consequences for a percentage of our citizens who actually place credence in his and his chorus’ propaganda.

It is commonplace for talking heads to intone, “The Coronavirus doesn’t care if you’re from the city or the country, white or black, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, etc., etc.” Actually, I would submit that it does. It is undisputed that the virus is highly contagious and spreads through close human contact. Close human contact is unavoidable (at least without rigid shutdown orders) for city dwellers, while generally more readily avoidable for rural residents; it is frequently unavoidable for those working at close quarters in lower-paying service jobs, while frequently more avoidable for those whose white collar jobs enable them to work from home; it is frequently unavoidable for those of lesser means (often minorities), who tend to live in tighter clusters in rented units, while being generally more avoidable for those whose families can shelter in individual homes. These are, of course, generalities; but which categories of our people are most likely to be subject to the brunt of any virus resurgence if Stay-At-Home orders are lifted prematurely?

In the first weeks of the shutdown, I saw more exercise equipment commercials during daytime hours than I can ever recall. Old ads for the Total Gym, featuring movie and TV Star Chuck Norris, proliferated. Clearly, the manufacturer saw the opportunity presented by the virus, and aired the ads it had available; in one spot, Mr. Norris – unquestionably in great shape for any age – mentions that he is 76. Mr. Norris is now 80.

The foreign policy effects of the crisis currently appear mixed and developing. No one could be surprised that North Korea’s recent testing of a short range cruise missile indicated that Chairman Kim Jong-Un (who himself is reportedly currently suffering from non-COVID physical ails) has no intent of suspending his nuclear program because of the crisis. On the other hand, there are reports that the disease has entered the North, and that if it passes rapidly there as it has elsewhere, the regime has no effective means to check its spread. Iran naval forces have initiated skirmishes with U.S. and other nations’ ships in the Persian Gulf, but a number of high Iranian officials have the virus and the regime is clearly currently focused on its own virus outbreak. (There are accounts of a philosophical split among U.S. foreign policy experts as to whether the U.S. should ease or harden its Iranian sanctions while Iran is under such stress. “Hawks” believe hardening the sanctions during the epidemic will cause the regime’s downfall; “Doves” believe that easing the sanctions during the crisis is the appropriate humanitarian response. With very little research, and although there is intellectual weight to both positions, I favor relieving sanctions. Foremost, it is the right, humanitarian – dare I say American – thing to do. Additionally, however, it seems to me the wise strategic step. Any replacement regime that views American sanctions as having added to the suffering of the Iranian people will not be any more favorably disposed to the U.S. than the current regime – nor will the Iranian people themselves; and it’s a little harder to call your adversary, “The Great Satan,” if it provides relief when you desperately need it.) Finally, there are reports of potentially dangerous interactions during the last month between U.S. and Russian air forces over the Mediterranean Sea initiated by the Russians. While no one can doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin would leverage the Coronavirus to press his strategic international objectives if he could, the virus is crippling the Russian economy and the recent sharp drop in world oil prices caused by the COVID crisis is presumably causing Mr. Putin to direct his attention to his domestic challenges.

If – a huge if – we come out of this crisis more united (given our toxic political climate, clearly a challenge) and with a less adversely impacted economy (given our overall financial strength, a real possibility) than a number of our principal adversaries, and we leverage our advantages to assist those across the globe still favorably disposed toward us, we will have an opportunity to reclaim some of the strategic advantages either tossed or frittered away by the Trump Administration over the last three years.

We are blessed to live in a part of the country with enough open space that we can walk in our city parks and maintain appropriate social distancing (at this point, it seems that the vast majority of our area’s residents are mindful of social distancing). Even so, I note that while on our walks, I now maintain the same watchfulness regarding the whereabouts and approach of our fellow park patrons … as I employed last summer for bear sign as we hiked in Alaskan national parks. [All that is lacking is the call, “Hey, Bear” as we trudge along ;)].

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript … Expanded

In the above Postscript published Tuesday, I noted de facto Democrat Judge Jill Karofsky’s victory over de facto Republican Justice Daniel Kelly, and commented that Ms. Karofsky’s 10-point margin of victory over Mr. Kelly was particularly impressive “… given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County.”

Although I have been writing in these pages for quite a while, I’m still not sure whether anyone but me can readily view entered comments. Soon after the post, a close friend questioned my implication that the Milwaukee County voter turnout was depressed by the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature’s insistence on holding the April 7 election notwithstanding pandemic fears and the grossly reduced number of Milwaukee city polling places. He noted that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total (which approximated 200,000) was higher than the Milwaukee County vote total in the 2019 Wisconsin Supreme Court race between de facto Republican Brian Hagedorn and de facto Democrat Lisa Neubauer (which approximated 150,000), won by now-Justice Hagedorn by .5%. There are no pure apples-to-apples comparisons — the Karofsky/Kelly ballot included a Democratic Presidential primary not on the Hagedorn/Neubauer ballot, and the Karofsky/Kelly total was roughly half that of the Milwaukee County turnout in the 2018 Gubernatorial contest between current WI Gov. Tony Evers and then-WI Gov. Scott Walker – but the 2019 Hagedorn/Neubauer Milwaukee County vote total – a quarter less than the corresponding Karofsky/Kelly county vote total – is certainly an objective indication that the Republican action did not depress last week’s Milwaukee County voter turnout to any significant degree. Our friend added: “I know that the argument is that Republicans are trying to suppress the vote. Either they’re not very good at it or that is not what is going on. Data doesn’t seem to support the suppression theory.” [Someone very close to me asserts that just because the Karofsky/Kelly numbers weren’t down compared to similar races doesn’t mean that the Republicans’ action didn’t suppress voter turnout in the City of Milwaukee. I intend to leave this debate to them ;)].

The reference to actual Milwaukee County vote totals was a valuable reminder for me: all news sources, either intentionally or unconsciously, emphasize those facts that they consider the most important. After seeing any number of reports about an impending depressed Milwaukee turnout and the indisputably grossly reduced number of polling sites in the city itself, I assumed that the Karofsky/Kelly Milwaukee County vote total clearly lagged the County’s totals in the most comparable state contests – which, no matter which side of the suppression debate you take, it did not. In an editorial published on the evening of April 14, The Wall Street Journal observed, “Republicans may have disenfranchised many of their own voters, who tend to be older and perhaps feared voting in person if they hadn’t requested an absentee ballot.” Without regard to political persuasion, if one believes that the Republicans were trying to manipulate the election process for Justice Kelly’s benefit – which I do – one cannot help but conclude that they were, indeed, not very good at it.

The exchange arising from the Postscript was in another way an excellent reminder for me that I fear is too easily overlooked in today’s partisan environment: it is as important to safeguard the voting rights of those with whom we disagree as it is to safeguard the franchise for those with whom we agree. Although it’s a particularly keen irony if Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts did ultimately significantly depress their own supporters’ vote in last week’s election, any suppression should be abhorred in a true democracy.

The Wall Street Journal said nothing significant in its editorial that our friend hadn’t noted during the day’s exchanges.  Some of us retirees really get into this stuff.    🙂

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part I: A Postscript

[I had no intent to post today, but given the outcome of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race announced last evening, cannot resist  🙂 ]

As part of the above-referenced post on April 6, I indicated the following about the Wisconsin Supreme Court race between incumbent [de facto Republican] Justice Daniel Kelly and challenger [de facto Democrat] Judge Jill Karofsky:

“The currently-projected outcome [of the election] 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.”

It is hard to overstate my pleasure at noting that I was proven wrong – in a result announced yesterday, Judge Karofsky defeated Justice Kelly – and will thus succeed him on the Wisconsin Supreme Court – by a margin I have seen reported at 55.3% to 44.7%.

I consider Ms. Karofsky’s margin of victory as shocking at the outcome. Two years ago, Democratic WI Gov. Tony Evers defeated former Republican WI Gov. Scott Walker by a little more than 1%. Since President Trump has made “Republican” synonymous with “Trump,” the size of Ms. Karofsky’s win over Mr. Kelly – even more impressive than it otherwise would have been, given what I understand was a depressed turnout in Milwaukee County, the largest Democratic stronghold in the state — would seemingly send an ominous signal to the President and his campaign cohort regarding the President’s current standing in a swing state integral to his re-election prospects.

Hopefully, the Karofsky – Kelly result actually reflects current Wisconsin sentiment toward both Mr. Trump and the partisan Wisconsin Republican legislature, although – as the late Marquette basketball coaching legend Al McGuire would say – the November election is still an eon of time away. There is certainly NO room for complacency; this result will cause Wisconsin Republicans to redouble their efforts for November. Even so, and despite the health challenges confronting us across the nation, Wisconsin moderates as well as its liberals should be allowed a moment to savor Judge Karofsky’s victory.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part V

The political impulses of the Trump Administration’s response to the Coronavirus (to be contrasted with the efforts of its chief health experts) have been largely a profile in cowardice. President Trump — unwilling to assert the broad presidential authority to effect a coordinated national response to the crisis that he has been all too willing to wield for his political purposes — has sought to cast primary responsibility for virus response upon the states. Although it can be readily predicted that Mr. Trump will try to rewrite history during the fall campaign, it’s not unfair to state that the three virus-related aid packages passed thus far are law primarily due to proactive Congressional efforts. The President’s electoral prospects may hinge upon his ability to defy the impression of his office most deeply engrained in the American psyche since the Great Depression, most succinctly put by President Harry Truman: “The Buck Stops Here.”

I’ve found interesting New York Times Columnist David Brooks’ suggestion on the PBS NewsHour in recent weeks that Democrats’ funding priorities, although well-intended, have been (literally) misguided: Congress’ furnishing of funds directly to people by extending and enhancing unemployment insurance (UI) programs (while perhaps necessary to avoid citizen backlash from any perceived “business bailout” that is a residual of the Great Recession) provides employers a counterproductive incentive to lay workers off, while if Congress would have instead directed more of the UI-targeted aid to businesses on the condition that they retain and pay their employees, the funding would have incented employers to retain jobs.

[Note: at this time, Democrats are blocking a Republican-backed bill that would provide an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program for small business, until Republicans agree to back additional funding for health care providers, states and cities, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for needy families. While anyone that has watched Mitch McConnell perform as Republican Senate Majority Leader over the years can well understand the Democrats’ approach, this delay in assistance to small business is extremely unfortunate both substantively and because of the complete lack of trust between the two party caucuses it indicates continues to exist even in a time of crisis.]

Although it has been a bit colder of late, it has been for the most part unseasonably warm in southern Wisconsin during the crisis. If we were not now battling the Coronavirus, there would be numerous articles pointing to the mounting effects of Climate Change.

Over 50 years ago, Author Victor Lasky quoted Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of last century’s greatest American political dynasty and survivor (some would say, profiteer) of Prohibition and the Great Depression: “I’d rather have whiskey than money.” As seeming proof of the wisdom of Mr. Kennedy’s assertion, alcohol beverage sales were reportedly up by more than 50% in the latter half of March. A recent observation by Wall Street Journal Columnist Peggy Noonan (worth repeating, whether or not it stands up to historical scrutiny): “[N]o nation in the history of the world has closed both its churches and its liquor stores simultaneously and survived [Emphasis Ms. Noonan’s].” Our household has thus far tried to do its share to maintain this vital American industry ;).

Stay safe.

A Coronavirus Kaleidoscope: Part IV

In mid-March, even before WI Gov. Tony Evers issued his first Coronavirus-related Executive “Safe at Home” Order for Wisconsinites, Bishop Donald J. Hying dispensed with Madison Diocese Catholics’ obligation to attend Mass on Sundays for a specified period due to the Coronavirus. Sunday Mass attendance is a fundamental obligation of Roman Catholicism. For Bishop Hying and other U.S. Bishops to dispense with this obligation (including and past Easter) was undoubtedly a torturously difficult decision undertaken after the deepest prayer and reflection. While this lay Catholic would submit that Bishop Hying’s action was unquestionably the correct one, practically and theologically (Luke 14:5: “[W]ho among you, if your son … falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”), I suspect that Church hierarchy is nonetheless concerned as to how many of the clearly dwindling number of practicing Catholics, having been separated from their customary Sunday ritual for weeks, will return to the pews when the crisis passes.

There is endless commentary as to how the Administration’s handling of the pandemic will affect President Trump’s prospects for re-election.   Here is mine: it’s too early to tell. Immediately below this is a link to The Week site, setting forth the 10 things that The Week felt we needed to know on September 15, 2019 – now about as far in the past as we are from Election Day 2020. There is not a word in The Week report regarding Mr. Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president or resulting impeachment proceedings, the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination, the impending Coronavirus (which didn’t surface for another 10 weeks), the death of Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant, etc. There are too many unknowns that will occur between now and Election Day.

https://theweek.com/10things/861287/10-things-need-know-today-september-15-2019

If a Democrat was in the White House, how likely is it that prominent members of the U.S. Evangelical movement would be proclaiming that the Coronavirus is a plague unleashed upon us by the Almighty due to our Godless ways? As IBM used to challenge NFL fans: You make the call.

Although it is frequently difficult during this contentious time in our nation’s journey – and assuredly not always easy for one of Irish temperament — may we maintain respect and regard for each other.  Today is Good Friday, within the most sacred season of the Christian year.  April 8 marked the beginning of Passover; we have a Jewish member of our family, and so are Jewish as well as Christian.  Ramadan commences April 23; while we have no Muslim members, frequently lost in the world’s discord is a point Huston Smith made in The World’s Religions: “Like the Jews, the Arabs consider themselves a Semitic people.” For these three and all Faiths – and for those who do not embrace faith — this is a good time to reflect on what must hold us together.  As the Lord – revered as a holy man by the majority of the world’s religious — taught:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and shalt hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you … For if you love those that love you, what reward shall you have? … You therefore are to be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-44, 46, 48.

[Note: I take solace from the fact that although He loved the Scribes and the Pharisees, He clearly wasn’t shy about calling them out for their behavior   ;).  See Matthew 23: 1-39].

Stay safe.

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.

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.